Wednesday 11 October 2017

The Art of Nothing

Last night I did an incredible thing: nothing.

As a self-confessed stress-head, this is quite a note-worthy occasion. I'm the kind of person who is always considering time; how much of it something or someone will use, how much of it has passed, what I can best do with my time... If I could take a measuring tape to time, I would.

Two weeks ago I slipped whilst on a bush walk and bruised my ribs, and despite the acute pain, I kept going. I still applied adhesive window film to seven windows, built a pallet sofa, painted and attached privacy screens, and hosted two parties. I went to work. I wrote my books. And yes, all of that made the pain worse and lengthened my recovery time. I haven't slept painlessly for a fortnight.

I don't pretend to always make the best decisions. I just have a hard time being idle.

There is always something on. Give me three colourful balls and I will make a clumsy spectacle of myself, but I can juggle life like a tenured circus performer.

I work full time. I write when I can (in the last month I've finished writing two books, submitted a book to publishers, applied for a grant, edited a manuscript, and outlined another work-in-progress)  and I've just moved into a new house, so there's lots to be done. I see my family and friends when I can, and of course, I have my husband and fur family - the best time-sucks of my life.

I'm not saying I'm unique in this. We're all busy. I don't have kids and I don't have a particularly big commute to work, so I have more time available to me than others, but I am saying that I don't have an off button.

Which is why it was particularly unusual for me to come home yesterday and do what I did.

My husband was out, I had the house to myself. Before I'd even set my bag down I was mentally listing what could be done before climbing gingerly into bed. But between the front door and the couch, I changed my mind. I just ... sat. I binged on the first season of Younger - one episode after the next - even after my husband came home to find me still in my work clothes in the same position I'd fallen in hours earlier. I skipped dinner. I didn't close the blinds. I didn't even turn the lights on, so I was sitting in the dark. Hell, I'm lucky my respiratory system is a sub-conscious function!

I can honestly say, that was the absolute best use of my time in that moment.

Things didn't get done. They were delayed a day and the world didn't end. I actually watched the TV instead of glancing at it between laptop tasks. It was self-indulgent and it was perfect.

Some of you may be reading this post and thinking, "So what?", but I'm celebrating. It might be weeks or months before I do this again and I want to mark the moment so that one day in the future, I can look back and remind myself that the world didn't end when I stopped blurring around the edges. Some of us wear our busy-ness like a badge of honour and I'm not saying that's wrong, but wow, it felt good to just put everything down for a night.

Still waiting on that human cloning technology. It should be any day now.

Tuesday 20 January 2015

Friday 17 October 2014


The process of writing a book is a personal one. I've never met two writers whose processes are alike, but I have met enough to know that the above image would resonate with many. Our self-confidence fluctuates, our enthusiasm wilts then revives. It's a see-saw, a swing, a frikkin' roundabout of emotions that range from energising to debilitating.

At the time of this blog post, I am within two pages of finishing a novella due for release in early 2015. When I first started writing Driftwood Summer (working title), I was unstoppable. I missed meals. I jabbered about these characters like they were best friends. Now, I'm self-shaming myself into finishing, because my mind's already moved on to new characters. Better friends.

It's often this way for me. I need to knock out the ending fast, or I lose momentum and get cranky. Watch me, by the end of today I'll have written 'The End' and completely forgotten the struggle to get there. "It was a joy!" I'll crow. Yeah, right. Pass the chocolate.

I am also two days into a new project (I know, bad writer!), and utterly overwhelmed with the possibility of it. It's unlike anything I've ever done before, and it took stumbling across the above image for me to realise I want to map its journey from inception to completion. If it's ever truly complete, that is.

See? Unless anything I've ever done before. It has no visible end.

So, I'm marking the moment. I'm about to pop over to Twitter and post my first new project update. The hashtag #theregulars will feature in every update, and in time - at a significant milestone - I'll use it to track my progress, both in words written, and mood.

I'm keeping myself accountable by writing in a day-to-a-page diary. I'm loving the practice of it so far, because one page isn't overwhelming on the days when I'm not sparking, and one page is teasing on the days when I am. I don't run over on to the next page, but wait, impatient for the next day. The diary is dragging me forward, and with me, undeniable progress.

I've got to say, there's also something nostalgic and boundless about handwriting an excerpt. Away from the internet and the internal editor, connected with the friction on the page and the liquid sweep of the pen. I don't hand write enough. I'm typically too impatient for it because I'm such a fast typer, but this exercise is getting me back to that. It's slowing me down, which in this instance, is a good thing.

Each day's writing does not have to be connected to the day before. It can be a new scene, a new excerpt. It can be set wherever and about whatever is resonating with me at the time. This reduces further pressure. It doesn't even have to be about The Regulars, even though that's what I'll be tracking.

Being a typically chronological writer, I'm broadening my skillset and challenging myself to follow my inspiration, however disconnected it may be.

In conclusion, for those of you who are interested in following a writer's process - through the mire of every emotion imaginable - I welcome you on board.

If you don't have Twitter, I'll be regularly posting the #theregulars feed on my website, so you can follow it there.

For those of you who followed my recent holiday posts, apologies, I'm home, and my nose is back to the grindstone. In good news, though, if you enjoyed all the mischief and madness of my trip, stay tuned. Many of my experiences will be making their way into books for you to enjoy in the not too distant future!

Until next time.


Saturday 21 June 2014

Donkeys, squids and lava stones

Today is the last full day of my Greek Island Hopping tour; after breakfast tomorrow, I’m done with all my tours and will be making my own way for the next few months.

I’ve been to Greece before – it captured my imagination and for seven years I wasn’t able to still the rattle in my heart – the piece of Greece I’d brought home with me last time. So I returned to Athens – gave the city way too much of my time – then escaped to the islands.

Mykonos was brilliant, and I loved it all over again. I got lost in the back streets of town, watched a bride walk down the aisle to the man of her dreams, and unwound. Being an early bird, I got one of the famous beaches to myself one morning, which was a highlight. I also stimulated the local economy with some enthusiastic shopping.

Paros, an island I knew nothing about prior to arriving, surprised me with its creativity and intimacy. The jewellery makers on Paros are so gifted, I defy anyone to leave the island without a new trinket. Paros had the same narrow, white-walled cobblestone streets of Mykonos, and yet it had a fraction of the tourists and an abundance of charm. I went to a fishing village where squid were drying in the sun, trawlers were lurching against the sea walls, and nets were unrolled on footpaths, and I loved it.

Highly recommended.

The third and final island on my hopping tour was Santorini.

Oh, Santorini.

It’s as good as people say. It’s better than they describe. It’s something else entirely.

White buildings cling to kilometres of cliffs. The roof of one building is the floor of another. Streets of glamorous clothes, glittering jewellery and all manner of souvenirs make for a dazzling walk about town. Thousands gather for the sunset each night, as we did, and a short boat ride away, a volcano waits.

This, we climbed. I dragged my bung foot up to the crater, toes be damned, and later swam through thermal spring water to a mud bath. The group isn’t entirely sure we weren’t duped, and that the mud had no beneficial properties at all, but either way, excellent photos were born. Following this, we conquered the cliffs on donkeys, and had a brilliant night out in town.

In all, the tour has been fantastic. Brilliant people, awesome locations, and more rattles in my heart. 

Now I’m bound for Athens, looking back on photos and making big decisions about what comes next. 

In the immediate future, London. 

Beyond that, stay tuned.

Monday 9 June 2014

Small Town Storm, CLUE Award Winner!

I am beside myself excited to share that Small Town Storm came first in the Chanticleer Book Reviews & Media CLUE Awards for Thriller, Mystery, & Suspense Fiction! 

It went through *seven* rounds of judging, isn't that extraordinary?

I'm so, so thrilled and flattered. Thank you, Chanticleer, the contest coordinators, and the judges - you've put the hugest smile on my face.

The CLUE Awards First in Category Winners

Saturday 7 June 2014

Broken bones, nights under the stars, and fear eyes

I’ve spent the last week cruising the Mediterranean on a gorgeous gulet boat with a group of people I will never forget. I had been nervous for months about who I would be contained to a boat with, but I got to travel with some truly brilliant people. One in particular became a fast friend, and another really made the trip shine.

The days were as lazy as you might imagine – sun, swimming and sleep, with the occasional shift in order. Me, I was the oddity cheerfully writing on my laptop when others were dozing or reading. Apparently it takes more than eight days for me to wilfully do little to nothing. Still bent on ‘how can I make the most of this time’, it seems.

That being said, I’ve got the skeleton of what I hope will be a cracker of a book. Boat politics, drama, and of course, romance.

I went scuba diving. And sucked at it. Throw me into the sky from 2,000 metres, sure, let’s do this – but put me in a suit that covers everything but my face (then cover my face with something else), weigh me down under water and insist I breath through a Darth Vader mouthpiece? Get stuffed.

I went through with it. All my photos have fear-eyes, but I ticked the experience box. I insisted on two emergency surfaces and spent half the dive too freaked to turn my head, but I eventually enjoyed myself. After my instructor put a frikkin’ sea anemone on my hand – enjoyment was a while after that.

Those little buggers have squishy sucker feet, and it walked on me. Having had one of its friends bury a 6cm long barb in my toe which I couldn’t get out for three weeks, I was understandably uncomfortable with its proximity.

I’ve seen a sunken city. Lycian tombs. An old castle. I’ve snorkelled, leapt off the boat and accumulated more bruises than looks kosher. We’ve had a party nearly every night, and I’m managing about four hours of sleep a night. And on one of those nights, when I hadn’t even had a drink, I fell.

I broke three toes. My foot hit the side of the boat so hard it shattered one of my toenails, and the bruise on my back makes people lurch away from me, horrified. I ruptured some blood vessels. Ask me if you want photos - I don't want to force that picture on anyone. 

Now, think of what you’ve read so far. The exploring. The parties. The getting in and out of small boats to be shuttled to islands… add broken toes, and a constant rolling, lurching boat.

The glorious, constant pain. But what can you do?

Apparently you can use a naked lady stirring stick as a makeshift splint. No kidding. When I get back to port I’m going to get a raised eyebrow from a doctor, I’m sure – ha!

My parents were sympathetic and alarmed when I told them, but I have a tiny suspicion they weren’t too surprised. This kind of thing – a ridiculous injury or incident – happens too often to shock anymore, I think. Before I left for my trip I had a fight with a table and ended up with bruised ribs. I'm that kind of girl. I'm pretty sure the captain was keen to get me off the boat - every time I walked past him he shot out a hand and said, 'Be careful!'. Haha. 

It has been wonderful relaxing (in my own way), meeting amazing people, and getting a greater understanding of life on the ocean. The crew live and breathe it, and that kind of connection with something – that complex, deep magnetism – has resonated with me.

It’s been an entirely different pace from any other trip I’ve been on. And if I were to write a book about this last week that was more fact than fiction, it would have all the romance of the great love stories, all the upheavals of different personalities forced together, and a protagonist who just couldn’t stop smiling.

On to Athens next for four days of leisure and history. Then ten days in the Greek islands with sand, sun, and hopefully a legitimate splint.