Available to Pre-Order Now!

Blurb

Through Lynch’s words, embark on a journey of lost innocence, reality bites and how old-fashioned sentiment doesn’t seem to translate – not anymore.

This poetry collection features the disappointments we can all share in, including opening your heart only to be shot down, trying and failing, encounters of bigotry and misogyny – not to mention navigating a world in which everyone is hurting in their own way.

Pervading this work is the sense that people will always be people, but perhaps punctures are actually what force us to decompress.

Excerpts

Pre-Order now: mybook.to/Punctures

Add to Goodreads and read the reviews as they come in: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/44165336-punctures

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How I Wrote a Book in 20 Days: A Diary – Part Four (Final Part)

Please make sure you read parts one to three before reading this concluding part! You can find them by visiting sarahmichellelynch.com/blog and scrolling through.

Note: I only wrote diary entries on days where I actually completed some writing. There are only 20 entries in this diary but the twenty writing days were spread over the space of a month and a bit. This diary does not include my notes on editing (I don’t want to give away all my secrets!)

***

Day #14

Another chapter down. Would have liked to have written more today but I’ve had admin to do. Social media to catch up on. An event to prepare for. Fridays are always difficult days because you’re preparing for the weekend. Still, I’m gonna try get some bits and pieces of writing done tomorrow and Sunday. We’ll see anyway!!

Two major emotional breakthroughs were made in this chapter. Now I’m halfway, I can take this story down a deeper, much more direct route. I’m excited to get to the WOW moment in this book, where everything I set out to achieve becomes much more achievable.

Exciting times ahead…

Word count so far: 49,686 (I’m classing this as half done).

Day #15

I snatched moments of time today to write. I had this one idea I just had to get out in case I forgot it later. So I ignored the Saturday TV for an hour or so, and just did it. Half a chapter down. Not bad, considering it’s been a manic day.

Word count so far: 52,043

Day #16

It’s been Monday. Monday, bloody, Monday. Gah. The clocks have changed and it’s a bloody nightmare!

However, I am starting to taste the end of this book. I want to know what happens next as much as you, the reader will want to. I fear a race is on now. A race to the finish line, to explore all this book has to offer again, with the next stage of development – editing.

Some days you truly have used up your word count, that you have very little else to say at the end of it.

Word count so far: 56,856

Day #17

A really good writing day. I’ve turned some corners and extracted some secrets.

When I look back to the beginning of the story, it feels like a hundred years ago now. I’ve just got to make sure it continues to appear that way, reflecting the manner in which the heroine changes dramatically within this story.

I feel like I’m ever-drawing closer to the denouement.

Word count so far: 64,512

Day #18

It’s 11am and I’m not done for the day by a long shot, but I need to write this entry right now. This morning, this book made me cry for the first time, and that’s huge. Because I don’t always cry when I’m writing a book. But the pain and the poignancy of a particular scene had me flowing today. And I’m not the sort of person to cry easily. Only like really, really bad shit makes me cry, or people with sob stories singing on Britain’s Got Talent, but I think that’s because I love music as much as I love any art form that provokes an emotional response.

Up to now I’ve been writing with a sense of tension and it feels as though that’s broken finally, now I’ve written this difficult scene today. It’s finally broken and the heroine is free to move onto the next chapter. (I’m hoping so anyway, I’ve still got a few thousand words left to write.)

***

I wrote 5,000 words today and it wasn’t an effort; it was one of those rare instances of forgetting time exists and just going with the flow. Words just came and I’m stepping ever-closer to the end. This might even turn into one of those rare novels where less is so much more because I’ve said most of what I wanted to already, so whatever else comes next will be a big adieu.

Word count so far: 69,500

Day #19

I haven’t written yet today. It’s the morning. I’m just trying to muster up some energy right now to write some more. I’m feeling a bit puffed out.

I finished yesterday’s writing session with absolutely no idea or inclination as to how I would continue this story. Overnight some ideas have come to me and I’m fairly certain how I’m going to end the tale now. Sometimes you can feel as though nothing’s coming and when you go about your other business and take a few moments out, suddenly an idea will strike and you realise there is still more, even if the day before, ideas felt all used up. In the past I may have mistakenly forced ideas but this isn’t how I like to write anymore. Each day, I strive for new ideas and those make a story. The devil is in the detail. Having written so many books now, I’ve played with various forms of writing but sometimes simple is best. It just depends upon the character you’re conveying. I find it so difficult sometimes to not repeat myself, using a saying I’ve maybe used in a previous novel. The two main characters in this book, actually – resemble very closely two minor characters of a previous series I wrote a long time ago. But they were minor then, they’re major now, and function in a much different way in this book. I know some authors have strange family trees where all the characters they’ve ever written are somehow connected, even if that’s not evident to the reader. To the writer, they see those characters as part of a wider family, maybe because they are. They’re the author’s family in some respects. So even though it’s very difficult for me to keep my material fresh and new, it all is, and the more difficult it is for me to explore new avenues, I think the better my work is overall. I write for my own pleasure first and foremost which is how it should be. Don’t get me wrong it’s lovely when someone else likes what you’ve done, too. But the only person I’m ever competing against is myself and the past me has an awfully big back catalogue now. And that spurs me on greatly. I feel like these days, the engines are fully operational and ready to burn. It’s all those previous books that got me where I am now. It’s the books I’m writing now that will get me where I want to be. And I’ll have enjoyed every moment of getting to wherever it is I end up. Because I love writing and that’s what I was born to do. Write. It’s easy for me now, where it used to be hard. Because each book has broken me in and taught me something. And writing’s as easy as breathing now. It’s just the thought of it which is sometimes hard.

So now I’ve given myself this little pep talk (I am slightly deranged, comes with the territory), I will bloody well put the kettle on and settle down to some fictional writing once more. Until later…

(peaks and troughs, peaks and troughs…)

***

Wow, just look at that word count below. I can taste the end now.

Word count so far: 76120

Day #20

Wow, I wrote THE END today. I didn’t think I’d be writing that so soon. But I’m reminded that I decided to make this a new adult romance (or it shaped itself into a NA romance), which means readers in this genre generally prefer shorter reads anyway.

But, wait…

Editing has yet to take place. And editing will involve me going over the book six, seven, maybe even eight times. The way I edit is where the magic really happens.

Writing a book (as I’ve proven), is relatively easy when you know how. It’s what comes next that’s hard.

I know that throughout the editing process, I may add another 5 to 10,000 words or so. With one book (A Fine Pursuit), editing added 10 to 20,000 words in fact, because the story shot out of me so fast, I had to go over it plenty after the first draft, so it wasn’t a bony carcass anymore!

Still, I might comb it back again after the second draft.

Or add more?

But, dear reader, I won’t be telling you the secrets of my editing process. I don’t want to put myself out of business.

It’s been real.

Word count of my first (skeleton draft): 77,659

Afterword

The novel this WRITING DIARY relates to is called Hetty: An Angel Avenue Spin-Off. I am writing this afterword on the day of its release.

Hetty is a character I knew inside and out before I even put fingers to keys which is why this book was so easy in terms of development.

Sometimes, as a reader, I read books and I can tell when an author has taken a large timeout in the middle of writing their book because the style or the feel of the prose changes dramatically between one chapter and the next. Maybe that’s sometimes intentional. Maybe it’s because during time off from writing, the author has developed a different viewpoint of the story and it shows.

Writing a book in the space of a month is not something I recommend for everyone. It’s exhausting, it takes incredible discipline and an iron will. I do not manage to complete every story I write within 20 days, trust me! I know my limits. I stop when I need to. I take self care very seriously. I’m lucky that I can pick and choose my projects and my family are very supportive of what I do, both in giving me time and knowing what I need when I come away from writing a book.

What I hoped to show with this writing diary was the highs and lows a writer goes through, and the behind-the-scenes effort that no reader ever usually hears about. (The gory details so to speak.)

Hetty is my 17th novel and when someone recently asked me, “Doesn’t your heart just squeeze when you look at all you’ve achieved?” – I had to tell them, no! I am the long-distance writer with a 1,000 stories to tell and I cannot allow myself to wallow too long in saying goodbye to characters I have so lovingly created. I cannot allow myself to wrap myself up in the myriad emotions I go through while writing a story. To a certain extent, I do look back at my library of work and feel proud – feel blessed I’m doing this – but the books I put out into the world are but a physical representation of the stories I tell. I cannot always explain how a story I’ve written has made me feel (personally) because the feeling is like no other on earth and it’s obviously why I find storytelling so addictive. I know that each reader will bring their own set of life experiences with them when they’re reading a book, and I accept that’s why books engage (often) such different reactions from different readers. For instance, whenever I think back to writing my first novel, I think of changing nappies and my daughter’s big firsts. My first novel is wrapped up in everything that was going on in my own life at the time I was writing it – and the book on the shelf will never explain to readers about the night I was up late typing and the unfortunate effect of my footsteps squeaking on the stairs as I crept up, thus waking my daughter and setting up a chain of events that gave me a terrible, sleepless night. Real life goes on all around us and books are just… books. And yet… they have such potential to change people’s lives. I love, love, love what I do with every fibre of my being and anyone else who loves my books is an absolute and complete bonus.

I write, because, simply – I am a writer. I’m pretty happy with that label, even if I never achieve any other label.

The editing process brought Hetty up to a more rounded 90,000 words, one of the shortest novels I have ever written. After a bit of time away from the book (a bit of distance), I saw what needed embellishing. I didn’t want to over-write this tale, I only wanted to make sure that readers walked away from this book in no doubt of the person Hetty is and what she is capable of achieving. Getting her character right in this work was all that mattered to me. I didn’t water her down, edit out her quirks or her flaws, I kept them all in there. I wanted this woman to be real and from the sounds of it, that’s how my readers see her.

She’s real.

And that’s the most you can hope to achieve from writing – making tiny black letters on a page seem real. And the more real the story, the more satisfied you feel – and another job well done can be ticked off.

***PLEASE READ ON FOR AN EXCERPT OF HETTY AND HOW YOU CAN DOWNLOAD HER STORY***

I LEAVE THE car and him to get a good look at the place from a distance. He’s slept more or less the whole way here. I haven’t minded. Driving helps me switch off and vacate. This is just a stop in the road before reaching Robin Hood’s Bay but I always stop first, breathe in the air, taking in the place from a distance. One of the first places Liza and my foster parents brought me was here after they took me on. John and Carol have been really good to me, too good, considering I was once their daughter’s bully. But that’s Liza – always helping wounded birds, even ones that have tried to peck her in defence. John and Carol are in their sixties now and tried to conceive for years before finally having Liza in their early forties. She was an only child and had always wanted a sister. She persuaded them. And I was added to her broken-winged club.

The car door shuts and I watch him stretch, his midriff revealed as his shirt rides up. He’s got a solid rack of muscles under there – just gorgeous.

He swings his arms around me, clutching me tight, so tight I’m enveloped in his warmth against the cold of this high-topped cliff upon which we’re standing. I love the heather-topped moors around here, I love the views, the cleanness, the clarity – the mangled city jungle seeming far away.

He nuzzles my throat and kisses me, purring, seeking. A rush of love washes over me and I turn in his arms, throw my arms around his neck and kiss him. I find no resistance, his mouth opening, his tongue tangling with mine.

“I missed you,” he says, his eyes glistening against the strong wind.

“I was right next to you.”

“But I was in my dreams.”

“Do you like it?” I ask him, pointing to the sleepy fishing village below. There are not many visitors this time of year.

“What’s not to like?” he says.

I lead him back to the car and we head for The Grange, a place I usually stay, just a little way up from the village.

After parking up, we scope it out.

“Will they have any rooms?” he asks, and from the look of his face I can tell he’s never done this before. I expect any hotels he usually stays in have been booked by Warrick!

“Let’s hope so.”

We enter the reception and I spot Derek, the owner, who recognises me. “Henrietta, long time no see!”

Smiling, I return, “Been so busy, you know how it is. We’ve been gallivanting and wondered… maybe you might have a room for the night…?”

He holds his finger up. “Let me check.”

While Derek checks his computer, I grip Joe’s hand and smile. He smiles back, still a little sleepy.

“Ah, Marge had a cancellation last night. You’re in luck. The Grange Suite is available.”

“We’ll take it,” I snap, almost snapping his hand off too!

“Okay, it’s not ready…” He’s sucking his thumb, thinking as he peruses the screen. “But I’ve put you in, come back at four and it’s yours.”

“Do you need a deposit?”

He winks. “Not from a good customer.”

“Thank you, Derek. Thanks so much.”

He guffaws, a little shy. “No problem.”

I catch him giving Joe a little side glance but he doesn’t say anything, or question us. Leaving the property, Joe says, “He seems a little fond of you.”

“I stay here often, in the summer months.”

“What do you do when you’re here?”

We get back into my Citroen and I turn towards him. “I drive up to Whitby, fill my boots and then sleep it off here. A Sunday morning stroll on the beach is heaven, too.”

“I never would’ve pictured it,” he says, pulling me towards him, reaching across the handbrake to put his arms around me. “You seem so badass, and here you are, a lovely Yorkshire rose spending her weekends by a beach nobody’s even really heard of.”

I tug his hair gently in my hands, murmuring, “All the best people have heard of it, Joseph.”

It takes a few moments for me to realise my breaths are laboured and heavy. This is what he does to me.

“But it’s so quiet and quaint…” He looks bemused.

“In therapy I was taught to like my own company. I’ve got used to it.”

“Not too used to it, I hope?” He’s grinning devilishly.

“Scenery’s not too shabby from where I’m sitting,” I remark, trying to seize my own grin before it breaks my face, I feel so happy.

He cups my bottom lip with his and kisses me torturously slowly. The perpetual molten vat of lava in my lower stomach churns and I could curse that hotel for not having any rooms available right now. Joe moves his kisses to my cheeks and my neck.

“Save it for later…” I mumble.

“You smell divine, like honeysuckle or something.” He pulls back, searching my eyes, endlessly trying to figure me out.

“Come on, I’m hungry, you sexy beast.”

AMAZON UK

AMAZON US

 

 

It’s Okay To Say “No”

Saying “No” Is a Sign of Intelligence

I read something a long while ago about an experiment involving people handed cakes and chocolate non-stop and the test was to see whether they kept saying yes, or eventually said no. After all, we don’t need all the cake and all the chocolate in one day. Moderation is the key, right?

The experiment showed that the more intelligent people either said no from the outset or eventually said no once they were full. For some reason, this example popped into my head this week and it got me also thinking about some of the Oxford University techniques implemented during the application process. Half the time the examiners are testing whether you’ll do something without question. If you do something without thinking it through or without a moment’s hesitation (just because someone said to do it), it could be a sign of low intelligence. What do you think?

I hear and see so much discontent around me some days and I think to myself, “Why don’t you just say no?”

There are many situations where it’s difficult to say no:-

  • You’re full from dinner but the waiter is giving you the eye as if to say that you having more drinks and puddings makes him look better with the boss. He looks so hopeless, you can’t say no.
  • Your mother-in-law keeps putting out plates of biscuits with the tea and coffee and somehow, you feel impolite not partaking.
  • Your boyfriend wants you to go with him to a game, but it’s really not your thing. If you say no though, he might go crazy with his friends, go out on the lash and forget you even exist. You’ll receive a text three days later to say he’s finally got sober and he needs you to pick him up from some gutter somewhere.
  • Someone asks for a favour and this person has done you a favour in the past. You know it’ll be difficult to carry out because you’ve already got a lot on your plate and what they want you to do is something you’d charge other people for, but somehow you selflessly work through the night to carry out the favour and it turns out, your friend didn’t need your help after all. Shout at them, or mooch on and hang your head for half a day? What do you do when they ask again, even though you feel bad about saying no?
  • This one is my favourite: You have a horrible relative and you’re asked to spend time in the same room as them. Ignore your better judgement (and that of many people who agree that the person in question is hard work) and be in the same room while biting your tongue, or say NO and avoid that period of time spent in their company which is a waste of your time and existence. I say I’d rather spend time being happy, than making other people happy. WE HAVE A CHOICE.

Life is short. Lately, with everything going on in the world and so much negativity in the media, it seems that life is getting shorter and shorter. None of us truly know how much time we have on this planet or in this life.

Sometimes I feel an urge to write, an itch I cannot ignore, and this is one of those times when I cannot ignore writing out something which seems very simple to me, but to others – difficult or challenging. Maybe it’s because I was once there, and the process of me finally saying no to something which made me unhappy changed me forever, and now I don’t hesitate in saying, “no”.

To explain, one of the main reasons I am a writer is that growing up, I chewed through books like you can’t imagine and the reason was – I was searching for answers. I wanted education. I wanted to hear about what life had on offer and I wanted to make my own informed decisions about life. In the end, I learnt that the only way to learn (really and truly) is to live life. However, reading helps. It gives you perspective. It gives you a broader sense of the world and other people’s lives. Reading can also give you escapism from a current predicament. I had it brought to my attention recently that some women read romantic fiction to have their faith restored in men, after going through bad relationships. Maybe while they’re single and healing, fiction can be that salve during a process of reflection and help someone figure out where they want to go and how they can take themselves forward.

I would never describe myself as a “romantic” author because I write the truth in all my books. I always question whether my characters would act like this or that in real life and sometimes, I spend days considering whether they would. Sometimes I have readers mailing me to say the characters are pissing them off, and I smile secretly, because people in real life do things to piss you off. I don’t write fiction to create perfect characters who do everything they should. I write them to spark something in a reader, hopefully a thought that might help them see things from a different perspective and change their life.

In my opinion, there is nothing more romantic than someone failing and getting back up, admitting they were wrong and doing it better next time. There is nothing more romantic than a true love conquering all, and remaining intact despite all the hurt and the pain. This is real, this is life. Life is painful but also beautiful and one thing you never see in the mass media are stories of ordinary, backwater people leading quiet, purposeful lives, bringing cheer to all those around them, bringing life and love to everybody they know. Sometimes you walk into a person’s home and everything about them seems ordinary until they start to recount an extraordinary story of achievement they rarely brag about. It just happened, and they humbly explain that it happened. There are silent heroes out there everywhere and it’s why this world hasn’t yet exploded into World War Three. There are people doing good deeds all over the place – and some of them never ask for any reward but a tiny bit of recognition.

I learnt to say no a long time ago. I won’t be bullied by anybody to think or do what they want me to do. I’ll break the rules. I’ll say no or I’ll gently say, “Maybe next time.” In this modern world of ours, we’ve got too wrapped up in thinking that opportunity is at our feet and it’s something we have to dive into without any thought for ourselves or what we – ourselves – really want. Know your own limits, it’s the best advice I could ever give you, and be content with your own limits and accept the things which make you happy, and ignore the things that really give you no comfort or peace whatsoever.

Maybe if you’re in an unhappy place in life, write a list of all the things you wish you could say no to, and a list of all the things you wish you could say yes to. I bet if you start saying no more, you will be able to say yes more frequently to the things you really want to do. There is no trap in life except your own mind, and sometimes, our parameters don’t shift with time and they need to constantly do that. Everyone is in charge of their own fate.

I do think it is important to mention, however… that some of us do experience real anxiety over saying no. Some of us imagine the worst possible scenario of what saying no could conclude in. Such as the breakdown of a relationship, or getting into debt, losing your job or… the list of situations some people have on their ‘absolute avoidance’ pile is endless. But think of why you’re saying no in the first place… and aren’t you saying no because to say yes would make you unhappy? And the whole point of life is to be happy, so why do you keep saying yes to unhappiness? We’ve all been there and life transformations can be very painful.

Someone myself and my husband follow is Jack Canfield and his success principles. I think this sums up everything I’m trying to say here:-

“Most of us avoid telling the truth because it’s uncomfortable. We’re afraid of the consequences—making others feel uncomfortable, hurting their feelings, or risking their anger. And yet, when we don’t tell the truth, and others don’t tell us the truth, we can’t deal with matters from a basis in reality. We’ve all heard the phrase that “the truth will set you free.” And it will. The truth allows us to be free to deal with the way things are, not the way we imagine them to be or hope them to be or might manipulate them to be with our lies. The truth also frees up our energy. It takes energy to withhold the truth, keep a secret, or keep up an act.”
Jack Canfield, The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be

Time is precious and there is no harm in occasionally saying “no”, or “maybe next time.” It’s a sign of intelligence, of you weighing up all your options, and choosing a different one. It’s knowing who you are… and going in the direction that will make you the best person you can possibly be. Rather than dedicate all your energies to avoiding the truth, and covering it up with numberous band aids, plough all your energies into getting what you want. If you’re in a bad job, make your new job finding that new job. If you’re in a relationship where you know you’d be better off alone… seriously… there’s not even a yes or no answer to that.

Life is so short. Forget the bullshit… and just be happy. Toss off your self-made prison and the truth will set you free. It really will.

Forget what everyone is saying on social media, and think for yourself. It’s a clever thing to do and when you love yourself, people will love you too.

 

Writing An Organic Novel Which Becomes a Living Organism

  • What Is An Organic Novel?

An organic novel is perhaps the hardest type of book you could ever write. The author might have a vague idea of what they’re writing and why, but largely they’ve allowed themselves to go with the flow – starting with a basic story arc and adding to the flow as and when.

I’ve sat here and written organic novels and planned novels, so I know from experience that the organic novel is much harder to master but produces the better result.

A lot of authors will tell you they need to hear their characters’ voices to be able to write the story but in my experience, the story comes as strongly to me as the characters and no matter where the characters want to go, you, the author are in charge of their destiny. When a reader gets angry because the author killed off their favourite character, they might assume the author felt nothing when they killed off that character. They’d be wrong. The author feels the loss more than anyone and the author cuts themselves open to put difficult issues and trials on a page. As an author, it’s the hardest thing to do to say to yourself, “This is going to hurt but it must be done and I must go through with it…” Tackling difficult issues HURTS. Always emotionally, sometimes even physically when you’ve been sat in the same position all day and your fingers just won’t pen that difficult scene in the right way.

I don’t use beta readers. I discuss my books with my editor husband and nobody else. My best novel yet might be called Tainted Lovers but I didn’t allow it to become ‘tainted’ by too many cooks spoiling the broth.

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  • Art Is Organic

For me, art can’t be pre-planned; art is giving half of yourself over to the unknown and hoping for the best. It’s letting go of control and allowing your spirit to whirl around a black hole for as long and as painfully as you can take. In the process of writing the organic novel, you might be at war with yourself, or your editor, or yourself and your editor simultaneously, yourself and what you think readers want, yourself and yourself (if like me you sort of method write and start talking with the character who says, “I’d never fucking do that.”

Art is feeling the emotions of a story and not only subscribing to them but living them and absorbing them so that you know other human beings will feel the journey too. It’s hoping beyond hope that something so innately creative and “out there” might actually make sense to a bunch of individuals you don’t even know from Adam.

Art is knowing that the first line doesn’t have to be the best because a book is several lines. Which make a whole. It’s knowing when to make the sentences count, at what junctures do you need to dredge your soul, and how sometimes using greyscale so that when people do transform, it happens in multiple rainbows finally feeding the starved souls of readers ‘hoping beyond hope’.

Art is writing what isn’t pretty, but is necessary to the story. It’s about history, about humanity, about not lying to your reader about what life is like beyond their own castle walls.

  • The Organism

Writing something from the gut means things you put down on paper might repulse some and delight others. It’s true and therefore everyone will have an opinion over something so solid, which you’ve written down in granite and therefore, cannot be changed. The reader might will the story to change but the author (bearing in mind I’ve always been told be careful how you use words – and I ignore that notion continually) cannot change that story because by pressing that publish button, they’ve already put it in stone.

What makes a book an organism is when the author leaves little crevices in a story for the reader to allow their own subplots to slide in. Many people become fond of side characters in books, because they’re people we can imagine for ourselves. The protagonists are often crafted in such a staunch way that they’re the pegs holding down the tent, the driving force of a book – so set in stone – they cannot always be changed. Heroes and heroines can lose their mystery the more story we give them and the more we peel away their shells to overcome each obstacle.

My most recent full-length novel Tainted Lovers was written organically and in some respects, I fought to keep it that way. I didn’t just fight with myself, or my editor, but I fought with every aspect of this novel and it was a fight to the finish line. I wrote about keeping it a standalone in this blog and looking back now, I am so glad I won that particular fight because making this a standalone book has created a living organism which readers now give life to with their reactions and their interpretations, plus lingering questions even as silly as, “Why did he never take his socks off?”

I took some awful issues to task in this novel, one of them being domestic abuse. More than three women who suffered domestic abuse themselves contacted me to say that the book reflected exactly how they felt when they themselves were in that situation. Some of these women had to take a few days and more afterwards to reflect on the story they’d read. I really never even considered whether I was doing justice to women in the same position as my female lead, Adrienne. I just wrote a story I felt in my heart and gut was real.

I love a story which keeps the pages turning. I love commercial fiction. Some books you forget quickly but they were good at the time. I write mainstream stuff as well as literary stuff. I like a balance. But sometimes, an idea comes along and you have to pursue it, no matter the cost. It’s a GIFT and a privilege that I get to do what I do.

Art has to reflect real life, or it won’t touch your readers. Art has to explode life… in a way you might not feel brave enough to do yourself. It’s why we read, why the romance and thriller genres remain the biggest selling genres in the world. Put the two together and you might just get a book to finally knock the socks off David Lewis, the man who once upon a time made love wearing socks…

I finish with one of the reviews I read of Tainted Lovers only yesterday:

on 18 May 2016
I really am not sure what to say about this book, the writing was exceptional and the storyline like nothing I’ve read before. This book consumed me day and night, when I wasn’t reading it, I was wondering what else could possibly happen to Ade and David. These characters are beautifully broken; with dark secrets they fear will end their relationship this story spans over a decade, and really makes you think about a love that is so deep and all consuming, and had me asking myself whether I have ever really felt such a strong connection.

There were so many twists that you just will not see coming. This book will not only touch your heart but will invade your soul and leave you reeling. The author went to great lengths to make this story and the characters complex yet completely relatable; and the poetry throughout, beautiful. I loved Ade’s strength and David’s passion, and together they made this story the beautiful masterpiece that it is.

full paperback cover

“They Say I’m Doing Well” Blog Tour – Stop #26 – Sarah Michelle Lynch

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They say I’m doing well…

So, what does this mean to me…?

I could relay you a million stories, about people I’ve known or met in passing. I have one of those minds; I remember lots of little details people tell me and they always come in useful when I’m writing. So I guess what I’m trying to say is that I could tell you someone else’s story, but how about telling you mine?

I’ve never been ill (touch wood). I did however come close to serious injury in a car crash once but walked away fine. I have never suffered a mental health issue myself. But behind some smiles, there are those of us who have watched others suffer and when you don’t have a mental health issue yourself, it is really hard to understand what someone else is going through when you can’t see into their head. The mind is not an exact science.

From my point of view, a lot of people assume Sarah Michelle Lynch is together and has it sorted. It’s fine. I’m fine. We’re all fine. A part of me will admit that I’ve shirked away from trying to understand the problems people around me have been going through. I’ve shied away from trying to get them to talk about their issues, but maybe that’s just because I cannot empathise entirely. For so many years, I was occupied by an overwhelming sense of ambition to be the beacon my family needed me to be. It’s the curse of your twenties to try to be all things to all people. At the end of the day, I’m just me, and I am happy to have come to that acceptance.

I often write stories about struggle, about deceit, about lies and secrecy, but my life is pretty normal and boring really. In the past few years, since I started writing actually, I’ve learned to be very grateful for having a positive attitude. Give me a pen and a pad of paper and I am happy. I can write anywhere. My Happy is portable. A chocolate bar and a cup of tea too wouldn’t go amiss. That ability of mine to just be happy is something I never saw any value in – until I realised a lot of people find it difficult to even get out of bed some days.

Whether you have a mental health issue or not, we’re all just people, striving for the same things. Love and understanding. Life is hard, nobody ever said it was going to be easy. Journeys of self-discovery can be debilitating for a time, in fact, but I firmly believe knowledge and awareness can empower and help people to rebuild and renew.

I always tell myself it is important to remember what I’ve overcome to bring me to the point where I’m at now. This point. At this moment in time. I put myself through university when I could have easily given up and got a manager’s job at the place I worked part-time during that period. There were times when I wanted to quit, to give up, but I didn’t. I wasn’t the only one – loads of my friends were putting themselves through university too. We did it and came out stronger for it.

I was the first person in my family to go to university. Let me put that into perspective for you. My maternal grandfather was illiterate. My mum got her GCSE in English in her thirties! (mega proud of her by the way!) My parents are both from broken homes. My mum, fostered when she was four, lost two elder brothers, before she was put with a family that didn’t really want her and my auntie. My dad grew up in poverty, suffering like you would never imagine he had. My grandmother was a manic depressive and back in those days, it wasn’t dealt with like it would be today. My grandfather turned a blind eye; he was a womaniser who abandoned my dad and his brother to the mindset of a seriously ill woman who rarely washed, rarely fed her kids, rarely tried to instil in them any sense of decency. I’m the eldest of four kids myself. School friends used to meet my dad and think we were posh. He’s an intelligent man, but he has never been posh. Not many know the full story. Not many people know how my parents struggled to bring us all up, without grandparents to help out. They struggled. I know, because I remember. I was there. I know about the mindset of poverty and how difficult it has been for my dad, especially, to let go of.

Academia is a different world to the one I was born into. Yet in a lot of ways, it saved me. Getting my degree was the biggest achievement I made, up until that point anyway. Nobody on God’s Earth can take it away from me.

After university I did what I always said I was going to do and I worked in journalism for seven years. I learned more in this job than I had learnt in my life before that. My degree gave me a foundation, as did the various part-time jobs I’d done along the way, but I didn’t learn anything until I worked in journalism, which opened my eyes to the human race in all its varying degrees.

I worked with many talented people that might never fulfil their promise because of how truly scary it is to put yourself out there with a piece of work that means more than a pay check. Stories of unlikely heroes and heroines fascinate me because you don’t know if a future star might be sitting next to you in the next office cubicle. We all have the potential for greatness, there’s often just a lot of luck involved and knowing the right people.

I went back to journalism after maternity leave and found five or six people doing my old job. Eventually leaving that job was the best thing I ever did.

I wrote my first novel when I was just twenty-eight. The adrenalin of completing that was like nothing I’d ever felt before. Like a lot of other self-published authors, I found friends and family responded to my new pursuit in various ways. Real friends celebrate you, while others fall by the wayside as you pursue your dream.

I’ve known for quite some time that I was born to write, and the notion grows stronger all the time with every word I put down, with every other author I work with thanking me for helping them.

I’ve always known my destiny is words and it’s something you can put alongside my name.

But even with all my confidence and vigour for this writing lark, I still have days where words don’t flow, where I doubt myself. But it’s okay, and I take the rough with the smooth. My ambition has lessened as my love for the art has grown.

Since I’ve joined the book community and spoken to people like me, I’ve realised how words have the power to do good. I’ve adapted my writing style a lot over the years after realising I actually have a power at my fingertips to do good and it’s why I keep writing. Why I decided to do an event like this.

At the same time, I realise how the world demands, how it requires and takes and manipulates the truth of an artist’s soul for its own ends. Which is why I asked all the authors taking part to write something with regards to, “They Say I’m Doing Well,” because people’s definition of that varies. Ask yourself about doing well… Does doing well mean earning big bucks, having all the letters after your name, or does doing well translate to literally everything? Health, wealth, prospects? What?

I feel that this world can be harsh and cruel because we forget that we’re all human – most of us – and to err is to be human. There’s no formula; no recipe for success, or personal happiness.

They say I’m doing well but some days, I wake up and don’t like what I see in the mirror. Some days I don’t want to write because it all feels like sludge between my fingers. I question myself all the time: do I speak to my friends enough? Is Andy okay? Is Serena doing well at school? Am I doing enough? All these things are normal, but if they become consuming, that’s when you know you have to take a step back and retrace. Ask yourself, is there really a reason for me to worry? Focus on a good thing, a place you can take your mind to, and reorganise everything back to that safe place. I never knew these were invaluable tools I’d had in use for so many years until I watched someone close to me crumble. And it changed me, too. It made me realise that what you give, you get back tenfold, and when you walk the path together it’s so much more interesting than going it alone.

None of us are perfect. None of us. Some of us might be doing “well”, whatever your definition of well is, but then again, we’re all human and all have our crosses to bear – I try to remember that everyday. I see people who appear confident but a tiny fracture in their defences allows me to see that they’re not at all fixed or whole. They’re broken, but in time and with the right love and support, they’ll heal. It’s funny how we judge people on first impressions but how, when we really get to know them, we begin to associate colours and patterns with them instead of faces. We no longer see the outside, but the inside. It doesn’t matter how well you think you know someone though, they sometimes go right on to surprise the hell out of you.

The one thing I will pass on to my daughter is this… never give up on learning. Never. I didn’t. I will not, either. Education… it’s the basis of our civilisation, of making this world better… and doing it all in the name of people that didn’t have the same choices we have.

To round off my contribution to the blog tour, I have written you a poem. Poetry is a medium I don’t get on with sometimes. For me, it bites at me, eats me away. I find it harder to write poetry than novels. A poem sometimes stews in my recesses for weeks before I just write it. I will write it flat out, and that will be it. A poem’s a bunch of feelings condensed, with the potential for so many different interpretations. Poetry, for me, is real. Poetry protects. Poetry reveals our innards and I know why a lot of people struggling with their mindset write poetry, to get it out there… to expel, in order to digest.

So, here we go…

They Say I’m Doing Well

Caress my hair around my ears

I lay my head awhile on your lap

Silence pervades the air and still

We tell each other more than

Words could ever tell

*

Soothe my aches with your hands

Take my soul in your arms

And keep me safe there

I won’t tell if you don’t

Secrets we keep behind our eyes

 *

In front of the telly we stare

But we’re together, so it’s okay

Flimflam words don’t matter

Because it’s just time together

And time’s all that matters

 *

You’re the strength beyond

My fingertips, the one always there

You silence my worries, hear my cries

You cradle my neuroses and nurture them

Loving all of me as you do

 *

He is wise and kind and soulful

He carries me on his back

He has peccadilloes of his own

Which I love in return

And together we reign supreme

*

You struggled, you overcame

You’ve known pain and anguish

Disappointment and deceit

And came out the other side

Much stronger than people realise

*

They say I’m doing well

But it’s the strength you give to me

I couldn’t do all this without the struggle,

And without the journey…

We wouldn’t have the dream

Sarah Michelle Lynch © 2016

author bio

Sarah Michelle Lynch wakes up in the morning and the first thing on her mind is words and the possibility of reading and writing more and more words. She is a little bit obsessed.

A career in journalism preceded Sarah’s writing career as an Independent author and despite an offer to get published, Sarah found it very difficult to let go of the freedom, variety and creativity self-publishing allows her.

When Sarah’s not reading words, she’s editing them, and when she’s not editing she’s writing. These days, to earn her right to write, she freelances as an editor.

DONATE BUTTON

To see the full list of authors taking part in this month-long blog tour, [click here]

To find out what “They Say I’m Doing Well” is all about, [click here]

Please press the donate button if you were inspired by my words. Here’s what your donations could achieve:

£8.70 gives a lifeline to someone in desperate need of support by letting the Mind Infoline team take their call

£30 could help Mind work with the Government to promote mental health needs and improve services for years to come

£150 could fund a local support group and let people living with mental health problems get back their confidence and self-esteem

£250 could fund equipment for an art therapy group, so that people can express their feelings through art and start the healing process

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Writing A Standalone

**Warning, this blog contains swearing, humour… and some strong opinions. Proceed with caution.**

“I actually forgot how to write a standalone…”

…I said to my husband the other day.

One of the reasons I decided to write a standalone this time round is that my own tastes are changing and I find myself more and more frustrated with long-running series. I find that sequels sometimes take forever to come out, or when they do, the characters don’t sound the same… or maybe it was so long ago since that other book in the series, you find yourself having to reread again and again so you can keep the flow going and stay connected to the characters. I also find that with series comes pressure for the author and often, the first book in a trilogy will be really strong and then books that follow don’t measure up. Maybe that’s just a sign that once a series is established, an author becomes too comfortable in their writing and after that, writes exactly what they want instead of perpetuating what they set out in the beginning? Or maybe, time constraints are involved… and the first book was evolved more organically, before everyone developed an opinion of their own.

A lot of writers I work with don’t write series because they want to, but because they think they have to. Many writers in the Indie world, especially, are writing series with the thought, “I can give this one away for free, then people might read the next ones…” Hey, we’ve all been there. I’ve got the t-shirt. Someone even recently said to me, “People will only take a chance on an Indie author if it’s free.”

When I said that to my husband (I forgot how to write a singular book), I really meant it. I forgot how to write a standalone. As of today, right now i.e. this moment in time, my forthcoming novel Tainted Lovers is the only standalone novel of mine to date. When I wrote Unbind, it was sooooo meant to be a standalone. However, during the writing of it, I’d written loads of material from Cai’s POV for my own benefit, so me – the author – was inside his head and better able to represent him. However, low and behold readers read Unbind and wanted more from him. There were questions left over. While my editor’s opinion was that sometimes it’s better to leave some things unsaid, the readers voted with their feet. WE WANT MORE!

So then, I wrote Unfurl which is probably the second best book I’ve ever written because I really felt like me and Cai were on the same wavelength and I went hell for leather on the editing. By midway through Unfurl, I knew in my heart that Kayla also had a story to tell – so a trilogy was forming – and I didn’t want Unfurl to be the shitty middle book full of sex and filler and crappy cliché to get to the last and final chapter, which gives you all the flash/bang/wallop.

Beyond Angel Avenue was something I wrote out of love. I’d missed Jules and Warrick and felt like enough time had lapsed to tell what happened next. I.e. they’ve changed (like I’d changed) and it wouldn’t be the same book, it’d be a book to stand alone but a sequel still.

I think a lot of authors these days feel under pressure to write series, from a marketing point of view, because a series is an investment for readers to get stuck into. However, through series, are we short selling ourselves? Stretching ourselves thin? When in actual fact, a standalone has the ability to pack a whole lot of punch in one, swift round? A former agent of mine said series attract publishers/agents because it basically means more pounds and pence.

If you think about Game of Thrones, which everyone is in uproar about because they take so bloody long to write, Mr Martin’s books are only soooo absorbing because he takes time to make them that good. Whereas, many other authors are given three months between instalments to write their books. Is that short changing their talent, or are we able to write more than we think we are? I am starting to believe that the world in which we live expects… and probably the reason why 50 Shades did so well was that all of the instalments were out at the same time and nobody had to wait in between for them. (Or did Amazon spot a marketing opportunity and set their algorithms to explode those books…. hmmm… *scratches chin*… I think Amazon saw a way to earn some money.) I say love what you love, enjoy it, and if you do, great. However, the hype told everyone they had to have those books and so everyone went to Asda and got 3 for 2 and most of the Vol. twos and threes languish somewhere (I did a poll, so I’m not lying about this) and most people I spoke to read the first and then forgot about the other two. I hasten to add Mr Martin only intended GoT to be three books long, but that damn wheel of fortune bloody well said no, you will write seven damn books (and now the TV show is ahead of the books… what does that tell you about supply and demand??? Are we just a load of needy gits…? Oh yeah.)

I mean… look at Great Gatsby at only 50K and yet it’s been done numerous times on film etc. Jane Eyre, voted the greatest novel of all time over and over, rides well above 200K. Today, a marketing firm would no doubt slice Charlotte’s book in two and… you know, spoil the fucking thing.

Word count is so stupid. A story will be told, in how ever many words it needs to be told.

WRONG! WRONG! WRONG!!!!!!

I am but a liar. Now… I put on my editor’s hat for the latter portion of this blog… with a list of editing mishaps I wanna scream at myself and others sometimes:

  • Less is more.
  • Not everyone wants to know your shoe size, or what colour underwear you’re wearing. Cut that shit out.
  • Hey, you totally used that plot twist to dramatise what was otherwise a simply boring, boring novel…!
  • Set targets; they bloody work! A deadline gets shit done.
  • Set a word count and make sure you get that whole story told within that bastard.

When I said I forgot how to write a standalone, I am really not kidding. The writer in me wanted to venture down all sorts of avenues and here’s where things went wrong along the way (as my thought processes swam beyond the buoy):

  • “I could make this two, 90,000-word books and put a massive cliffhanger slap bang in the middle to make people want more… (my editor says, okay, maybe that could work) …everyone would be talking about it, OMG, what’s gonna happen next.” Then… Reasonable Me says it will take me 4-6 months to write the sequel and I will get to the end wondering why I did this. People will have forgotten they care. They are loathe to re-read the first and… it’ll not be as strong as book one.
  • I could make this a trilogy!!! Yes! Another trilogy. I will throw in loads of really, really well-written sex cos I am da balls at that. Oh yes. (editor says noh, in a David Walliams-type Little Britain voice.)
  • Editor in me goes: Write that hard shit, write it, damn you woman. Writer in me goes: No, don’t wanna.
  • How do I arc a story? Fuck. I forgot… better learn that again (I arc’ed once before, in Beneath the Veil/The Radical and that shit was good).
  • B–b–b–b–but if I write a series, I can use tail ends to write loadsa great twisty-turning shit… in the sequels, YAY!! (editor rolls his eyes, stamps on my stupid notions, and shouts WRITE A SINGLE FUCKING BOOK!). p.s. love my editor.

One of my favourite chicklit/romance reads ever is Me Before You (film out this year) and I loved it because it had a moral, it had incredibly beautiful, poignant, life-changing moments, and it was real. I damn well refuse to read the sequel because I know it will spoil my love of the first book.

Notwithstanding all my opinions above, which are just my opinions, not fact… here’s what I found from finally writing a true, standalone novel.

  • I changed the title at least twelve times.
  • I changed the character names at least the same amount of times.
  • I rewrote certain sections dozens and dozens of times.
  • I gave care to each chapter, each section, each line, each paragraph, each fucking full stop. I gave so much care to this book because it is THE BOOK and the only book, right now, that I feel shows the breadth and entirety of my writing skill.
  • With a standalone, you know you only have one chance to get that shit write/right.
  • It’s going to blow your wigs off, knock your socks flying, kill your heart, then rebuild it.
  • I focussed on words. On manipulating. On crafting. I cut out the twisty shit and crafted words. Crafted and crafted and crafted.
  • I wrote stuff I didn’t want to write, but had to.
  • I pulled up my big girl pants and rocked that shit. Left out explicit sex (still hot though) in favour of meaningful encounters.

p.s. I wrote Tainted Lovers on a diet of gin and lots more cussing than what’s in this little here blog post.

Oh yeah… and do you love my cover??

full paperback cover

Out soon…

With love, Sarah xxx

 

#MondayBlogs – Why Write Serials?

Many modern authors (myself included) have been accused of writing serials and I quote “to earn more money” from eBook sales (I BLOODY WISH). So when my husband (and editor) suggested I write this blog post, I thought why not?

So, serials. Personally I’ve read quite a few erotic serials. I like them. It can feel a treat to download a series in one go because serials are quick to write and quick to read. Serials by nature are full of suspense and keep you wanting more. Good serials even keep you coming back to re-read them. I understand the appetite amongst readers for serials. Sometimes, a short is just what we want and need—a break from the heavy novels we might otherwise be absorbing ourselves in.

One of the most famous serials of all is Sherlock Holmes, serialised in various publications. There are many more short stories in the Holmes collection than there are novels. It worked! People still love Holmes to this day. My husband has the anthology and has read the whole collection. In winter on a stormy night, we often pull out the Jeremy Brett DVDs but I am also partial to a bit of Cumberbatch, too (aside from the last episode of the most recent series, but that is another matter…)

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Why did it work for Holmes, then? Well, he was/is a well-loved character and sometimes, people just want a short story to get their teeth into on a bus/train journey or over a nice hot cup of tea on a rainy afternoon. A short story can be a real treat because you know it won’t take long to read and it doesn’t feel such a commitment, therefore it’s more casually enjoyed. When the main character is already established, too, there is no need for the wider context to be expanded and therefore, a reader can get stuck in straight away.

I’ve always been told writing short stories is a great way to hone your craft. For years I avoided short stories though, because I felt I would be contained by them. What I realised when I finally sat down to write a short story, was that when you’re dealing with something in the 20 to 40,000 word region than say 100,000, you write tighter and neater. It’s a psychological thing. You also unconsciously strive to achieve more within that smaller word count. Over time I’ve come to appreciate that working on a few different projects at once can enlighten the whole process you’re going through as a writer. You can work on something else if your current WIP has come to a standstill. Different skills enrich the whole—and everything becomes so streamlined, the number of drafts you find yourself producing lessens and lessens.

1512754_578804148893013_2097469514533575279_nAs a reader, sometimes I want to be shocked and taken on an unexpected journey and I think short stories are the format for some of the more adventurous tales out there. Plus, short stories allow the reader so much input of their own. Personally I’m finding writing short stories liberating and the scope to take characters onwards and develop their back stories is so exciting.

Sometimes a writer just needs a bit of R&R, just like a reader does. Some readers don’t have time to dedicate themselves to a novel, some readers find staring at words for long periods of time difficult. Often, I put books up for FREE and I do so to engage a readership and introduce a character or a story.

Sometimes, we just want to write something fun and frivolous and sometimes, just sometimes, other people get onboard with a serialisation. The beauty of a serial is you don’t know where it is going to go and anything could happen. The series could develop into something beyond your wildest dreams, and all from a little seed you sowed with the thought, I’m just going to write this and have fun!

2328ea02b397fa3f8b59fd74a55ace49Why do I write? I ask this question all the time because I constantly need to remind myself (writing is genuinely hard, day in, day out, but a writer writes because it’s who they are). I write to be free and I write because I know each time I put my hands to the keys, I’m constantly finding more in the tanks. Sometimes you just don’t know the value of something until you embrace it. I just look at the likes of Sylvia Day and I can totally appreciate why even she wants to write serials, still. After all, why do marathon runners not bother with 26-mile training sessions? At the end of the day, whether we are very successful or have a small, loyal readership, we’re all just writers beneath and the writer we start out as is the person to some extent we will always remain. Pressure and expectation added, it becomes a whole new ballgame of course, but we’re still just writers. We embark on a writing life with nothing but a glint in our eyes and a hope in our hearts and in the beginning everything comes from the very earnest parts of ourselves, until we learn how to hone.

You give an animal a cage and one day, they are going to try to escape. You give them some toys, but one day they are going to get bored of them. It’s the same as branding a writer a novelist or an essayist or a playwright or whatever. Call someone a poet but be prepared to be shocked if they one day produce a novel instead. Readers and sometimes the hype machine makes an author, it is that simple. But make an author all about Harry Potter and she might have to use a nom de plume when she wants to write something else. Because at the end of the day, JKR is still that author she started out as with just a wing and a prayer and her love of words. Giving a writer success is beautiful and scary and something I deeply fear because I’m a writer at the end of the day and to be told I can’t write this or that, or being held hostage by a publishing contract… would be like clipping the wings from a bird and telling them to get used to walking. To be judged so heavily on what I’ve written before would probably shake my love of this altogether. The opportunity to experiment is a privilege and it’s why writers have pseudonyms. Many of us write serials or companion novellas or prequels or whatever, because many, many readers like to read the extra added details. Variety is the spice of life and without it, there really wouldn’t be any creativity.

Two Modes Make a Book

In the beginning when I first started writing novels I was writing because I had an idea that just wouldn’t be contained and I had to write it. There were no two ways.

Several novels on, however, there ARE two ways.

These days I write with handwritten notes by my side, perhaps even a chapter-by-chapter breakdown. Sometimes I’ll have mapped a character and fleshed them out in note form from their birthday to their height, their sexual preferences to their dress sense, before they’ve even uttered their first bit of prose or dialogue on the blank, old, fictional page.

We’re told time and time again, there are so many different ways to write a book but the most important thing is to actually just get it written. If only that were so simple.

As an experienced writer now, I do have the pre-planning stage mastered. However I still have to listen to my other mode of by the seat of my pants sometimes because that approach is just as invaluable as the other. Sometimes if you’re too calculated, the reader knows it, and there’s less intrigue then. It becomes predictable.

Constrained by all these notes and preformed ideas, sometimes you can find yourself bogged down or contained, curtailed. It doesn’t feel nice, sometimes, writing to a method you’ve already written out. Like cooking, really, without tasting the food—even the perfect method might go wrong because you didn’t converge with the meat and the potatoes of your recipe and you thought the balance of ingredients would work out well just because the words on the page said so. Sometimes creative freedom is everything. The beauty and exhilaration of writing for me, in the beginning, was writing not knowing where the story was going. To experience the story as everyone else will is amazing—because if you’re pantsing, you’re seeing the action happen like a reader will.

There’s sometimes a point you’ll come to when you’re writing a book and I call it Writer’s Aggression. It’s where you feel you want to jack it all in or scrap it and start again. The anger of The Block (where nothing is flowing and you feel you’re climbing an ever-building brick wall) can sometimes be all-consuming and writing is no longer enjoyable. You know instinctively something is wrong or doesn’t feel good, and the end feels like it will never get here, and you feel like that novel you wrote in half the time last year must have been so much better because it was so much easier.

WRONG.

So when I encounter The Block, what I do is step away from writing altogether or write something else. I’ve been doing that recently and I’m currently working on two things at once because I need distance from the big thing I’m writing.

Writing is faith. It’s keeping going even when it’s really hard and it doesn’t feel good and you’re not sure it’s going well. I read too many books these days full of hyperbole and flowery language. Readers are clever, they don’t need that. It is a bugbear of mine, but that’s just my opinion. I think all that yucky, gooey muck is what we write when we don’t have a clue what else to write. Hands up who’s guilty!

ME!

Readers are sensitive creatures who give meaning to the story themselves as soon as they turn the first page. I think the writer’s job is to provide readers with the foundation to make the story their own. Write the story, not the metaphor of the century. (Maybe I am still suffering a tad of Writer’s Aggression!)

I’m around the 75% stage of my current Work In Progress (well the big one, Unleash…not the other book, a novella I’m also working on) and it’s only now at 75% that I’ve reached that moment where the lights have reached full power and the party is ready to start, the drink’s flowing and everybody’s talking now and some have even been brave enough to get up on the dance floor and… it’s going to be one hell of a night, you know it.

I realised just this morning why I’ve felt so horrified for so long that this book doesn’t feel good; it’s because I’ve always known, deep down in the back of my mind, that what I have to do with Unleash will not be easy. I’ve been subconsciously avoiding something. I’ve been living the story through my main character, Kayla, and I’ve been with her every step of the way and she’s now gotten to that light-bulb moment where the fundamental pieces of what makes her, her, have become clear. Now she doesn’t know what to do about it. There are tons of people this must happen to in life; you’ve spent years thinking you know who you are, what you are, where you’re going—and out of the blue an exemplary force suddenly steps into your domain and you’re then stood in a huge corn field the size of Texas, with nowhere else to go because whichever direction you run in, it won’t get you anywhere fast—unless you have the bravery to reach for that vehicle right beside you which is damn scary but will take you exactly where you want to go.

Writing a happy ending is the easiest thing in the world. It makes everyone feel good about themselves. It’s great. It’s what a lot of readers and writers need to distract them from the difficulties and rigours of their everyday lives. I love a happy ending. However, there’s the literary argument that a happy ending won’t stay with you. The warm, gooey feeling you experience from a HEA will leave you quickly and you’ll move onto your next fix. The book hangover, however, will stop you in your tracks and you won’t forget that one in a hurry. You might not even move on from it, ever.

What if, you’re writing a whole book knowing all the while the story might not give your protagonist their happy ending? But… but… what I’m writing might resonate so strongly with so many, it’ll all be worth it! The pain will be worth it. But… but… it fucking hurts to be writing this shit!

The more I write, I realise art has to represent life and life sometimes does not turn out the way you expect. I never rate a story five stars unless it provokes tears in me and right now, the story I’m writing isn’t even provoking tears—it’s provoking a welling need to write, to get this down now, to eke out this burning feeling in my chest. To gulp the ether of this horrific story of circumstance and spew it out before I choke. I have a horrible feeling of dread and yearning, longing and discovery. I’m stood at World’s End, ready to throw myself in. I don’t have time for the tears right now. They’ll come later, creating wells no doubt as I gulp fresh air on the other side. Kayla is about to learn, you don’t want people standing by your side in life who cushion you, you want those willing to jump with you, willing to race the race, fight fire with fire, give as good as you get… and all that bling.

The Click just happened for me. It’s what we all long for as writers. It all clicked into place and the planning was worth it, so was deviating a little from the plan, and now I’m looking from a bird’s eye view at the whole of Texas and I’m in charge of the story again and I know what to do. The snail-pace, 200-words days are done with and it’s time to jump into the fiery pits of hell. It’s going to cost me to write the rest but what is the point otherwise? If you don’t feel it, nobody else will.

So maybe if you’re enduring The Block, what you’re actually enduring is just a subconscious unwillingness to embrace the story. The story won’t manifest unless you take time to listen; the most important weapon in a writer’s arsenal.

Some stories aren’t always expected, or pretty, or happy, but they’re real.

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Catching Up with the Joneses – for fans of Angel Avenue

Recently I re-read one of my own novels (oh the vanity!!!). It was quite nice actually, and because of the distance I’ve put between myself and this novel now, I was reading it as if from a new reader’s perspective (almost).

Angel Avenue was a novel I wrote in a rush of affection and nostalgia for young love and the city I went to university in and still live nearby. In the novel, Angel Avenue, I never state the setting is Hull. I guess I wanted you, the reader, to envisage the world of this novel as any place – anywhere. I never state the main, bustling avenue Jules and Warrick live on and around is Angel Avenue, because there is no such thing as Angel Avenue. There’s Newland Avenue in Hull – and many of the other sites I’ve described in the novel are real, too. You can go visit them! How glamorous, eh? The title Angel Avenue was suggested to me by my husband Andrew. The original title was Losing Laurie and the book originally was centred around the idea of this woman, Jules, transferring the loss of her mother to a man who did the dirty on her. Like a mourner who goes to their loved one’s grave on a specific day of the week, maybe every day, Jules returns to the spot she met Laurie. I think it is difficult to understand Jules’ psychology but the moral of this book, Angel Avenue, is hidden very carefully within the pages. I focused on etching the characters and the build-up of real love (not teenage or lust-fuelled love) but actual, long-lasting love.

angel avenue collageWarrick is a man given a second chance at life and since he washed himself clean of all his vices, he’s not taken them up again. There’s a splice between innocence and experience in this book – and it’s experience which redeems Warrick – because he saves Jules. A teacher, she in turn gets a new reputation for herself at school for being a cool, ballerina/dancer chick, and when the kids find out Jules and Warrick are together – they trust him too. And thus, a paedophile ring and a traumatic case of bullying are uncovered in this novel. Therefore, ANGEL AVENUE this is, because wouldn’t we love such difficult problems to be solved so easily in real life, eh? Jules’ life was fucked up by her parent’s addictions and she triumphs professionally, yet falls down personally.

I read recently that it takes a hard heart to write a tender novel and this is so true of me and this novel, Angel Avenue. This novel was a terrific salve for me after finishing the gruelling and brain-taxing novels A Fine Profession and A Fine Pursuit. Perhaps I recently re-read Angel Avenue because I needed some salve again!

Anyway, after doing my re-read, a scene came to me which I wrote a few weeks ago now. In the actual novel, which I will never add to or subtract from because it’s exactly how Jules and Warrick told their tale to me at the time, we have an epilogue from Warrick’s POV. But not one from Jules.

What follows now is an epilogue from Jules’ POV. You’re now catching up with the Joneses a few years after they met, as they navigate married and family life. If you haven’t read the novel, you might not want to read this extra/extended epilogue. However, I don’t think this will spoil your enjoyment of Angel Avenue too much if you do decide to go back and read the main novel. After all, it’s the way they fall in love that counts.

When we first had the twins, I was frightened to death of dropping one of them. I was terrified of all sorts and I relied on Warrick for everything. I only know how to be a parent because of him, because I never really had a parent of my own, not one I remember well enough anyway. Everything before my eighth birthday, I’ve blocked out, because that was when Mum was alive and I don’t allow myself to remember how happy I was before she was stolen from me.

To read the full epilogue, click the link below…

Put the kettle on, kick your feet up, and revisit my favourite fictional couple. Well, no I can’t say that, because they stand alongside Cai and Chloe, Lottie and Noah, Seraph and Ryken (and a few others I can’t tell you about yet…)

Just…. enjoy! 😉

DOWLOAD: Jules’ epilogue

Purchase Angel Avenue in paperback or eBook:

angelavenue.do

Value Your Words – Why I Didn’t Accept a Book Deal

Last week a publishing contract landed on my doormat and it took me maybe minutes after reading it to know it wasn’t for me. I’m not going to mention who the contract was with, the money involved, the clauses, etc. I’m just going to say it was a London publisher and they made me an offer after my agent approached them.

If you’ve been self-publishing as long as I have, almost three years now, you might have watched other self-published authors (some of whom are friends) land deals. I’ve watched loads of other Indie authors land deals with all sorts of publishers and some find themselves no better off; alternatively I’ve watched some find themselves worse off, and there are also the few, rare cases of the authors for whom it has really worked out because they have gained a massive, loyal readership from signing with a publisher. After all, gaining a readership is what we all care about most.

In the years I’ve been doing this, I’ve been warned about a few things:

  • Some publishers will offer you a deal without setting out the parameters of their own efforts.
  • Some publishers are not interested in collaboration.
  • Some publishers fail to pay royalties.
  • Some will give you a worse book cover than what you started out with.
  • Some will edit the life and soul from your book.
  • Some publishers offer a marketing package but often, authors have found it is up to them to do most of the marketing, if not all.
  • Some publishers will take most of your royalties.
  • Some don’t even offer an advance but expect a lot of commitment from the author.
  • Good publishers are hard to find.

I am sure there are lots of authors who see that contract land on their doormat and go gaga, immediately sign it and send it back. I can entirely understand why a lot of authors would be so excited at this prospect, so excited in fact, that they don’t think about not signing because signing seems the answer. It’s every writer’s dream to see themselves on a bookshelf; for most it symbolises respect and official authorship (I don’t believe this at all – we’re authors as soon as we have readers).

HOWEVER!

Landing a deal with a publisher does not guarantee your book will end up on a bookshelf anywhere. The biggest high-street stores are picky as to what they put on their shelves and unless you’re EL James, Dan Brown or Sylvia Day, your book may appear in Asda for a week before it is replaced by the next bestsellers.

So, what does that mean? With all these uncertainties, I mean. So many words in exchange for such small fortune. It means, those of us who are already self-published, have a choice. TRY TO SEE PAST THE SHINY CONTRACT. We always have a choice, no matter what deal comes through the door. Those words are ours and we can decide what to do with them. You have a choice to give your words away and risk losing them altogether, perhaps with only a small chance of getting the rewards you deserve, or you can seek that right publisher for you. The right publisher might not offer you a load of royalties either, but they might offer a package that will nurture you. Some publishers are not interested in this. I don’t know why, but they’re not.

When I started out in self-publishing, I was honest with myself. I am also honest with most people I meet and sometimes, people bristle at this quality but if you walked in my shoes a minute, you’d see why I hate dishonesty, time wasting and hollow promises. So I saw self-publishing as a chance to grow my writing ability, to develop my social networks, to learn the ropes of publishing in general. I was surprised when some people who read my first book (written while I was breastfeeding!) wrote to me to say they had been kept up reading all night, so eager to reach the end! I genuinely love what I do, and anyone else who does, is a bonus. I never will take myself seriously. I know I am a talented writer but I don’t take myself seriously. What I do take seriously is freedom. Don’t get me wrong, it is all a terrific juggling act as I also squeeze in the editing projects that land in my inbox in between my own projects. When a job comes in, I have to down my writing tools and neglect my true love while I provide for other people. This is a fact of life I accept but another string to my bow i.e. editing has definitely broadened my skills. When I finish an editing project, I go back to my writing – and this for me, is freedom. To have that choice, is everything.

This is what I am getting at: if you sign that contract, some choices are taken away. That is what a contract is. In exchange for signing away your words, you might not even see any rewards for losing your right to choose. Self-publishing allows me a freedom of expression that few publishers will because they have to peel a book through all sorts of official processes.

The lesson I take away from getting that contract through the door is that the words in black and white always have more of an impact than words spoken aloud or read on a screen. The words offered to me didn’t match the words I’ve written. I believe so much in my words (Unbind, if anyone is wondering) that I won’t take any deal I am not happy with because Unbind is too important to me. Unfortunately my agent underestimated how much.

One day, some black and white words are going to change my life – and I will be ready for it. I will know when it is right to share myself. Until then, I’m not giving my words away – I’m sharing them and sharing the journey. Anything to hinder the sharing thereof, and I’m not onboard.

I was taught to never take your first offer, just wait for something better. My mum says I seem to have dropped lucky a lot in life because of my propensity to be uncompromising. Well, someone has to be. I’ll let you know if it pays off. Maybe one day soon, eh…

p.s. There is no such thing as vanity publishing anymore, it’s now just about doing it for yourself, and many are thriving without a “publisher”.

In conclusion, here are two articles I found very interesting:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michaellevin/are-there-5-reasons-to-st_b_5569189.html?utm_hp_ref=books&ir=Books&utm_content=buffercbec0&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/paul-murphy/indie-writers-are-doing-it-for-themselves_b_6919906.html?fb_action_ids=10152621244792038&fb_action_types=og.comments