Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Doubting Alexa

I’m still not sure about writing this, such is my level of doubt at the moment, but here goes.

Most writers and others will have heard of Imposter Syndrome. I’ve been experiencing this feeling for some time now, so much so that I’ve struggled to write anything for a while, and had little belief in the words I have committed to paper. I’ve told myself that this is a feeling many writers have, but I give myself the same reaction my mother did when I said other mothers allowed their children to do something – I am not them.

When my first book, Sporting Chance was published back in November 2014, I’m not sure what I thought would happen. To be truthful, I didn’t care because I had a book out with characters I loved, and still do. It did quite well, and is still my best-selling book. Since then, I’ve had eleven other stories published. Some have been better received than others, but none have sold in the same numbers, even with good reviews, and I can’t help wondering why. My Highland Cowboy had some great reviews, but has sold less than a third of Sporting Chance. Now, I know other people have experienced a drop in sales over the last few years for various reasons, and I tell myself I don’t do this for the money – which is true. I don’t have to live off my sales, so I could go on producing books while my publishers take them. The thing is, I feel guilty. I feel like I’m letting people down. And then I begin to wonder about the point of is of sitting staring at a screen, writing words, editing them, grinding out a synopsis and blurb – spending hours – for so few to enjoy or experience my words. Is it worth the effort and heart break? I could go back to writing fanfiction, something I loved to do.

Last year, I had two books and a short story published. While You See a Chance had two older characters. I spent ages writing and rewriting this one, maybe too long, adding bits and taking some away. It was hard. On the other hand, My Highland Cowboy just happened with little bother. It was my style – two MCs I loved, a smattering of secondary characters and sex. It wasn’t majorly angsty like some others I’ve written, but I’d intended it to be like that. The Matchmaker, a short story, is written in the same sort of vein—light and fluffy.

While these were the stories I had published, I began to write what I intended to be one long book. It got to 100K so I decided to split it and write a third with the same MCs to make a trilogy, but I wasn’t going to submit until I’d written all three. I love the MCs, especially Jonah, who I’ve wanted to write for a couple of years. He’s a large bloke with a tough background who has fought to gain confidence and overcome his problems. He believes in giving back and his friends love him. The other MC, Owen, is based on the experience of a well-known person who is mixed race and was adopted. He recounted his experience in a documentary some years ago. I wanted to explore their problems, but not do the old put them together, split them apart, put them back together story, although there is a little of that, and will be more in the third book, if it ever gets written. The thing is, I’ve lost confidence in the story. I have no idea if it is any good or whether I should even continue editing or writing more of it. I have another story that I stopped writing at 20K even though I had ideas for the rest of the story. I did write another story which was supposed to be a short Christmas tale, my first May/December story, which turned into 60K words and not quite so light and fluffy. Finishing it was hard, and I’ve no idea whether it worked as I haven’t dared read it back. And, all the time, I keep telling myself, why bother with any of them when no one reads them anyway. Making myself edit these stories is increasing my doubt even more, so what do I do?

I know other authors will have gone through this. I don’t want pity, or even to be told, yes, I can write, but I need ideas of how to get through this, and why I should bother. I’m savvy enough to know that outside forces, my arthritis, housing situation, trying to lose some weight, and the death of my brother have affected me and my levels of motivation, but in the past, I’ve been able to overcome my doubts.

This time, I’m not sure I can.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Bye, bye 2017 and hello 2018

I’m still not sure about writing this, but here goes.

2017 was a difficult year from a personal, and in some ways professional, point of view. It began with a couple big changes for me. After suffering an injury, my physical health had worsened making getting about even more difficult, but on the plus side I’m not living on my own anymore. My family also had the sword of Damocles hanging over us in the form of my brother’s cancer treatment. As many of you know, in October, he died suddenly, leaving behind his wife, three children, my mother and me.

My brother and I didn’t live in each other’s pockets. I spoke to him when he was at mum’s house and sometimes on the phone, but his loss has hit me hard. He was my only sibling – the only other person in the world with the same ancestry. I’ve felt lonely knowing he isn’t there anymore. I’m heartbroken thinking of the two very young children he’s left behind. It wasn’t how I planned it. He was the one to stay at home while I left, firstly to go to university, and then to live and work two hundred miles away. My one consolation is that I was able to get to his funeral with help from some wonderful people. It was an amazing occasion with dancing to Boogie Wonderful included. I met people I hadn’t seen for over thirty years. It’s so hard to believe those teenagers I knew are now grandparents.

In the wider world, events have been incredibly depressing. Some days I’ve dreaded opening Facebook and Twitter. In Britain we’ve had the madness of Brexit and in the USA there has been the continuing circus around that man. Sometimes, it feels like the world has gone mad. On the other hand, it is more positive to see women and men speaking out against the culture that exists in so many organisations and society in general. Hopefully, change will come.

I’ve read lots of wonderful books this year. I think my reading biggest change has been reading much more historical fiction, something I’d avoided being a history teacher, and not the biggest fan of the Regency period. But KJ Charles sucked me in and Jordan L Hawk, Joanna Chambers, Ruby Moone, and Cat Sebastian kept me there. I’ve read around 200 books this year. Currently, I’m making my way though Rosalind Abel’s Lavender Shores series.
On the watching front, we’ve watched all seven series of The West Wing and wished there were more, and also all twelve series of Supernatural. Other watches are listed in other blog posts. Next lengthy watch will either be Buffy or How to Get Away with Murder.

Now, for my writing. In 2017 I had two novels and a short story published. My Highland Cowboy had some great review and was lighter than my usual stories. While You Take a Chance had two older MCs. I loved writing that one and wish it had done better for me and the publisher. The short story – The Matchmaker – featured in an anthology, Right Here, Right Now. This was another low angst feel good story. Over the year, I’ve completed five full novels, so I have three not published and, as yet, unsubmitted. Two of them have the same MCs and are set in Norfolk. There will be three books in the Half series and I have the last one to write. I’m not planning on submitting until all three are finished. I’ve also completed a May/December story called Two for the Road which needs editing, and half of another story which hit a brick wall at 20K, but I might get back to it.
I’ve no idea of plans for 2018. I haven’t felt like writing for a while now. If I get the muse back hopefully I’ll write book three, and edit them all, edit Two for the Road, finish the other story, and even do more than contemplate the idea I have for an historical story set in the mining industry of the early 20th century, inspired by two characters from How Green was My Valley, my own family history of mining in Tonypandy, and a side character from Rainbow Connection. It’ll need some research.

I will admit feeling somewhat disillusioned about writing. I tell myself I write because I want to and not because I want to sell books, but it would be nice to sell more. I know everyone is suffering from reduced sales in a crowded market, but it can be disheartening not to sell even when you’ve had lovely reviews. Oh well, I’ll see how the muse takes me.
That’s it from me for now. I’d like to wish everyone a happy and healthy new year in 2018 and good luck with those sales.

Monday, 11 December 2017

Round Up Post 11th December

Yes, you’re right, it has been a while, but I thought I’d write a little something today. We didn’t get the heavy snow as it moved further south, but still had a smattering and as I glance out of the kitchen window, the sun is shining on the icing sugar covered field behind us, and the canal is frozen. Cat the younger ventured out earlier but found her paws got cold and wet so hurried back in again and is currently in front of the fire.
As many of you who read this blog will know, we lost cat the elder last week. Pets are not people, but her loss added to the general feeling of sadness after the death of my brother. I tell myself not to, but I can’t help thinking that two months ago I had a brother and two cats, and now I don’t. Still, cat the elder had a good life for the last few years. She’d decided to leave her first home and take up residence with the nice old lady down the street. When the nice old lady had to go into a home, her fate was uncertain. I decided to take her in as long as she and cat the younger got on. I won’t say it was a match made in heaven, but they tolerated each other. Her sudden decline came as a shock, and the vets have no real idea what caused her strange condition, but we couldn’t let her suffer. Her ashes will be buried in the garden with the other three boys. We’ve usually played music for each burial, but we’re not sure of her musical choices as she was deaf and didn’t respond to sound. For boy 1, we played Lady Marmalade, Boy 2 had Figaro, and Boy 3 loved a diva, especially Liza Minelli!

Anyway, onto other things. Writing has been slow as my heart hasn’t been in it for many reasons. I’ve been suffering from a feeling of why bother combined with simply not being able to find the words. I did manage to finish a chapter and reckon I have another and the epilogue to go on WIP. Two for the Road is my first May/December story and will reach around 63K words. I intended to write a 30K Christmas story, but it grew. Once this is finished, I have to edit/rewrite Half Full and Half Time and write the third in the series with the same MCs. I also have 20K words written of another story that needs finishing.

The Matchmaker, my short story has received a few lovely reviews. As I expected, teenager, Tom, steals every scene from the MCs. If you want a sweet, short read this might be the one for you. In other news, Pride Publishing are having a sale with up to 60% off lots of great titles. This includes my first book, Sporting Chance, at half price and my most recent, My Highland Cowboy, with a third off. Both are at £1.99 or $2.68 for this month. I’ll put the links at the end if you are tempted.

I’m currently having an orgy of Christmas story reading along with a few non-Christmas stories – Romancing the Werewolf by Gail Carriger, The Doctor’s Discretion by EE Ottoman and Spring Flowering by Farah Mendlesohn. Christmas stories read so far include The Clumsy Santa by Sue Brown, Desperately Seeking Santa by Eli Easton, Snowflakes and Cinnamon Buns by Claire Castle and A Christmas Promise by K C Wells. Next up is A Mistletoe Kiss by Ruby Moone. I’m also reading Richard Coles autobiography for some variety.

On the watching front, we’ve finished up to S5 of The West Wing and have started on S2 of The Crown. We’ve continued to enjoy S13 of Supernatural and, I have to admit, watched I’m a Celebrity supporting Toff all the way. Although, I’m way behind with other CW programmes, even Legends of Tomorrow, I did watch the 4-day cross programme event, mostly because Wentworth Miller was back and kissing Russell Tovey. I wasn’t disappointed.
That’s it from me. I doubt I’ll blog again until after Christmas, so I wish you all a happy time. For my family, the holiday will be tinged with sadness, especially as it will be my brother’s birthday at the end of December. It would be wonderful if 2018 was a better year, but I’m not going to hold my breath. Our target for next year is to find a new single-story house.

To my author friends, happy sales, and to everyone else, happy reading. I hope Santa brings you what you want.

Book links

Sporting Chance 


My Highland Cowboy


The Matchmaker

Monday, 13 November 2017

On Kindness

On Friday we buried my brother. I live in the north west of England and my family are from Barry in South Wales. I have arthritis and can’t drive long distances. I had no idea how I was going to get there, or how I would manage once there. Lying awake this morning, I decided to write about kindness, then I discovered on twitter that today is World Kindness Day, so this blog seems even more serendipitous.

I am a great believer in kindness and letting people be kind. Having mobility issues has taught me that people like to help, people don’t always get it right, but I want to believe they are motivated by the best of reasons. The events of the last few weeks have shown me just how wonderful people can be.

We knew getting to Wales would be a problem. I rang a local taxi firm to enquire and they gave me a quote but didn’t seem too keen, then out of the blue one of my publishers offered the services of her husband. The wonderful Mr P hired a car big enough to take us and my walker and baggage and drove us there and back, clocking up many hours of driving and dealing with someone – me – struggling to get into the seat, panicking that I might not – and us singing along with the radio. I can’t tell you how grateful we were that this person, who we had never met before, went out of their way to take us and bring us back.

Once at the hotel, everyone again was kind and helpful. We stayed at a Premier Inn next door to a Beefeater Restaurant called Walston Castle. Some of the reviews aren’t complimentary online, but every person who served the tables were as helpful as they could be, from making sure doors were opened so I could get my walker through, to making sure we got the table nearest the entrance from the hotel so I wouldn’t have to deal with steps. Our waitress was lovely with my young niece and nephew on the first night there, and nothing but polite and helpful, constantly checking we were okay, especially after they discovered why we were there.

An old friend of my mum’s took us to the funeral, with her daughter driving and then onto the venue for the wake/disco. Again, I had fun getting in, but we managed. We did go to the wrong door so I couldn’t get into the main room due to many stairs, but they stayed with me and the place was so packed I definitely wasn’t alone. A lot of me was glad not to be sitting with him in front of me in that coffin as I find that so hard to deal with. The celebrant sought me out and introduced herself and the funeral directors also checked on me. My sister in law and her family were wonderful. How C did that speech about my brother, I have no idea, but she managed to stand there in front all those people and speak about him. So many people went out of their way to speak to me and tell me their stories. I’m not sure many of them would ever have been to a funeral where dancing took place before, but my brother loved dancing and Boogie Wonderland was his choice.

At the wake which had a DJ and disco, as he’d insisted, I met people I hadn’t seen for nearly forty years, people who we’d grown up who were now grandparents. Still, I could find no one who knew why my brother was nicknamed Ned. I also got a lot of questions about my writing – my mother and brother had told many that I wrote novels, so there I was talking about gay romance. When we left, the disco had started and many were up on the floor dancing as he’d have wanted, including my older nephew and my sister in law. I suspect there will have been a few thick heads the day after.

Leaving my mum and eldest nephew was hard, but I know C will look after them. I returned home to discover more kindness. I have an amazing group of friends online. We met through our love of Doctor Who. These wonderful friends had made a donation to Cancer Research on behalf of Ian. Such kindness brought more tears, and I’ve cried a few recently.

Lastly, there is one person without whom I could not have done this. She has been my best friend for nearly forty years. You know how important you are to me.

Sometimes, this world can seem like a horrible place when you read all that is going on at the moment, but out there are people who want to be kind. I am so grateful for that kindness, and wanted to state so publicly. We will never get over our loss, but the kindness of so many made the last few days just that bit easier.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Round up, 30th October

Morning everyone from a sunny but cold and frosty Lancashire. Weather forecasts are warning of snow to come so maybe the view from my kitchen might look like the picture above. I like snow as long as I don't have to go out and have plenty of food. I’ve been awake since 4.30 so I’m already hugging my coffee after my usual morning mug of tea. I’ve already put the fire on so cat the elder is a happy puss.

Once again, I’d like to thank all the people who offered love and condolences for my brother. We finally have a date for the funeral and have been spending time picking tunes. My brother loved to dance, usually without too much style, so there are some interesting choices and, when asked, his twenty-six-year-old son and seven-year-old daughter both chose the same song. They knew their father well.

Making arrangements for me has been tricky, and I’ll admit to being nervous depending on others because I can’t do the driving. Thankfully, someone has come to our rescue and is taking us down to Wales and collecting us. Such kindness is truly appreciated, especially as this person doesn’t know us at all except online. I’ve hired a wheelchair which arrives tomorrow so we can practice, booked the hotel, and sorted out the cattery. I know this is going to be one of the most difficult occasions in my life. The physical pressures will be hard enough, but emotionally, I’m all over the place. The venue will be packed. My brother was one of those people who gathered friends and kept them. I’m so grateful that many of them have taken my oldest nephew under their wing. Maybe, I might get chance to visit Barry Island to see the view on the cover of The Matchmaker, my short story.

I have, at least, managed to produce some words over the last week. I’m not sure they are likely to stay, but WIP, Two for the Road, is up to just under 48K words now. I reckon on approximately three to four more chapters so it’s going to reach around 55K words. Once this is complete, I intend to start the third part of a trilogy with the same MCs. I want all three parts complete before I even think of submitting it, so I don’t have deadlines to deal with.
Over the last week, we’ve finished watching S2 of The West Wing which includes my favourite ever episode of anything – Two Cathedrals. I love this show so much, but it makes me so much sadder knowing who is in charge in the US today and the climate we live in. Next on the watch list is S2 of Stranger Things while we continue to watch Star Trek Discovery.

My current reading is The Convenient Husband by Robin Covington, a new author for me. I enjoyed reading The Palisade by Rosalind Abel and Curious by Seth King. Really looking forward to reading Romancing the Werewolf by Gail Carriger.

I think that’s it for now. I could say more about current events but I’m tired. Hopefully, with so much happening, there will be changes in attitudes and behaviour. For now, I feel like I’m in limbo until after the funeral. For those of you who love Halloween, I don't, I hope you have a great time dressing up. My last words again this week are life can be too short so if there’s someone you haven’t talked to for a while, because we all live busy lives, let them know that you care. 

Monday, 23 October 2017

Round Up 23rd October

I wasn’t sure whether to write anything this week, but here I am. We thought we’d have more time. As most of you who read these missives probably know, my brother died last Friday. He’d had cancer for over a year. Like they tell you in the adverts, he’d been to his doctor because he had bleeding when he went to the toilet. The doctor dismissed his concerns for months. I can’t tell you how much I want to rage at that man. At first, we were hopeful the cancer was only in his bowel. They operated, and we crossed our fingers, then they found it in his liver. Again, we hoped they’d be able to cut it out, but they couldn’t operate straight away so he had chemo. Our hopes were dashed when they found another small tumour in his lung. Treatment kept it stable, but it had reached his lymph nodes too and he’d started to get pain. 
His friends, and he had many, raised some money for him and the family to go away recently. They had a lovely holiday in France and a couple of weeks ago he was able to go to Old Trafford to see his beloved Manchester United as part of a special VIP package, meeting more of his heroes and watching United win. 

His death came suddenly, with a blood clot, which I’ve found can be a side effect of cancer treatment. He was fifty-four and leaves behind his wife, his three kids, my mum, me, and so many friends. My brother was the sort of person who kept his friends, many from when he was in school. You’d have never have got him out of Barry, unlike me.

I’m not sure how I’m going to get to the funeral. Because of the arthritis and recent injury, I can’t drive very far or walk too well. I’m hoping we can get a car and driver to take us and I can hire a wheelchair maybe. One big problem is my mum’s house has no parking outside, being one of those 60s housing estates, so I have to walk just to get to it. When we have a date, I’ll see what can be organised. Luckily, we have Skype so I’ve been able to speak to my mum and sister in law and discuss what songs he might like. I expect George Michael, he adored him so much, or Paul Weller will be there, with some Bowie as well.
My brother was a lovely bloke who found the thing he did best was being a dad and it breaks my heart to know his little ones aged four and seven won’t have his presence in their lives. For me, although we didn’t see each other much recently, it feels strange to know there’s only me now. He loved the idea of his older sister writing stories with gay sex in them. It amused him to think of me writing those scenes. The world is a worse place for him not being in it anymore.
On to other things. Last week, I managed to write some words and the WIP, Two for the Road, my May/Dec romance, has now reached 45K words. I’m expecting it to be around 50K words, but it may be longer. The Matchmaker, my short story from the Right Here, Right Now, anthology is now available for preorder from the publisher and Amazon. This is a fluffy feel good piece with very little angst and a picture of the beach at Barry Island on the front. It will be out on general release 28th November.

I’ve done some reading over the last few days, especially when sleep has eluded me. Axios, by Jaclyn Osborn, as promised needed some tissues. I enjoyed Rebuilding Together by Kaje Harper and reading the rest of the short stories in the anthology. I’m currently splitting reading between Good Omens by Terry Pratchet and Neil Gaiman and Curious by Seth King. Not sure what to read next, but looking at a Rosalind Abel story. I haven’t read any of her work before. 

On the watching front, really enjoying Star Trek Discovery. We’re splitting the boxset rewatch between Buffy and The West Wing. With every episode, I appreciate even more the wonderful script and performances in The West Wing and wish someone like Jed Bartlet was President, but don’t get me started on the man in charge now.

That’s it for this post. We survived a battering by storm Brian which brought down all the leaves over the weekend. I hope you are all well, and please tell the people in your life how much they matter to you. One of my main comforts at this time is knowing my last words to my brother were - love you too.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Round Up Post 9th October

Morning from a dull and overcast Lancashire where it has just started to rain. Woke up this morning and it was one of those days when you know you’re alive because you ache all over – the joys of arthritis when the weather is damp. It’s been a couple of weeks since I wrote a blog so I hope everyone who glances at these things is all right. Recent events in Las Vegas show that you can take nothing for granted. I’m British and I don’t understand the need for guns many people in the US seem to have. Though, having said that both of my neighbours have guns they use for hunting rabbits. It’s not that we don’t have guns over here but that we don’t have automatic assault rifles or own so many guns and carry them around while shopping in Tesco. Even police carrying guns don’t make me feel safer when I see them on the street. I have fired an air rifle a long time again now shooting tins off the fence, but that’s my only experience.

On to other things. Last week Right Here, Right Now came out. This is an anthology of six contemporary gay romance stories by some great authors. Each story is different. Mine, The Matchmaker is quite fluffy and low angst and will be available on its own 17th October. Links to both are on my blog page where you will also find this piece.
I’ve spent most of the last week getting a final draft of the first part of what I’m calling my Half trilogy. Yes, this is the story of three halves. The first is Half Full and introduces the characters of Jonah and Owen as well as their friends and family. I love writing all the secondary characters and the dialogue between them and the MCs. The idea for this story came from a documentary I saw about an athlete who’d been adopted a few years back so you know one of the MCs, Owen is adopted, but he isn’t an athlete. He’s a librarian and mixed race/biracial – I’ve had different opinions about which I should use. The other MC, Jonah, is based on a secondary character from another story, who I wanted to give a story to but it wasn’t possible so I adapted him to fit into this one. I love Jonah. He’s a great believer in paying back, is full of life like Tigger, but has his own insecurities. He produces beautiful things from wood. I’m lucky to have Rebecca, my last editor from Pride, giving it the once over. Part two is written and with my beta, and part three has a lot of ideas and will be next writing when I finish WIP. I need to get back on track with the WIP, now called Two for the Road. It’s at 35K with probably about another 15K to write. At least they’ve got together at last! I’m still grinding it out slowly.
I’ve been reading a bit more lately and my TBR list is growing. I’ve finished Silk by K C Wells. Loved the story as I needed at bit of low angst. Raced through An Unsuitable Heir by K J Charles. Loved the while series and how the ending was sorted. Just started Axios, having read so much about it, by Jaclyn Osborn. I know very little about Sparta but watched all of Spartacus (Nagron needs no further explanation) and have studied Roman history so hoping that will help. I’ve some books by new to me writers, C F White, Annabeth Albert and Robin Covington on my TBR list. I am also eagerly awaiting Romancing the Werewolf by Gail Carriger. I loved the Parasol Protectorate series and two of my favourite characters are Biffy and Lyall. I wrote fanfic. The cover for this new book that brings these two together, is gorgeous – a corseted waistcoat – yum. I wish I could include it here.
On the watching front, I finished Shadowhunters and adored Magnus Bane. We watched World Without End based on the book by Ken Follett, and once again I was thankful not to have been female back then. We’ve started watching Star Trek Discovery. I am a huge fan and as I also love Jason Issacs, this is a must. I first loved Jason when he played Hook – love a pirate in a puffy white blouse or not as below. Our latest boxset watch is Buffy the Vampire Slayer – yes, all seven series which we may mix with Angel. Other excitement is the end of this summer's Hellatus with the return of Supernatural this week.

Right, I think that’s enough from me. Have a good week everyone and happy sales. 

Oh and you can add The Matchmaker to your reading list if you'd like here