Meeting my Monster

EditingI like shiny things. I’m always getting distracted by them when I’m meant to be doing something else. And new story ideas are the shiniest things of all.

I’ve always enjoyed first drafts the most. I’m a recent convert to plotting, and I still leave enough wriggle room for my characters to chuck in a few curveballs to surprise me. First drafts are exciting and mysterious, they take you on unexpected adventures. They are, for me, the epitome of creativity.

Editing, on the other hand, is a beast. It’s the monster under my bed. I’ve never enjoyed it. It’s tweaking, and touching up. It’s dabs of paint rather than the sweeping strokes of the first draft. I know plenty of authors who love editing, but for me it’s a chore.

What makes it worse, even more monstrous, is the time between finishing writing and starting editing. It’s commonly given advice to wait before editing your new manuscript, to let it settle, so that you can approach it with a little distance and fresh eyes.

In that time, be it a month, a week, or just a few days, the self doubt creeps in. What if my story is worse than I remember? What if it’s not even salvageable? Or the equally terrifying possibility of it being the best thing ever written. It’s a Schrödinger’s cat.

Of course, once I start editing, it’s never as bad as I feared. And a few chapters in, I even start to enjoy it. It’s just hard to pluck up the courage to start, to face it, to answer those questions.

It’s like hearing a scratching in your closet at night.

Never Write a Blog Post When You’re Hungover

It’s all over. That’s the end of it. I’ve been consumed with this for years, and now it’s done. Just like that.

I’ve finally written ‘The End’ on The Mothers. Well, metaphorically speaking, I haven’t literally written that. But that’s it, the last book in The Paper Duchess series. It’s a weird feeling. A strange mix of triumph, excitement, sadness, and relief. And one seriously huge book hangover.

I wanted to write this blog post straight away, while all the emotion was still raw and genuine, rather than a synthetic version of it. But I won’t post it until tomorrow. I’ve learnt my lesson about sending messages while drunk or hungover.

It is sad to say goodbye to the characters, to the world they inhabit. It may not have been an overly happy world, but they all found their own happiness within it and, importantly, they fought to keep hold of that happiness. Some of them even died for it.

As a cruel, vindictive author, I’ve enjoyed making them suffer. I’ve enjoyed taking things away from them, and crushing their dreams. Not because I enjoy watching them fall apart, but because I enjoy watching them get back up from it. It is somewhat God-like. But I gave some boys some uniforms, and gave them a little power, and things just got a bit out of control.

But you can decide for yourself, when the series concludes with The Mothers, coming this autumn.

The Mothers Coming 2017

Book Reviewed by Mum Boss UK

How to Survive Working from Home with Preschool Children ReviewMy non-fiction book, How to Survive Working from Home with Preschool Children, has been reviewed by mumpreneur site Mum Boss UK.

She got it spot on, I did feel guilty when spending too much time behind my laptop, even though I knew I was doing it all for my children, I want them to be proud of me. So to hear the words that I don’t have to feel guilty and to get actual structure advice and tips was amazing!

I wrote this book because I found I was truly struggling to find the balance between working and growing my business, and my responsibilities as a mother and wife. I often found myself neglecting one or the other, and then sinking into guilt at doing so. The following day, I’d push the balance the other way, and there was that guilt again.

After reading this book I now have so many techniques that I am going to try…This book has allowed me to look past the things I didn’t do today and made me focus on the things I actually did do today

I spent a lot of time looking for advice on how to manage the work/life balance, only to find that all of the advice out there was written either by people with much older children, or seemingly without children at all! I couldn’t find anything specifically aimed at parents with preschoolers, and I can’t exactly tell my one year old to leave me in peace whenever I shut my office door!

I know I have taken away a lot from this book, but the most important point I will most certainly be using on a daily basic is that we as mums (and dads) can adapt, we can adapt to anything, we’re doing it everyday without even noticing!

You can read the full review on the Mum Boss UK website here, and you can pick up your own copy of my book on Amazon.

Why I’m an Indie Author

Bogus Caller Press Logo greyMy publishing journey began in the world of short stories, anthologies, and small presses. I love writing to a prompt, I work (quite) well with deadlines, and I enjoy trying to fit a story into a strict wordcount limit. I love trimming them down and editing the hell out of them.

But I wanted to spread my wings, stretch my legs, and switch from sprints to marathons. I knew I had something bigger inside of me.

When I first considered self publishing, it was still in its infancy; still viewed with suspicion, still considered to be the route for writers who weren’t good enough to get published. The first people I told about my plans actually laughed. But I wasn’t deterred.

I love learning new things and gaining new skills, so I decided right from the off that I wanted to learn how to do everything myself. There’s such a wealth of information out there, and so many people willing to help you on your journey.

When I published my first book, it came with such a huge sense of accomplishment. Not only had I acheived a long-held dream, but I’d done it by myself.

There are so many things I love about being an indie author, and so many reasons that it’s such a good fit for me:

  • I’m in control of everything, from start to finish.
  • My deadlines are more flexible. As the mother of two young boys, I’m not always as reliable as I’d like to be, but when the deadlines are self-imposed, they can be moved to fit my life.
  • I’m not waiting around for news. I always know what stage the project is at, and there’s no agonising wait for updates.
  • There’s always something new to learn.

Of course, there’s a lot of things I’ve struggled with. Marketing is a big one. I’ve heard it said by authors so many times, and I’ve said it myself: marketing is evil. Somehow, the creativity of writing feels totally at odds with the business of marketing. Marketing often feels dirty, like it sullies the creative work.

If you feel this way, all I can recommend is that you take a marketing course. There are lots out there specifically aimed at indie authors. Get recommendations from people you trust, and sign up. Doing a marketing course changed everything for me.

There are also things you need to outsource. And there are things you’ll want to outsource. I know how to format an ebook, but I outsource it because it’s a fiddle, and I just can’t be bothered with it. But I do format my own paperbacks. Any part of the publishing business you don’t want to do, there’s people out there to do it for you.

Always outsource your editing and proofreading, you just won’t see all the mistakes yourself. Always use beta readers. And, unless you really, REALLY are good at it, always outsource your cover design. It’s your shop window, and people do judge books by their covers, every time.

And decide if you want to write under an imprint. I do. Purely because I thought it would be fun to think up a name. So I publish my books under Bogus Caller Press. Some indie authors do, others don’t, I don’t think it makes much difference to readers.

Jumping into self publishing is a big decision, and a big commitment. If you’re willing to research, to learn, to take risks, to be flexible and to change your opinion about things, to ask questions and work hard, the benefits can be enormous.

Bogus Caller Press Logo

Christmas Horror: Snow Angel

WinterCliff was more than used to spending Christmas alone. Well, technically, he wasn’t alone. There were his parents under the basement floor, his sister under the patio, and his youngest brother in the woods just beyond the back fence. But that was his little secret.

He lit another cinnamon scented candle; a vague attempt to cover the slight smell of rotting that permeated the walls of the house. At least it wasn’t quite so potent in the winter.

This year, he had a guest. There were two plates for Christmas lunch, two crackers, two jokes. He grunted. That’s just what everyone else at the office thought; he’d heard what they said in hushed voices.

The first time Cliff had spoken to Veronica was at their office party a week ago. She’d only been with the firm for a couple of weeks before that, and was the only temp to ever attend the annual evening of ostentatious torture that was the office Christmas party. But that was her. Always keen to break the mould.

“I’m on the payroll,” she’d told him. “Why shouldn’t I come?”

There was no argument to that. They’d stood in silence for some time; sipping their cheap champagne, nibbling bread sticks, enjoying spending time with someone else who saw small talk as another pointless endeavour. And in the week that followed, they’d been practically inseparable.

“I suppose there’s no point in us both spending Christmas alone,” Veronica had said during lunch one day. They were sat at their usual table, tucked behind the hum of the vending machine, eating together in silence.

“I guess. Want to come to mine? I already have a turkey,” Cliff said.

She shrugged. “Could do.”

Cliff had simply nodded, pushing the last bite of his ham and cheese sandwich into his mouth. His insides were doing the cha-cha, but not a flicker of emotion reached his face. He dared to let the words pass into his brain. Kindred spirit.

Cliff laid the table, stopping to rub a spot from a knife. If the table was perfect, she’d know how he felt. He glanced at the clock. Ten minutes to spare.

Cliff flicked on the basement light, the fluorescent tube flickering and hissing into life, and carefully descended the wooden steps. The banister had been missing for years, and he still hadn’t fixed the third step from the bottom.

The aroma was more intense down here, and Cliff closed his eyes, basking in its familiarity.

“Hey Mum, hey Dad,” he said. “I’m bringing a girl home for you to meet. She’s nice, a lot like me. She doesn’t need to fill every silence with inane chatter. I think you’ll like her.”

Cliff idly picked at the corner of a cardboard box. His mum liked to have her stuff around her; she’d always been sentimental.

“So I’d like you to be on your best behaviour,” Cliff added. He nodded, satisfied.

Somewhere above him, a sound rattled through the hall. It was so long since he had last heard it, that it took a moment for him to realise that it was the doorbell. He climbed the stairs and carefully bolted the basement door.

Veronica’s coat was open, revealing a bright red dress that matched her lipstick. She nodded a greeting and stepped into the hall. As she shrugged off her coat, she stopped and sniffed the air.

“Mmmm, smells delicious,” she said.

Cliff frowned. “The turkey?”

“And the other.” Her fingers brushed his. “We have the same hobby.”

They ate lunch in silence, donning the paper hats from their crackers in a sense of either irony or tradition. Did it really matter which?

As Cliff placed down his cutlery and leaned back in his chair, he felt Veronica’s toes slide over his ankle. He looked at her, one eyebrow raised.

“Cliff,” she said. “Who at the office have you fantasized about?”

Cliff looked down at his plate. Was he meant to say her? In truth, he’d fantasized about them all. He’d planned each of their deaths in meticulous detail; separated those who begged for their lives from those who threw futile threats. The criers, the screamers, the ones who fought back.

Veronica’s foot moved up his leg. “You’re thinking about it right now, aren’t you?”

Cliff watched her lips move, imagining the red lipstick smeared across her chin, black mascara staining her face. In the hall, the basement door rattled. Mum and Dad wanted her too.

She stood and moved around the table. She leant forward, placing her mouth by his ear. He closed his eyes from the view down her dress.

“I’ve thought about it too,” she whispered. “You would be so beautiful.”

Warm liquid filled his lap as she sliced his thigh open. Cliff smiled, pain crystallising his thoughts. Her neck felt like heaven under his fingers, even better than he could have imagined. He liked how surprised she looked, her mouth gaping.

 

Cliff stood in the open doorway, looking out over the snow-covered garden. Footprints led to the fence and back, their route highlighted by drops of his blood. His thigh ached in the cold air; it made him feel alive. It had been too long.

He hummed ‘Silent Night’ to himself as he closed the door. She was the most beautiful yet.