Thursday, 28 May 2020

My First Lockdown Publication Day!


Last week was a very exciting week for me! Why? Because on Wednesday, I celebrated the publication of my third psychological thriller, 'The Bride'. Although of course, because of lockdown, this publication day was very different to my others.

Contrary to what readers of your novels might think, most of an author's day after the book has gone 'live' isn't spent hanging around bookshops stroking your cover or sitting on the Richard and Judy couch (okay so that doesn't happen now but I still imagine it). Instead, it's spent on social media: posting the news, sharing other people's posts, re-tweeting and thanking all the lovely well-wishers who have taken the time to message you their congratulations. It's very tiring on the typing fingers and mentally challenging trying to keep up with it all as the last thing you want to do is offend anyone.

Flowers from my husband
What I've done in the past to manage my day, is allow myself time to meet up with friends at lunchtime. For the launch of What We Saw, I had a sneaky pub meal with writing buddy, Tracy Fells and for We Were Sisters, I had a beach walk with fellow Bookouture author, Liz Eeles.

I also had evening celebrations - a small one involving Prosecco with local friends for the first novel and a full-blown book launch at the local bookshop for the second. Both fabulous occasions.

There was nothing like that this year of course but I still managed to raise a glass of Prosecco to 'The Bride'. Instead of meeting in real life, my friends and I had a publication day Zoom celebration... almost as good! This was followed by another celebration with my husband and daughter.

Strangely, it was the most relaxing publication day I've had. Nothing to organise and only myself to please!

The following day, I did  something a little more out of my comfort zone. I was invited to be one of the authors at Noir at the Bar Edinburgh. Under normal circumstances, this would involve going to a real bar (I'm all for that!) and speaking to a real audience (not so happy about that!) but, with lockdown in place, it was going to be completely virtual.

I spent most of the day preparing. From the way I was behaving, you'd have thought that it was an all day event not just a ten minute slot but I hate being taken by surprise (it's why, when I was a teacher, I never liked supply teaching). Can you believe I worried about what to wear, what extract of my novel to read, what questions I might be asked and even which room in the house looked least like a hoarder live there (we've emptied my daughter's flat and her things are everywhere!).

By the time I got to speak, I could have done with a real bar, but as often is the case when you stress about things, the event was lovely. In fact, the host couldn't have been more welcoming, there were no trick questions and I didn't make a complete fool of myself thank goodness. If you like, you can watch it here.

So now all the fun and games are over and I've allowed myself to wind down a little. I've nearly completed the first draft of the next novel and am looking forward to working on it before submitting to my editor.

My fingers are crossed that come December I'll be able to have a proper launch for the next book but, in the meantime, the sun is shining, my roses are blooming and I'm feeling proud to have published three novels.

If you'd like to read The Bride, you can buy it here: Amazon



Saturday, 2 May 2020

A Year as a Published Novelist!


You know when people say that time flies? Well, it really does!

I can hardly believe that just one year ago, I was celebrating the publication of my debut psychological thriller, WHAT SHE SAW. A very different day it was too as you can see if you read my publication day post.

Happy Book Birthday!

The day started with a frenzy of social media retweets, Facebook shares and thank yous but I was able to take a break at lunchtime to celebrate the launch of my novel in the pub with writing buddy, Tracy Fells. After more publicity in the afternoon, the evening was spent with my good friends and family, raising a glass of Prosecco to my new book baby.

So it's a year on and I have now been a published novelist for exactly twelve months. And what a year it's been. In that time, I've had another thriller published (We Were Sisters) and my third (The Bride) will have it's launch on May 20th. I am also nearing the end of the first draft of novel number four.

Instead of leaving the house to celebrate, the Coronavirus has meant I'm in lockdown reflecting.

So what's this year really been like? Has being a novelist changed things? 

In a word 'yes'.

As most of my regular readers know, I've been a published writer of short stories since 2012 and have had a successful career writing for the women's magazines. You wouldn't think publishing a novel would be very different, but believe me it is. And mostly it's due to this unassuming little word... deadline. What I've learnt is that writing to a deadline is a very different thing to writing when you want to. With short stories, I had my own self-imposed deadlines but if I didn't stick to them, no one cared except me. Now, if I don't meet a deadline, a whole series of things will be affected: the timing of the cover reveal, the hiring of the copy editor, the date the book is due to go on NetGalley, the studio time for the studio bookings for the audio, the paperback printing. In other words, if one thing is delayed, everything else is too. It's not just yourself you're letting down, it's your publisher and a lot of other people.

The main difference is the emotional highs and lows you get from having written a novel. If you write a story and it doesn't get accepted, you just dust yourself down and write another. The magazine's publisher will have lost nothing and you might have lost a day of so of your time. With a novel, it's very different. If your novel doesn't meet your publisher's required standard then that's many months of work and expense down the drain. You will have let not just yourself but your publisher down. If, like me, you spend your life anxious to please, that can be a big weight on your shoulders and that's something you're very aware of.

And don't get me started on reviews! If you're lucky, a magazine might pass on to you a nice comment about your story from a reader. More often than not though, you'll have absolutely no idea how it's been received and you'll never know if a reader didn't like it. With a novel you are at the mercy of reviews (NetGalley, Goodreads and Amazon) and although nothing beats the feeling of getting a glowing one, a bad review can send your emotions spiralling downwards.

After three novels, I should be used to all this but I'm not. Maybe I never will be.

But, would I change anything? Sometimes when I'm struggling to think where my novel is going, if I've had some difficult edits or I've received a bad review, I wonder if I might have been happier when I was a short story writer. But then I look at my books on my shelf or in my local bookshop, read the wonderful things people have said about them and remember how proud my family and friends are of what I've achieved. 

It's then I see that everything I've talked about (the good and the bad) is just part and parcel of being a novelist. I'm proud of having written three novels and I mustn't ever forget it.


If you'd like to wish What She Saw a Happy Birthday you can buy it here

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Confessions of a Debut Author - Guest Post Nikki Smith


I met today's guest, Nikki Smith, at a lunch for psychological thriller writers in London last year. We hit it off straight away and I was happy to hear that her debut thriller, 'ALL IN HER HEAD', would be coming out this year. That time has come and I'm delighted to welcome Nikki onto Wendy's Writing Now to answer a few questions.

Here are her answers.



Describe your latest novel in one sentence.

ALL IN HER HEAD is a timely psychological suspense novel that explores the darkest corners of a mother’s mind.

I’m sure my readers would love to hear about your road to publication. Was it long and winding or did you take a short cut?

I did an English degree & wrote a novel after leaving University, but it wasn’t very good & unsurprisingly wasn’t picked up by an agent. So, I gave up trying to write a book and went on to have a career in finance – it wasn’t really what I wanted to do, but it paid the bills. I still wrote, but just things for me. Then a couple of years ago, someone I was at school with contacted me on Facebook to ask if I’d ever done anything with my writing as she still remembered the stories I used to read out in class. It was a now or never moment, and I signed up for a Curtis Brown creative writing course, which I absolutely loved, and started writing All In Her Head. I subsequently won a competition that another author, Amanda Reynolds, was running and she became my mentor. After I’d worked on the first few chapters of my novel with her for a while, I sent it off to the amazing agent Sophie Lambert who had read my cover letter on the Curtis Brown course, and who I really, really hoped would like it. She agreed to represent me, and a few months later we submitted the manuscript to publishers where Orion offered me a two-book deal.

Are you a plotter or a pantster and how long does it take you to write your thrillers?

I’m a plotter. It might be down to my background in finance but I love a spreadsheet and plan my books on one – dividing it into chapters that I colour code so I can easily see what’s going on. For me, it’s a bit like working with post-it notes, but easier not to lose! I can write a first draft quite quickly – in around 2-3 months, but it takes at least a further 6 months to edit it.

Could you describe your typical writing day?

I’m more productive in the morning, so my ideal writing day would involve dropping my children at school and then writing until about 2-3pm. If I’m on a deadline I may then write more in the evening or at the weekends. I was working full-time when I wrote All In Her Head so I had to get up very early and work late. However, from Monday, I’ll be starting home schooling with my daughters, so I have no idea what my schedule is going to look like!

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

When I’m not writing I like to read, watch films and box sets, cook and travel. I love seeing new places and meeting new people. It is one of the things that I am going to miss most over the next few months.

When did you first realise you were going to be a writer?

I have always enjoyed making up stories since I was really young. Creative writing was by far my favourite lesson at school, and I loved reading anything I could get my hands on. So, from that point of view, I would say that from very young I knew I wanted to be a writer. But it was only when I got my agent, Sophie Lambert, that I realised I had a real chance of getting a book published, and when my editor, Harriet Bourton, bought my book I knew I was going to become an author.

What does your family think of your writing?

My parents were on holiday in Australia when I told them I had a book deal and I’m not sure they actually believed me! All my family have been so supportive of my writing – my two daughters are my biggest cheerleaders – I dedicated my novel to them as I couldn’t have written it without them and I am so grateful for all their encouragement.

How important is social media to an author?

I think it is becoming ever more so. For two reasons – firstly because I think we can all see that in the current situation, the power of social media comes into its own. My physical book launch event, and all other publicity events (as with everyone else who is published at the moment) have been cancelled. I’ve found that online people have been wonderful at offering support – I have joined in Facebook Live virtual book launch parties and will be attending online events and festivals. Secondly, even before this horrendous situation arose, I found the writing community to be so willing to share their advice and expertise. I have made friends online through Twitter and Instagram who I have gone on to meet in person, and have set up WhatsApp groups with other authors who are a wonderful source of daily support in what can be quite a lonely business.

What next for Nikki Smith?

I’m working on my second book which will be published in 2021 – I can’t tell you much about it, except that it’s a psychological suspense novel which involves families and secrets!


About Nikki

Nikki Smith studied English Literature at Birmingham University, before pursuing a career in finance. Following a ‘now or never’ moment, she applied for a Curtis Brown Creative course where she started writing this book. She lives near Guildford with her husband, two daughters and a cat who thinks she’s a dog. All In Her Head is her first novel.


You can buy ALL IN HER HEAD HERE

You can discover more about Nikki on social media





Thursday, 2 April 2020

Writing in Lockdown - The New Normal



This is a very strange post to write because we are all, writers and readers alike, in a very strange, unprecedented situation.

Coronavirus
Lockdown
self-isolation
social distancing

A few months ago, I'd never even heard of these things and if you'd told me they would soon be part of my everyday vocabulary, and affect every aspect of my life, I wouldn't have believed you.

So, how has this odd and scary situation affected me in general and as a writer in particular?

I thought I'd start with the not so good things and then finish with the good things (the best way I'm sure).

Not so good things

  • Even before we were required to stay in our homes as much as possible, I had anxiety issues about large social gatherings and travel in particular. My safe place was my home. I'm afraid that when this is all over, my brain will be whispering see you were right and my issues might get worse.

  • Despite what I've written above, I love going out and meeting people as long as it's in small groups or individually... and as long as it doesn't involve travelling long distances. I like to do this in measured doses though as too much socialising cuts into my writing time and I do like my own company and space. Because we can no longer go to cafes, WhatsApp, social media and video conferencing apps such as Zoom have come into their own. BUT... there are so many WhatsApp groups being formed, so many group chat requests, so many messages, so many phone calls. Frankly, it's overwhelming but, if I don't join in, I feel like I'll be judged or will be missing out on something.

  • Anxiety in the first week (before the full-lockdown) meant I wasn't able to concentrate on writing, so little was done.

  • I'm a full-time writer. I write on my own at home with my dog. I have my own space and time to organise things as I want. Now, I have both my husband and my adult daughter at home which requires a different way of working and thinking. Every day feels like a weekend. Thankfully, at the end of week one, we've found ourselves a routine of sorts and it doesn't seem to have affected my productivity (more of this in the 'good' things section).

  • My eldest daughter is a key worker in the prison service which is a constant worry.

  • I miss going to cafes. I miss visiting National Trust Gardens. I miss my ballroom dancing. I'm desperately sad I won't be visiting the Highlands and Skye for the first time in May. I miss seeing my friends and the members of my family who don't live with me. 

Good things

  • At the moment we are all well.

  • We live in a small town in the country so we have walks from our doorstop (river and downland). It would be nice to go further afield but I know we're very lucky.

  • As I said earlier, my husband is now working from home and I have my youngest adult daughter living with us. Despite my worries about how it would affect my working day, now that we're all used to rubbing along with each other, it actually makes the day more varied. There's always someone to chat to when I need a break and people to share the dog walk with. As long as I get my daily word count done at some time in the day, there are now other interesting things to do and share with my family.

  • I am still able to have my monthly teacakes and goal setting with writing pal Tracy. We've been having monthly meet-ups for the last eight years and a bit of social distancing isn't going to stop us!

  • Despite all of the clubs and activities I belong to closing (I do ballroom and Latin dancing, badminton, choir, Pilates and Fitsteps) my daughter and I have discovered a wealth of material online to help us stay fit. We've tried Pilates, yoga and have started Jo Wicks' morning workout (that was certainly a killer the day after).

  • As a family, we've rediscovered activities we used to play when the children were younger: boules, swingball and indoor darts. And have realised you don't need children to still enjoy them.



  • My daughter and I have also been learning new skills. She's learning German and we're both learning to play the ukulele. It's a really easy instrument to learn and we now have a repertoire of around ten songs which don't sound too bad, if I do say so myself.


It's and odd situation to be in but we're making the best of it.  

I'd like to finish this post by wishing all my readers the very best in these difficult times and hope you stay well and happy.


Tuesday, 3 March 2020

Cover Reveal of The Bride


Over the last few months, I have been welcoming guests to my blog to talk about their writing and their books but today it's back to me!

I'm delighted that after weeks of keeping it under wraps, I can now reveal the cover of my third psychological thriller, The Bride, and I couldn't be more excited.

But that's not all. The Bride is now available for pre-order on Amazon which will mean you can have it land on your kindle or doorstep on publication day (May 20th).

I actually think this stage of the publishing process is my favourite - better even than publication day. That's because on cover reveal day you have the excitement of letting people see what the book looks like without the anxiety of whether you'll get good or bad reviews. It's all good!

I have loved every one of my Bookouture covers and this one is no exception. Three cheers for my fabulous cover designer! I love how for each book, the font for the titles and author name remain the same (strengthening the 'Wendy Clarke' brand) while the colours change. This means each novel is individual rather than a clone of the others. For What She Saw, the colour choice was blue and red with red lettering, for We Were Sisters, indigo and pink with yellow lettering, and for The Bride, red, black and white with white lettering.

Also, each cover has a 'motif' that gives a clue to something that happens in the novel. What She Saw had an abandoned pair of children's shoes (child in jeopardy) in We Were Sisters it was a child's ribbon tied to a railing (missing child). With The Bride it's a white and black rose... I wonder what that could symbolise?

If you'd like to pre-order The Bride, the link is here. Amazon UK  Amazon US



Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Life as a Debut Author - Guest Post Emma Jackson


I love inviting author friends onto my blog. Today, the lovely Emma Jackson, a fellow member of the RNA, is going to talk about her life as a debut author.

Over to you, Emma.



Life as a Debut Author


Your dream has come true – now what?

When your goal is to become a published author, it’s likely to be a long, hard slog and that moment of signing the contract or getting ‘the call’ shines like a pot of gold at the end of your sludgy rainbow. You battle through the slush pile and a publisher finally, finally, wants your manuscript (and maybe a second or third). It’s amazing and all your dreams have come true…

But.

Where is the instruction manual?

If you have an agent, maybe this part isn’t so mind-boggling but these days more and more authors within commercial fiction don’t. I’ve heard it said that it’s easier to get published than to get an agent and we know how hard that is! So, if you don’t have an agent, you’re in new territory without someone dedicated to explaining everything to you and advising you accordingly on how to make the best start of your career. You probably expect there to be an editing stage or two but other than that, the reality of how your life is about to change will only become clear as time passes, and new challenges are revealed. I thought it might be helpful to lay out a few of the milestones I came across here:

Congratulations - now you are running a business!

Hold on, you might think, it’s all about the creativity for me. Well, I’m afraid I must burst that bubble. Of course, if you write, you do it because you love it. (Goodness knows you’d have to be majorly deluded to get into it for the money.) But, once you’ve committed to a contract with a publisher, you have obligations, deadlines, legal clauses to try to wrap your head around, tax to pay, and lots and lots of emails to deal with. Perhaps you imagined being an author under contract would mean you could finally find the time to drink tea and gaze out the window, waiting for inspiration because your talent has been validated and people would respect your creative needs? Hmm. Not so much. Instead, it’s more likely you will be hunched over your phone or laptop, agonising over how to word each email with your editor, whether it be about your account details for their financial department or organising the best time for your cover reveal on social media, which leads me nicely into…

Effective marketing or unicorns – which do you believe in more?

You have a hard-won deal to shout about and a cover and pre-order link to show off, so you are likely to take to social media and share it with everyone on the internet. Your publisher may or may not have a specific amount of marketing they want you to do – whether it means being present on as many social media platforms as you can stomach or simply making yourself available for a few days when your book launches. However, one thing is inescapable, unless you have signed a five-figure deal, the marketing will be left largely to you. Tread carefully. On the one hand, the internet and our smart technical gadgets make it a lot easier to market ourselves and our books. On the other hand, this means there is now a new, never-ending list of ‘to-do’s’ and the social media office never closes. If you’re not careful you can burn yourself out trying to promote your book. This may be a job but there should be a balance, because your career as an author has to fit alongside your normal life, just the same way your day job does (which you are likely to still have) and your responsibilities to family and friends and, of course, yourself still exist. Take a break, go for a walk, speak to people in the real world and put the phone down occasionally!  

Reviews – the Schrödinger’s cat best left in the box?

On a last note about keeping a healthy work life balance, I would just like to talk about the minefield of reviews. You want to know what people think of your book when it is finally out there in the public domain. After the creative expression of writing it, the thought of sharing it with readers was the point. Perhaps you imagined someone would read that really clever line you wrote in Chapter Sixteen and be moved to tears or laughter by it and how else will you find out unless you read reviews? But beware…where there are five starred reviews there will also, in all probability, be one-star reviews (particularly on the hellscape that is Goodreads). It’s a known phenomenon of our psychology that it takes five positive comments to repair the damage of one negative. Bad reviews can really knock you off you’re stride if you are a sensitive soul. And there is literally nothing you can do about them. Your book is out there and it’s scary because it’s going to get judged but you did your best so you may as well move on to the next story, or piece of cake, whatever makes you happy.

Finally, remind yourself at regular intervals that you achieved something amazing – it can be easy to forget as you get busier and busier. Be kind to yourself


Author Biography

Author of the Best Selling A MISTLETOE MIRACLE, published in 2019 by Orion Dash, Emma has been a devoted bookworm and secret-story-scribbler since she was 6 years old. When she’s not running around after her two daughters and trying to complete her current work-in-progress, Emma loves to read, bake, catch up on binge-watching TV programmes with her partner and plan lots of craft projects that will inevitably end up unfinished. Her next romantic comedy, SUMMER IN THE CITY, is due for release in June 2020.

Emma also writes historical and speculative romantic fiction as Emma S Jackson. THE DEVIL'S BRIDE was published by DarkStroke in February 2020.




You can find out news about Emma via her website www.esjackson.co.uk or on:
Twitter
Facebook
Instagram 

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

The Darker Side of Crime - Guest Post Lorraine Mace


I first 'met' this week's guest, Lorraine Mace, when I was lucky enough to win the Flash500 Novel Opening and Synopsis competition which she runs. That win helped me to secure my publishing deal with Bookouture and, since that day, Lorraine has been nothing but supportive of my work. Lorraine is a columnist for Writing Magazine and Writers' Forum and is head judge for Writers' Forum's monthly fiction competitions. She writes a series of crime novels featuring D.I. Stirling and I couldn't wait to ask her some questions.

Here are her answers.



You write crime. Have you always written in this genre?

No, my first completed novel was written for children in the 8-12 age range. I thought that was where I wanted to be as a writer, but I used to (still do) read a lot of crime and psychological thrillers and wondered if I could create something others would love to read: the D.I. Sterling series was born. The series is definitely on the darker end of the crime spectrum.

Which writers in your genre inspire you?

I enjoy a few American authors for the way they bring their characters to life on the page, such as Michael Connelly, Dennis Lehane and John Lescroat. British favourites include Val McDermid, Sheila Bugler and Chris Curran.

Do you remember where you were and what you were doing when the idea for your latest novel came to you?

Rage and Retribution came about because I saw a programme covering how few rapes are reported, compared to rapes committed. I wondered what would happen if a vigilante type person had incontrovertible knowledge of rapes committed but never reported and that person decided to carry out a programme of retribution.

Are you a plotter or a pantster and how long does it take you to write your thrillers?

I think I must being a plotting panster! I always know the crime, the villain and how the novel will end. I try to plot each chapter, but all too often characters and subplots appear as I’m writing, which means I have to incorporate issues I hadn’t even considered when I started out.

I can get a first draft down in a few months, but then the real work starts – edit, rewrite, edit, rewrite, edit … and so on.

Could you describe your typical writing day?

I try to write between 9 and 11 each morning, but am not always able to stick to it. I am involved in so many different fields of the writing industry that sometimes deadlines for articles or critiques have to take precedence.

I’m sure my readers would love to hear about your road to publication. Was it long and winding or did you take a short cut?

When I moved to France in 1999, I needed something to do and foolishly believed getting short fiction accepted would be easy. After more rejections than I care to think about, I was lucky enough to hit the right note and was paid the grand sum of £300.

I used the money to fund a Writers Bureau course and discovered I had a knack for writing humour pieces. This led to being offered a column in Living France Magazine. I subsequently moved to Spain and wrote a similar humour column for Spanish Magazine. For the last ten years I’ve been the humour columnist for Writing Magazine.

Writing novels came much later. The children’s book, Vlad the Inhaler- Hero in the Making, was written in 2005 and my first crime novel was completed in 2012.

Do you ever struggle to find inspiration?

No! If anything, I struggle to turn off the inspiration gene. I have more ideas in my head (and languishing on my hard drive) than I will ever have time to write.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I live in a small village in Spain and enjoy trying out my appalling Spanish on the locals in tapas bars. My partner and I are both keen joggers and try to run at least five times a week. Apart from that, I spend as much time as I can with my family. I am doing my best to enjoy life, as who knows what is around the corner?

What suggestions do you have to help a writer write better?

Join a good writing group and be open to criticism. You don’t have to follow all the advice you are given, but you should take each piece seriously and ask yourself if there is any merit in what has been said.

What next for Lorraine Mace?

The fifth in the D.I. Sterling series has already been accepted by Headline Accent, so there will be editing and rewrites for that, I’m sure. I am currently writing number six. After that, I have the outline for a standalone psychological thriller.


Born and raised in South East London, Lorraine lived and worked in South Africa, on the Island of Gozo and in France before settling on the Costa del Sol in Spain. She lives with her partner in a traditional Spanish village inland from the coast and enjoys sampling the regional dishes and ever-changing tapas in the local bars. Her knowledge of Spanish is expanding. To stop her waistline from doing the same, she runs five times a week.
When not working on her D.I. Sterling series of crime novels, Lorraine is engaged in many writing-related activities. She is a columnist for both Writing Magazine and Writers' Forum and is head judge for Writers’ Forum monthly fiction competitions. A tutor for Writers Bureau, she also runs her own private critique and author mentoring service.

Find her at:


You can buy Lorraine's books here: