Sunday 29 January 2017

The Joy of Working From Home

In my previous life I often wished I could work from home.  Travelling to the office everyday, the press of rush hour, sitting in a room with people who barely spoke to you, cups of tea that never quite tasted right - surely I would get more work done in the comfort of my own home?

I used to listen, green with envy, to those lucky work colleagues who had somehow managed to wangle the elusive work-from-home option.  The closest I ever came was flexi-time, starting at 7 so I could finish at 3 but it wasn't quite as magical.

Now I work from home 24/7.  And it's so hard I long for that journey to work, that little piece of desk that belongs to me and maybe if I brought my own kettle it wouldn't too bad.  When reading On Writing by Stephen King I was struck by his urging to find a nook to write in.  A place to call your own where you could go and deliver your daily word count.  Where no-one would bother you and you could achieve all your writing goals.  Then I realised King is a man and can quite easily craft such a space.  It's not so easy for a woman.  Especially when writer comes after care-giver and housewife.

Perhaps it is my fault.  Perhaps I don't delegate effectively.  But you have to agree there are certain things that you find yourself doing before you can sit down to write, right?  On waking you must work out - it's the only time in the day you will have to look after your fitness.  Next you need to get your child up, dressed, fed and taken to school - walking the long way home so you can achieve your elusive 10,000 steps per day.  Upon return there are the usual morning jobs like making the bed and doing the breakfast dishes - please try to remember to eat at this point, your blood sugar will thank you later. This is also the time to make those important phone calls, check your email, update your social media, diary, calendar then send frenzied messages to people you forgot to speak to yesterday.

Now you have an hour before you have to pick your angel-face child up from nursery so you'd better sit down and write like your very life depended on it.  By the time you've found and unpacked your notes, done that blasted software update, made a cup of tea and sat down to work it's time to put it all away again.  You can't leave it out because there's only one table and you need it for eating, colouring, painting, glitter, learning, cars, trains and play-doh.

Next is lunch.  Then stories and tidying up and 'Mummy will you play with me.'  Afternoon jobs like going to the post office, prepping dinner, doing ironing - they all start to creep up on you ignoring your protests that you really really really need to get some work done.  Before you know it, it's welcome home husband time and let's talk about our day, eat dinner, bath the child, tidy-up, washing and plaintive requests for 'Come sit with me Mummy.'  How can you possibly say no?

The day is gone.  The evening awaits.  The hubster requires tending and there's that TV show you've been trying to watch for the past four years.  You can write tomorrow - right?  After all, you do work from home.

Monday 23 January 2017

The One Act Play

A small contingent this week for playwriting class but that wasn't necessarily a bad thing as I need to learn all about one act plays.

Thus far we've been paddling around the rather comforting arena of ten minute plays and monologues. These I have been able to handle and I feel good about what I've managed to craft. Which is strange really as I just cannot get my head round short stories which would be the regular writing alternative.

For once I actually have a fantastic idea for the play but after sitting down with the group it became clear that I am setting the scene too much. I forgot that my audience are sitting and watching not curled up with tea and biscuits.  That's not to say that novels don't have action from the get go - of course they do - but I think you need to grab throats a little more aggressively in a one-act.

It would probably help if I could spend a couple of weeks just going to all the local theatre productions and spend some time seeing everything.  Imagine the amount of excellence and how-not-tos you could soak up.  Wishful thinking unfortunately.  The closest I get to a one-act play is the latest episode of In The Night Garden.

The best bit about the four scenes I have so far is that they are easily portable for re-ordering leaving some excellent gaps for injecting the action.  I even know what the action is going to be!  The less interesting part about what I have so far is that I am now at the stage where I need to draft a plan. Plans and I have a less than successful relationship but I am prepared to commit provided it is prepared to be written.

If you have any suggestions for excellent one-act plays you've seen please do comment and share.

Sunday 15 January 2017

The Shopping Trolley Quest

On the surface of things, the quest for a workable shopping trolley sounds like one of the simplest ones to gain character XP with.  Almost a no-brainer.  But that is where the supreme sneakiness of such an easy sounding quest lies.  It's so easy I could do that with my eyes closed.  Two hours later and you still don't have one, time has run out and you've lost three lives.

It all starts with finding the necessary coinage.  If you are cash-poor (a good way of saying skint til payday) then the innocuous pound coin is as elusive as the right numbered bus when you're running late.  Those smug shoppers who have fake coins are sat smirking right now.  Let me tell you, I've had about a hundred of those.  They go the way of pens and socks.  Some little bastard somewhere has all my pens, all my socks and all my fake shopping trolley coins.

Coin clutched in clammy palm, the search for the right kind of trolley begins.  It can't have someone else's rubbish in it.  It can't be wet.  It can't have the wrong kind of seat.  Believe me, when you have the longest legged toddler in the history of small people, it has to be the right kind of seat.  You can take a chance and stride boldly towards the trolley park at the entrance of the supermarket but the risk is great.  Should that one be empty then it's a long walk of shame back to an isolated trolley pocket ten miles across the supermarket car park with every man and his dog watching you.  BUT if you gather one of those before arriving at the entrance you get the stupid idiot looks from those wondering why you didn't just pick one up as you went in because look, there's a massive long snake of them.

Next comes the correct slotting of a coin into a coin shaped hole.

It really isn't as simple as it sounds.  Some won't go in.  Some won't come out.  Some slip in and out. It's like the worst sex you ever had except this time everyone really is watching and judging, stuff of nightmares I tell you.  Then you have to wrestle the slotty key thingy out of the adjoining trolley. Once more they either will or won't come out, it has absolutely nothing to do with you or your technique whatsoever.  Plus what won't work for you is guaranteed to work for the person next in the queue, making you look even more like a turnip than before.

Trolleys love each other.  I mean they really, really love each other.  If you manage to find a suitable coin, manage to get it in, keep it in and manage to pull the trolley key out of the adjoining metal behemoth it still won't budge.  You heave with the strength of ten meaty barbarians.  Nothing.  So you begin to inspect what could possibly be the problem.  Sometimes it's the safety harness straps that get wedged between trolleys.  The purpose of those is bewildering to me as a) no-one evers uses them and b) my child fell out of the seat with said safety harness clipped on.  Sometimes, somehow, the previous user rammed the trolley into another with such force that the two metals melded on a deep quantum level and can never, ever be separated.  Occasionally the trolley has received so much abuse in the past that it is bent beyond all recognisable shape and you actually have to award prizes for the person who managed to shove it in there in the first place.

Once the trolley has been conquered, there is no guarantee that it will actually work.  Wheels can refuse to go round, spin round constantly, squeak as loud as the loudest tannoy you've ever heard, consistently refuse to turn the direction you want to go and resolutely roll in the opposite direction.

The absolute final straw in the whole bloody debacle is when you come to return the trolley and you can't get the blasted thing back into the god-damn trolley shaped hole it came from so you push and you shove and you jiggle and you wiggle and just as you're about to scream in frustration a helpful shopper (who followed you throughout various aisles and was behind you on the conveyor belt) asks, 'Do you want this one?'

Sunday 8 January 2017

Book Successfully Launched.....and then?

Last week, on the 2nd of January to be precise, I held a virtual book launch for my novel The Gaia Effect.  As the clock ticked closer and closer to 10am I got more and more nervous - what if no-one turned up?  What if it all went horribly wrong?  Then, suddenly, it was time to begin and as my hands shook I managed to copy and paste my opening statements - I had spent five hours on New Year's Eve getting everything ready - we were off.  The adrenaline began to flow and people started to like, comment and get involved, it was fantastic.

I was lucky enough to get two established authors involved with the launch, Howard Linskey and Ian Ayris were gracious enough to answer a few questions about their own writing adventures.  We overran but I didn't mind, I was talking writing and books with other fellow writers and lovers of books.  The only downside was that Facebook kicked me out of the event after four hours because it felt I was posting too much - what can I say, I was excited!  You can catch the launch highlights here.

I have to say that friends and family were hugely supportive on the day - thank you one and all - but now I am being asked the big question.  What next?  I have to admit I myself am a little bit uncertain. Launching your own book requires a great deal of self marketing, and not just social media.  I've got to get out there and talk to real people, get involved with events, sell, sell, sell, buy, buy, buy.  Now of course, I don't have to do any of those things.  I can just write for the sheer joy of putting groups of words together, and I hope that I always want to write for that very reason.  But I believe I owe it to myself to explore all avenues, learn more about independent publishing, find out what works and what doesn't and increase my confidence in writing and putting my work out there.

A lot of what I have read suggests that it's not until the 4th or 5th or even 10th book that you start to see any return for your hard work.  You have to have a body of work behind you in order to be seen as an established writer.  Obviously there are always exceptions to the rules but they are the exceptionally lucky ones.  Much of the advice I've read is that ebooks are the way forward and that having one or two or even three to give away is a great way to build your following.

And so I come to the 'and then?'  I need to finish writing the first draft of The Rose Thief and then I need to edit and redraft and edit and redraft and possibly edit and redraft one more time.  Then I must start writing the sequel to The Gaia Effect, it's bubbling nicely away in the back of my head but I don't want to leave too long between the two.  And then of course there's the giveaway ebook, the playwriting, the short story competitions and one or two other ideas for books that are half formed and highly tempting.  All I need is another 48 hours in the day.

Sunday 1 January 2017

2016 In Review

Warmest felicitations to you all on the beginning of yet another year - my hopes are that 2017 brings you everything you hope, need and deserve.

I always like to look back at last year's resolutions and see whether I have been even remotely successful.  I strove for happiness.  I feel almost smug at being able to put the largest ever tick into that box.  I stated that I would be moving.  I have not.  I stated that I would be exercising passionately.  I have been.  I said that I would write that bloomin' query letter and send it out to literary agents, that I would create a website, that I would have other projects in the pipeline and consider a sequel.  Tick.  Tick.  Tick.  Tick.   The only slight blemish against my smug ticked boxes is my final resolution to see more of my loved ones.  That one, alas, I feel I could have done better with. Reminds me of being back at school - must try harder, has a tendency to wander.

And wander all over 2016 I have.  Perhaps not literally but certainly figuratively.  I've tried new things, scared myself and quite possibly others, learnt new things, made new friends - always wildly impressive if you're over the age of 30 methinks - and tried my utmost to make more of this thing called writing.

I got my book published.  The Gaia Effect is available to buy right now from Amazon.  How crazy is that?  People I know could be reading it right now.  One day people I don't know may well read it.

I learnt some new writing skills by joining a fantastic playwriting group - that adventure will be continuing in the new year with the very real possibility of having a play put on at The Barbican.  We are venturing into very exciting times.

I have tried valiantly to build a social media presence as a writer across as many platforms as I feel I can handle, learning new marketing tools and striving not to make a boob.  I am testing the very limits of my current techie level by throwing a virtual book launch for The Gaia Effect tomorrow (Jan 2nd) on Facebook, the likes of which have never been seen before.  Such learned curves.

I did NaNoWriMo.  I interviewed interesting people for a book.  I wrote and I was happy.  I edited and I cried.  I made cake and the world was well again.  I read as much as I could manage.  It wasn't a bad year really and so my resolutions for the next one are simple.

Write more.  Read more.  Bake more.    And quite possibly run more.  Because of the cake.  And the sitting with the books and the tea.  It's a grand life.