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Growing up is hard to do

growing up ishard to do

I write about women who are figuring out their shit.

I guess the words ‘write what you know’ are beyond cliche at this point.
It doesn’t mean that it’s not true.

Each book I write is about figuring out a problem. But whilst the last few have been about different family dynamics and relationships, they’ve all been about young women reaching a point in their lives when they reassess.

In the Martini Club books, each woman was wrestling with different demons. For Savvy, it was about being meek, forever in the shadow of her mother’s fame. For Mia, it was dealing with the stuckness of her life – how long it had been on hold since her father’s illness, and what she would do after he was gone.

In Martinis and Memories, Bel was a different story. Bel was older, she’d lived a very full life that on the outside, looked perfect. She had her style, her confidence, her autonomy – she lived the life she wanted. She’d made her mistakes and left them behind in a pursuit of a new life.
But no one’s life is perfect.

The difference between Bel’s inner and outer realities is a lot like looking at other people’s social media feeds. It seems impossible to imagine that some people are unhappy, and yet behind the veneer there’s a truth.

I’ve been writing about growing up for a while now – the moment you realise you should have your life more together by now, that you should have been doing X, Y or Z. Bel, luckily, doesn’t give a crap about all that. She just wants what she wants. She wants to not feel so alone when she does it.

She was so focused on success, on appearing strong, that she forgot to let people in along the way. When you convince others you’re untouchable, people stop reaching out.

The Martini Club series (new covers with gaps)

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The cycle of torment that is editing your manuscript

When I’m not editing, I’m very in favour of it.

Anyone can write a first draft. I mean, a lot of people won’t, and even writing a first draft is an incredible achievement, but that doesn’t make it a workable book.

Editing is where the magic happens, where a lump of clay that sort of looks like a person is given expressions, strength and detail. It’s what makes an idea into a story, a concept into a novel. A draft into something finished.

I say this all the time. Until I have to edit.

If you are an author, or you follow a lot of them on social media, you’ll know the un-ending pain of the editing process. We love to complain about them. They’re painful, difficult and often akin to undoing one knot in a huge tangled ball of yarn.

Until now, I’ve been rather lucky with my edits. I tend to rush through a first draft, knowing I’ll finish it later, but having always written quite short books, my edits have mainly involved rearranging a few things and adding stuff in. Yay, more writing! I love writing, how great is that, to add things?

This current project, however, is a little different. My first draft was longer than anything else I’ve written, and whilst I knew it was rough, it had a voice and a tone I was proud of.

At the moment I’m halfway through my first round of edits after receiving comments from my agent. This round is all about taking stuff out (flashbacks, unnecessary extra characters and conversations that slow down the pacing) and the next round will be about putting things back in (the feeling and elements of the flashbacks, any details and practicalities that have been left unexplained because of stuff I’ve removed).

Then finally there’ll be another round to polish and perfect it.

That\s the plan. Except I am halfway through round one and I’m finding that I suddenly hate my manuscript. It’s not as good as I thought it was. I’m stripping away all the voice and specialness from it. It’s just like every other book. There’s nothing wonderful about it. I’m a hack, I’m unoriginal, this story isn’t all that. The characters are blunt, the dialogue’s pretentious. Everything, quite frankly, is crap.

Now, I know this game. I haven’t felt it quite as ephemerally as this before, but I know how it works. I know I just need to forge ahead and get it done, the same way I do with a first draft even when I’m not particularly enamoured.

But it made me think about how editing symbolic of life – we are faced with our own messes, mistakes and things we thought we did pretty well, but in comparison with others, are probably pretty crap. Having to look and assess the things you’ve done, why you’ve made those choices and what you could have done otherwise is pretty painful sometimes.

However! In writing, just like life, editing gives us the options to learn from those moments, to forge through, improve and create something we’re truly proud of. Even if it seems absolutely impossible at the moment. Sometimes it’s tempting to burn it all down just to emerge like a phoenix from the ashes, but usually, in slightly less dramatic fashion, it’s about making small, irritating changes until eventually the thing you’re left with is much better than you had before.

You just have to keep going, and ignore the outside noise, the dreams that rest upon this thing you’re making, and what everyone else is doing.

So, now that I’ve suitably procrastinated by writing this post, I guess I better get back to it.

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Saying goodbye to The Martini Club

Any reader can tell you there’s a distinct loss when a series ends – the mourning of a character you got to know, started to love or see as a friend. If the ending is done well, you feel satisfied, given enough tidbits and knowledge of the character to wonder where life will take them now. If you’re unsatisfied, you feel lost and betrayed.

Now, imagine that character was in your head, chatting away in your ear for months. Just as we can expell our demons onto the pages of a journal or diary, we expel characters into their story. We follow them, help them grow, discover surprising things we might not have known, and then, eventually, we have to let them go.

When I started writing Cocktails and Dreams, I didn’t know it was going to be a series. It wasn’t until I had a chat with the publishers and they talked about books that were interconnected, but not traditional as a series. I knew immediately that book two would be Mia’s story – I had been carrying around that idea inside for about three years.

But the third? I wasn’t so sure.

In fact, I wrote Cocktails and Dreams not being sure who would feature as the third character in the series. Bel was the obvious choice, because I loved her, and I knew that she was a bit of a fraud with a story to tell, and yet, I hesitated. I didn’t want to break Bel’s mystique – she was a little out of reach, a little further from the other two. I almost didn’t want to make her vulnerable to my readers, break down her facade and show her soft insides. It felt…unfair. After all, she worked so hard to be seen as the big business woman.

The Martini Club series (new covers with gaps)

There were other options – when a friend who had read Prosecco and Promises asked who the third book was about, she was surprised to find it was Bel. She had assumed it would be Marjorie, Mia’s step mother, going off on her journey of self discovery as a young widow to teach yoga in Bali. Man, I wish I’d thought of that.

Another choice would have been Jen, telling the story of her youth, her crazy artistic time, the love she had for the younger sister who would become a rock star, and why she kept her heart protected. A time slip.

The other choice, of course, was darling Jacques, everyone’s favourite. He too has a story to tell, but unfortunately I didn’t realise that at the time!

Saying goodbye to the club is hard – I can see it clearly in my mind’s eye, and I hope the readers can too. I hope they can feel themselves tracing fingertips over the marbled bar top, the flecks of glitter in the darkness. Maybe they’re watching a show, drinking a Martini, tasting Savvy’s brilliant food.

The books are about learning to be okay with vulnerability, being able to let people in, accept help, trust those who love you. They’re about being unashamedly who you are – no excuses or denials.

What I hope is that, like I will, readers will take The Martini Club as an imaginary refuge, a place to escape to when the day is hard, or cold, or uninteresting. Maybe it’ll even be inspiration to visit one of the brilliant burlesque clubs up and down the country. When you do, think of the girls, and maybe have a drink for me.

 

 

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**New Video** – Top 5 writing tips from A L Michael

You want to finish that novel, right?

You’ve been thinking about it for days, months, years?

You’re angry at yourself, and yet you’re never quite motivated enough to do it. Maybe it seems too hard, maybe you think you’re not good enough. Maybe there’s just not enough time.

Maybe you should watch my new video where I share the top 5 things I think are most important if you’re trying to finish that novel!

Share your own tips too, I’d love to hear what you think!

 

 

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What’s all the Huhbub?

Today I’m SUPER excited to welcome my dear friend and events planner supreme, Sara Veal onto the blog. Sara runs Huhbub, and she’s here to tell us about books promotions, thinking outside the box, and what Prince has to do with vegan baking!

What is Huhbub?

Huhbub offers events and campaigns that contribute to the community, with a focus on literature, technology and performance.

Services include: website, book covers, shareables, editorial, marketing, publicity and connecting people. If you’re an author looking for some general advice, I’m very happy to help! Every question is an opportunity to widen what Huhbub can offer, I’m always interested in learning more about what authors and publishers need. I am also keen to help creative people get fairly paid work.

So far Huhbub has helped a certain kickass author (Hi, that’s me – Andi) launch a new book series with a noughties nostalgia event to fundraise for Core Arts, teamed with author Lisa Dickenson to bring her Strong Women Squad to life in event form (fundraising for Women’s Aid and Coppafeel!), and thrown Prince a vegan birthday bakeoff cabaret to fundraise for Code Club UK.

Who is the person/team behind Huhbub?

Huhbub is basically me, doing what I love most! Three years ago, I was working in commercial publishing, pregnant with my first child, and about to go on maternity leave when I learned that 50% of the jobs at my company were at risk. I chose voluntary redundancy rather than face the uncertainty of whether I would have a job to return to or not.

I wasn’t sure what to do but it seemed important to those around me that I had a plan, so I announced I would freelance in book marketing as soon as I was able to return to work. When my son was six months old, I began setting about to make this happen, and somehow Huhbub emerged from the baby fog. (I realise on reflection the name was to do with the baby burbling sounds he made as he was learning to speak!) I decided to set up a limited company rather than operate as a sole trader and the process of figuring out a company name, brand and business plan was challenging but fascinating, and helped me rediscover what I loved to do professionally, something that I had almost completely forgotten in the wake of becoming a mum.

I realised that what made me really passionate was finding new ways to market books (and ideas!), and to bring different circles of people together to provoke conversations. I feel one of the best ways of finding a book’s particular audience is to put on an event, whether in the form of an online competition or in a venue, and for the event to offer some kind of immersive experience of the book.

For example, rather than simply saying this book is the next Eleanor Oliphant blah blah blah, create an event that brings the experience of reading the book to life. At Atlantic Books, I created an immersive campaign for Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hr Bookstore, that helped it go from being an unknown debut to a Waterstones Book of the Month, and at Mills & Boon, I supported authors like Rebecca Raisin and Jenny Oliver with campaigns and events, from a design-a-bookshop online competition to a pie bakeoff at Paper Dress Vintage.

My first official Huhbub event was launching Goodbye Ruby Tuesday, which was about a group of girlfriends who came together in the Noughties, with the friends reuniting at a funeral 10 years on. So I brought it to life with an event that was nostalgic for the Noughties, specifically 2006, just before it became widespread to be nostalgic about the Noughties, so it was an interesting and rewarding challenge!

The event was at Drink, Shop & Do, with a real-life Ruby (Deshabille!) headlining, and we received donations from Imogen Heap and Wicked the Musical to aid fundraising for Core Arts, a charity that celebrates the healing power of creativity, a particular theme of the book.

I had to put Huhbub on pause when I found I was expecting my second child, but since her first birthday (in March), it’s been coming to life again with the aforementioned events with Lisa Dickenson and Code Club.

Huhbub is also all the fantastic people I have had the pleasure of working with on projects, past, present and future, such as authors, graphic designers, magicians and burlesque performers. I’m always looking for wonderful people to work with.

How did you get into this/career path?

I’ve had a pretty wiggly career path guided by necessity and curiosity… I began working in journalism before I started university, and throughout and afterwards I had all kinds of jobs, from writing copy for a romantic gifts website to working in the Archbishop of Canterbury’s international development. I’ve always been a huge bookworm, so my dream was to work in publishing, and seven years ago, thanks to recommendations from authors I interviewed as a journalist in Jakarta, I managed to get my foot in the door with a few internships in London, and I went on to get my first paid job at Atlantic Books, in sales and marketing. In everything I did, especially when I began working in e-books, I wished I had a better understanding of digital, so I began teaching myself to code when my son was six months old, which led to receiving a scholarship to train as a software developer at Makers Academy, Europe’s top coding bootcamp. I completed my training just before my daughter was born last March.

What’s all this about Prince?

Last week I threw Prince a vegan birthday bake-off cabaret for what would have been his 60th Birthday, at Makers Academy. I’ve always loved Prince but particularly in the year before I became a mum, I became completely enamoured with his music and was lucky enough to catch him twice during his 2014 Hit and Run tour – the last time he performed in the UK. Since that time, I have learned how empowering technology can be – my scholarship and coding journey opened up a whole new world for me, and made me hopeful and excited about life again. So when I discovered earlier this year that Prince was the inspiration for and supporter of YesWeCode, an initiative to train 100,000 low-opportunity youths to become high-level programmers, I was keen to celebrate his work and support similar work in the UK. I put together a Prince-themed vegan bake-off cabaret to fundraise and raise awareness for Code Club, which aims to serve 100,000 kids for free by the end of this year. My ambition was to bring as many different circles of people together in the making of it, and to provoke conversations on diversity and inclusivity in technology.

To support Code Club text PRPL76 £5 to 70070. (Can also donate £1, £2, £3, £4 and £10)

Also consider becoming a volunteer! If you already know how to code, at whatever level, it’s a great way to give back and inspire the next generation, if you know nothing it’s a great way to get started! Just volunteering for one hour a week would make such a difference to yourself, your community and the digital future of the UK.

sws2

Talk Code – what’s it all about?

Code is basically behind pretty much everything we use in the modern world, not just websites and video games, but the magic that happens when you press an Oyster card to a reader or switch on the TV. If you peeped behind the curtain so to speak, you would see what might seem to be some alien language, bringing life to inanimate objects.

Funnily enough, one of the books I worked on, Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hr Bookstore, is all about the magic of technology and further encouraged me to want to learn to code, although at the time, I didn’t seem to have the time to begin. The hardest part of learning to code is knowing where to begin really, because it’s such a vast landscape of coding languages, frameworks, concepts and jargon, and thankfully my training at Makers Academy was a great help with laying the foundations for learning.

I’m still very early in my coding journey, and have mostly been learning in Ruby, which is one of the best coding languages to begin with in terms of getting to grips with programming fundamentals. I’ve always loved writing and writing programs feels similar to writing stories. I also love the problem-solving that is essential to writing code. The key to progressing with learning to code is reading error messages and finding ways to resolve it.

My coding journey has accompanied some very trying times in my life, and I find that when I code, my mind gets a break from worrying and anxiety. It’s almost like meditating. I often compare coding to cooking, because people learn to cook by following recipes, you can find a recipe for almost anything on the Internet, the way you can find instructions for most kind of programs… the more recipes you try, the more you learn about cooking without them!

purple

What is SWS?

Strong Women Squad was founded by author Lisa Dickenson, and is a movement to celebrate, inspire and empower women. The event opens with a dance class, and continues with lightning talks and performances from amazing women from different industries. We had the first SWS event RUN THE WORLD in March to honour International Women’s Day and to fundraise for Women’s Aid – and learn the moves to Beyonce’s Run the World!

https://www.strongwomensquad.com/superwomen/runtheworld

This time we supported Coppafeel! The event will began with a dance class learning the moves to Shake it Off, taught by Louise Andree Douglas, possibly one of the best dance teachers and dancers in the world!

The atmosphere was intimate and supportive. Our speakers and performers are always women who inspire us. We ask those we invite to speak for 5-10 mins on a topic of their choosing, although we’re also happy to offer suggestions, or perform for a similar amount of time.

We aim to encourage first-timers along with more seasoned speakers and performers. At the first SWS, we had talks about the London Living Wage, juggling parenting with careers, entrepreneurship, breast cancer awareness and humanitarianism, and hula hoop performances.

I’m so proud of the line-up for the summer party. We themed it around body positivity and movement. Our speakers included Megan Jayne Crabbe (bodyposipanda), bestselling author of BODY POSITIVE POWER, Kirsten Bayes (outreach coordinator for Campaigns Against the Arms Trade), Gina Hood (President of Bloom, a network championing women in communications), Samantha Siren, The London Mermaid, and Hayat Rachi, CEO of NEON MOON (body positive lingerie). There was magic from Louise Douglas (on double duty!), member of all female magic supergroup Chicks n Tricks, a hula hooping workshop from Pearl the Whirl (one of Marawa’s Marjorettes) and fire from Amelia Sparkles. And biodegradable glitter-face painting from Glitterlution! It was so colourful and sparkly!

What other exciting stuff have you got lined up this year?

I’ll be running writing workshops at Larmer Tree Festival, and chairing a panel – HIDDEN HISTORIES AND HEROINES – featuring Jasper Fforde, Viv Groskop and Catherine Johnson, to mark the centenary of the women’s vote in the UK.

I’ve also recently been appointed a trustee for the Arkbound Foundation, a new charity committed to championing diversity and inclusivity in media and publishing, so I look forward to supporting them however I can and getting involved.

There’ll also be another edition of SWS in the autumn, and I’ve got a few other projects I’m looking forward to announcing as soon as I can.

Can authors hire you to do awesome events?

Yes please! Get in touch sara@huhbub.com if you’d like to worth together, whether you need some advice, want help developing a campaign (of any scale) or collaborating on creating a fantastic event. Ask away, I’d love to hear from you!

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A little update…

Hi all,

I haven’t been around as much to share on my blog or promote stuff as much as I should. Mainly because I’ve been writing. I write at my day job, I write on my lunch break, I listen to writing podcasts on the way to work, and I get home and I continue writing.

When people ask me how my evenings are, I have pretty much nothing to say.

Unless they want to know about conversations I’ve had with the people inside my head.

In my day job, I’m working in content marketing, and after years of listening to The Creative Penn, The SPF Podcast and many more, I know I need to get my mailing list in order – I also assume that most of you, like me, might explode if you hear about GDPR one more time.

So, a quick recap of what I’m up to and where you can find me:

  • I’ve discovered Medium – and I love it. Go there for articles about things that are on my mind. They might not always be writing, often it’s me being my little lefty self, outraged or sad about something or rather, but I hope they might make you think/smile.

 

  • I’m going to start using my email list as exciting things start to happen, and after listening to David Gaughran on the Creative Penn this morning, I’ve realised I need to give you guys more to thank you for being readers. That doesn’t mean more mail or random spam (honestly, I don’t even have the time). It means more tips about writing, more of my favourite reads, great resources and anything else you’d like to see from me! (Put requests in the comments, and sign up to the mailing list here.)

 

  • I’m going a couple of talks this summer, but not ones you might think! In July I’ll be talking at a school careers day (if you wanted to be a writer as a kid, raise your hand!) and at a WI meeting in August. I hope I have some insights to share!

 

  • Also in August, Martinis and Memories will be coming to a retailer near you. I’ll let you know when the pre-order is available. This is Bel’s story, and I hope you love finding out about her. If you want to get your Bel fix now, Cocktails and Dreams and Prosecco and Promises are both suuuuuuuper cheap right now.

 

  • I am working on something a little different at the moment for my agent! We’re going in a bit of a new direction, and I’ve got to tell you, I’m in love with this book. It’s about the power (and heartbreak) of female friendships and I’m totally obsessed with this story. If you’re following me on Twitter or Instagram you’ve probably seen me harping on about it. I’m submitting it in the summer, and I’ll keep you posted on the new writing from me.

 

  • The Martini Club series will be getting a bit of a rebrand, so keep your eyes out for it! Something exciting this way comes. Even more of a reason to sign up to the mailing list. (GDPR disclaimer even though not really necessary on this occasion – I won’t pass on your details, spam you, or even email you very much. Only when I have news or something useful to share!)

 

Have a wonderful evening everyone!
A

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5 things to do when you feel like a crap writer

Suffering from comparisonitus_+joaquim

1. Remember that success looks different on everyone, it’s a long journey, and that social media so often skews what success looks like. Behind each success story is some drama, trauma or a fuckload of hard work and heartache, so you’re not alone, even if it seems that way.

2. Pay forward the love. I don’t often get jealous because I think (almost) everyone deserves the success they receive, but sometimes it’s inevitable. You can love a colleague or friend dearly, absolutely be so pleased for them and wish them the best, but a little voice might ask ‘why can’t I have that? I want that!’ That’s okay! It doesn’t make you a bad person. But just in case, why not write up some good reviews for those books you never got around to reviewing? Pay it forward to another writer, you never know when they’ll be needing a boost too.

3. Separate successes into different strands. Okay, I can’t buy a holiday with my royalties (just yet) but I achieved a whole bunch of stuff I wanted to do this year, including getting an agent, and writing in a different genre. I would love to hit the 100,000 books sold mark, but would I trade it for the review where a reader thanked me because my book made her feel better whilst her parent was in hospital? No. I might briefly consider it…but no.

4. Despite what your English teachers might have taught you – there are no ‘bad books’. Almost anything has some sort of redeeming feature, and the beautiful thing about the internet is that books that might never be considered, or are completely niche, have a chance to be found by the fans who want them. Just as there is someone out there for everyone, there is a reader out there for every book. However bad you think it is, somebody will love that bad boy.

5. Accept the fact that you might be a crap writer, but there’s absolutely no reason that will stop you being successful, rich or a bestseller. Also, it’s probably not going to stop you writing, because you can’t write without loving at least part of it. And if you’re crap, then you can get better. You’re still a writer, and that’s better than not being one.