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It’s the end of an era for me. Or it feels like that, anyway.

The last four years I’ve been at home, writing. I couldn’t do much else. A medical condition more or less confined me to my chair. It was a difficult time, but now, looking back, I think I made the most of it. I had several surgeries which didn’t work and during one operation which went horribly wrong I nearly died. In April this year I had another operation which worked, and now I’m fine.

How can I tell you how important, vital even, you were to me during that time? Some of you probably have an idea, if you remember the whole Authonomy whirlwind, when my first attempt at a novel soared up the charts to the editor’s desk in three weeks. I went into shock and removed it from the site. I’d only written 10,000 words, and it was so far from being a novel that the idea of a HarperCollins editor giving me a review was just daft.

That same book has now been out on Kindle for a year, most of the time in the UK top 1,000 Kindle books on Amazon. I am still pinching myself about that. In fact, I’m embarrassed. A few weeks ago my computer packed up, and I lost my hard drive and all my emails, which seemed like a calamity. Not so. I went back to the earliest drafts, and discovered the oddest thing. After all that editing, all those revisions, trying to be a bit cleverer each time, I found that the first drafts were the best. (Thanks, Caro – I did what you suggested!)

So to mark the first anniversary of publication, I have uploaded a newly edited version of Daisychains of Silence. I’m a lot happier with it than I was. It’s not perfect, it never will be, but I’ve learned to trust my first, often hastily scribbled words. I hope, with my next book, I won’t waste time editing the life out of my writing. It’s not that I don’t think editing is important. I do, I think it’s crucial. But there’s a difference between thoughtful editing and unnecessary padding, just because you doubt what you’ve written. Bits that felt too raw, somewhere during the editing process I took them out. I think I got scared, which is how the padding crept in instead. I’ve realised that less really is more. Now, the ending is very different. If anyone who read the earlier version would like me to send them the new file, please just let me know. The new version might not be downloadable for a day or so – and the look inside feature takes a while to catch up as well. Oh, and there’s a new cover, too, to mark the occasion.

But the last four years haven’t just been about Daisychains. Far more important to me is my father’s writing. The Ripening Time, a revised version of the original novel, is out there for readers, and I hope also to finish typing up the original, so people can read that again if they wish. The miracle out of it all is that my father’s literary estate is now being represented by Peters, Fraser and Dunlop. Three of his titles are due to be re-released by Bloomsbury Reader, and also as audio books by Audible. That is something I never dreamed would happen, and makes everything else seem unimportant. But without Daisychains, none of this would be happening. And that’s down to you (I want to start typing names… Lisa, Stef… but there are so many of you I would fill the entire page!). Some of you have appear to have vanished into the ether, but you have not vanished from my heart.

Wherever you are, I want to thank you all for the support and friendship you’ve given me over the last few years. You made the impossible happen. I’m not really an extrovert, tweeting, blogging sort of person, but those of you who are, I love you for it. You kept me company through some dark times. You made a real difference. And those of you who are quieter, I felt your comforting presence, and I look out for your blog posts, and will continue to – maybe even while I’m at work, during quiet times!

Yes, tomorrow I go back to work. I feel so lucky at my age and after being so incapacitated, to have this opportunity. We won’t have to sell the house! We might still choose to move, but it will be our choice, not because we are so broke we have no option.

I’m going back to the same company I worked for over ten years ago. They’re prepared to have me back! That alone is lovely. Some of the people are the same, and I will enjoy spending time with them again. It will be a huge learning curve though – technology has moved on since I was there, so I’ll have a lot to learn.

My computer’s sorted, my book’s updated (and the price is reduced for a while, to celebrate) and my new, historical time-slip novel is saved on Scrivener, waiting for me to flesh out the bones of it when I can. That might be years, but now I’ve started writing again I don’t intend to stop.

Our son recommends we pay a monthly subscription to some online file-saving back-up system, and that’s probably a good idea, so however long it takes, my files will be safe.

In the meantime I won’t be far away, and will be thinking of you.

x

Over the last few months I’ve read and enjoyed a variety of excellent books. Most, though not all, have been fiction – some paperbacks, some e-books on my Kindle. A handful were published by well known and established publishers, a few were self-published and some were published by small press ‘independent’ publishers.

All had typos. Every single book. Some were blockbusters – brilliant, headline-hitting marvels that made me laugh and cry. Some had only one or two tiny mistakes that must have slipped through the final edit, some had several typos that (in a perfect world) would have been weeded out on a final, final proofread.

Please don’t think I’m saying this because I think my own books are perfect. Far from it. I recently re-read The Ripening Time and was aghast to discover that too had its share of minor typos. I was cross, but went through it again and uploaded a revised, hopefully this time error-free manuscript.

Anyone who’s read my ‘How to publish on Kindle’ post will know the same thing happened with Daisychains of Silence, but with the kind and speedy assistance of fab editor Stef Mcdaid at Write into Print, and a painstaking final, final proofread, a fresh and fully edited file was quickly scooted off to Amazon.

I know the big publishers wouldn’t appreciate an email detailing the typos that caught my (unqualified) eye as I read and enjoyed their authors’ books. But what about self-published writers?

If it was me, I’d want to know. If any of my Facebook writer friends or Twitter pals spotted a typo in one of my books I would leap on it and shower them in effusive thanks. But I think that’s just me.

Somewhere during this writing process I’ve got the impression nobody wants some well-meaning eagle-eyed smartypants upsetting things by pointing out typos after the book’s out there in real readers’ hands. As if, what’s the point of telling them now? As if it’s too late, like shutting the door after the horse has bolted. As if they think the messenger might be slightly crowing…

But I don’t think it’s ever too late. Yes, there are probably hundreds of copies of my books with typos already out there being read, or sitting on Kindles waiting to be read. But as a self-published writer it’s easy to correct a typo (in an e-book) once we know about it. And from then on all copies sold will (fingers crossed) be perfect. And surely that’s what we all want.

So do I tell writer friends I know in this virtual world when I spot a typo in their book, or do I keep schtum and just read on and enjoy the story? I realise the glitches I’ve spotted might already have been amended but it’s also possible they might not. As I said, if it was my book, I’d like to know.

Don’t all growl at once. :/ x

There must be, but from the brave and talented voices I read on blogs and on twitter it can sometimes feel as if I’m the only one.

There are some interesting articles and blog posts about the quality of self-published novels, and possible models of quality control which would help to filter out poorly-written books. I think it’s a good idea, and would protect readers from being ripped off and good books from being daubed with an undeserved ‘indie-so- it-must-be-rubbish’ tag. I don’t feel qualified to take part in those discussions, though I do follow the conversations where I find them. It’s just that I don’t feel sure enough of myself and my book to stem the little voice that wonders if they might actually be talking about how to effectively filter out my book from the seriously good indie-published novels now available on Amazon Kindle. I’m so inspired I’ve started an indie books worth reading Pinterest board with some of my recommendations.

The decision to put my first novel on Kindle was based on the belief that readers would decide whether or not my book was good: if it wasn’t up to standard it would sink. It hasn’t. It’s doing well. Does that mean it is good? I still don’t know though I’m hugely encouraged by reader ratings and reviews, both on Amazon and on goodreads. But maybe I’ve just been lucky.

A couple of years ago I paid for an editorial report from a long-established and respected appraisal service, and was pleased when they described Daisychains of Silence as ‘an intelligent read, with a strong literary quality’. To a new writer that sounded good, but they also said it was ‘a sector sadly squeezed in today’s difficult market’. They recommended I add another 20,000 words to hit the magic 100,000 they said publishers want. And an agent I approached around that time suggested the same – they left the door open for me but wanted an additional 20,000 words. Overall, I was left with the impression that anything less probably wouldn’t be considered by a publisher.

I thought about it for a while but at that time felt the story was complete as it was and another twenty thousand words would just be padding. I wonder now if I was too hasty in coming to that conclusion even though I revised and edited and mulled it over for about a year. I have a sequel in mind yet on reflection I now think it might have been possible to develop those threads as part of the original whole, if I’d let it sit for longer in my mind.

That’s one of the downsides to going it alone. There’s nobody to mull things over with and sometimes it feels that if my thoughts don’t stop tumbling around they could soon drive me mad. I don’t regret it though. I feel like a pioneer, a bit like my ancestors who centuries ago braved the unfamiliar territories of Australia and Canada I’m having to learn how to navigate my way round a virtual world. It’s an amazing adventure but it would be wonderful to have an agent with me for the journey.

I’m never, never, never on the stage … yet I’ve gone and written a book. And in doing so have been forced (forced myself really) onto a stage of sorts. Truly, the experience is as terrifying as I imagine it would be in real life if it ever were to happen. Which it won’t, not now.

I was an angel once, when I was five. That was a happy experience because we were all angels, every child in the class, and there was no stage. When I was twelve it was my turn to read a passage from the bible in assembly. The terror of that has stayed with me. The jelly legs, the quivering voice that would not find its way out of the closing throat. Never again.

Yet twice as an adult I have found myself on stage. Once I was a fairy (Fairy Liquid!) in my daughter’s playgroup pantomime. I was at the back, in the chorus of other fairies and still it was terrifying. Another time, to raise funds for the PTA I found myself involved in a musical group called The Reluctant Wilburys. The name says it all – I think it might have been my suggestion. My husband, who’s a musician and often on stage, took part and to our joint relief took over and organised us into something that turned out alright on the night. We sang together and played instruments (I might have had a tambourine) and everybody clapped. Yes, I was terrified but the feeling when it was over was amazing. It makes me think of that book (which I was probably reading at the time) … Feel the Fear and do it anyway, by Susan Jeffers. I did, and I did. But I wasn’t doing it alone, and I was at the back and had only to hum along in the chorus and tap the tambourine against my thigh, both of which I did softly so if I was out of time and out of tune it wouldn’t matter.

It was very like that with my book. The ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ bit. I plunged into a terrifying public world. I went straight to Kindle, so I’m out there, on a stage of sorts, all on my own. It’s scary!

I know as a self-published writer I should be out there trying to get some sort of high profile, or is it called a platform? Stage, platform, it’s the same, and just as scary. Which, if a publisher were ever to read this, would probably make me, as an introvert with an ‘author profile’ that seeks the shadows not the limelight, an unlikely prospect. But would I want a publisher now? Yes, probably. To have someone else promoting your work must be wonderful, and leave the writer free to write. Or perhaps not. From what I’ve read, all writers are meant to actively promote themselves and their work these days. Yet I still think the writing, the books, are products that should in an ideal (probably old-fashioned) world, speak for themselves.

There are things in my home I’ve bought that I love. I chose them without knowledge or care for their inventor. I read books in the same way. In fact, I like an author to be a bit of a mystery. Anne Tyler and Marilynne Robinson are two of my favourite writers and I know very little about them.

Today a new 5 star review was posted to Daisychains of Silence by Catherine MacLeod on Amazon and also to goodreads. It’s by Sam Kirshaw, a writer I admire immensely and the author of The Cushion Effect, a novel of searing emotional intelligence that captivated me with its tenderness and empathy.  It’s an amazing review, yet it leaves me shaking partly because I know I should tell you about it. I am reluctant. I am thrilled. I am terrified.

Sam writes, ‘The book is a triumph of literary crossover fiction inspiring both young women of today and their maturer counterparts.’ You can read the review in its entirety HERE.

Sometime during the week we were away on holiday, when I wasn’t looking at the sales figures on Amazon, Daisychains of Silence exceeded 1,000 sales. It’s now near 1,500.

I have no idea whether this is a good number or not compared to what other books achieve. What I do know is I think it’s phenomenal. When I first published on Kindle just over four months ago I had a target of 200 books in the first year. That is the number of sales of a single title you need to sell in one year to be eligible to join the Society of Authors. I made that my goal.

That I exceeded it in such a short time, and spectacularly, I find astonishing.

I’ve noticed some writers are open about their sales figures and some are more circumspect. But I can’t see the point in being secretive about it. It’s not a competition. I love books, and other writers write the books I love to read, so I see us almost as a huge family, in this together. I love hearing about indie-published successes – I feel it gives hope to the rest of us in the family of writers worldwide.

The thing is, I have an income! I never expected an income. I thought there would be a few pence here and there, and although it’s not a lot, it’s turned out to be enough to change my life.

We’ve lived in the same house (and garden – that’s the important bit, really) for over 25 years. It’s an old house, and it requires ongoing and often expensive maintenance. We need a new boiler. The wooden windows need replacing. The ancient bathroom suite is green:

Some things, like the kitchen newly installed 25 years ago, would be staying even if I won the lottery (that won’t happen, I don’t do the lottery) because I love it, however old-fashioned it might be with our pine kitchen table and chairs – our first purchase on HP over thirty years ago, now dented and scratched with the memories of a lifetime’s use.

Now, covered with a flower-print cloth it gives the room a homely feel hard to achieve in today’s gleaming kitchens full of stainless steel (I always think that’s a daft name when I see the smudge marks on those appliances).

But the last few years have been hard financially, and two years running we’ve put it on the market with the intention of finding something cheaper and easier to maintain. We convinced ourselves we had to move in order to have a good quality of life, where we could have holidays and not worry about money all the time. It would be a wrench, selling the family home (and the garden, oh, how I’d miss the garden) but we felt we had no choice.

Buyers were scarce, though, and we planned to put it on the market again this March at a lower price, in the process adjusting our expectations to what our future home might be: a tiny place with a tiny back yard along a busy road somewhere we wouldn’t enjoy being. We live in an expensive area; you don’t get much house for your money round our way and my husband, who works in London, is not about to retire for a few years yet so my dream of maybe moving to Devon or Cornwall is likely to remain just that, a dream.

And what about a cat?

My Pickle only lasted nine months here in the countryside. What chance would a new cat have in a built-up area? And how would I be without the peace of my garden? We were moving with a heavy heart, through necessity, not choice. Now, though, with an income from my writing, things are looking a little different.

The money from my book is enough to make that difference. It’s not a lot, but it’s enough, we feel, to stay exactly where we are, where we love spending our time. Where our pets are buried and where roses and honeysuckle now flourish. Where our children can visit where they grew up; where a cat at least has a fighting chance of a good life; where I’m happy in my tatty clothes, looking through our rickety windows at the birds who return year after year to trees planted by us when we were young and which they now view as their home. Or digging the flowerbeds or hacking down the brambles knowing the aches and scratches of a day’s hard graft will be soothed by a long soak in our ancient cast-iron bathtub. Our home.

We’re going to firm down our roots and stay put.

I set up a new blog, but I’m meant to be writing a sequel to Daisychains of Silence, and it’s a terrible distraction, so I’ve abandoned it. Anyway, I’m too hesitant to be a natural blogger, a fact that’s taken me a while to accept. And accept that it’s OK – blogging doesn’t come naturally to everyone, and that is fine. In one of my many attempts to embrace blogging, I actually set up a blog called Braver Blogging (and I wasn’t being ironic at the time, more like optimistic). I wrote there, for a while, but kept it private. I mean, I wish I was brave enough to say to the world all the stuff I said in there, but somehow I don’t think that’s going to happen.

But it’s my downfall, I know that. The most entertaining/informative/stimulating blogs are written by people who are brave enough to show a bit of their real selves to the world, and we are richer for reading their truth. A few spring to mind, and I’ll try to share them here. I’m not very good at linky things (in fact WordPress has driven me nuts while I’ve been trying to change my Daisychains site away from the black & white pages I set up a couple of years ago – I wanted a lighter, brighter look and this is the result so far).

So here are just some of the real Braver Bloggers:

Exmoor Jane – you never know what’s coming next over at Jane Alexander’s lively blog, but I never miss a post because whatever it’s about I know it’s bound to be entertaining, thought provoking and always uplifting. She’s blogged about everything from Vegetarianism to Spanx tummy-tuck underwear, Astral cookies and other recipes to labyrinths and Christmas markets and even if she’s writing about the horrid black dog that seems to lurk around the corner for so many of us at this time of year, Jane still manages to put a positive slant on things. I like that. And that’s why I bought her book The Energy Secret. I thought ‘if I could have a bit of what she’s taking I’d be a happier, more productive, all-round better person.’  Turns out all you have to do is breathe.  Lucky for us we can read and breathe at the same time because she’s actually written more books than you’ll find in some people’s home – fiction and non-fiction – and a fab new guide to the best British pubs is available through her blog too. Breathe.

Jake Barton – if ever anyone should be given a column in one of the glossy sunday supplements (the glossiest, definitely), it’s the suave, opinionated, wonderfully talented bestselling writer, Mr Jake Barton. Or as he prefers to describe himself, a wastrel. Waste a few half hours over on his blog – I guarantee that once you start reading you won’t be able to stop. Then pop over to Amazon and buy his thrillers. They’re thrilling, just like him.

Dumphimlove ~ I met this lovely lady, who’s real name is Barbara Green, through Jane Alexander when she introduced us on Twitter. How did Jane know I would love Barbara Green? I have no idea, but I’ve come to realise Jane’s instincts are usually spot on. Barbara is a BACP qualified counsellor, and her website is a treasure trove of thoughtful articles, often relationship-based but not always – we might be off to Morrocco in February after reading her lively account of her holiday there. So, entertaining and fascinating, but the most surprising thing is there is even an interactive problem page where people can write to her with a specific issue that’s troubling them and she will give her professional opinion. How amazing is that? When you have to wait months and months for any sort of counselling through Relate or your GP I think it’s a wonderful idea, and I would trust Barbara to always give a thoughtful and compassionate response, whatever the problem. But Barbara’s not all sweetness and light, even though she’s caring. She’s not afraid to speak her mind and will do if she thinks it will help. And there’s book recommendations and music clips as well, so something for everyone, even if you don’t have a worry in the world.

More blogs I follow to follow (if you know what I mean), but in the meantime if anyone knows if I can do anything useful with all the white space either side of this page, please let me know.

Add to your goodreads shelf

Daisychains of Silence

On Amazon Kindle

The Ripening Time

On Amazon Kindle

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