A Pocketful of String: 11 Short & Shorter Stories by Me

A Pocketful of String - cover

So, I’ve concocted a small book of short and shorter stories. You can buy it for the cost of a mildly overpriced coffee on Amazon, see links at the end of this self-promotion!

It contains:

– The spectre of Death
– What happens when the Luck Child returns
– Fond memories and grim futures
– How not to turn 25
– A terrible warning about rabbits
– What happens to your heart
– An overtly sentimental dining room table
– A failed love spell
– A haunted photobooth
– A very surprising breakfast
– The apocalypse, from above and within

Not quite in that order.

I’ve thought a lot about doing this, over the last six months. I was going to do it before The Pulse, and then I thought that that’d be some kind of weird cop-out (I can’t explain why, but it’s how it felt…like I *had* a novel and wasn’t paying attention to it, perhaps…that it would be somehow easier to shove eleven little things out into the world than one great big thing that hadn’t had any seal of approval…either way, I didn’t).

Most of these stories have been around and about before, some appeared on this journal recently, one was my first paid piece of fiction, and one I just got the rights back to. A couple, though, are completely new to this collection.

Part of doing this is to clean my writing slate, I think. I don’t have any other finished things I plan to publish, I don’t have anything out with agents or magazines, for the first time in ages. I have a heap of drafts, in varying stages. I’ve a side project I’m really, really heart-and-soul excited about, but that’ll be under a different name, and I probably won’t discuss it here. I’ve that novel that I hope has a chance of going to agent properly, if only because it’s a lot more commercial than The Pulse, and it has the kind of plot and characters that make the most of taglines and summaries. I still utterly stand by my first novel, but as I continue the uphill battle to take it to an audience that might enjoy it (and I don’t think I’m being extensively deluded in believing it has one), I continue to be astonished by how unsellable it is. If you’ve any thoughts, do let me know 😉

So yes, A Pocketful of String. That’s what I’m meant to be selling here! It’s quick and easy to read, it’s got a few self-indulgent comments about the writing of all the things, and it’s a memento, really, to myself of the last few years. Heavy on whimsy, magical realism, wordplay and weird stuff, but nothing too dark or unpleasant.

Should you so wish, you can buy it Amazon US & World or from Amazon UK. You can also buy it from any national Amazon by searching, unsurprisingly, Pocketful of String! It’s so exciting to find you’ve a reasonably unique book title XD As ever, feedback and connection is wholeheartedly welcome. These tales might be small, daft, and occasionally plain weird, but they’re dear to me, and I’m pleased to share.

Also, if you’d like to add me on GoodReads, even just as a fellow reader (I’m aiming for 200 books RaR-d this year – if you fancy sending me anything for review then do message me!) I’m here.

Getting Reviewed: Other People’s Feelings

The Pulse

Greetings from sunny, sunny Stockholm! Like a proper writer, I’m hiding from the great yellow beast in the kitchen, typing and drinking tea.

Well, I worked out how to get people to review my book. I went to a couple of GoodReads groups I’d been in and signed up for a couple of RaR programmes. I’ve sent out about fifteen copies, and had a good handful of reviews back so far.

This has been a solid learning experience. Here are some things I’ve learnt.

1. Somehow, despite the lack of anything that might be termed vague sci-fi for a good third of the book, and despite it being in the dystopian reading group, my novel is too sci-fi for many people. I can’t tell you how confused I am by those reviews, and however much I put them down to disinterest, disillusionment or other negative reaction to my book (all of which are fine and honest reactions to have, of course they are), I still want to go, BUT WHY SPECIFICALLY DID YOU SAY THAT. Which is stupid of me. But continuous. I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have said anything at all if the RaR system didn’t force them into “reviewing” even if they don’t read a book, which would have been better, but it wasn’t something I’d imagined happening. Lesson: say your book is more genre than it is to warn off people who really want mainstream?

The remaining reviews I’m incredibly grateful for, and they’re wonderfully written and thought out, and nothing makes me happier than having written enough for people to express rounded thoughts about it. Whatever their thoughts. I’ve only had positive reactions from people I know who’ve read it, and one of the reasons I wanted to get people who don’t know me to write proper honest reviews for me is because I had no idea how my book would fly in an actual readership.

Not very high, turns out.

But the reasonings surprise me rather.

2. People like liking characters. I have never understood this. You see it in reviews of all kinds of books. “I just didn’t like the character. I couldn’t sympathise with the character. I thought the character was naive/stupid/annoying/wrong/etc.” Yes, yes, Aiden isn’t likeable in a generic sense. He’s not attractive in any conventional sense, nor is he heroic, nor does he follow a conventional path of transformation into Normal Human. That was kind of what I loved about him to write, and it’s what a lot of people I’ve talked to in person about my book claim to have loved about him. But…his unlikeability is apparently a significant flaw for all my unknown reviwers. So that’s either:

a) My fault – they’re open to unlikeable characters, but I didn’t write well enough/plot well enough to make Aiden worthwhile in their eyes. Things like the popularity of writers like Stephen King, the absolute master of whole, vast ensembles of horrific, brain-smushingly horrible characters flung into generally brilliant plots, might speak for this. Also, consider the sheer amount of hideous characters that populate virtually every TV show. Note to self: should’ve made Aiden more like Don Draper.*

b) No-one’s fault – a matter of taste and not the kind of thing the reader wanted to encounter at this time, if at all.

c) The fault of expectation – a YA book’s major protagonist should be someone likeable/with whom the reader can sympathise (I’d really like to argue that Aiden is a completely sympathetic character – given his circumstances and well-discussed lifestyle, what more could you ask for from him?!).

d) Coincidence, and the reviewers are a small, non-representative group. But I don’t think this, because I see these kind of comments all the time for books with more unusual characters – “I didn’t like/sympathise with x character so I didn’t like the book.” But it’s amazing how, once a book is popular, that kind of instinctive issue is sidelined – once people become aware that someone likes x character, they become instantly more interesting, regardless of how likeable they truly are. Sidenote: whilst I wouldn’t try and compare The Pulse with The Hunger Games, it’s one of the reasons I really, really don’t understand anyone who’s read the whole trilogy rooting for Gale AT ALL. And also, one of the reasons I like those books a lot is because both major male characters (who are always, let’s recall, presented through Katniss’ eyes) fall outside the YA norms.

So there’s that. Lesson: don’t be surprised if people don’t share your own tastes, not just in characters, but in the act of reading itself.

Which brings me to:

3. No-one likes present narrator.

I exaggerate. In fact, my favourite part of any review received so far was in the one where the reviewer sort of came to like the present narrator aspect of my book. And my favourite moment possibly of the whole thing was when an old school friend I haven’t spoken to in a decade sent me a message telling me how much he’d enjoyed that.

But still. I’ve had a few responses around and about where people seemed to think that present narrator was a mistake, something I’d not meant to do, or that suggest that the reader hasn’t previously encountered present narrator in anything at all and is completely and utterly thrown by it. Or, they just hate it.

This is one thing I’d sort of expected. When I was looking around agents, and even when I was writing the book I saw over and over in ‘how to novel’ sort of things block capital advice against using present narrator, or flat out hatred for the device. I just don’t understand it, and, because much of my process in self-publishing this novel at all has been “My book: my way”, I ignored it.

I LOVE well-used present narrator. Again, I’m not ruling out the idea that I didn’t use it well, or didn’t make the most of the device. It’s perfectly possible. I’m glad I’ve had enough feedback about it that’s positive enough that I’m not retreating into the background and pretending this all never happened, but I’m not obstinately proclaiming my own authorly brilliance to the exclusion of all criticism.

But again, I really do love it. And I find it all the time. I think that’s something I find particularly surprising – a lot of people just haven’t come across it. One review mentions how it’s done much better in Narnia, and that’s true, but it’s a different kind of present narrator, a lighter, less interfering one, for sure, with no intent to foreshadow or prescribe, more to handhold and keep pace. I love being hauled through a story by a strong authorial voice, and since I’ve written, I’ve enjoyed trying to use that – even my earliest stories have it knocking about. For goodness’ sake, even my fanfiction has it (I don’t remember anyone complaining about it there, actually).

I wonder if it’s more to do with one’s own reading experience – it probably is, because, obviously, every book you read is, I think, shaped by the ones that come before and after it, not to mention your day, your mood, your life and your self – but growing up amidst a library rammed with wordy, interfering Victorian and pre-1950s British authors, there was definitely a lot of present narrator about in virtually everything I read. I’m not sure if that’s the case in prevalent Stateside literature so much. It’s a thought, anyway.

And again – because I’d had this idea that it wasn’t a popular device when I was writing it – it was another thing I was glad to uncover more thoughts on in reviews by people I didn’t know. Lesson: if people tell you something isn’t welcome in literature, they’re probably right. Caveat: That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.

The best lesson of all, though, thus far, is this:

5. I can take it. Yes, I have strong feelings about other people’s feelings. Yes, I want to respond to everyone and have some epic dialogue about WHY WHY WHY WHAT and occasionally WTF, but I really do, it turns out, have a fervent enough belief in everyone’s right to think whatever they like about whatever it is that they read and just to be thrilled that people are actually reading (recall, I grew up in a time pre-Harry Potter, where reading seemed to be a very peculiar thing to do indeed, and everyone was terrified that no-one would bother with it In The Future), that I don’t burst into tears if someone doesn’t like my novel, and I am overjoyed if, even if they didn’t specifically like it, or think that it was any good, they gave those thoughts care and time.

I wasn’t sure about that. I’ve been terrified of a bad review. I’ve had a few now. And yes, obviously I’m sad that I’ve only had one or two people I don’t know feel overwhelmingly positive about the book, or that I’ve not had more enthusiastic reviews, or indeed any yet from the free day (that’s another blog…) but there it is, and also, I must remind myself on a continual basis that it is a sodding sizeable book, which people can’t just get through in an afternoon unless they have considerable interest, space in their life, and dedication to doing so.

But it’s okay. I genuinely, truly want to know what people think about The Pulse. What they like, what they don’t. How they found the experience of reading it.

If you’d like to let me know your thoughts on The Pulse, you’re always welcome to email as per the acknowledgements page in the back of the book, or, obviously to review on Amazon or . I’d love it if you would. Unless you stopped after two pages because you hated it. Whilst, once more, I utterly defend your right to post such a review, I’d be lying if I said it made me happy XD

And, if you’ve not bought The Pulse and somehow, despite the not-exactly-selling-it nature of this blog would like to, then it’s HERE on Amazon UK and HERE on Amazon US (and on all the regional Amazons, too, including the new Amazon India, yay! Search “the Pulse Shaw” and it’ll appear pronto).

Anyone else have review experiences/blogs they’d like to share on this? It’s definitely the kind of process that’s both precisely as I’d imagined, and quite a surprise!

*On reflection, I think Aiden might have rather more in common with Don Draper than I’d imagined. Iiiiiinteresting.

It’s my birthday: my novel is free to celebrate!

I’m 31 years old today!

To celebrate, my twisty-turny dystopian YA novel The Pulse is FREE to download from Amazon UK and Amazon US (and on all the regional Amazons, too!) so do, please, download, share the link and either forget about it completely, or enjoy it!

I’ve had a wonderful year. Being 30 was much better than I’d imagined. I thought my thirties would be all grown-up and scary, but actually, I’ve been surprisingly childlike and daft, and also, also, much braver than in years. I’ve published my novel, run a half-marathon, lost a slew of weight and fixed a lot of food and exercise things in my mind and body, made some big decisions about who and where I want to be, and, more than anything, I’ve had some really great times. Actual fun. I forgot to have fun a lot in my twenties, perhaps because I was so sure I ought to be, and that I was in some way doing it wrong. I am now much more sure that I’m doing things right.

Here’s to 31! (And download my book, or get someone else to do it 😉 I’m sure I’ll blog about this whole giving-away-a-book experience at some point, but more than anything, it’s the most I’ve achieved in ages, and giving it away for a day seems like a genuinely good way to celebrate.

So I Wrote A Book…Now What?

Well, it turns out that there are only so many ways (see half a dozen of my previous posts) you can tell the people you already know that you wrote a book, and there’s only so long you can maintain an anxious level of hoping that they’ll have the time/inclination/finances to buy/read/tell you they’ve read it.

So what next?

I honestly thought that the moment I threw at Amazon, I’d be turning my back on the site with a wry first-timer smile of relief on my face, before immediately diving headlong into scrawling a slew of short stories, novellas and all sorts, riding high on the sense of accomplishment.

What’s actually happened is that, first of all, I’ve had several GAH THAT ISN’T SUPPOSED TO BE THERE moments result in frenetic and continuous re-reading of my own book, which is the kind of crisis that I really thought my hefty editing process would have avoided, followed by a nagging sense that, after all this time, maybe it is an okay book and maybe it’d be nice if I could actually ‘get it out there’ a bit more. When you see actual famous people working their arses off to flog more books to people, speaking everywhere at everything and appearing at any bookshop a level above one at a school fete…suddenly you think, well, maybe I could do more.

I don’t seem to be able to do more. I keep going back and looking at NetGalley and thinking, well, for $399 maybe I could get my book into the hands of people who might really like it who might tell others about it…

…and then I think, NO STOP THAT IS CRAZY, YOU HAVE NOT SO MUCH AS £3.99 FOR SUCH NONSENSE AT THIS TIME. So there’s that.

It bothers me slightly that I haven’t leapt into what’s next, though. I’ve wanted to, but keep stopping myself. I’ve a lot to work with.

– a mystery/romance/magical realism novel that’s at the 80k-of-a-first-draft stage but has a beginning, middle and end. Two things are preventing progress with this, a) I can’t decide if I want to use actual history for it (which will involve research and possible difficulties accurately/vaguely enough portraying the situation to bother using it at all) and b) in its current state, there is a vast time travel tangent that I can’t decide whether or not to keep and run with, or remove and replace with something more ‘standard adventure-y’. Is it flippant? Is it annoying? Is it a waste of something that might actually be a perfectly good ‘straightforward fiction’ novel? When I went back to the first draft, I was genuinely surprised by how much I liked it, and if I’ve a chance of writing any kind of historical romance novel, this is it. I’m not sure I want to twist it into something that might not quite come off.

– A sequel to The Pulse, which I’ve a good chunk of and a lot to do with, but somehow it feels a bit ‘eggs in one basket’ to focus on that right now. In case my early love of the book is actually mistaken, perhaps. Or because I want to do all the different things at once.

– My NaNoWriMo from last year, which sits at a miserable 50k. I love the central character, and had an interesting premise for it, but, damnit, I never got any further than that premise, and I just couldn’t square it into any kind of fully-functioning story. I have a feeling that one needs a long time to grow in the back of my head before I can do anything useful with it.

– An outline for a kids-in-space novella that may or may not be worth it.

– A collection of short stories I’m working on with my partner.

It’s almost like I’ve so much choice, I can’t commit to any one thing. The mystery-romance thing is probably the strongest, and of most interest to me at this moment, but there’s that a) and b) getting in my way, and I can’t find myself arriving at a decision. So what do I do? I make tea and start browsing other blogs, and think about organising my T-shirts and how I really ought to listen to the excessively long Stephen King books I keep accidentally spending my Audible credits on.

Which reminds me of another thing: I’ve been thinking about making an audiobook. Thinking about it in the very loosest, earliest sense. I like reading out loud, I like the sound of my voice, I’d be happy to read out The Pulse…at the same time I’m aware of the excellent-sounding Audible scheme for self-published authors to work with voice actors and wonder if that wouldn’t be better…more because I have no idea how I’d go about ‘properly’ recording the sound of my own voice for a quality higher than ‘podcast’, and because, as you have to charge more for an audiobook, you want to give people a really decent experience. I’d rather not get in the way of my own stuff. Any thoughts are welcome, even more so if you’ve any experience with recording/having had your work recorded…

Five Things I Didn’t Expect Of Self-Publishing: 1 Month In

I approached self-publishing on Amazon with a great deal of naivety and a minimum amount of research. This is largely because I had hoped to score a ‘proper’ publishing deal in the first instance, convinced that my book was fantastic. Fantastic it may be, but tbh, I can’t tell you why, and if I, the person who not only knows every damn word of the book but the person who made up every word of that book, cannot explain to you why it’s great, I certainly couldn’t expect anyone else to do it. And that was the main reason I backed away from querying pretty quick – that and the double handful of form rejections from agents who sounded like they ought to adore my writing. There’s a whole other post about that time, but not now.

This is, and I’m telling myself as much as you, because damnit, I love a tangent, about the things that have surprised me most in the month since I’ve thrown my novel, The Pulse, at the world’s Kindles/iPads and hoped that they’ would notice.

1. It’s not easy to be reviewed.

Having internetted since before the Internet was even universally called that, I had assumed there’d be plenty of reviewers around who would, in exchange for a free copy, read my book and write a paragraph or two about what they thought of it. This, I’d hoped would help me get over that ‘I’ve no idea how to sell this book’ thing I’ve just described.

I was incredibly surprised, therefore, to find that, in at least rounds one and two of Google-fu, book reviewing bloggers appear to come in three types.

a) Paid.
b) Busy.
c) Demanding.

Now I am in no, no way whatsoever questioning their right to be any of those things, not at all, for the nice thing with the internet is that we can all do things however we like, and a fact about being good at something is that it’s very easy to be overwhelmed by requests to do it more, and, as in #3, reading doesn’t happen in an instant, so one must find ways to be selective in order to maintain a decent blog, I understand this.

However.

There is literally no way on this earth I’m going to write a formal query letter along with a short essay about myself and enclose a writing C.V. to anyone to get them to review my book. I’m also not even slightly at all whatsoever going to pay them to do it, or, worse, pay an agency to allow me to submit the opportunity to pitch at bloggers (I had never imagined these sites existed before, oh sweet stupid me).

I was really hoping to find enthusiastic, speedy readers with a reasonable circle of friends or followers or whatever, who were open to free stuff and had the time to have at it. I am so confused by the entire industry that seems to exist at the forefront of self-published novel reviewing. I’m also slightly gutted that I didn’t get in on it at the ground floor XD I have often reviewed things people have sent me through my but I’ve no idea how they found me, and, maybe I’m being too British here, feel a bit odd at the idea of simply randomly contacting people I don’t know.

Part of my research involved looking up a few self-published authors I don’t know personally, but whose books I have found and read one way or another, and seeing what they’d done. Seeing that most of them have used these, in cases, exceptionally high-cost services makes me think that they must work for the right book, but they seem, with a bit of further research, to be so high-risk that even if I had $200 to subscribe to this or sign up for that, I just wouldn’t.

I realise there are two different things here – companies offering mailshots and large scale contacts, and individuals who are established and high traffic, but in both cases I saw so very many examples of sites clogged with fellow self-published writers trying to get in the door, rather than enthusiastic readers engaging with what had been said or thanking said sites for the rec or just…any kind of interaction you might hope to see around a book.

The biggest surprise of all was, as I say, how difficult it seems to be to find a blogger who isn’t as difficult to get to (if not, in a few cases, much harder) than a professional agent. Have I missed something? Do, please, let me know. And if you’re the kind of review blogger I’ve missed, and you’d like a copy, hit me up with the contact form at the bottom of this post XD

This is all very much a work in progress, and, to be fair, I didn’t expect to find all the solutions to all these things immediately. Again, I could’ve made things a lot easier on myself by having that more commercial, describable novel, but hey. And in the meantime I do have a fine new site reviewing my book, for which I am stunningly grateful and excited, so there are, I’m sure, many things I’ve missed and overlooked and just plain failed at…I do hope so. I really do. It’s slightly scary out here.

2. There are new levels of awkward between you and your loved ones for ages.

Everything is scary and congratulations have never made me more stressed. An example: my mother kept telling people about it. Everyone, naturally, said they wanted to read it – even before they asked what it was about. And then they asked what it was about, and see my lead-in paragraph for the issues there.

YA novels, especially specific, non-romantic ones like mine are not for everyone. My 72-year-old godmother who adores romance novels featuring sickening ladies in heavily-curtained 1880s drawing rooms might, might suddenly find herself fascinated by my world and word-power…but I doubt it. And that’s okay. That’s fine. It’s incredibly nice that people that know me (or even just my mum) want to read my story, but when you know it’s ‘not their usual sort of thing’ there’s that heavy dread and fearful smile I apparently instinctively synchronise at such points, where I say, “Oh, you don’t have to…” and “That’s lovely, let me know what you think…” knowing full well that either they won’t get around to it but will keep telling you they’re going to for the foreseeable, meaning that we have to have this difficult conversation every time we meet for ages.

This brings me to: 3. There is no immediate gratification in a 105,000-word novel.

Not everyone reads books as quickly and fervently as I do. Not least because not everyone can decide to read all night, or all morning, or all anything unless they’re on a very specific kind of holiday. One of the things that validates my life choices even a bit is how much I love being able to read nearly whenever I want to, as long as, at some point in the week, I do all the things I must. But I digress – the point is, it takes a long, long time for people to get through the book. If they make it through. Which, if your book is as slow and peculiar as mine is at the beginning, they may just not. Which is fine too, except then there’s that whole time when all you can think of when interacting with someone is BUT WHAT DID YOU THINK OF MY BOOK and you cannot, cannot ever ask this because either a) there’s that conversation about how they haven’t got around to it/got that far with it yet because damnit they are a proper human with a life and things that mean they can’t just sit and read even if they really want to, or because b) they’re just not that into it and they’re going to persevere because they care and it’s alright, sure, but they have limited reading time and you can’t plough through a book when you’re not in the mood because that’s what we all had to do at school and perfectly decent and indeed important works of literature have suffered terribly for this.

So you wait. And hope. And wait some more.

Until…4. It still doesn’t feel any different at all from the way I imagined having a real print book deal would.

I wondered if I would get over that feeling early on, but I haven’t, not yet. Because when someone tweets you and says things like “I kinda want someone to put Aiden in his place” or “I just shouted ‘Nooo!’ so loud I startled my cat”, you don’t go, “Oh, thanks, but it’s only an ebook” or think about the format in which they’re ingesting your words at all, no, you just – or I just – wibble and think omg I did this all wrapped up in a peculiar amount of pride.

It’s true that, when coming across #1, I thought a fair few times about how nice it would be to have someone else financially invested sufficiently to go out there and sell my book to people for me, but then again, I still have a great sense of value in that thing – at least it’s exactly, completely, 100% all me. And it definitely wouldn’t have been if it had been ‘properly’ published. For better or worse, it’s all my own stuff.

5. Word-of-mouth is your best, best, best friend.

If one person who has actually read your book and liked it tells someone else to buy it, that is literally the best thing that has ever happened and you just want to go and buy them a pint (which, comically, costs at least twice as much as the book) and dance in the streets because there is no higher compliment, to my mind, than convincing someone else to get a book you’ve enjoyed. It’s the greatest display of confidence you can share in something, and it’s the finest ‘proof’, if proof can be had, that they’re not lying about having liked it. It’s lovely. And it makes me work much harder myself to share, review and lend things I’ve loved reading or listening to with anyone I think might share my feelings. Share, people. It’s wonderful.

The Pulse: Of Castles and Diamonds, Oh My*

I published my book today. If you’d like to preview/read it, you can do so here: UK edition or here US edition. Also on most international sites via the search thing, ‘The Pulse A E Shaw’ ought to do it XD

Also I have a Goodreads thing, I obsessively catalogue my reading and like to find books in all the places, so having an author account is crazy exciting. Come, add me.

The #1 thing people asked me when I said I’d a book was, ‘What’s it about?’ And even after infinite attempts to answer this question without ruining the general point of reading it, I still struggled. This should’ve been a sign that this wasn’t going to be an easily saleable thing, and it’s certainly something I’ll keep in mind for the next book. This is more of a ‘what’ book than a ‘how’, and I think that’s where the problem lies. Finding out what it’s actually about is, characters aside, the general purpose of reading this, as far as I can see at this point.

It’s also why I’m really looking forward to seeing if anyone does read it. Then they can tell me what they think it’s about. I also worry that it’s like some massive Rorschach thing – everyone will turn around and go, OMG, this is a massive metaphor for lmnop attribute about yourself that you clearly haven’t noticed (quite possibly being an only child, for example). This is perfectly possible, and I’m much more frightened of doing this than I’d thought I’d be.

I wasn’t anticipating a minor, but exceptionally irritating formatting screw-up when I first uploaded my book, so I’ve not been able to do the YAY HERE IT IS thing I wanted to do. I probably should’ve expected such a thing, because I did decide to go with inserting dividers in places, rather than just asterisking everything, but it all looked fine enough on the preview, so I went for it…and then it was annoyingly unfine. But I’m working on it. And I’ve done it now. So here’s this post. Eeeep. Hi. I’m going to try to be a real author.

*not the actual subtitle. possibly should’ve been.

A Catalogue of My Excuses

I am very much the kind of human that makes excuses, qualifications and clarifications before everything. I serve a meal and warn that it might not be okay because the peppers are a fortnight old or because I got all wrapped up in Wittertainment and forgot to stir for a while or because it’s Tuesday and salt has new kinds of chemical reaction to courgette on Tuesdays, or whatever, not because I want to be blameless, but rather the opposite – I want you to know that if my food happens to suck, I already know why and am sorry for that but have made the decision to serve it to you anyway.

This is very much the feeling I’m having about the self-publishing thing (aiming for Sunday, if you’re curious for a timeframe). I know there are rather epic flaws and fails within this book, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want you to read it. I hope there aren’t major, serious inconsistencies. I seriously, desperately hope there aren’t any typos or spelling mistakes. I am doing my very best to remove any words that don’t need to be there.

That’s the thing, really. I’m doing my very best. I need that to be good enough.

There has been a time at which I’ve really wanted to go through ‘traditional’ avenues, but, thinking about it in every possible way of late, I’ve realised I don’t think of self-published books as being any less of a book at all, and therefore why wait? This isn’t a book I think will sell millions. I hope, I really hope there’s someone somewhere out there with whom it resonates, somehow: that’d be more than enough, and a happy success. I want to see what I can do with what and who I already have, without paying anyone to give me their version of it, without having someone else chop it about or tell me I must.

It’s an odd book. The pacing is not perfect. Or even good, perhaps. I love things that unravel. I love things that come together at the end. I love endings. I love to know what happened. Why it happened. How. I want to answer questions, and leave space for imaginings. I want to bundle a spider’s web together and make it into a really smooth, neat ball of complexity.

I’m embarrassed to say how hard I’ve been trying, how much I want this to be a legitimate, worthwhile read. But it doesn’t have to be that for everyone. It isn’t everyone’s kind of thing. This is why I don’t know how to sell it, or explain it. I don’t want to tell you the story on the cover: that’s what reading’s for. But blurbs are important for a lot of people, so it seems, and, well, you only need to look at the kind of rating system the internet enjoys on its recreational reading to see that people don’t like to be surprised by certain kinds of content.

So, those excuses.

– I wrote a book I wanted to read. Specifically, just what I wanted. There’s no reason it should correlate with what anyone else wants to read, but, then again, a lot of people love things I love just like I love them, so there’s no reason it shouldn’t either.

– It starts with a dream. Apparently this is the worst possible most cliche narrow-minded atrocious thing one can do with a YA novel. I shan’t start another novel like that. But that is, regardless, where this novel begins, and I’m not going to change that.

– Speaking of cliche, I don’t think anyone looks at themselves in the mirror for a long while, but there’s a good chance they do. I don’t think that’s the worst thing either. I look at myself in the mirror every day. And think about what I see.

– I don’t really mind being a cliche. I don’t mind if you can’t finish it. I kind of need to say that. It’s okay if you don’t like my things. That’s interesting too.

– I don’t think this is a big thing for anyone that isn’t me. I’ve spent a lot of time over the last 48 hours contemplating things like being British and worrying/wondering what people think of who you are and what you do because, damnit, the opinions of people you love and respect are important. I’ve wavered multiple times over the sentence “I’m a writer” or “I’m trying to become a writer” because there seem to be so many implications beyond “I am a purveyor of word collections” there. Regardless of whether there legitimately are or aren’t, I feel them.

– I intend to write a lot of books. Books vary in quality. I want to write a lot of different things, a lot of different styles. I want to improve. I don’t want – at this point – to sculpt and shape what I’m doing into a format. I want to start by being honest about where I am and what I can do alone.

– The beginning of my book is stilted and wonky. But at the beginning, my characters are stilted and wonky. I’m trying to look at this as us all learning together, and I think there’s something nice in that. But I wonder if readers will be so forgiving? Should they have to be? No, absolutely not. Hmm.

– I suppose what I’m saying is, I want you to know that I’m both terrified of people thinking I’m getting above myself by putting what I’m doing into the world the way I’ve made it, and wishing that I could say, I’m a writer and have 100% of the people I say that to find that a tangible and applicable description.