Monday, 21 May 2018

Warning: Life Change Due Any Day!

It's the end of an era. Fernando Torres aka 'El Niño' has retired from Spanish football.  If it hadn't been for his goal in the 2008 Eurocup Final, my husband and I might never have met. (You can read Shop Girl Diaries for the full story!) That was a decade ago and Torres is 34, and so am I, and a lot is about to change for me too.

I'm nine days away from my due date, which is the 30th May. A family poll has bets ranging from the 26th May to the 7th June. The doctor says the baby is big, and big babies sometimes arrive early. He also says first babies often come late... so it's anyone's guess! I'm still writing my Pregnancy Diaries and imagine frantically dictating the end while I'm having contractions. Unrealistic?  

I'm not nervous about the birth. I've been physically and mentally preparing for months. I'm grateful to my cousin's wife, Georgie, for introducing me to Marie Mongan's Hypnobirthing book early on; the birthing affirmations really have done wonders for my confidence. I've also, better late than never, started reading another great book on Birth Skills by Juju Sundin and Sarah Murdoch. I hope more and more women get to discover these books and their empowering attitudes, and we can start removing all the fear associated with birth. But I'll keep all these thoughts for my pregnancy diaries.  

Nothing like a baby on the way to speed up the writing. I completed a full-length first draft of my fifth novel a couple of weeks ago. As much as I want to start editing it, I need to let it rest so I can see clearly what needs to be done. I suppose leaving it rest won't be hard with a newborn baby. Still, I'd like to get it done by the end of the year. The same goes for the pregnancy diaries.  

We moved home a couple of weeks ago. Thankfully just to another flat in the same block, so it wasn't too bad. Surprisingly, at eight months pregnant, I found I had enough energy to wheel a suitcase back and forward up and down a corridor all day for a week.  I also had a great workout cleaning the flat we left behind. It did wonders for my sleeping.

The new flat has a little room for baby and an office for me. It's the best office I've ever had. It's full of light and leads onto a terrace. I've turned it to face the window since taking this picture on Instagram! I foresee a lot of happy writing being done here, perhaps with a sleeping baby at my side... Am I being completely unrealistic? Ha, we'll see.

My husband gifted me a beautiful wooden board with all my book covers printed on it to decorate the office. You might not recognise the new covers. 

That's the other news of the month. I finally got my publishing rights back and am free to relaunch #PleaseRetweet and The Temp.  I've given The Temp its original quirky Wattpad name of SprayPainted Bananas. I hope, by taking back control, I'll be able to give my books a fresh chance of success. After all, The Hen Party seems to be selling well, so a huge thank you to everyone who has bought it!

New baby, new office, new books, new home - but mostly new baby. I still don't know how dramatically my life will change, but I think...  finally... after 38 weeks and five days, I'm beginning to feel ready.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Tourism in Mallorca - Visitors vs Spoilt Brats

The sun has come out and the tourist season is set to begin in Mallorca; if indeed, there ever was a break. Palma has been deseasonalised. During winter, you still can't find free parking easily... although as a learner driver, by easy parking I mean two large empty spaces nicely lined up!

Tourism-focused articles from local newspapers have been cropping up in my Facebook feed lately, eliciting comments which have sent little currents of fury shooting through me.

A planned protest against 'massification' has got readers huffing and puffing. The article refers to the colossal 6,000+ passenger cruise ships, which includes the Royal Caribbean Symphony of the Seas. 

What a joke of a name. Symphony sounds so melodious, so harmonious...

According to Andy Rawson, author and founder of Mallorca Days Out:

"During a one week cruise this monster can produce half a million gallons of sewage, 2 million gallons of dirty water, 250 gallons of hazardous waste and 50,000 gallons of oily bilge water," and he adds, "multiply all that by about 350 ships which come to Palma every year."

They should rename the cruise: The Curse of the Seas. It would be far more apt.

With every news piece related to new regulations, with every attempt to defend the environment, there's always an accompanying indignant outcry:

"Yeah but no tourists, no money!"
"What are you going to do without us, Mallorca?"
"If you piss us off, we'll just sod off to... to Malta! See how you like that!"
"Don't you realise you'll all be out of job if you stop us doing exactly what we want!"

It's like hundreds of sulky kids stomping their feet because they can't eat a fifth serving of cake.  

When did tourists go from being visitors to spoilt brats? Why should they be appeased at all costs to the detriment of the island and the locals?

Yes, the island needs  a thriving tourism industry, but I'd argue that it doesn't need to debase itself and risk being ruined for future generations. It's a relationship - is an abusive relationship better than none at all?

Fortunately, I don't think 'none at all' is very likely. It certainly doesn't feel like Mallorca has to worry about a shortage of visitors just yet. As its friend, I would tell it not to give in to those who want to take advantage and leave it worse off. If Mallorca were a person, I'd tell it to choose a relationship where the respect is equal and the benefits are mutual. I'd say, Mallorca babe, you deserve better.  


Now here's a fun holiday read for all the lovely tourists visiting Mallorca and beyond! 

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Two Books and a Baby

27th October 2017

Dear Daughter-in-law and baby,
I hope you are enjoying your pregnancy - it's one of the most beautiful stages in your life...

At which point I have to stop reading the email to run to the toilet to throw up.

(Extract from The Pregnancy Diaries)


Nine years after the publication of Shop Girl Diaries, I've been writing a very different kind of diary! The Pregnancy Diaries. It's an experience I couldn't resist writing about, but which I didn't want to make public until I'd reached the third trimester.

I'm being very old-fashioned about it, writing only in pen and paper. Typing it up will be quite a job as I've used the inkiest of biros and it's all very messy!

At the moment though, the typing up of my diary is not my top priority; finishing my next novel is! I've got a bump-shaped deadline reminding that I haven't got long. I always thought 9 months sounded quite a lot, but time is flying! Baby is due on the 30th May - although only 5% of babies arrive on their due date - so let's see what happens.

I'm hoping to finish my 5th novel by then. Two books and a baby. Sounds good to me. As you can imagine, the DH (dear husband) and I are very excited. 


If you haven't read Shop Girl Diaries, it's available in ebook format from Amazon for just 99p!

Monday, 12 February 2018

The Writing Life: Progress report!

I'm about to break a personal record: longest time without blogging!

On the other hand, I've never written so much in my life. I've got a steady stream of work from AbcMallorca magazine, which challenges me on a daily basis to write on a variety of subjects.

Last week I wrote about construction companies, architects, yoga retreats, restaurants and everything in between. Although fiction remains my primary passion, I definitely get a lot of satisfaction from writing articles. I feel I'm getting better at it too. When I think of my early travel articles, I used to take so painfully long over them. It wasn't very lucrative. Nowadays, my words flow much more quickly and coherently. It just shows that it's all about practice. If you put the hours in, you'll get better, whatever the discipline.

I think most people will agree that crossing things off their To Do list gives them a little rush of pleasure. It does for me. With my journalism work, I'm completing tasks every day. Writing a novel is different. It's definitely a marathon, and rather than hoping to cross the whole thing off soon, you've got to appreciate the effort of completing each kilometre, each chapter written. As planned, I did finish a draft of my new novel by Christmas.The trouble is, after writing it, I had to read it. 

I went through the whole draft on the plane over to the States. It had some good bits, but on the whole I wasn't convinced it was a good enough story. I've since killed off a couple of character, given one a new name and identity, and another a new job. 

Although I'm calling it Draft 2, it's closer to a new draft altogether. My new deadline is mid May. I'd like to say I'm leaping out of bed at the crack of dawn each day to get it done, but that would be a lie. I'm just scheduling the fiction in around the journalism during normal working hours. I'm not speeding ahead, but I think I'll get it done if I write a bit each day.

I'm really enjoying using Google calendar.  I find it really useful to organise and balance my time. Balance, that's the key. There's two big chunks in my week blocked out for yoga now. If it's in my calendar then I've just got to do it. Perhaps that's the only reason I haven't been blogging; because I haven't blocked out the time for it. We'll see, Google calendar is great, but it's not magic... or is it?

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Happy New Year: Bomb Cyclones and Latin Families

I'm back from the States where I spent New Year with 17 assorted family members on my husband's side from Colombia and Ecuador, and one Italian. Funny how much you suddenly have in common with a fellow European when you find yourself in a different continent surrounded by a majority from another continent. The Italian and I, both partnered with Latin Americans, shared our observations on the cultural differences and nature of Latin families.

On this particular trip, what I noticed most acutely is that my Latin American family don't appear to eat any vegetables. Making a salad felt like a rebellious act. At one point, half a pepper was served between eight of us. Luckily six weren't interested, leaving me a decent taste. Half a life-time of living abroad has changed my own Latin husband's eating habits, and fortunately he doesn't see eating vegetables as a penance.

As for New Year traditions, the jolly Colombians and Ecuadorians, have a lot in common with my Spanish compatriots. They all eat 12 grapes at midnight and wear specific coloured pants. In Spain, fire is a common ingredient in festivities, and so too is it in Ecuador. Just after midnight, the family set alight an effigy of the 'año viejo'  (the old year) dressed in pyjamas. Not in the living room as photo might suggest, but in a fire pit outside the house we were renting.  

At this point I should mention our trip coincided with the bomb cyclone on the east coast, which has nothing to do with a bomb, and everything to do with freezing cold temperatures. We huddled around the burning 'old year' in -6 degrees.

Next step: Jump over fire! (By this point, we had, of course, already run around the house with our suitcases to ensure we would travel in 2018!)

Far too high, I thought about the loaded fire pit, plus my dress is synthetic and probably highly flammable. My doubts were forced aside as I was swept up by my husband and his cousin and carried over the fire, flames licking at my derriere. Mad! You're all mad! I cried, while congratulating myself on marrying into a family with spark.

I'm back home now and after two disturbed nights due to jet lag, I finally managed to get up at a decent hour this morning. I'm back in my office, back to normal temperatures. Yesterday, I overheard a builder saying: It's so cold! I almost laughed in his face. Cold he might have been, but not cold enough to put him off drinking his coffee outside on the cafe's terrace.

Cold is -6 degrees, and -10, and everything after that. The icy air felt like daggers in the US - but thankfully our stay was made significantly warmer thanks to the big jovial Latin family reunion! 

Check out Emily's latest book The Hen Party 

Friday, 15 December 2017

Writing Life: The Long Haul

I've finished my 'discovery draft' of novel number five. That's a fancy name for draft one and sums up my latest approach. I've been waking up and writing whatever I felt needed to be written, without thinking too hard about what I'm doing, where I'm going or who the characters are.

As a result, the draft is probably appallingly, shockingly rough. I haven't read it back yet. Now that I've got something down on paper I can really build on it. I have a stronger sense of how the characters need to be developed, and as I was reaching the very end, I had an idea for another possible twist.

My Mum has a sign on her wall that reads 'BEGIN ANYWHERE'. Beginning a project can be tough if you're striving for perfection on the first go. Give yourself a break if that's you. I just strove to complete the first stage; one of very many.

I find my writing life has less highs and lows these days. I'm in this for the long haul so there's no need to put unnecessary pressure on myself. Sometimes I fancy a bit of drama - it would be nice to have a huge spike in sales and a runaway bestseller - but this would require some dedicated marketing, and that's something I'm saving for next year.

In April 2018 I'll be relaunching three of my books and later on in the year releasing two more. The new covers for Spray Painted Bananas (The Temp) and #PleaseRetweet are looking brilliant. They're bold and bright and capture the style I always wanted for my author brand. 

In the New Year, I'll be updating my website and will review what to do with my blog. I've had some long quiet intervals so thanks for popping by  - for more regular updates and pictures of life in Mallorcahead over to my Facebook Author page!


Sunday, 19 November 2017

Adapting a Lifelong Dream

This is one of my longest breaks between blog posts during my nine years of blogging. For some weeks now I've been feeling reluctant to dish out another opinion when the online world seems so saturated with them. Even Twitter, which forced people to be concise, has upped its word count from 140 to 280.

Not wanting to bore you with unenlightened views about things I'm no expert in, I took to doodling with sharpie pens instead. My new hobby explains my latest blog header which I fear makes me look like a kids' author! (I'll bash out another one more in keeping with my novels at some point.)

Although I haven't been blogging, I do write every day. The dream of making a living from writing did quietly come true thanks in part to being a big fish (published, bilingual author) in a small pond (Mallorca). I'm currently working on a What's On guide for abcMallorca, which hopefully means I'll stop staring blankly at people when they ask me for recommendations on what to do on the island! 

The title of the blog refers to my childhood dream of becoming a published author with an agent and a traditional publisher. To cut a long story short, I did get all that and at the time it was so thrilling. Yet, as I explained in my interview with Paul Teague of Self-Publishing Journeys podcast, in the end this dream really was a huge disappointment that has taken me a while to come to terms with.  

I was so eager to be published that I accepted not being paid any money for the books upfront. I assumed I'd make money because such a big company was bound to sell thousands. But the big publisher did minimal marketing and low royalties meant that two years of work for two books barely earned me enough to pay a month's rent.

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results... So this summer I published The Hen Party under my own brand Little Cactus. To date the book has sold more in three months than my traditionally published books did in a year. 

The experience proved to me what I could achieve if I invested time and money into not only creating a good book, but into advertising and promotion. A number of local publications featured the The Hen Party and although it's difficult to get reviews, the ones so far have been very positive. I have to thank all my readers who trust I can write and couldn't care less who publishes my books!

Knowing I could succeed independently made me desperate to recuperate my rights for my other novels, The Temp and #PleaseRetweet, and relaunch them with better covers, and in the case of The Temp, with the original title Spray Painted Bananas, which was so successful on Wattpad.  

For a time it looked like the publisher weren't going to give me my rights back. As long as the books made 100 pounds a year they could keep them. Rarely have I felt so furious. I would find myself awake in the early hours composing angry emails. How dare they prevent me from earning a living from books that I had worked so hard on?

That rage has since passed. I said what needed to be said. Next April, I'll get my rights back for both novels and I will release them with new branding and covers that more faithfully reflect my style of writing and myself as an author.

It has been a period of limbo... but I'm finally coming out the other side. I could write a letter to my younger self advising her not to be blinded by the traditional dream, but in the end I know I would do it all again, because my dream was so strong.  

If I don't make The Sunday Times Bestseller list, win a literary award, or have my books in Waterstones, then so be it. What matters to me now has become quite simple. I want to write great books which satisfy my readers, earn a decent wage for my work and enjoy the creative process from beginning to end.