Sunday, 19 November 2017

Adapting a Lifelong Dream


This is one of my longest breaks between blog posts during my nine years of blogging. For some weeks now I've been feeling reluctant to dish out another opinion when the online world seems so saturated with them. Even Twitter, which forced people to be concise, has upped its word count from 140 to 280.

Not wanting to bore you with unenlightened views about things I'm no expert in, I took to doodling with sharpie pens instead. My new hobby explains my latest blog header which I fear makes me look like a kids' author! (I'll bash out another one more in keeping with my novels at some point.)

Although I haven't been blogging, I do write every day. The dream of making a living from writing did quietly come true thanks in part to being a big fish (published, bilingual author) in a small pond (Mallorca). I'm currently working on a What's On guide for abcMallorca, which hopefully means I'll stop staring blankly at people when they ask me for recommendations on what to do on the island! 

The title of the blog refers to my childhood dream of becoming a published author with an agent and a traditional publisher. To cut a long story short, I did get all that and at the time it was so thrilling. Yet, as I explained in my interview with Paul Teague of Self-Publishing Journeys podcast, in the end this dream really was a huge disappointment that has taken me a while to come to terms with.  

I was so eager to be published that I accepted not being paid any money for the books upfront. I assumed I'd make money because such a big company was bound to sell thousands. But the big publisher did minimal marketing and low royalties meant that two years of work for two books barely earned me enough to pay a month's rent.

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results... So this summer I published The Hen Party under my own brand Little Cactus. To date the book has sold more in three months than my traditionally published books did in a year. 

The experience proved to me what I could achieve if I invested time and money into not only creating a good book, but into advertising and promotion. A number of local publications featured the The Hen Party and although it's difficult to get reviews, the ones so far have been very positive. I have to thank all my readers who trust I can write and couldn't care less who publishes my books!

Knowing I could succeed independently made me desperate to recuperate my rights for my other novels, The Temp and #PleaseRetweet, and relaunch them with better covers, and in the case of The Temp, with the original title Spray Painted Bananas, which was so successful on Wattpad.  

For a time it looked like the publisher weren't going to give me my rights back. As long as the books made 100 pounds a year they could keep them. Rarely have I felt so furious. I would find myself awake in the early hours composing angry emails. How dare they prevent me from earning a living from books that I had worked so hard on?

That rage has since passed. I said what needed to be said. Next April, I'll get my rights back for both novels and I will release them with new branding and covers that more faithfully reflect my style of writing and myself as an author.

It has been a period of limbo... but I'm finally coming out the other side. I could write a letter to my younger self advising her not to be blinded by the traditional dream, but in the end I know I would do it all again, because my dream was so strong.  

If I don't make The Sunday Times Bestseller list, win a literary award, or have my books in Waterstones, then so be it. What matters to me now has become quite simple. I want to write great books which satisfy my readers, earn a decent wage for my work and enjoy the creative process from beginning to end. 






  

Monday, 9 October 2017

Cool Creatives - because caring for the planet doesn't have to be boring!

Saving the Planet is one of those things on the To Do list that you would happily clean the toilet to avoid. Or the oven. No one wants to clean the oven.  

It's too hard. Like tax returns. Or in my case, shortening a pair of trousers. At least with the trousers I could get them done for me. Cleaning the planet however, requires the cooperation of billions of people. As that's far too hard, it's tempting not bother to trying at all.  

For some, the word 'environmentally friendly' evokes boredom. For others, guilt. That's why I love it when I see people making their lives more eco by having fun and doing stuff they love.

Instead of feeling weighed down by the mission, we should take a leaf out of their book and embrace the challenge to live a more planet-friendly life by being more creative and innovative - or at least supporting the people who are.

These are just a few fabulous people I came across on Instagram who inspire me to think outside of the box:

1. Zero Waste Daniel - a fashion brand which makes all its clothes from 100% scrap material. It has a shop in NYC where you can pick the fabrics and they make it for you there and then.  Check out their amazing  collages...so clever!


Shopping in charity shops is also a great form of recycling. I used to be put off by the old clothes smell but the good news is you can wash them! ;) 

Try to get natural fibres if you can. The issue I've read about is that synthetic fibres release microplastic when they're washed - I still think recycling has got to better than not recycling though!

2. Kittie Kipper is an eco artist who repurposes ghosts nets and marine debris from the waters of the world. 

Isn't this rug gorgeous?





3. Knopfdesigns is a designer who turns chipped and unloved vintage plates into ceramic jewellery. They're beautiful and affordable and will make great presents. I must remember to check her site out ahead of Christmas!



4. Piera Lizzeri Upholstery - my childhood friend is inspiring when it comes to making and mending. Seeing what she can do, makes me look at old furniture and wonder about their true potential! 



Okay, so upcycling old chairs and sewing scraps of fabric together aren't going to set back global warming tomorrow... but isn't the idea of supporting an ethical, caring industry and owning original pieces that have been salvaged from landfill appealing?


Ever since I read the Greenpeace post 'there's no such thing as away' it gives me pause for thought when I chuck something in the bin.  I'm far from living a perfect eco-friendly lifestyle but I quite fancy living a life which exercises my creativity for the benefit of this beautiful planet. 


*


My latest book The Hen Party has a little eco twist too...but it's still fun and at just £2.99 for the ebook won't make you feel guilty either! 









Saturday, 7 October 2017

Oh, you stupid pointless plastic spoon!


I've opened a new anonymous facebook account from which to run my facebook author page. It means I can still enjoy the safe supportive atmosphere of my page but can avoid being bombarded by news and opinions on my personal page.  

My motivation is a desire for freedom. Freedom from all those emotional reactions that inevitably arise whenever I scroll through my feed.

For instance, it's been hard to avoid reading bitter comments about Catalonia. But what's the point of poking the wound by reading about it all the time?  

"It will all come to pass," my  (Catalan and Spanish) father says, sounding more like the Bible than a whatsapp text message.

Two weeks on and I'm doing well in my quieter, happier world. I'm calm. I'm accepting the world as it it. But then a friend takes me for an ice cream and it begins... the first stirring of emotion as she decides to try different flavours and for each flavour the woman serving has to give her a new little plastic spoon.   

It is as it is, I think, as the spoons mount on the counter. At least I can avoid more unnecessary plastic use by being decisive about my choice. I ask for an almond cone.

The woman serves up it up and before I can say anything, she reaches for a spoon and plunges it into my ice cream.

"I don't need it!" I say, but of course it's too late. She takes the spoon out to throw it away. One second of use and that spoon will now last on the planet a few hundred years. "Oh you're going to throw it away now?" I say helplessly. "I was trying not to use so much plastic."

My friend has finally decided on her flavour.

"You don't need to give her a spoon," I say, "she already has three!"

The woman smiles and says she won't. She probably thinks I'm a bore. But after she dishes up the ice cream she reaches for the spoon because it's so automatic. She stops herself just in time but it fills me with gloom thinking how many she must pointlessly dole out each day.

"If only other people were as environmentally conscious as you," the woman says brightly.

It strikes me as such a stupid thing to say. She's not giving people a chance! She's the one automatically reaching for spoons even though people have been successfully eating ice cream from a cone without the need for plastic for over a hundred years!

Later, as I sit on the beach, trying to listen to my friend, my mind keeps wandering to that spoon. Though there are far worse things happening in the world, many that I would have read about during the day had I been on facebook, it was that little pointless plastic spoon that made me lose my inner calm.

Perhaps because it was so simple to solve and yet wouldn't be solved. Perhaps because it was a crime against nature and nature doesn't have a religious or political agenda. It's easier to be on the side of nature than all these megalomaniacs running the world...  

Clearly it's impossible to shut ourselves off from everything that upsets us. But we do have  a choice in how we deal with it. I'm not going to let that spoon ruin the rest of my week - but I would be pleased if anyone reading this made a point of shouting out 'no thank you' to the ice cream server lunging to give you a pointless spoon!!


Related post: 6 Beauty Spots in Mallorca and 1 Ugly Problem











Friday, 15 September 2017

Life-changing Pot (not THAT kind)

The journalist leans forward, intrigued. "So how did your pot painting career begin?"

"Quite unexpectedly," I reply, smiling as if it were the first time I've told the story. "My neighbour was moving out and gifted me this large terracotta pot... normally I love terracotta but this one was a very faded and lifeless colour."

(Please note: the photo is deceptive because here it has just been washed and is wet!)


I tell her how the previous week I'd bought red spray paint to give new life to an old metal herb dispenser.

"So you see I had this dull terracotta pot and this can of bright red spray paint in the house... and I thought why not spray paint the pot?"

The journalist's eyes narrows as she tries to anticipate the rest of the story. After all, I'm a famous sharpie artist not a spray painter. But the spray painting does play a key part.




"My original plan was to paint the pot red on the top and red at the bottom, a white middle, and a sleek red line running through it... I thought the white would cover any small smears of red that had run beneath the line, but instead it just turned pink."

"You should have sanded off the excess paint," she blurts out.

I smile patiently.  "Yes... but if it had worked out perfectly I wouldn't have decided to blow caution to the wind and use my sharpie pens."


I then tell her what I've already told all the other magazines reporters. I tell her about the pure joy I felt once I started drawing.

"I'd been feeling really irritated that day, but as soon as I started doodling on that pot all my worries faded away and I felt so happy. I felt like I wanted to do this for the rest of my life."


Behind us, I'm aware of the photographer taking snaps of me and feel a little self-conscious. It's funny, because I always thought I'd be famous for writing, not painting pots.

"You say doodling..." she says, raising her eyebrow, wanting more.

"It's free hand.. I make it up as I go along. In fact, doodling is something I've always done to  relax..."


....CUT!!! That was just a daydream!
But seriously, do you like my pot? I'll sell it to the highest bidder! Do you want me to paint you one? I had so much fun doing it I want to do more and mooooooooore!

Can you tell I've gone completely potty?!


(I'll be posting pics on Instagram...)

____________________________________________________________________

And for my non-pot career! I hope you enjoy my latest novel The Hen Party!







                                

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Human being first, nationality second!

(Más abajo encontraras la versión en español)



When did it become normal to openly wish other people would die?

For instance, I've stumbled across far too many online comments calling for coastguards to leave refugees to drown. I understand people being unhappy about immigration, but do they really want these people to be killed? Would they do it themselves? Would they then think the world was a better place? 

Do they not realise these people are human beings too, who feel pain and joy, just like them but by chance were born on the other side of the world?

The rise of nationalism makes me feel uneasy. There seems to be increasing division in both countries I come from as well as the rest of the globe. Where does it leave those of us who aren't 100% of one nation? What about the many of us whose families are from different countries and of different races?

I always felt the need to explain I was half and half, but I remember my brother saying it wasn't important to him. He was human, that was enough. It took me a while to catch up with his wisdom. But yes, he's right, where I come from is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.

People say it all the time; how they feel proud to be from their nation. It's odd, because it's not something you've worked to achieve. It's just chance that you were born in whatever country you were born and to whatever nationality parents. It makes more sense to be proud of something you've become, or you've created or worked at.

Being from somewhere is a given. I love both my countries and culture, but it seems clear to me that growing into the sort of human being that I can be proud of is more important than being proud simply for being born in a certain place. 




(versión en español)


Seres humanos primero, nacionalidad segundo 

¿ Cuando empezó a considerarse normal desear abiertamente que otras personas se mueran?

Por ejemplo, me he tropezado con demasiada frecuencia en la web con comentarios aconsejando a los guardacostas que dejen que los refugiados se ahoguen.Entiendo que haya gente que le disguste la inmigración,  ¿pero están seguros de que verdaderamente desean ver a esta gente asesinada?

¿No se dan cuenta de que estas personas también son seres humanos, que sienten alegría y dolor como todos nosotros pero por azar nacieron al otro lado del mundo?

El progresivo crecimiento del nacionalismo me inquieta. Observo el progresivo aumento de la división en los dos países de mi origen, y también en el resto del globo. ¿En que posición nos encontramos los que no somos el 100% de una sola nación? ¿En que situación quedamos todos aquellos cuyas familias son originarias de distintos países y razas?

Siempre he sentido la necesidad de explicar que soy "medio y medio", aunque recuerdo a mi hermano decir que no valía la pena explicar nada a nadie pues todo eso no era importante para el. Con ser un ser humano el ya tenia suficiente. Tarde bastante tiempo en alcanzar su sabiduría. Es cierto, tiene razón, el lugar en que he nacido es irrelevante dentro de el gran esquema de la vida.

La gente habla siempre de lo orgullosa que se siente de pertenecer a su nación. Resulta raro, a fin de cuentas es el extraño orgullo de identificarse con algo que no les ha costado nada alcanzarlo.

Solo el azar ha querido que uno naciera en una nación o en otra, o que nuestros padres fuesen de una nacionalidad u otra. Tiene mucho mas sentido o seria mucho mas inteligente que uno se sintiera orgulloso de haber alcanzado alguna noble meta, o de haber logrado crear algo por lo cual se ha esforzado..


Ser del lugar que uno sea es algo que se nos ha dado. Yo amo a mis dos países y su cultura, pero sinceramente creo que el desarrollarse y convertirse en un verdadero ser humano del cual podamos sentirnos orgullosos es mucho mas importante que el hecho de sentirse orgulloso de haber nacido en un lugar determinado.





__________________________________________________________________________


Now for something a LOT lighter! ;)


And if you've read it and enjoyed it, I'd really appreciate an amazon review




Wednesday, 6 September 2017

The non-stylish lifestyle blog

My friend told me she hated the term 'lifestyle blogger'. She probably didn't realise it was scribbled across the header of my blog. It made me consider what a lifestyle blog should be.

Stylish Living?

A proper lifestyle blog should probably have lots of glamorous and uplifting interior design shots. The perfect home. The peaceful oasis. Japanese or Nordic-inspired furnishings. I did share a picture of our 'cactus wall' once. Unfortunately, the chilli plant has since died...



Stylish Eating?

Possibly a lifestyle blog should include the occasional healthy recipe and artistic snaps of mouth-watering dishes. I tried to take a picture of my smoothie one morning, but it came out too dark. I also can't find conclusive evidence that juice is good for you.

Once I googled: Is orange juice good for you? 

The first articles to appear were: 7 Impressive Benefits of Orange Juice and Why juice is slowing killing you! I'm no expert so I'd hate to mislead anyone with pretty pictures.

Eco? 

Any self-respecting lifestyle blog should probably mention the word sustainable every so often. All these instagrammers posting pictures of takeaway coffee cups and cocktails littered with straws may as well be posting textagrams with: I heart landfill or Kill all the turtles! 

Too harsh? Maybe. But If only 7% of all plastic is recycled then it's worth considering whether it might be better to suck up the inconvenience of say, proper plates at a party, rather than using plastic ones which will hang around the planet for hundreds of years. Just throw it away? In the words of Greenpeace: There is no such thing as away

Okay, as you can see, I'm down with the trying to be more eco thing... 

Stylish DIY Ideas?

I've got one! I upgraded our knackered herb dispenser last night by spray painting it bright red so that's an idea you can have if you like... you're welcome!





To be honest I don't know if it would have been more eco to throw it away rather than repainting it, but it makes me happy when I look at it and I believe you should indulge your creative urges. I'm thinking of funking up an old terracotta pot with white and red stripes next. 

Conclusion... 

It's may not be the sleekest lifestyle blog, but I hope you enjoy it.  I'd always be happy to hear your suggestions and what you'd love more of! 






Friday, 1 September 2017

If at first you don't succeed...

I'm back on track again! After writing my last blog post on why writing wasn't getting any easier, I decided it was time to rise above notebooks. 

I stuck brown packing paper to the wall and I began to scribble. I jotted down all the action timelines of my different characters and miraculously it all came together. It's not crystal clear, I'm not sure I'd swim in it, but it's not too muggy either.   


Could it be the meditating? The yoga? Not drinking? I don't know which. Perhaps a combination. I just know my new routine has given me the space and mental energy to get down the first 10,000 words of my novel this week. Decent words too, not first draft literary diarrhea. 

Looking back through my posts I noticed that it wasn't all that long ago I was raving about a similar super duper routine; how I was getting up early and doing yoga and bla bla bla... and I don't know what happened because I was really feeling good by the sound of it...

But as that gorgeous Karl in Love Actually once said: Life is full of interruptions and complications... 


That doesn't mean we can't pick it up again. Or just implement whatever change just one or two days a week. And if we don't manage that, start with once a month. There isn't a time limit on going after what you want. 

Just start wherever, whenever. Don't set impossible goals. Don't decide to run more than you've ever run before work, or write more than you've ever written after work when you're knackered, or lose stupid amounts of weight in two weeks... so many people set themselves up for failure then get demoralised and never try again.

Very likely I'll fall out of this routine and I'll come back to this post and wonder why, if I was feeling so good, did I stop. Well, I'm not a robot and life isn't black or white. 

My aim is to be healthy, happy and write loads of books I'm proud of - so I'll keep coming back to the routine that helps me get there again and again.. and again!



Add caption






Friday, 25 August 2017

Shouldn't writing books get easier?


I'm determined to write a new novel by the end of the year.  I keep reassuring myself that I've STILL got time. With September looming, I've just drawn up a word count chart to cross off each one thousand words I write. It's hardly a magic solution.  I've lost count of how many charts I've thrown away this year.

I started working on the idea for a new book last year. One moment I felt like I knew what I was doing, the next minute the plot would slip through my fingers like sand.  The title changed, the sub plots changed. I did consider giving up on it entirely but the characters are pursuing me. Some of them have been nagging at me for eight months.

With The Hen Party selling well (thank you everyone!) I wanted to have a new book out as quickly as possible. Those who enjoyed The Hen Party should like the next one. It's also going to be set in sunny Mallorca with multiple characters, humour and drama. 'Comedy mystery' - The Euroweekly News called it, a term I like very much. 


I've lost count of how many times I've started this new book. My creative process is flawed. I generally write a third of a book before I realise it's not quite right. I'm pleased with my writing, but there's something off with the plot.  

The thing is, I want to write the kind of novel I love to read. Whenever I get stuck, reading helps me overcome the block. My recent book haul included the highly amusing The Rosie Project  and sharp, hilarious Chart Throb by Ben Elton. After reading them, it occurred to me (not for the first time), that what matters is that I write a great book and not how long it takes!


However.... I STILL have time to finish a first draft by December, right?! 








Monday, 7 August 2017

Mallorcan Traditions: The 48km Walk To Lluc


What I'm about to do is an "Expression of Mallorquin-ness" apparently. It's written on my passport. Una expressió de Mallorquinitat. Not a real passport, but the piece of paper I'm carrying to be stamped at different points during the 48km walk to Lluc monastery.

As I head to the starting point in Palma, I still don't really believe I'm about to spend the night walking. I'm quite a determined soul, but even I realise 48 kilometres (30 miles) is a LONG way. It's more than a marathon and I've never done one of those.

But walking is gentler, I assure myself. It's just a case of putting one foot in front of the other for a very, very long time.

Ten hours as it turns out and with very few and very short stops. The pain sets in if you stop and my four companions and I were well aware that the later we arrived the next morning, the hotter it would be. Mallorca has been experiencing a heat wave with highs of 38 degrees. At night it was still in the high twenties and my fingers grew all puffy and swollen.

It all began in 1974 with a few friends setting off from a bar to the monastery to thank the Virgin because a girl had escaped being injured in an accident. I'm guessing they'd been drinking!

The walk might have begun on a religious note but now it's become an adventure walk for teenagers. I was amazed how many there were. They weren't even using it as an excuse for getting up to mischief...

From 23.00 to 06.00 we were walking along tarmac roads under streetlights and the light of torches. It felt like New Year's Eve when everyone is looking for a taxi in the early hours of the morning; the kids with the ghetto blasters the typical ones looking for the after party.

I started to ache quite a lot after twenty kilometres and I was relieved I'd packed a cheeky hip flask. A few nips of rum definitely improved my mood. Other than that I was drinking loads of water, fruit and nuts.



At the four main stops at Santa Maria, Binissalem and Selva, we saw people with their shoes and socks off lying on the pavement looking like they would never get up again. It made me wonder how many actually finished.

At 6.15 we finally arrived at Selva where we were thrilled to find REAL ground coffee being served. Up until then the drinks stations had been rare and far between. At Selva we saw the sun rise and that's when the walk started to make more sense. The scenery around Lluc of the Tramuntana mountain range is really stunning. 



I can't help thinking - why not move the walk to a cooler season and do the whole lot in the day time?

But it's tradition I guess and it felt good to be a part of it. Hopefully it continues as it was almost cancelled this year due to low funds.  


My companions and I walked it to raise fund for the JoyRon Foundation, a local charity which helps vulnerable children. With the money raised they are making a cinema room in the hospital for kids who are terminally ill.  

Would I do it again?

Hmm... I'm sure there are other mad traditions to be tried out first! 


_______________________________________________________________________


Love all things Mallorca? Then you'll enjoy my novel The Hen Party set on the island!