Are you a writer? Have you been writing for a long time, or are you just starting out? Or is this the year you want to start your writing adventure? I am proud to announce a brand new initiative from WriteFoxy that’s for ALL writers, completely FREE.
INTRODUCING: WRITEFOXY 2021!
I want to support writers this year with encouragement, inspiration and advice to get the best out of your writing and help you fall back in love with your words.
Writing anything right now is a challenge. We’re hard enough on ourselves at the best of times, but under the pressures we currently face, we have never needed positivity and encouragement like we need it today.
So this year, I’m offering a free service to all writers: FOXY NOTES!
How It Works
Three times a week, you will receive a little nugget of foxiness from me in your inbox:
Monday – INSPIRATION: ideas, encouragement and a bit of a boost to start your writing week.
Wednesday – TIPS & TRICKS: practical advice for all aspects of writing, from overcoming blocks to building character, pace and plot into your story, editing tips and more.
Friday – DREAM DEN: inspiration to get you thinking of the bigger picture, be kind to your mind and give you a great big cheer to celebrate everything you’ve achieved during the week.
Each email will only be a few paragraphs, just a little woo-hoo to spur you on!
But here’s the best bit: if you’re stuck, if there’s a specific problem you’re wrangling or if you’d just like to say hello, you can reply to any of the Foxy Notes emails and it comes straight to me – I will get back to you as soon as I can. I can’t read manuscripts or do long consultations (I offer paid services to cover these) but if you need a bit of advice or a friendly reply, I’m happy to do that for you.
AND IT’S FREE!
When I started writing my first novel, Fairytale of New York, I couldn’t afford to go on any writing courses or sign up for writing weekends and conferences. I knew no other writers and keeping going with nobody to advise me or encourage me was really tough. I want WriteFoxy 2021 to be available to anyone, anywhere, regardless of how long you’ve been writing and what you can and can’t afford. I believe there are awesome stories that will come out of this strange time in our lives and I want to support writers to find them. If you fancy buying me a coffee at ko-fi, there’ll be a link included in all the Foxy Notes, but this is not expected at all. WriteFoxy 2021 Foxy Notes are and always will be free.
I’m launching WriteFoxy 2021 Foxy Notes on Monday 25th January – whenever you join, you’ll get the latest one and go from there. You can unsubscribe any time using the link at the bottom of each email and this sign-up is ONLY for FoxyNotes – I will never send you anything else or pass your details on to anybody else.
So, are you ready to get some foxiness in your 2021? Sign up below!
Lucy’s fingers hovered over the silver box and the velvet bag.
Which one should she choose?
The purple-inked note addressed to her said whatever she chose would change her life.
Change my life?How?
Both gifts were beautiful, both would be wonderful to own, but who had left them here? And who knew she would be alone in her manager’s office tonight? Was someone watching her? Was she really alone here?
What if I make the wrong decision?
Her mum always said decisions should come from the heart. ‘You deliberate and agonise, but I think you always know the right choice, deep down. Your heart decides long before your head.’
Lucy didn’t trust her heart tonight. Not after being so wrong about Aaron. Her heart had assured her Aaron was The One – a phrase she’d laughed at when others had used it, before he arrived in her life. How could she have been so blinkered about him? Her heart had soothed her fears that he was too good to be true, that she was falling dangerously hard for someone who wouldn’t even hold her hand in public…
A fresh wave of injustice hit her as she sat in Sophie’s chair in the cramped office. The signs had been there all along, hadn’t they? His insistence that displays of affection were confined to when they were alone. His unwillingness to introduce her to his parents, or hang out with his friends. As she began to unpick the relationship she’d believed to be perfect, it all became suddenly, horribly clear.
I made excuses for him all the time. I never asked why.
How had she become such a doormat? She was a bright, intelligent woman with ambition and dreams and an intrinsic belief in better times and silver linings. Wasn’t she? Given the almighty mess she now found herself in, maybe the biggest injustice had been that she had allowed someone else to dictate her happiness.
Silver Bells, Silver Bells…
She was suddenly aware of the song again, although she was pretty certain it had been playing all the time since she entered Sophie’s office. It was the same song, Bing Crosby’s familiar croon and Carol Richard’s bright replies. But this time, it was different.
It was almost as if someone were whispering the words close to her ear…
She stood, grabbing the engraved silver box with its tiny diamond-hearted stars – reassured by its considerable weight in her hand – ready to defend herself. Was there an intruder? Had someone followed her inside? She couldn’t remember whether she had locked the front door behind her when she’d come back to Tony & Frank’s. What if someone had been watching her and saw an opportunity?
‘Who’s there?’ she called, every nerve in her body on high alert.
Is that what you did in a situation like this? She didn’t know – but in every thriller she’d ever watched it was the first thing people said. Too late, she remembered that most characters in films who did this usually lived (or didn’t live) to regret it…
The whisper came again, this time by her right ear. She spun around, holding the box aloft, ready to throw it or strike out in the darkness. Could she get away if she hit her invisible assailant? Would there be time to escape?
And then, the silver box in her hand began to glow…
For a moment, Lucy forgot her fear. The sight transfixed her. All over the box, the tiny diamond stars dazzled as if dancing in sunbeams. The silver itself emitted an ice-blue glow that bathed Lucy’s hand in light. And the strangest part was that where the glow rested felt warm against her skin…
‘Good choice, kid,’ said a voice.
‘See, I knew she’d go for that one,’ said another. ‘I mean, the bag’s a beaut but check the sparklers on that box!’
Shaking, Lucy looked up – and saw two men leaning against the steel shelving unit where Sophie kept boxes of menus, kids’ activity packs and the staff manuals. Except that when she dared look closer, the shorter of the two appeared to be sitting on the middle shelf.
Hang on – how was that even possible?
‘Who are you? How did you get in here?’
The taller man smiled. He was dressed in an evening suit, black tie hanging loose from the open collar of his dress shirt. In better light, he might have had more than a passing resemblance to Dean Martin in his Rat Pack years. ‘Kid, relax. We didn’t get in here. We are this place.’
‘Look at her, boss. The poor thing’s scared to death.’ The shorter man waved from his impossible perch. He too was dressed in evening attire, but the open black jacket and blue silk cummerbund across his ample waist looked as if they had seen better days. His balding brow wrinkled into a frown as he sent Lucy a tentative wave. ‘Hey, lady. Don’t worry. We ain’t stealin’.’
Lucy increased her grip on the silver box, even though its warmth was comforting, inviting her to forget everything and cradle it. ‘Get out! Both of you. Or I’ll…’
The tall man shrugged. ‘Or you’ll what? Throw that gift at us that we picked out for you?’
‘I think she might. She looks mad, Frankie.’
Lucy blinked. ‘Frankie?’
‘Sure. You mean to tell me you don’t know who we are?’
Since their sudden arrival in the office, Lucy had battled the strangest feeling that she somehow knew the intruders – but until the tall man uttered his companion’s name she hadn’t been able to place them.
‘I think she’s gettin’ it, Tony.’
‘You don’t exist! You’re the made up founders of a chain restaurant – there are busts of you over the kitchen hatch…’
‘Babblin’. She’s babblin’, Tony.’
‘I know, Frankie. Give the kid some air.’
‘You are kidding me…’ Lucy felt the room undulate around her. What on earth was happening? She couldn’t – absolutely couldn’t be – talking to Tony & Frank. They didn’t exist. The whole thing was a story created to sell the theme – two brothers from Napoli who arrived in 1920s New York on a boat of immigrants and set up a restaurant in the back streets of Brooklyn. Except that it never happened. The restaurant chain wasn’t even American. The headquarters were in Slough, for crying out loud!
‘Kid, put that box down. We aren’t here to terrorise you.’ Tony held his hands out and Lucy felt her knees buckle as she saw the faint outline of the office through them…
‘Uh boss, I think we’re losing her…’ Frank’s voice began to drift away as Lucy closed her eyes and gave in to the ice-blue, soothing warmth of the glowing silver box.
‘Lucy, Lucy Smith, come back.’ From far away, almost as far as the song had sounded, Lucy was aware of Tony’s voice.
‘Go… away…’ she heard herself murmur.
‘You chose the box, kid. That means you chose us.’
‘I didn’t… I didn’t…’ Words danced around Lucy’s head like the white diamond stars dancing across the silver box lid.
‘You called us here, Lucy Smith. Because you wanted something better. Because you wanted a miracle.’
‘Lucy, come back.’
This time, Lucy felt the pull of reality gently bringing her back to the darkened office. When she dared to open her eyes, Tony and Frank were still there – both standing now, closer to her than they had been before.
‘Look over there,’ Tony said, pointing a semi-transparent finger to the back wall of the office, where two doors had appeared. Each was painted red, its edges decked out in metallic trim – one gold, one green. ‘We’re here to help you, Lucy Smith. But you have decide what happens here. So pick a door.’
‘Trust us, kid. Pick a door. The rest will become clear. So, what’ll it be?’
Lucy stared at the doors. Apart from the trim they seemed identical. And what remained of her logic told her that there couldn’t be anything behind either door, apart from a small gap to the back wall. But so much had happened already that defied reason. And she wanted things to change in her life.
Next Thursday, my eighth novel, SEARCHING FOR A SILVER LINING is published. It’s the book I am most proud of, not least because I worked so hard to make it a truly memorable book. It is also personally special to me because of the happy hours I spent talking to my Dad about his memories of being a teenager in the 1950s while I was writing it. But I never thought during the many months spent writing my book that it would be published without Dad seeing it.
But that’s what is happening. A week ago today, I lost my lovely Dad.
Still, as I write that sentence, I can’t quite believe it. Life without him is going on – because life does – but the world is a little dimmer and quieter without his presence and infectious sense of humour. The bottom line is that I write what I write because I inherited Dad’s love of comedy and his natural storytelling skill. My earliest memories are of Dad making me laugh. He would make my toys move and talk with funny voices, and tell me stories that made me giggle. He made books come alive for me and my sister and often recited favourite tales verbatim on our walks. So much of what I now do for a living can be traced back to those special times.
When he died, I didn’t want to think about my writing, my stories. They suddenly seemed trivial. All I could think of were his stories – the ones he’d tell over and over again, the ones we had now lost. How do you carry on promoting a new book when life floors you like this?
I’m not sure I know the answer.
But here’s what I do know. My amazing, talented, hilarious Dad had one solution whenever life chucked a spanner in his path: create something to redress the balance. When he was unexpectedly made redundant at the age of 56, Dad sought something creative in response: he joined a TV and Film Extras agency.
Over the years he had a ball, acting alongside famous people from Scarlett Johansson, Johnny Depp and Michael Sheen, to Catherine Tate, Patrick Stewart and Philip Glenister. And from each new job came new stories – hilarious, stitch-inducing tales of the crazy things he was asked to do. Such as posing with a bolshy duck in The Village, or running up a hill with a Zimmer frame in Hustle. Or the time while filming The Libertine when he asked Johnny Depp what his previous acting job was (Dad’s had been Emmerdale, of which he was mighty proud) to be told ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’, and Dad replied, ‘Oh, I’ve seen that. Were you in it?’
Dad understood that, when something bad happens, creating something new and hopeful in its place is the best response.
I can’t bring my Dad back. I wish I could – I would swap every printed copy of my books from here to eternity for one more day with him. But what I do have is the book he was so involved in the writing of. So many of Dad’s memories are woven into the story – in Reenie’s tales of her band The Silver Five’s exploits and in Grandpa Joe’s diary entries that Mattie Bell discovers as she embarks on a road trip like no other. Even the songs that form the chapter headings in Searching for a Silver Lining are my Dad’s favourites from the 1950s. It’s as if the things I loved most about being Brian Harvey Dickinson’s daughter have been infused into the story.
Dad was SO proud of my writing. Every week he would call me with shelf updates from my local Waterstones and WHSmith stores – the booksellers knew he was my Dad and would show him the latest sales figures for my books. He would frequently rearrange shelves so that my books were more visible – several times I was congratulated for being a Richard and Judy pick because a certain sparkly-eyed septuagenarian had been working his magic on the shelves… I know he was proud of this book and loved chatting with me about it.
Those are the things I’m hanging on to as I prepare to do all the book promotion in the coming weeks. So if you see me on Twitter and FB and appearing on lovely book bloggers’ sites talking about my book, please know I’m doing it hoping my lovely Dad is looking on approvingly from the major stage (with the enormous audience) he’s just been called to. And thank you for all your love and support – it’s helping me so much to carry on doing what Dad was so proud of.
I adore it – and I hope you do, too. All the silver grey you see in the picture above will be gorgeous, sparkly silver foil – including the tiny stars. I can’t wait to share my eighth novel with you! It will be published on 20th October 2016 and we’re planning all kinds of exciting things around the time of the launch, so keep watching my website, twitter and Facebook for all the details.
Do you mind if I get a bit emotional for a minute?
This is just a short post but something happened to me today that I wanted to write down. To remind me that it happens.
As you know, I’m in the final stages of editing Book 8. It’s been hard. Really hard. After writing and editing eight novels you would think I’d expect this but somehow every year I forget once my book is handed in. This year has been brutal. I’m not going to apologise for saying it. Writing a book is hard work, editing it into some kind of coherent story is a long (but necessary) slog. And the final stages of an edit are the absolute worst bit. If you’ve ever written a book, you’ll understand.
My edit face – nope, it ain’t pretty…
But then today, right in the middle of it all, someone I’ve never met tweeted me to say they’d chosen my books to read during their week off.
I know how precious holiday reading time is. And how important it is to choose the right book to spend time with. So, hearing that a complete stranger has picked my book completely blows my mind.
As a published writer it’s too easy to get caught up in the tough bits – the hours nobody else sees you investing, the doubts, the heart-searching slog to find the best story – and forget why you wanted to write in the first place. Every now and again glimpses like this appear and they are wonderful.
There’s no great lesson from this, apart from the encouragement that as a writer what you do makes a difference to other people. I’m leaving this post here as a message to anyone slogging out a story – and as a message to a future, sleep-deprived, fed up, final-stage-edit me. Hang in for the good stuff. It happens.
I’ve been trying to work out how to respond to recent events in the world and closer to home. I feel I should respond instead of simply being scared, which is how I felt last night. These are my thoughts…
I watched the news last night as MPs voted on Syrian air strikes and, like many people, I felt utterly devastated. Devastated that, once again, violence has been chosen to meet violence; fighting a war we haven’t asked to fight, for an unknown length of time with an unknown likelihood of victory. Whatever your views on the legality and rightful place of war against terrorism, it’s difficult to watch events unfolding in the news with a great deal of optimism.
The overwhelming feeling I encountered following reactions I saw across social media was powerlessness. We have no power over organisations or individuals who walk into our workplaces, cities, neighbourhoods or social settings intent on taking lives. We have no power over our governments’ responses – and certainly, it would seem, no power of influence over their actions. In a world so seemingly full of frightening things beyond our control, what can we do to make any kind of difference?
This is the conclusion I’ve come to: I am going to pursue HOPE, JOY and LOVE.
I can’t change what happened in Paris, or Garissa, or anywhere else terrorists have targeted. But in my life, and in my actions that affect other people’s lives, I can do something. I can pursue hope, joy and love. These are the things terrorists seek to target and destroy with fear. But the only way I can not allow them to win is to actively go after all the things they don’t want me to have. So I intend to encourage and help people, celebrate life, choose positive words over negative, choose to be optimistic and most of all, do everything I can to not be scared of what might happen in this uncertain world.
It’s a tiny personal stand from one life among a countless many. But I think it’s the only way I’ll feel I’m doing something to fight back in situations where I feel powerless. Peace lies in finding joy in terrifying times. I’d rather be doing something than just being scared. That’s all.
If you write, regardless of whether you’re published or waiting-to-be published, pursuing passion in what you do is vital to maintain your focus, confidence and tenacity. Lose sight of why you started writing in the first place and it very quickly becomes a heavy chore. That’s why I started WriteFoxy, to reconnect writers of all genres and at all stages of experience with their first love of writing.
My WriteFoxy Writers’ Inspiration Days are designed to make the writers who attend feel like the amazing creative people they truly are. I want people to leave one of my events feeling fired up again, ready to believe that anything is possible with their stories. But I know that by putting a price tag on a writing day it becomes prohibitive for many people. Before I was published, I never attended any writing conferences or retreats, simply because I couldn’t afford them.
So, here’s what I want to do: at both my upcoming WriteFoxy events (1st November and 7th February), I will be offering one free place for a writer to come to the day as my guest. I want to invest in someone’s writing by giving them a day of inspiration and the chance to meet and chat with bestselling authors and fellow writers, to really boost and encourage their own work.
If you would like to be considered for a Guest Invitation, email me at email@example.com and tell me why you would like to come. Please ensure you are available on the dates above and able to travel to Dudley, West Midlands – there will be a donation towards your travel but you must be able to travel in the first place. Please email me by midnight on 25th October at the latest.
And by the way, tickets are still available for the two events if you can afford one: WriteFoxy November and WriteFoxy February. I look forward to seeing you there!
All this year, I am keeping a video diary about writing and publishing my seventh novel, A Parcel For Anna Browne. This week, my vlog returns after quite a long break…
I’ve been editing A Parcel for Anna Browne and I’m really pleased with the result. It turned out to be a huge edit – the equivalent of a structural edit (getting all the key themes and scenes in the right places) and line edit (going through the book with a fine toothed-comb, making sure story arcs are complete and the flow is right) combined. It’s been interesting finding out how my new publisher, Pan Macmillan, works differently to my previous publisher, Avon HarperCollins and, like any new job, there’s been a steep learning curve. But it all helps me to understand what kinds of things Pan Macmillan are looking for in the stories I write.
So, have I seen the cover yet? You’ll have to watch the vlog to find out!
What would you like to know about my books, writing in general or anything else? Ask me a question and I’ll answer it in the next vlog! Just leave a comment below, email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet me @wurdsmyth.
p.s. This week’s You Tube-nominated freeze-frame is entitled, ‘Cheesy Grins R Us’…
All this year I will be documenting the writing, editing and publishing of my fifth novel, giving you a unique, behind-the-scenes look at my life as a writer. This week, I’m answering your questions on everything from whether to have an agent or not, my new book cover and how long it takes to write a book…
I asked for your questions and you responded with lots of great ones -so here they are! Ever wondered how many copies of a paperback book are printed in an edition? Or how many hours each writing session should be? Or how to take a basic plot outline and make it into a story structure that works? I answer all of these this week!
I’m always looking for your questions for my vlogs and asking one couldn’t be easier: just leave me a comment on this post, or email me at: email@example.com
P.s. This week’s YouTube-nominated freeze-frame is entitled: ‘Catching some well-earned zzzzzzzzs’