Flash Fiction – Wonky Boots & Crumpled Sheets

Image courtesy of Kent Bonham

 

‘Because I straighten your boots when you sling them on the mat?’ She was crying.

‘It’s not just that. You’re endlessly plumping cushions. Making the bed as soon as I get up to make tea. You live your life by hospital corners and I can’t live like that.’

I didn’t look back once as I left.

Now, I throw open the door of my cold bedsit which doesn’t feel like home and kick off my boots. I hesitate. Bend down and place them neatly together. I sink down on the sofa. I don’t have any cushions. But I don’t have her.

 

Hurrah – this week I finished my structural edits. I was stunned & delighted The Surrogate reached the top 40 in the UK Amazon chart on preorders  3 months prior to publication. Thank you! You can read my ’15 stages you go through with a structural edit’ post here. I’ve also had an emotional week with a big change you can read about here

‘Wonky Boots & Crumpled Sheets’ was written for Friday Fictioneers. A 100 word weekly story challenge inspired by a photo prompt. Join in over at host Rochelle’s blog here. (For all my US friends who might not understand the connection the first thing I noticed was the car boot which I think you call a trunk over there?)

15 stages you go through with structural edits

  1. My structural edits have arrived. I don’t think I’m strong enough to cope. Pour a glass of wine.
  2. Open the email, skim through the notes. Feel lightheaded and slightly sick. Close email. Drink more wine.
  3. Take a deep breath and read editor’s notes properly. The changes are enormous. Hyperventilate. I can’t do this.
  4. Pull myself together. Remind myself I am LUCKY to be in this position. Open the document. WHY IS THERE SO MUCH RED? There are track changes EVERYWHERE.
  5. Outrage – this will RUIN my book. RUIN it.
  6. Google self-publishing.
  7. Cry.
  8. Go shopping – can’t possibly edit until I have more highlighters/post-its/notebooks/chocolate.
  9. Make a list. Lists are good. Lists make everything manageable.
  10. Pull the book apart and piece it back together.
  11. Read manuscript – realise editor was actually right all along and the changes ARE an improvement.
  12. Relief.
  13. Email manuscript back to editor. Collapse on the sofa. Hurrah. It is DONE!
  14. Remember there’s still the copy edits to go. Despair.
  15. Open more wine…

If you’ve enjoyed this you might want to hop over to ’15 stages you go through writing a first draft.’

Flash Fiction – The Lucky One

Image courtesy of Janet Webb

 

If I could make a wish it would be for one thing but how can I when I know she’d wish for the same thing too? I thread my fingers through hers. It’s ridiculous but I’m almost hoping for bad news for myself. There’s a one in four chance of making it and my rational self tells me if I am the lucky one it doesn’t necessarily make her the unlucky one but still. How could I live with myself?

The door begins to open and I squeeze her hand. This is it. Good or bad. Life will never be the same again.

 

This Sunday 17th,  I’ll be talking live over on Facebook at 8pm GMT about writing, editing and getting published. I’d love it if you could come and join me or pop over and post a question and I’ll make sure I answer it. Join The Fiction Cafe here to post questions & view the live stream or watch on catch up.

‘The Lucky One’ was written for Friday Fictioneers. A weekly 100 word story challenge inspired by a photo prompt. Check out the other entries at host Rochelle’s blog here.

LIVE author chat this weekend – do join me!

 

This Sunday 17th July I shall be over at The Fiction Cafe on Facebook at 8pm GMT chatting live about books, writing and getting published. Do come pop along and take part – it should be a lot of fun.

If you’re not around Sunday you can post questions before the event and I’ll make sure they are answered.

You can join the group here.

Look forward to seeing you!

One year published, 750,000 sales – what’s it really been like?

 

Exactly a year ago was a dream-come-true- kind of day. I remember snapping awake, brushing the sleep out of my eyes, instantly my stomach swirling with excitement and nerves. It was publication day for my debut novel The Sister which was already receiving rave reviews and flying up the charts. I had a fabulous publisher and a contract to write two more novels. My lifelong ambition was realised as I smiled for the camera and held my paperback tightly in my hand like the precious gift it was. It stands to reason I lived happily ever after, right?

Yes. But it took a while.

Initially it was the cause of much excitement to type my name into Amazon and see my book spring onto my screen but still I didn’t feel like a writer. I was so thankful to have a deal but part of me thought it must be a mistake, it couldn’t possibly last. I clung on to my old job title when introducing myself to new people, feeling like a fraud somehow. The picture-perfect vision in my head of novelists lounging in a field of sunflowers, shielded from the blistering sun under a parasol, jotting down a few words when inspiration hit, partaking in cream teas when it didn’t, was not how it was at all. Working as an author has proved to be many things; sometimes exhilarating and satisfying, sometimes, if I’m being honest, isolating and lonely, and always, always extremely hard work. It’s far more involved than I first thought. The time invested in promoting my books both here and internationally (my titles have now been sold for translation to fifteen territories), interviews, social media, blogging, events, replying to reader emails (often the highlight of my day), mentoring female writers (which I offer free through The WoMentoring Project), and of course, juggling writing new stories whilst taking the previous book through the editing process

After The Sister I was nominated for the Goodreads Debut Author of 2016 and then came publication of The Gift. With both my first two books reaching No. 1 in the UK and abroad came a shift in my thinking. Although I still felt like an impostor, afraid it would all disappear in an instant, no longer did I mutter when someone asked what I did for a living. I admitted to being a writer albeit before looking at my shoes and hurriedly changing the subject. Yet, I didn’t quite feel like an author but it was progress of sorts.

It’s been a whirlwind year and often chaotic and I’ve learned a big lesson in time management, in finding that all important balance between work/family life.

The Sister was nominated for a CWA Dagger Award and amazingly after 12 months it is still sitting comfortably in the top 100 in psychological fiction, as is The Gift and now it has been joined by The Surrogate, my forthcoming novel, which is currently available to pre order and will be released in September. I’m so excited about this book, my best so far I think, already it’s made the Top 10 in psychological thrillers and the Top 50 in the overall UK chart.

Last week my publishers told me I had achieved 750,000 English language sales (more if you take into account sales in other territories) and the thought of three quarters of a million people reading my books caused another shift in my thinking. At a barbecue last weekend someone asked what I did for a living and for the first time ever I said ‘I’m an author,’ and I didn’t even look at my shoes.

Finally, an author. I’m living my dream and with a head full of stories there is honestly nothing else I’d rather be doing. Every day I think how lucky I am – I’m so grateful for this opportunity.

 

 

Flash Fiction – An excerpt from The Surrogate!

Image courtesy of Claire Sheldon

 

My euphoria regarding the future was tinged with sadness as I emptied my locker. It was the end of an era. The corridor was devoid of students but was jammed full of memories. Me and Lisa shuffling along, heads down, new school shoes squeaking on the lino during our first day at this school that felt a world apart from our small, safe, primary. On my way to find Lisa, I pressed the corner of the West Side Story poster back down that was hanging off the wall.

Lost in my memories it happened in an instant. My back slamming against the lockers, hands around my throat.

 

In celebration of the weekend cover reveal for my third novel, The Surrogate, I thought I’d use an excerpt from the chapter I am currently editing which fits perfectly with this week’s prompt. If you wish to do so you can pre-order The Surrogate in the UK here and the US here prior to its September release.

You can join in with Friday Fictioneers, a 100 word story inspired by a photo prompt, over at host Rochelle’s blog, here

Authors for Grenfell – Signed & dedicated copies of The Sister & The Gift

 

I don’t have to describe my distress as I watched the horror unfold at Grenfell Tower. I don’t have to describe the desperate feeling of wanting to help and not quite knowing how to. You probably felt the same.

If you haven’t already heard about Authors for Grenfell Tower it’s an online auction raising money for the British Red Cross London Fire Relief Fund, for residents affected by the Grenfell Tower fire.

Around 1:00 a.m. on 14 June 2017, a fire in this residential tower block in west London spread to engulf the entire building. Despite the heroic efforts of the fire service, all 120 flats in the building have been destroyed. The death toll stands at 58 and is expected to rise. Survivors have lost their homes, lost everything, and gone through unimaginable trauma.

There’s lots of incredible donations on this site already. I’ve bid on numerous books as well as donating copies of The Sister and The Gift which I will dedicate and sign to the winning bidder (you can bid for those here). Along with books there are numerous agents and editors offering manuscript and submission package critiques and offers of Skype mentoring sessions. You can check out the full list of items for auction here.

Winning auction bids will be paid directly to the British Red Cross’s relief fund for Grenfell Tower residents and neighbours:

“The charity has been asked by Kensington and Chelsea council to help co-ordinate fundraising in an appeal to support the residents and neighbours of the Grenfell Tower.

Money will be given to people affected by the fire, including those who have lost everything, to buy the things they need to give themselves and their families as much normality as they can get at this extraordinarily difficult time. 

By donating to the London Fire Relief Fund people will be able to help those who have been injured, bereaved, left destitute or traumatised by this tragedy.”