You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Daisychains of Silence’ tag.
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.
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.
Ellen’s in the kitchen buttering toast when Daisy comes down bleary-eyed at half past nine.
“You could have woken me, Mum.”
“Deirdre! How nice. Would you like some toast?”
“No thanks, I’ll just have coffee.” Daisy stuffs a filter paper into the coffee percolator, putters around with a cloth for a bit, then takes her steaming mug to the back door and leans against the peeling doorframe to survey the sad state of the garden.
The brick paths are question marks half-hidden beneath leggy branches of last year’s lavender; the clay rope-edging now organic hillocks of moss. The forsythia, untrimmed and hopeful, is about to radiate a yellow sunrise into the gloomy corner down by the shed. The area of planting nearest to the house, the herb bed, is looking sickly. She calls through the doorway to her mother,
“Hey, Mum, the forsythia’s nearly out.”
“Is it? That’s early,” Ellen says, her voice coming distantly from the kitchen.
“Not really, Mum. It’s March.”
“March? Don’t be silly…” Ellen comes to the door, hands Daisy a slice of toast. “Would you like marmalade on it?”
“Oh… you made me toast?”
“Of course. You always have toast. Do you want marmalade on it?”
“Oh, why not? Thanks.” She watches her mother’s stooped back disappear into the house, suddenly aware of a gnawing emptiness in her stomach. Maybe Mother does know best, she thinks as she stands shivering in her T-shirt, her hands clamped round the warm mug.
Last night’s downpour has freshened up the air. Daisy breathes it in. The sun’s starting to filter through diminishing thick cotton clouds, bringing a hint of gauzy warmth to the sheltered walled garden. It’s going to be a fine day.
Ellen passes Daisy her toast and they sit down together on the bench. She points to the gravel bed.
“I don’t know what’s got into my herbs there. See them? They don’t look too happy.”
“Well, they’re only just coming into growth, Mum. But it might help if you stopped peeing on them.”
“What! … I do not.”
“I saw you, Mum. I don’t think it’s good for the plants.”
“I don’t know what you think you saw. The idea!”
“If you say so,” Daisy says. She’s about to say more but swallows it down and crunches into her toast.
Ellen sniffed. “I don’t know where you get your ideas, Deirdre. Anyway, urine is meant to be good for the garden. Men pee on their compost heaps. I’ve read about it.”
“Oh, well, they’ll probably pick up now spring’s on its way.” Daisy gets up and strolls over to an evergreen shrub densely patterned with dappled green and yellow leaves; bends to lift a low branch. “There’s snowdrops under here.”
“Elaeagnus Pungens Maculata. My sunshine bush,” Ellen says, taking a sip of her coffee. “A glorious shrub.”
Extract, Daisychains of Silence, chapter five.
Or, how to make your dreams come true without actually going to heaven.
Update Christmas eve 2012. I wrote this last year, and once again it’s Christmas eve, and I feel blessed to be here…
This time last year my novel was written but not published, and I was dying. Seriously, I really was. On the 20th December, 2010 I’d had what I’d been led to believe was a ‘routine’ operation. The fact it was keyhole surgery made it seem almost a minor procedure, and I was up and about, walking round the ward as soon as I woke from the anaesthetic. I’d done my homework and knew it was important to get moving as quickly as possible. I was determined. Oh yes I was, and I planned to discharge myself the day after surgery, or at the very latest on the 22nd, my wedding anniversary. So I wanted to show everyone – the doctors and nurses, concerned family and friends – how the whole thing was a breeze and I was fine. Fine enough to go home and get on with my life.
The hospital food was delicious on the way down. Not so good when it came back up. Yes, I ate the evening meal I’d ordered then I vomited the lot. They said it was the after-effects of the anaesthetic, so I dismissed it and carried on walking round the corridors of the ward, feeling a little proud about how well I was doing. No lounging about in bed for me. I was young and healthy and I was going home tomorrow. Oh yes I was.
I vomited all through the night.
I ate breakfast, vomited then I walked round the wards.
I ate lunch, vomited then I walked round the wards.
They gave me injections to stop the vomiting, straight into my bum-cheek just like in the old comedy films.
I ate tea and vomited.
I ate dinner and vomited.
I vomited all through the night in between walking round the wards.
Then it was the 22nd and I was going home. Oh yes I was. I was up and dressed and when I wasn’t vomiting I was practically bouncing round the wards. I packed my bag, said goodbye to all the lovely nurses and a few patients less fortunate than I who looked like they might not be going home for Christmas.
Oh, I forgot to mention it was snowing. Really heavy snow blanketed the ground. The car park transformed into an ice rink but I wasn’t fazed. Supported by my husband and daughter, I crunched my way through the snow to the car. I was assured the vomiting would wear off with the anaesthetic, and I was going home, no matter how deep the snow. Oh yes I was.
Home. Bliss. Vomiting.
More of the same with a couple of trips to outpatients where I was given more anti-sickness injections in my bum and some anti-sickness tablets to take, none of which made the slightest difference to my vomiting prowess. I could hit a wall at ten paces, so forceful was my body’s disgust at whatever was happening to it.
I’ll skip to Christmas eve. My husband had a gig (he’s a musician) so my daughter stayed in with me. I felt terrible and I looked terrible, but it took us both a while to realise that I might actually be as ill as I felt and looked. My daughter got on the phone – to the out of hours GP service, the local hospital, the hospital where I’d had the op. Hold, star3, wait for a call-back. No one wanted to make a decision about me. I was by this time practically unconscious, so my daughter dialled 999. They wanted to speak to me, the patient. Like a good girl I summoned my stalwart attitude and explained what had happened and how I was feeling. It seems I managed a degree of coherence that unfortunately convinced the medical professional on the other end of the phone that this was clearly just a minor setback from routine surgery, and as such could be managed perfectly well at home. I should wait for the out of hours GP to call me back.
1 am. My husband arrived back from a jolly Christmas eve to find me practically comatose and my daughter frantic. Another 999 call and we were told to wait for the doctor to call us back. They would not send an ambulance.
Lucky for me my husband doesn’t drink when he’s playing. He bundled me into the car and took me to Accident and Emergency, my daughter cradling me in the back seat. They lifted me into a wheelchair and wheeled me in. The staff took one look and waved us straight to assessment.
They pricked my finger and tested my blood within seconds. Within minutes I was given a life-saving injection and put on a drip. They didn’t yet know what was wrong, but they did know I was very ill; the doctor told me I was in imminent danger of renal failure, seizures and coma.
I was admitted to a ward and my lovely family clustered round my bed, fear etched on their faces as days and nights merged; Christmas was happening somewhere else while a trail of doctors came and prodded and went. I can’t remember much about it as I was barely conscious, except for when I vomited, which continued hourly in spite of all the medical interventions they were able to access under a skeleton staff.
The 27th December 2010.
3.30 pm. They still didn’t know what was wrong but I was worsening by the hour so someone was going to come in on the bank holiday to operate the CT scanner, especially for me.
9.00 pm. I’m being wheeled into the operating theatre, to have emergency life-saving surgery. My intestines had been sewn into my operation wound and I was told to prepare myself for the possibility that I’d wake with a stoma (colostomy bag).
That wasn’t necessary, thank goodness and now I get to the point (at last…).
The anaesthetist, the doctors, the nurses, they were all lovely, and chatted away to help me relax and calm my anxiety. They asked me about my family, and they filled in the forms for me so all I had to do was sign. They asked what I do.
I’d nearly died. I was still dying. Until they’d sorted me out I might still die – it was major surgery and I was going to be cut open and there was no guarantee about any of this. It was now or never.
“I’m a writer,” I said.
Oh yes I am.
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.
I haven’t heard back from Legend Press yet and still I have a good feeling about them. I submitted my novel to them back in October because I felt they would be the best publisher for Daisychains of Silence, and that it would fit with the type of books they publish. I still feel that, and am patiently keeping my fingers crossed that they are reading my book with interest. It’s right for an Indie publisher, I know it is. And I’ve had a tingly feeling about Legend Press right from the start. Can you see me dreaming? Make it real – I’m holding my breath …
The fact that one of their award-winning writers stopped by to review my book gives me hope – thank you Andrew.