Sunday, 17 January 2016

So Near Yet So Far

I sometimes wonder whether I'll ever do a job that I'm actually extremely good at. I know everyone shares the same sense of being an imposter in their job, as though they're just waiting to be found out and outed as a fraud. All very natural, I've heard. However, seeing as I'm yet to work somewhere where I can go home at the end of the day and feel like I've done something right (let alone good), I think this is starting to become the impossible dream. Oh, and did I mention I'm now 30? Yeah, I thought so. The 'I don't know what I want to be when I grow up' proclamations aren't so cute anymore.

It gets me wondering about education. I look back and wonder what the hell possessed me to choose English with Journalism at University. I may not have faced the £9k a year tuition fees that the poor souls of today are, but I still have student debt for a degree that was...well, a bit pointless really.

My degree pushed me down a certain road that I'm still travelling down, but what if my calling in life was something different?

In college, my psychology tutor tracked me down on A-Level results day to congratulate me. Upon opening the results I saw what I expected - a B grade (I messed around FAR too much in first year so it was the best I could hope for). However, when I examined the breakdown of the marks I saw that I achieved 93% on an exam and 100% for my coursework. Quite easily the best marks I'd ever received for anything. EVER.

Did I celebrate? Nope. I'd been rejected by two universities for a psychology degree (that bad first year really messed things up) and so I'd already accepted my fourth choice (out of five), which was the pointless joint honours degree at the unimpressive Salford University just down the street from my home. I don't mean to be disparaging of the place, but it just wasn't for me. I knew I needed a degree so that I could prove to my parents that all of the A grades through high school weren't a complete waste of time, plus a little birdie told me it might be quite useful when it came to getting a job.

I chose a career that used my average writing skills and just worked hard to try and move up a ladder that could have led to Narnia for all I cared. I still think about that amazing grade for my psychology A Level. It may not sound like much to the better students among you, but it was a ray of hope that I perhaps had a natural flair for something. And better than that; something I loved.

Going back to 'school' is never going to happen now. The fees are too high. I missed my chance. I never wanted to be a cautionary tale for anyone - I can't think of anything more depressing - but here I am.

Apologies the last two blogs haven't been the most upbeat - it's my mood.

Bloody January.

x

Monday, 4 January 2016

Happy New Year

Here we go again. Another year, but more importantly, another January. 

I've been absent for a while on this blog due to a lack of writing, which I'm putting down to trilogy fatigue and getting a new (very busy) job. I'm venturing back on here, not to talk about particular writing projects (I've started four novels, God knows what's next), but about this time of year.

You see, January is not a great month. There's been no past trauma or any great disaster that resonates with me so I've put it down to simply having the winter blues. Christmas is over, New Year sailed by and now...what? Back to work for another year with a holiday shoe-horned in to break it up? Pretty much. We're still a good two months off seeing the lighter nights and it's going to get colder. Really bloody cold.

It's at this time of year that I start to get irritatingly melancholy. Just tonight I had a familiar interaction with Andy while we were brushing our teeth: 

"I'm feeling blue."
"Why?"
"Because I get down in January and I'm worried about when it's going to properly kick in."
"....."
"I realise that's stupid."

My fixation with Boston has picked up speed (queue changing my profile pictures to happier times spent there) and I've been looking at apartment prices  and what we could afford if there was a parallel universe where we had the same jobs over there. 

Boston isn't the answer of course, it's just a distraction of which there are many. Coding being another at the moment, but that might actually prove to be useful. 

I suppose what I'm trying to say is that it's a depressing time of year where I withdraw from the world. My mum even sent me a lovely letter and a gift in acknowledgement of it. That's why I'm back on here - to have mini rants when things are feeling extra crappy. I don't feel bad though as I've not been in author mode for a while so it's quite likely I'm talking to myself. 

If you are reading this and the ramblings don't make sense, don't worry - they're not meant to. See the transcript above: I don't even understand what the hell i'm going on about.

Should sleep x 

Monday, 6 April 2015

Unfollowing authors



It's not my intention to upset anyone with this post. In fact, I'm hoping any authors reading this will understand where I'm coming from. I'll set the scene...

At the start of the year I voluntarily found myself unemployed as I embarked on a freelance career. I found a job I thought I'd enjoy, but didn't so I left. After all, I'd found myself a number of pieces of freelance work that would just about sustain my outgoings and I'd always dreamed of being my own boss, what could go wrong? 

One of the things I underestimated about working for myself was the loneliness of being on my own day in and day out. These things are all about timing. Perhaps six to twelve months ago I would have relished the opportunity. 

You see, the release of the final part of Blackbrooke last year left me in a bit of a slump. I started writing about three new projects, but none of them have grabbed me like Blackbrooke did. The road to becoming more and more down in the dumps was so gradual that I didn't see it coming. One minute I'm sipping champagne to celebrate the release of the final part of the trilogy, the next minute I'm crying every day, convincing that I'm dying. 

Yes, that's how bad it got. Anxiety built and built and I'm not exaggerating when I say that I became a shell of myself. There was a lot of contributing factors - the bleak winter time, no more Blackbrooke, too much time on my own, an approaching milestone birthday...Looking back, it's very easy to see how it all got a bit too much. 

Social media

Without a solid novel idea to build upon, I found logging into my social media accounts made me
feel worse. Over the last few years I've befriended a lot of authors, which is great and very encouraging. Well, when things are going well it is anyway. When things aren't so great, it just feels like you're stood in the middle of a room packed with people all shouting at one another about their latest book. No one is listening, everyone is promoting. The interactions I did see between authors tended to result in conflict and disagreements where people engaged in a weird kind of one-upmanship.

I find this strange considering most of us are in the same boat - either with indie publishers or self-publishing. I started to shrink away and actually felt quite ashamed of Blackbrooke. After all, the YA horror genre is not 'on trend' at the moment. That ship sailed away with the last Twilight movie and was replaced with dystopian for a fleeting amount of time (which some felt Blackbrooke was) and has now been replaced by romance following the success of Fifty Shades. Yes, even romance for teenagers. YA romance is dying down now and we're seeing the trend of real-life stories (off the back of John Green's rightful success). 

So, I found myself depressed (I've avoided that word, but might as well admit it), not writing, uninspired, not reading, not working as much as I could be, and all the while, having people shouting about their books from the rooftops on social media. What's a sad girl to do? 

Unfollow

My wonderful boyfriend, concerned with how low I was, made a simple suggestion: "Why not unfollow all of those authors on Facebook?" 

I scoffed at the idea. I'm 'friends' with more than 1,000 people on FB and most of those consist of authors like me. I don't know anything about them, only they have amazing books all available on Amazon for a snip! Would unfollowing them make me unsupportive? Would they notice and think badly of me? The short answer is no, of course not. They probably don't even remember they added me as a friend. Plus, I'm not even their target audience. 

That's when it really dawned on me that being friends with all of these authors and shouting about Blackbrooke was absolutely pointless. I'd been wasting my time. These authors didn't want to read my book - they wanted me to read theirs, and one of their friends wanted us both to read theirs, and so it goes on. I'm not friends with many actual readers of YA horror - perhaps because they don't know me and would wonder what a random thirty year old wanted by adding them. 

So, over the course of a day, I proceeded to unfollow most authors (I still follow those I actually know or have had interactions with) but I don't see the shouts from the others anymore. Weirdly, it did start to make me feel better. I've still got a way to go with getting back on track with the writing, but I'm feeling my imagination start to stir again, which is exciting. 

Look after yourself

Social media has a lot to answer for in terms of how it makes people feel. It's not just the writing world, it's everything. Why do some people look flawless in their selfies when I look like shit? Why does everyone else seem to go on exotic holidays and I never seem to have any money? It's a dangerous place for people prone to anxiety or depression as it can have the opposite effect of what you think it's doing for you. 

If someone unfollowed me because the things I posted made them feel like shit, I'd fully support them. In real life, we try to form relationships with people who make us laugh and feel good about ourselves and life. With the emergence of social media, we've forgotten this. I'll still use social media for my writing, but I'm rethinking the approach (Twitter is just as bad for authors shouting at each other - BUY MY BOOK!!!) to target readers instead. 

It's what I should have been doing from the start. 

Take care,

Em x


Saturday, 28 February 2015

30


That's the age I'll be in less than a week.

Have I achieved everything I wanted to before this big birthday? No, of course not.

I've been sad for a number of weeks, dwelling on this milestone. It's a time when you tell yourself you need to stop fannying around and grow up. A lot of my friends and family are fully grown, so now I need follow suit.

However, for everything I haven't 'achieved' there's a hell of a lot I have.

I've written books.

That's not what's important though.

I discovered that life is fleeting and we have to try our very best to not sweat the small stuff, living life to the fullest. We're all guilty of getting ourselves in a mess about things we're likely to forget on our deathbed.

I've discovered that I not only can find love, but I deserve it. That having a family one day might actually be a nice thing rather than something to dread or turn my nose up at. That comes from finding the right person and I have.

I learned that money isn't everything.

That you can start again whenever you want to.

Most of all, I've learned to cherish the now. My partner and my parents in particular. I may not see my parents as often as I should or would like, but I'm so lucky to have them in my life as I turn 30. I not only have a best friend in my mum, but a soulmate. We all have different lives now, but as I said in the acknowledgements of Blackbrooke, we were the three musketeers. We always will be to me. I was supremely lucky to have that 'moment' in my life and to be born to truly good people.

As tempted as I am to turn this into another set of acknowledgements, I won't.

I'll just say that I have some adventures ahead of me. No matter what happens, I'll make sure it's fun.

Here's to one more week of my twenties.

I can't say I'm not a little apprehensive, but happy birthday to me.

Em

x

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

The next chapter...



2014 saw the final part of the Blackbrooke trilogy released, making it a pretty big year. The best part of three years of my life was writing it and I've loved every second. The promotion continues, but I now have to move forward. So, what will 2015 bring?

In 2012, I left a stressful full time career in PR and began work as a bookseller to free up my time to write. As far as jobs go, it will probably remain the most fun I've ever had. I finished my shift and went home to write, not having to think about work until the next time. I got to understand the way the book industry works and even managed to get Blackbrooke on the shelves.

After 18 months of this I realised I missed making money. It doesn't make you happy, and I swore I wouldn't make myself stressed again, but I wanted to see more of the world. My amazing partner and I scrimped every last penny and managed to get away to Boston and New York last January, something I'd always dreamed of doing. During this trip, I made the decision to get back on the career ladder to be able to afford something like that again without us having to live off Morrison's own brand pot noodles for months (it's a miracle we both didn't end up with scurvy).

Sticking to the theme of writing, I got a job as a copywriter in March and it began again. The money was slowly coming back and we managed to get away again to see my mum in the States (and catch WWE's Money in the Bank, naturally). We had a fantastic year of travel and good times.

With every give there's a take though. My writing time suffered. Some might think finishing a book is no mean feat, but I could have written another one, or maybe even two this year, if I wasn't so invested in my 'day job'. I've since got a new job, which I start on 12th January, and I'm genuinely excited, but with it comes nervousness.

What if it happens again and I write zero in 2015? What if I'm stressed? What if we have a couple of lovely holidays, but I achieve nothing? I worry too much, it's a fact. I shouldn't put such pressure on myself, but I'm a writer. If I'm not writing then what am I doing? I might make a boss happy with my work output, I could even achieve more of the precious money I've been chasing, but will I remember any of that when I'm old and grey? Nope. I'll remember the books though. Plus, they may be the only part of myself I leave behind.

New year brings resolutions, and this year is no exception. I have some time before I start my new role, 12 days to be precise, and I'm going to write a novel during this time. I'll start the year on a positive and remember what I'm doing all of this for. Not being able to dedicate all of my time to the thing I love is tough. Maybe one day I'll strike it lucky and be able to write full time, but until that happens I'll do what I can.

This may seem like a negative post, but I'm feeling upbeat. I still have control of my life, just as you have control of yours. If a job takes over and you start forgetting who you are, have a serious think about what you really want. I left a job without another to got to back in 2012 and started again. If this serial worrier can do it, so can you.

I'd love for you to follow my journey from zero to novel in 12 days! I'm not going to post anything to make you feel bad, to 'show off', or to gain praise, I just want to share what I'm up to.

To all of you that read the Blackbrooke Trilogy, I'd love to hear from you and get your thoughts too. Drop me a line!

Happy New Year all! I'll see you on the other side!

Em x



Monday, 13 October 2014

Here we go!



It's here, folks! Blackbrooke III: King of Queens is out tomorrow (well, in about forty minutes...) and I'm getting those familiar butterflies. The first book was a gamble, the second exciting, and now the third...

Ending a trilogy carries immense pressure. What if I let people down? Or worse, what if I make people angry?!

It's far beyond anything I've written (or ever will), but when it came to Stephen King's Dark Tower series, the ending wasn't going to satisfy everyone. I loved it. In fact, I was hoping for something along those lines. I laughed at King's genius while screaming in frustration for Roland. I'm not comparing Blackbrooke to Dark Tower (imagine? The shame!), but I know my ending won't please everyone. 

The only thing that matters is I've written the ending I always wanted. Trust me, it was the only way I could have ended the trilogy without compromising the characters. 

Ask me!
Anyway! I'm inviting any questions readers might have about the trilogy and answering them in an upcoming vlog. I had such fun doing the last one, and wanted to give you the opportunity to ask any of those burning questions about Blackbrooke. 

As always, feel free to drop me a line. I love hearing from readers and welcome any messages or questions you have. 

Keep your eye out on social media tomorrow as I'll be running some giveaways! 

Thank you all so much for continuing to read my rambles. 

Enjoy! 

Em x


Grab your copy of Blackbrooke III: King of Queens HERE

Sunday, 17 August 2014

The challenges of a fresh start


Saying goodbye to Blackbrooke was pretty easy. I knew how it was going to end and I was excited to get stuck into writing something new. It was only when I started that 'something new' that it started sinking in what I was leaving behind.

I have vague recollections of the first draft of Blackbrooke. It was a completely different story, with the Crits resembling ghouls from fairytales - vampires, werewolves and witches. On the advice of a prominent literary agent, I changed it to something I'm now immensely proud of.

It's like any finished product. You forget the blood, sweat and tears you shed getting there and focus on the achievement. Now I'm back in the blood, sweat and tears stage and I'm finding it difficult. When it came to writing Blackbrooke parts two and three, the characters were already formed and I just had to continue their tale, safe in the knowledge the reader knew who they were and how they knew one another. Not anymore...

My new project straddles the line between young adult and plain old adult fiction and I'm trying to get to know the characters, but it's taking a while. It's the same as reading a great book and then having to get into another one afterwards. I'm trying to remember a time when I didn't know Liberty or Cassius but I'm going back a few years. I've slept since then and sank several bottles of wine (and the rest...).

It's a slow process to really care for whom you're writing about. I'm finding music really helps. I've set up a playlist for the new project, avoiding listening to my unofficial Blackbrooke soundtrack, and thankfully my protagonist is starting to form. I underestimated the process and the temptation to push it to one side and write Blackbrooke spin-offs for the rest of my life is hard to resist.

It's not something writers often talk about. I suppose it doesn't reflect well if they confess it's difficult to let go. You're all about the imagination after all, the ideas should be flowing! Well, it's not been the case with me.

This isn't a negative boo hoo post about how amazing Blackbrooke is though. My writing improves all of the time and I know, as long as I keep studying and paying attention to feedback from people who know better than me, my next project will be better. I'm already at the stage Stephen King is with Carrie - it was his first novel and he now finds it too difficult to read due to all of its flaws. I'm a flawed writer in every respect. I'm not a wordsmith and my grammar is questionable at times, but I believe my strange ideas and motivation to get them down on paper (screen?) is what means my books are enjoyed by people all over the world.

I'm going to record my progress on here in the hope someone might read it and seek solace they're not the only ones who struggle saying goodbye to past work. Plus, I'm always keen on getting words of encouragement! Writing is a lonely business after all.

Seeing as I'm discussing Blackbrooke, the third and final part is due out in October and I'm really excited to see what everyone thinks! I'll be doing some giveaways in the coming weeks so keep your eyes peeled if you're a Blackbrooke fan :-)

As always, thanks for reading.

Em x