Up And Down


Keep Looking Up…

On Monday, I received an amazing five-star review for Oak and Mist. The reviewer took the time to write a detailed analysis of why they enjoyed the book, and I was (and still am) completely thrilled.

Today, when I logged into my Goodreads account, I noticed someone had given Oak and Mist a two-star rating. No written review, just a star rating (which is fairly common on Goodreads).

So, two days, two vastly different perceptions of the same book.

Writers can be very hard on themselves. Like most artists, I suppose – self doubt and criticism certainly isn’t limited to the writing field. I’ve heard fellow writers whom I know to be talented, who’ve written wonderful work, wondering whether they should keep going, that their work will never be published, that it’s not worth the stress. It’s a very tough business, one in which we have to deal with rejection almost every day. Whether it’s yet another agent rejecting your submission, another contest where you didn’t place, another not-so-positive review or simply a day where no books sell, we need a thick skin to deal with it all.

Yet to write is to have a thin skin. To be open to emotions and vibrations and stories as they happen around us, so we can transfer them to the page. If we shut ourselves away from the world, we shut ourselves away from the potential for new ideas. If we lose the sensitivity that leads us to create in the first place, then creating becomes more difficult. An impossible dilemma.

Or is it? The other week, I wrote about the spider outside my window, who every day creates a new web. The lesson I took from this is that each day is a new opportunity. A chance to get up, dust yourself off, and get on with things. And once my work goes out there in the world, I have to accept that it is open to whatever might come along, good or bad. Art in itself is subjective – what one person might love, another might absolutely hate.

While I was on Goodreads I added another book to my ‘Read’ list. This is a book that was raved about, that had a huge display at my local Waterstones and loads of write-ups in the media. I thought it was a great story – well-written, suspenseful, and with a nice twist at the end. For me, it was a four-star read. And yet, when I checked, it had over 1200 one-star ratings.

So I guess what I need to remind myself of is this:  If you’re writing, keep writing. Do it for you. Do it for those who want to read. Be brave, and get it out there. The important thing is that you are creating something. Focus on the positives, rather than the not-so-positives.

And if your web breaks, spin yourself another one.

(Oh, and this isn’t a ‘poor me’ post – I’ve had lots of lovely comments on here about my writing, and I know I’m very fortunate. It’s just part of my journey through writing, and I think most of us have experienced days like this).




Spin Like The Spider

Ideas can take you by surprise...

Ideas can take you by surprise…

This morning, as I wandered home from school drop-off, a scene came into my head. ‘A-ha!’ I thought. ‘Here we go.’

The scene is for book three of my Ambeth series, Hills and Valleys. It came to me complete, and was just the scene I was looking for. Hills and Valleys is already written, as I’ve mentioned, but I’m now starting on the structural edit. So that means the new threads I added into books one and two need to be drawn up and woven into this story.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’d dropped into a bit of a writing lull. This happens after I publish a book, all the editing and rewrites and formatting and fingernail-biting making a break from the keyboard necessary. Plus my brain sort of stops giving me ideas for a few days.

So it was nice to take a trip back into Ambeth this morning. I went home and typed up the scene and it reads well, so far. It will need some work, maybe expanding a little, but I’m happy with it and the direction it is taking my character.

IMG_2344Outside my kitchen window is a large rosemary bush. For some time now, an orb-weaver spider has made it his (or her) home, stringing a large web between the bush and the nearby wall. We’ve all grown quite fond of this spider, greeting it as we come into the kitchen, taking an interest in its doings. For it is a hard worker. Each day, it seems, the intricate web is dismantled, rolled into a ball and discarded. Then another web, just as large and intricate, is woven in its place. Yesterday, it hung heavy with raindrops, like a crystal garland. Today’s web is tight, fresh and new, ready to catch lunch, or dinner, after a hard morning’s work. It perseveres, this little spider, because there is no other way. If it wants to eat, it must spin.

And this is a little lesson for me. To persevere with this writing and publishing game, even though sometimes it can be daunting. For it is what I want to do. If I want to be read, I must write. And so like the spider I spin each day, writing stories and blogs, making connections, promoting my work in increments, a fresh start each morning. And I’ve had some wonderful surprises along the way, made new friends, had new opportunities. And I feel very lucky to be on this journey.

Well, from the looks of this post it seems my Pantser writer brain is back in action! Watch this space…


I Love You Like…

Spider web string

I love you as long as a spider web string

My daughter and I were looking through some of her old school work and we found this picture. It’s part of a book she did called ‘I Love You’, and the kids were given the words ‘I love you as,’ then a space, then the word ‘as,’ then another space. It was up to them to fill in the spaces, then draw a picture above of the simile they’d made. The book was only five pages long but each page tugged at my heart, a lovely memory to treasure.

Now, I would like to clarify that I’m not really a fan of spiders. They have too many legs and move far too quickly for my liking, and several harrowing encounters with very large specimens when we lived in Australia simply cemented my dislike. I know they’re very useful and industrious creatures, spinning their silken webs to catch flies and mosquitos and other pests in the home, but I still don’t want them too close to me. However, I loved this picture and the idea behind it, plus I also thought it was a lovely simile.

This then made me consider the use of simile when I write (bear with me, I’m going somewhere with this, I promise!). I tend not to use a lot of simile when writing because I feel they can often stray into the realm of cliche, as well as take the reader out of the story if poorly chosen. I think, like some spices, they are often best used sparingly, just enough to add flavour and nuance to the story. However, they can also be the easiest and best way to convey to the reader what you’re thinking – the key is coming up with something that’s different enough to what has been written before. It’s a bit of a brain stretch and the tendency in mid flow can be to just chuck in the first thing that comes to mind and fix it up later – at least it is for me. So I loved reading this book. Each page felt fresh, the ideas coming from a child unfettered by deadlines or weight of prior knowledge – instead, just free to think about how she loves someone and how best to express it. So next time I’m searching for the perfect way to describe how a character looks or feels, perhaps I’ll ask her instead.


PS. As I was writing this, the gorgeous child and I were horrified to see a huge, beautiful tree across the road from us being dismantled branch by branch and removed. It was in our neighbour’s garden and part of the view from my study (spare room) window. I loved to watch it, the way it moved with the wind, the sunset through the branches as it changed with the seasons, magpies chattering and roosting among the leaves. But now it’s gone. I don’t know why – maybe it was diseased, maybe it was dropping branches, maybe they were just tired of looking at it. But there is a hole now in the sky, and a sadness at its loss. My daughter sang as it went, both of us unable to watch as the final limbs were lopped and removed. I know it’s only a tree, but it made us both feel a little strange, watching it go.