Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Book Signing!!

Yep. Believe it or not, Waterstones in Coleraine are allowing me back into their store to play again! This afternoon from 3 - 4 pm I will once again sit in that lovely comfy chair and sign copies of my books ...there'll probably be a lot of chatting involved too; once I get over my nerves and the fact that my hands are shaking so badly my writing looks like the scattered scribblings of a 4 year old! Talking of hands - I've bitten my nails down to stubs so to satisfy my normally dormant 'must-look-pretty' gene, I'm going to wear some of those fake stick-on Halloween-themed nails; I'm just not sure that I'll be able to wear them and write too!

My son in our local Waterstones.

My mum is coming (bless her!) and so is my daughter (son hasn't made up his mind quite yet!) so that I won't be on my own if no-one else turns up - I know we went through all this the last time, but the concern is still there!! I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I'll get to meet some of those lovely folks that I mentioned in my last post - how much fun would THAT be? And, as always, I'm hoping that a) I don't let the wonderful supportive folk in Waterstones down and b) I don't disappoint anyone who does turn up (let's face it, I'm not exactly Stephen King!!).

Here goes....

Monday, 22 October 2012

Don't Panic!

I was doing my usual Blog fly-bys the other week when a random comment on one of them caught my eye. The Blogger was having a slight panic attack because his/her daily sales had fallen to 10. 

Now, if you're one of those lucky authors whose daily sales are in the hundreds or thousands then by God I salute you and am absolutely thrilled for you. On a good week I might sell 2 books. And ok, I may be a wee bit weird, but I celebrate every one of them because every sale means that someone out there decided to take a chance and spend their money on MY book. That's a darn good feeling.

Now, when I read this blog and heard the panic behind the writer's words, I wondered if I should be panicking too - my sales are much, much lower than that. Does that mean I can't write? Is no-one buying my books because they're *gulp* useless? 

I let that one stew for a while and the longer I let it invade my head space the more it grew and spilled over and made me miserable. Utterly miserable.

And then I had my little miracle.

I had a series of emails and Tweets from some readers who were reading and enjoying my books. So much so that they had thoughts on who should play the lead role of Sariel in the movie (OMG!!) and what music reminded them of the books. *sqeeeee*

Douglas Booth Picture
We reckon Douglas Booth should play Sariel in the movie trilogy!
                     And Mariana's Trench should provide the theme music!


I can honestly say, hand on heart, that I am thrilled to be selling 2 books per week - so long as they are being read and enjoyed like that. What an honour to have been able to tell a story that made some people care enough to get in touch, share their thoughts and even cast the movie! Lol Oh, so cool!

So thank you, thank you, thank you, Tori, Arinn, Christina & Laura. You guys rock!

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Poetic magic!


I'm sure I might have mentioned a few million times that one of the most rewarding off-shoots of this writing journey of mine has been going into schools and chatting to the pupils about creative writing, reading, words, playing on the PS3, favourite authors, jam, unicorns etc. etc. etc. It's an absolute blast! Part of these school visits sometimes requires me to create and run creative writing workshops - it's a lot of hard work but I truly enjoy it. Sometimes the school will just require a talk about how I write, or some interactive creative writing-type exercises, perhaps a mixture of both, plus a hand-out at the end for each pupil, but usually the workshop is tied in to a particular topic/essay or assignment that the year or class is working on. 

Recently I've been booked to go into a school and deliver a series of workshops based around a poem that the pupils are studying. Now, I always found poetry tough in school - hidden imagery, pulling out all the thoughts that the poet might have been having as he/she wrote; I just wanted to read the poem and enjoy it for what it was, I hated having to pick it apart and delve into the use of alliteration or parahyme when, instead, I wanted to 'feel' the words. So I hesitated a little when the word 'poem' came into the emails from the school and then, having gingerly asked which they were studying,  looked it up and read it through. And then I read it again. I read it aloud, read it to my children, printed it out and stuck it on my wall! 

The poem is called 'The Listeners' by Walter de la Mare and I could wax lyrical all day about the imagery, use of words, the feeling it invokes etc. etc. But I won't. Do me a favour though - read it. Read it aloud if you can - it just begs to be heard (and that's coming from someone who usually balks at reading poetry). Maybe it's time to re-visit all those poets that I failed to enjoy first time around. :-)

Anyway, enjoy...

The Listeners

by Walter de la Mare

"Is there anybody there?" said the Traveller,
Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champed on the grass
Of the forest's ferny floor;
And a bird flew up out of the turret,
Above the Traveller's head:
And he smote upon the door again a second time;
"Is there anybody there?" he said.
But no one descended to the Traveller;
No head from the leaf-fringed sill
Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,
Where he stood perplexed and still.
But only a host of phantom listeners
That dwelt in the lone house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
To that voice from the world of men:
Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,
That goes down to the empty hall,
Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken
By the lonely Traveller's call.
And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
Their stillness answering his cry,
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,
'Neath the starred and leafy sky;
For he suddenly smote on the door, even
Louder, and lifted his head:-
"Tell them I came and no one answered,
That I kept my word," he said.
Never the least stir made the listeners,
Though every word he spake
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
From the one man left awake:
Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,
And the sound of iron on stone,
And how the silence surged softly backward,
When the plunging hoofs were gone.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012


See full size image

Imagine a time before the PS3, ipods, Nintendos, Playstations, Xboxes, computers, DVD players etc. The most advanced technology was a video player and music came on cassette tapes or vinyl. Television was in colour but there were only 4 channels (6 if you had a good aerial and could pick up RTE) but they weren't on all the time and 'children's programmes' ran for a couple of hours in the afternoon and on a Saturday and Sunday morning.

This was how the world was back when I was letting go of the reins of childhood and dreaming of how fabulously sophisticated I would be once I became a teenager  Yep, I honestly believed that turning 13  made you wise and flipped some kind of inner-goddess switch enabling you to cast off the shackles of baby-fat and awkwardness, emerging from a cocoon of bad-hair, clashing clothes choices and tree-climbing to become an Audrey Hepburn-type, complete with perfect skin and supermodel figure. Ha ha, ha ha ha, ha ha ha ha ha. Ahem. Where was I?

Ah, yes - pre-teen me.

Without the distraction of Facebook statuses, Tweeting, gaming, ear-buds blasting noise into your brain 24/7 etc. life was...simpler, quieter. I played with my friends OUTSIDE, did jigsaw puzzles with my granddad  learned how to make tea and read dozens and dozens and dozens of books.

Money was pretty scarce in our family and so I relied on the local library to sustain my reading habit and provide me with a constant supply of new authors and books. My Saturday treat was a trip to the library for next week's fix and by the time I hit the age of 11, I had pretty much read my way through the children's  section and was expanding my horizons from ponies and fairies to something more...grown-up. One Saturday I picked up a copy of a book called 'Seaward' by an author called Susan Cooper - this wasn't my usual reading material but it looked interesting so I thought I'd give it a go. At home, after dinner, I cracked open the book and, just like that, I fell in love.

That book. Ah, that book. It absorbed me, drew me right in and I was THERE with Cally and West, travelling through a strange landscape of fantastical creatures and scary adventures. It was the first time that I 'felt' a book. Do you know what I mean? That book took my love of creative writing in school and showed me that there was more to it than 'What I Did During My School Holidays'. That book showed me what it meant to really WRITE.

In the library of St. Louis College
I am blessed and delighted to be able to go into local schools and chat to the pupils and teachers about books and creative writing - I LOVE IT! - and most of the time I have the pleasure of meeting the pupils in the school library. Some of them are small, some are huge; all of them have wonderfully enthusiastic and dedicated staff who truly love books and want to help the pupils of the school to overcome the fear of literature and writing that sometimes prevails. I'm also lucky to have great local libraries to keep me in reading material during those months when the money is tight but the need to read is overwhelming.

Sadly, lots of town libraries are closing; school libraries are being squeezed and side-lined and even scrapped to be replaced by computer suites. At a time when there's a lot of noise about falling literacy standards and horror stories about children, when asked to bring a book into school to read, coming in with an Argos catalogue because 'that's the only book we have at home', it just stuns me that the powers that be consider the closing of libraries to be sensible. Really?! Technology may have moved on from perfect bound pages but there's still a need for books to be made available to people who want to read them and many libraries are offering eBooks as well as the usual hardback or paperback. Technology is part of our lives and most of us wouldn't like (couldn't?) live without it - I'm not one of those folk who thinks we should all go back to living in caves and wearing animal skins (ewwww!) but the idea that someday, somewhere there might be a child like I was who needs to escape into books but doesn't have the opportunity because some accountant in a fancy office decided that the provision of a library in her small town isn't good use of public money just leaves me cold.

So my message for this post - (and the point that you probably thought I'd never get to! ) is very simple - make use of your library; whether you're in school, university or you're just a reader like me who loves books but doesn't always have the money to buy them. Libraries hold a lifetime of stories about places I will never visit, told by people I will never meet but whose wonderful imaginations give me hours of enjoyment and whose voices will stay with me forever.

Oh, and after many, many years of looking for a copy (it went out of print years ago)...look what I found!

Friday, 5 October 2012

Wading into the great debate...

Opinions - the PG version

I love bloggers. Proper ones, I mean, who post reviews, information, thoughts, ideas, plans and daydreams every day for the rest of us to ingest, share and marvel at. (And no, I definitely don't count myself as a 'proper' blogger.)

It's a fact of life that once we state an opinion, there will likely be a few folks around who agree with us and a few thousand who don't - it's human nature and heartily satisfying as far as I'm concerned; wouldn't the world be boring if we all agreed all of the time?

Since writing is my thing, I tend to be attracted to blogs and bloggers who have something to say about books, writing, self-publishing, traditional publishing, agents, bookshelves, the poor quality of biros these days etc. etc. etc. It hasn't escaped my notice (!) that from time to time these fabulous folk and their commenters fall out about the differences between Trad and self publishing. There are strong advocators for each and lots of angry comments fly back and forth about the merits of one, the attitudes of people engaged in the other, which is better, which sucks and so on and so forth.

Most of the time when I read these, I end up feeling slightly nauseated. And then I get to wondering if there's something wrong with me since I'm not out there fighting in either corner.


I spent most of my writing life dreaming of the day when my bubbly, enthusiastic agent would phone to tell me that a publisher had bought my book and I was going to be 'published'. Ah, the joy that would fill my heart, the excitement that would shine in my dull grey eyes, the flush that would decorate my cheeks...yeah, you get the idea.

And instead I ended up with a large stack of very kind rejection letters.

Now, according to some camps in the blogger-verse, I should have continued down this route and ignored the temptation of self-publishing. In taking the self-pubbed route I was being 'lazy'.

Maybe they're right but I don't feel 'lazy' - I write the best story that I can, have it edited as well as I can afford, pay for a designer to provide me with a good cover and set up the interior of my books for printing, attempt (usually unsuccessfully!) to market myself, create workshops and visit schools to encourage children to give creative writing a go and, above all else, I keep writing. Yes, I've made mistakes and embarrassed myself several thousand times but I was always told that making mistakes is how you learn, getting it wrong once or twice has certainly shown me all my flaws and reminded me to take more care!

I don't feel angry when I hear a traditionally published author complain about self-publishing and I don't feel overjoyed when I hear self-published authors lambaste traditional publishing. I truly believe that there's a place for both and there will always be a friction between the two but that's okay - like I said, wouldn't it be boring if we were all the same?


The only time I twitch a little is when someone from the 'Trad' point of view complains that self-publishing needs 'gatekeepers' (arguing that in traditional publishing, the agents provide this role, weeding out the unsuitable, incapable and downright crap). I find this very confusing. Self-publishing already has such a thing - they're called 'readers' and they provide the same function for the self-published writer as for the traditionally published - a vast, able and mighty ability to discover good books and champion the best of them. If they download or purchase a book that they don't like then the chances are a) they'll tell their friends not to touch it with a barge pole and b) they'll avoid other books that the author puts out afterwards. 

So, am I lazy in taking the self-published route? Well, obviously I hope not but I can understand why a traditionally published author might view me in that way. Maybe I should have kept sending out the enquiry letters instead of jumping in with both feet by myself; I wanted someone to read my stories and get enjoyment from them. That's it. And am I wrong in believing that there's a place in the wonderful world of books for all kinds of publishing? Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Time to get back in the saddle...

It's been a tough few months.

That little glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel might just be (with my luck) the tiny spark igniting the powder keg, or it may be what's left of my sanity quietly fizzling away - there wasn't really much left to go anyway! - but que sera, sera and all that jazz. 

What I DO know for certain is that NOT writing didn't solve anything - it just makes it all seem much worse. I suppose it says a lot about me that spending time with people who only exist in my own head (or on the pages of a WIP) keeps me sane and able to appear normal. Having read my way through quite a number of new blogs this past 6 weeks, I at least know that I'm not the only loony in the world for whom writing isn't just some cute hobby but a NEED ...maybe even a lifeline (or is that taking it too far?). Now I know that there will be some people reading this and making 'pfft' noises, shaking their heads and mouthing 'bloody drama queen' or something similar. Whatever. We will all have days when life's little problems threaten to engulf and overwhelm us,  this time I chose to make a break for the surface instead of drowning down there in the dark - never been that far down? Well, good for you!

Anyway - sending you all some non-awkward virtual hugs as you start your day and I pick up a pen again.

Sending virtual hug