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It’s years since I’ve written in my blog, but now I’ve committed the next 10 weeks of my life to my first ever creative writing course I think it might be helpful to write some of it down before it all goes out of my head. Especially as already it seems to be going over my head. I mean, is it ok to say ‘I haven’t a clue what you’re on about?’ Maybe it is but I kept that thought to myself. That was this evening. The first evening, although I was terrified, in fact because I was terrified, when the (lovely) tutor, having set us a two minute writing task with the prompt ‘Why story is important’, said ‘who wants to go first?’ my hand flew up. Anything to get it over with, no going back after that, so I took a breath and read my scribbled words to the class of 18 other writers.

Here’s what I’d written:

Story connects us with each other, with the people who have lived before and the people who will live after we have gone. Story is what makes us human, the stories we tell and the stories we hear. Through the telling we share bits of ourselves that act like glue in families, between friends and neighbours and across generations. Stories make history and history shaped our world.

My tongue had grown too big for my mouth so here’s what I said:

“Gulp, nervous swallow, choke.”

No, what really happened was spontaneous applause. Obviously that was because they are a very polite and lovely bunch of people.

The 2nd week, (earlier this evening) I was even more nervous. I don’t know why but maybe it was because you can just about get away with posing as a writer for 2 hours, but another 2 hours and you are bound to be revealed as a fraud. Or simply deluded.

Tonight we learned about Semiotics / signification and the relationship between signifier and signified. The tutor (who really is lovely) talked about ‘liminal space’ and the Jacobian Axis, and although I was listening really hard I’m afraid at this point I got completely lost. So I was pleased when he old us not to get bogged down in the theory, just to get on and write.

Then he set us another 2 minute writing task in which we were to think about emotion and all the senses. My mind went blank but time was running away so after a while I just started writing, anything.

This is what I wrote:

They made me walk the line
They made me shave my head
Put bars around my bed.
They thought they’d shrink me down but
I dreamt of walking lines, of bars beneath my feet, swaying.
Buildings shifting side to side
wind on scalp, tingles, cheers
Banished fears.
Way up here.

I didn’t read it out in class so I thought I’d put it here.

Now that’s done I need to get on with writing my novel.

P.S. I googled Jacobian Axis and nothing came up so if anyone can shed some light on that, and on the signification / signifier / signified conundrum it would be a real help. Thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

well, I’m trying to write, so might not be online very much for a while.

Please email me at silentnovelist@btinternet.com . Thanks for being there and I look forward to catching up with you later in the year.

Bye for now. x

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 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!

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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