What do writers do all day (when they’ve just published a book)? 

A writing den…

Well, I shall disclose what I do — and you can imagine that others may do similar.  For example, today about 20 snails were removed from the garden wall, where they had been hibernating… 

But, I digress…As an Indie* writer, like others I’ve not only scribbled and tapped my way to completing writing another book, I’ve dialogued with my designer and approved her gorgeous cover design. I’ve been involved with lots of editing, and checking, and then, there’s the publication stuff. I’ve carefully filled in the Ingram Spark requirements on their on-line form, which will include adding the ISBN(International Standard Book Number, which identifies it as itself and no other book), and a Book Description which will go out to everywhere the book might be sold (Amazon of course, and also catalogues and other outlets), to help with shelving and inform marketing. Also an author bio, and a suggested category (one or more) of target readers… and some other admin… Really, simply all the things trade publishers do. Only we do it ourselves!

From this – old ‘dot matrix’ files to this – a book of short stories…

And after that…we go into recovery mode. Or, we hope to. We flop, we make an effort to pick up life where we left it, before writing the book — or more like, before we had to really tidy up the original idea with re-writes, maybe send it out to beta readers, do a bit more thinking, creating, editing, typing, and begin to think about the publication pilgrimage. So, we then pick up life, and rediscover all the lovely hobby-type things, and fun type things, and relax type things, that we’d being doing. Before. 

We also maybe pay some attention to our second string.

Mine is oil painting. Painting on the whole doesn’t feel like work, even though it’s also a creative task. I also enjoy drawing, and I need to draw, to sharpen my observational skills. Which can feel like study or learning or practice — but is enormously satisfying. (At present it’s bit sad to be missing those life classes!) I’m constantly discovering how many writers are also artists, or artists are writers. Although oddly, it’s not like that for musicians — musicians’ second strings seem to be playing other kinds of strings (violinists who play the ‘cello, viola players who occasionally pick up the double bass…) or a flute, a  bassoon, a harp — sometimes more than one other instrument, or other music (jazz, blues…) or they sing… And of course for me gardening comes to the fore again, pottering among the plants. And photography — almost an addiction on any walk remotely featuring nature. I wake up and realise I could actually do more yoga between my scheduled classes, and make more contact with my friends, and have less resentment about the the passing of time, and not getting things done. I could even enjoy doing the ironing!

Recovery mode is necessary for slowing down! Do writers read?  Yes!  we all need to read widely — and that shouldn’t be a chore, even reading for ‘research’ is fun to do, if like me you’re curious. I love reading books by fellow writers whom I know, as well as poking about in a bookshop seeking out who is new and being promoted, to uncover current trends. As a slow reader, I take a while reading a long book. And notably I find myself reading with pencil in hand, underlining clever sentences, or slants on the story, ready to write a review. 

Reader, you may think we writers are a lazy bunch, and self-absorbed. You mayn’t realise quite how many hours it takes to write a book, let alone the publishing, and the marketing… Rather than self-absorbed, we mostly have over-active brains, brimming with ideas, surging with excitement over ideas, in the thrall of the creative urge/addiction/problem. Reader, I’d have preferred to be a non-creative: but as a supportive kind of friend used to reply whenever I complained about this, ‘So you think you’d rather be a pig, happy, than Socrates, unhappy?’, and then add, ‘I don’t think you would!’ (But who’d want to be Socrates, happy or not?)

And, you do see why we’re so utterly overjoyed when you buy — and read — and maybe even review — our productions! ***

  • ‘Indie authors’ are those of us who undertake to do all the usual editing etc work of a publisher independently – so we shall indeed be finding and using a cover/interior designer, editor(s) to provide copy, continuity and other editing, printer, etc – maybe Ingram Spark, or possibly use Amazon via KDP… The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) keeps lists of competent professionals, and advice can be found via their website, their blog, and by webinars.

* *Suggested reading (!) : “My Friend has Self-Published her Book. (Does that mean it isn’t very good?)” – a short blogpost by ‘Joy V’ the writer Joy Velykorodnyy, where she explains why and how Indie writers publish their own works, and why these books are worth buying and reading.

** *My books can be bought from the Hodge Publishing website, at: https://hodgepublishing.co.uk/    (Or, of course, on Amazon, or via your local Indie Bookshop, Bookshop UK etc…)

The writer, the Sussex Chair, & Brexit

Maybe it is the time of year: after the solstice, a time of hope or after crazy Christmas, a time of space. For whatever reason, the collective spirit has lightened, even though the world still seems to be at war with itself. A friend who was in deep gloom over Christmas and New Year writes that her depression has lifted, another of that how being “stuck” in her writing, composing a silly poem about that has freed her up again, and I’m  being weirdly inspired by a chair.Version 2

The chair has always been in my family, it was in my room as I grew up. We inherited it from my grandparents, and it just looks like an ordinary upright chair with a rush seat. Apparently it came from artist’s studio, which kind of gave it a romantic feel when I was a teenager, and somehow it seems to have followed me around and is still in our house today. It’s in the room where I paint. A couple of years back, I put the chair in a painting of a child in a strop, an artistic child whose foster mother only understands pink and spangly girls, but this is a denim jeans, creative small girl who hates her pink bedroom. Although she isn’t me, I understand her. The girl is Daisy, known Daze, a character in my Mullins family series, currently two novels Baby Baby, and The Labyrinth Year.

In June 2016 we went on holiday to our favourite place in Cornwall, and the sun shone as we picnicked, on 23rd, with crowds of others at a picturesque typical Cornish cove… When we came home, the painting wasn’t working. I simplified painting the chair, leaving out the essence of the design. I was also really stuck with the third novel, had problems with my computer, had a nasty illness, decided the website needed a make-over, submitted to gloom and pessimism.

And here’s the thing: today I discovered this is actually a ”Sussex Chair”. The spools on the back are central to a design otherwise characterised by simplicity and practicality. It’s a well known William Morris ‘arts and crafts’ design (though ours is a version without the arms). The story – that it came from an artist’s studio – fits with the period it was made.

Strangely that lifted the gloom: knowing I have to make a proper drawing of the chair, do the  intricate and worthy task, a work that takes time and care. It’s a kick-start to getting the novel writing going, and it’s come alongside finally having the website and computer problems solved.

Odd how a chair can call you back to creativity.

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Writing my series in Winter

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The large pond at our local Nature Reserve, a photo of the resting and waiting which sums up winter. I’m so glad Christmas and New Year are gone now, and we begin looking up towards the longer days and the creeping up of  new shoots and signs of spring!

A few days ago, some writer friends were talking about writing for Christmas in the summer months – I am trying to write about summer as nature is lying low under frost (and hopefully not more snow!) and low cloud. It’s cold, damp, and horrible  here: the pond surrounded by thick, dark, mud, the trees bare except for the clinging ivy, the reeds broken, brown and collapsed.

Meanwhile, the volunteers who care for the reserve have (and are) running work parties to cut, prune, and plant … out there in warm clothing, hats, boots, gloves … And their work will encourage birds (already just beginning to practice their mating songs), butterflies (maybe there are crysalis/pupa hiding cosily amongst the apparently dead vegetation, or the piles of lopped-down logs), I know there are eggs of a particular butterfly somewhere in there, safely waiting … It’s all poised, even as we hurry by, nipped by a north wind and frozen by the incredible damp of living between several rivers …

Yesterday afternoon I walked through the sticky mud, under the low, grey sky, along a waterside path … and yes, this swan couple are back to dating, having driven away last year’s teenage brood … signs of spring, fertility, and the return of warmth to the sun, and colour to life!

So glad I am writing about my characters in summer … the long, damp summer of 2007 … when there is mystery, distress, and growing up to be done …

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Why is the writer knitting poppies?

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Poppies in our garden …

It’s that time of year: autumn brings a cluster of strange, dark celebrations: Hallowe’en, Guy Fawkes or Fireworks Night, and Remembrance or Armistice Day. All provoke arguments: perhaps the most controversial today is Remembrance Day.

I have joined a group of knitters who are knitting poppies. In the 1914-18 and 1939-45 wars, women used to knit for the soldiers, but forget that, our knitting has nothing whatever to do with it. Or with patriotism, separatism, or nationalism. Or with Brexit (I have been a ‘Remainer’ from the first).

November 11 is a day when the practice and consequences of war are highlighted so that we, as a global community, may not continually repeat its horrors. Yes, the Day is also a memorial to those who have died as a consequence of fighting. Their deaths were a tragic, painful, waste: hardly ‘glorifying’. This further reminds us that war needs to be banned from civilisation.

knittingOur small group plan to hang as many knitted poppies as we can on the hedge which obscures the local war memorial. The poppies will not glorify anything. Hopefully they will remind passers by of what war means: a frightful destruction of lives, terrible suffering, atrocities, the ruining of nature, towns, and villages. The world has not learnt from the 1914-18 war and continues to use increasingly powerful weapons, to kill, maim, and destroy. This needs to stop: how can world leaders consider how the world can behave better towards itself?

We on this planet all belong to one world. Globalisation has many weaknesses, but it underlines this interdependence more than ever. The more individuals become accepting, groups become inclusive communities, communities become cooperative districts, and countries unite in their intention to seek understanding, listen to one another, avoid combat and quarrels, the more likely the planet is to survive. It is a time to express our horror at the arms race, and the terrible wounds inflicted on both civilians and the military and upon all that has had been carefully constructed to make lives more liveable. To use Remembrance Day to repent of any part we have in conflicts large or small.

FullSizeRender (1)Fear of the other is understandable. Greed to possess what the other has, exploitation or anger at how the other thinks, is not. Maybe it is easier to envisage and desire this world of cultural inclusiveness and acceptance for those who, like us, live in a cosmopolitan city, and count within our family and extended family members who, as a group, represent communities from all three ‘Abraham faiths’ (both practising and non practising). But it isn’t impossible. We are all human: we are all destructible.

My knitting poppies to display on Remembrance Day is far from a patriotic, nationalist gesture: it’s ‘installation’ art. I’m knitting poppies to represent the spilt blood of war, in order to help people visually recall that war destroys and divides. To point up that cooperation, acceptance, and understanding may bring a possibility of hope.  IMG_4074