Poem; Fine Wine

I need time for fine wine

Actually, it’s pretty cheap

Long as is doesn’t taste like vinegar, I’m good

And I refuse guilt

On a Friday, having survived

Because that’s what life is

A bloody fight and you know it

Like I know it

And we laugh about it and mostly

We swear fucking loads about it

And that makes us laugh more

Reveals the tension, the underlying strung out, pain and regret and

Anger

Licking lips, shaking heads, shaking it all away, we say

All you can do is laugh

All you can do is fuck it

Because life is short!

Fine wine, at the right time

Is never, ever enough

It lifts you up, lifts you out

The glass in hand, the bubbles glistening

The tall thin stem

The fragility of glass, like human pain

Human potential and blood

Your mouth rejects then consumes it

Your body likes it, your mind craves it

Music gets louder, means more

Touches you, nodding

You are gloriously amplified

Even, alone, typing, thinking, feeling, smiling

Taking lost selfies

You are smiling, with your fine wine

Your reward, your reward for the fight

And what does it mean

Except, anything can happen, anything will

Probably, you will roll into bed and sleep with

A smile on your face

But you don’t know that for sure when you start the fine wine

You feel the possibilities then

Of words unspoken, of laughter, light, danger

It’s all a ball of reckless desire and needing to be seen

It propels and laughs slyly

Trips many a fine human up

Ties them in knots

But not you

You know, fine wine, cheap wine

But only on a Friday

It is a caged beast, after all

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Book Launch Plan!

Launching a book is scary! So scary in fact that I’ve been putting this one off for months, maybe even years. As is the usual with me, I tend to write a first draft in about 3 months and then go into subsequent drafts and rewrites and edits that last for years…I then procrastinate about how ready the book really is, worry endlessly about whether it’s had enough beta readers and generally do everything I can to put off actually releasing it.

Why? I think because in writing a book, you put your heart and soul into it. You immerse yourself in it, become obsessed by it, fall in love with it and in releasing it, you hope to have some kind of recognition of that, in sales and reviews, and as most indie authors will know, this is by no means easy. If you have money to spare, it helps. Money will buy you an editor, a decent front cover and an advertising campaign. High sales and plentiful reviews are still not guaranteed but you’ve got a better chance. For writers who don’t have a single spare penny? It’s a much harder and more frustrating process which at times barely seems worth it.

Anyway, I digress. There are many reasons I delay book releases and fear of failure is the biggest one. I don’t have massively high hopes but I do hope and dream of decent sales and positive reviews. And if I put off the release? Well, I delay the fear and can sleep better for longer.

But! The time has come. I am currently nearing the end of The Boy With The Thorn In His Side Part 6, and when that’s done, I will have five unpublished books waiting for release dates. Five!! That’s insane. I think that says a lot about my relationship with writing! Endless ideas, addictive/compulsive tendencies and then utter fear and denial. It also explains why I’ve written my whole life but only starting publishing in my mid-30’s.

So, with that in mind, one of those five books will be released in December! I decided on December as it’s a good time to release a book, when people are thinking about Christmas presents and it’s dark and miserable outside and people want a book to curl up with. That gives me almost three months to plan the launch. I’m already daunted, although I have done this before. I am tired just thinking about it.

Having already ruled out a physical launch (as an indie author I am too afraid no one will come and very good at self-sabotaging myself) I do need to make a plan and stick to it.

So, this post is my book launch plan for YA novel A Song For Bill Robinson, potential release date Friday 6th December. I will probably add to and revise this plan as time goes on and as always, please feel free to comment! If I have missed anything, let me know! Any good ideas? I’d love to hear them!

  • Decide on release date
  • speak to cover designer again to prompt first sketch of ideas
  • go through book again for final typos etc
  • decide on a good tag line for promo etc
  • make a list of ARC reviewers and ask in Street Team and Facebook page
  • contact possible ARC reviewers
  • send book to agreed ARC reviewers
  • organise a blog tour
  • revisit Pinterest board and add to/revise/work on
  • start making release day and release countdown graphics on Canva
  • organise advertising, free or paid, decide!
  • contact similar genre authors to organise giveaways and/or blog spots/interviews
  • start making quote graphics on Canva and start sharing to Instagram etc
  • contact YA booktubers!
  • contact YA book reviewers!
  • put print copy together to release on same day as ebook
  • organise Amazon or Goodreads giveaway?
  • create a Facebook launch day event and a separate Instagram one?
  • invite other authors to event to share posts/books etc
  • create graphics for online launch events
  • create launch day competitions for Facebook and Instagram
  • Put together a series of blog posts to release up to launch day about the book
  • set ebook at 99p for one week only
  • invite people to Facebook event and hope they come!
  • submit the book to competitions/awards!
  • drink lots of wine and remember that at least I tried!!!

First Draft Madness

Last week I finished the second draft of The Boy With The Thorn In His Side – Part 5. I originally scribbled this book into a notepad about six months ago. Finishing the second draft was exciting, because I managed to untangle the ending I had got in a mess with, and this lead to such excitement about the planned and plotted Part 6, I just couldn’t resist launching right into it.

So, in the evenings I am currently editing a chapter or two a night of Part 5, (making this the third draft). While in the day, any chance I can get, I am writing brand new, first draft Part 6 into a notebook. I am so excited!!!!

I have realised over the years that writing the first draft of a novel has a really strange affect on me. I love it but fear it. I can’t get enough of it. It is something I get addicted to, but also can’t wait to be over. I thought I’d list the things that happen to me when writing a first draft. Perhaps if you are a writer, you can relate? Feel free to comment if you do!

  • I feel nervous. This is a very, very weird thing. Now, I don’t think of myself as an especially anxious person, but like everyone, I have my moments. However, there is nothing that can make me quite as anxious and tense as writing a first draft. It’s really really hard to pinpoint why. All I know is that I will wake up with a nervous tight feeling in my belly, go about my day with that same heavy, almost painful sensation, start to panic about what it means, only to find it goes away completely once I start writing. This does not happen with the subsequent drafts of novels. Just the first! I guess it makes me nervous, though I’m not sure why. Maybe its nervous excitement? The longing to be writing is so strong that knowing I can’t do it until later makes my body tense? I have no idea.
  • I am addicted. This is the worst thing and also the best thing. Obviously, feeling addicted to what you are writing is a good thing because there is no danger of writers block or any kind of procrastination. I am utterly in love with the act of writing and shaping this novel and it feels like that too, like butterflies in my tummy. But it’s not the easiest thing to live with. When you’ve got two day-jobs, multiple pets and four children, it’s hard to find the time to squeeze writing in and when in the midst of the pure addiction that only happens with the first draft, it’s a bit like torture not being able to write.
  • I am distracted. Beyond belief! When I was a kid I was constantly being told by people that I was in my own little world. They were right I really was. And I still am. I’m still that kid. In a constant daydream I struggle to break free of. I am constantly thinking about my book and my characters. Plot twists and story-lines weave through my head all the time, which is exciting and brilliant, but I’m meant to be reading to my child? Or making dinner? Sometimes I wish the voices in my head would be quiet. Or at least wait until later. But they have other ideas and I just have to deal with it the best I can.
  • Creativity is at its peak. I usually have a plot before I start writing. In particular, with these books as they are part of a series, the plots are somewhat already in action, and at the end of the last book I would have written an outline for what happens in the next. But something exciting happens with the first draft of a book. Yes, I’ll have my basic plot, but every time I write a chapter, I get new ideas for the next ones. The next chapter will write itself in my head before I have finished the one I am on. The next chapters will line up in my mind while I am walking dogs and cooking dinner…it’s like a constant bubbling? I truly believe the more you write, the more your mind wants to write. The ideas flow once you let them, once your provide that release. It’s like they know it’s coming and they are finally getting their turn! It’s really quite amazing. So although my basic plot probably won’t change, in the process of writing the first draft, creativity will hit the roof. I also find I have way more ideas for blog posts, poems and short stories during this time!

There are loads more things I could say about writing a first draft. I think it’s important to let go of how clumsy and new it is, and just embrace the ideas as they flow. Subsequent drafts are for tidying up, tightening up and cutting down…and I enjoy that process just as much for different reasons. But the first draft is a crazy time…a crazy thing. I will be a bit sad when it is over for this book!

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!