The best laid plans

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Lists

Lists

I‘m a list-maker. I love them. I even add things that that weren’t on my original list, just for the pleasure of ticking something else off and seeing my achievements grow. I’m not a tidy list-maker (I’m not a tidy anything) but I’m an effective list-maker. Before one list is finished, I start another. Lists. Plans.

At the start of the year, I set myself some writing goals:

  1. Redraft my novel, Strong as Death, and update the second edition on Amazon in February 2015. Tick.
  2. Apply for some Arts Council funding. Tick.
  3. Redraft my second novel, Selkie. Tick
  4. Publish my second novel, Selkie, on Amazon at Easter. (No tick, but that’s because number 2 didn’t appear on my initial list, so I had to revise the publication date – end of first week in June at the latest). – Not-quite-tick-but-almost.
  5. Write first of my trilogy for 11-14 year olds.

It looks so neat, written like that. If you could see the actual list, it’s covered in arrows and appendices and sub-lists. A load of disorganised scribble to any mind not organised the way mine is.

Plans don’t always go the way you planned. Thousands of words I’d written for my next novel, copious notes in notebooks as well as several chapters, have all become irrelevant as I realised the holes in my plot. And once you have holes, there comes a point when just filling them in doesn’t actually work, and that’s the point you go back to the foundations and start again. Nothing’s been lost, but I now have a new, better story to write. Perhaps all the things that went wrong were just part of the process to get me to where I’m at now (pretty obvious really – a bit like saying you always find the keys you lost in the last place you look for them).

Life doesn’t always go the way you planned. Sometimes, you can choose to change your life plans, sometimes you can’t. I read somewhere that you should live as though you’ll die tomorrow and plan as though you’ll live forever. Wise living probably lies between those two extremes.

I grew up in a family where my parents’ plans were swept away with my father’s last heartbeat. Suddenly, where there’d been a family of five, there were four, where there’d been plans, there were none. Dad’s diary had appointments in it that he never got to keep. The house my parents and younger brother lived in (my sister and I were in our early twenties and had moved away by then) could no longer be a home – it came with the job of being vicar to three country parishes, a vocation Dad, along with Mum, had less than five years to put their hearts and souls into. Over the twenty two years more she lived without the man she fell in love with when she was just fifteen, I saw the faith Mum professed tested and stretched and proved. Mine stretched and snapped.

Four years ago, I was made redundant from work and the future I’d imagined, the plans I’d made evaporated. As I began to put the pieces back together, one of the most unexpected things I found myself doing was re-discovering my faith. Not the sort that had snapped before, but a different kind. The kind that doesn’t depend on my strength, my capacity to love, my ability to make things happen, my plans. Of course I still plan, but I’m building on different foundations now, ones that can withstand the way plans shift the ground from under your feet and vanish, as though they were no more than morning mist burned away by the sun.

I’m planning to publish Selkie by the end of the first week in June. I’m planning to write the opening chapter of my new novel this week. I’m planning to live my life to the full with the people I love most in this world. I’m planning on learning more each day about living a life that doesn’t depend on my plans alone.

What’s in a decade?

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What’s in a decade? Ten consecutive years. No time at all. A lifetime.

This weekend, the BBC will air the first instalment of its long awaited adaptation of Susanna Clark’s novel, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. Published in 2004, it took the author a decade to complete, ten long years of getting up early each morning in order to write before she went to work. I wonder if she’d realised at the outset just how long it would take, whether she would have started?

"Unquestionably the finest English novel of the fantastic written in the last seventy years. It's funny, moving, scary, otherworldly, practical and magical, a journey through light and shadow - a delight to read." NEIL GAIMAN

“Unquestionably the finest English novel of the fantastic written in the last seventy years. It’s funny, moving, scary, otherworldly, practical and magical, a journey through light and shadow – a delight to read.” NEIL GAIMAN

I read Susanna Clark’s story of magic in 2005, tackling the hard backed version at first but, given its size and weight, proceeding to buy a paperback version which was physically far easier to handle. 2005 was not an easy year for me and my family. I spent hours sitting by my mother’s hospice bedside as she slept through many of the hours of the last few months of the illness that took her life in October of that year. I read other novels during that time, but it was Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell that transported me to another time, another place, where, for a while, I could escape the reality of my world. As I read that wonderful book, I never dreamed I would actually write a book of my own. Well, three books to be accurate. My second, Strong as Death, I published in 2014. My third, Selkie, will be online at the end of May. The first? Who knows what the next decade will bring?
The Shadow Realm - rewrite ???

The Shadow Realm – rewrite ???

I do, however, know what the next seven Sunday evenings hold in store …

Updating an ebook- Kindle

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New cover for Strong as Death - still waiting for Amazon to update on their sites (it can, apparently, take quite some time ...)

New cover for Strong as Death – still waiting for Amazon to update on their sites (it can, apparently, take quite some time …)

I’ve had a couple of messages from people recently who want to update their version of my novel, ‘Strong as Death’, to the second edition, which is now available. This is the advice I received from Amazon:

To download the latest version of your books, verify that your device is fully charged and that you’ve turned on wireless, and then sync your device:

FOR KINDLE FOR ANDROID:
From Home, tap the Sync icon.

FOR KINDLE FOR PC:
From Home, click the Sync icon.

The previous version of your book will be automatically replaced by the updated version.

If you’d like to receive updates to your Kindle books automatically, you can turn on automatic updates for your books from the Manage Your Content and Devices page:

1.    Go to the Manage Your Content and Devices (www.amazon.co.uk/mycd) page. (NB I am assuming Amazon.com will have an equivalent page …)
2.    Select the “Settings” tab from the left navigation bar.
3.    Under the section titled, “Automatic Book Updates,” select On.

Hope that helps those of you who’d like to update. If you haven’t downloaded it yet, the second edition is available from Amazon

Amazon UK link

Amazon.com link

It’s a gift

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If you haven’t read Strong as Death yet, then why not download it free this weekend and give it  a try? If you have already read it, then why not update your version to the second edition that is now live on Amazon and see what you think?

I have been asked many times where the scenes in the book take place. With the exception of the bridge where Minnie and Dylan have their first, proper conversation, and the park, all the locations are fictional. However, Carlisle is real, and who knows, if you looked hard enough, the fictional places might somehow appear? If you were inclined to search, here are some clues as to where I’d start looking …

There’s the bridge over the River Eden …  There’s the bookshop, Déjà Lu … If The Chocolate Teapot existed, you might find it here … And the trees that hide the stranger could be in this park …

Minnie's bridge

"As I held it, I swear the book began to hum, its song a darkness filtering through my fingers, into my hands, along my arms. My scalp prickled, my heart thumped, as though it didn’t have the energy to keep on beating."

“As I held it, I swear the book began to hum, its song a darkness filtering through my fingers, into my hands, along my arms. My scalp prickled, my heart thumped, as though it didn’t have the energy to keep on beating.”

"The bow-fronted window overlooked the cobbled street behind the cathedral. Inside, battered leather sofas and wing chairs were grouped around chunky, rustic tables. Shabby-in-a-good-way, Dee described it. Scruffy was her mother’s description."

“The bow-fronted window overlooked the cobbled street behind the cathedral. Inside, battered leather sofas and wing chairs were grouped around chunky, rustic tables. Shabby-in-a-good-way, Dee described it. Scruffy was her mother’s description.”

‘Do you know him?’ I whispered as the stranger’s stare slipped round my heart like cold fingers. ‘Who?’ ‘Over there, under the tree.’ ‘That tree?’ he asked.

‘Do you know him?’ I whispered as the stranger’s stare slipped round my heart like cold fingers.
‘Who?’
‘Over there, under the tree.’
‘That tree?’ he asked.