10 Fun Facts About My New Book

Wow, time goes fast! Too fast! Although I have been working on YA novel A Song For Bill Robinson for three years, it’s release date is suddenly almost upon me and I do not feel ready! Life has been very busy lately and I feel unprepared for this book release and I’m ever so slightly panicking. I did consider delaying the release until after Christmas but I’m not going to. The good thing is this time around I have paid for a blog tour, so this is really going to help with the promotion and take some of the pressure off me. It’s something I’ve wanted to try for a while and if it has good results I will definitely save up my pennies and arrange another one for one of my older books. Anyway, my new book will be released on 7th December and the next few blog posts will be related to it, so if you are curious about the novel, stay tuned and learn more!

  1. I first wrote this book when I was 16. An early version of this story was written when I was 16. Most of the characters have remained the same in this new version, although a few have been added and some have had their names changed. Some of the storylines are the same and some are new. The character who remains most unchanged from my early teenager version is the protagonist, Bill Robinson.
  2. I forgot about it until I found it in a suitcase. I had totally forgotten about the book I wrote aged 16 but never managed to finish, until I found it in an old suitcase under my bed. The suitcase was full of my old diaries and stories and things I had written for school. Amongst all that was a huge lever arch file with the unnamed manuscript in it. What an exciting find! I sat there on the floor and flicked through it. It was handwritten on shabby A4 paper and I’d kept a separate notebook for character bios and plot developments, much like I do now! There is even a handy map! I was actually very impressed with my 16 year old self and decided I had to rewrite and finish this novel!
  3. I wrote two short stories first. As I was already working on another novel, I couldn’t just start rewriting A Song For Bill Robinson right away. I was also putting a short story collection together so I decided to pen two short stories related to the novel, in a bid to keep the rest of it at bay. Bird People and Night Prowler can be found in my collection; Bird People and Other Stories. Bird People is really a character snapshot of Bill Robinson and I really enjoyed getting to know him again. Night Prowler serves as a prequel to the novel, explaining what happened first.
  4. The original book was inspired by The Commitments. Yes, when I was 16 I watched the film The Commitments and it inspired me to write a story about a grumpy working class boy who wanted to be a singer. The book has very different storylines but the singing part was definitely inspired by that film!
  5. It has evolved into a trilogy. My characters do this to me all the time! One book is just never enough for them. So, while I was already developing The Boy With The Thorn In His Side into a six book series, A Song For Bill Robinson ended on a cliffhanger that just had to be addressed in a follow-up. I wrote that book and will release it next year but the same thing happened at the end of that one! I am now working on the first draft of that third book.
  6. It has an amazing soundtrack. If you’ve read any of my other books, particularly The Boy With The Thorn In His Side books, you will know that I am a huge music fan and will write songs into my books if I can. Of course, with this book being about a singer, I was able to have a lot of fun choosing songs! From The Clash, to Jamie T, to The Four Tops and David Bowie…this book rocks! You can listen to the playlist via this Pinterest storyboard
  7. The characters gave me an extra storyline. Yes, they are so naughty like this. I already had a plot and some sub-plots. The attack on Bill starts the novel. Who attacked him and why, and is it connected to the unsolved murder of a local boy? These revelations come throughout the book as does the ongoing feud between Bill and local thug Charlie McDonnal, who Bill suspects of the murder. There is also the community centre under threat and the singing contest held to try to save it. Bill, of course, is a contender in the contest, but can he keep Charlie and his own inner, drink-related demons at bay long enough to win it? And in the middle of all this, my characters suggested a love triangle between the three main characters and best friends, Bill, Summer and Adam. This is a storyline that runs on into the next books.
  8. My daughter helped me edit it. My oldest daughter finished her GCSE’s and had a long summer ahead of her. Her main priority was reading lots of books! She offered to read the paperback proof of A Song For Bill Robinson for me and was an invaluable help. It’s aimed at her age group so I was curious about her reaction to it. She sped through it and loved the characters and she also sat with a pen as she read it, correcting typos and reordering words for me. She was brilliant! Of course it has had further edits and revisions before and after that as well as beta reader feedback, but her being the age it’s aimed at, really was a massive help.
  9. I wrote some songs for it. Well, sort of! You see, in the book, Bill ends up joining a band and playing covers with them. They want to write their own music though, so he starts trying to come up with some lyrics, something he does not think he can do to start with. So this meant I had to come up with some lyrics! And that’s mostly what there is in this book, disjointed lyrics for unnamed songs. But in the next two books those songs develop and become actual songs the band start singing at gigs.
  10. It’s set in a fictionalised version of the estate I grew up on. Just like Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature, A Song For Bill Robinson is set on a council estate called Holds End. This is a fictionalised version of where I grew up. The books link slightly as Elliot mentions the Robinson family in his book and Elliot’s mother Laura, appears briefly in the next book in the Holds End trilogy. As for the location, I’ve kept most of it the same, changed a few roads names and added the community centre.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these random facts about my next book. In next week’s blog I should have news about the release date and a pre-order link for you!

10 Things I’ve Learnt From 10 Years on Social Media

Thanks to my Timehop app I realised the other day that I have been on social media for ten years. It was ten years ago that I first joined Facebook and from there, went on to start a blog, share my writing, join Twitter and Instagram and the rest of it. Like anything new to us, navigating social media in the early days is tricky. I can look back now and see that I have learned a lot about how to use it, how positive and how destructive it can be. Here are ten things I’ve learned from ten years on social media.

  1. Some people use social media like a sort of online diary. I think I used to do this a bit myself until my Timehop app memories shamed me into stopping! But I try not to judge others who like to share their dinner, their bad day, their little triumphs, their new haircut, their kid losing their first tooth or what the weather is like. I think it shows that people want to communicate with each other and there is something sort of sweet and sad about that.
  2. I wouldn’t sell any books without it. True story. For an indie author on a very limited budget, I am constantly amazed that I sell any books at all. I definitely wouldn’t sell any without social media. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and this blog have helped me shape my author platform over the years and allowed me to engage with potential readers and showcase my writing. I don’t know how I would reach any of these people without social media!
  3. It can be a real force for good. I am forever surprised and humbled by the kindness I see on social media. From people starting petitions to help others, people signing and sharing, people starting fundraisers and people donating what they can. The words of support and empathy that are shared with those who are struggling. The fact that people can post on social media that they are having a hard time and get a loving response. Even the small things, like people asking for recommendations, asking for general advice, people helping people out. I love watching videos on Facebook of animals being rescued by people who go out of their way to do it. Always restores my faith in humanity! There are some lovely feel-good stories out there that the TV news just doesn’t tell us about anymore.
  4. It can be a force for bad. Undoubtedly, there is a destructive side to social media. Online bullying, stalking and harassment. Dick pics, racism, sexism, homophobia and animal abuse. All of these things thrive on social media but I guess it’s inevitable. People are good and people are bad. People are kind and people are destructive, so you are always going to get both sides on social media platforms. It can bring you down. Sometimes my feed is full of bad news and horror stories, and if I ever make the mistake of reading comments under political posts…ugh. Sometimes it hurts my heart to see and read how some people think and feel about others. It can also be used for spreading fear, propaganda and lies. Something we need to be increasingly wary of.
  5. People follow you so that you will follow them back and then they unfollow you. It took me a while to realise this as an author. I don’t tend to like or follow other accounts unless I am really interested, and at the moment I’m trying to pare down what I do see and follow. But over the years, if someone, usually other authors, have made the point of liking my page or following my Instagram, I would nearly always return the favour. Sometimes authors ask for this, which I do find a bit rude! Nevertheless, I started out returning the favour only to realise further down the line that person had unliked or unfollowed me. I now see this is a thing people do. Follow you on Instagram, for example, so you follow back, and then they almost instantly unfollow you. They were never interested in following you in the first place. They just wanted to prompt you to follow them to boost their numbers. Now that I know this, I only ever follow back if I am really interested in their content and every now and then I go through my lists and have a purge.
  6. Likes for Likes posts are counterproductive. I have to admit doing these ‘like for like’ things is probably how I got my author Facebook page rolling in the very early days. There were various groups and sites where you could post your page and if people followed you, you were obliged to follow back. I actually met some good online writer friends this way and read some awesome books. But I’m jaded by it now and have vowed not to do it anymore. As tempting as it is, to paste your page link under a ‘let’s follow each other’ post, I don’t see the point. If people want to follow your page because they like your writing, that’s fine. No one should be swapping likes for the sake of it. Chances are you end up with 2,000 likes on your page, most of whom are other authors in other genres who have no intention of ever reading your work and vice versa. I’d rather have less likes but they be from people who have found me themselves and stayed because they like what I post.
  7. You will never change someone’s mind with political posts. Well, I exaggerate slightly, because over the years I have posted the odd thing that someone has responded to, saying it made them think or question something or even change their mind. I could probably count the amount of times this has happened on one hand though. Mostly what happens is the people who think the same as you agree with it and share it. The people who disagree with it, let you know and an argument commences. And the people who don’t give a shit about politics continue to not give a shit about politics. I try really hard not to post too much political stuff these days, but it is very hard! I do realise when I post them though that I am largely wasting my time. Everyone believes what they want to believe and they will find the evidence and data to back it up to suit themselves and yes I am guilty of this too.
  8. A lot of activity on social media is attention seeking. But can you blame us? We live in a crazy, mess-up, potentially doomed world. We have horror at our fingertips any time we want it. We don’t know what to believe anymore, we don’t know what is true and what is fake news. We are all overworked and underpaid. There are no jobs for life and the safety net is being eroded. We are all insecure about our looks and we all have anxiety and depression and repressed rage. We don’t know what to do. We don’t know how to feel. We are disconnected from each other, with no time to catch our breath. It’s an effort to make contact with real friends in real life, so we use social media instead and let’s be honest, most of us do it for attention. Just a Like. A smiley face, a laughing face, a comment, a share. Some recognition, some validation, some sympathy and empathy, or just something to laugh about together. Sometimes that small connection with someone else will help you get through the day.
  9. Sometimes strangers on social media are more supportive than your own friends and family. Another true story! A weird one. Strangers on the internet can become friends, good friends! People who check in with you, message you, chat with you at weird times, support you and share your news. I’ve always found that strangers online are more receptive to and interested in my writing than my actual friends and family. If I post something about my writing to my personal page, it will mostly be ignored. If I post something to my author page, I can usually guarantee a response and some engagement, which is absolutely lovely and keeps me going!
  10. It’s capable of changing the world and it’s not going away. Scary but true. There’s that whole herd mentality thing. Public opinion can be swayed greatly by whatever is going viral and sweeping the internet. You just have to hope it’s something that will work in your favour! I think the thing I have realised though is that social media is here to stay and you are far better off embracing it and trying to understand it, than shunning it and fearing it. This is particularly important if you have kids who are almost certainly going to end up on it at some point. It would be nice, wouldn’t it? To wrap them up in a bubble and shield them from the awful, cruel world and the awful, cruel things that pop up on social media. But knowledge is power and I think parents are better off joining in and getting to understand social media so that they can help their kids navigate it when the time comes. There’s a real risk in allowing your kids to join a site you have no clue about, or even trying to keep them away from it all for as long as possible. It is still going to be there and eventually they will find it. Maybe they will decide it’s not for them, but I think parents are far better able to help kids understand it and use it safely if they have that understanding and experience themselves!

So, how about you? How long have you been using social media? Which are your favourite sites and why? What do you think are the pros and cons of social media? What has it taught you?

Poem-The Battle

The battle started when I was ten

Though I didn’t know it then

A line was drawn upon the sand

When you slipped free and took my hand

I did not know, I did not see

You’d always be a piece of me

What were the words that set you free?

That helped shape my identity?

You’re a big girl, the biggest in class

That can’t really be all your arse

Fat cow, puppy fat, kind of chunky

Are you my best friend? Or worst enemy?

Now we hold hands forever more

Across the line of an eternal war

Dark little girl, with me endlessly

Claws in my back, I carry you with me

Image by skeeze from Pixabay

If You Could Turn Back Time…

I’m curious. If you could turn back time, first of all, would you? Second, when would you go back to and why?

I think I’ve always been a nostalgic sort of person. It’s not that I look back at the past through rose tinted glasses, it’s just that I’m ruled by my emotions, and all it takes is one song, or smell, or random memory out of nowhere and I’m transported back to a part of my life that is now over, or different. Maybe it’s just hard trying to come to grips with how fast life goes. It goes faster as you get older, right? I think we could all agree on that. I was talking about this with one of my kids the other day and we decided that the reason summer seemed to last forever when you were little was because you had no concept of time. For my youngest child, every day lasts a lifetime, whereas for my oldest child, her life is lived against the clock just like mine. As we age we are increasingly ruled by time and schedule. We have to do things by a certain time or on a certain day, and for this reason, we are far more aware of time passing. So it feels faster.

This got me thinking about time and schedules and life in general (it doesn’t take much to set me off…) and it got me wondering, if I could turn back time and go back to any point in my life, not for good, but just to enjoy it again, soak it up, experience it one more time, what part would it be?

It came to me instantly. If I could go back, just for a while, I would go back to when I was a young mum and my two eldest children were a baby and a toddler. And the reason is because life was so unbelievably simple and carefree at that time.

I had my first daughter at 24 and nineteen months later her sister was born. Looking after my daughters was my job, my full time job, my only job. I had started some of the training that would eventually lead to me qualifying as a childminder when my eldest was three years old, but back then, at one point, they were my only job, my only responsibility. They were my world.

And what a simple, sweet time it was. I’m not sure I realised it at the time but I do know I was happy. I had wanted to be a mum for a long time and felt like all my dreams had come true. I had these beautiful little girls and my entire life was looking after them, keeping them happy, having fun. I didn’t drive back then, so I walked everywhere pushing my double buggy with pride. I look back and I can see my face smiling. I remember strangers saying the predictable; ‘havn’t you got your hands full?’ and I would always say no, not really, it’s fine, I love it.

There aren’t always that many positive narratives about motherhood. Mostly, you hear horror stories of pregnancy, birth, ruined bodies, sleepless nights, dirty nappies and temper tantrums. Obviously, that’s all part of it, but I remember being surprised by how much fun it was, how much I enjoyed being with these two tiny humans.

Our lives back then were so simple. No nursery or school or work, so our days were our own. We did not have to be anywhere by a certain time. We did not have to pick anyone up or drive anyone about. It was just me and them and days to fill with fun. Good times. The best of times. And that is not to say that going on to have my two gorgeous sons was not as good. In many ways, my sons have always been easier than my girls! But because I qualified as a childminder before my third child came along, life was different. The eldest started school, the next nursery, and my son had to fit into this very scheduled life, of work and school run and dashing here and there. Same for my next son. Life is tiring. Often it is stressful. Often I start a day wishing for it to be over. I look forward to Friday and think about it as the week marches on. Sometimes there is not enough time to breathe or think. Sometimes I am horribly aware of how fast I am hurtling towards cold, final death. Sometimes I look in the mirror and do not recognise the tired eyes and fine lines staring back at me.

Back then, I was so young. So hopeful, so happy, so vibrant. I had my two longed for children and we could do anything we wanted. Life was an adventure, not a chore. I also actually liked my body. Having my daughters had shook me clear of the eating problems I had lived with for so long. For once, I was proud of my body, for growing, nurturing and feeding my babies. I was young enough to bounce back quickly after birth. I felt slim and young and attractive. The opposite to how I feel now!

So, that’s mine. If I could turn back time that is where I would go back to, just for a little while. Not that I would trade or change my life now. I wouldn’t. I just realise now how much more complicated and tiring it is. I would go back and spend some time in my young, slim body, cuddling my two tiny girls, who were the only people I had to please and who were so very pleased with every little thing I did. Simple times.

What about you? If you could turn back time just for a bit, where would you head back to and why? I would love to know.