Flash Fiction – Buttercups

Image courtesy of Jennifer Pendergast

 

You loved playing dress up, twirling in my far-too-large wedding dress until your heel caught in the lace and you tumbled onto the dried grass.

‘Mummy.’ Your lip trembled and I plucked a buttercup, shining gold in the sun, telling you it was a magic flower. All was well in your small world once more.

I blink. Somehow time has slipped passed. Weeks, months, years.

You rush towards me. This time it’s a gown and mortar board that swamps your still-small frame.

‘Mum!’ You’re nervous. I push a buttercup into your hand.

‘Collect your degree, darling.’

Your world is larger now, but I’m still here. Always.

 

‘Buttercups’ was written for Friday Fictioneers. A weekly 100 word story challenge inspired by a photo prompt. Hosted by Rochelle

 

Flash Fiction – Act in haste…

Image courtesy of Shaktiki Sharma

 

‘Dan said ‘I’m going to give Stella the sack.’ Hilda relayed.

Stella’s throat burned hot. How could he? Today? It’s 30 years since she started here. Not that anyone remembered. She’d helped his wife arrange a birthday party for him too.

Stella fired off an email telling her boss everyone called him fish breath behind his back. She pressed send and gathered her belongings and her dignity, and stood.

‘Not going anywhere, Stella?’ Dan carried in a cake. Thirty candles flickering. ‘I said this morning I’m going to get you back for the party and surprise you!’

‘Sorry,’ mouthed Hilda. ‘Misheard.’

 

This week my sister asked for a more lighthearted story and as it’s International Women’s Day and she’s the strongest woman I know I had to step outside my comfort zone and give it a go. 

Big thanks to everyone who has read, reviewed and recommended The Sister. Yesterday my publisher rang to congratulate me on half a million sales. You can read the first thought that popped into my head here. World Book Day was another step outside my comfort zone. An introverted writer giving a talk to 250 kids. What could possibly go wrong? I blogged about that here.

‘Act in haste’ was written for Friday Fictioneers. A weekly 100 word story challenge inspired by a photo prompt and organised by Rochelle

Half a million copies sold and THIS was my first thought…

This morning, I was thrilled to receive a call from my lovely editor who told me The Sister has officially sold half a million copies. Bizarrely (or not if you know me) my first thought was ‘Grace and Charlie will be SO pleased.’ Yes, even now when I’m writing my third book I haven’t quite yet come to terms with the fact my beloved characters in my debut aren’t real. I am enormously proud of them and their story.

When I first wrote a snippet of flash fiction it took days of deliberation before I felt brave enough to try to expand it into my first ever short story. Once I started writing I couldn’t stop but even as it grew into the 90k word novel it is today I never once thought it would be published. I was too old. Too inexperienced. Too scared to try if I’m honest but my love for Grace, my desire for her story to be heard drove me forwards, and I am so fortunate I found a publisher, Bookouture, who shared the same passion for my story. I feel humbled so many readers have given their valuable time reading my first novel, and am hugely grateful for the book bloggers who have championed The Sister from the start. Your support has meant the world to me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart ❤️

“I did something terrible Grace. I hope you can forgive me …”

Grace hasn’t been the same since the death of her best friend Charlie. She is haunted by Charlie’s last words, and in a bid for answers, opens an old memory box of Charlie’s. It soon becomes clear there was a lot she didn’t know about her best friend.

When Grace starts a campaign to find Charlie’s father, Anna, a girl claiming to be Charlie’s sister steps forward. For Grace, finding Anna is like finding a new family, and soon Anna has made herself very comfortable in Grace and boyfriend Dan’s home.

But something isn’t right. Things disappear, Dan’s acting strangely and Grace is sure that someone is following her. Is it all in Grace’s mind? Or as she gets closer to discovering the truth about both Charlie and Anna, is Grace in terrible danger?

There was nothing she could have done to save Charlie …or was there?

You can find The Sister on Amazon UK here, or Amazon US here.

Hachette acquires Bookouture!

huk-for-carousel-2 aaeaaqaaaaaaaaefaaaajgiyzdu3zdaxlwfhyjktngqyns1hmzgxlte1ntrizjrhnddjmg

Huge congratulations to my publisher, Bookouture, who have announced they are now part of Hachette. Exciting times ahead for all!

Here’s the official press release: – 

Tim Hely Hutchinson, CEO of Hachette UK, today announces the acquisition by Hachette UK of Bookouture, Britain’s leading independent ebook publisher.

“I am delighted to announce today that Hachette UK has acquired Bookouture, the UK’s leading ebook specialist publisher.

“In just four years since it was founded, Bookouture has established itself as an outstandingly successful and innovative ebook publisher. Its formidable reputation and enormous success in publishing many bestselling ebook authors, including Angela Marsons, Louise Jensen and Robert Bryndza, whose novel The Girl in the Ice has sold over one million copies, demonstrates that Bookouture probably knows more about selling ebooks than any other publisher in the world. We salute Oliver Rhodes and his colleagues and welcome them warmly to Hachette.

“The acquisition of Bookouture is a landmark event for Hachette UK, demonstrating the scope of our ambition to expand and develop our core publishing business by acquiring the best companies in their field where the fit is right and their ambition matches our own. Bookouture has achieved remarkable things in its short history and, while it will continue as a standalone business, I know that we will mutually enhance and grow our businesses through, where it is appropriate, sharing our expertise and pooling our talents.”

Bookouture will have a special relationship with Little, Brown, which will publish some of Bookouture’s authors in print editions. Oliver Rhodes, CEO of Bookouture, will continue in this role and will also become Digital Publisher of Hachette UK. He will join the board of Hachette UK reporting to David Shelley, CEO of Little, Brown and Orion. In his new dual role Oliver will both continue to run Bookouture and, by steering and advising, also help increase ebook sales across the Hachette UK group.

Bookouture employs 16 people, all of whom will remain with the company, which will continue to be based in its offices in King’s Cross.

David Shelley said:

“I have long admired the work Oliver has done at Bookouture – he and his colleagues have discovered some amazing authors and have enjoyed extraordinary success with them; they publish with real flair and creativity. I could not be more excited to work with Oliver and his team in taking Bookouture and its authors to the next level, and to have Oliver’s input into Hachette’s digital publishing more generally. I think he will bring something very special to our business.”

Oliver Rhodes said

“Seeing Bookouture flourish in the past four years has been an incredible and rare privilege – we have an extremely talented and dedicated team and a fantastic group of authors who we are very proud of. What is so exciting about taking this next step and becoming part of Hachette UK is that it will help us to build on the significant momentum we already have and achieve even greater things for our authors.

“Tim and David’s vision for Bookouture within Hachette UK is absolutely everything I would want it to be – supportive, forward-thinking, and ambitious – and that was a key factor in making this decision. To sit alongside the other fantastic publishing houses in the group and work with some of the best people in the business will be a real thrill. I know we’ll learn a great deal from each other and I can’t wait to get started.”

Louise Walters shares her self-publishing Vs trad publishing experience

albu-web-ready

 

I am delighted to welcome onto the blog the lovely Louise Walters. I’ve been captivated by Louise’s writing since reading her beautiful debut ‘Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase‘ and I was super excited to read an early copy of ‘A Life Between Us,’ which is due to be published on 28th March. Louise carefully weaves a tale of family secrets and effortlessly spans decades in this cleverly crafted story. Tina Thornton lost her twin Meg 40 years ago, but still harbours guilt, but was Meg’s death really an accident? As the tale unfolds Louise slowly reveals the crushing impact secrets and lies can have on a family for generations to come. The tiny details included in this book instantly transported me back to my childhood of Sindy Dolls and Spangles. There’s a complex mix of characters in this novel, some I didn’t like at all, but to me that added to the richness of the story, and I found myself rooting for Tina as the layers of her family history are slowly peeled back. Louise has chosen to self-publish this novel and having also been traditionally published I’m eager to find out Louise’s views on her experience. Let’s read on.

“In January 2016, I made a decision: I was going to self-publish my second novel. It was a tough decision to make, with lots to consider – reputation, workload, sales (lack of?), time, time, time…

I decided I would go the assisted publishing route, and I went with Matador, who are well established, and reputable, a major consideration when you are going to hand over quite a lot of cash! The first thing I decided was I wouldn’t rush to bring the novel out. So I opted for a publication date one year on (originally February 2017, later put back to March 2017). I wanted time to work, to get the novel into tip top condition. I wanted to do all (at least, as many as possible) of the things a traditional publisher would do for my book – copy editing, proof reading, a professional cover design, sales representation and distribution. I didn’t want to hurry myself at any point (although even with a year “lead in” time, there have been a few urgent moments/calls/e-mails!)

What have I learned about publishing?

Publication is expensive. Publication is a gamble. It is multi-tasking, it is hard work.

Profit margins are minuscule; balancing the books, as it were, is a precarious business. I’ve no idea if I’m going to make a loss, break even, or make a profit. I’ll take either of the last two; I’ll even take the first if that’s how it turns out, because I have learned so much this year. It’s been a valuable exercise, and there are worst things to spend money on!

What have I learned about myself?

I love to project manage, and I’m good at it. I really am. I had no idea. Such a useful discovery! Still much to learn, of course, but I’m on it.

I’m also a dab hand at setting up a website. Again, something I’d thought I would never be able to do. But I have. It’s not brilliant, but it’s mine, it’s me, it ties in nicely with my “brand”.

I now subscribe to The Bookseller and I know a little more about what’s going on in publishing. I actually feel I’m part of it now, whereas before I felt as I suspect most authors feel – I was hovering on the edges, not really “of” the publishing world.

I have also realised something about myself I only suspected before: I love to be in control creatively. The whole shebang. That kind of ties in with the project managing thing! For instance, my involvement in the book’s cover was fantastic. I didn’t design it, but I wrote the brief for the designer, and my word was the last word in which design to go with (Matador had to approve it too of course, as they have their own reputation to think about).

Would I self-publish again?

Yes. YES. I would. Despite the snooty attitude that still prevails towards self and/or assisted publishing (but is slowly disappearing thank goodness), despite the endless work, the expense, and the fear that you are going to make an absolute arse of yourself, I would do it again. I would also consider publishing traditionally again, should that opportunity ever arise. We live in a plural world and there is no need to confine ourselves as authors to one method or another. It’s all there for the taking and it’s exciting to be an author right now. I think we could be on the cusp of big changes. For instance, I would from now on try very hard to hang on to e-book rights. There is little for an author to gain from handing those over for 25% (less print book returns!) when we can bring it out ourselves, get anything from 30 to 70%, and control the pricing. Just sayin’!”

book-signing-launch

Thanks so much Louise for the fascinating insight. You can find out more about Louise here and buy her books here.

My first school visit – 250 kids – what could possibly go wrong?

img_9455

Last week I was writing when my phone flashed with an incoming call – my son’s primary school – and my heart stuttered as I thought of all the things that might be wrong.

‘Will you come into school on World Book Day and talk to the kids about writing? Just Years 5 & 6. Only around 250 children.’

Only?!? 250!?! I’ve never given a talk before and instantly I felt sick, dizzy, afraid. Options pin-balled around my mind. I could hang up, pretend they had the wrong number, put on an accent and say I can’t speak English. So many words formed on my tongue, but I thought about the amazing assemblies I’ve seen there over the years. How brave the children are to stand up in front of the school and act and sing, and of all of the words that formed on my tongue, the one that came out was yes. The children can’t all enjoy performing and yet they do it anyway. What sort of example would I set to my son if I didn’t at least try?

Yesterday, it was a different story. Riddled with doubt I spoke my lovely friend Victoria who told me to imagine I was speaking to one little girl. The little girl who loved to read. Loved to write. Who wanted nothing more than to be an author. The little girl I once was who had her dreams crushed when the career advisor said writing was neither a ‘proper or viable career choice.’ And a quiet determination grew inside. If in some small way I could inspire one child to follow their dreams it would be worth any amount of anxiety I might feel.

img_9444This morning I stood in front of a sea of expectant faces. I locked eyes with my son. He’d been so excited I was visiting and I wanted to make him proud, not faint/vomit/cry and so I ignored the notes I’d made and I spoke from the heart. I spoke of my passion for writing, my love for my characters, how I can’t imagine ever doing anything else. I spoke of my belief that we can all be who we want to be, if only we dare to dream and never stop trying.

I asked the children questions. They asked me questions. Some had written them down, complete with illustrations. Most loved to read, to write, to fabricate stories and many of them dream of being authors and seeing that raw hope, that ambition, that certainty, I am sure they can do anything they set their minds to.

img_9457

It was a real privilege meeting these children and I came away hopeful, and inspired, and itching to write. It was such an enriching experience. I learned a lot about them, but I also learned a lot about me. 

F**K You Cancer – A tribute to my beautiful friend

1456663_10153818707622329_3714734121131522142_n

 

The world has lost a bright light and I have lost my beautiful friend Sara, and already I miss her enormously. Cancer is something that is often spoken about in hushed tones, almost as though if you don’t say the word aloud it can’t touch you but it can. It does. It will. Is there anyone who hasn’t had a friend, a family member brush against this disease? Sometimes it seems not, but knowing that doesn’t make it easier to understand. It doesn’t make it easier to bear.

It’s hard to know what to feel right now. What to do. Who to be. And so I write. Sitting at my desk. A framed quote from Sara hangs on my wall. Something she sent to cheer me up a few months ago. Even with her life drawing to a close she thought of others. She thought of me. It always makes me laugh when I read it. Today it makes me cry and I know that she would hate that.

Next to her quote I have a corkboard packed full of photos of my family and my heart aches as I think of the children she will never now have. The places she will never see. And yet I have never quite known anyone as surrounded by love as she was. Enriching the lives of everybody she met. Always looking on the bright side. Never losing hope. A fighter til the end.

For the past seven years Sara has made me laugh and despite her circumstances that didn’t change. Until very recently we’d still Skype, laughing as we remembered times past, mutual friends and perhaps remembering the most important lesson of all.

“The world’s so beautiful.” Sara said and since then, no matter how busy I am, I make sure I look for the beauty in every day.

It’s been such a privilege to know you.

Goodbye gorgeous girl.

16996076_1762898010692871_483336462662029753_n