Tag Archives: blogging

It’s Aliiiiive!

Yes. Hello. I am, in case you may have been wondering, still here and still beavering away; beavering so assiduously, in fact, at so many different things, that I don’t often get time to venture into WordPress-topia, even just to see the sights. My main preoccupation, of course, is currently tootling around on the floor at my feet, chewing on something and leaving a trail of drool which is, frankly, a health hazard – but I wouldn’t have it any other way. The baby is now almost one year old (the thought is frightening. Where has the last year gone?) and I’m about to get stuck into the copy-edits for The Eye of the North, which is exciting.

Oh, and by the by, I’ve seen a draft of the cover art for the aforementioned novel. It’s glorious. I can’t wait to share it with you all.

But really I’m here today to do two things: mark the fact that it’s been four years since I started blogging – four years! – and also to jump on the coattails of my very good friend and extremely talented blogger, who goes by the name Fairweather Paddler around these parts, by answering some questions which she posed on her blog (Home Grown Heaven) as part of her recent nomination for a Liebster award.

Not, of course, that she tagged me in said Liebster award post. But why should that stop me answering her fantastic questions?

Alors. Off we go.

What drives you up the wall in people?

I hate it when people refuse to see other points of view. It’s like people are so terrified of being wrong that they can’t bear to accept the idea that other people might know better than they do about certain things. This, in my humblest opinion, is silly.

What is it that draws you to new people the most?

Meep. Well, a few things combined, probably. If they’re making interesting conversation, showing curiosity, open-mindedness and an eagerness to learn more about the world, on top of a sense of humour and an aura of kindness, then I’m suckered.

What was the biggest shock about becoming a parent?

The all-consuming terror. The terror, before your baby arrives, that something will go wrong, and the terror after they arrive that something will happen to them. I really hadn’t expected that. I’m still not used to parcelling it away, leaving it on a high shelf so that I can get on with enjoying my child’s presence, in the moment.

What one thing would you recommend to new parents?

To keep their baby close, particularly when they’re small. Not to listen to advice which says ‘put your baby in a crib/Moses basket/cot, so you can get your life back/have a cup of tea/watch the TV’ – maybe this attitude isn’t prevalent elsewhere, but when my baby was tiny it was something I encountered a lot. My instinct was to keep my baby close, in contact with me, right over my heart, and I think instinct is there for a reason. Keep your little ones close while you can, is my advice.

What’s your go-to store-cupboard-is-empty meal?

Erm. Sandwiches? I don’t know. I normally have pasta in stock at all times, and I’m always swimming in green olives (I have an addiction, don’t judge me), and I normally have either passata, or chopped tomatoes, or tomato puree, or tomato pesto – sometimes all four! – somewhere in my kitchen. So, that makes a tasty, if not very hearty, meal.

Why blog?

Why not?

To make friends. To connect with people. To feel like I’m making a contribution to the world’s store of knowledge. And to pass the time.

Best place you have travelled to and why?

Malta, which was where I honeymooned. Not necessarily because of the honeymoon aspect, but because it was spectacular, in terms of scenery and culture and language and history and just about everything. I would dearly love to return someday.

Any hidden talents?

If I had, I wouldn’t be telling you about them.

What talent do you wish you had?

Coordination. It would be nice to be able to move with grace and fluidity, instead of like an arthritic hippo. My body is a wonderland and has done many things, and it’s strong and capable and sturdy, but by God. It’d be nice to feel like I was a Cadillac instead of a Humvee, just once.

Where do you find your village?

I have excellent friends. Some of them I see a lot; others only rarely. Some of them I talk to all the time, and others I ‘speak’ to only online. But they are my people, and I couldn’t be without them.

What are you most proud of in life?

The fact that I came through the darkest months of my life after the baby was born and that I’m now out the other side, more or less, and learning every day how to be a better mother. I’m proud that I didn’t crumble when it felt like the whole world had collapsed upon me.

Oh, and I’m proud that I wrote a book, too, and that it’s being published. Have I mentioned that already?

So, there you are. Apologies once again for the irregularity of my updates. I hope this missive finds you all well, and I hope to be back soon with more news of frightfully amazing cover art… To that end, did you know you can now follow me on Instagram, too? Check me out there, where I’ll hopefully be unveiling some teasers for the book jacket as soon as I can. And, until next time, stay awesome – and keep reading.

 

 

 

 

 

So, Don’t All Unfollow Me at Once…

…but I have a little bit of news.

It won’t have escaped anyone’s attention that I have been less assiduous about my blogging schedule over the past few months, and particularly so over the past number of weeks. This isn’t because I don’t want to blog anymore, or because I’ve run out of things to say, but because my life has taken an unexpected and amazing turn.

A few weeks ago, dear readers, my little family expanded by one. My husband and I were delighted, relieved and overwhelmed to welcome our tiny baby to our lives, a baby who has already transformed our home and taken over our hearts and who we love with everything we have. We kept knowledge of the baby’s arrival very quiet, not because we weren’t proud and delighted and excited, but because I was superstitious and nervous and almost scared to get too happy, in case this beautiful thing would be taken away as quickly and miraculously as it had arrived. For I had been told, often and by several doctors, that I would never conceive or carry a child; my body was inadequate, incapable and barren. I would need help, if I was to have any chance. It was vanishingly unlikely to happen naturally, or so we believed, and my husband and I had given up all hope. But we proved them all wrong.

Beyond all our dreams, we were blessed and we have continued to be blessed, and our beautiful child is currently in a carrycot, awaiting an evening feed.

Photo Credit: Estevam Romera via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Estevam Romera via Compfight cc

Anyone who has had a child will agree that when they arrive, your life is taken over completely by getting used to their routine, settling into a new way of life, and resetting your family’s body clock in order to accommodate a 24-hour schedule which sees you awake (and not minding at all) between 1.30 and 4.30 in the morning, napping during the afternoons, and keeping a watchful eye out for hunger cues and signs of nappy-related distress. This does mean that stuff like work, blogging, washing, getting dressed in matching clothes and generally functioning as an adult is a bit challenging, and so I’m here to tell you that things will be a little patchy around here for the next while. I’ll be checking in, and I’ll post when I can, and there will be the occasional book review, and I’ll keep you updated with bookish news (on that note, there’s nothing to share at the moment; the glacial wheels of publishing continue to turn, incrementally, and the slow processes which underpin the book trade are still taking place – not that you’d know), but there won’t be a regular blogging schedule.

I hope y’all will understand.

I won’t be sharing photos of my baby online, nor will I be sharing the name my husband and I chose, nor the gender of our child, for privacy reasons. I’m taking this opportunity to ask anyone who knows me in real life to keep any photographs they may have of our child, and any information about our baby (including names) private. However, anyone who wishes may email me if they’re curious and – if they’re willing to wait for an answer, and to be bound by these conditions! – I’ll privately share some information about our new arrival.

Life is changed, changed utterly, and it’s wonderful. It will take me some time to find a new balance, but I’m sure I’ll get there eventually. I hope you’ll stick around for the next phase of my journey, and that you’ll be here to share the ups and downs of my writing life as my publication date draws nearer, and that you’ll bear with me as things get a little fragmented and chaotic around here.

But that was ever the case in Clockwatching… towers – things have always been a little unpredictable in this neck of the woods. This is simply another turn in the road, the sharpest and most exciting one yet, and I can’t wait to see what’s coming.

So, it’s ‘farewell’ for now. It’s a sincere ‘thank you’ for your support and interest so far. It’s a ‘stay tuned!’ for future news, and it’s a huge ‘hello’ from the tiny bundle which has brought such joy (and sleeplessness) to my life, and my husband’s, over the past number of weeks.

And it’s this.

 

 

How I Read

I saw this great post on the blog of writer Callum McLaughlin the other day, and thought: hmm. There’s a good idea! So, I decided to follow suit and answer the questions posed about how and what I read. I waffle on about how and what I write often enough on here!

Photo Credit: ~Brenda-Starr~ via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: ~Brenda-Starr~ via Compfight cc

How do you find out about new books to read?

Social media, a lot of the time. I follow whackloads of writers on Twitter who are always talking about books (naturally enough), whether their own or those of people they know, and I’m usually hovering over their shoulder, taking notes. I also love walking into bookshops and simply seeing what grabs my eye – and/or allowing knowledgeable and helpful booksellers to guide me! – but in general I’m just open, at all times, to picking up bookish vibes. I’m constantly on the lookout for new suggestions, and I’m always sniffing out new possibilities. It sort of comes naturally.

How did you get into reading?

I literally don’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t read. My parents tell me I was reading by the age of two – not books, as such, but I was able to pick up on words and put sounds together, which meant I was a huge hit at family parties and suchlike. (‘Dance, monkey! Dance!’) My parents read to me from my earliest days and our house was always filled with books; I don’t think the importance of making books available to children can be overstated. My brother and I are both big readers, even now, despite the fact that neither of our parents are actually all that into reading. They supported our literacy with a passion, but neither of them really read for pleasure – which is interesting!

How has your taste in books changed as you’ve grown older?

Not by a lot, truth be told! I am an omnivorous reader, and I have always been. I read books which were probably deemed ‘inappropriate’ at a young age (usually without my parents’ knowledge or involvement!), on a wide variety of topics, and I’ve never censored my own reading. I love all sorts of fiction with the exception of romance novels, which I never really warmed to (though I did try them, in my teens) and I’m making an active effort to read more non-fiction. That’s probably the only real change in recent years, actually – I’m trying to expand my repertoire by reading non-fiction, which has an entirely different feeling and power to fiction. I love children’s books, of course, but I always have.

How often do you buy books?

Not as often as I’d like. When I worked as a bookseller, of course, most of my pay packet went on ordering books for myself – this, I feel, is a common problem among booksellers! It’s so tempting, as a book addict, to simply chuck a few tomes into the order basket for yourself at the end of a particularly slow day, just so you feel justified in placing the order. Now that I don’t have that job any more, I find it’s harder to buy books. I don’t buy online, and I don’t have an e-reader (phooey!) and never will, so I’m dependent on my occasional travels to nearby towns to visit bookshops in the flesh. This doesn’t happen enough. (I’m not sure my husband would agree!)

My happy place... Photo Credit: un.2vue via Compfight cc

My happy place…
Photo Credit: un.2vue via Compfight cc

How did you get into Booktubing/book blogging?

I’m not a Booktuber (whatever that is!) but I blog about books and writing and reading because it’s what I love to do more than anything else in the world. I think about little else but books, plots, stories, characters, creating worlds and people and situations, and when I’m not writing my own, I’m reading the visions of others. I blog about books because, basically, I know very little about anything else!

How do you react when you don’t like the end of a book?

Violently, usually. I have been known to slap books shut and fling them on the ground if I don’t get on with how they end! I’m told I mutter when I’m reading if I don’t like what’s happening, whereas I’m deathly silent – and totally focused – if I love what’s going on in the book. I don’t ever ‘assassinate’ books in public, or post (really, truly) nasty things about them, no matter how much they annoy me, but my nearest and dearest hear all about exactly how disappointing the book was, and I’m lucky that they put up with me so readily! Books are important to me, you see. When they end badly, it makes me mad.

And I’m a bit like the big green guy with the purple pants when I get mad.

How often have you taken a sneaky look at the back page of a book to see if it’s a happy ending?

Goodness me. I never do this. The very idea! *looks about, shiftily* One thing I do do, however, is read a book’s acknowledgements first, which are sometimes printed at the back of the book. If they are, then occasionally my eye will stray to the last few lines, but I’ve normally forgotten them by the time I actually get to the end, so there’s no harm done. Right? Right.

Thanks to Callum for the great post, and the inspiration! If anyone wants to take up these questions on their own blog, do let me know. I’m nosy. I’d love to know what your reading habits are like. It’s all in the name of scientific research!

Rules are Made to be Gently Bent

Recently, a very good friend of mine started up a brand-new blog called Home Grown Heaven. Before we go any further, I’d strongly recommend you follow the link and have a snoop about; there’s not a lot there to see yet, but it’s definitely worth the trip. Make sure to bookmark and follow along, if you have any sense. Trust me: it’ll do you good. My friend’s blog is not about writing, or books, or words, or the existential angst that seems to hang around this blog like a miasma, but is instead about the challenges and joys of living ‘off the land’ and following your dream of being sustainable, affordable and ethical in your everyday existence. In short, all the things I love in life, besides the written word.

Also, it’s very pretty and full of lovely photographs of flowers and ducks and home baking. Go on! What are you waiting for? I’ll be here when you get back, and I’ll probably have just finished boiling the kettle. Right?

Don't mind me. I'm fine here, just hanging out...  Photo Credit: Allison Richards (atrphoto) via Compfight cc

Don’t mind me. I’m fine here, just hanging out…
Photo Credit: Allison Richards (atrphoto) via Compfight cc

Okay. You see? I told you it’d be worth it.

Now.

Because I’ve been blogging for a while, with varying levels of success, my friend approached me when the idea for her blog began to form. She wanted to know what this blogging thing was all about, anyway, and how to begin to go about it. And because I love feeling like an expert, I (of course) was happy to share my hard-won knowledge. However, as I tried to help her, I began to realise exactly how many ‘rules’ of blogging I have recently begun to bend so far that, essentially, I’ve broken them.

Whoops. But do as I say, not do as I do. Right?

Firstly, I used to blog every day. For a long time, I enjoyed doing that. I had plenty to say; I burned with passion and fire. Of course there were days when I wondered if the inspiration fairy would pay me a visit, but I was very rarely left high and dry. I’m not saying it was easy (and after a couple of years it began to be a burden), but it was a challenge, and I do love those. Also, because I’d begun my blogging journey by writing a new post every day, I felt as though I couldn’t possibly stop posting every day.

Until I did.

As 2015 dawned, I began to see that I just couldn’t do it anymore. I stopped blogging every day. I tried to commit to a regular schedule, but that doesn’t always work either. Some weeks I blog on Mondays and Wednesdays; other weeks it’s Tuesdays and Thursdays. Some weeks I don’t blog at all. Such an idea would have been unthinkable two years ago. And one of the first rules of blogging is: Write posts on predictable days, so that your readers know when they can expect new content. This is a good rule. It’s one I passed on to my friend. But it’s not one I keep anymore, myself. However, I have learned something important, and it is this: the day your blog begins to feel like an unbearable weight, and the idea that you have to write a blog post is like a sharp pebble in your shoe, it’s time to take a step back. Blogging should be, by and large, a joy, something you do because you’re bubbling over with stuff you want to share, and because you want to help others. When it stops feeling like that, take a break.

Another rule of blogging is: Pick a topic about which you’re passionate, and which you can see a long-term future in. In other words, don’t jump on the nearest fad and start to build a blog around it. You’ve got to ask yourself: in a year, will anyone care? This is why I blog about writing, because it’s basically the one thing I do most often; it’s why my friend chose to blog about smallholding, because that’s her passion. They are also topics which have longevity. My writing will (hopefully) form the basis of my career, and my friend’s work on her land will be the means by which she sustains her family, long-term. That isn’t to say that a blog about (say) armadillos can’t occasionally discuss platypi (or, if you prefer, ‘platypuses’) or a blog about roof tiles can’t sometimes become sidetracked with mosaics, but it’s good to keep a focus on your topic.

Sometimes, I don’t do this either. Sometimes, there just isn’t anything to say about writing. Those days are hard and scary, and they make me wonder if I’m doing the right thing. Some days, I don’t blog about writing for the simple reason that I just don’t have any news: the road to being published is long and sometimes boring (and I’m in a long, boring patch right now), and I really don’t feel as though I have anything useful to share. So my blog ends up being about feminism, or crime, or social commentary, or whatever. There’s nothing wrong with this, as such, but it’s not always recommended.

There is one rule, however, which I have religiously kept since the day I first decided to begin this blogging journey, and that is: Always write with honesty. This rule is definitely one I passed on to my friend, because it’s something I really do believe in. There’s no point in blogging if you’re going to assume a ‘personality’; you’ve got to be you, behind the words. I have always written from my heart, and because I know my friend well, I can tell you that her words on Home Grown Heaven are from the heart, too. Whatever other rules you bend or break when it comes to blogging, this is one you really should keep.

Because if you find yourself having to pretend, then maybe it’s time to stop blogging altogether.

Sidling In

So. Um. *scuffs toe of shoe*

Yeah. It’s been a while since I blogged. A week, you say? A whole week? Couldn’t be.

(It is).

I wish I could say something like ‘well, I’m terribly sorry, but when Brad and Angie call you at the last minute and invite you to their chateau for a mini-break, what idiot would say no?’ or ‘apologies for my absence, but I was abseiling down the Burj Al-Arab’, but in reality – hard as it may be to believe – I was doing neither of these things.

Photo Credit: fizaco via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: fizaco via Compfight cc

Life got in the way, folks. Simple as. I had more medical tests. I had some tiredness. I had busy stuff going on, all of which is very boring for anyone who isn’t me. It did, however, mean that I was away from my desk a lot, and not exactly in the right mindspace for blogging. I do heartily apologise. My schedule is going to be out of whack for the next few weeks, but I will try to be better – though I do beg your forbearance.

I did some reading, though, while I was away, and I also did some writing. Not as much as I wanted, but some. I had a day during the week with a lot of down-time in the middle, so I sat with a notebook in a cafe and worked through a vague-ish plan for the rest of my current WiP, gathering ideas – and in at least one exciting moment, realising that a rootless, context-free idea I’d had several months ago would now fit quite nicely indeed into my current work, with a few tweaks. You’ve just got to love moments like those, and it proves once again that no idea should ever be wasted. Even if, like this one, it comes at you out of the blue with absolutely no explanation or lead-up, like a blob of gelatinous something-or-other that just splats into your brain from on high. Write it down. Keep it safe. Let it percolate. Eventually, you’ll see something or hear something that’ll spark off a thought, which will spark off another thought, which will lead to a fully-formed idea so awesome that your heart will start to pound, and which you’d never have had if you hadn’t kept hold of that original odd little spark of inspiration.

You know you’re onto a good thing when your heart starts to pound and you can’t write fast enough to keep up with your brain. Those are the moments we live for, right?

After all this feverish inspiration, I wrote a pitch for my current WiP (a useful thing to do, fellow writers, when you want to help an idea coalesce), and emailed it off to my agent without too much thought. ‘Here’s something I’ve been working on,’ I said. ‘It’s not finished, by a long shot, but I just wanted you to know what I’m up to.’ Immediately, I regretted it; she’ll be too busy, or she’ll have far too much else on her plate right now what with judging X competition and accepting submissions for Y event and attending at least three book fairs simultaneously with the aid of holographic technology, I told myself. Really, though, I was afraid she’d email back doing the equivalent of holding my pitch between finger and thumb, looking disgusted, and saying: ‘This? This, here, is what you’ve spent months working on?’ And then she’d wash her hands of me completely.

But she didn’t do that.

‘Sounds great,’ she said, by return of email. ‘I’m excited to read the draft, when it’s done. Here are my questions.’ And she proceeded to ask me probing, useful, interesting things about the outline I’d sent, making me at once understand that a pitch I’d thought was entirely clear had, in fact, skimmed over some things to an unacceptable level and that I had a lot more thinking to do about at least one major aspect of my plot and world-building. In the course of answering her questions, I also realised something else: simply thinking about these questions and formulating answers to them was really helping me get a handle on what I’m trying to write about. (See how good my agent is? She teaches me even without trying to).

I’m closing in on 30,000 words with this draft. The going is slow, but I’m enjoying it. I’m back in a pseudo-historical fantasy setting with characters who are brave and funny and up for adventure, and world-threatening technology which must be harnessed for good, and crafty baddies, and all manner of questing and travelling and discovery, and it’s truly where my heart belongs. It took me a long time to get here, but I think I’ve managed to fetch up in just the right place.

Happy fourth of July weekend to those who celebrate, and happy weekend to those who don’t. Whatever you’re doing, remember to be good, be happy and spread as much love as you possibly can. This poor, tired old world needs it more than ever.

Pffft…

Er.

So, the wheels have fallen off my blogging, as of late. I had a very busy week last week (saving the world, conquering planets, bringing peace to the masses, all the usual stuff) and I didn’t even have a chance to read. I know. I can barely bring myself to believe it, either.

So. Here we are, on Saturday, and there’s no book review.

As a means of mollification, I could direct you here to a short interview I gave with Flash! Friday during the week. My tenure as champion is blissful, but short; over the course of the weekend I’ll be judging the current competition and choosing a new winner. It’s sort of bittersweet, yet fitting.

I could also direct you to this Tumblr blog, which is dedicated to a very wonderful topic. I didn’t create it, so I can’t really take any of the credit, but I’m hoping it might distract you all from my own complete uselessness this week.

Monday next is a Bank Holiday here, and I can’t guarantee I’ll be conscious in time to blog, but I’ll do my best. After that, it’s anyone’s guess. Stick with me! There’s never a dull moment here at Clockwatching… HQ.

Image source: yamu.lk Found via Google Images

Image source: yamu.lk
Found via Google Images

2014 in Review

So, it’s that time of year again, when we’re thinking about the twelve months just gone, now passing into memory, and wondering about the next twelve, still amorphous and misty on the horizon. 2014 has been a year of ups and downs for me, but one thing I’m proud of is this blog, and I’m really grateful for all the interaction and fun (not to mention friends) which have come my way as a result of writing it. Here’s how Clockwatching… did over the past year – and all of it is down to those who read and enjoy what I write here, and who keep (bless you!) coming back for more.

Happy New Year, everyone. Let’s hope 2015 is bright, happy and filled with peace, for all of us.

2014 in Review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 16,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.