Guest Post #8 Dreaming Of Another World

Dreaming of Another World is a new feature on my blog where I welcome a fellow writer or blogger on to talk about their hopes for the future, post Covid-19. During lockdown, I wondered whether other creatives felt like me – like another world was possible and could just be glimpsed once we were forced to stay still. I’ve had a great response and each week I will be publishing a post written by a guest – sharing their thoughts, feelings, experiences and hopes during this strange time. How have they coped during lockdown and has it changed their lives in any way or made them yearn for a different kind of world? Today please welcome fantasy author Fiona Phillips.

DREAMING OF ANOTHER WORLD

Like many people, I watched the news on the Covid-19 outbreak in China with an initial ‘oh, that’s interesting but it doesn’t affect me’ attitude. China was way too far away and remote to make any difference to me and mine. Wasn’t it?

Of course, that wasn’t true. In what seemed like no time at all, the UK went into lockdown. Life, in many ways, came to a halt. Workplaces closed their doors, as did high street shops, bars, and restaurants. Schools sent their pupils home. Colleges and universities followed suit.

Personally, I was in shock – I don’t think I was alone in that – and scared. I checked in on family and friends, gathered my husband and teens around me, and waited.

Weeks turned into months. Shock turned into acceptance, and even a little joy in the new, pared-down, quieter world. And then, like so many other people, I began to wonder what our new world might look like.

Community

To my parents, community was everything. Their community included family – near and far – and friends. It included neighbours and the local shops. It even included the people they worked with, and the faces they chatted with at the bus stop or in the newsagent each day. Community was just a given. It was there.

Changes to the way we live nowadays though has gradually chipped away at that community, or at least that concept of community.

What became increasingly obvious during lockdown was how many of us re-connected online and through video-calls. Our family visits to see my mother-in-law, for instance, have been replaced by regular video-chats, with her dog and ours joining in with their own yip-yapped conversation in the background. Friends have taken advantage of group video calls to ‘meet up’ for quiz nights or cocktail parties. Even TV programmes like Staged have followed the trend.

Whether it’s by phone, video-chat, email, or plain old letter, most of us have realised how important it is to check in on each other.

I hope that the ‘new’ normal will see that continue, not so much face-to-face community being replaced by online community, but the ongoing communication lines we’ve established during lockdown. I hope we continue to care about and stay in touch with the people we know, even if we don’t see them every day.

Lifestyle

Pubs, clubs, cinemas, and theatre.

Visits to the park, team-jogging and walks in the countryside.

High-street shopping, coffee shop meet-ups and restaurant date nights.

All of those changed during lockdown. The things that I missed the most were not being able to meet up with friends for a coffee, no family cinema trips, and the end of meals out with my husband.

But then, as human beings do, we adapted. Our local theatre – the Story House in Chester – started a streaming service and held a drive-in film viewing. Our favourite restaurants turned into take-away services. Netflix and the like saw a massive uptake as film nights out became film nights in.

With so many children at home and workplaces closed, families had extra time to spend together. One of the mums on the estate where I live spent time crafting with her two young daughters and set up a treasure hunt, leaving hand-painted pebbles and pine-cones created by her girls for other local children to find.

With only the necessary shops opens – supermarkets, corner shops – the ritual of retail therapy on the high street ceased for the most part. Of course, it was replaced by online shopping – Amazon has never had it so good – but with incomes reduced or at threat by the lockdown, a lot of us buttoned our purses and relied on the necessities to get by.

The lockdown made me consider what I needed, rather than what I wanted.

Work

As a work-from-home author and copywriter, you might have thought that my work-life wouldn’t be that different during lockdown. What did change was the balance between my two roles. My copywriting clients either shut up shop during the lockdown or decided that they couldn’t afford to outsource their blog posts and social media content.

With little work on that side, I found I had a lot more time to spend working on my novel. By the summer, I had emailed off the first draft to my publisher and started to plan a non-fiction book.

My husband is employed but works remotely from home. The main difference he noticed was the growing number of his colleagues working from home too.

Flexible working, including remote working, has been an increasingly popular approach to work over the last few years. Or rather, it’s been popular with employees. Businesses have generally been less eager to jump on-board. 2020 may well have changed that.

Businesses can’t ignore the fact that many of them have been able to operate during the lockdown with a remote workforce. As a result, employees may now be able to prove that they can do their job perfectly well from home. 2020 was their dry run.

Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things

During the lockdown, it was easy to feel powerless and that you couldn’t make a difference. That didn’t stop some people though.

From the high school boys who began a free food delivery service to the elderly in their community, to the ‘shop’ set up in a garage by the locals on my estate for residents who couldn’t get out or afford supplies, ordinary people have shown how wonderful they are.

I was lucky enough to be invited to contribute to an anthology to raise money for the NHS Charities Together Covid-19 appeal. 2020 Together: an Anthology of Shorts has to date raised over £500 and is still selling.

My Writing

My debut novel, Haven Wakes – published by Burning Chair last year – is set ninety years from now in a world that has overcome global warming and rising sea levels and is assisted by a plentiful supply of robots.

This summer I finished the follow up novel in the series – as yet untitled – and I extended the effects that environmental concerns had had to that world. For instance, to guard against rising sea levels, most cities built up, raising their skirts to a safe level. But what about villages and rural communities – what would they do to survive?

The lockdown got me thinking about how writers might reflect the pandemic in their novels. There’s no denying the fact that if your novel is set in our world in 2020, it’ll be difficult to write about school-days, picnics in the park, or big, lavish weddings.

I haven’t mentioned the pandemic in my latest novel, but that may change in future edits. The effects of the Covid-19 lockdown may be relevant in other books in the series too.

Any author writing novels set in the 2020s and beyond will have to factor in the pandemic if they want to keep their readers’ feet in this world.

Dreaming Of Another World?

2020 has been a challenge, but at no point have I wished for another world. This world is what we’ve got and if the pandemic has proved anything, it’s that there is a lot to be grateful for right here.

We just have to remember what we’ve learnt through the lockdown and keep it going.

Thank you so much to Fiona for coming on The Glorious Outsiders and sharing her thoughts on lockdown and the future. If you would like to know more about Fiona and her books just follow the links below!

Fi Phillips is a fantasy author and real-life copywriter living in North Wales with her family and a cockapoo called Bailey.

She likes to write about magical possibilities.

Connect with her online:

Website – http://fiphillipswriter.com/

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/FiPhillipsWriter

Twitter – https://twitter.com/FisWritingHaven

Other links:

                Haven Wakes on Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Haven-Wakes-Chronicles-Book-One-ebook/dp/B07WJ4YFNX

                2020 Together on Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/2020-Together-Anthology-Tracy-Hutchinson/dp/B08D4T84BF

Indie Author Of The Month; Mick Williams

Welcome to another Indie Author of The Month post! At the end of every month I will be interviewing and generally drawing attention to a fellow indie author I have come across on the internet. For April, I welcome Mick Williams to the blog. Mick is an author I have had the pleasure of knowing online for a few years now. I’ve read a few of his books and he has also read a few of mine. Mick is a very versatile author who writes in multiple genres. He really does have something for everyone! His books are fast-paced and full of adventure. Read on for more.

1. Tell us about your latest release. What is it about and who is it aimed at?

My latest book is called Hope’s Game, a story about a man named Charlie who has lost everything and is offered the chance to earn £10,000 by taking part in research for a new Artificial Intelligence project. Of course, he has no choice but to take part and goes on a life-changing, sometimes harrowing journey. If I had to categorise it, I’d say it’s a little like the Black Mirror TV show… it seems like it should be sci-fi, but it really isn’t, it has all kinds of things in it. Based on that, it’s aimed at pretty much anyone, although I wouldn’t want younger readers to see it, Charlie goes through some tough times!

Hope's Game by [Mick Williams]

2. Tell us about your publishing journey so far.

I’ve been writing forever, and it wasn’t until I attended a conference in America that I plucked up the courage to go for it! My first book, A Reason to Grieve, was self-published and, if I’m to be honest, was written as a dare since I’m a fan of action and it’s more of a romantic comedy! Something must have worked, though – it’s still my best reviewed book and people still mention the characters to me and demand a sequel! After that, I finally wrote an action/adventure book called A Guy Walks into a Bar. When it was completed, I printed out two copies (old style, at home!) and handed them to two people who had offered me a ton of advice. One of them was the wonderful author, Tony Acree. Little did I know, he also ran a publishing company. We met for lunch, where I expected some nice food, company and advice, and I walked away with a contract! I now have four books published through Hydra Publications.

A Reason to Grieve

3. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

At junior school. I’ve always written. English Language was my favourite subject at school and it followed me home every day. I made my own comics, short story books, magazines – you name it, I tried it. I can’t begin to explain the feeling I had when I opened the box that contained my first ‘proper’ book, and it still gives me chills after a further five!

4. What is your typical writing day like?

Ha! I would LOVE to be able to say that I have a typical writing day. Unless I’m on holiday, no two seem the same. I work a full-time job, so I have to MAKE time to write, otherwise it doesn’t happen. As I write this, we’re (hopefully) in the middle of the Coronavirus pandemic. Out of all the horrific negatives that come with it, the first positive I considered was that I might be stuck at home with the entire day to write but, no, my company has me working a full week from home! So, I set the alarm for as early as I dare and write before I get ready for work. It can get frustrating, since my brain never shuts off and I usually get my best ideas when I can’t do much but jot them down.

5. What is your writing process? (how do you plot a book, come up with characters, find motivation etc)

The honest answer is that I don’t really have a process! In terms of plot, I think I’ve tried something different for every book I’ve written. I do TRY to put together an outline (Reason to Grieve, Exodus and Hope’s Game were done on an Excel spreadsheet, Whatever it Takes and A Guy Walks into a Bar were a bunch of handwritten notes, and Callie’s Eyes was a pile of research and a ‘wing it’ approach!). I’m currently playing with the corkboard feature in a program called Scrivener for the sequel to Exodus, which is cool since I can swap, shift and change things as I go and see the whole picture, but I’m also ‘winging it’ on another story, AND writing random scenes for the sequel to A Reason to Grieve!!

Exodus: An Old Farts Club Story (The Old Farts Club Book 1) by [Mick Williams]

Characters are everywhere! Some are people I know, or see when I’m out and about. I sometimes ‘cast’ my characters as if they were in a film, then I can play their scenes in my head and have an idea of who they are and how they’d react to different situations. A couple of the characters in Reason to Grieve were based on characters from a show called ‘Coupling’, and the lead character in Whatever it Takes is based on a customer who came into the store I worked in when I lived in Kentucky. He loved to hunt and was a perfect Cory Keller!

Since I normally know my characters before I start writing, a lot of the time their actions are dictated by what that their personalities would actually do. I have an idea of where I need them to go, but I let their actions take them there… it seems much more natural to let them take over than have me try to force them. If they sometimes surprise you when you read them, you should have them in your head when you write them!!

I remember an author friend saying ‘vomit your first draft onto the page and then sift through the chunks’… I struggle to do that. I normally write a chapter, then go over it and nit-pick it to death. It slows me down but, by the time I’m ready for the next chapter, I’m fully immersed in that world and those characters. It also helps with continuity. Once I’ve completed the first draft (in my fashion), I’ll go through it again and flesh it out with description and emotion. Then, I’ll go again and check it for grammar, punctuation and the dreaded typo. Typos ALWAYS slip through, so then I’ll send it to trusted readers who’ll send back their thoughts. I’ll go through it yet again and either make necessary changes, or decide that what I’d written originally is still the best way to say what I want to say. After that, it’s about as good as it can get at the time, and it’s time to let go and send your story into the world.

6. What has been the most positive thing about your publishing journey so far?

Two things. Mainly, the people. I’ve met some amazing people on this journey. Writers are, for the most part, incredibly supportive of one another. More so, I think, than in most other professions. I have a ridiculous amount of writer friends who are always there for support, encouragement and, as importantly, honest criticism. I’d be lost without them. I’ve also gained some really cool readers who stay in touch to see what I’m up to and, again, offer support and encouragement.

Then, there’s the writing itself. Some days it’s easy, others it seems impossible, but it’s always there. Being able to sit and tell stories is something we’ve done since time began – I get to do it whenever I can. The feeling of opening a new completed book, of seeing a review on Amazon, of writing a particularly satisfying scene… they’re all incredible feelings and something that never gets old. To be able to transport someone from this world into another, even if only for a short time, is fantastic. We read books so that we can check out different worlds without moving. What a gift to be able to supply that world!

7. What has been the most negative thing about your publishing journey so far?

That’s easy – marketing! I love to write but each time I release a book, with the exception of my loyal readers, few people see it and it vanishes into the ether with the tens of thousands of other books that were released at the same time. I love the writing process, but really struggle with advertising and pushing things about me and the fact that I have a new book out (just so you know – I HAVE A NEW BOOK OUT… the link is here somewhere!). I’ve signed up for so many courses and programs, and have so many books on the subject but, when I release a new book, I’m so eager to get stuck in to the next one that I neglect to let folks know about it.

8. What can we expect from you next?

Scarily, three things!! I’m working on a sequel to the award winning Exodus, an adventure/thriller series about a group of army veterans called The Old Farts Club – think of an ‘up-to-date A-Team’! I also started to write a first-person story about a guy who works in retail and gets tired of the abuse the public throws at him – so he embraces his dark side to deal with it. That one came to me after binge watching ‘You’ on Netflix! And, after so many requests, I dipped back into the world of my first book, A Reason to Grieve, to carry on the story of Tom, Emma and their friends; a complete contrast since it’s a romantic comedy. I have enough words between the three of them for a complete book, but my publisher has suggested that I concentrate on one at a time, so Sarge and the rest of The Old Farts are currently engaged on an adventure and have flown from Kentucky to deepest Scotland to save a friend’s life

9. Who is your favourite character and why?
That’s a tough question!

Doris, from A Reason to Grieve, is the only character that I’ve shed tears over, so that must mean something. I truly love her spirit and her blunt way of giving advice to the younger characters. If i can be like Doris when I’m approaching seventy (but without the blue rinse!), I’ll be a happy man.

I do also love Paul Howard from A Guy Walks Into a Bar – he’s just an average man who finds himself in an extraordinary adventure. He’s resourceful and witty…and he gets to hang out with the other cool characters.

Then there’s blind Callie from Callie’s Eyes, and Hope from Hope’s Game…did I mention this was a tough question?

Callie's Eyes: How do you convince someone you can see the future, when you can't see at all?



10. Where do you get your ideas from?

Everywhere! News and magazine articles, people watching, overhearing things people say (not eavesdropping, mind, overhearing; apparently, there’s a difference!) and, in the case of Callie’s Eyes, a dream. Most of the story, including Callie’s name, happened in a dream and it was one of those fortunate times when I woke with it still at the front of my mind. I jotted it all down on a Post-It note and picked it up in the morning. Hope’s Game is based on a screenplay from a very good and talented friend of mine, Craig Ostrouchow. Whatever It Takes came out of a conversation with a hunter in Kentucky. A Reason to Grieve came from an old workmate who’d browse the obituaries every morning before work to see if he found anyone from his old school in there. A Guy Walks Into a Bar came from people watching – in a hotel bar, and Exodus came from a holiday in Jamaica when we visited Bob Marley’s compound and got to drive through the Jamaican townships and countryside.
So, like I said…everywhere!

Whatever It Takes

11. Tell us three fun facts about you

Haha – what was I saying about pushing ‘me’?? Erm… okay –

1. I LOVE music. Alongside reading, writing and family, music is everything. Genesis are my favourite band, and Jude Cole is my favourite artist. If it wasn’t for Jude Cole, I would not have met my wife (if you’d like the full story, join my FB page ‘mick williams author’ and message me and I’ll tell you, it’s a long story!). Truth be known, there isn’t much music I don’t like, I go from punk and pop to rock and reggae and everything in between! MP3s and streaming mean that music is everywhere now. The only thing I miss is the album format. Now that we can stream everything, music seems to be piecemeal where, before, a good album was constructed to flow and have peaks and troughs. Just like books.

2. I have two very cool cats name Thud and Crash. Thud adopted me when we lived in Kentucky. My American brother and my adopted second wife have a house that overlooks a golf course. One cold winter, after a Mexican meal and one or two (or five or ten) drinks, we were hanging around in the kitchen when my wife heard a noise outside. I went out to check it out and was eventually ‘ankle-bumped’ by a dirty, freezing-cold kitten. The end of his tail was broken, and his ears were riddled with mites. At the time, I wasn’t really a ‘cat person’, but our option was to either take him home or put him back into the cold. When we found that he’d been dumped, we had no choice but to adopt him, and now he’s my writing companion (he’s actually on my author pic on A Guy Walks into a Bar!). I call him the OC (Original Cat) since we also adopted another furry fella from the animal shelter to keep Thud company. This ginger tabby is the most lovable animal I’ve ever met and has a habit of nuzzling against you and then falling over to let you fuss him. We had to call him Crash. I should really put their pictures on my FB page and website!!

3. I’m not an army brat, but I’ve lived (I think) in thirteen different places, on either side of the Atlantic, and I’m getting ready to move again once restrictions are lifted! I think this time, once we find somewhere, that’s it! I’m ready to sit still now!!

12. What is the best advice you could give to aspiring writers?

Write what makes you happy. I read a lot about ‘writing to market’, but a) markets seem to shift constantly and b) that seems too much like work! I love to write, and I write what’s in my head, not what I think people might like to read. I’ve been fortunate to find people that like to read what’s in my head which, I suppose, makes them as crazy as me! It won’t ever fund my retirement, but it’ll make my retirement a lot more fun.

Read. A lot. Reading is writer homework. See how the books you enjoy actually work. Why did that scene make you smile? Why is your heart pumping a little faster after finishing that chapter? Good writers don’t hide how they make their magic, it’s right there on the page. Love or loathe him, but no one creates worlds better than Stephen King. How? Description and character. By the end of a SK book, you’ve lived in that town and you know those folks. They’re as real as you and I… that’s why it bothers you so much when he does nasty things to them! Learn from the best.

And, remember that rules are made for bending. While there are definite do’s and don’ts, no one will write your story the way you will. I remember reading somewhere that sentences should vary in length (which I agree with 100%), but that they shouldn’t be overly long. I’ve just finished the latest number one bestseller by Lee Child. There’s a sentence in there that runs at over ONE HUNDRED words (his previous best was 81 – I counted!). This breaks every rule under the sun, but it worked. And Reacher still had time to get the job done

And, finally – just enjoy it. If no one else reads a word of what you’ve written – you have. And I’ll bet it felt great.

Thank you so much to Mick for doing this interview! If you would like to find out more about Mick and his books (and I highly recommend that you do) you can follow him here;

Get in touch: Website – http://www.mickwilliamsauthor.com

Facebook – mick williams author

Twitter – mickwilliamsauthor

Email – mickwilliamsauthor@gmail.com

Writing, Running, Habit and Obsession

I was once a fat kid obsessed with writing. Back then, real life was just about tolerable if I had my imaginary one to escape to. For I had discovered a magical and powerful thing. Writing could do anything. Writing could take me anywhere. And I was in control. I could have whatever fun I wanted; invent new friends adventures, create whole worlds if I wanted to. If I look back now I can see that need for control was a big factor. A shy fat kid in the middle of a dysfunctional family does not have much control, if any. A shy fat kid at school has even less. But in writing? The shy fat kid can do whatever the hell she wants, because she owns this! It’s liberating, I can tell you. And for many, many years after that, writing was my addiction and my obsession.

I’d endure school and then run home after, up to my room to write. I’d carry notebooks everywhere so that given the chance I could vanish into another world and write. I’d write past my bedtime and first thing in the morning.

Writing was all I ever wanted to do and anything else was just an annoyance and a distraction. Including exercise. I hated PE as a kid. I was chubby and awkward and shy and despised having people watch me fail at something. At least with other subjects at school you can thrive or fail in private, but PE is kind of cruel because your failures are obvious for all to see.

Chubby kids who like reading and writing and being alone shun exercise for obvious reasons and in return what happens? Yep, they get chubbier. Which makes them even less likely to exercise in front of anyone and even more likely to hide in their room with a notebook and pen for as long as they can get away with. What you have is a vicious circle that as a child, you have no idea how to break out from.

And self-loathing builds and builds. I’m not sure what finally made me embrace exercise. With no money, I was limited for choice, so running seemed the best option. I’d always hated running! Though to be honest, it was more the thought of anyone seeing me that was the problem. The estate I grew up on had a horseshoe sized ‘green’ enveloping one side of it. I could access this from the back gate and run around the backs of the houses in a loop. I think I set myself a goal of three times a week but when I started to notice the results, I soon upped that to daily. And I developed a habit, much like my writing one, that benefited my mental health as well as my physical.

They say that to form a habit you must do something every day for 30 days. What started as a habit with running soon became an obsession that I started to view the same way I viewed writing. I had to do it. If I didn’t do it, I didn’t feel good. It would ruin my day. I felt like bad things would happen. I’d lost a lot of weight, between that and some very silly eating habits at the time that haunted me into adulthood, and I really, really, really did not want to risk ever putting that weight back on. I’d been fat and life had been hell. I never ever wanted to be that girl again.

I sometimes wonder where I would have ended up had I not become a mother at the age of 24. I think my obsession with running and my growing fear of food would have got worse. I think I would have carried on writing and possibly would have got published a lot sooner than I did. I don’t think I would ever have let either of my obsessions go.

But motherhood changed everything and rightly so. I was now amazed at my body and in awe of what it had done. When one little girl became two, I had my hands full at a young age, and I also knew that I shouldered a huge responsibility here. I did not want my problems with food and weight and body image rubbing off on them. Writing fell by the wayside. Hard to believe that now, but it really did. I was far too exhausted, overwhelmed and obsessed with my new life as a mother. I was in love and there just wasn’t the time or the energy.

Over the next decade, I had a third child and I sporadically forced myself to run and write. I tried and failed and tried and failed to develop those habits again. I told myself I did not have the time or the energy for either. I told myself I was wary of getting obsessed with them both again, because that wouldn’t be good for my children. And this all went well for a while. I was too busy to consider anything else.

Writing came back to me, or I came back to writing, I’m never sure which way around it was, in the summer of 2011. My then youngest child was due to start school that September and at the time there was no plan to have any more. I suddenly felt horribly afraid and set adrift. I didn’t want him to go to school as not only was I losing my last baby, I was losing the identity I had spent the last decade carving out. Chantelle, the mother.

I hadn’t forgotten about the old me…I just didn’t think she was relevant anymore. I still remember the moment my writing whooshed back into my head, and it was kind of blunt, terrible and painful. I was reading a book and the young character in it reminded me of a character I had created and believed in when I was just 12. I’d written and rewritten his story many times over the years…could I do it again? Could I write again? Was I a writer? As a child and teen that was all I had identified as, but it had been gone so long, did I have any right to try to reclaim it?

I started writing again after finishing the book that had reminded me of my long lost character. I was so embarrassed at first, I wrote in a notepad and hid it if anyone walked in the room. I didn’t dare tell anyone what I was up to because I was suffering badly from imposter syndrome! And I wrote every day, without fail and that built the habit back up and the habit soon became an obsession again. It devoured me. I started writing every evening without fail and any other spare moment I had. I started this crazy, up and down writing and publishing journey and the arrival of a fourth child did nothing to slow me down and I have not looked back. I could never, ever stop writing now. I still can’t believe I let it go for so long…

“Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.”

— Franz Kafka

But what about running? Could I claim that obsession back too and was it healthy or sensible to even try? Over the last year or so I’ve noticed major fluctuations in my mood which I am now blaming on the perimenopause. If you’ve not heard of the perimenopause, don’t worry, neither had I, and I will be blogging about this another day. In short simple terms, its the period of time before the actual menopause and women start suffering from a variety of symptoms that for a while, they probably won’t attribute to anything other than life stress.

I don’t want to go into it too much in this post but the way I had been feeling for no real reason, was very, very similar to how I felt as a teenager. That intensity of mood and emotion that can shift at the slightest thing. Intrusive thoughts about how rubbish I am, cruel thoughts about how pointless my life is. Lovely stuff like that. Incredible anger. Deep sadness. And most of all? Just wanting to be alone. The worrying thing was the effect on my mental health, particularly before I did some research and found out about the perimenopause. I was feeling horrible, to put it mildly. I was crying a lot for no reason. I was focusing on body image more than I had done in a very long time, and given my past issues, this was not a good thing.

One night I was sat writing and crying when I suddenly felt the most powerful urge to move. To get up and run. It was like my mind telling me to get the hell out of there and move. It seemed stupid and my other mind tried to talk me out of it. I was too tired, it was nearly dark and so on. But I ignored that one and I did it.

Now, what normally happens with me and running since I became a mother almost 17 years ago, is I can keep it up for a bit and aim for 3 times a week, not be too hard on myself etc, but that’s not enough to build a habit. Inevitably I miss a few, and that turns into missing a few weeks and the weeks turn into months, just like what used to happen with writing.

This time? I have decided to run every single day without excuses. I do have the time. It’s 20 minutes usually. I have managed to stick at this for over a week now and the difference in my mood is astounding. I have not felt down, sad or angry once this week. I have felt more energetic, more motivated, more rational than I have in a long time. I feel proud of myself too. And we’re not very good at that are we? But I am proud of myself. It feels good. It feels right.

We all know that exercise is good for our mental health, and most of us know that writing is also good for it. Very good, I’d argue. If I can manage to hold onto both of these habits (yet try to stop them becoming obsessions) then I will be very happy indeed and heading in the right direction. I just might be able to get through this perimenopause thing unscathed and have the energy and mind power to deal with the actual menopause!

I Confess…I Write My Books For Me

I think it’s time to admit the truth. Who am I aiming to please when I write and publish a book? Well, mostly it’s me. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. 2018 was an endless round of editing and revising for me, as I prepared Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature for release in October, and revamped and released The Boy With The Thorn In His Side Parts One and Two, and edited Parts Three and Four. Because of this amount of editing, and the fact I was taking part in a reading challenge, I didn’t get a hell of a lot of reading for pleasure done last year.

Which made me think about a few things. One, I really, really enjoy reading my own books, no matter how many times I’ve edited or read through them… Eek, I know, sounds big-headed, doesn’t it? But it’s true. I love my characters and my storylines have me hooked so much they keep me awake at night. Every single book I’ve ever published has a sequel bubbling away inside my head. I just can’t fully let any of them go. I’d miss them too much.

So, when I edit, revise, read through, proofread again and again and again, I enjoy it. I genuinely do. I become immersed in these characters lives. I enjoy the drama and the twists and the turns, even though I know how it ends! Weird, right?

Well, maybe not. After all, why do writers start writing in the first place? I’ve been thinking about this. Now, I’m sure for some it’s the dream of money and fame, of making it ‘big’, becoming an international, award-winning bestseller, who has all their books made into films. JK Rowling or Stephen King, in other words. I mean, it sounds amazing, so who wouldn’t want that?

And I’m sure for some, it’s the urge to entertain, to spin tales, to amuse, to awaken, to entice, to deliver a message.

But for others, I think it’s something different, something they’re not entirely in control of. And I think reading sparks it off. Reading a good book at a young age, then reading more. Becoming utterly drawn into a made-up world that holds your attention, keeps you amused, enthralled, or terrified. The kind of book you don’t want to end. The kind you want everyone else to read just so you can talk about it with them. The kind where you want the characters to be real, and almost believe that they are.

And then, because this is just so exciting, you start to wonder. I could do this myself. I could entertain myself. Then I’d be in control, and it need never end! I can create worlds and lives and people just how I want them, and I can make it funnier, or scarier, or sadder, whenever I want to. Forever!

'If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, you must be the one to write it.'-Toni Morrison.jpg

And thus, a writer is born. A writer who originally set out to please only themselves.

That’s definitely how it was for me. Throughout my childhood and my teenage years, I was totally addicted to writing. I wrote early versions of some of the books I have since published or are working on. I wrote short stories, poems and endless, endless diaries and outpourings of words, thoughts, feelings, and dreams. My writing kept me sane, and it kept me entertained. I was never lonely or bored. I absolutely adored this game of make-believe, and I still do.

I write what I want to read, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. Maybe this is true of a lot of writers, I don’t know. It’s no coincidence that the kind of books I write are the kind of books I am always searching to read. I long to read books with amazing, complex characters, the type you never forget, the type you love and loathe in equal measures, the type you can empathise with and root for. I love realistic dialogue and prefer that to too much exposition. I like to read about characters I can relate to, which is difficult as so many books contain middle-class characters. I like to read gritty, hard-hitting storylines. I like realism.

So, there you have it. When I write a book I am mostly writing for myself. I want to write something for me to read. That’s not to say I don’t then spend years trimming it, honing it, revising it, proofreading and editing it until it becomes something I am proud to put out into the world. That goes without saying. I do want people to read my books. Desperately. I do want those reviews and those messages. Without a doubt, I would like better sales! And of course, my ultimate dream is to have all my books made into films or TV series! You got to have your dreams, right?

But in the beginning, it’s me I’m trying to please.

And I think that’s okay. At the very least, it means I will never stop writing!