That twisted knife of self-doubt…

What is it about doubt? As a writer, actually I am going to assume anyone, but especially in the artistic field, we have this doubt that is always creeping in.

I write my books with the full understanding that not everyone that reads them will love them. There will always be someone that just didn’t get it and that’s fine, right? Hmm, yes… but no!

Logically, of course, it’s fine. Logically, I think, who cares. Its just one person’s opinion, right? But here’s the thing that I never knew existed before I embarked on a writing career, that one person’s opinion becomes the only opinion!

Like, you can have 50 reviews all stating how much they enjoyed the book. The characters were like real people and they felt like they were right there with them… but none of that matters anymore, because you have one person’s opinion staring you in the face. Telling you how you failed to deliver. Using your own words to twist that knife of self-doubt. Making you really consider whether or not to bother finishing this next book that your 50 thousand words invested in. Damn it, half the time you consider pulling them all from the shelf.

And the thing is, they never meant for you to feel that way. Did they? But it’s that honest appraisal that we focus on…

So what can we do? What can we change that makes us stop doubting and just go on…Because 50 other opinions loved what you wrote!!

I always go and read another author’s reviews. Pick any successful author in any genre you like and find their best selling book. That one book you loved so much that you left a review! Find it, read the reviews for it and I can guarantee you… they got a shitty review on it. That brilliant book that left you feeling like you’d just read something wonderful, that left an imprint in your heart… You and thousands of others all loved it but…someone else thought it was crap! Only then can you start to understand that it’s not just you… every author has that one person’s opinion.

Realising, I am not a moron!

You ever try and do something and everyone around you is doing it, and you just cant get it? That was me… this past year, all i kept reading about was AMS ads… So, I looked at it and then closed the page. My brain just wasn’t built for that!

I kept coming back to it because I kept hearing people talking about it. But still, the old noggin was far from impressed and refused to even attempt to work it out. So, I listened and read when anyone brought it up, but it was always technical…or in some cases, downright vague, like they didn’t want to let you into the secret. Many people tried to be helpful and explain it, but because I felt stupid in asking what I thought was basic stuff, my questions went unanswered.
All these words that didn’t make any sense to me and in many ways, they still don’t, just floated about in threads between people that got it.

Sales were dropping and page reads were decreasing. I was pretty much in full panic mode thinking nobody likes my books, when I saw the topic come up again, this time I bit the bullet. So what if I am a thickie when it comes to techy stuff, I’m going to bloody learn if it kills me and my brain explodes!

So, I asked the questions, in as simple terms as I could and ya know what? I got the answers back in the same way! Without judgement, without feeling thick. I know now that most things are trial and error, but I also know where I was making those errors!

So people, ask those questions! Cos someone will help and YOU will discover, ya not thick!

A massive thank you to those authors out there who continually put themselves forward to help others… YOU are what makes this community so great!

British slang is quite funny!

I found this great video on YouTube where Rachel Weisz teaches Emma Stone all about British slang. Some of the words are hilarious when you actually stop to think and explain them to someone, and yet they seem perfectly normal when we say them. However, I took issue with a couple. Faffing in my world means wasting time, doing stuff that doesn’t matter that then delays something else, as well as Rachel’s version. I would say, Stop faffing about!

Bobs ya uncle – Its all okay. Example: Put A into B and Bobs ya uncle, its fixed. Its often followed up with Fanny’s ya aunt, but I have no idea where that bit comes from or why its added… Anyone? Love to know!

Cheap as chips is definitely British slang too. A chip dinner used to be cheap.. therefore, if something was cheap… its cheap as chips!.

And to be fair, I’m too old to have ever heard anyone use the term Dench! But I am all for it if its in recognition of the Dame, Judy!

So, what funny sayings have you heard of? Do other countries have similar sayings?

Dialect and dialogue.

I am a writer that likes reviews. I love to hear what a reader thinks about a book, where the author got it right, or in fact wrong. That’s part of how we learn, from constructive criticism. However, I am not supposed to actually have an opinion on what the reader thinks…which I think is a little pointless if the reader got it wrong or completely missed the point and therefore they didn’t enjoy the book. Shouldn’t we all be open to an explanation if we haven’t understood something?

One of the things that often comes up is this… Dialect differences.

I am from the UK. I grew up in London and my accent is very much a part of who I am. As I imagine it is for a lot of people. Now, you might be reading this and imagining that I speak like Mary Poppins, or maybe you hear an Australian like Cate Blanchett, wonderful beautifully spoken English. Who knows, but that isn’t how I sound. How I speak is with a dialect, an accent, common and often vulgar. I speak like I neva learnt how t’talk proper, Ya get me?

I speak with words like cos and ya know and yep and yeah, I used words like init and isit?. And sometimes, that’s just how one of my characters speaks.

So, when you read a book and a character speaks a certain way, its the author’s way of helping you hear the voice… Just the same as when Texans say Y’all or Hippies are all ‘Yeah man, and Californian surfers are Hey dude, that’s so rad!

Cam Thomas comes from London, she’s from the south of London. Where people say was and not were. Mate, you was great! Lemme get ya a pint.

It isn’t bad editing, terrible proofreading or a lack of intelligence… it’s just about characters and opening the door to more than just well-spoken people. It’s about using words to create sound! It’s about using sound to establish a character trait. It’s background.

And also, there are many, many words within the English dictionary which America and other parts of the world might not use or understand… that’s fine if you never learnt them. It doesn’t make it any less of a word just because you choose to ridicule it, it just makes you look a little dim when you sarcastically try to imply the author doesn’t understand.

So, please read books with an open mind… understand that dialogue isn’t always meant to be perfect grammatically. It’s part of the story.

Next time you pick up a book and the dialogue looks a little different to how you expected, just go with it and maybe, just maybe you will get a feel for the character that perfect grammar would have lost!

Happy New Year

Thought I’d give it a couple of days before finding my way over here, let you all deal with the hangovers first!!

It was a quiet one for me (I say that as though any other year is different!!, Its not haha) I managed to stay up past midnight this time though, so that was promising! 

For me, the idea of a New Year isn’t that special. 

I don’t need a new year to start a new day!

I remember, as a much younger woman, the excitement of getting dressed up and going out, meeting all my friends and pretty much drinking out own weight in vodka before strolling home in the early hours. It was a bonus if you didn’t vomit. But it was only ever about the party, my friends, dancing.

A New Year is apparently the new start we’ve all been waiting for, its a chance to draw a line for a lot of people and start a fresh idea. That’s never worked for me, for me, its always just been the next day. Many next days throughout my life have been wasted, many have been the day of change. My life revolves around every day being another day I’m still here, another day I’m moving forward, getting better, doing more.

Of course, many days revolve around doing nothing, sitting back, chilling and relaxing, watching the world go by. These days are just as valuable as any other.

So far, January has been good for me. I moved my office back into the house and since doing so, I am writing properly again. I’ve got a new book I am developing and hope to have out early Spring. It’s another romance!

As much fun as it was writing The Doll Maker, I really am a romance girl at heart so I might come back to Whitton if there is enough interest, but next up will be Catherine and Brooke, in a work based romance.

2018 – Top Ten

In what has been my first full year as an author, I have had many exciting, funny and nerve-wracking moments. Suffice to say, its been a blast and these are my Top Ten moments, in no particular order. 

1. Escape & Freedom – Books

The success of Escape & Freedom. When people ask me which book was that defining one that finally caught everyone’s attention and lifted me into the realms of a recognisable name within the Lesfic community, I will tell them it was this one! 

Me with Amanda Radley

2.  Ellcon – Books

Being invited to attend my first convention was nerve-wracking. I said yes months before the event in a moment of super confidence and then spent the rest of the year terrified. In my mind, I didn’t belong. This was an event for real authors and of course, they were going to be snobs, looking down their nose at me! 
I couldn’t have been further from the truth. I met a group of uplifting, funny and supportive women. I had a blast and can’t wait for the next event where we can all meet up again.

Me in front of the famous Rock

3. Gibraltar – Travels

This is one of those bittersweet moments. My friend David wanted to go here to watch the Royal Wedding, but a week before he was unwell and in hospital, which, of course, was the lead up to our losing him a few months later.

I ended up going by myself, which was a first. I have been abroad lots of times, but always with family, wife or friends… this would be just me, in a foreign land for a long weekend. I got there and walked everywhere! I went up the Rock and found the world famous monkeys. It was great. I thought I’d get bored by myself once it got to dinner time but actually, I found I liked my own company. I was content to just sit in the bar with my laptop and write. In the daytime, I wandered around with my camera like everybody else. I ate Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner by myself and enjoyed it. No small talk required! Without knowing it, Dave gave me something I didn’t know I lacked: confidence to do go anywhere.

4. Days out – Framily

I have Two sets of people in my life. Mates: People I see now and then, have fun with but we don’t live in each other’s pockets. Framily: Those people who morph into family. Those people that will be there, no matter what! Who push and cajole and support you in everything you do. I have a fair few in my life and without them, I wouldn’t be here now, doing what I love. We hang out and do silly things that make me laugh till my sides ache. They turn up at my events and pimp my books out to all their friends and family. They know who they are so I won’t embarrass them! haha

5. The Doll Maker – Books

I’ve always loved crime stories. Trying to work it out. Following the clues and just being thoroughly entertained. But, I never thought I’d be able to write one. There just seemed to be so much involved, so much to remember and it had to be plotted, right? Well, no… I gave it a go and I wrote it exactly how I always write; by the seat of my pants!! and I did it one draft! I literally wrote it, and then sent it to be edited. I think I got lucky, but I’ll take that bit of luck because it’s getting some great reviews. Of course, I can’t please everyone haha, I knew when I wrote it that a certain element wouldn’t go down well with those who read books for perfect characters! But, if that’s all anyone can find to dislike about it, then I am happy as a pig in… its sty!! haha

6. Brighton Pride -Books

This had to be the most stressful day of my life! haha I know they have a lot of people coming along, and they need to have their health & Safety top notch, but Oh My God… First aid kit, Fire Extinguishers, Do this, do that.. it was like a military operation with nobody in charge! The person in charge was barely available and as disinterested as could be ( I am sure she was more stressed than I was, But that doesn’t help when I have questions) Oh and did I mention how ridiculously priced it was.. . no way to ever make that money back! 

However, once we got there, got set up and spent 5 hours waiting around with not even a kiosk to buy coffee… It was fun! I got to meet a lot of people. Sold some books and enjoyed the atmosphere… I learnt a lot from it. Will I do it next year?! Maybe, but only if I am sharing the space and the cost haha

7. Diva Music Fest 2018 

When Kiki Archer says ‘Come to the fest’ you don’t say no!! At least, I don’t! haha I’m trying that thing where you say Yes to everything!

Firstly though, lets remember that Kiki is bloody good fun!! But, secondly, there was a caravan involved and…. to top that off! KT Tunstall, Horse and Gabrielle… along with loads of up and coming singers/bands… it was a lot of fun. 

8. Hanging with my buddy!! 

There isn’t much that is more fun than having a little one wanna hang out with you! We have so much fun. I get to be 3 again and we make up songs… The lawnmower song is a favourite!! I love him and I can’t wait for the next year and all the fun we are going to have!

9. My Wife – Love

No matter what life throws at me, this woman is there by my side. We’re not perfect, we both have our own issues in life. We argue just like everyone else… but when push comes to shove, she is my rock. Without her, I can’t do this. She supports me in every way possible and always tells me she loves me and how proud she is of me… and I wish I was a lot more like the characters that I write about and could be that romantic, but I guess I have my own ways of showing it. Love ya, Babe. 

10. Number One – Books

Hitting top spot for The Doll Maker….nuff said!

Review of ‘The Doll Maker’ by Claire Highton-Stevenson

Fantastic review of The Doll Maker.

Kitty Kat's Book Review Blog

‘The Doll Maker’ is a seriously impressive thriller. It is gripping, well-written and an excellent example of the genre. It deserves to get recognition and should definitely appeal to a wider audience. I can see it transferring perfectly to TV – and if Ms Highton-Stevenson continues the story into a series, it should get snapped up. 

DI Sophie Whitton is on the trail of a serial killer – one who leaves macabre-looking dolls by the bodies of the victims. Her home life is a mess as she finds her relationship with her lover Yvonne becoming more and more strained. The story is disturbing and deals with unpalatable subjects. The realism is stark and the writing captures every nuance. The author has quite a turn of phrase and her descriptions of characters are so well done that I had no problem visualising exactly what she was getting at. As the story…

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Diva Music Fest 18

So, I had the chance to attend the first Diva Music Festival! 

Started by Heather Peace. Yes, that Heather Peace… She of Lesbian folklore and the only woman I know with her own Community! Along with support from Linda Riley and the Diva team, they got together with a whole heap of female talent and produced what will surely be the first of many festivals to come. 

At 45 years of age, I am not someone that can boast a proud history of attending music festivals. I have watched over the years as my friends and peers have gone off and experienced various events… pitched tents, wore wellies and generally coming home smelling worse than a backed up sewer in summer.. and not once have I thought… Ooo that would be fun! 

No, festivals were not for me! I don’t do camping… I don’t blow up beds and sleep with ants… I can see nothing about a mud invested field as appealing… and that is where DMF18 was different! We had beds, a tv and a fridge for all that Gin and Prosseco. Because, not only did HP and Diva pull off a fantastically entertaining event, they got us caravans! 

Every weekend when I was a kid, was spent in a caravan. This weekend at the Vauxhall Holiday Park in Great Yarmouth was like a trip down memory lane for me and reminded me just how much I love a caravan holiday.

We arrived on Friday, late into the afternoon. It didn’t take long to get  our keys and poodle around in the car to van 306, dump our stuff and walk down to the arena. Of course, I should mention at this point that I have a broken ankle and my foot is in a boot!

The running order for the evening was pretty good. Though, I will admit, I’m not really up on my lesbian singers. As a writer, I rarely have music on as it makes me want to start singing, and that’s just unhelpful when trying to write sex scenes! 

So, we were entertained by Lots Holloway, and I am gonna be honest… I’m not sure who came next as the times and running order was a little all over the place. But, it didn’t matter. There was music and singing and gin at the bar!

Lesfic Authors Kiki Archer and Jade Winters were also in attendance and had created a small gang of ner’do wells that emptied the house of Sambuca! And this was just the first night!(That’s another story #apology #Kiki) But it was great fun and another chance for me to hang out with two of the best Lesfic authors we have!

When Heather finally arrived on the stage, I was almost expecting underwear to fly up and over the top of the waiting hoards. (She’s pretty popular!!) The HPC (Heather Peace Community) was in top voice and spirits!! 

Now, I am not sure what 2 hours with Heather, big band and guests were supposed to mean…but it didn’t quite turn out how I assumed it would. HP gave it some welly with three big tunes but then she was gone and the band played on… Vashi appeared on stage and gave us three songs before Woop Woop, Heather was back and accompanied by Lots for How do you like ya eggs in the morning? Well, if you have the breakfast buffet onsite, I can tell you it will be fried! A couple more songs and HP was gone… her adorning fans left wanting more…

By now, the Archer-Winters entertainment bar sports was well established and gaining more members by the minute, and at one point I was led by KA to the dancefloor (remember the foot?) Apparently, according to Kiki, you can dance with just ya arms! Yeah, I am not so sure that’s true… haha

For me though, it had been a long day and drive up from Sussex, so, like Cinders, when Midnight struck I hopped it to bed… and very comfortable it was too!

I’ll share Saturdays fun with you all tomorrow!!