About time…

Hello!

It’s been busy in the life of LJ Ross (as always) what with completing Angel (Book 4 of the DCI Ryan Mysteries) and preparing for its general release, alongside all the usual travel and life events! Most notably, my son turned three recently and I was struck forcibly by the passage of time – as I am whenever I need to buy him a bigger pair of shoes. How quickly life storms ahead, twisting and changing before our very eyes.

Ethan's 3rd birthday.jpg

I wonder how different the world will be by the time he is grown; I remember things like ‘floppy discs’ and ‘cassette players’ whereas these will probably sound like weird and wonderful oddities to his technologically-advanced mind. I have always thought of life as a continuous cycle, never something that stands still. Moments cannot be captured like butterflies or created into a frieze, immortalised so that we can relive them time and again. But they can be remembered and that’s what I try to focus on.

The knowledge that life is so short, combined with a personal philosophy that does not include any religious deity or notion of an afterlife, has led me to adopt what I hope is a very proactive approach rooted in the here and now. My friends and family have remarked that I ‘never sit still’ or that I am ‘always on the go’ and it’s true: I find it hard to relax and do nothing. It feels like such a waste. But that’s where reading has been such a wonderful gift. It is one of the few times when I can feel my mind and body switching off, so thank you to all of the wonderful authors who have provided me with so many hours of enjoyment.

The nagging feeling that life is passing swiftly was what actively propelled me to change career. I enjoyed my life as a lawyer but I was acutely conscious that something was missing, something unfulfilled. Idealistic notions of ‘making a difference’ didn’t prepare me for the simple fact that life isn’t fair; people aren’t equal; democracy doesn’t always work and human nature is sometimes depressingly predictable. Don’t get me wrong – I have infinite faith in the resilience of the human condition, but I wasn’t prepared to waste the rest of my life trying to prove the point.

I firmly believe that people are capable of being many things over the course of a lifetime. There is no Orwellian dictator who hands out professions at birth and expects us to stick to them, so it falls upon us to reach out and grasp the life we want to lead. There may be challenges: personal, professional, financial, health-wise… but success will taste all the sweeter once these have been overcome.

It’s all about taking the first step. Blink and you’ll find that three years have passed!

Have a great weekend 🙂

LJ x

Baaaaaath, not Bath.

Morning…or is it afternoon? Either way, hello!

Last week, the Ross family jumped aboard the proverbial sin wagon and rolled into the beautiful town of Bath – yee haw!

We decided after much deliberation to move even further away from London because, frankly, we were sick of the smog. And the yuppies (we used to be one of them, but now we pity them…that’s human nature in action). And the stench of money. You know what I mean when I say that? It’s the fact that whichever way you look in London, there’s a social climber gunning the engine of their SUV and checking the time on their bulky Omega watch on one side of the road, whilst there’s another person struggling to make ends meet on the other. Too much division. After twelve years, it was getting hard to appreciate that great city anymore and our hope is that, by leaving its outer limits, we can rediscover the beauty of its grey-tinged, war-marked buildings when we return every now and then.

Because, I don’t know about you, but it’s important to find the right head space when you’re trying to write stories for a living. If your mind is too crowded with the kind of anxiety which comes from living at a frenetic pace, then perhaps it’s time to slow your world down. I don’t pretend for a moment that moving to a different area of the country means that life will never be stressful again, or that the ordinary cares of being a being in the world today will not come to bear, but they may interrupt to a much lesser degree. Besides, both my husband and I grew up in the countryside, where the noisiest thing you’re likely to hear is a bird squawking, or cattle moo-ing. The inevitable cycle of life has taken us around in semi-circular fashion, so that we have gone from being country children longing for the bright lights of the city, to adults working and playing in the city, to older adults yearning for the peace and quiet of the country once again. We’ve opted for somewhere in-between!

Transition to North Somerset life has thus far been very easy. The people here are ridiculously friendly – having been used to London life, I naturally assumed they were mentally ill, until I realised that is their general state of being.The only potential problem is being lost in translation. For example:

“Hello! Have you just moved in?”

“Hello! Yes, we thought Bath would be a lovely place to bring up our son.”

“Bath? Oh, you mean Baaaaaattth.” [Said with emphasis on the ‘ahhh’]

“Yes, Bath.” [Said with no emphasis whatsoever]

“Baaaath.”

“Bath.” [Yes, love, I’m Northern. Well done for noticing]

I will do my best not to conform to the smooth drawl of the west country and will endeavour to stay true to my northern heritage by continuing to pronounce certain words with hard inflection, but I may be fighting a losing battle since I’m vastly outnumbered.

Either way, it’s back to work for me today! The boxes are largely unpacked, the internet and television is back up and running (THANK GOD) and there is no further excuse not to get along with writing the third and potentially most exciting mystery DCI Ryan has faced thus far.

Bring.It.On.

Catch you later!

x

Three things I’ve learned…

Hello!

Long time no type! Sorry about that. I’ve been busy lately with the release of Sycamore Gap and furiously working away on not one…not two…but THREE different titles. Don’t get too excited yet– there’s a way to go before any of them are finished! I also took a few cheeky days off as holiday and enjoyed some time with Mr Ross and Mini Ross.

Anyone remember that movie, 'There's Something About Mary?'...well, he's looking for his baseball...

Anyone remember that movie, ‘There’s Something About Mary?’…well, he’s looking for his baseball…

Back to reality now!

Once again, I’ve been completely and utterly mind-blowingly shocked at the warm reception Sycamore Gap has received. Seriously, if I had been drinking, I would be reciting soppy poems to all my readers out there. When I signed off the book, closed the laptop down and prepared to upload it for all to see, I told myself very firmly that lightning rarely strikes twice: do not expect to repeat the success of Holy Island, for that must surely have been a case of good luck and a kind-hearted readership.

Well, looks like I’m either the luckiest person in the world, or I have the kindest readership, because in its first week Sycamore Gap is top 50 in the UK Amazon charts and #1 in both of its categories (at the time of writing). To put this in perspective, after the first week of Holy Island being published, it was most likely ranking in the thousands before it started climbing.

I can’t thank you all enough for reading it.

There, I’ll stop with the soppiness.

With so much happening in my first year in the business, I’ve been reflecting on some of the things I’ve learned along the way. Here are three of them:

  1. Self-publishing and traditional publishing are surprisingly alike in certain areas. Bear in mind that a reader going into Waterstones might have come across some reviews about a book, or might have seen some advertising, but they will still look at the blurb and the first few pages to see if it looks like it will be their cup of tea. Likewise, Amazon allows you to peruse a book description and digitally thumb through the first three chapters before buying.

Note to self: write catchy book description and strong first few chapters.

  1. Do not be affected by the self-consciousness of others. This is applicable in any business, but I don’t think I fully appreciated just how sensitive and/or competitive some other writers can be (not all, just some). Best thing to do, in my opinion, is concentrate on your own game and try not to look over your shoulder. It’ll drive you bonkers!

Note to self: do not be offended by passive aggressive commentary by other writers.

FOR EXAMPLE:

Scenario 1 (where your book isn’t selling well and neither is theirs)

“Nawwww, that’s a shame.”

Scenario 2 (where your book is selling well but theirs isn’t)

“You must have sold out. I guess it’s easy to sell books if you’re not bothered about your craft.”

Scenario 3 (where their book is selling well but yours isn’t)

“You see, on a deeper level I knew my tome would connect widely with readers given its vivid portrayal of what it means to truly be human in the world today.” [Warning: monologues may continue for up to 30 minutes with copious usage of “me” and “I” paired with much hyperbole].

  1. Writing is brilliant. It frees up your imagination and except for the potential to contract arthritis in later years, or repetitive strain injury, I can’t see any downside. Regardless of what people might tell you, if you enjoy writing and you can weave a story, there will invariably be someone out there who enjoys reading it. Therefore, why not give it a go?

Note to self: it’s a no-brainer. Continue to write.

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend. I will leave you with a beautiful ink painting one lovely reader completed after reading Sycamore Gap. What a treasure!

Kath Finlay 2015

Kath Finlay 2015

See you next time x

Writing vs. Motherhood

The struggle between honing one’s craft and being a parent is not exactly the Battle of Waterloo, but it ain’t far off. Any mother will tell you that trying to juggle a career alongside trying to be a good parent is a tough balance to find. When push comes to shove, your little bundle will always win and what’s more, you won’t mind. Here’s why:

  1. The “Cute” Face.

Just when you think of the perfect piece of prose, or of that idea which ties together the loose ends of your story, helping you to break through the horrific writer’s block which has plagued you for weeks, your little one will give you the Cute Face. No writing, note-taking or, in fact, anything not involving snuggles or huggles can be achieved once this has happened.

Kid 1 – Writing 0.

  1. The Accidental Spillages.

The MacBook Air or whatever piece of shiny machinery you use to jot down your whimsies becomes like a member of the family. Like a pet, if you will, and, much like a pet, it dislikes having its screen yanked, or having milk strewn across its keyboard.

Kid 2 – Writing 0.

  1. The Sleep Deprivation.

You know that film, Insomnia, with Al Pacino? The one where he goes slowly off the rails owing to lack of sleep? Yes, that one. Well, parenthood can be remarkably similar. After weeks and weeks of broken sleep, followed by mornings singing along to Peppa Pig and/or Winnie the Pooh and/or any Disney films, you find yourself wishing for a quiet, darkened corner. Except, of course, when you see your little one jiggling their hips to the theme tunes and shouting “BEE!” and “HONEY!” intermittently at the screen. Aww.

Kid 3- Writing 0.

The battle continues to wage, dear friends, and I fear that this face will always win…

Just look at that Cute Face.

Just look at that Cute Face.