You Don’t Get a Second Chance to Make a First Impression

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A dream come true! Couldn’t resist a ‘shelfie’ in Waterstones in Falkirk.

After writing hunners of thousands of words over the last ten years which made their way into short stories and three novels I FINALLY achieved my dream of having a book traditionally published. Along the way there were more rejections than boosts but I kept the faith and kept writing and I did it!

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With brilliant Falkirk launch host – writer Paul Cuddihy.

The climax of the ‘journey’ was to stand in front of my family and friends and read from Talk of the Toun at the packed launch events in Falkirk and Glasgow in association with Waterstones.

It was so exciting to get to this point but scary too as I didn’t want to disappoint the folk who’d encouraged and supported me along the way. This was a milestone in my life and not only did I want to enjoy it, I wanted it to be a success. I felt under pressure to live up to the hype I’d been drumming up for months. The nerves kicked in days before when it all started to feel surreal when I opened a copy of the Daily Record and the Herald and there was my book and my face in national newspapers. The madness continued with the blog tour meaning there was lots of online book banter and I still found it hard to get my head around the fact that I had readers, like a real writer!

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Glasgow launch host – talented writer Karen Campbell.

It’s a privilege to be published and an honour to think people want to spend their hard-earned cash and precious leisure time getting to know the characters I created.

It’s been a helluva ride and I’d like to take the chance to thank those who’ve helped me achieve my dream. Top of the list is my husband Donald, the love of my life, who has always believed in me and supported me every word of the way.

I am also lucky to count Karen Campbell and Anne Glennie as close friends and my unofficial mentors and they continue to be a great source of encouragement and inspiration.

 

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My MLitt classmates from Stirling University.

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Pals who took the cover theme to another level!

Credit too goes to my MLitt classmates and tutor Paula Morris, fellow Thunder Point writer Margot McCuaig, and far too many long-suffering pals to name here who acted as cheerleaders, minus the pom poms.

A special thank you must also go to Seonaid and Huw Francis at ThunderPoint who have worked hard to make Talk of the Toun a reality.

 

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Me with hubby and youngest son (unfortunately my eldest son had already left before the family photo shoot!).

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Sharing the moment with my proud mum and wee sister.

 

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My dog Jess loved Talk of the Toun – I hope if you read it you enjoy it too!

 

(Falkirk launch photos credited to Grandaddy Flash photography)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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As Easy As A Nuclear War

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I’ve been to Paul Cuddihy’s previous book launches to hear about his writing and also because one of my close pals is his sister-in-law so it’s a great excuse for a wee night out. Following Paul’s writing career has been an interesting ride as he’s the author of a trilogy of historical novels – Saints and Sinner, The Hunted and Land Beyond The Wave – as well as a non-fiction book, Read All About It, which charts his year of falling in love with literature again. As Easy As A Nuclear War is his first collection of short stories which link to the titles of Duran Duran songs. Not content with merely reading a few stories at the launch in Bishopbriggs Library, along with his specially formed band, PC and the Bookends, Paul treated his friends and family to a few of Duran Duran‘s hits. As a fan of Duran Duran, hearing songs like Rio took me back to 1982, all that was missing was the dodgy hairdo and leg warmers!

I was keen to learn more about Paul’s latest venture so I’ve fired a few questions at him…

What’s so special about the music of Duran Duran to inspire you to write a collection of short stories?

I have always been a fan of the band since I heard their first single, Planet Earth, back in 1981, and that has never wavered – I’m looking forward to their new album being released in the autumn and going to see them at the Hydro in Glasgow in December (I’ve already got the tickets). Like other bands from the ‘80s, their music takes me back to my teenage years, when I was younger, thinner and in possession of a full head of hair (which has now transferred itself to my chin!). I suppose nostalgia can be a positive or a negative thing. As long as you don’t look back with regrets or a longing for what might have been rather than what was and is now, then it can be enjoyable. I’ve had this project in mind for a long time, and it has taken me a while to write enough short stories to make up the collection, but it has been a real labour of love to complete, and I’m delighted to see it finally come to fruition.

What’s your favourite Duran Duran song and why?

Old PaulIt’s got to be Save A Prayer. There are a number of reasons for this – first and foremost because it’s a great song. It was back in August 1982 when it was released and it remains so to this day. As I mentioned about Duran Duran’s music, there’s also a real sense of nostalgia when I listen to it. I had just turned sixteen when it came out, and any time I hear the song, it does take me back to being in fifth year at Turnbull High School, Bishopbriggs, remembering all the people I was at school with, and the great time I had then. If I want to sound like a Duran Duran obsessive, I would also pick Secret Oktober, which was the B-side to their 1983 single, Union of the Snake, again, just because it’s a brilliant song.

What are the challenges of writing short stories as opposed to a novel?

I like writing short stories because everything’s contained within a very short form, and you can just offer a snapshot of what’s happening with the characters and then leave them. I think the best short stories are the ones where you feel you’ve stumbled into someone’s life and then you leave before anything comes to a definite conclusion. It’s a different discipline to writing a novel. For me, writing a novel involves a lot of planning before I actually start writing so that I know what I’m doing and where I’m going with the story, which gets more involved and complicated with every chapter. With a short story, I feel you can have the germ of an idea and then start writing and see where the story takes you.

What did you learn from putting a collection together and what tips would you offer other short story writers?

photo.JPG hhhhhIn putting these stories together, the common theme with them all is the fact they’re named after Duran Duran songs. The stories themselves don’t really have any other connection. When I was working out the order in which they appear in the book, I tried to vary the story lengths, so that after reading one that might be 4,000 or 5,000 words long, the reader would get a breather through reading something shorter, maybe about 1,000 words, or even shorter than that. There are also five stories in the book, each of which has a link to one of the original five members of the band, and they are all between 400-600 words in length.

I think short stories can be great in terms of practising your writing, being able to tell a full story without feeling like you’re going to run out of steam or get lost in some aspect of the plot. They’re also a good way of trying out different writing styles or trying to find your writing voice, and many short stories have subsequently gone on to be developed into fully-formed novels.

The market for short stories is supposedly booming. Do you think it’s because readers find them easy to digest and the bite sized chunks can provide an emotional buzz or epiphany in one quick hit?

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What’s your latest writing project?

I’m working on a couple of things just now – a novel which involves a road trip from Glasgow to Benbecula with three generations of the same family, and a book of poetry called ‘Life Is Just Like The Jeremy Kyle Show’, with each poem the title of a Jeremy Kyle episode. For example, ‘Why would I tattoo your initials on my face if I’d cheated?’ Now, who wouldn’t want to read that poem!

You can contact Paul via www.paulcuddihy.com or on Twitter @PaulTheHunted. You can also email him at duranduran@paulcuddihy.com
And if all this talk of Duran Duran makes you want to relive your youth, sit back and enjoy the original version (no offence Paul!) of Rio…

Panic Over a Podcast

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(The cute French bulldog pic is especially for Anne, my colleague and great buddy).

When I received an email inviting me to take part in writer Paul Cuddihy’s series of ‘Read All About It’ podcasts, my first reaction was one of confusion. Why was he asking me? It might help explain why to know that Paul is the brother-in-law of my friend Helen (she’s known as big ‘H’ in comparison to me, wee ‘H’ but in height only, I’m much wider!) so maybe he was desperate for willing victims and was scouring his list of connections.

I thanked him for the invite, said I was flattered but really and truly I didn’t believe that anyone would be in the least bit interested (self-esteem issues, who me?) in my answers to the five questions he set each of his guests. And yet, he replied that he definitely did want me to share my thoughts on my reading likes and dislikes and genuinely did want me to agree to take part. This led to my second reaction.

PANIC!

I have never done a podcast in my life.

I HATE the sound of my own voice (surely I sound more sophisticated than that???)

downloadAnd then there was the endless list of ‘What ifs?’

What if I make an arse of myself and stutter and stumble over the questions?

What if my answers are boring and stupid?

What if I make a mistake?

What if I talk gibberish?

And what if?…

There seemed like a lot of ‘What ifs?’ to panic about.

But, fighting off my inner critic (again!!!), I agreed to do it.

images (1)Here are a couple of reasons: my hubby encouraged me to “put myself out there”, and in the spirit of my last blog post, ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’, I wanted (some might say perversely) to challenge myself…

The ‘grow a pair’ decision meant I met up with Paul and put myself in the firing line (completely the wrong phrase relating to a man who welcomed me, put me at ease and listened as if I had something worth saying) to answer the following five questions:-

1. Favourite book from childhood

2. Favourite book from school/university/teenage years

3. A book you’d recommend to anyone

4. A book you couldn’t be paid to read again

5. The last book you read or are currently reading

After listening to the podcast, I cringed as much as I’d expected. I still HATE the sound of my own voice and I’d no idea that I used the expression, “Absolutely” or “Exactly” so often. It would make a good competition to count the number of times I repeat the same words (please don’t, there’s no prize on offer!) and I really don’t want the embarrassment of knowing the total.

If you want to endure my answers, click on the link.  Or a smarter move would be to click on this link to find out more about Paul’s new book and buy it here Read All About It.

Have you ever done a podcast? How would you answer Paul’s questions?

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Writers Write

So, my last post was guest writer, Paul Cuddihy sharing his top ten tips for writing and the most obvious one was no. 10- WRITE!!! It’s simple. Writers write.

But if you need external encouragement you could always sign up to NaNoWriMo (National Writing Novel Writing Month) to keep your momentum going. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, Nanowrimo is an annual internet-based creative writing project which challenges participants to write 50,000 words of a new novel between November 1 and 30 and it accepts entries from around the world.

The project started in 1999 with just 21 participants, but by the 2010 event over 200,000 people took part – writing a total of over 2.8 billion words. I’ve never participated before but I did consider it this year, albeit only for a nanosecond (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

But why when I claim to be a writer do I need a gimmick to keep me going?

I read a tweet recently by a writer saying if you call yourself a writer then you should be writing a minimum of 100 words a day (Paul and most other serious writers do 1000+) and if not, why not? No excuses.

I had to hang my head in shame.

I haven’t written a word of fiction since I submitted my dissertation at the end of August. Did I have a good excuse? Well I could say that after a piece of writing has been reworked over and over again, I was sick of the sight of my dissertation by the time I handed it in. Or I could say that I was busy looking for a new day job now that the course has ended but lots of writers work full-time and still manage to reach their daily word count. Or I could say that after moving house I had lots of DIY projects to keep me away from the laptop.

Or I could just be honest and say that I am a writer that isn’t writing at the moment, no excuses.

I have an idea though. It’s THE story I believe that I need to tell. Some writers would start scribbling the minute they had the idea but I’m letting my story-line grow until the roots have formed properly and it is ready to poke its head into the daylight and sprout leaves. I’ve also been reading a lot to inspire me. If not having a daily word count to boast about means I can’t call myself a writer then so be it. For now anyway…

Paul Cuddihy’s Top 10 Writing Tips

The Sunburdz aka- Gwen, Helen, Elaine and me- wee H, posing with the ship’s Captain

In 2004, I went on a Caribbean cruise with three good friends from work- Gwen, Elaine and the other much taller Helen. The ship was called the Sunbird and we instantly renamed our quartet, the Sunburdz (although my hubby says we’re getting more like auld craws as the years go by) and it inspired my first novel. One of the Sunburdz , my big pal, Helen, knew about my passion for writing and introduced me to her brother-in-law, the writer, Paul Cuddihy, the editor of the Celtic View magazine and Glasgow’s answer to Dan Brown.

I’ve followed Paul’s writing career since the launch of his début novel, Saints and Sinners in 2010. The novel is ‘a fast-paced historical thriller set in Victorian Glasgow which brilliantly captures the desperation and poverty in the Irish immigrant community of the city’s East End.’ Saints and Sinners is told through the varying perspectives of the three main characters – a fugitive, a priest and a prostitute: two brothers and the woman they both love. It’s a compelling story of love and betrayal, obsession and faith – and the consequences of trying to run from the past.  Paul’s even written two songs inspired by his first novel and you can download The Ballad of Dan Foley and Kate’s  Song from Paul’s website.

Paul followed up his successful début with The Hunted and completed the trilogy with his latest book, Land Beyond the Wave. I was lucky to receive an invite to the recent launch  in Glasgow and joined Paul’s family and friends in the Iron Horse pub. What a refreshing change from stuffy pretentious literary launches. Paul takes his writing seriously but not himself and he is a born entertainer. He admits that he relishes any excuse to get his guitar out and with a packed captive audience in place, he took the chance to showcase his latest theme tune to accompany Land Beyond the Wave.

As a writer, I was particularly interested in hearing Paul’s top ten tips for writers and he’s kindly agreed to share them here. Enjoy!

Elmore Leonard famously published his ’10 Rules of Writing’, and they are wise words indeed. I can’t say that I follow them all, but there are certainly a few that are always in my head when I’m writing. I came across them recently in a newspaper article which, inspired by those rules, decided to ask a number of other writers for their own dos and don’t of writing.

So, in the same vein, I have decided to offer my own top ten tips for writing. Some of them are obvious, some of them are personal, but none of them will guarantee publication.

1. Write

It seems obvious, and if you do this, then the other nine points don’t really matter, but you need to write. That’s what writers do! Try to get in the habit of writing every day. It’s up to you whether you want to set yourself a daily word count or just write and see how much you get done, but if you try and get into the discipline of writing, you’ll be amazed at how much you actually produce. And some of it might actually be quite good!

2. Read

If you want to be a writer, it’s really important to read. A lot. I always remind myself that anything I’m reading has been deemed good enough to be published. That doesn’t mean that everything published is good; some books are excellent and you aspire to produce something of that quality; other books are not good, and they should inspire you to write because you know you can do better.

3. Enjoy what you’re writing

If you’re not enjoying what you’re writing, then the chances are no-one else will enjoy reading it. If you’re going to spend your own time writing, and if you’re writing a novel, that’s a lot of time, you need to be enjoying what you’re doing. You won’t enjoy everything you write, or necessarily have a great experience every time you write, but if the story doesn’t captivate you or maintain your interest, throw it away and start writing about something else.

4. Write about what you know

… unless you don’t know very much, or what you do know is boring, in which case write about anything you like. I’m guessing that JK Rowling isn’t a wizard, and JRR Tolkien wasn’t a hobbit who resided in Middle Earth, so both of them in their own hugely successful way, prove that you can write about anything, so long as you do it well. My dad wrote a book once – it was a crime novel of sorts set in the 1930s. I blame the influence of television and trashy American police shows. He had been a maths teacher and told brilliant and funny stories about the classroom and the staffroom. If he put them down on paper, he’d have a great book.

5. Read what you’ve written aloud

This is one of the best ways to judge whether what you’ve written sounds right and has a natural flow to it. This is especially true of dialogue. It’s also a great way of spotting mistakes that might otherwise remain undetected. Just be prepared for strange looks from anyone else in your house who’ll worry that you’re talking to yourself.

6. Don’t get Sky+

Sky+ is one of the best inventions ever, and also one of the biggest enemies of the writer. With Sky+ there is now always something you can watch on television. It just means that you have to be even more disciplined in your writing. And keep the Internet turned off as well. Emails and Facebook and Twitter are horribly addictive and very distracting. Incidentally, I love Sky+.

7. Don’t re-write until you’ve finished a first draft

Re-writing was always one of my biggest mistakes when I used to try writing a novel. I’d spend so much time trying to make my first few chapters perfect that I’d lose interest in what I was doing since it felt like it would take forever to finish the manuscript. Now, after putting a plan together for the structure of the book, I just keep writing until I’ve got a first draft. Then I start editing it. I also write freehand before I type anything into the computer, and the advantage of that is that when I am typing, I’m giving my story a first edit as I correct any mistakes I spot in what I’ve scribbled down on paper.

8. Live your life

The American writer, Richard Ford, whose work I absolutely love, offered, as one of his tips, the advice not to have children. I disagree. Absolutely. Children are not a distraction. It might just mean that you have to work harder at finding the time to write around family life, but you can do it. And when all’s said and done, a book’s just a book, but your children are the greatest blessing you will ever have. And if you only ever achieve one thing in life to be proud of, it would be in having children who grown up to be adults who you like. You can keep your Booker Prize!

9. Don’t moan about it

I’m not trying to decry writing, or writers, but it always strikes me that, if you can make your living from writing, then that’s got to be just about the best job in the world. And even if your writing is not your primary source of income, it’s still a great thing to do; if anyone pays you for your words, that’s just a bonus. It never fails to amaze me when I hear journalists at Scottish football grounds moaning about some aspect of their job – they’re getting paid to watch football, for goodness sake! How good is that? The same goes for writers – don’t moan about your working life. It’s great. Get over it. I thought of this when my teenage son came in from work. He’d spent the day pulling down ceilings in an old building and was covered in dirt and dust; he looked like one of Dick Van Dyke’s chimney sweep pals from Mary Poppins. I couldn’t imagine telling him not to complain about his work and that he had it easy compared to writers! Writing’s great, and everyone who does it for a living would do it anyway as a hobby. It’s not a real job!

10.  Write

Just in case you’ve forgotten already – WRITE!!!