A quick recap of 2019.

So that was that! Here we are (almost) at the end of December, traditionally time to look back and reflect on the passing year.

Brexit loomed large in many people’s thoughts. I was dismayed by the outcome of the election. Again. I voted. My family voted. It didn’t work, and now there’s nothing we can do but get on with our lives. When I was a child, they used to say of naughty boys, ignore him and he’ll get tired of showing off and go away. So that is my new strategy with regards to Brexit, and Boris. Onward and upward, guys, and let’s hope for better things next year.

This year, I’ve published two books. I released a stand-alone novel (never a good idea) called Easy Living. I’ve written a lot of books over the years. Some of them–okay, a lot of them–too dire to be inflicted on the reading public. But Easy Living has a very special place in my heart. And even though I knew it would only sell in small numbers (very small, actually), I wanted to release it anyway, just for myself. If you’re interested, you can find out a bit more about Easy Living here.

Then just a few short weeks ago I released The Thief of St Martins. It’s book 5 of the Dottie Manderson 1930s murder mysteries, and I’m so pleased to be able to say it is selling quite well, and a few people have said some wonderful things about it, which is so encouraging. It took me the best part of a year to write. I know these days we are all supposed to write between four and six novels a year, plus write blog posts, and put together special free giveaways, but I just can’t achieve that level of output–and I don’t know if that amount of pressure is healthy.

I do blog–see, look, I’m doing it right now–although I admit I’m not always sure what to blog about. I feel embarrassed talking about my books all the time, thinking that might be a big turn-off for readers. We Brits don’t cope well with self-promotion–from a very early age, we’re taught that it’s bad manners and is boastful. So I try to write about things I’ve discovered during my research, or I write to help or support other writers, because that’s writing what I know, as writing coaches (mistakenly) tell us to do. But I try to come up with something most weeks. I’m rewarded by lovely comments and conversations with people, and by seeing the numbers of my blog followers gently rising week on week.

What else have I done this year? I’ve read quite a lot. I’ve done some editing and proofreading, a lot of social media promo, and I’ve spent hours playing on Canva and Bookbrush, as I love to create simple graphics, and find it quite therapeutic and relaxing. I’ve also started drafting several novels and novellas, some of which may never be seen or heard of again, and some of which you (hopefully) will read next year.

What shall I do next year? I’ll be blogging again, of course. And reading, as always. And then I plan to release two novels in 2020, at least one of which will be a Dottie Manderson book. I’m starting serious work on The Spy Within: Dottie Manderson mysteries book 6 in January, and will hopefully finish the first draft by the start of March. If that seems a long way off, can I say that I’ve already written four chapters? Only another 18-20 to go…. I’ve got other ideas too, but who knows what will actually happen? There just isn’t enough time for all the ideas I want to write about. I might watch some TV. I’ll keep on with my Polish lessons. I might do a spot of gardening. Housework will come in there somewhere, way down the list. Maybe I’ll travel? Who knows?

So now all that’s left is for me to say a massive thank you to all my readers, to my friends and family, for the incredible, jaw-dropping support and encouragement I’ve received. I honestly couldn’t have done 2019 without you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Now, where’s the alcohol and chocolate?

***

The anti-social writer

This is what I overheard in a café in town a while ago: “I find that writers aren’t very nice to work with. One or two are okay, but most of them…well, they very much like to keep to themselves, don’t they? And they don’t like the competition either. It would be nice to have a chat, you know, but most of them just won’t. You get the odd one who will say ‘Hi’, but that’s about it.”

Needless to say, my ears were flapping as I tried (surreptitiously) to hear every word and quickly write it down as I knew I would forget it, and at the same time I’m trying to look casual and eat a caramel-topped, cream-filled doughnut (definitely high on my mental list of priorities, I don’t get out much), and hoping they won’t turn round and see me writing down their every word. I decided Lady Number One must work in a theatre or something, and the café we were in was close to Quad in Derby, where they run both writing doobries and theatrical thingies. (Please pause here to marvel at my expert use of the English language.)

She went on to talk about how some of the actresses had been very moved by the speeches they had to deliver. Lady Number Two was her friend-from-another-workplace and just kept nodding and agreeing.

Now I freely admit that we are all entitled to our opinions…

But…

I apologise on behalf of all writers everywhere if we aren’t as good at chatting as you would like us to be. It’s not always easy talking to someone you don’t really know too well. Just give us another chance…

Quite often it can be difficult to shut a writer up. Once you get them started, they can talk for hours – all that time spent alone with a journal or laptop means they rarely see actual humans, let alone enjoy conversation. But it’s also often said that a writer is busy with an internal life others are not privy to, working away at the coal-face of a tricky plot or puzzling over the intransigence of a character.

But maybe, like everyone else, sometimes writers are just rude. Or shy. Or nervous. Or feeling out of their depth. Or worried. Tired. Or maybe even wondering if their wife is having an affair, or if the kids are in trouble, or yes, about their work, if their plot is shallow or their characters wooden. Maybe they are looking at you and thinking, ‘Wow he/she would be the perfect victim in my next book’. Or an arch-villain.

Do we hear people complaining about dentists not being chatty enough? No. All too often, anecdotal evidence – and TV comedies – tell us that dentists love to talk and only ever require an answer if your mouth is full of putty, fingers, sharp objects, or that scary sucky gadget.

And no one complains that hairdressers don’t talk. Or lawyers. Or retail assistants. Or window cleaners. Usually lack of conversation is a bonus in everyday situations. So why do writers have to be so chatty?

Is it because we’re ‘wordsmiths’?

(I hate that word – so pretentious! Imagine me up all night, filing and drilling and smoothing then peering myopically through a loupe at my carefully crafted, gleaming word. Congratulations, it’s a pronoun!)

But I can’t deny that words are my – our – profession. Does that mean I have to share them constantly? Does a banker hand out free cash to all their friends and acquaintances? If only! Do my marketing and publishing contacts promise me freebies to help me sell my books? Nope! Again – if only!

No. We all inhabit our little solitary worlds. It’s not because I’m a writer that I’m rubbish at making conversation with a total stranger. It’s because I’m a human being. There are loads of things I’m rubbish at, making conversation is only one of them.

***

I didn’t recognise you in that media!

cat-1474092_1280

Apparently we all lie on our CV or Resume. I never did, but then I was brought up to believe that my sins would find me out, so I never took the chance. It would have been tempting to award myself a PhD in Business Management in the hope of landing a job paying big bucks, but I always knew that sooner or later, someone would come along and ask me that one deep question that would reveal my ignorance in all its glory. So I never lied on my CV.

But just like trolling, it seems we can often leave the straight and narrow behind once we get close to our keyboards. Bending the truth on your social media profile is okay, even desirable. Don’t get too carried away–the internet really isn’t as anonymous as we like to think. Out there somewhere are all the people who spotted that you had ditched another class back in the day, or that you got a terrible grade for that science homework, and they will tell all at the least opportune moment.

So keep yourself and your reputation squeaky clean. Don’t be tempted to exaggerate, let alone downright lie. There is no bigger fall than a public one, especially if you are hoping to use social media to market yourself for work or online business.

Keep to the truth. Don’t say you are a New York Times bestselling author if only your mum and your cat have read your book. Don’t post a profile pic of yourself that is thirty years/300 pounds out of date. Tell us what you have done with your life, we will understand if it’s not all been unalloyed success, we’ve all been there. Skate over the grimmer details by all means, but keep to the truth and don’t bluster or make excuses. Don’t spam. Don’t batter people with ‘buy my stuff’ messages and never, never, never put someone down if you don’t want it done to you.

Thanks for reading. Rant over.

***