Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Motivating the Misfit

OK, own up.  Who likes a deadline?

Are you one of those people who quake in their boots if they know they have to deliver on a certain date or do you love the thrill and adrenalin rush of pushing it to the limit?

I LOVE a deadline and personally there's no quaking but lots of dancing about in my little boots (new, if I might add - suede, ankle, wedge and trendy) if I know I'm up against it.

As an Indie I have no one telling me when, where or why.  If  I choose to sit back and pick my nose for a year, I can.  But I don't.  I actually give self-imposed deadlines and, let me tell you, I get pretty cranky with myself if I don't deliver - which rarely happens.

You see, I'm a hard task-master and I think to make a go of it as an Indie writer, you have to be.  There's no point in talking about being a writer, you have to do it and that means many hours of blood, sweat and tears.  And hissy fits, in my case - but that's just the way I roll, they're not compulsory.

So for me to get from Chapter One to The End, I have to give myself a finish date and a reward at the end of it - usually something as simple as a dinner with friends - but something  to work towards.  I relish the buzz of forcing myself onwards and upwards, pushing to the point where I can say, 'YES! The first draft is complete'.

Of course that doesn't mean that it's all over - oh no, far from it.  That's when all the really hard work begins but at least I can say, as I pat myself on the head, 'You go girl, you did it!'

Then come the next set of deadlines - rewrtites, edits, corrections, editing with hubbie, (grrrr!), divorce proceedings, marriage guidance, first read off to friend, more edits and corrections.  On it goes until the big release day and then it starts all over again with a time frame for the next book.

Yes, without a deadline, I'd be sunk.  In fact, I reckon I'd be a publisher's dream (bit of blowing my own trumpet there, but if I don't no one else will!)

Book Six (now entitled 'Lottie's Luck') is over half way there and I've given myself until March 16th to bash out that first draft - I've even got a Twitter lunch and dinner with friends booked as an incentive.  Yes it's possible to dangle your own carrot!

There will be no umming, aahing or procrastination - it WILL be done.  Because I'm the boss and what I say goes.

So watch this space, as 'Lottie's Luck' will hit the shelves at the end of June - and if by some chance it  doesn't, I'll be taking myself into my office for a jolly good talking to.

Now, if you'll excuse me I have a word target to meet ...

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Misfit and Son on TV!

Oh boy, today was the day!  Our big TV debut.

Who would have thought that my son's crippling condition of school phobia would lead to me writing five books, featuring in the Daily Mail, on BBC Radio London and THEN ITV's This Morning.

I'm so proud of my young man - from all of the bad, so much good has featured in our lives and today really proved that.

So ... I was up at 6am today ready for our cab to ITV at 7.45, in the vain hope that my face might wake up!  Mum Fail #1!

Son fell out of bed at 7.10, bright eyed and bushy tailed - not an ounce of nerves in sight! Point to Son #1.

Arrived at the studios to the friendliest security man in living history, instantly put at ease in my sleepy and nervy state.

Directed through sets and storage area to lift - Mum Fail #2 - I hate lifts.  Son told me not to be daft and so I got in.  Point to Son #2.

And it's such a glam lift, how could I resist?

Me looking like I need a nappy change - just a tad scared by now.  Mum Fail #3

ITV coffee and croissants, toast or biscuits before make-up

One view of the Green Room and the TV hubbie watched us on.
The framed photo to the left of the TV says,
'Please Tweet your performance on ITV's This Morning'
Love it!

I have to say what a lovely bunch of people work at This Morning - we were made to feel welcome from the minute we arrived and everyone was just so happy!  People who love their jobs and want to be there - special thanks to the lovely Flo, in particular.  Son was so impressed, he's already been invited to send his CV in as he really wants to work there (BBC and ITV now!)  Point to Son #3.
OK, so next I headed off to make-up.  Lovely ladies but I will never let you near me again.  You may have tried to curl my hair but you will soon realise it has a mind of its own and please don't cake me with STUFF! Mum Fail #4.
With my boy - coffee #1

This is where we hit Mum Fail #5  - weak bladder!  Off I went to the loo ... and got lost.  It's a big place, ITV! So Point to Son #4 - who then had to take me to the loo and bring me back each time.  His comment?  'Mum!  Please don't make me do this!  It makes me look clingy!'  Extra Point to Son #5  for humour and putting me at ease! How the tables turn!

Cool, laid back son - tweeting and chilled.

Hilarious!  I was guided here to smoke, in the non smoking area.
Go figure!
Piles of fag ends at my feet!

So ... then we had our tour of the studio.  Sooo tiny and really weird to see it when you've watched the programme on and off for so many years (throughout the whole of my pregnancy and breast feeding!!!).

We shared the Green Room with David Mellor and Tom Parker-Bowles (or Tom Parker Meat-Bowles, as son has now renamed him after he cooked horse free meatballs on the show!)  Point to Son #6.  Liz Fraser was also there - fellow Twitterer and author - but I didn't get the chance to say hello.  Mum fail #6. We have since Tweeted one another and promised to say Hi, if I'm ever invited back!

And then it was 10.45 - the ad break and time for us to head to the set for our slot.  Phil and Holly were lovely and SO eager to make us feel comfortable - kisses and hugs all round and a quick chat about our interview and ... BAM!  they were into it!  Unbelievably cool, calm, professional - Philip is so cute and Holly is glamour personified (like a lovely dolly fresh from the box).

The interview was over in a flash - I have now had the chance to watch it and I  feel so very proud of my lovely young man.  He was confident and well spoken and he made my heart swell with pride.  Point to Son #7.  I, on the other hand, looked like a woman attacked by fear and a make-up artist.  Mum fail #7.
All those hours of panic were over and we headed back to the Green Room for coffee.  LOOK at the mug they gave me!!!
And we were then given these signed photos to complete our morning out:

The Silver Fox

And the lovely Holly Willer-Boobie!

Our cab brought us home and we were just in time to watch it on ITV+1.  Bad move!  I was cringing and moaning about how old and YUCK I  looked.  Mum fail #8.

Son said, 'Yep, I looked OK.' and disappeared to Tweet and play on the computer without a second thought.  Point to Son #8.
And then of course, we had the 'haters'!  Amongst all the wonderfully positive comments on the show and on Twitter, you will always get those without a brain cell.  This is old hat to us now - been there, done that.  We've clearly helped so many people to start talking about their own experiences, I'm now past caring.

My final point would be this.  Some may think that school phobia is just a 'label' but it's a very real feeling - it's not naughtiness, petulance or 'trying it on'.  My son was not bullied or lazy - PLEASE people, listen!  I just pray you never face anything like it in your lives - karma will be your reward.

And to all of you who have supported us along the way and those who have spoken out or asked for advice, I thank you and I wish you well.

Look at the son I have to show for it now!  #SonWins

Sunday, 17 February 2013

My School Disco - at 49

Today is my 49th birthday.  Scary stuff, huh?  One more year to the big five-oh!

So on Friday we decided to have a 'School Disco' dinner party with some close friends - it took a bit of the old grey matter to dredge up my memories of the late 70's but it was great fun and a lovely dose of nostalgia.

It was also the perfect way to throw a party on a budget - see what you think of our ideas - I'd imagine this came to under £30 for the whole event (booze aside).

First we had the table settings - made by my own fair hands.  Drink mats and sweetie boxes, filled with fruit pastilles.  No classy chocolates at a school disco!

*   *   *   *

Centre piece made of Drumsticks and Chupa Chups

Bow tie serviettes and pencils at the ready for homework! (quiz)

Cake stand made from old vinyl (Kate Bush Album/New Seekers Single)
Monster Munch, old concert tickets and a pic of me at 15!!

Hubbie ready for action!
I gave him a great black eye too!

Me ready for action!

The blackboard and easel my dad made
for me 45 years ago came in handy.

The 'One Direction' fan arrived in PE kit!

One of the public school boys - minus tie at this point.

 We danced.

A lot!

Girls with attitude!

Yes, I really married him!

Shepherd's pie and baked beans or spaghetti hoops was
followed by jam sponge and custard (no lumps though!)

Entertainment was a picture quiz - album covers from the 70's and 'The Gargling Game' - songs from the 70's done by gargling with water.  A particularly wet game as it's hard to gargle and giggle - as my friend said, 'Can you please guess this song soon, I'm drowning here!'

Music was all my favourites from the 70's - The Police, Blondie, The Pretenders etc. and we bopped the night away - friend in her best DM's!

And today I received lovely cards and presents from friends and family.  But the card that literally made me drop my toast on the floor was from my 17 year old son.  As many of you will know, we will be appearing on ITV's This Morning on Tuesday, talking about school phobia.  SO ... my son decided to photo shop my head onto Holly Willoughby's and THIS was the result!

And this was the back - I LOVE it!

What a clever son I have and what lovely friends for making my birthday so special.  If you fancy tuning into ITV on Tuesday morning, I'll be the terrified one on the sofa looking at the camera like a rabbit in the headlights!

Happy Birthday to me.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

A Writer Reads

I have a little problem at the moment and thankfully a close friend is going through the same thing.  But the difference is, she’s not a writer so it doesn’t matter to her so much.

You see, I’m finding it difficult to read and this never happens to me.  I always have a book on the go and I take full advantage of any spare minute to throw myself into the plot and get to know the characters.  If I didn’t read, I couldn’t write.

Before I wrote my first novel, I’d done my homework.  Sitting in a school car park for three years meant I had the luxury of peace and I devoured a book a day.  I got to know my genre, knew it like the back of my hand and felt that I’d served my apprenticeship.

It’s important for me to keep up to date with publications, changes in chicklit trends, what’s hot and what’s not.  It’s something I take very seriously.  This includes trawling Amazon for new books, reading other writer’s reviews, downloading books, going to the library and borrowing all the latest lovelies from aforementioned friend.

It’s a part of my job that I enjoy.


So what’s my problem right now?  Well, I seem to have the attention span of a bulimic gnat.  Not grabbed me in the very first page?  Forget it - I don’t want to know.  I know I’m not being fair to the authors and that I’ll probably, at some point, go back and love what they’ve written but at the moment I’m like a spoiled child.  ‘Don’t like it!  Don’t want it!’

I think part of the trouble is, once you start to write you never read a book in the same way.  Sometimes I’m able to take my writer’s hat off and read for pure unadulterated pleasure but other times I’m always thinking ‘writer thoughts’.

Oooh, I like how she did that part.
Would I have used the commas in those places?
What a fantastic twist - how clever of her to keep me in the dark.
Good grief!  How many times can she tell the same story?

I long for the day to return when I pick up a book and don’t want to put it down - when I’m eagerly awaiting the next spare reading moment. But, at the moment, I’m even finding that new books by my favourite authors just aren’t hitting the spot.

Is that them or is it me?

Right now I feel like I’m in reading-limbo, desperately searching for the perfect book to get me back in my groove.  Maybe it’s because I have a head full of my own plot and characters who aren’t willing to share my brain with imposters - who knows?

So, if any of you lovely readers can suggest a chicklit book which you can guarantee will suck me in to its delights within the first page, please save me.

Because me without my nose in a book, just isn’t right.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

The A-Z of an Indie Writer

This week I’m looking at the A-Z of my life as an INDIE. This list will differ from writer to writer but I’d bet my last pound that some of them will always be the same.

See what you think:

A is for APATHY.  Yes, there will always be those moments or sometimes days when I just have to push, push, push to get to my target.  But I always feel better for it afterwards.

B is for BULLSH*T.  Oh boy, have I been spun some in my time.  I’m sure when it was happening that the agents or publishing houses believed what they were saying but please tread carefully with writers’ dreams.

C is for COFFEE AND CHOCOLATE.  Absolute essentials and if I was told I was banned from having them, I would simply refuse to write another word.

D is for DETERMINATION.  As a writer you need to have this in bucket loads.  Writing a novel starts with the words CHAPTER ONE and finishes with THE END.  There is no way to get to that point without dogged determination and discipline.  

E is for EDITING.  What more can I say, except grrrrrr!  The first draft is complete and then the hard work really begins.  After weeks of my own editing, the book then goes to hubbie and the red marker pen comes out, as does my vicious tongue, endless nights of bickering/sulking and the threat of divorce!  It’s a horrible time but we laugh (manically!) about it when it’s over.

F is for FOLLOWERS.  Those lovely people I’ve met through my writing who leave glowing reviews and eagerly await my next offering.  I love each and every one of them - without them I’d be nothing.

G is for GERM.  That wonderful moment when the first seed of a plot starts to grow arms and legs.  When suddenly you find that your head is filled with brand new characters telling you their stories.

H is for HOPE.  Every day starts with a fresh bout.  Will I have a stonkering sales day?  Will my words flow effortlessly?  Will I be discovered and shot to fame?  Without hope, we’re nothing.

I is for INSPIRATION.  Where on earth does it come from?  It’s quite scary really because it often appears from nowhere and hits me with a plot before I know it.  Completing the Puzzle’ was inspired by a battered old Mini I see every day on my travels.  It made me think of the sons in the sitcom ‘Butterflies’ and, before I knew it - bam, I had a plot!  The idea for my latest Work In Progress came from an ad for a Bingo website - and no, not one game of Bingo features but it was enough to get me thinking.

J is for JITTERS.  As each new book is launched, I tremble with fear.  What if my readers don’t like it?  What if it’s totally panned?  Only after that first review hits Amazon, do I begin to calm down.

K is for KNOCKBACKS.  I haven’t submitted to an agent or publisher for over a year now as I felt that I’d had my emotions played around with just a little too much.  Not only was I rejected by a few (who hasn’t been?) but I was also signed up and messed about.  I was even approached by another agent who asked me to submit the complete manuscript for ‘Diary of a Mummy Misfit’ never to hear back from him again - and when chased up, he ignored me.  Rude!  I’m doing quite nicely as an Indie now and I don’t need to prostitute myself again.  Been there, done that, got the T-shirt, wrote the book.  If you want me, come and get me.  Simples!

L is for LAPTOP.  I’m practically surgically attached to it.  My first novel was written on a laptop I borrowed from my Goddaughter and it changed my writing life.  Before, I had always written in long-hand and I now know this is not the method for me.  Threaten my laptop and I will become vicious - it’s my life-support!

M  is for MORALE.  It’s important to stay upbeat as an Indie.  I have no agent, editor, publicist or publisher to chivvy me along and keep my spirits up and a ‘down-day’ has the potential to set me back for weeks.  This is where fellow Indies come in.  What a great bunch we are!  Anything I’m going through I can guarantee that they will have been through it too.  A quick, chat, Tweet, text or email and everything is put back into perspective.  Writers need never feel lonely now - it’s wonderful!

N is for NETWORKING.  Where would we Indies be without it?  From Facebook to Twitter, guest blogs to book websites.  Every minute not spent writing is spent marketing and that comes from networking.  I firmly believe that without Twitter I would have sold less than half the books I can brag about now.

O is for OMG!  That wonderful moment when someone other than a friend or family discovers my books and says they love them.  I can still remember that first time and the feeling it gave me.  I wish it could be bottled.

P is for PLOT-FACE.  I’m told by hubbie that this is a look I often sport.  It’s a kind of ‘dreamy, not quite in the room’ look and can often be accompanied by a very deep, throaty hum.  Give me a few minutes and I’m back but please don’t talk to me if I’m ‘under’!

Q is for QUALITY.  Always hoping that my latest book is as good as my others - that it will be as well received and of the standard my readers expect.  I’ve just finished reading a novel by a very well known and established author and it could only be described as lazy.  Constant repetition to the point I wanted to chuck it in the bin but I’d invested so much time in it I needed to know what happened.  Nothing is the answer - nothing that she hadn’t told us seven times before.  Shame on the publishers for churning out sub-standard books from your top writers, just because you know they’ll sell.

R is for REVIEWS.  Now, tempting fate here but I’ve been lucky with mine.  I know it won’t last because you can’t expect everyone to like your work.  I’ve read some real stinkers (even for traditionally published writers) and I’m always amazed by how spiteful people can be.  If I don’t like a book, I don’t post a review - writers have feelings you know and when you slate a book it’s a bit like telling them their baby is ugly.  Don’t do it!

S is for SALES.  As an Indie it’s very easy to become obsessed.  In the early days I used to check my sales report page every half an hour (sad but true).  Each and every sale still makes me smile - people are finding my books and my hard work is paying off.

T is for TYPOS.  Curse of the indie writer.  There are three of us who work on the final copy of my books and, each time I’ve released one, typos have still managed to slip through the net.  It still annoys me when I read reviews for other Indie books and the reader says, ‘You could tell it was self-published.  Typos!’  Trust me, it’s not just us.  Recently I’ve spotted more and more mistakes in big name novels - sack the proof-reader, I say.  Oh, and I can’t sack mine because they’re hubbie and best friend!

U is for UNAUTHORISED.  The annoying websites who get a copy of my novels when I’ve done a freebie promotion and then upload it, thinking they can sell it for profit.  Or the people who try to sell a paperback copy for £150!   GO AWAY!

V is for VA VA VOOM.  Those days when nothing will stop me.  The words are flying from my brain to my fingertips and the plot is racing along at a rate of knots.  I cherish those days -I never know when I’ll get another one.

W is for WASHING MACHINE.  Odd but true.  If I’m battling with a scene or dialogue, a trip to the washing machine and a quick flick of the kettle will see me returning to my computer with newfound oomph.  Just the act of loading or unloading the laundry seems to give me the shake-up I need.

X is for the X FACTOR.  With each new book I write I ask myself can I give it that special ‘something’?  Does it have my voice, my style?  Is it good enough?  What makes it different from anything else out there?  I can only do this by constant reading and research - it’s a job that never ends.

Y is for YAY!  This is how I feel each time I check my sales.  I’m a published writer, selling my books.  What a feeling!  My son always shouts, ‘Go Ma!’ when I tell him my sales figures for the day - that makes me feel so proud.

Z is for Zzzzzzzz!  Because there’s nothing like a good night’s sleep to let a plot settle and problems to resolve themselves.  Often my first waking thought will be the answer to an issue I’ve been struggling with.  The whole of the last page of ‘Christmas Deliverance’ was changed after a moment of sleep-induced clarity and it became a much better book for it.

So come on Indies - or any writers - do you agree?  Which would you change?  Why not do your own A-Z on your blog and let me know.  It would be interesting to see how many we agree on.