The difference between my vacuum cleaner and my book is that I WANT my vacuum cleaner to suck!

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007

Dear all,

Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s been over a month and all that! I couldn’t even remember my password to get on here…but I promise I’ll sit on the naughty step later.

This week’s blog post is all about the phenomenon that is ‘The Review’. That tricky process whereby people answer the niggling questions in every indie author’s aching and caffeine overloaded head; Am I good enough to cut it? Do I make a good writer? Do I have potential? Am I getting it right?

It may or may not be news to some but, although I am generally quite a sociable and happy person, I feel like a fraud most of the time. I even felt like I was lying when I had to start completing forms declaring that I had dependents. I always feel like I’m telling fibs and I just don’t know why! I clearly have children and the state of my car is testament to that! I obtained a degree when I was twenty-six but I still hate having to produce the certificate of graduation in interviews. I worry they might scratch at the ink, hold it up to the light and then pass it under a UV ray, where they will suddenly exclaim, ‘But how? You left school with only two GCSEs!’ Out of all of my quirky, not quite fitting labels, it was publishing my debut novel, Poker Face, that felt like the biggest pork pie of them all! I still can’t look people in the eye and say it’s doing well!

I am a big analyser (or a petite analyser depending on how you want to look at it) and I’ve spent a great deal of time recently trying to work out this ‘fraud’ type aspect of my personality. I have concluded that the reason all of these things feel like a lie is because I can’t truly label myself as something until I know I have done it well. For example, in my opinion, a mum is someone who does more than just carry and give birth to a baby. The title encompasses a long term nurturing position and, until my children have become completely independent, I won’t know exactly what kind of mum I have been. All I know right now is that I desperately want to be a good one.

When it comes to the degree, I left school with only two qualifications and had to go back to college where they managed to drag another three GCSEs out of me. I later went on to do an A Level in law, which I failed (lots of tears around this time) and then had a chat with my local university. Because I was a mature student (don’t laugh, I can do mature) and had been working in a law firm for five years, they agreed to let me enrol.  I graduated three years later but I didn’t do it glowingly and I didn’t wow anyone with a string of first class essays along the way. Consequently, I ended up feeling like I wasn’t quite worthy and the qualification feels kind of alien. I’m waiting for the mother ship to come take it back!

The same can be applied to my writing. Writing 90,000 words and turning them into a book doesn’t make me feel like I can call myself an author. I need to know that my work does exactly what a book should do. I need someone to tell me ‘Jess, you’re not lying, you can write!’ (Shock horror, fancy that!) For me, reviews and ratings are the next best thing to having an agent or publisher who could give me that seal of approval my confidence really needs. My best reviews tell me that I may well be able to cut it in the big bad world of writing and publishing (note I say ‘may’ for I will never be so bold as to assume I ever will, even with my most fabarooney reviews and shiniest of stars). My most critical reviews fill my mind with dread and indecision and they are inclined to make my writing style reach for its blue and white patchwork security blanket!

I was chatting to someone the other day about how I am dreading the really crappy (technical term for a bad review) one star and the inevitable slating that will accompany it. However, people review for different reasons and individual tastes range widely. I know this, so, I have decided that I am going to approach that one star with the following analogy in mind:-

If I want to buy a new vacuum cleaner from Argos I pick three in my price range and then I check the customer reviews. They range from the five star, ‘This vacuum does exactly what you’d hope it would do and I’m very happy with my purchase,’ through to the gritty one star, ‘This might have sucked up but all of my cleaning paraphernalia is metallic red, always has been and always will be! I like red, I like metallic and I like shiny! However, this vacuum (if you can even call it a vacuum) is definitely not the metallic red vacuum illustrated in the picture IT! IS! PINK! And, to make matters worse, it isn’t even shiny…IT’S MATT! I am so not happy! More to the point I will never, I repeat NEVER, buy a vacuum from this manufacturer again. Oh, for the record, the suction was pretty good and it even managed to swallow up my metallic red duster without blocking. I am cross about this also, I loved that duster!’

Suddenly that one star isn’t really quite so bad. Personally that’s exactly the kind of vacuum cleaner I’m looking for!

Thanks for reading and take care from me guys.

Jess 😀 x

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It’s like a guest post birthday! It’s been a year now & time for another Ripple in Time promo! :-)

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007

This post is a re-post but A Ripple in Time is once again on offer and free to download to Kindle, a year on from the original post. It is still very much a recommended read.

A Ripple in Time

Dear all,

I know, I know, my schedule is so hectic, what with kid’s parties, the book signing coming up, Mr S-C (bless him being all clumsy and that) the book writing and the blog…!!! Oh no the blog! The time has come, I must hand over the wheel while I have a little breakdown, and who better to jump into the driving seat than the fabarooney Julia Hughes, @tinksaid! I’ll be back (no don’t sigh! Soooooo cheeky!) but in the meantime I can assure you, you are in very safe hands. So, now, sit back and enjoy the ride…Over to you my lovely friend, Julia.

me&tink3_(2) 

 

Thank you Jess, and don’t worry, your blog’s in safe hands, promise. And off she goes, no doubt to another children’s party or to organise Mr S-C’s Father’s Day treats. Do I sound envious? Oh to be able to turn back the clock to that very special time, when the kids thought Mummy and Daddy were the most wonderful people in the world. Mind you, I still feel that way about my parents. There have been times when I’ve longed for a boring life, but throughout it all – the major highs and the places no-one wants to go – there have been two people standing solidly behind me with words of encouragement and acts of overgenerous kindness. Among the many unexpected pleasures of writing, comes the opportunity to say a small thank you to those who support without question. So my breakthrough novel is dedicated to the best parents any child could wish for, lucky me –  I won the lottery.

I also won the lottery with Jess, who answered my plea for a beta reader. Jess’s success with her debut novel Poker Face, encouraged me to publish in paperback, as well as ebook format. A Ripple in Time will be free to download to your kindle until 18th April 2013. 

Massive thanks once again to Jess, and you can bet your life I’ll be attending her book signing at Waterstones in Hatfield later this month [and she did!] eager to pick up tips from this wonderful writer, who is also a wonderful friend.

A Ripple in Time can be obtained by clicking Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk

Julia

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Woo hoo! How awesome is that! I’ll definitely be fifteen minutes late for the next party downloading my copy of A Ripple in Time! Come on, writing before raving…always! Thanks so much, Julia, for your lovely post and your lovely comments too.

Seriously, congratulations on your lovely new shiny paperback! It is SO exciting! I’m sure everyone will agree, the birth of a new novel or in a new format is a very wonderful thing and I’m so thrilled to be a part of it. Go you!!!

Take care from me,

Jess 😀 x

PS beautiful pic, Julia!

Please check out Julia’s fabarooney website for more of her work and posts 🙂

Video Diaries! My very first signing event at Waterstones, Hatfield. Post re-visited :-)

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Well, readers, the time came…and went…aaaaand, despite all of the panic, tummy aches and tears, I made it to and through the 23rd June 2012. I lived to tell the tale…or should I say the video diary. Now, I must first apologise because I thought that my camera (with video facility) would be fine for the occasion but it seems, even after deleting all personal photos of our recent holiday, there was not enough room to fit the four clips that I wanted. As a consequence we used @Heather5mith’s i-phone (the wrong way up) so two of the clips are either going to show up sideways or with mega blacked out borders  – but as long as they show something, right now I don’t care! Uploading to this blog has been an absolute nightmare! I even cried!

So, here goes. The first clip is very early morning on 23rd June. The kids are having a go at their interviewing skills. PS I would just like to make it clear that I do not push my daughter in this clip, I am simply trying to keep her from YouTube! She is one determined little monkey, let me tell you!

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So, we got mega lost on the way to Hatfield. The journey should have taken us  1 hour and 15 minutes, tops. However,  even with @Heather5mith’s SatNav, Mr S-C’s built in thingy on his phone and my more caveman-like printed off ‘Route Finder Classic View’ we got lost to the tune of over one and a half hours! The upside of this was that I was so fed up that my initial reservations about the whole affair had been replaced with ‘All I want to do is get there!!!’ When we did get there the staff at Waterstones were absolutely fantastic. They grabbed a table, a snazzy table cloth, advised us on the best positions, provided a fabarooney decorated chalk board and then even grabbed us all a coffee from Nero! I love the people at Waterstones, Hatfield! I will say this more than once! I must also say that Heather’s interview technique is pretty cool and she managed an artistic reflective job, which is very clever. Let’s agree that it was a complicated, technical set up and was entirely intentional. If the BBC would like to hire @Heather5mith, she is available all day Wednesday (outside of Zumba) and most evenings (as long as it’s not a choir night).

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Towards the end of the day we went for another clip but my camera held up its little camera hands and said ‘No, sorry, I clocked off at lunch time. It’s Saturday! I don’t get paid for this!’ Diva camera alert! So we dug into @Heather5mith’s hugomungo bag and caught a bit more of the day on her phone. Neither of us knew what to say at this point but we said there would be a video diary and by Jove we were going to rise to the challenge. It WAS a challenge!!!

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We packed up at 5.30pm, feeling exhausted (I’m not sure why I was as all I’d done was sit at a table all day, answer some questions, try not to do a runner and sign stuff!) It might be the fact that by that point I had consumed two large coffees, only one small bottle of water and not much else. After a farewell to Robin (not my Robin but the fabarooney Robin at Waterstones), Laura, Chris and Maisie (If I have spelt this incorrectly please let me know and I will change it – who I didn’t get to talk to but wish I had now) we made our weary way to the car park. The box of books was reassuringly and satisfyingly lighter than when we had arrived and we loaded the car for what SHOULD HAVE BEEN an hour’s drive home! Yeah I bet you’ve worked out what happens next! A slightly more stroppy video of me is what happens next, but at least (as I am not required to look at the camera in the next clip) there is no random face pulling, singing, dancing, ear tugging, lip rolling, hair touching, arm scratching or eye avoidance going on. This is the most normal clip that exists of me! The only problem I have with it is that my nose looks big sideways on and I HATE IT!!!

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This here concludes our video diary of my very first signing at Waterstones, Hatfield, and I have enormous gratitude to everyone who works there. They are absolutely fantastic! To the manager Steve Jenner (hope he doesn’t mind me using his name) for allowing me to be there, to @Heather5mith for accompanying, standing for ages and supporting, for Mr S-C for doing the very same thing along with the occasional ‘You look well cool!’ (lies) and much needed hugs and to Julia Hughes (@tinksaid) and her wonderful sons for coming to visit us, to Mr S-C’s mum and partner for coming along to say hi and having the kids for a bit, and to my fabarooney sister for agreeing to have my two children (on top of her own three) so I could get out and about and promote my work. I also would like to thank (yes I am still going on but stay tuned because this one is probably for you) all my fantastically supportive followers on Twitter and my understanding friends because, without all of you, this would nowhere near have been the most fantastic experience of my life that it turned out to be. You are all way cool and I loves ya!

Take care from me,

Jess 😀 x

In-security Blankets! Blog post revisited :-)

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007

Hello and dear all,

A strange thing happened to me the other day, I received a letter. “What’s strange about that?” I hear you ask. Well, I’ll tell you. It’s strange for two reasons (1) because since having children I no longer receive post addressed to me. It’s like I no longer exist. I went into labour over eight years ago and was simultaneously made to disappear from society. My identity was changed, even my name was swapped for the more general label of ‘Mummy’ but the other reason this letter was strange, numero (2), is that it was from an agent and I hadn’t even made a submission! “Yeah fair enough that is strange,” you agree.

When I opened up the envelope I discovered that they did indeed have my work and now I was really confused. I hadn’t sent out submissions in ages, what was it all about? I looked on my ‘List of Agents’ prepared way back when (organised or what!) and this particular one was recorded as having been sent out on 9th September 2011. It had taken eight months YES EIGHT to receive a reply. This is a record as far as submission go for me. I’ve waited over six months before and I thought that was pushing it! In fairness it was a really lovely worded letter but it was still a rejection and, more importantly, a rejection I felt I hadn’t opened myself up for because I’d written off ever receiving a response.

When I finally realised what had happened (basically they said it had been with lots of agents while they tried to come to a decision about whether it would work for them or not. I read between the lines and concluded they had popped it in a drawer instead of the bin in error and had just discovered it) I was okay. I said to myself “Well, that’s fine, it’s not going to be for everyone is it? I’ve changed the story quite a lot since then anyway and I’ve published it myself. Lots of people have loved it so it really doesn’t matter. No need for upset or negativity. It’s all still good.” However, the next day I didn’t feel quite so good and it was playing on my mind. I’ve continued to get things done since then and have even managed to meet with the Team Young Adult Librarian to set up and facilitate an adult writing group, which is fantastic news. I am preparing advertising for the Waterstones, Hatfield signing event and I am mentally packing for our fast approaching holiday. As far as I was concerned, I’d pretty much moved on from the unsettling incident.

Then, last night, I had a dream. I was standing in a park (don’t ask me why) and the sun was shining (even less likely). A woman came up to me holding an envelope.

“I have your submission here,” she told me, holding it up for me to see and then sliding out the the contents.

“Are you going to read it in front of me?” I asked feeling nervous and horribly vulnerable.

“Well…that’s my job,” she smiled and then she did just that. When the painful wait was over she smiled again and said. “Well done. I like it! Now send me the whole thing and mark the envelope ‘Entertainment’ .That will ensure it gets to me and makes it through the filtering process.” The dream is slightly sketchy here but I’m pretty sure some dancing and screaming was involved. “And I absolutely love this!” she suddenly exclaimed. “This is the best thing I’ve ever read. I want much more of this. Well done you!”

I wondered what could have excited her so much and reached forward to take the document she was beaming all over (and continuing to love like you wouldn’t believe!) She let me have  a look and when I cast my eyes over it a cold rock formed in my stomach. The document she had pulled out from my submission and had quoted as ‘The best bit about the whole thing’ was actually someone else’s. It had been caught up with mine…and I had no choice but to be honest.

“That’s not mine,” I told her sadly. She frowned and glanced over it again as if that might miraculously change the minor embarrassing point. But, even after looking again, the dream reality was that this piece of work was not mine, it was better than mine…much, much better than mine.

“Oh, well, never mind,” she told me like she felt sorry for me. “I must find who it belongs to though because I REALLY want to represent this author! This is going places! This is rare! This is…”

THIS IS where I woke myself up because she was getting on my sodding nerves now! I mean even in a dream, how bitchy can you get???

In a post dream state, and having had time to contemplate what it all means, I conclude that the experience was a manifestation of some serious insecurities. Basically my sub-conscious is asking, am I good enough to cut it? I know there will always be people better than me (that’s life) but will I still be able to compete against that and hold my own? The dream I had last night was my ‘In-security blanket’. I might have left the old, tattered blue and white crochet one from my childhood days behind but, sadly, I replaced it with this other more resilient and less sympathetic one. It’s not cuddly, it’s not reassuring, it’s unlikely to get lost (no matter how hard I try) but it did give me a good reason for a blog post and that’s always a good thing!

Cheers guys and remember (unless you are some famous author having your books made into film right now) you’re not alone and if you’re struggling, I truly feel your pain! 🙂

Take care from me. Jess 🙂

Choose your weapon! Pen or laptop? Blog post revisited :-)

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This post is revisited from my old blog Lock Stock & Barrel. I am migrating (one blog post at a time) over to WordPress because apparently it’s pretty cool…and I agree!

 

From Wix dated 18th march 2012:-

 

Dear all,

I’ve been doing a bit of reviewing and blog research and I’ve discovered that my favourite type of blog is one that ticks the ‘not too long’ box, the ‘witty’ box and sometimes even the ‘informative’ box. I’m not too fussy about the informative bit because, although I am always happy to come away thinking ‘Wow I didn’t know that!’ I wouldn’t be too disappointed if I hadn’t. Taking a critical look at my own work I have decided that my blogs are way too long and, from now on, they shall be short and sweet…I can do short and sweet, you’ll see.

The main thing I wanted to achieve with my blog was to make people smile. So when something happens in my life that amuses me I lock it in the memory bank for a comical post. Today I am lucky for I have just the thing.

“What is it? What is it?” I hear you cry.

“Stop shouting out it’s rude!” I reply. Ha ha just kidding, you can shout all you like…heck I do!

So you may already know, if you follow me on Twitter, that my husband is running a marathon for the charity REACHOUT PLUS (also on Twitter & always happy to receive new followers). He’s been practising his socks off, starting small with a couple of laps of the block. Now he’s looking at a 17 mile stint at the weekend. Phew makes me tired just thinking about it! Well the other day he hurt his foot running & decided that his trainers were letting him down (workman, tools, I know what you’re thinking 🙂 ) so we went to Milton Keynes where they have a shop dedicated to running! Yes, I know! I never knew there was such a thing but apparently it’s really popular!

As we entered the first thing I noticed was the sea of colourful lycra, the second was the price of the trainers (£100 + would you believe) and the third thing (and I’m not quite sure why this was the last thing I noticed, given that it was the most shocking) people were actually running around the shop with their new trainers on and their trouser legs rolled up! I stopped and looked at my husband with a smirk on my face.

“Please tell me you are not going to do that!”

“No!” he exclaimed. “I just want a pair of reasonably priced trainers and then we can get to Costa for a coffee.”

Sensible I thought so I proceeded to let him guide me to the counter, stopping en-route to point out the price of some of the footwear.

“I mean, really, do they need to be this expensive?” I asked.

“They provide cushion, support, stability and balance,” he informed me, reading it right off the label.

“Right, yeah, stability and balance,” I agreed…under my breath. “So what did we do before stability and balance then?”

He responded by leading me to the counter in silence where we were confronted with…wait for it…a waiting list! We put his name down and then browsed. He showed me the high energy sweets, that looked like something out of Jack and the Beanstalk, and he explained that they were pure sugar. The kids immediately started asking if they could have a pack each.

“NO!” we both shouted in horror. Imagine that!

“But isn’t it kind of…cheating?” I dared to ask Mr S-C. He looked around the shop like I was nuts before whispering.

“Jess, these people are really into this stuff so don’t go offending them because, one, it’s rude and…and…two, they will catch!” Oh how we laughed. A day out with us is an absolute scream let me tell you!

When it eventually got to our turn, the shoes came off, the socks came off, the trouser legs got rolled up, the trainers got tried on…then the cheaper trainers got tried on…and then there was the dilemma. Do we go for the cheapest or the next price up? There’s £30 riding (or should I say ‘running’) in the balance. The cheaper is the less garish of the two, being plain white, while the other is gold and green! The white ones look thinner and hence might accommodate his feet less sympathetically and this leads to only one other crucial point…yes, you’re getting there…he did what he promised me he wouldn’t do. The only reason I was still standing by his side in this unfamiliar place was because he promised me he wouldn’t do it, yet, before I could reach out and stop him he was off! RUNING ROUND THE SHOP!

Humiliation finally over, but only because I walked out on him and took the kids to Costa by myself, he finally settled for the more expensive pair, but the purchase was a difficult one. We don’t tend to go in for flash, expensive, material type stuff. We often buy second hand and our cars are very old (like 15 previous owners type old). The fixtures, fittings and contents of our house are not necessarily bottom of the range but they aren’t flashy or expensive and we only have them if they’ve earned their place.

We discussed on the way home how much of this stuff is really necessary and how much is just catering for a public that will part with cash for the next best thing, the more superior, the one that offers the highest performance? Does having high performance trainers make you a better runner than the person with low performance trainers and, if there is a difference, can that really be attributed to the person in them or just the equipment they are able to afford? I ran for my senior school from the age of eleven in the district and county cross country championships and I often came first. However, we were poor and I had the most awful trainers you could imagine. Mine were torn, the sole was coming away and I didn’t even bother to do them up most of the time, just slipped my feet in and away I went. What I did have was the determination to complete the course because I’d been asked to do so by my teachers, who I knew expected big things from me on the running pitch (if nowhere else). I also had the stamina to keep on going even when I could feel blisters on my feet and my lungs were ready to explode. It also got me out of the more academic subjects and I would have done just about anything to avoid those!

I know many people out there are into their running and I still like to run too, though not competitively. The last thing I want to do is offend anyone, which is why I then moved my attention closer to home. I’m not afraid to look at myself and ask the same questions. I have written numerous novels, sci-fi, fantasy, thriller, romance, children’s, young adult and crossover and I am currently working on new material, but I can’t write in pen. My tool of choice, when it comes to writing, is my beloved laptop. One of my writing friends has to write on paper first and then she transfers it all to screen but I’ve tried this and it doesn’t work for me. It’s time consuming. Also I like to develop my stories as I write and if a new idea comes to me I like to be able to scroll back a few chapters and slot it in. This cannot be done so easily when you write by hand, without having to start again of course.

It is quite shocking to think that once upon a time people were only able to write by hand and they wrote great huge novels, fantastically punctuated and grammatically sound all without the benefit of the laptop. Later came the type writer. Hundreds of pages of material were typed again and again without spell check and format options, that can alter a whole document in seconds. So am I less of a writer for needing such tools in order to perform and would I have ever written one book let alone twenty something without my trusty electrical friend? I’d like to think I would, but the weaknesses I am able to cover up with technology would be seriously exposed. I doubt very much whether my work would have been as successful as it has been so far without my trusty laptop. My handwriting is terrible for a start, as an embarrassing incident over the word ‘flick’ knives once illustrated!

Is all of this modern day technology about offering you an alternative way of doing the things that you could do without, while providing a little more comfort? Running and writing without fab trainers or clever laptops shows endurance, dedication and a willingness to put up with pain and sometimes injury for the sake of our goals. Does it make you any less of a runner or writer? Well, no, not really. You still run and write and you still do it well but it certainly makes you a different sort of a runner and writer. It makes you a modern one. I do take my hat off to those that were able to achieve what we as athletes or writers achieve today but without the mod cons. Technology has created the opportunity for more people to take part both casually and competitively in the things that they want to do and that’s fantastic news as far as I’m concerned. Personally I’d be lost (and most probably unpublished)  without my laptop!

Oh pants this was meant to be short and sweet…Ohhhhh…I’ll start short blogs next week!

Cheers guys. With love from me. Jess x 🙂

Motivation and the final destination :-)

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007

Don’t worry it’s not about people being ticked off in horrendously gory accidents because they’ve witnessed Death’s Plan! 

I think it is important to always keep in mind your motivation for writing (or if you don’t write whatever else it is that you do). What drives you? That being said, I also think it’s important to strike a balance. Don’t just look at where you’re going, or hope to go, but keep an eye on where you’ve been also. Just like they teach in driving (but don’t spend too long doing it because it’s dangerous) it’s good practice to glance in your rear view mirror every now and then…and not just to check your lipstick or your teeth.

In writing terms where you have been is probably a strong factor in the desire you have to write, to share your story in whatever form that might be; fiction, fact, poetry, blog. I shall take my personal circumstances and use them to illustrate my point (I won’t get all weepy and melancholy, I promise). Apart from liberating me from my thoughts and feelings, my motivation for writing is to achieve better, to show people I can do something of value. I want to show that the uneducated girl that left school with nothing but two GCSE’s did have something to offer after all (huh imagine that if you can!) My big dream is that, with some hard work and commitment, I will one day attract an agent and publisher who will open doors to new and exciting opportunities for me and my novels. I hope that (before I grow old) I will be able to look back and see that I have really achieved.

It is possible to spend too much time looking back. If you do this you never progress and you sit like water in a rock pool. You are unable to foster and nurture new things because the environment (that is your mind) becomes too hostile for anything to thrive. It is also possible to spend so much time fantasising over what the future could hold (if only one of those blasted agents would say yes for a change, for example) that your life boils down to living for the next batch of rejection letters and taking them hard when they arrive. Suddenly they are the be-all and end-all. If all hopes and dreams pivot on that one momentous thing (a book deal) then nothing else matters and that’s quite sad really.

I am guilty of getting caught up in both, blaming past experiences for my lack of confidence, my fear of almost everything (other than staying indoors) and my dogged attempts at achieving what I know in my heart to be one of the most difficult things to attain. I do this so I can cruelly remind myself ‘I told you so. What were you thinking?’ But, to be fair, I could write the most fantastic novels in the world but if they don’t sit well with on an agent’s list it’s unlikely they will take it on. Anything short of a miracle (or nasty friction burn to the wrist) is going to make them change their minds.

I do regularly try to remind myself that if I look back over what I have done  and I dispose of the blinkers (installed shortly after discovering a passion for writing) I am able to see so much more. Success isn’t just about moving from A to B on the most direct route, it’s about learning to appreciate the value of the longer and more scenic one. This longer route detours whether we like it or not but it teaches us a lot about ourselves – our limits, our challenges and our ability to overcome obstacles. What mountains did you climb to get to where you are today? For some, achievement is about getting out of bed in the morning (and I’ve been there), for others it’s about making it through the day without a drink (I haven’t yet been there). Many find themselves desperately trying to attain enough calories to function while others are trying not to succumb to temptation. Confronting personal issues is an achievement in itself, sod the book deal! If you glance in the rear view mirror from time to time and find that you’ve overcome some pretty big hurdles then these should be recognised and congratulated too.

I think it’s important to have a plan. Pencil your enormous goal up ahead but consider what you have faced and might need to face to get there. Mark those things too because they deserve to be celebrated. Pin your plan to the wall (or maybe use blue tack, your plan your choice – though if you’re renting maybe just lean it up against the wall to protect your damage deposit). Now take a step back and admire the itinerary that will lead you to your final destination.

Thanks for reading guys & take care.

Jess 🙂 x

Write about what you know. Blog post revisited :-)

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007

This post is revisited from my old blog Lock Stock & Barrel. I am migrating (one blog post at a time) over to WordPress because apparently it’s pretty cool…and I agree!

 

Dear friends, slightly lost internet surfers & fellow writers,

I am often asked how I came up with some of the ideas for Poker Face, what made me put pen to paper (or indeed fingers to keys) and why. In brief I’d discovered a new writing tool, one that really worked for me and my ideas, and this is what Blog 11 is all about.

Ruby Palmer’s dangerous and rocky life with the mafia starts after she walks into a lawyer’s firm on her last day of school. Though she’s still awaiting the results of her exams she knows full well they are going to be terrible. She’s had more important things to worry about, like avoiding the painful beatings dished out by her abusive dad and fighting off Matthew Dean’s relentless advances. It’s funny because when I first started writing I read all the advice ‘Write, write, write’ and ‘Read, read, read,’ and ‘Write about what you know.’ I was already writing and reading but I struggled on the ‘Write about what you know,’ score. In my mind, in a nutshell (not that my mind is a nutshell) that advice only really worked if you were a maths professor and you wanted to write curriculum based books. Or you were an expert horse rider and you wanted to publish a book entitled ‘Caring for your foal.’ I was already writing stories, I’d written a sci-fi, a fantasy and a romance, but I was still struggling. I wanted the confidence that I was sure must come with knowing you were an ‘expert’ in your field.

I sat and contemplated, as I often do, and it suddenly occurred to me that I am an expert in something. I am an expert in being me! Though that might not be something everyone else wants to learn how to be (at least I hope they don’t because that could get quite scary!) I discovered that I can talk about what I know of the experiences I have had. I am an expert at coping with an unusual childhood. I am an expert at leaving school with no qualifications. I am an expert at walking into a job anyway. I am an expert at handling a boss with a tendency to declare the colour of my underwear to clients. I am an expert in recognising and getting out of said unhealthy administrative posts. I am an expert at understanding the property ladder and getting my feet on the slippery rungs. I am an expert in showing people that it is possible to leave school with nothing and later obtain a degree. I am also an expert at being a mother and a wife. There are so many things that I can do, that I have experienced, and they all entitle me to write in a realistic and honest voice. I found while writing Poker Face that I do have something I can share; life’s experiences. I might still be fairly young but I’ve been through a lot and, more importantly, lived to tell the tale.

On Ruby’s last day of school I understand the sheer overwhelming panic she is feeling about her future and lack of prospects. I never bothered at school. I spent my lessons singing the theme tune to Only Fools and Horses and laughing about the kinky sounding words and all the sexy ways you could say them in French. I didn’t revise for my exams and I didn’t complete my coursework, so it was no surprise that my exams were going to be awful. Even so, I was gutted on the last day that I hadn’t done more. Suddenly the day we had all been dreaming of had arrived. Even though throwing eggs and flour and defacing our school uniforms was great fun, it didn’t stop me feeling like I’d messed up big time! My friends were going on to sixth form or college or had jobs lined up. They had made plans for the future and all they had to do now was enjoy the summer and wait for those exam results they had worked so hard for. I, on the other hand, knew I was going to fail, though I was pleasantly surprised when I got an ‘A’ in drama and a ‘C’ in English Literature. How you ask? In truth, I really don’t know, perhaps a natural flare for pretending and analysing. That makes sense seen as I’d spent my adolescence doing just that, pretending I didn’t care and analysing why, if I could convince everyone else, I couldn’t fool myself into believing that too.

In some of the scenes in my book I have been able to take personal experiences and apply them to situations I haven’t experienced. For example, in a scene where someone gets shot, I did a little research and applied that to an experience that I deemed to be the next best thing (childbirth!) With the second book in the series I have used experiences where I have had little control, experiences that have accompanied high levels of fear and attached those to some of the ‘way out there’ nightmares I’ve suffered over the years.

So if you are a writer, perhaps starting out and not quite sure what you want to say or, indeed, what you are ‘qualified’ to say then try some reflection. No don’t go checking yourself out in the mirror! Save that for when you’re famous 🙂 Take the advice and information you find out there laterally not literally. I personally struggled for quite a while, feeling like I had no justification for writing the things I was writing. I couldn’t say I was a librarian or a school teacher and I couldn’t boast a degree in English either. I didn’t have famous friends and I hadn’t had anything published before, not even a short story. But when it finally clicked I realised that actually you don’t have to have any of those things (although I’m pretty sure all of them would help!) What you need is to be creative with what you do have, whether that’s qualified knowledge, personal experience or both. Fear is fear whether that’s fear of the dentist or a real life encounter with an armed robber. Love works the same way. All encounters are real, all are valid.

Being creative with our talents and abilities is nothing new. It’s something we’ve had to work on to cope with a struggling economy, a market that has squeezed jobs and demanded more from applicants. There are fewer jobs out there so you can either accept that you’re going to be unemployed for a while or you can take your skills and talents and transpose them, make them fit. Take that square brick and hammer it until it passes through the round hole! As far as I’m concerned, the same can be said for writing. Take a good look at what you have done, where you have been, what you have experienced and how you experienced it and then do exactly what the advice tells you, pick up your pen, adjust your keyboard and then ‘Write what you know.’ Hope it helps!

Take care from me guys, Jess 🙂

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