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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.

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.

you can read extracts from it here:

‘Daisychains of Silence’ is a literary fiction novel that narrates the story of Daisy (christened Deirdre), a woman whose discovery of her husband’s treachery drives her to return to the household of her mother, Ellen. Tormented by her husband’s betrayal and troubled by her complicated relationship with Ellen, Daisy begins to reflect on the childhood experiences that shaped her.

The narrative of ‘Daisychains’ is rich with imagery of the Scottish Highlands and the motif of needlework, both of which give it a fresh and unique feel: this did not feel like a novel I have read before, which is a great start as far as grabbing an Editor’s attention goes. The opening sequence, too, hooks and engages the reader; juxtaposing the colourful picture of Daisy sewing beside her mother with the dramatic image of her stitching together her lips. There are numerous other strengths in the plotting of and characters in the narrative. The dynamics of Daisy’s relationships, particularly with Jo and Ellen, are great. I was especially drawn to Ellen, her mental deterioration, and how this affects Daisy’s feelings towards her and their interaction. Equally, I liked the parallel storylines of the young and the old Daisy.’

‘you prove yourself capable of writing skilfully and without affectation; I’m thinking particularly of lines such as “her hair, rich as peat, was swept into a careless chignon, a loose tendril stuck to lips that were mysteriously darker at the edges where lipstick met the rest of her face”.’

‘The underlying concept is strong; for the most, your characterisation is vivid and fresh; and your setting is rich. This book has a strong literary quality … I genuinely wish you all the best progressing with this novel.’

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.

I knew I was keeping some distance between Daisy and myself when I started writing my novel in 3rd person omniscient. It was deliberate, and without that distance I might not have been able to continue.

Re-writing it in first person, saying ‘I’ did this, feels much more intimate. From feedback I’ve received I think Daisy’s story is stronger.

I’ve had time to get used to the story, so the intimacy that was at first scary, is now manageable. Daisy’s life already feels familiar. Stepping into  her point of view, as if I am Daisy, does feel intimate, but I am not Daisy. To have written about ‘her’ first, changing it to ‘me’ later, seems to have granted me some distance that now allows me to write from Daisy’s heart.

Stef Nalton thinks it works, and I’m incredibly grateful for his thoughtful feedback. I’ve already made changes on his recommendation. I’ll soon re-load the new manuscript to Harper Collins’ authonomy website. Comments and reviews from other writers and readers will be welcomed!

Yes, it’s fiction. And yes, it’s needlework, but neither quite as we know it.

Many of the ideas and concepts within the pages of this novel stem from my experience – the need to ‘keep it stitched’, probably the most powerful theme that runs throughout the novel.

Secrets are a burden, lies are worse.  I kept silent for too many years, even after certain family truths were uncovered. Lies can cause chaos to those unknowingly trapped in the ‘protective’ veil of anothers’ deceit,  spiralling them into a vortex of mental illness, self-harm, suicide and early death – consequences that may reverberate through generations of a family.

Daisychains of Silence is a work of fiction which illustrates how forgiveness trancends all hurts, accommodates the seemingly unbearable, and cuts pain off it its source. Daisy struggles to get there, but get there she does, growing through her experiences and learning acceptance along the way.

I am not Daisy, and the events and characters in the story are fictitious, borne of my imagination. My life experiences led me to the story.

I started writing Daisychains of Silence in 2003, and the first four thousand words were lost in the depths of an old hard drive, under the inauspicious file name of ‘Stitcher’.

I opened the file early this year, something about it clicked and I carried on writing. In March, I uploaded the first 10,000 words onto Harper Collin’s website, and to my shock it flew up the charts, rocketing to number 12 in just three weeks. I was told it was the fastest rising book ever. It was thrilling and frightening – I knew it wasn’t ready to receive a review so I removed it to carry on writing.  It’s now a finished manuscript – a completed novel of 80,000 words.

I sent it to Hilary Johnson’s Advisory Bureau for their thoughts. They described Daisychains as ‘a sensitively and intelligently written story’, which I found very encouraging.

I’m also the copyright holder of all my father’s works. Alistair Mair was a successful novelist in the 1960s and 1970s and was the Scottish President of PEN from 1965 – 1970.

Add to your goodreads shelf

Daisychains of Silence

On Amazon Kindle

The Ripening Time

On Amazon Kindle

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