Whose dream is it anyway?

So I’m doing a course and as part of a workbook exercise, I had to answer this question:

What Dreams Have You Let Go Of?

The immediate answer that came to mind (though I seldom think of it) was this:

Becoming a mother

As I said, I rarely think of this. It’s not a part of my day, or my life, to be honest. I’ve known for a long time that this was not my path, so it’s been a non-issue. Even now, staring at those words through tears, I can’t say I would change anything. I’m happy to be child-free and couldn’t imagine my life with kids in it. If I’m honest it gives me palpitations!

BUT. But. I feel the absence of that experience I’ll never get to have. The experience of me being a mother. Of getting to meet a little person with all my mixed-up genes and inconvenient family traits, transmuted into something completely new and unique. The wonder of finding out who that little person will be and how I can support them and teach them, without fucking them up (too much). Cos that’s what parents do, I think. Their best, whilst knowing somewhere deep down that it will probably fall short. Most likely, that’s when you construct a bridge of hope that your child will somehow figure it out anyway. Find their own way despite your instinctive need to guide them even when they don’t want or need you anymore. Christ. I think I might have been a good mom, as they say. Good enough. I hope I would have been playful and receptive (but probably tired and stressed!) I’ll never know and it’s a big thing to not know.

The follow-up question was, what was your reason for letting go of the dream? That’s when I realised that I’d probably gone too deep! Maybe they were looking for an easier answer because I didn’t let go on purpose. I just ran out of time. But when I dig a little deeper, I realise that I did let go of something. I no longer believed it was possible to find the kind of partner I would want to have a family with. Beliefs are the engines for your dreams, but I didn’t know it then. And I never thought about going it alone (which is really unlike me because I have such an independent spirit!)

But now I look at the question again and realise I’ve glossed over the most important word… ‘Dream.’ It was never really my dream to have a child or to become a mother. It felt more like an inevitability! It’s just something that is taken for granted in our society, assumed. Of course, everyone wants to be a mother, right? So often we prioritise other people’s dreams above our own because that’s how life works a lot of the time. We never really get to ask ourselves the question until it’s too late. Is this what you really wanted? Maybe, maybe not. so perhaps it’s not a dream I have let go of, but a potentiality; a sliding doors version of my life that may or may not have been as happy and fulfilling as the one I’m living now. If we subconsciously choose our reality, then I have chosen to prioritise a different part of me and I’m going to honour that inner intuitiveness by letting go of the dreams that are not mine and embracing the ones that are. All in.

Law of attraction

Day one of 2022 and I am starting as I mean to go on – writing!

When writers appear dormant, that is likely when they are at their most productive. During this ‘no-when’ time, I’ve written two novels, but since my publisher went out of business, I have been looking for a new home. It’s exciting and frustrating in equal measure, but that’s what it takes to find the right one. As author Gillian McAllister remarked on her own publishing journey, after years of rejections, it only took one yes. It can be so easy to imagine that book deals just happen effortlessly because that’s what we see on social media. No-one wants to post about their rejections, unless, as in Gillian’s case, it’s an origin story for publishing success. But it takes bucket loads of resilience, which thankfully, I just happen to have 😉 So far I’ve had a maybe, but in 2022 I’m looking for a YES! Watch this space folks, and prepare for a narrative arc!

In the meantime, here’s a little piece I wrote on how ideas and inspiration just flow to you when you set your story’s intention. Who’s to say the same can’t happen in real life…

When writers are asked, ‘Where do you get your inspiration from?’, the perception is that there is one big idea from which the book just flows. While this is partially true, I have found as a writer that my books are more likely to be made up of several ideas, all drawn together in a seemingly random yet perfectly designed patchwork to form the storyline. What begins as a small, fragile idea, lodged in my subconscious, begins to attract other ideas that just magically seem to connect. It is during this ‘germinating’ phase that serendipity peeps out from behind corners, magazine articles, overheard conversations; drawing all manner of flotsam to the shores of your mind, creating a map of the story.

This makes it all sound terribly easy, which of course, it isn’t! Sometimes, patience and observation are the most difficult skills to master. Take my novel, The Mysterious Bakery On Rue De Paris. I had the initial idea and rushed at it, like an over-excited puppy. I was watching a TV show about an Irish chef living in France and she visited a renowned bakery in Paris that was shrouded in secrecy, as no-one knew who the baker was. No-one was ever seen entering or leaving and the patrons were very discreet. It’s all so long ago that I’m not sure where the TV show ended and my imagination began. Excited to get the story down, I rushed at my first draft, in which I hit the mother of all dead ends. My original plan for the story just didn’t work. I hadn’t given the idea enough time simmer, to see what other ingredients it might need. And one day, my main character Edith appeared in my head and took over the story, breathing new life into my draft.

Plotting a new book can be a very fraught time for a writer. After the initial excitement, the novelty wears off and you are left to plod the long road of the first draft, taking detours and getting lost along the way. Commercially successful authors are often required to release a new novel every year, but I wonder if this is to the detriment of the creative process? Maybe it’s a luxury, but one of my favourite things is turning an idea over in my mind for months at a time, watching it take shape and expand. I think the reader can sense when a story is following some kind of tried and tested formula and I know I always prefer reading books where the author is kind of out on a limb, taking a chance and letting the story unfold naturally.

I had a similar experience for my short story Betwixt. Inspiration struck when I spent a night with my sister in an old country cottage. Nothing went as planned! The cottage was damp and dark (although I had to admit, authentic!) and it rained the entire time we were there. As we walked the banks of the river that ran along the back of the property with our enthusiastic german shepherd, determined to enjoy ourselves, we got completely soaked and spent the evening in front of a peat fire. It was then that I could see the charm of the place, while we all huddled up together in front a massive hearth, reading books and listening to the ticking of the old clock. As the night drew in (not that it made much difference to the interior, which needed artificial lighting in the middle of the day) we felt a million miles from everything. The perfect getaway. Until… my sister began telling me about the owners, who rented out the cottage to visitors. Apparently, there were stories; strange reports of disturbances in the middle of the night; unexplained noises and one family who actually packed up and left the house before morning. Needless to say, there wasn’t much sleep that night and I was glad of the reassuring presence of our very large dog. Yet the story stuck in my mind. I knew I wanted to write about that cottage, but I wasn’t sure what form it would take. Again, the magnetic field of creativity drew another story to me, in the shape of an old film about a gardener, who wasn’t altogether what he seemed. I don’t want to spoil the story, so I won’t reveal anything further, but once again my original idea needed to attract some additional elements in order to create an engaging plot.

In a recent podcast, the Irish novelist John Connolly (author of The Book Of Lost Things) said that lots of writers abandon their manuscripts at 20,000 words. He believes that this is the point when the initial idea runs out of steam and I have to say my own experience of writing has borne this out. But rather than seeing it as a negative thing, I try to see this as the point where the story is reincarnated into something better. If you don’t want to lose the original idea, you have to dig deeper and keep an open mind. The laws of attraction might take you in a direction you hadn’t originally planned for, but as a writer, that’s half the fun!

Open door

It always surprises and enchants me how my creative life and my real life intersect. In one dizzying week, I’ve been given the opportunity to change my character’s storyline and my own.

We all tell ourselves stories about our lives; myths and fantasies that either hold us back or distract us from reality. But sometimes I think we need to experience ourselves in a situation before we can truly come face to face with who we are, as opposed to who we thought we were.

As in my novel, I had chosen the ending to the story that I wanted and all writers will know how hard it is to give that idea up. Yet ultimately, I don’t think we need to possess our heart’s desire in order for it to be of value to us. For it is the experience of life that offers us the greatest prize – an insight into ourselves. So much of life and growth is about letting go. I had to let go of the vision I had for my character’s arc in order to write a more enriching story. A wonderful new editor advised me that my main character needed to retain her agency in order for the story to work and I couldn’t agree more. We are not passive bystanders, victims of life’s whims – our power lies in our agency and our ability to think and act in ways that shape our experiences and change the course of lives. We can choose new endings. Better ones.

I don’t need to be obtuse. I think we all know I’m talking about matters of the heart. That complicated, cavernous place of deep joy and despair. Yet it keeps beating, and your story will find it’s own rhythm if you’re willing to let the melody drift and flow where it will. Welcome change, let it in, let it blow open the doors and sing your story like a bright bird from the tree tops.

Art and life are inseparable, one will always inform the other. I’m writing the truest novel I have ever written, with all of the light and shade that I sometimes find hard to face in life. An author’s job is to present the truth by employing a beautiful lie. Perhaps we do the same as people. The lies are beautiful, but the truth is worth its weight in gold. It is what makes us human. It is our story. And our stories are something to be proud of. x

The Heirloom – a treasured inheritance

heirloom twitterBooks, I am learning, have a life of their own. Long after the story has left my pen, I watch it dip and rise on the tides. It amazes me – the power of a book to go on its own journey, as if the author is but a distant spot on the horizon.

Such has been the experience with my debut novel, The Heirloom (which is conveniently 99p at the moment on Kindle!) When I first published this timeslip story, I just couldn’t get any traction with it. I was a first-time, self-publishing author and no-one knew I even existed. I hadn’t a clue how to reach readers or where to promote my book.

Fast forward a few years and The Heirloom has now become my most popular selling title! I cannot tell you how happy it makes me, to know that people are not only discovering this story, but really enjoying it!

I spent waaaaay too long researching this novel, but judging from the reviews, it seems to have paid off. It all started when two completely different ideas collided. I love history and was interested in the Spanish Armada ships that crashed into Irish shores during one of the worst storms in history. Miraculously, a letter from one of the knights who survived, has outlived its author and gives a harrowing account of his time in Ireland. In Galway (where the book is set) there is still a monument to the 300 Spanish sailors who were massacred by the English on Fort Hill cemetery. Through the kindness of strangers, Captain Francisco de Cuéllar was given shelter and managed to return home to Spain (after many adventures!) Here is a trailer for a short film based on his time here, which is kind of amazing because I like to pretend this is a trailer for my book!

Armada 1588 : Shipwreck & Survival (Film Trailer – English) from Omedia on Vimeo.

But of course, that’s not the end of my story. Given my love for timeslip novels (it began with Kate Mosse, blame her!) I wanted to write the story in a format that brought the reader into the present day. I feel so strong that our past is the answer to all of the mysteries we face in our lives and I love exploring those links in fiction. So, when I discovered a book called Many Lives, Many Masters written by the American psychotherapist, Dr. Brian Weiss, I knew I’d found my key.  It tells how one of his patients began recalling past-life traumas and through the use of therapy and hypnosis, they resolved to cure her recurring nightmares and anxiety attacks.

Well, I’ve always had an over-active imagination and the idea of remembering past lives really intrigued me. I wonder where I lived, or who I was, in previous lives? Books like Cloud Atlas ignite my passion for this idea and the beauty of it is, no-one can really say for sure whether or not it’s possible… In more recent times, there have been increasing studies into inherited trauma and whether transgenerational inheritance can really affect a person’s biology. But that’s for another story.

For now, I’m just delighted to see my story about past and present lives colliding on the wild shores of the west coast of Ireland finally charting a steady course to a whole new readership. These reader reviews have made my heart soar and reminded me that stories can go on forever and heirlooms are made to be passed on.

“I loved this book! Following the history of Miguel and Annora was fascinating.”

“It almost seemed like two books in one, which is great for avid readers. Skillfully the author links the life stories of four well-developed characters across centuries.”

“Once I started this book I found it difficult to put down. I like the way it slips easily from modern Ireland to the time of the Spanish Armada.”

“A beautiful story of love, loss and courage . This beautiful story wraps history and a great love into one. Good read!”

“Anyone who likes a mystery that takes you to another country plus searching for family tree i could not put this down. 3 o’clock in the morning is not a good time to go to sleep!! loved it.”

First Draft – Fourth Novel – Feeling Good

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Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

Hello my people! Wow, I’ve really abandoned this blog of late. I could blame, you know, the global pandemic and stuff, but the real reason is that I’ve been saving all my writing for my new book (which I am SUPERDOOPER excited about!!) It’s a slightly different genre, no history or magic, but lots of humour and uplifting themes around relationships and finding your place in the world. Sometimes I wonder if it even matters what genre you write, as most writers tend to return to the same themes, no matter what the plot. And my theme is always that of self-discovery, which I think we’ve all done a lot of over the past few months.

When this all started, I did what I usually tend to do in a crisis – ignore it! I figured it wouldn’t affect my lifestyle because I work from home anyway, so what would be the difference? I tuned out the news and escaped into my book. But after a few weeks, I just hit a wall. It became clear that I wasn’t immune to everything that was going on and it was expecting waaay too much of myself to remain unaffected by it. Anyway, I won’t dwell on it, it’s been weird for everyone, but luckily I had these wonderful characters and their story to return to. But – I don’t know if anyone’s told you this – writing is hard! There’s always that doubt in the back of your mind, “Will I finish this? Will it be good enough?” So, when I typed the words ‘The End’ this week, I felt all the feels! It was emotional, joyous, hopeful and kind of surreal. It was really when I printed it out (I find it easier to run through the second draft on paper) that it hit home – I’ve made another book! My fourth!! It’s something like a little miracle.

La collectionneuse d'histoires

I don’t know where this story will take me – that’s the joy/uncertainty of being a writer. You just never know. My last book has just hit the shelves in France this summer – I never dreamed in a million years that The Story Collector would be translated into French! La Collectionneuse d’Histoires And now I have a French publisher and a translator! It still hasn’t really sunk in. I had a good feeling about that book when I was writing it and I have a good feeling about this one too. It’s got something special – even though it was (like all books) a challenge to capture the ideas in my head on paper, it sort of flowed too. I just had to be present and let the serendipity happen.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been doing and I can’t wait to get editing and get this story out there!! I want you all to enjoy this story as much as I have enjoyed writing it – giggling at the funny scenes and tearing up at the emotional bits. It’s a journey. And now my brain wants to outline ideas for book five, because if there is one thing I’ve learned it’s that there will never be a better time to do things than right now. Plus, I feel kind of lonely without a work-in-progress, so when one cast of characters move out, another bunch move in! With more interesting stories to tell and challenges to face. I’m fortunate that I can create fictional worlds in order to better understand this one – giving myself and my readers somewhere to escape to. If we didn’t value storytelling before this, we certainly do now. The arts is what has kept us all going – distracting us, consoling us, entertaining us.  So if you’re thinking of writing a story – DO IT NOW! The world needs more stories.

Don’t forget, I have two FREE short stories that you can download now … Betwixt is consistantly in the Top 5 on Amazon and Girl in the Middle is a tongue-in-cheek look at loneliness in the modern world. And if you like those, please buy the other ones/leave a review! x

girl in the middle

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A quirky short story about a woman who discovers that not all heroes wear capes… some of them don’t even have a pulse. But they do have a name. Gerald.

I wrote a short story! girl in the middle And you can download it, for free, on whatever device you use.

Nook  ~ Kobo ~ Kindle ~ Apple

Now, don’t labour under the misapprehension that I wrote this during lockdown. No siree. All I’ve done during lockdown is watch Poldark (because… I’m really interested in 18th century mining?!), curse my sinuses and basically fall apart, in an orderly fashion.

Writing during this time has been like everything else during this time – a mixture of extremes. Either I’m feeling really creative and motivated or I can’t even muster up the enthusiasm to switch on my laptop. I wrote this story last year with the full intention of submitting it for a short story award, but being the success-driven, laser-focused, ambitious writer that I am, I didn’t get around to it 🙂 But I’m so glad I didn’t, because finding it now feels like perfect timing. A gift from past-me to present-me. When I read it again, I found myself laughing out loud and enjoying the quirky characters I created. So I thought, what’s the best way to get this out into the world? Self-publish of course!

Also, it’s been a long time since I’ve released anything and the stuff I’m currently working on is more contemporary and more comedy. That’s the thing with novels – there is sooooooooooooooo much time in between, where your readers probably think you’re dead or off spending your royalties in Mauritius. When really, you’re writing TWO new novels, submitting, waiting, writing, reading, editing, deleting and repeating until another year has gone by and you’ve nothing to show for it. So releasing a little story is a great way to remind people that you’re alive and still writing stories.

And people do love a free book! It’s a great way to discover a new author. Betwixt – my first short story – which is consistently in the Amazon Top 5, is flying off the virtual shelves at the moment. So it’s a win-win, I get to share a bite-size piece of creativity and readers get a free story.

So please share, read, download, whatever it is you crazy kids do and help me to get this story out there. At a very short and sweet 15 pages, girl in the middle is fun, free and uplifting – and we could all do with a bit of that right now.

 

Give Me Books!

Keats
Image credit: Patricia Loya

For so many of us, books have always offered the perfect escape from reality – now more so than ever.

I couldn’t read at all at first – just couldn’t settle down to anything. I spent my days completely distracted and on edge. One morning I spent 10 minutes making porridge, until I realised I hadn’t even switched on the cooker.

Then I picked up an old favourite of mine, One Day by David Nicholls and suddenly I was in a different world, with Dex and Emma and before I knew it, I was snorting out loud, crying, nodding along sagely at how twenty years can change a person.

Anyway, to that end, I’ve made all of my books available to download from Amazon for just £0.99/€0.99/$0.99. Just check out my author page here  or try a preview below. Hope you are all hanging in there and finding calm where you can. x

The Calm and The Storm

I’m a worrier, by nature. I tend to say ‘What if’ a lot. But I also tend to over-compensate for this by cracking jokes and making people laugh. So, welcome to my blog where I swing wildly from one emotion to the other and attempt to make some sort of sense out of the last few weeks, peoples’ reactions to it and how I’m coping/not coping.

Firstly, I never thought it was possible, but social media has managed to turn quarantining into a competition! Some people seem to be really thriving at this complete and utter ARMAGEDDON that has literally come out of nowhere and they are sharing this wonderfulness, to cheer everyone else up. People are baking, hiking, taking up new hobbies, fucking sky-diving (well, maybe not that last bit, but I wouldn’t be surprised). So now I feel like I’m failing at quarantining. I’ve not had any instagrammable moments, or read all my books on the shelf. I haven’t made buns or joined an online yoga class. My paints and brushes lie idle and the only gardening I’ve managed to do is to stand under the laurel tree listening to the blackbird (which I should have recorded for Insta – dammit!!) In our weird online world, everything has to be the best experience EVER, even this shitbox of a time can’t be wasted. You have to be doing something with it. Being positive about it.


I reacted like many people do; privately freaking out while at the same time, sharing what I hoped were soothing artworks and poems. Then I finally accepted that, actually, no – I wasn’t over-reacting and the world is in total turmoil (zoinks!) What’s the picture for that? The Scream?! No-one wants to see that. So I took to the bed, as we say in Ireland, and had a good cry for myself whilst listening to some sad AF music. Honestly, that was the most positive thing I’ve done so far and would highly recommend it.

If I had a dog I’d be putting up cute dog pics, but as it is, I live alone and have to make my own entertainment (steady). So really, I should be perfectly placed to deal with this. I know how to work from home, how to be unsociable and shop online. But it’s the unknown I can’t deal with. How can you prepare for something when the rules keep changing every day? Nobody really knows what to do and I guess that’s why one minute we’re being over-enthusiastic about how well we can handle it and the next, completely overwhelmed.

As for me, I did the only thing that made sense to me – I made masks! Yep, I did wonder if I was being a bit OTT, but guess what, everyone’s at it! All around the world.  Even the governor of New York sent out a call for people to start making them for hospitals. There are lots of tutorials online, so even if you are a rubbish seamstress like me, you can probably cobble one together. They do not guarantee 100% protection from the virus, but they’re better than nothing I guess and I wanted to give my parents (who are in their seventies) something as a precaution if they have to go somewhere.

All the official advice here is that you don’t need a mask, and I can see why. There are no masks available to buy anyway and whatever protective gear they do have in stock needs to be kept for medical staff.  But there’s no harm in making your own. You don’t even need a sewing machine. Obviously, the best option is to just stay at home and stay safe, but I wonder if more people wore these, would it make a difference? I don’t know, I’m not a virologist, but they’re washable and reusable and making them gave me something proactive to do and took away that yucky feeling of helplessness.

So if you want to give it a go, check out #millionmaskchallenge on Twitter, try this tutorial on Instructables  or have a read of this article on Forbes.  At the very least, they will stop you touching your face! And I made mine using material with miniature dachshunds on the front, so, I mean, what’s not to love about that?! Anyway, that’s what I’m doing. Apart from worrying, binge-watching The Crown, eating stuff and wondering if what I think is a toothache is actually the beginnings of a stroke! That’s how I roll folks.

I really hope you are all minding each other and doing whatever you need to to feel okay (or just be okay with not feeling okay). I hope we treat ourselves and our planet with a little more care when we get to the other side of this. Life isn’t a race to the finish line – a game of Monopoly where you simply produce and consume. It’s an experience and we can all help to make it a good one for the majority of people, rather than just the few.  People can be so kind and community-minded – it’s amazing how it takes something like this to see it. I hope we will view things differently, through a lens of common good rather than self-interest. Also, where would we be without our arts & culture?! Through this time I relied heavily on actors, artists, musicians and of course, writers. We need their work to comfort us, to help us escape, to offer hope.

Speaking of, look at what this artist Mathieu Persan made – a gorgeous poster with a simple message. Free to use as you please. We’re in this together. x

STAY AT HOME-EN LD.jpg

by Mathieu Persan

Don’t @ Me

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Reading reviews can be a bit of an emotional roller coaster. The warm and fuzzy feeling when someone has connected with your characters; understood what you were trying to do and are happy they bought a ticket to your show. The shock and anger when someone dismisses your work, casually labels it ‘boring’ or the real killer, ‘light reading’. Some authors choose not to read their reviews, which is completely understandable. But for a lot of us, this is the only kind of feedback we get and so we cross our fingers, keep one eye closed and dive in, hoping for the best.

Over time, you come to realise that your book is no longer your private property. It belongs to anyone who hands over their hard-earned cash to buy it and their experience of reading it is unique to them and something you have no control over. This knowledge has given me a certain amount of detachment from reviews. As someone once said, reviews are for the readers and that is as it should be. But does that mean that authors don’t read their reviews?

I remember when I published my first book, The Heirloom. I hoped that people would buy it, read it and with any luck, enjoy it. It took roughly two years to research, write and rewrite. As a newly, self-published author, it took a very long time to get off the ground. If someone had told me back then that people would not only read it, but contact me to say how much they enjoyed it, well, I would have felt like my dreams were coming true.

That’s why I think the recent discussion on Twitter, sparked by an author who said it was ‘rude’ to tag them, is confusing a lot of people. On a basic level, writers write because they want to share a story with the world. Now, they might not care what the world thinks about their story (I’m thinking of Sally Rooney who said in an interview that she doesn’t read reviews or let them hold any sway for her) and that is their right. Writing a book does not automatically lock you into a contract where you have to be open to everyone’s’ opinion on it.

However, this is social media. It’s where you come to interact with people and if you’re an author (especially a well-known author), people are going to @ you. I see that Sally Rooney no longer has a Twitter account, which is really the only way to go if you don’t want to be involved in the conversation. I also noticed that Gail Honeyman, author of one of my favourite books, has also been inactive on her account since 2017. Now, I don’t know the reason for this (she’s probably writing another amazing book!) but prior to that, she responded to everyone who tagged her.

Which makes me wonder about the other part of the tweet – how we are limited ‘professionally’. Does this mean that publishers preclude authors from engaging with reviewers? Perhaps that’s a valid point – but I’ve never heard of this being the case and it certainly isn’t for me. In fact, the more interaction the merrier. But I think saying ‘thank you’ or liking a tweet is hardly going to create any conflict of interest. Or is the author referring to negative reviews and the unwritten rule that authors should not engage in online spats about their books (are you listening John Boyne?!) Maybe that is what she meant – it is so difficult to have a nuanced conversation on Twitter.

But speaking of negative reviews – I think it’s safe to assume that most authors do not want to be tagged on those! I saw Erin Morgenstern had to ask people to refrain from tagging her in conversations about how they didn’t really enjoy her new book. That’s just …. shit, really. I don’t know why anyone would want to call an author’s attention to their negative opinion of their book. Where is that conversation going to go? Is the author supposed to apologise? Give up writing?? Of course not. I like to use Goodreads to write my reviews, but I’m always cringing that an author might see the negative ones. Yes, it’s my honest opinion, but I’m not going to draw their attention to it by tagging them.

The fact is, everyone is entitled to make their own boundaries and I respect that. Judging from the comments, most people don’t expect a response from the author anyhow, but it’s nice when it happens. I tag other authors when I’m in love with their book – you can bet your butt I tagged Gail Honeyman with a link to a gushing review on my blog and she said something along the lines of Yay! thanks and we all went home happy. But I have tagged one or two authors who haven’t responded, for whatever reason, and that’s cool too. Maybe we should just agree that it’s not rude to tag and it’s not rude to not reply. Simples.

However, I don’t like the idea of self-appointed spokespeople making sweeping generalisations on behalf of all authors everywhere. We have all taken different paths to this place and some of us see it as a validation of sorts when someone has taken the time to say, hey, nice work.

Neil Gaiman added his tuppence worth, giving credence to the belief that authors do not want to read their reviews. Again, it came off a little patronising and, as happens on Twitter, we all have knee-jerk reactions. Later, he qualified his comment with the following:

This just goes to show what I believe to be the crux of the issue. Most of us would struggle to get reviewed in the mainstream media. Our aim is to be read by regular readers, not critics. So yeah, of course we want to hear from those people! The day I have a bad review in the Times and someone tags me in it, maybe then I’ll understand the annoyance these writers feel. But you know what? Maybe I won’t, because I’ve had to grow a very thick skin over the years – something all those articles written by publishers and agents tell us we need to do if we want to be authors!

It sometimes feels like all of this advice for writers is being sent in the wrong direction. I’m a fan of Neil Gaiman, but he does not speak for all of us. Just like he didn’t speak for me when he said eBook piracy was ‘an incredibly good thing’. Illegal downloads are having a seriously adverse affect on authors trying to establish a career in the digital age, affecting sales and creating an environment where readers no longer see the value in paying for books. You cannot assume that everyone in this industry is on a level playing field. We are a diverse ecosystem and one of the most integral parts of it are book reviewers/book bloggers. Elizabeth Bear’s tweet was especially dismissive of bloggers who read/review/promote book reviews and naturally tag the author as an FYI.

Whatever the intention was (and I’m learning that your intention can be very much misconstrued on Twitter) it has again highlighted the amount of unpaid work bloggers do with little or no credit. Another tweet (oh my God, I’m spending so much time on Twitter!! Help!) from a book blogger laid out how much time it takes and commitment to keep a blog going and how a simple high five from an author can make it feel worthwhile. It strikes me that in a multi-million euro industry, the people who do all the work get the least reward. Authors receive tiny royalties, have to do their own marketing and bloggers work for the price of a free book.

Anyway, I don’t want to end on a bum note. No-one is forcing us to be here, we do it because we love it, but as in life, it only takes some small courtesies to make it better for everyone. Try to not to illegally download books – I know we’re all on tight budgets, but please borrow from a library instead and if you can, leave a review. Show book bloggers some appreciation by liking their reviews – yes they love books anyway but I can’t imagine having to read loads of books I didn’t choose and then promoting them and promoting other bloggers, all for free! And do tag authors – most of us are not guaranteed newspaper reviews or even book deals. So it’s a lovely boost when someone takes the time to review your book (just don’t share the negative ones with us – no good can come from it!)

As Rebecca Solnit said, a book is a heart that only beats in the chest of another. We need each other.

Books I Loved in 2019

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Photo by Plush Design Studio on Pexels.com

Well, thank God that’s over. I am now over-weight and reluctant to do anything more taxing than switching channels on the TV. Thanks Christmas, thanks a lot!

But the sanctioned fun isn’t over yet folks, we have the New Year shenanigans to get through first! Although it is a bit exciting this year as we’re entering the 20’s. Still, not as edge-of-the-seat as 1999 when we were all worried about Y2K and the END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNEW IT.

Come what may, we will always have books and speaking of which, this is a little post to highlight the ones I’ve really enjoyed this year (which doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ve been published in 2019 – it’s just that this was the year I finally got round to reading them). I know, it’s an edgy, original concept that no-one else has thought of yet, so I’m thinking this is the post that’s gonna go viral.

A quick glance at Goodreads reveals that I haven’t been a voracious reader this year – as per my previous post, it’s been a funny old 12 months. But what is clear is that my one and only five star rating went to …. (drumroll)

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I stumbled across this book quite by accident (which makes it even BETTER!) while scrolling through my library eBook app thingie (BorrowBox). Saw the lovely Carmel Harrington’s quote and thought, yeah, I’ll give this one a go. OMG. You know when you find your book soul mate? Yep, this is THE ONE. I gushed about it in a full, dedicated, book crush post here, but just to give you a quick snifter –

This book is one of those rare treats that can surprise and delight and stretch the boundaries of genre. It’s got EVERYTHING; a little bit of history, a generous helping of clever, wry humour and tons of humanity. The characters manage to avoid the usual tropes and all bring their own very unique personalities to this quirky tale of family, love and finding your path in life.

Next on the list is …

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Came across this book thanks to the Reece Witherspoon bookclub. Loved the ‘prickly’ main character immediately – very reminiscent of Eleanor Oliphant, so if you were a fan, this book is for you. I love stories that explore how being set in your ways is fine, but you can’t expect life to play by your rules. Life is chaos, basically, and trying to control things doesn’t always work. Funny, moving and clever, this book gets four stars from me.

Finally, one of my most recent reads (you didn’t think I could go a whole blog post without mention historical fiction, did you??) makes the list …

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Hello?? Cover envy – moi? It’s a beautiful book with a story that just reels you in and won’t let go. One of those books you can’t wait to get back to. Wonderfully written and depicted, a bit like Eternal Sunshine for The Spotless Mind but for historical fiction lovers! Lush, unnerving and romantic – this one gets four stars from me (the beginning is a little drawn out, so hang in there!)

So that’s it, I’m sure you will all be compiling your own lists and I can’t wait to read them so I can add to my list for 2020. That’s the only resolution worth trying to keep – oh, that and trying to write a book or two of my own! Best wishes to you all for the coming year, hope it will bring good things for us all 🙂