Reasons to Smile

Smiling Knight

Smiling Knight

The blog has dried up since I started on my SSRI medication. Not only have I spent the last week feeling sick (and now have another bloomin cold. Grrr) I’ve found that I don’t have the constant stream of voices in my head, worrying, analysing, stressing, debating random subjects. I walked the dog yesterday and all I thought about was racing the large rain cloud that was hiding behind the house when I ventured out without a coat. Normally my brain switches into ‘blog-writing mode’ as soon as I start walking. Now? Nothing.

I have wondered whether to force myself to think of something to write, like I did last year when I was keeping up with the daily blogging challenge but, having decided not to worry so much about it this year, it feels foolish to write rubbish just to tick a box.

But today I have something to share. Following on from my free promotion for Baby Blues, I have sold some books. That deserves being in bold: I’ve never sold more than a few books a month since starting on my self-publishing journey. I don’t do enough marketing or work hard enough to get reviews. I know this. In my mind I’ve decided to get three or four books under my belt, pay someone to design me a gorgeous set of matching covers, and then go large on marketing and promotion (as both children will be at school).

So, waking up this morning to have sales of Baby Blues in double-figures over night, to have reached #2794 in PAID ranking on, is like winning the Pulitzer Prize. The book is only £1.54 in the UK – you can’t buy a coffee for that – so it isn’t about the money. The ranking, though? That feels great. I don’t know what happened, whether I made it onto an Amazon email or something, but it shows that visibility is the key.

The writing blogs tell you the importance of spending thousands on structural edits and line edits, but I’m starting to think a decent cover and some marketing is probably a better use of cash! Mind you, when I start getting terrible reviews I might change my mind… For now I’m enjoying my reason to smile.

Monkey Mailing Lists and Mind-numbing Stats

Finally set up a mailing list

Finally set up a mailing list

I’ve spent the last 24 hours catching up on all the internet-based work tasks I’ve avoided since about Christmas, when illness drove me away from Twitter and to the comforting arms of a good book.

My free promotion for Dragon Wraiths started at 8am yesterday and, in the hopes of making it more successful than my countdown deals (which resulted in one single, lonely, sale) I knew I would need to have an online presence.

There isn’t much you can fix in a day, but I did my best. I woke up my dormant twitter account, caught up on my writermummy facebook page and finally wrote the Goodreads reviews on all the lovely books I’ve read in the past few weeks (some of them, anyway, I still have a couple more to do).

The first day of my promotion has been okay, considering the lack of preparation. I even made it to number 1 in a category in France! You take success where you can! I don’t regret my six-week sabbatical from Twitter. I realised it wasn’t the platform for me: I got out much less than I found myself putting in. In the writer’s journey I’ve realised that I am happy with a slowly-slowly slightly haphazard approach while I concentrate on improving my craft and raising my kids. I intend to read the Kristen Lamb book I got for Christmas at some point, and I am implementing tips on sales and marketing I pick up on blogs and forums, but you can only do what you can do.

Reaching #1 in a category on :)

Reaching #1 in a category on 🙂

One thing I have finally got around to, however, is setting up a mailing list for people to sign up to if they want news on promotions and new releases. I’ve been meaning to do it for ages but was galvanised into action by realising that there are forty people on Goodreads who have marked Dragon Wraiths as ‘to-read’ and I have no way to tell them it’s currently free. I’ve been shy of creating a mailing list before, seeing it as a bit spammy, but now I can see there might actually be some people who want to know when I’m running a giveaway or when my next book will be out.

I’m still figuring out the ins and outs of Mailchimp, the provider I selected after a ten second internet search at 1am this morning, but I’ve tested the form and it seems to work (except it gives out my home address which I’m not thrilled about). If you want to add your email to the list, the link is to the right in the margin, or click on the image in this post, and I promise never to be spammy. 🙂

Now I’m off to see if I’ve reached the top ten in any more random categories on Amazon (I’m doing well in Coming of Age and Sword and Scorcery). It’s my favourite part of a free giveaway!

Write More Books: 2013 365 Challenge #254

What I was doing today when I wanted to be writing!

What I was doing today when I wanted to be writing!

I keep reading blog posts on the importance of writing and releasing new books to boost sales of existing works. Posts like this; Marketing: “Why Isn’t it Working?” by Chris McMullen (point 12)  or this, Why Slow is Good for E-Publishing by M T McGuire or this How to Sell a Million Books, suggest that one of the key things an author needs to do to succeed is to write more books.

A post by August Wainwright, guesting on the blog No Rules Just Write, explains how an author need not sell books on the scale of Stephenie Meyers, Suzanne Collins, E L James, J K Rowling or Amanda Hocking (yes my choice of female authors is deliberate – read this post) to make a career out of being a writer. Mostly one needs to be prolific. As the post states: “Slow growth is the sustainable way to success as an author”

I'd rather be writing

I’d rather be writing

The key is to write good books and keep writing them. A sale a day (I aspire to a sale a day!) doesn’t sound like a lot until you multiply it by ten or twenty and project it over a thirty year curve, knowing digital books can be in print forever.

I love reading these things because they support my own goals and ambitions. I don’t actually want to be the next “insert big name here.” I want to earn enough to consider writing a career and still be able to do the school run. I’d have to be selling thirty books a day to come close to even a modest income (not factoring in editor/proofreader/cover costs). That feels a long way off. But entirely doable.

In the post, August Wainwright talks of writing novellas, which makes it easier to write the projected 8 books a year his figures are based on. Reading the post it seems tempting to write novellas but it’s not my current skill set. (That doesn’t mean I can’t learn!)

Egg-box alien

Egg-box alien

However, when I look at the words I’ve accumulated for Two-Hundred Steps Home this year – currently approaching the 200k mark – on top of editing Baby Blues and marketing Dragon Wraiths, suddenly writing three books a year feels possible. Whether they’d be good books is another issue and one I’m not in a position to judge. But it gives hope.

The problem is it also makes me fish out an in-progress manuscript (Class Act!) whenever I have five minutes to myself, instead of writing my next Claire installment or readying Baby Blues for print format, or any of the other tough things that need doing. It gives me justification to do what I love, which is to write stories and have them read.

Like every other writer in the universe; this gal just wants to write.


Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog: 


“What will you do?”

Claire stood in front of Josh and drew circles in the dust with her toe. She’d come down to breakfast to find him waiting outside the hostel with his bag.

“I’m getting a shuttle to Christchurch in about half an hour. I can catch a flight from there back home.”

Without looking, Claire imagined the hurt in his eyes: the sense of betrayal. She couldn’t blame him. Having lain awake most of the night reliving her diatribe, she was certain he couldn’t hate her more than she hated herself. Words of apology filled her mouth but refused to be spoken, in case they broke her resolve. Wrapping her arms around herself against the early morning chill, Claire looked down the road past Josh.

“What about your tour ticket? I didn’t even ask whether you bought a package for the bus? I know how extortionate the prices are; are you out of pocket?”

“Nah. I chucked the driver some dollars, said I was chasing a pretty lady. Guess he figured we’d sort it out one way or another after a few stops. He was right, wasn’t he?”

Claire turned involuntarily to face him, and wished she hadn’t. His pale face and the dark circles beneath his eyes told their own tale. Hugging herself tighter, Claire resisted the urge to run her hands through his unkempt hair. No matter how much she knew she was doing the right thing, it still hurt like hell.

“What will you tell Fiona?”

Josh’s face twisted into something between a grimace and a sneer. “I’ll have to tell her the truth, I guess. It’s not like anything happened.” The bitterness in his voice tore at Claire and she inhaled, ready to defend herself.

“No, don’t bother.” His voice softened and he rubbed at his face as if scrubbing away his ill humour. “I’m being an arse. I deserved everything you said last night. I am being a child. Fiona was always there for me, you know, before the kids. I suppose I came to rely on her. Now she needs me, and I’ve done nothing but cause her agro.”

“Do you need to tell her all the truth? Don’t hurt her just to ease your own guilty conscience. Why not tell her you needed time away to think?”

Claire wasn’t sure if advising Josh to conceal the complete truth was a brilliant idea. But she didn’t relish the notion of Fiona seeking revenge, or throwing her husband out for something he hadn’t done; even if he’d wanted to.

Josh didn’t respond, but Claire was rewarded by seeing a hint of colour return to his cheeks.

“You always know the right thing to say or not say,” he said eventually. “Have you considered a job with the UN?”

Claire felt the seriousness pass, heralding a return to the lightness of friendship. She welcomed it. “Me a diplomat? Not likely: I don’t have an ounce of tact. I’m going to have to think of something, though. I can’t be an unemployed traveller forever. Not least because the money’s going to run out soon.”

“What will you do?” Josh echoed Claire’s question from earlier.

She laughed. “I have no idea. Go home, I guess. Find a job. Go and work for Conor. Who knows? Maybe I’ll set up a bus tour in the UK, so there are fewer unsuspecting girls offering lifts to strangers.”

She wished the words unsaid as soon as she uttered them.

“Do you regret it? Coming to the observatory? Giving me a ride?”

Claire shook her head, unable to speak around the lump in her throat. She winced as the movement aggravated the sore muscle in her neck. Josh reached into his bag and brought out a small white box.

“Diclofenac. For the pain. It’s the least I can do.” He held them out to her and, after a moment’s hesitation, Claire took them.


“There you are. Ridding you of two pains in the neck in one go.” He smiled his lopsided grin and Claire felt tears sneak out and dribble down her face.

The sound of an approaching vehicle made them both turn.

“That’s my lift,” Josh said, “the hostel manager’s taking me to the shuttle.”

They stood together watching the car approach. Too soon it was parked in front of them, and it was time to say goodbye.

Claire stood with her arms hanging by her sides as Josh threw his bag into the foot well. He turned and tilted his head, peering under her mane of hair until she met his eyes.

“No hard feelings?”

Claire shook her head.

Josh held out his arms. “Hug?”

With a nod, Claire stepped into his embrace.

“I’m going to miss you,” Josh whispered into her hair.

“Me too,” Claire mumbled, before turning to walk slowly towards the hostel. She waited for the sound of the car door, the rev of the engine. As the wheels span in the dust she turned and watched the car drive away.


Smashwords Stats: 2013 365 Challenge #243

Good news for me!

Good news for me!

I received an email from Smashwords this morning with some great information. I’m sure any authors reading have probably seen it, but if you haven’t had a chance to go through it, here are the highlights.

1. You can now complete an author interview on Smashwords (you don’t even need to have published a book, just to be registered with Smashwords).

I’d heard about this from Pat Elliott, who looked into it when releasing her short story collection, At Sanctuary’s Gate. However it was a useful reminder to me to get around to completing it. It’s now about #3 on my to-do list! (After finish August’s THSH and finish proofreading BBWS)

2. The results of Smashwords’ survey are in and they make interesting reading. The key points for me were:

  • $3.99 books sell better than $1.99 books (in numbers, not just revenue)
  • Longer books sell better than shorter books (115,274 words was the good average: Baby Blues and Dragon Wraiths are both around 113,000 words so this was good news, and against traditional publishing advice, which is to keep novels below 100,000 words)
  • The trend has moved away from 99c books but Free still does well. This is interesting in light of the discussion here on the blog earlier in the week.
$1-$1.99 not as effective as it used to be

$1-$1.99 not as effective as it used to be

3. You can now (or will soon be able to) set your self-published book up for pre-order. This is excellent news. The advantages of pre-order are many (see the link), but the key two are:

a) you can ensure your book has reached the premium catalogue before beginning promotion. It can take ages to get out to Barnes & Noble, Apple and Kobo (In fact, one of my Two Hundred Steps Home books still hasn’t made it to iBooks, which is annoying). Being able to do that in advance means it’s all in place

b) pre-orders go through as sales on release day for Apple and Kobo, meaning an influx of sales numbers all at once. This can be enough to put you on the bestseller list, at least briefly, and will really help rankings.

It’s too late for Baby Blues & Wedding Shoes, as it’s already been live for a while (albeit it with the unproofread version. An error on my part that I won’t make again!) but, for Class Act, when it’s ready for publishing next year, I will definitely make use of it. I might even re-release Dragon Wraiths through Smashwords, and see how that works, next time my KDP Select expires.

So, there you go. The world of self-publishing gets better and better. I’m looking forward to seeing what Baby Blues & Wedding Shoes can do outside of the KDP Select Program. I am going to be more patient with this one and not enroll unless sales are at zero for several months. It’s all exciting stuff!


Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog: 


Sunlight flooded the room, dragging Claire from sleep. The rays of light felt like needles entering her eyeballs and she pulled the duvet over her head with a groan.

You’re too late, sun. We needed you yesterday, not ten foot waves and the roaring forties in full swing.

She tried to ignore the call of the yellow glow and go back to sleep. But the light was insistent, urging her to leave her bed and go outside to explore. It was the first time she’d see the sun in the capital and after a few minutes she threw back the covers.

“Alright, you win. I’m up.”

The voice echoing in the empty room didn’t sound like hers at all. The rasping noise reminded her of her thirst and the long day spent on the ferry fighting nausea. Her tummy rumbled into the silence, recalling midnight hunger that had only increased while she slept.

A glance at her phone told her it was nearly time to check out. Surprised she had slept so late, Claire hurried into the en-suite for a shower. It seemed a waste not to take advantage of the facilities: to stand in the cubicle and not wonder who else had used it since it had last been cleaned.

Maybe I could stay another night. It was rather glorious to sleep in a proper bed.

Claire dug her fingers into her scalp, trying to wash away the memories of her ferry ordeal and the fact that she would have to go through it again soon if she wanted to continue her trip.

Maybe another night wouldn’t hurt.

Then she thought about the sunshine pouring in the window, telling of the beautiful day outside. If she was going to try the ferry again, today would be the day: assuming she could get a ticket. There were another two or three hundred people also on the wrong side of the Cook Strait after the events of the day before.

Deciding she could do nothing while in the shower, Claire rinsed her hair and quickly towelled herself dry. Pulling on the cleanest clothes she could find, and spraying them with deodorant to mask the smell, Claire stuffed her belongings into her rucksack and left the room.

First things first, it’s time for breakfast.

She asked the lady on reception where the nearest café with free WiFi was located, and tried to memorise the directions.

After wandering for twenty minutes she at last found the place and ordered croissants and coffee. There was a booth in the corner and Claire threw her bag on one seat before slumping into the other. It took a moment for her tablet to connect to the internet and Claire tapped the table with her nails. Eventually her email loaded and Claire wondered why she had been so eager to reconnect with the world. There was nothing of interest in her inbox: no new comments on the blog or messages from home.

I don’t know why I thought there would be. The only person who has even noticed my absence is my potential future boss, who I’ve only met twice.

Claire sipped at her coffee and flicked through the emails, pausing at a name that didn’t look familiar. When she opened the message, her hands shook and she plonked her cup back on the table with a clatter. As she read the words the room receded until the only reality was the email on the screen.

Hi Claire,

Sorry for contacting you again. I need to see you. I really need a friend to talk to. I saw on your blog that you were in Wellington and I really hope you still are. I know it’s a long shot, but there’s an event on over the Queen’s Birthday weekend that I’ve told Fiona I’m going to. I’ll be staying at the Travelodge. If you get this email, perhaps you could stop by.


Claire’s mind pitched and tossed like the ferry that had brought her back to Wellington. Josh, here? Was it fate? And the Travelodge: he’d been staying in the same hotel as her. If only she’d managed to read her emails the night before. Would he still be there?

She gulped down her coffee and quickly consumed the croissants as the words of the email replayed in her mind.

Really need a friend? Last time he said that he admitted to killing someone, albeit by accident. Now what? And telling Fiona he’s at an event, not that he’s come to meet me? More lies.

Even as she sensed the seeds of doubt forming, she pushed them aside. This was Josh. Of course she would see him; that went without question.

It seemed to take forever to get back to the hotel and when she arrived the sweat had soaked through her top and she knew she must stink.

Great. So much for having a shower this morning. This rucksack is too heavy for carrying around in the sunshine. The sooner I get back on the bus the better.

Even as she thought it she wondered what her plans would be now. Josh wasn’t about to come to Picton with her or travel around the South Island. How long would he stay in Wellington? He wouldn’t fly all the way from Australia just for a night, would he?

Her mind twirled with questions as she went to the check in desk and asked the same receptionist who had given her directions earlier whether Josh was still in his room.

She leant against the counter and chewed her lip while the woman called through to check. Her voice murmured too low to be heard and Claire held her breath until she hung up the phone.

“He’ll be right down.”

Claire exhaled and grabbed the desk for support. She wondered if she had time to go and freshen up. She shouldered her bag again and was searching around for a ladies sign when she heard the ping of the lift.

Turning in what felt like slow motion Claire stared at the lift doors as they opened. The person that stepped through was so welcome, so familiar, that Claire had to force herself not to run across the floor and fling herself into his arms. Instead she waited for him to make eye contact, and then she smiled.

His answering grin made her heart flip-flop in her chest and her skin tingle. She took two steps towards him before stopping, uncertain.

“Hi, Claire.”

With a sob she dropped her rucksack and ran forwards.


Should Books ever be Free? 2013 365 Challenge #239

The Inflatable Slide

The Inflatable Slide

There’s an ongoing debate amongst self-published authors (potentially all authors but I can only speak for Indies) about the merits of making an ebook cheap or even free for a short period of time.

For an unknown author, making use of something like the KDP Select Program, with its five free days every three months, can be a great way to get your name out there.

Even if no one reads your book after they’ve downloaded it for free – and I’m sure the majority don’t (I only ready about 10% of those I download for free) – the giveaways increase your Amazon rankings and make you appear in the ‘also bought’ section at the bottom.

The more relaxed Bouncy Castle

The more relaxed Bouncy Castle

Whether this gives you sales you wouldn’t have achieved anyway, with self-belief and patience (not traits I have in abundance), is possibly debatable, but I know I wouldn’t have sold 7 copies in Germany this month if I hadn’t appeared on some German website during my last free promo. Dragon Wraiths reached No 1 in Fantasy during the three-day promotional period and it boosted sales tremendously, if only for a short time.

The effect of the other element – pricing cheaply – is harder to grasp. Authors like Amanda Hocking have made their fortune with a 99c price point, but only through lots and lots of hard work, promotion and through writing lots of books.

Equally I have heard compelling arguments to say pricing too cheap can affect people’s perspective of your credibility as an author. It’s hard to utilise free alongside low pricing, as the KDP Select Program prevents you from pricing as low as 99c, so I have little direct experience of a low price point.

In another dog show

In another dog show

Therefore these are not questions I have answers to. Catherine, Caffeinated has a great post on why Indie authors need to price low, even though she also wrote the post above about why you should charge as much as you can. If she does’t know the answer, with her wealth of experience, I’m certainly unlikely to figure it out. I imagine it is different for every author, book and personality type (ie how much patience is on offer).

The reason it popped into my head today was due to a trip to our local village fete. The kids wanted to go on the bouncy castle and the inflatable slide. The castle was £2 for as long as they liked. The slide was £1.50 for three goes.

Most parents and kids came away from the busy bouncy castle feeling happy that they’d received value for money. We all came away from the half-empty inflatable slide, and the miserable lady ushering the kids off after their three goes, feeling grumpy and hard done by.

Our Young Handler, 4th place

Our Young Handler, 4th place

Just because the castle man was giving away more, it didn’t devalue the experience. I suspect he made more money even though the kids were on the castle for ages for their two quid: there’s nothing like a castle full of giggling bouncing children to entice others to have a go. No one went on the inflatable slide twice, they just went elsewhere.

Part of being an author is about building a brand. If you give your book for free, so what? It means people have a chance to read your book who probably wouldn’t otherwise. If people like what they read they’ll come back for more, even if it isn’t free. If they don’t like it, you’ve lost nothing. Yes you get bad reviews but you get those anyway (or I certainly do)!

Anyway, these are just my thoughts! What are your views on cheap and free? Does it make you think the book won’t be worth reading, or does it encourage you to discover new authors?


Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog: 


It surprised Claire how much more fun it was wandering around a museum with someone else, particularly someone knowledgeable who also had a sense of humour. Bethan proved herself well versed in the history of the country and the Maoris, adding snippets of information and reducing the amount of sign-reading Claire had to do.

The Te Papa museum was vast, with everything from Maori dancing to space exploration. Claire’s feet throbbed and her mind swirled with the myriad of information crammed into it. And it was free! When she thought about the money she’d spent on tours and experiences since arriving in the country, and here was this amazing facility at no cost. Even so, it was definitely time for a break, before her legs dropped off.

“Enough! Don’t you ever stop?” Claire stood with her hands on her hips as Bethan tried to drag her outside to see the ponds.

“We’ve only seen about half. Come on, wus, don’t stop now. What else is there to do? It’s tipping it down outside.”

Claire smiled at the strangely English colloquialisms coming from the Asian face in an America accent. Bethan’s history intrigued her, not least because she hadn’t shared a single thing about herself apart from the stay in the States.

“A coffee, please? Just a coffee break. I need caffeine.”

“It’s not good for you, you know? Much better to drink fruit juice or, better still, water.”

Claire pulled a face. “I wouldn’t live longer, it would just feel like it. Okay, I’ll have a latte and you can drink green tea.”

It was her turn to drag Bethan, as she towed the girl towards the coffee shop. It was crowded, like the whole museum, and Claire sincerely hoped they would find a seat.

Trust me to be in the capital on a bank holiday weekend. Why couldn’t I have been in river valley or somewhere else devoid of people? Rain or no rain, I might have to brave the Cook Strait crossing tomorrow.

As if reading her mind, it was Bethan’s first question when they eventually found a seat. ”When will you get back on the bus? Are you taking the ferry or flying to the South Island?”

“Ferry, I guess. Whichever is cheaper.”

“I wouldn’t fancy flying in this weather. It’s a nasty crossing on a good day.”

“You sound like you’ve done it before?” Claire sipped at her coffee and felt the warmth and caffeine spread through her body.

“I have. This is my second tour of the country. I did it all too quickly the first time round.” She blushed and Claire wondered what the story was. She raised an eyebrow, inviting confidences, but Bethan only shook her head and laughed.

“Are you staying in Wellington for a while?”

Bethan smiled, seemingly glad of the change of subject. “I should. I need to work. Funds are running low again, and it will be easier to find a job here in the city.” She frowned. “I’d rather not, though. One city is pretty much the same as another after a while. I miss the mountains.”

Remembering something Mitch had said, Claire asked, “Couldn’t you get work at one of the ski resorts, or down in Queenstown?”

Bethan shook her head. “I don’t ski. Besides …” She hesitated and Claire again suspected there was a story there.

Maybe she’ll feel able to tell me later.

It felt good to have some female company, to gossip – even if it was a bit one sided. Claire had told Bethan about Carl and Michael, work and Kim. Something about the way the girl actively listened made Claire share her life history with her.

Sitting with Bethan, laughing at silly things that they had seen or done during the morning, Claire felt a pang of sadness. It felt like old times with Kim. She wondered if she would ever have them again.


Why Facebook is Mostly for Me: 2013 365 Challenge #216

My WriterMummy Page

My WriterMummy Page

Kristen Lamb recently posted an article about how Writers Building a Platform Have NO Private Life On-Line.

It was a difficult post for me to read, because I am naturally a very private person (I would guess most writers are) and it’s tough to learn how much we have to push ourselves out of our comfort zone. It was also tough for me, because she wrote specifically about Facebook and how writers shouldn’t have a Facebook fan page separate to their regular profile page.

Kristen says writers make the mistake of thinking that their regular page is for acting human and a fan page is “for the professional face and self-promotion.” She explains that, in reality:

The regular page is essential for connecting with people and creating the emotional bonds that will eventually translate into a vibrant, passionate author platform filled with readers. We connect talking about kids, laundry, missing socks, vacations, hard days at work and griping about the weather. All these everyday events are how we forge friendships.

She also says that you shouldn’t assume your friends aren’t interested in your writing. Friends read books and know people who read books, and so social media should be across all channels if you hope to sell books.

Practising skateboard at friends' BBQ

Practising skateboard at friends’ BBQ

Normally I fully embrace everything on Kristen Lamb’s blog, even if I don’t think I can implement it myself. And I have no doubt she’s right about this too. However it’s not right for me. Facebook is my sacred place. I am particular about who I accept as a friend on my profile page. Basically it has to be someone I’d happily show half-naked pictures of my kids in the paddling pool to.

Tonight I realised why Kristen and I are both right.

Family Martin went to a friend’s annual birthday barbecue, after a manic day which included Kara’s first Dog Show (more on that tomorrow) and a children’s party. It’s been a couple of years since we’ve made it to the summer barbecue and in many instances it’s the first time we’ve seen our friends in that time. But we didn’t need to catch up, because we follow each other’s lives on Facebook.

Our friends didn’t say “Look how much the kids have grown!” because they saw pictures of the kids in the paddling pool last week. They didn’t ask, “Why are you late?” but rather, “How was the kids’ party?” because we’d posted on Facebook that we were double booked and would be late.

Many evenings I trawl Facebook looking for something interesting, thinking I’m wasting precious writing time. In fact I’m really kind of down the pub with my mates, catching up on gossip and laughing at friends’ jokes. I share silly things the children have done and in turn commiserate with friends who are struggling with teething babies or boring jobs.

If I was constantly talking about writing, or if I knew I had an external audience, I would be more on my guard. I would protect the children more (I already feel I post too much about the kids on my blog). Similarly, if I had more friends that were people I didn’t know, my timeline would be even more cluttered than it already is and I’d miss more of the important stuff.

Not wanting to be outdone by her brother!

Not wanting to be outdone by her brother!

I know you can control that with lists – same as you can on Twitter. But I struggle with HooteSuite trying to see Tweets I want to see under all the promotional stuff. If that happened on Facebook too, I would lose my sanity. I would also lose my downtime at the pub. Actually, Facebook is more like a big private party than a pub. One where I know everyone by name and I know they all ‘get’ me. It’s a safe place.

But Kristen is right too (of course!) I do need to write a bit more about my books on my private site. I post some stuff but Facebook is selective about what it shows people.

Last night, a good friend who I last saw at my art exhibition two years ago asked, “How’s the art?” I had to explain that I’ve written and published two novels and seven volumes of a serial novel since then. Her response was, “How is it I haven’t heard about your writing?”

Hmmm social media fail!

The best moment of the night for me was finally meeting an old friend of my husband’s for the first time. For various reasons I haven’t met him in person in the 9 years I’ve known my hubbie. But he smiled as we walked in and gave me a huge hug as if I’d known him all my life. Why? Apart from being the most amazing person, he’s been my friend on Facebook for a year or two. He comments on my posts and photos of the kids and we share views on other things he posts. I felt like we’d always been friends and not at all like I was meeting him for the first time.

So, I apologise if my Facebook WriterMummy page is only updated once a day and mostly with stuff about writing, rather than silly pictures of the kids. I apologise if I’m alienating people by keeping my Facebook profile page closed. Maybe I’m not ready to be an author in the twenty-first century. That said, I am myself on my WriterMummy page, on Twitter and definitely here on the blog. Just maybe the me I’d be at a coffee shop, knowing strangers are listening, rather than the me I am after a glass of cider at a friend’s birthday bash.

And if that loses me sales, I’ll have to live with that. Some things are more important than money.


Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog: 


Claire shifted on the bed, wondering why her pillow felt lumpy. She swallowed and panicked as her airway felt closed with grit. Sitting up, she grabbed at the wall as her vision whirled and hot shards stabbed at her head.

Peering round the semi-dark room, memories flickered through her mind, as if she had looked upon the space several times, but each time it was slightly altered, like a spot the difference. In her mind the memories were sometimes of a dark room, sometimes of a sunlit space. Different bags by the beds. Voices, conversations, laughter, all blurred together like a dream-sequence in a movie.

The room was empty now, although rumpled duvets and scattered belongings suggested it was still fully occupied. Reaching behind her, Claire realised her lumpy pillow was actually her handbag. A quick check revealed nothing was missing. Her rucksack still slumped against the bed where she had dropped it, who knew how many hours before.

How long have I been asleep?

As the dark receded and the memories clarified, like a photograph coming into focus, Claire guessed she had been asleep on and off for a day or more. Looking down, she saw she was still wearing the clothes she’d put on Saturday morning, when she left her sister’s house. She tried to work out what day it was, but her mental calculations made the hot needles bury further in her brain.

Fumbling through her bag for her phone, Claire switched it on and searched for something to tell her what time and day it was, both in New Zealand and back home.

Well, it’s 5am back home. No wonder I’m tired. Checking the calendar, Claire stared at the neon words until they went fuzzy. Tuesday?! It’s Tuesday? What the hell? She sniffed, No wonder I stink. I’ve been wearing these clothes for three days.

Her phone beeped, as it picked up a local signal, and a text message trilled its arrival. Then another, and another. Claire’s hands shook as she realised the enormity of her actions.

I’m in New Zealand. I’m on the other side of the world! No one knows I’m here. I’ve been out of touch for days. Anything could have happened.

Her stomach squirmed with hunger and nerves as she flicked through the messages. Two were service messages, welcoming her to New Zealand. One was from Ruth, relaying her mother’s anger at the abandoned Skoda. One informed her of a voice message and one was from Kim. Heart pounding, Claire opened it.

Hi Claire, it’s Jeff. I’ve borrowed Kim’s phone. Just wanted to say, it’s not your fault. Kim needs you. Don’t give up on her, please.

Claire tried to swallow, and realised how parched she was. She stared at the message for several moments, then closed it. Time enough to work out how to respond later. If Jeff was using Kim’s phone she couldn’t reply directly to him anyway.

Hoping her work account was still active, Claire rang her voicemail to retrieve the message. I’d better add a new phone and contract to my to-do list, before Carl thinks to shut me down.

The message was from Conor, asking her if she’d had time to reconsider the job offer. Claire flushed guiltily as she remembered her promise to let him know on Monday. Vowing to send him an email, and remembering that she also needed to email Roger, she made a quick note before chucking her phone back in her bag.

Pulling out her wash-bag and some clean clothes, Claire stuffed her handbag back under the pillow and went in search of the bathroom.

Out of sight, out of mind, right?


Time and Taglines: 2013 365 Challenge #214

My new website (again!)

My new website (again!)

I recently wrote out the list of outstanding projects I want to finish RIGHT NOW and there were fifteen items, ranging from ‘send bookmark artwork to the printers’ to ‘finish Class Act and Finding Lucy‘.

Hmmm. It might be time for some realism and perspective.

The problem is I love my job. Not a problem, you might think, except I only work two days a week. You know how, when you don’t like your job, the weekend flies by and the week draaaaags? Well it’s like that for me, in reverse. Not that I hate spending time with my family. But I do love working on my writing projects, and two (separate) days a week just isn’t enough.

I mourn the days I was self-employed BK (before kids). All that time I spent and wasted, taking things easy, going on photo shoots, painting abstracts. Why didn’t I know, then, that I wanted to be a writer? How much more might I have accomplished? Except probably I wouldn’t have done.

There’s nothing like not having something to make you yearn for it, and that’s true for time too. The fewer hours available, the more we cram into the time we have. Mostly. Some days, actually, there’s so much to do I am overwhelmed by it, and I waste the day on a project that doesn’t need doing. Or I faff.

My refreshed website - still needs work but I was up til 1am getting it this far!

My website before the redesign

Today threatened to be one of those days. It was 33C and humid. I had my novel back from the proofreaders, but it was too hot to think (and there was cricket on the radio).

So I decided to try and be productive, and tackle something else off my to-do list. I opted to start on the marketing for Baby Blues, but I gave up writing press releases after twenty painful minutes, and decided to rebuild my website instead.


Or, it would have been, if technology had been on my side. Apparently my computer doesn’t like 33C heat either and was running sooooooo slooooow.

I don’t know how I didn’t chuck it out the window (except I didn’t have the energy.) Also I couldn’t find a template I liked through my service provider (MrSite) and, as I don’t write HTML, had to make do with what I had. I couldn’t fit a decent sized name and the images I wanted in the header, so it isn’t the best website redesign in the world. But it’s done!

I also tried to come up with a tagline for my writing. Another thing probably best left to a different day. I’ve been putting it off, because I write in a saturated market and many of the best taglines are taken or sound too clichéd (like ‘Let Love Take You Home’ or ‘For Love, Life and Friendships’ which were two of my ideas).

In the end I came up with ‘Seize Life, Trust Love, Cherish Dreams.’ I’m not sure I like it. It doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue and isn’t that memorable, although it has all the elements I believe are in my novels: they’re not just about love and Happily Ever After, they’re also about finding your place in the world, choosing the right path, fulfilling dreams. I’m not sure if that applies to Dragon Wraiths, but it doesn’t exclude it at any rate. Like the header, it will do for now.

A productive day? I’m not sure. But a day survived, which sometimes is enough.


Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog: 


Claire stepped out into the roof-top garden and gasped as the air hit her like a wet flannel. After thirteen hours on an air-conditioned plane, followed by a long trek through the freezing, sterile airport, she had yearned for some fresh air to sooth her dehydrated skin and clear her lungs of stale air. Walking outside was as refreshing as putting her head in an oven.

At least it will put the moisture back in my skin: you could ring the air like a dishcloth.

Even though she’d visited hot and humid countries before, there was something about being in transit from a country in the early grips of summer to a country in deep winter that had left her unprepared for a tropical stopover.

Claire picked a spot beneath the sunflowers, dancing in the warm evening breeze, and pulled out her iPad to take notes. Writing posts for her blog might keep her mind off the craziness of her current actions. Is it still my blog? Who owns it, exactly? I suppose Carl will take all the credit, and all my followers too. Not yet, though, not until I decide whether to turn down his counter offer.

Trying to fathom out her work situation was one of the many things she didn’t want to think about, so Claire took some photos for the blog and began writing.

The sun was beginning to fall below the horizon and Claire prayed for a release from the humidity. A roll of thunder resonated around her and the wind began to blast like a hairdryer, stirring the sunflower leaves and setting the heads bobbing. Rain drops began to fall, hot and heavy, landing on the exposed parts of the ground with a splash. Despite the thunderstorm, the air still had the density of soup. Giving up on her post, Claire lay back on the concrete bench and closed her eyes.


Claire sat up with a start and reached for her bag. Relief flooded through her as she realised it was still under her hand, and still contained her tablet and phone. After a long, shuddering breath, a second quiver of alarm ran through her, setting her nerves jangling.

Did I fall asleep? How long for? Oh crap, don’t let me have missed my connection.

With shaking hands she pulled out her phone to check the time. Her heart thumped as she saw it was 2pm. I can’t have slept that long! She swung her feet round and stood up, grasping the railing nearby for support as a wave of dizziness swept through her. She inhaled deeply, the muggy air sluggish and heavy in her chest.

Wait a minute. It’s still dark. It can’t be afternoon.

With a groan at her own stupidity, Claire realised her phone was still set to UK time. What’s the time difference? Six or seven hours? It’s only around 9pm and my flight doesn’t leave until midnight.

She wondered how Darren was getting on. He’d opted to spend the stopover time going for a tour of Singapore. He’d tried to persuade her to join him but she couldn’t stomach sharing a tiny space with him for a second more than necessary. Just thinking about another twelve hours wedged between him and Mr Grumpy made her shiver, despite the heat.

Next time I fly long-haul, I’m booking early and getting a window seat.


Marketing and Mummy’s Day Off: 2013 365 Challenge #201

Butterfly eggy bread recipe found in a magazine

Butterfly eggy bread recipe found in a magazine

Today I switched off. I took a day’s holiday. Unfortunately I had the children at home with me, so my timing wasn’t great.

I hope that, by sometimes leaving the children to fend for themselves, they will learn self-reliance, and come to appreciate the times I am present, and the days we do go on fun trips to the Farm or the Zoo.

Okay, who am I kidding? That’s just an excuse. I didn’t feel like being Mummy today. I wanted to curl up with my book (Emotional Geology – fab), listen to the cricket (nail-biting), stay out of the sun (too hot for me) and speak to no one (bliss).

I’m already feeling the effects of hubbie being at home this week. I don’t do well if I can’t have a few hours without responsibility for anyone but me. Even though hubbie is a grown man, I still have to take care of him when he’s in a ten-mile radius. I can’t help it!

Front of the Bookmark

Front of Bookmark

The rather busy back!

The rather busy back!

Anyway, the kids coped. They got fed, watched too many movies, made butterfly eggy toast for tea. They were finally allowed out into the sun at 4.35pm, they got to swim at grandma’s and fell asleep at bedtime, instead of an hour later as it has been recently. Not a bad day.

Best of all, I designed my free promo bookmark!

I’m getting quite excited about releasing Baby Blues officially. I should probably be drumming up a blog tour or guest posts, but I still struggle with book marketing. I can just about manage the occasional tweet or KDP free promo. But I come from a direct/offline marketing background. As a result I’m much happier with printed marketing (I used to control a million pound budget to produce junk mail!). Hence the bookmarks, I suppose.

Unfortunately paper marketing isn’t likely to sell digital books. For example, I can’t leave the bookmarks in my local bookshop or library, when the book isn’t available there (although I could donate a few paper copies of the book I guess).  I like print marketing; digital printing is amazing. To design something like this bookmark on my home computer, knowing I could hold it in my hand in a week, is great.

(I learnt my marketing trade in the time of four-colour plate printing, when digital print was in its infancy. I remember being dazzled by an agency showing us a personalised mail pack featuring that day’s newspaper. Incredible then, commonplace now).

Above all, I’m afraid I get seduced by pretty things. I enjoy the design process and I love having a finished, tangible, product. I’m a Luddite at heart! Time to go brush up on selling for self-published authors and forget my marketing past!


Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:


Yellow light poured in through tall windows, dragging Claire’s eyes to admire the blue sky, just visible between the curtains. After the overcast skies of the previous day, the sun promised a new start. Resisting the urge to pull the duvet over her head, Claire pushed it back and swung herself round to sit upright. Her skull ached. Thoughts had tumbled and jumbled for what seemed like the better part of the night. Replays of the day, questioning her actions, planning for the future.

I didn’t even have a drink. I wouldn’t mind feeling this dreadful if I had.

Listening closely, Claire decided the room was empty. She used the bed frame to lever upright, and peered round at the other bunks. One contained the suspicion of a slumbering figure under the covers, so Claire tiptoed out to find the bathroom. A beautiful National Trust property it might be, but Ilam Hall wasn’t over-blessed with en-suite facilities. It no longer bothered Claire, as long as she remembered to take her key. It wouldn’t be the first time she’d had to loiter outside her room waiting for someone to come back.

Refreshed after her shower, Claire contemplated her long drive south. It seemed a tragic waste of a beautiful day, even with the excitement of what lay at the other end.

Excitement isn’t quite the word I’d choose, actually. Abject terror is probably nearer the mark.

Claire couldn’t remember her last job interview. The position at AJC had come through a headhunter and had been agreed over coffee.

While she drove, Claire’s thoughts chattered away in her mind as if she was eavesdropping at a party. Little snatches of sense rose to the surface before sinking beneath the general hubbub.

What is Carl going to do? He looked terrified. What about that odd phone call when he gave me the week off?

She’d thought it was because he was worried about a tribunal, but if that were the case, her resignation would have been a relief. He didn’t look relieved. Am I crazy, to quit before the interview?

No matter how she played it in her mind, the sudden impulse that took her to Manchester, with a resignation letter in hand, made no sense. But then so little of the last three months did. The important bits, the memories that made her smile, were about people, not things. You couldn’t fathom people, they fought categorization.

As she stopped for lunch and a Starbucks, Claire’s thoughts turned to Kim. It was opening night for Kim’s play, the day after her interview. She had her tickets already – she had agreed with Ruth that Sky could come, despite the late finish. Claire wasn’t sure of her plan, but if Kim wouldn’t talk to her maybe she’d relent for Sky. Even though they weren’t the type of friends who talked often, Kim’s silence nagged like a festering wound. Pushing aside the pain, Claire tried to concentrate on thinking through possible interview questions – and answers – for the morning.

At last the satnav announced her arrival at Salisbury. Claire looked at the villa, set amidst beautiful grounds, and felt a stab of fear. This is a mistake. I’ve only seen a quarter of all the hostels. So many amazing places yet to visit. She thought about Ruth, and the hostel manager from Gradbach, each eager for her next instalment.

Why do I want to get a proper job? Back to rules and schedules. Commuting and deliverables and staff depending on me.

She reminded herself she hadn’t got the job yet.

What if I don’t get it. Do I go cap in hand back to Carl? Carry on with the assignment out of my own pocket. And, what? Write a book. I guess there’s always New Zealand.

Slamming the car door, Claire tried to leave the noisy thought party behind and concentrate on the task in hand. Researching for her interview. Let me get the job first, and then decide what to do for the best.


The Art of Distraction: 2013 365 Challenge #116

Decisions, Decisions: Which shot for the April Volume?

Decisions, Decisions: Which shot for the April Volume?

I’ve found something I’m really really good at. Distraction. It’s 2pm, I get the kids in 3 hours, and so far today I’ve filled out one author interview and tidied up this morning’s blog post (it was written at 2am after going out to dinner and was a bit shaky. Probably still is). And I’ve Vaxed the carpets. Um. That’s about it.

Haven’t even managed lunch yet. It’s 2pm, did I mention that? Where has the day gone? What have I been doing all day apart from making the carpets wet and smelly? Oh yes. I bought an iPad mini, so choosing a case for that took twenty minutes. The vaxing took quite a while as I’ve never used the machine before (it scares me) but grew tired of nagging husband to get on with it.

Holkham Beach

Holkham Beach: Image Copyright Trevor Wright

And I’ve spent an hour trying to choose a front cover for the April volume of Two-Hundred Steps Home, seeing as it’s May next week. (I know, seriously?)

I’m struggling to pick a cover this month because I didn’t get where I thought I would by the end of the month: Sky and Claire were supposed to spend some time on the beach, but I don’t know if that’s going to happen. (Maybe I’ll try and write that post today.)

The location hasn’t been as dramatic or recognisable this month as in previous months and, if I’m honest, I haven’t had as much time to think about each post and so there isn’t really a theme apart from travelling with Sky.

I’ve narrowed my choices to two options: rainy day or beach day. Above are the cover-images I have in my lightbox thus far, so I thought I’d post it and see if any jumped out. For those of you who have read any or all of this month’s installments, do any of these images seem compelling? I have a couple of favourites but it would be interesting to get an independent view.

Right, let’s write about beaches.


Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:


“Can we go to the beach today, Claire? Can we, can we, can we? Please?”

Claire prised open sticky eyelids and looked at the girl jumping on the bed, her blonde hair lit from behind by the sun pouring through the window. For a moment Claire wondered if she was being visited by an angel, after her visit to the Shrine. You can’t convert me, I’m a non-believer. Go away.

The jumping persisted and Claire groaned. It was worth a shot. Her body felt welded to the mattress, as if a nefarious doctor had sedated her in her sleep. Oh. My. God. How can I be this tired? Even when I did those bloomin snow hikes I didn’t feel like this. Her brain present an image of Fi coming in to confess all after the Pennine Way walk. Alright, fair enough, I felt like I was dead then. But all I did yesterday was walk from the steam train to the Shrine and back. Not exactly strenuous.

Flashes of the afternoon and evening events returned in vivid colour as sleep retreated. Sky sobbing in fear that her mother was going to die. Sky falling asleep in Claire’s arms so she felt she couldn’t move for two hours, not even to get her iPad. A rejuvenated Sky demanding games and entertainment until late in the evening. A stubborn and shouting Sky refusing to go to bed. Then a night-time of screaming, as Sky’s daytime fears transformed into night terrors.

Claire focussed her bleary eyes on the jack-in-the-box child still shaking the bed. Kids must be bullet proof. Sky seemed to realise the jumping wasn’t working and lay down next to Claire, snuggling in under the duvet.

“Sheesh! Your feet are cold.”

“Sorry, Auntie Claire. Did you sleep well?”

Claire opened her eyes wide and examined Sky’s face to see if there was any trace of irony or evil intent. Clear blue eyes gazed back, brimming with sincerity.

“Don’t you remember having bad dreams, poppet?” Claire reached out and brushed the hair away from her face.

Sky shook her head. “Sorry, Auntie Claire. Mummy says I often don’t wake up when I’ve having nightmares.” Her face fell and tears gathered in the rims of her eyes. Claire was about to offer more support about Ruth’s condition when Sky spoke. “Does that mean you’ll be too tired to take me to the beach today?”

Claire laughed. Kids certainly live in the now. “We’ll go to the beach today, I promise. Let’s just get packed up and check out and we can ask at reception which is the best beach between here and Hunstanton. We can’t check in until later anyway and it looks like a nice day.”

Sky jumped up, her face shining like a star. “I’m packed already. Shall I help you? What can I do?”

Claire inhaled deeply and swallowed down the inexplicable urge to weep that swept over her.

“Wow.” Sky ran along the boardwalk through the pine trees and stopped as if she’d hit glass. “Auntie Claire, look!” She turned and beckoned Claire forwards. “It goes on all the way to heaven.”

Claire walked up to stand by her niece and took in the view, inhaling deeply the scent of salt and pine. Who knew there were endless sandy beaches on the East Coast? Why did we never come here as children? Probably we went to the South of France or were packed off to relatives. Funny that I don’t really remember having family holidays.

The beach stretched endlessly to either side from where they stood, with sea directly ahead and blue sky above. It looked like a picture postcard. The only moving things between sand and sky were distant dog walkers and two galloping horses. It’s not really a family beach, I hope Sky doesn’t mind.

The man at reception had provided a list of sandy beaches and they’d chosen one near the hostel so there would be no chance of missing out on the sun. Besides, when we’re cold and tired I’ll be able to coax Sky to Burnham Market for lunch. Claire remembered that much at least from British beaches. Even on a fine day the wind could be chilly and energy-sapping. She’d contemplated buying a wind-break at the shop where they purchased Sky’s bucket and spade, but the mental image of her niece laughing while she wrestled with the garish stripy contraption convinced her the purchase was unnecesary.

How am I going to occupy her here? No ice cream sellers, no rock pools or crabs or donkey rides. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. She felt a tug on her sleeve and turned her attention to Sky.

“Come on, Auntie Claire, I want to make a sandcastle.”

It felt exposed down on the beach. The wind whirled past them as if it was in training for a long distance race and had no time to stop. Claire could see coloured shapes spinning in the sky and scrunched her eyes up to focus, wishing she’d bought her sunglasses. Sky followed her gaze. “What are they?”

“Kites. Big ones, by the looks of it.” She followed the lines down from the dancing shapes and saw leaping and dancing on bottom end too. “Kite surfers. Brrr, rather them than me. I bet that water’s freezing.”

Claire continued to watch the twirling of the boards and kites, as Sky ran onto the sand and began digging. Something about the freedom of the movement pulled at her. I wonder if they do lessons? That might be a fun challenge. Then she looked at the bent head of her niece, furiously filling her bucket. Oh yes. I forgot. Not until after school starts again, unless they offer babysitting too. Poor Ruth, no wonder she has no life. It’s like having a permanent chaperone. I wonder if they’d let a six-year-old try it? Might be a bit dangerous for a child I guess.

She filed the thought away for later, and went to sit on the sand next to Sky.


The Dreary World of Self-Doubt: 2013 365 Challenge #78

Coffee Art

Coffee Art

Hello self-doubt how nice to see you again. I started the day with such positivity. I went to Costa to write my Claire installment and spent a splendid hour wedged into a comfy sofa drinking a rather artistic flat white (it seemed a shame to spoil it!).

Then I did the usual chores: a two-hour supermarket shop, dishwasher stacking, floor vacuuming and lunch preparation. Okay I didn’t really do the last one as we had pizza.

My wonderful husband tidied my larder which had got so cluttered with lid-less Tupperware and random party paraphernalia there was no room for food. Life was good.

Then I sat down to work on Baby Blues, after two hours of ‘social media stuff’ (tweeting, commenting on blogs, reading blogs, retweeting interesting articles etc). I managed thirty minutes of editing before giving up in disgust and taking the dog out for a walk.

My Writing Den today. Lovely

My Writing Cave today. Lovely

I have read so many blogs about how to write, how to edit, how to market, how to manage social media, what to do and not to do as a self-published author I’m ready to run down the road screaming. It feels like being a new parent all over again. You know, that time when you realise ‘parenting comes naturally’ is complete bollox and you consume every article you can lay your hands on searching for answers only to come back with more questions.

My biggest problem, as a parent and a writer, is that I like to be told what to do – within certain parameters. I want to be given a fairly detailed brief with clear goals and deliverables. Like at school: write this essay or this one, choice of two. You have your brief: deliver. I’m good at solving problems. I’m not so good with choices. Or weighing up conflicting advice.

A friend recently told me about a new TV show discussing ways to get kids to sleep better, because she knows ours have never been all that great at sleeping. And because I complain about lack of sleep a lot. But we’ve been through so many sleep training methods and none have worked. When the children are happy, physically tired, well fed and not ill, they sleep great. Usually that’s when worry or snoring keeps me awake instead, but that’s just god’s wicked sense of humour.

Gorgeous Hubbie tidied my larder today. Now that's love.

Hubbie tidied my larder. Now that’s love.

Unless I know something is definitely going to work better than what I’m already doing, I’m not interested any more. I’m going with gut feel and to hell with it. It’s taken four years and a lot of tears to get that self-confidence as a parent and it’s still pretty ephemeral. I’ll be wallowing in parental guilt and self-doubt within ten minutes of picking up the kids. [actually it was less than that.].

Now with the writing I’m back at the beginning. I don’t know what I’m meant to be doing. There is SO much advice but most of it merely serves to convince me I’m no more cut out to be a writer than I am a parent.

Well, it’s too late to send the kids back and nor would I want to. But I might have to seriously consider if I can sacrifice another four years to find peace of mind as a writer. Do I really want to embark on a career that has no answers and the only way I will know if I’ve done a good job is if my 5-star reviews out-number my 1-star reviews? Jury’s out, but the feeling in the courtroom is no.


“Michael? It’s Claire.”

“Claire, you’re okay. Thank god. I was so worried. Where are you? What happened? The police were going to call me back but they haven’t yet. I’ve been frantic.”

“Whoa, slow down.” Claire inhaled to calm her skipping heart. “I’m fine. I was mugged.” Michael made a guttural sound but Claire ignored him. She needed to get her words out and be done.

“The police found me just as I was coming round and took me back to the hostel. I’ve got a lump on my head the size of a duck’s egg and my hair is matted with blood, but apart from that I’m good. I was lucky.”

She wanted to hang up before Michael could speak again but he was already talking. “I’m so glad the police found you. When you called and then the phone went dead I didn’t know what to think.” He inhaled and released a shuddering laugh. “I thought. Well. Never mind. I’d seen on Twitter that you’d just left the pub and I thought you might be walking somewhere. You should take more care.” His tone took on the preachy note of concern that always set Claire’s hackles rising.

“I’m not a child and this isn’t exactly inner-city New York. I was unlucky, that’s all.” She thought about him tracking her every move. That’s a bit creepy. “What does Debbie think about you following me on Twitter?”

“It’s none of her damn business.” His voice scraped at the soreness in Claire’s head. She tried to puzzle through his bitter tone but her thoughts were still muddled. She shook her head and pain rattled through it like pills in a bottle.


“What? Are you okay? Have you seen a doctor?”

Claire laughed. “Yes I saw a GP this morning. I’m fine. Mild concussion that’s all. It hurts to move.”

“Come home Claire. You’ve proved your point. Come back and have a proper sleep in a proper bed.”

The affection in his voice weakened her. She slumped against the side of the phone box and dropped her head. “I don’t have a home to go to anymore. Besides, it’s not about proving a point.” As she said it she realised it was true. Part of her was actually looking forward to having Sky for a week or two, to explore the East Coast with her and write about it on her blog. “And the beds aren’t that bad. You know that, you stayed in one of the hostels I’ve visited. With Debbie.”

“We’re back on her again are we? Let it go, Claire. There is nothing between us, there never was after I met you.”

“Ha!” Claire winced as her voice reverberated around the confined space. She lowered her voice. “So it wasn’t you and her I bumped into at the airport?” Swallowing down the metallic taste in her mouth Claire cursed herself for rising to the bait. I promised I wouldn’t discuss it. Why couldn’t I have just sent him an email?

“We were coming back from a wedding.”

Claire’s stomach dropped down to her shoes and the breath stuck in her throat.

“An old friend of Debbie’s,” Michael continued, as if his words hadn’t left Claire’s ears ringing. “Debbie didn’t want to go by herself and I said I’d go. As a friend.” He emphasised the last three words, as he might to a difficult child. “You know where my heart lives.”

There was silence on the line. Claire could hear her heartbeat dancing an Irish jig, could hear her breathing rasping, her breaths making wisps of vapour in the freezing air. Inhaling deeply through her noise Claire immediately wished she hadn’t as the scent of Saturday night bodily fluids floated up from the floor of the phone box. Switching to breathing through her mouth, Claire searched the fog in her mind for words.

A loud hammering on the glass broke the spell. Claire looked up into the face of an old man wrapped up in several dirty jumpers and coats. He had a small scruffy dog at his feet and he was gesturing at the floor of the phone box. Looking down Claire realised what she thought was a bag of rubbish was actually the man’s possessions.

“I have to go Michael. I’m in a man’s house.” She realised how bad that sounded but didn’t have the energy to explain. “Thanks again for the knight in shining armour bit. You always were good at that.”

She hung up the phone and pushed her way free from the tiny box, gulping in the fresh morning air.