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  • Learning to Love Yourself.

    Did Whitney have a point when she sang about learning to love yourself being the greatest love of all?

    How often have you truly believed you are strong, happy, and in the right place, only to have your heart stamped on and all the insecurities come crashing down once more–I’m unlovable, it’s all my fault, I must have done something wrong, etc.?

    I know I do, and it took a good friend to point out to me, despite what I may tell myself, I don’t love myself; not completely.

    Now, I hadn’t been talking about the relationship which had recently fallen apart, leaving me wondering what it is about me that makes me so unlovable. That was a different conversation. No, we’d just been having a general chat over dinner before heading to a concert.

    I paused for a moment before saying, ‘Yes, I do, or I think I do.’

    ‘No, you don’t,’ she persisted, offering nothing further.

    I continued to munch on my sweet potato fries before venturing the question I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted an answer to, ‘What makes you say that?’

    ‘You put yourself down all the time.’

    ‘I do not,’ came back my immediate response.

    ‘Yes, you do.’

    ‘When? Give me an example.’

    ‘Just before, when we were talking about your website.’

    I looked at her, my brow furrowed. Clearly, I had no idea what she was talking about.

    ‘When you were saying you couldn’t change the sign-up form on your home page.’

    ‘That’s not putting myself down, that’s stating a fact.’

    ‘No, it isn’t, it’s putting yourself down. If you loved yourself, you would have said you hadn’t yet figured out how to change the sign-up form.’

    Until this point, I had never viewed comments such as “can’t” as a put down, but the more I think about it, the more I can see her point.

    To truly love yourself, you must believe in yourself completely, knowing deep down you are capable of doing, or finding a way to do, pretty much anything.

    To be fair, I honestly thought I did. Keeping the website as an example, I had spent several days the previous week building a landing page, a secret page for subscribers who join my mailing list, moving from MailChimp to Mailerlite due to the former’s recent rule changes, setting up an automation sequence and linking it through to my landing page. By 11pm one evening, after 12 hours at my laptop, having achieved all this, I raised a large glass of Malbec to myself and ran around the house telling the cats how “fucking awesome” their mummy was. The cats, predictably, were unimpressed.

    Now, I am not a coder or a technical expert, nor do I want to be before you point out I’m putting myself down again, but I am tenacious and if I put my mind to it, I can usually figure things out. And I did, to a certain extent, in that I manipulated the code on my home page to get it to point to Mailerlite. The trouble was the “submit” button changed colour so you couldn’t read the writing on it. I will concede, due to fatigue, and the previously pointed out “noncoding skills”, I called in the experts to fix this final issue, which they did.

    To put this in context, my website is a very specific custom build, so the usual “help pages” do not help. And, yes, I did call the people who did my custom build to help with all this, but when they quoted me £400 just for the secret page, I decided to go it alone as far as I could. After all, I’d rather spend the £400 on advertising!

    So, where does it come from, this tendency not to love myself?

    A couple of years ago, after another failed relationship, I decided I was done, that I was going to focus solely on me and do everything to please me. It worked. I was happy. I loved my life. I was confident, healthy, had a great social life, and I loved me, or so I thought.

    Then I was “persuaded” to start dating someone who had yet to get divorced. Everything was going great. We talked, laughed, holidayed, made plans for the future, and believed we were soulmates. Then the divorce proceedings started, and it all went sour, to the point we broke up. His doing, not mine.

    Despite my common sense telling me it was timing and circumstances, the little voice, the one I thought I’d finally silenced in my year of abstinence, piped up again, telling me I was innately unlovable.

    But why? This wasn’t a natural reaction to a break-up–after all, I’ve never shed a tear about it–it was more primitive. It was a voice that came from deep down inside, from long ago, maybe even from a different lifetime–the message an interpretation, not a fact. It’s easy for me to say the words are untrue, but it isn’t so easy to shake the feelings.

    So, again I ask, where do they come from? Why do I believe I am unlovable?

    When I was a teenager, I fell in with the wrong crowd. My best friend and I liked to pretend we were older than our fourteen years and frequented the local pubs. Here we met a group of older guys, and it wasn’t long before romances blossomed. It never occurred to me anything bad would happen. I, like all kids, believed I could take care of myself. After all, I’d refused to take the drugs they liked to inject on a regular basis.

    But little prepared me for what happened. After all, why would a man hurt the girl he professed to love? But hurt me, he did. He stripped me of my innocence, without my consent, and didn’t want anything to do with me afterwards.

    I blamed myself. For years I kept it inside, never telling a soul what had happened, berating myself for putting myself in that position, for believing his words, for not fighting back. It was only through therapy–a place I have been multiple times over the years–I was made to see what had happened to me, that I was told in no way was I to blame or that it was a reflection on me. Whilst finally I accepted the first two points, the last point, despite me believing otherwise, I clearly haven’t accepted.

    If I believed it wasn’t a reflection on me then why, each time I have sex, do all the insecurities come crashing back in? Why then, each time I’m told I am loved, do I question it?

    Over the years, broken relationships have sent me back to therapy, searching for answers to the question of “what is wrong with me?”, refusing to accept there is nothing.

    My last therapist made a breakthrough when he said I look for people who are broken and then fix them. The trouble was, he said, I only ended up fixing them for the next person, because I’d walked away long before then. He said it wasn’t my job to fix people, but he never did unearth why I thought it was.

    It was only recently, whilst seeking advice on another matter, that the lady I was talking to said, ‘Yes, but who fixes you?’ My only reply was, ‘I wasn’t aware I was broken.’ Even as I said it, I knew it to be a lie, and I told her about my ability to detach my spirit from my body when I encounter unwanted attention. This scares me on so many levels, and I trace it back to the loss of my innocence all those years ago, it being my brain’s way of protecting me from what was happening to my body.

    As I told her all this, she kept asking, ‘In how many previous lives were you a sex therapist?’. I kept shaking my head and carried on talking, but she repeated the question, over and over, until a number popped into my head.

    ‘Seven,’ I said and fell silent, the weight finally lifting from my shoulders as realisation dawned.  Her simple question made complete sense to me, although, as she pointed out, I am not a sex therapist in this life.

    So, are these the reasons I feel unlovable? Because I was a sex therapist in previous lives? Because I was raped when I was young? A combination of these? Or something else entirely?

    Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer yet, but it is a path I am continuing along as I approach my 50th year. It’s the reason I had a Boudoir photoshoot done a couple of years ago–to learn to view myself from the outside in, to see what others see.

    I have no idea how long this journey to self-love will take, all I know is it is one hell of an interesting ride!

    ’Til next time.

  • Diary of an Author – UK Indie Litfest

    Yesterday was my first Indie Litfest, held at the Kala Sangam Centre in a very wet Bradford. I had a fantastic day, meeting fans and new readers, and catching up with other indie authors.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    These kinds of events are perfect for authors, whether you have an established fan base or not, as it enables you to market your books to new readers.

    These readers will one day, hopefully, become fans, and your fans are your greatest weapon in spreading the work about your writing.

    The hardest thing about being an indie author is marketing myself. Unless I am constantly promoting, the sales merely trickle in. By attending events like Indie Litfest, I am able to increase my visibility, interact with people – some of whom buy a book – and pick up tips and advice from other authors. Sharing what works and what doesn’t is invaluable to us indies.

    Props and an attractive table are vital tools in helping attract customers to come and take a look at my books. It is up to the covers to entice a potential reader to pick up the book for a closer look. I then talk to them about the book, answer their questions and hopefully close a sale.

    As you can see from the photos, I have an array of marketing materials. For the Bonds series, I have the wooden box in which Becca finds the spells she needs to stop Antony, bookmarks and themed pencils. For The Misfits, I have the physical mascots of the characters, which I didn’t make myself, plus bookmarks and themed pencils. For Tales From a Scarygirl, I also have themed pencils made.

    My biggest change in my marketing has been to market me as a brand. As such, I’ve had a T-shirt, hoodie, mugs and bags made up, with my logo on one side and my Photologo signature on the other. If you zoom in on the mugs you will see, but I’ll post some photos of my new branding soon!

  • Diary of an Author – Theakston Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival

    Having just returned from the annual Theakston Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate, I decided to start a series of mini blogs, charting my adventures as an author. Maybe I should have started this earlier in the year, or even last year, but better late than never, as the saying goes.

    The festival is a four day event, but I only bought a ticket for one day this year – I have booked for the full event next year though! My reasoning was two-fold – I hadn’t been before and so didn’t know if I would enjoy it, and, more importantly, I only had eyes for James Patterson.

    Now, you may be wondering why a horror writer could possibly want to go to a Crime Festival. Well, the short answer is that I love crime. I read it and watch it all of the time, though I have only dipped my toe into it as an author. I do have a plan to branch out into crime writing once the Bonds Series is complete, and what better way to discover the life of a crime author than by going and mixing with them.

    The great thing about this event is that there is a fabulous mix of authors, from the very well-known right down to the debut. It’s a chance to rub shoulders with your idols, make new friends, listen to interesting talks, and make useful contacts for your own writing.

    As I sat and chatted with my new bunch of friends, they told me that despite what they write, crime writers are a friendly bunch, and I have to agree. I recognised people whom I’d seen at Crimefest earlier in the year, and even plucked up the courage to say “Hi”. My new friends told me that the same faces attend every year and so you soon become part of a wider circle who will never let you sit there on your own – which was my biggest fear.

    Now, back to the reason for my visit – Mr James Patterson. I have been a major fan of JP for many years, with the Alex Cross series and The Women’s Murder Club series being my favourites. I also subscribe to his writing Masterclass and drew an immense amount of inspiration from his words, glowing as I discovered that we have a similar approach to writing novels. So, when I saw he was one of the headliners, I just had to go.

    My plan was to ask him how I apply for the chance to co-author with him, and one of my friends suggested I take a sample of my writing with me, to give to him. This was a week before! I was in a panic as I hadn’t written any crime yet, and then I remembered that I had, many years ago. As such, I dusted off that old short story, read through it, cringing as I did so, before attacking it with my trusty red editing pen, forming a cohesive crime story from it.

    Despite my gin intake the previous day, I was there bright and early to listen to his talk – he is very entertaining – before standing in line with my books for him to sign, my story clutched in my hand. I was a nervous wreck! My hands were shaking and, when I eventually had my chance, my words came out in a fangirl tumble. I did manage to cohesively get across what I needed to, and his publisher was only too happy to accept my short story. Right now, everything is crossed in the hope that he, and she, read it, and that it wasn’t confined to the recycling.

    The point is, I took an opportunity that I was presented with and went for it. Who knows where it may lead!

    Well, as you can imagine, I needed to lie down with a cold flannel on my head after all that, but alas, I was not staying at the Old Swan. Instead I made a beeline for the coffee shop and a well deserved latte. Whilst I was making my way there, I thought I saw another of my heroes, Ian Rankin, heading in the same direction. Sure enough, as I entered the coffee shop, I saw the esteemed Mr Rankin grabbing a corner table to relax and do his crossword.

    I purchased my coffee and then went to occupy a table close to him, and sat for a while pondering whether I could and should disturb him.

    In the end, I adopted my usual take on things and went over and introdcued myself. I must say, 

    I was far more articulate than I had been with JP, and we sat and chatted for a short time before I left him to his crossword and departed with a much treasured autograph.

    Sitting back at my table and sipping my coffee, I realised I had missed an opportunity and again, after much pondering, I broke into his crossword time once more to broach the subject of a photo. He was more than happy to oblige and took it himself!

    I thought I’d peaked for the day, but as I was walking through the bar, Ian Rankin was coming towards me and, recognising me, he told me he loved the photo of us that I’d posted on Twitter. I was made up. Oh, and he did manage to finish his crossword… in the end!

    By the way, how many people can pick up their phone to take a photo and say “Ian Rankin had this last, and I don’t know how to take it off selfie mode”?!!

  • Is it Sci-Fi or is it Horror? More to the Point, How do You Tell?

    This debate raised its head again, not too long ago, when I went to see A Quiet Place, a film firmly promoted as a horror and yet, to me, so obviously science fiction. It sparked quite a heated debate with my friends afterwards and got the voices in my head chattering.

    But why? Why did I know in an instant that this, to me, wasn’t a horror film? Easy – the monster. As soon as I saw it, I switched off, because, as far as I was concerned, the monster was an alien and hence lived in the category of science fiction – of which I am not a fan.

    But why did I determine the monster in A Quiet Place to be an alien? Firstly – the way it looked. I don’t want to spoil it for you, so I won’t go into detail. All I will say is that it was a creature with parts. You may argue that many a horror movie has ‘creatures’ as the monsters and you are correct, but, when it is a completely made up monster (as in this case), there is usually only one of them – as in The Ritual.

    This brings me to my second point – there was more than one of them. Even in the area the film was set, we saw more than one. Again, you may argue that many a horror movie has multiple creatures i.e. Aracnophobia and you are correct again, but that is a known insect, not a made-up creature.

    My third reasoning is that the invasion was worldwide and had come from outer space – bit of a giveaway. This fact was shown in the subtly placed newspapers blaring out their headlines.

    So why is it being touted as a horror film?

    Probably because the film itself is based around fear. The whole premise of the film is that people have to live in silence because, if they make a noise, they will draw these creatures out and they will be killed.

    Now, the instilling of fear in the audience is indeed a horror movie trait, but is this enough to make it a horror? No, I don’t think so. Not when you have a monster involved. Fear does go hand in hand with a monster, but so does blood and gore, which this film didn’t have.

    I think the correct categorisation of A Quiet Place would be sci-fi horror, as it has a mix of the two genres.

    So, what is it that makes a film science fiction? After several days of pondering, the voices in my head came up with a few requirements – the action must be set in space or the threat is from space, the monsters are non-humanoid, the story is science based (usually science gone wrong), there is an ‘other’ world invasion, or the story is based on the writer’s imagination and what they believe the future may look like.

    Once I’d finished the consultation with my voices, I decided to garner some other viewpoints. What I found out wasn’t too different from my view, it just had more detail and, of course, specific examples…well, it is ‘science’ fiction – they have to prove everything!

    A sci-fi story is usually scientific, visionary and imaginative in nature and includes robots, spaceships, scientific development, futuristic technology, or distant planets. Many sci-fi films feature time travel or fantastic journeys, and are set either on Earth, in outer space, or (most often) in the future.

     True sci-fi stories often portray one of the following:

    • The dangerous and sinister nature of knowledge (Frankenstein, The Island of Lost Souls)
    • Vital issues about the nature of mankind and our place, and individuality, in the world (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Incredible Shrinking Man)
    • Space-related conspiracies (Capricorn One)
    • Supercomputers threatening impregnation (Demon Seed)
    • The results of germ-warfare (The Omega Man)
    • Laboratory-bred viruses or plagues (28 Days Later)
    • Black hole exploration (Event Horizon)
    • Futuristic genetic engineering and cloning (Gattaca, The Island)
    • The unleashing of strange and extraordinary microscopic organisms or giant, mutant monsters, either created by misguided mad scientists or by nuclear disaster.

    Science fiction tends to be quite prophetic in nature and is often set in an imagined future. It portrays a view of the world which appears grim and unappealing. Examples of this are Metropolis (underground slave population), 1984 (Big Brother is watching), Westworld (malfunctioning androids) and The Stepford Wives (perfect suburban wives).

     The sci-fi genre often expresses anxiety about technology and how to forecast and control the impact of said technology on society. It frequently shows us the power of this technology through world ending events, as seen in The Day The Earth Stood Still, The War of the Worlds, Deep Impact, Armageddon, and The Day After Tomorrow.

    Science fiction is a genre that thrives in asking ‘what if?’ It involves technology that does not yet exist and often focuses on exploring philosophical ideas. The speculative nature of science fiction allows writers to create their own worlds and their own rules for these worlds, where they are not restricted by the here and now. These worlds, however, still need to be believable and the writer still needs to be able to get us to suspend our disbelief, by creating worlds that we can actually imagine taking shape.

    So, that’s sci-fi. As I said, it’s not my cup of tea, but horror, well, now you’re talking. I asked the voices to be objective as they argued over what it is that makes a film horror. All I can say is, they did me proud.

    Horror, for me, is set on earth with humanoid monsters. The important factor is that horror is fear based, with plenty of blood, gore and death, and is generally supernatural or paranormally based. Yes, even Halloween, as Michael keeps returning from the dead!

    As is only fair, I also did my research into what other people say horror is and this is what I found. A horror film seeks to elicit a physiological reaction, such as an elevated heartbeat, through the use of fear and shocking the audience.

    Horror, as a film genre, has existed for more than a century and was initially inspired by the works of Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, and Mary Shelley, with the themes of the macabre and the supernatural being the most widely used. Horror often aims to evoke viewers’ nightmares, fears, revulsions and terror of the unknown.

    Horror storylines often involve the intrusion of an evil force, event, or person into the everyday world, with the most prevalent elements being ghosts, vampires, werewolves, demons, satanism, evil clowns, gore, torture, vicious animals, evil witches, monsters, zombies, cannibalism, psychopaths, and serial killers, to name but a few!

    Horror, like most genres, breaks down into many subgenres including psychological horror, slasher horror, supernatural horror, and science fiction horror.

    The aim of the horror genre is to elicit a fear response from the viewer, just for the thrill of it.

    As with most things in this age in which we live, purism is a dying art and what is left behind is an amalgam of different genres. Sci-fi horror is one such genre and is, arguably, where far too many films sit these days.

    To create a successful bridge between these two, in my opinion, very different genres, the storyline needs to have, quite simply, the alien/scientific/space element combined with the fear, blood and gore of a good horror. The best examples I can think of to illustrate this are The Fly, Alien, A Quiet Place and Event Horizon.

    But what do others think? Apparently, sci-fi horror often revolves around subjects that include alien invasions, mad scientists, and/or experiments gone wrong.

    Sci-fi horror films contain all the thrills of a horror movie whilst also containing the science fiction, and often philosophical, element. Good examples are Predator, Event Horizon, The Thing, The Fly, Looper, Pitch Black, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Terminator and, of course, Alien,

    Given our propensity to fear the unknown, it’s easy to see how science fiction themes can be twisted and used to instil fear and terror into audiences.

    So, dear reader, which camp do you sit in? Sci-fi or horror? Or are you more of a sit on the fence, embrace it all kind of person? Do let me know.

    May fear protect you when the darkness comes.

    ’Til next time

    MARIE

  • Bonds Series Gets US Publisher!

    Here at CASTLE MAC, Yose is excited to announce that we have signed a publishing deal with US publisher Crimson Cloak Publishing for the BONDS SERIES – woo hoo! ??.

    We couldn’t be more excited!! 

  • Horrifically Inspirational…Women of Horror

    Ann Radcliffe (1764 – 1823)

    Ann Radcliffe was born Ann Ward, in Holborn, London and she married journalist William Radcliffe, part owner and editor of the English Chronicle. William was prone to working late and so Ann sought to amuse herself by writing stories, which she would then read to her husband on his return.

    Ann wrote five novels during her lifetime, all of which she classed as romances. Scholars, on the other hand, saw her as the pioneer of the Gothic novel, and the way in which she explained the supernatural elements of her novels, enabled Gothic fiction to become respectable in the late 18th century.

    The average earnings for an author in the 1790s was around £10 per manuscript. Ann received £500 for The Mysteries of Udolpho and £800 for The Italian, making her the highest paid professional writer of the decade.

    Ann didn’t believe in differentiating between the roles of her male and female characters, choosing instead to see them as equals. By doing this, she created roles for women in literature that had previously been unheard of.

    Ann Radcliffe had a huge influence on many later authors, including the Marquis de Sade, Edgar Allan Poe, Sir Walter Scott and Fyodor Dostoyevsky, who once said:

    ‘I used to spend the long winter hours before bed listening (for I could not yet read), agape with ecstasy and terror, as my parents read aloud to me from the novels of Ann Radcliffe. Then I would rave deliriously about them in my sleep.’

    Mary Shelley (1797 – 1851)

    Mary Shelley was born Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin in Somers Town, London and, thanks to her father’s tutoring of her, received an unusual and advanced education for a girl of her time.

    She famously had an affair with and eventually married poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and had four children with him, three of whom died when barely out of infancy.

    Tortured by the loss of her children, Mary turned to writing for solace and, after the tragic loss of her husband, she vowed that writing would be how she would support herself and her son.

    Now, we all know the story of “The Year without Summer” in 1816, when it rained constantly following a long cold volcanic winter, due to the eruption of Mount Tambora in 1815. Well, it was this summer that the Shelleys joined John Polidori and Lord Byron at Lake Geneva. One night they decided to have a competition, to see who could write the scariest horror story. It was at the lake that Shelley had a dream about a scientist, who created life and was horrified by what he had made…..and so Frankenstein was born.

    What you may not be aware of, is that there was huge controversy over authorship of Frankenstein, as both Mary and Percy collaborated on the story.

    In her own lifetime, Mary was taken seriously as a writer, though reviewers often missed her writings’ political edge. After her death, however, she was chiefly remembered as Percy’s wife and the author of Frankenstein.

    Nowadays, Mary Shelley is considered to be a major romantic figure, not just for her writing, but also for her political voice as a woman and a liberal, something she shared with her mother.

      Shirley Jackson (1916 – 1965)

    Shirley Jackson was born in San Francisco, California and found herself to be a bit of a misfit, unable to gel with other children. As a result, she spent much of her time writing, much to her mother’s distress.

    Following her graduation, Shirley married philanderer Stanley Hyman and the couple had four children, all of whom would play fictionalised versions of themselves in Shirley’s stories.

    Shirley suffered with ill health for most of her life. Despite being overweight and having heart problems, she was a heavy smoker and, towards the end of her life, was seeing a psychiatrist for severe anxiety.

    It was her most famous story, The Lottery, first published in the New Yorker on 26 June 1948, which established her reputation as a master of the horror tale.

    Shirley’s 5th novel, The Haunting of Hill House, went on to become a critically-esteemed example of the haunted house story and was described by Stephen King as one of the most important horror novels of the twentieth century.

    In 2007, in recognition of her legacy to writing, the Shirley Jackson Awards were established. They are awarded for outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic.

    Not only that, but her adopted home of North Bennington, honours her legacy by celebrating Shirley Jackson Day on 27 June, the day the fictional story, The Lottery, took place. How great is that?

    Anne Rice (1941 – )

    Anne Rice was born Howard Allen Frances O’Brien in New Orleans. She became Anne on her first day of school, when a nun asked her what her name was and she said “Anne”.

    Anne met her future husband, Stan Rice, in a journalism class while they were both still at high school. The couple had two children, but lost their daughter to childhood leukaemia. Their son, Christopher, is now an author in his own right.

    It was while grieving the loss of her daughter, that Anne took a short story she’d written and turned it into her first novel – Interview with the Vampire. Despite its popularity now, the novel initially earned multiple rejections from publishers.

    Anne based her vampires on Gloria Holden’s character in Dracula’s Daughter. Of the character, she said:

    ‘It established to me what vampires were—these elegant, tragic, sensitive people. I was really just going with that feeling when writing Interview with the Vampire. I didn’t do a lot of research.’

    To date, her novels have sold nearly 100 million copies, placing her amongst the most popular authors in recent American history.

    Anne Rice’s writings have been identified as having had a major impact on later developments within the genre of vampire fiction. Susan Ferraro of The New York Times wrote:

    ‘Rice turns vampire conventions inside out…….Because Rice identifies with the vampire instead of the victim (reversing the usual focus), the horror for the reader springs from the realisation of the monster within the self. Moreover, Rice’s vampires are loquacious philosophers who spend much of eternity debating the nature of good and evil.’

    It’s interesting how two of my writers were cited more as romantic figures than horror. Does this mean that, one day, I will be seen as a romance rather than a horror writer? Well, I have penned a darkly romantic tale and it did win the short story competition at the Carnival of Words last year…so…perish the thought!

    May fear protect you when the darkness comes.

    Til next time,

    MARIE

  • Cover Reveal – Bonds Re-Bound

    Cover Reveal for the third volume in the BONDS Series, which will be launched at The Darker Side of Fiction event in October.
    Everyone, meet BONDS RE-BOUND ………it’s dark…..?
  • Do You Have a Dream?

    Many writers say they have been writing since they were a child, that they used to create plays and stories to entertain and amuse their family and friends, that they have never known a life when they didn’t write, that they can’t imagine a life where they don’t write.

    This isn’t the case for me, although I completely agree with my last point.

    Many writers will tell you that they get up with the lark and write for hours, as this is the time when they are most creative. Others will tell you they share their writing time with the bats and the owls, and that the light of the moon draws their creativity.

    This isn’t the case for me.

    Writers and tutors will insist that you absolutely HAVE to write every day, that all true writers can write anywhere, at any time, regardless of what else is going on in their life or around them.

    This isn’t how I approach writing.

    Does this mean that I am not a writer?

    The novels and short stories I have penned, all of which are enjoyed by readers worldwide, would suggest that I am very much a writer, an author even, and that I am pretty good at it.

    My point?

    Don’t listen to or take as “gospel” everything these people tell you. You have to find your own path and your own way of working; one that fits with your lifestyle.

    Stephen King once said that if you want to be a writer, you need to get used to having few friends and an empty social life.

    Now, this is something I can wholeheartedly agree with although, up until this point, I have been trying my best to prove him wrong.

    Has it worked?

    No. All that has happened is that I have spread myself too thinly, trying to please everyone else except myself – the one person whom I should be pleasing.

    The result?

    Stress, anger, and a constant internal dialogue of rebukes and reprimands.

    The answer?

    To focus on my goals, on what’s important to me. True friends will understand.

    The thing is, many writers, whether indie or trad, do not have the luxury of being able to write full-time. I run my own, very demanding, business, I live alone and so have a house to run and maintain myself, I teach yoga and writing courses, host my own radio show AND, most important of all, I am an author.

    I’m not going to lie to you, being an author, especially an indie author, is hard work. It takes commitment, tenacity, drive, determination and, most importantly, it takes self-belief. To be an indie author isn’t just about writing your novel, it’s about mastering the world of publishing and marketing. Yes, you can pay people to do if for you, but I would recommend all indie authors to do it ALL themselves, at least once.

    Why?

    So you can understand the full process, but also so that when you do approach a paid for service, you are more likely to spot the charlatans; the people who actually have no idea what they’re doing, despite telling you the contrary.

    My writing journey got off to rather an impotent start, as many of you will already be aware. So, let me take you back to the start of this blog and show you what it’s been like for me.

    Have I been writing since I was a child?

    No. Reading, yes. Writing, no. I used to devour ten books a week, loving nothing more than to lose myself in a faraway world, solving mysteries or exploring uncharted territory.

    As for writing, I didn’t pick up a pen, in the creative sense, until towards the end of my primary school years. I decided to write my own version of a well-known marine tale, one that my innocent mind probably shouldn’t have sneakily watched. To say that my teacher wasn’t amused, was a bit of an understatement. I was rapped on the knuckles with a metal ruler and told never to write anything so horrible again. I tend to think it was my graphic illustration of a severed arm on the beach that drew her fury, rather than my creative penmanship; she is one of my biggest fans now, after all!

    Her reaction to my creativity though, halted my writing altogether. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties that the voices in my head won out and the stories poured forth.

    Do I write every day?

    No, I don’t. I write as often as I can, for as long as I can. A demanding business means every day isn’t a given. I work late into the evening, every evening, on writing related matters, most of them not of the storytelling variety. When I am trying to complete a project, I do set my mind to the task and carve out some precious daily space, but I am a realist, with a full and busy life. It isn’t about every day, as far as I am concerned, it’s about as often as your lifestyle allows or, as often as your desire allows.

    Can I write anywhere and anytime?

    To a certain extent, yes. I write long hand and so I am fairly portable. I also write with Meat Loaf’s Bat out of Hell III reverberating off my ear drums. However, this doesn’t mean I want to write anywhere. I need calm, not chaos, around me because my peripheral vision is far too curious about who might be watching, to keep me focused completely on my task.

    With regards to anytime, then again, to a certain extent, yes. My creativity is not tied to a particular timeslot, but it is dependent on how I am feeling, both physically and mentally. My head needs to be in the right place for me to be able to create what I want to. Anyone who tells you otherwise is, well……spinning you a yarn.

    Why did I self-publish?

    I had a dream of writing a best-seller and of publishing houses fighting over the rights, and so I set about the task of achieving said dream by searching for the ever elusive agent.

    As an aside, getting published is a bit of a chicken and egg game – you need an agent to get published by most publishing houses, yet you need to be published to get an agent…

    I did have two publishing credits to my name when I embarked on my expedition in search of an agent – two short stories – and so, I felt confident that it wouldn’t be too hard. How wrong I was.

    I lost count of all the non-responses and, instead, focused on the rejections; at least they’d replied. When I looked at the rejections, many had actually taken the time to write a Marie Anne Cope specific rejection and these proved to be, in the main, very positive – they loved my writing, but it just wasn’t what they were looking for at the moment.

    Yes, I had been rejected, BUT I had validation that I could write. Instead of focusing on the failure to secure an agent, I chose to focus on the fact that agents (note the plural) said I could write.

    I changed tactic and approached smaller publishing houses directly and one of these houses offered me a contract.

    I was over the moon, on cloud nine, bouncing up and down with excitement (yes, I am aware of the clichés). I was going to be a published author! My dream was about to come true!

    My bubble burst when I was urged to actually read the contract before I signed it. What I read brought my dreams crashing down around me. Not only would they market it solely at their discretion, but they wanted me to contribute several thousand pounds to cover production costs. This sobered me up, I can tell you.

    It was during a rather emotional phone call with a fellow author, that I was presented with another option.

    ‘Why don’t you self-publish, like me,’ my friend said.

    ‘I don’t know how,’ I said, after a few minutes.

    ‘I’ll help you,’ he said.

    And so, that’s what I did.

    Being an indie author suits me perfectly, as I am the one in overall control. I make the decisions and I have to live with the consequences of those decisions – good or bad. Along my journey, I have learned so much about the publishing industry and know more about fonts then I ever thought there was to know. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Does this mean I never want to be trad published?

    Not at all. In fact, Bonds has been picked up by a US publisher. What it does mean, is that I am open to options, but will continue to walk my own path.

    As I said earlier, it isn’t easy and I’d be lying if I said it was. The most difficult thing about being an indie author, though, isn’t the publishing element, it’s the marketing. To be able to make yourself visible enough to enable the sales to come flowing in, is something I am hugely focused on at the moment.

    It takes grit and gumption to be an indie author, but more than anything, it takes self-belief; belief that one day all my hard work will pay off, that I will sell millions of copies of my novels, that I will be a full-time writer, that I will see my stories played out on the silver screen, that my dreams will come true. My tenacity, my drive and my determination will ensure that.

    “Dream as if you’ll live forever” James Dean once said and that’s exactly what I do, every day.

    “Once you find the beat, you will always walk in time.” (Anon)

  • What a Carnival…..of Words!

    First up for me was Phil Rickman, talking about his writing life and his books, which tend to look at the darker side of things. Such an interesting guy to listen to and he has his own show on BBC Radio Wales – Phil the Shelf, which I may be brave enough to send something in for!!

       

    Next up were husband and wife team Sean French and Nicci Gerrard, aka Nicci French. It was fascinating to listen to how they met and how they go about working together in the writing of a novel. It did make me chuckle as Nicci described the day they shared the same office! Suffice it to say, Nicci has her ordered study at the top of the house and Sean has his man shed……

     

     

    Historical Fiction night was a fun event as usual, with four established authors vying to win over the crowd to their particular time period in history. As a member of the Wrexham Writers’ group, I had the opportunity to meet and chat with the authors before and after the event, which is an invaluable way of learning new things and picking up tips and advice.

    Last, and by no means least, I went to a talk, at the library, by psychological thriller writer CL Taylor. Cally talked about the highs and lows of her career as a writer, as well as sharing insights into the structure she used for her novels. She was very open and honest in what she shared and I found this extremely comforting as I forge ahead with my own writing career.

       

  • Wales Comic Con 10th Birthday

    This weekend, Wales Comic Con celebrated its 10th birthday, with fans from all around the world swarming to meet their heroes and heroines. I have never seen the event so busy and full of life, fun and laughter – it was awesome.

    But Comic Con is not the only thing celebrating a momentous birthday this year. Both of the guests I was lucky enough to meet had major roles it two other media enterprises, also celebrating.

    Buffy the Vampire Slayer turns 21 this year and who can forget the arrival of Spike and Dru in Sunnydale in Series 2, when Spike drove his car straight into the Welcome to Sunnydale sign? Today, I had the great honour in meeting Juliet Landau, aka Drusilla, and chatting with her and her husband, Dev Weekes.

    Juliet and I have been in touch on Twitter for the last 18 months and it was fantastic to finally meet her. She is such a lovely person and I felt extremely lucky to be able to have Bonds and Broken Bonds in the photo with us. I just needed my sunglasses and we’d have been twins ?

     

     

    I also had the pleasure of cosying up to my favourite character from Dog Soldiers, Sean Pertwee, aka Sergeant Harry Wells. Dog Soldiers turns sweet 16 this year and has to be one of the best werewolf films ever made. I mean, who can forget the scene where Sergeant Wells’ guts are super-glued back inside him – classic! It is a film full of brilliant lines and I’d highly recommend you to watch it!