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I recently rediscovered the pleasure of real pens, using real ink on real paper.
It was Amanda who introduced me to Bureau Direct.
Now – be warned. The link above takes you to Aladdin’s stationery cupboard.
I recently had a look for ‘lined envelopes’. One hundred and forty choices. (All of which I could find a use for.)
Need a notebook? Four hundred and ninety eight options. (Not counting colour choices.)
Amanda and I correspond by letter. Yes. Really. Hand-written, on paper, in an envelope, with a stamp. (Any younger readers – ask your parents.) She has lovely hand-writing, and always has several fountain pens inked up and ready to go. Her letters are always an explosion of bright ink.
I have horrible handwriting, but am quickly catching up on the pen front. So it was time for me to start experimenting with some more coloured inks.
I had ordered the J Herbin Ten Inks Set. (£26.95 after my special discount.) OK, anyone can get the discount – sign up for their newsletter; but I still prefer to believe it’s just for me.
Inside the beautifully presented ‘coffret’ (just sounds better than box) are ten bottles of ink, each of 10ml. In order to test them out, I used a J Herbin glass pen that I had bought from Bureau Direct a few weeks ago. The paper is an Age Bag notebook, by Clairefontaine, available at, you guessed it, Bureau Direct.
Check out Amanda’s excellent review of the paper here. I can only imagine that when naming the range, the Clairfontaine marketing team had risked the second bottle at lunch.
The ink is lovely to write with, even as this left-hander wrestled with the glass pen. In truth, the glass pen is not hard to master – as soon as you discover that rotating it will alter the breadth of ‘the nib’.
Colours – entirely subjective. I like them all, but I am particularly taken by the Gris Nuage. I suspect that tomorrow, I may have a different favourite.
The team at Bureau Direct are knowledgeable and charming. Delivery is fast and efficient.
Just be careful. I’m now mainlining stationery…
First – a writing update.
She was, of course, blinded by its brilliance. There may have been one or two tiny constructive criticisms.
Oh alright, there were lots of criticisms and her eyesight remains fine – but they were all really helpful and she didn’t tell me to give up; so I’m calling it a win. 😉
Today though, I’m going to share with you a brief email exchange that I had with a Samuel Barton. Please take this as a cautionary tale, although it did give me a laugh too. His proof-reading is worse than mine.
Samuel is a terribly nice chap, who placed the winning bid on my old laptop, which I was selling on eBay. Concurrent with this email exchange, a fake Paypal email address was sending me entirely fictitious confirmations of payment.
It is my pleasure to inform you that I have carried out the payment via PayPal to your PayPal id. kindly check your PayPal email address (inbox,spam or junk mail) for the confirmation email of my Payment from PayPal.I also have the email receipt of the payment from PayPal with me.I want the item sent to my Nephew’s address who is living and working in West Africa.I would have asked you to post it to my eBay address in UK but I am presently going to Spain for a business trip. I sincerely hope you could assist me in shipping the item over there so it would be convenient for him to pick it up when it gets there.i also want to use the item as a surprise birthday Gift for his Cousin who is having his birthday next week.Here is the delivering address of my Nephew confirmed with pay pal.
109, Adefemi Street,
I want you to ship the item tomorrow via Royal Mail Airmail International 1st Class Delivery, so that the item will get there ASAP. I’ve added you £130 which should cover for the postage cost. Please get back to me with the shipment details (shipping Bar code) after shipping to the address above.
NOTE: Please wrap the item carefully, write GIFT on the paper. Please don’t use any other postage service except Royal Mail.
Am sorry for the inconvenience,please bear with me
My apologies, but I will only send the item, as advertised, to a UK address.
Thanks for your swift response lennon,Am sorry about the address,like have said in my first email that am on a business trip which was an emergency for,I wasn’t xpeceting the item go be posted off the UK and I don’t have any body to receive it for me in the UK,pls for God sake,assist me post it to the address which is also confirmed by paypal,have added £130 also which will cover for the postage cost to the address,I will forever great full if you and leave you a positive feedback if you grant my wish..thanks
I am sorry to hear of your emergency. It sounds terrible.
I regret that I will only send the item to the UK address.
I’ll see if I can live with feedback.
Perhaps you should withdraw your bid.
Good luck with your business trip.
Lennon you not getting me right..I have nobody to receive it for me in the UK,don’t worry about the item going international as it will get to its destination un damage,pls give this issue a very good consideration…also I can no longer remove my bid again.
I will not send the item outside of the UK.
You can retract the bid very simply, click on the following link
cannot do that as i no longer have acess to my money again,and paypal said they cannot refund me as its already in your account,waiting for a proof of postage from you to complete it,pls lennon just do this for me for God’s sake.
How very unusual. Paypal won’t refund your money? Just go to their Buyer Protection section. They will help you out.
I can wait for 21days mate…you not even given me a second think…
I’m sure you’ll manage OK.
Am disappointed in you lennon..thought u said u a writer??a writer doesn’t seem to be this rigid..I read little of your writes and you seem very loyal and cool but you’ve just proof me wrong..its bad ..I though the word says “customer are always right”??,am really unhappy with this and you’ve just embarrassed me in front of my nephew as have told him his package is on the way which he will so anxious to receive soonest,now you’ve got my paypal empty to the extent that I can’t even purchase another as I don’t have enough funds left..its very bad lenno.
Better still can you dispatch it to my wife in USA???
Another New Mail
Ah Samuel, the only reason I’m still talking to you is because I’m a writer.
Your ineffective attempts to defraud me are, in their own way, fascinating.
Stealing is not a way of life Samuel. You are a fraud. You are not even very good at it.
So – no I can’t dispatch it to your wife in the USA. Not even if you say pretty please.
Go get a life Samuel.
I have not had a response to this last one yet, nor has Samuel signed up to receive my monthly newsletter. C’mon Sam. You know you want to.
Most of you have forgotten, but I am writing a book.
I’ve forgotten from time to time.
Fortunately, I somehow snared a writing buddy (Amanda Fleet), who reminds me.
Amanda and I have been discussing a character in my novel. We’ll call her Natalya. As her name is Natalya that seems the simplest thing to call her.
She is quite a looker and smarter than the average bear. Amanda wanted to know what made this woman tick. Had I worked out where she was from? Did I know her backstory?
I began typing an answer to the question. I stopped for a cup of tea. Then I typed some more. And more. Yes, I did know where she was from, what made her tick. To my own great surprise, I know a hell of a lot about her.
This taught me two things, which I now share with you for free. (Don’t forget to buy the book when I publish it)
- When I’m not sure about a character, or a plot, I’m going to write down the question, and then start writing the answer out. It’s amazing what’s in the head, waiting to come out.
- You do not need a writing buddy to write a book. But having one makes it a hell of a lot easier.
Amanda has not mucked about as much as me – you can buy her book here.
When not toiling away at the book, I have been preparing for my wee walk which is a scant six weeks away now. Stu and I are, in turns, terrified and excited. How bad could it be?
Right. Off to polish Natalya. (Ahem…)
We have a Winner, Ladies and Gentlemen.
It is a great read and now available both on paper and your favourite e-reader. I urge you to go and check it out. I am lobbying hard for some more adventures for the lead characters, but Amanda is being stubborn. (Yorkshire-born, you know.)
While I am being bossy, once you have read it, review it. Ultimately, us poor new writers have you guys as our marketing team. The more you review it and recommend it, then the more people get to hear about it and hopefully, buy it. Go on, give a new writer a hand.
The draw was made yesterday and the first name out of the hat was Jack Dowd. Jack blogs, writes, self-publishes and tweets. Track him down here on his blog. Jack – you are a winner!
Right – I have to get back to writing, working and all sorts of other w’s (No dirty comments please!)
Regular readers will be aware that I have a writing buddy. Amanda Fleet recently published her debut novel ‘The Wrong Kind of Clouds’. I reviewed it here. If you would like the chance to win a free copy, then scroll to the bottom of the page and sign up for my newsletter. (Offer open until midnight on July 30th 2016. You will automatically be signed up for Amanda’s newsletter too.)
All current subscribers will be entered into the draw too. Both Amanda’s newsletter and mine have unsubscribe buttons.
The following questions were batted to and fro over the last few weeks, when Amanda was in the midst of launching the novel, both virtually, and in person at Waterstones St Andrews.
Congratulations! You have published your debut novel, ‘The Wrong Kind of Clouds’ and very good it is too. How long was it in the making?
A number of people have asked me this. I had a look in my notebook to see when I started writing it and naturally, I haven’t written the date in there at the start, but chasing through the notebook, it would seem that the first draft took about a year from first notes to first full draft. I then left it alone for a while but had finished the first edit by six months later. It went off to beta readers towards the end of 2011 and I did some more editing, based on their feedback. I then left it alone while I wrote two more books! I was only meaning to write one more, but then the inspiration struck and I didn’t want to lose it!
It went to Dea Parkin, my editor, in spring 2015. More editing after that. Although I technically started writing it just over 5 years ago, I think the total time spent writing and editing it would be about 20 months. I’ve written a number of other things since, which are hopefully going to come out in within the next year or so.
An extensive process. Which are your favourite elements?
Oh, by far the initial planning and sketching out of the plot and writing character notes. It’s a period of discovery and imagination and the ideas come thick and fast – so fast I get scared I won’t manage to trap them all and they’ll evaporate. Once the planning is done, I think writing the first draft is my next favourite part – there’s still that buzz of creativity going on.
And the least favourite?
Editing. I know of some writers who love editing – checking every word and fine-tuning it all until it’s humming – and I admire them for it. That’s not how I find editing!
Part of the novel is set in Malawi. Why there?
I went out to Malawi with work (University of St Andrews) many times, working on a project with the College of Medicine in Blantyre, Malawi. While I was in Malawi, I met Mac Nkhutabasa – a man working with homeless children, helping them to return to education and get off the streets. A significant strand of the book developed from working with him to set up a charity – Chimwemwe Children’s Centre – to help the kids. The charity in the book – Samala – is loosely based on Chimwemwe, though Chimwemwe is 100% above board!
I love Malawi. It is a beautiful country that steals your heart but can also break it. It’s a country that few people seem to know about or visit and I wanted to let people see a bit of it.
Are you still involved with the Children’s Centre? What does it do?
I am still involved. Chimwemwe works with homeless and disadvantaged children in Blantyre, Malawi, helping them to remain in education or to return to it. For many families, it is a financial struggle to send their children to school – the cost of uniforms and stationery and textbooks can be more than they can afford – and so the children get pulled out of school to work or beg. Chimwemwe helps the families by buying the uniforms and stationery for the children and paying the school fees for those in secondary education (which is not free in Malawi). For those children who have been orphaned, we help them into foster care and support the foster families as well as the kids (buying food for them so that taking the children on doesn’t mean that the foster family is pushed towards poverty). We’ve also just finished building a centre where the kids can go to do homework and get life-skills lessons. For those older kids who are about to leave school, we help them to get apprenticeships or training so that they can build their own businesses and also give them a start-up grant to help them to find their feet.
You are Dr Amanda Fleet. You held a permanent post at the University of St Andrews lecturing on Physiology, a post which you have given up to become a full-time writer. Not a small decision. Why did you make it?
Well… I’d been writing and working full-time for a few years, spending evenings and weekends scribbling away. That wasn’t sustainable! Or compatible with staying healthy, and so I moved to part-time work at the university – three days a week – and wrote at weekends and on the days I wasn’t working. Then, finally, a serious heart condition made me reassess my priorities in life and I decided to have a career change. Writing made me happier than working at the university did and trying to fit too much into too little time was having a significant and detrimental effect on my health. I miss some aspects of working at the university (not least the pay cheques!) but it was the right move and I haven’t regretted it so far.
What was it like getting from an idea in your head to a printed, published book?
Surreal. It genuinely feels like it’s happening to someone else! Everyone says I must be really proud of my achievements and delighted to see the book in print… I am delighted, but it feels as if I’m delighted for a friend rather than for myself. Maybe it hasn’t sunk in yet or maybe I live too much of my life in a fantasy world in my head, but it doesn’t feel mine to be honest.
You explained that there are two more books already written. Do the characters from “The Wrong Kind of Clouds” feature in them?
No. Actually, there are more than two written, because The Wrong Kind of Clouds wasn’t the first book I’d written, it was the first to get published. I have a bit of a back-log building up! People keep asking me whether there’s another book with Summer and LB going to happen and I have ¾ of one written with them in it. I think I’ll need to get that one sorted out soon since everyone seems to want more of them.
When can we expect the publication of number two?
Hopefully within the year. I’m editing at the moment and that book will go off to my editor at the end of June, for her to make it better.
What advice would you give to anyone considering writing a book?
Be sure that you have the time. You’re not writing the book yet, but you fill every minute of your day with something. What gets replaced in order to write the book? Do you stop watching TV? Stop playing sport? Stop seeing friends? You need to think what you’re going to have to give up in order to have the time to write, because there are 24 hours in the day and no more. Just because you decide to spend 2 hours a day writing, doesn’t mean the day is now 26 hours long! You need to know where you’ll get the time from. To have a head full of ideas and no opportunity to scribble them down before they vanish, is hell. Believe me, I know.
In Amanda Fleet’s debut thriller, The Wrong Kind of Clouds, Patrick Forrester is in trouble. Deep trouble. Someone wants him dead. In fact, lots of people want him dead, but one of them has taken him hostage. As he’s being bundled away, he manages to call his ex-lover, Summer Morris, and begs her for help…
Summer Morris, an award-winning photographer with synaesthesia, hasn’t spoken to Patrick for months. With good reason. In fact, she would have been happy never to hear from him again. But, he begged her for help, so she’s trying to help. Along with an off-duty police officer, Detective Sergeant LB Stewart, she gets swept into Patrick’s world of lies and deceit, in a desperate race against time to find him alive.
Trying to unpick the knot of Patrick’s life takes them from an affair that could help bring down a government, to the dust and heat of Malawi, and a whole heap of trouble in between. If only they knew who wanted him dead, they might find him alive. The trouble is, almost everyone wants Patrick dead.
Amanda is my writing buddy. We met through a twitter chat. (#writingchat – Every Wednesday night at 20.00 UK time.) Mostly, Amanda sends me really helpful links and does her level best to get me actually doing something, and I send her internet links of cats doing funny things. So, yes, I may be slightly biased. However, that said, I am not known for my tact or diplomacy.
The Wrong Kind of Clouds is a crime novel that rattles along at a great pace. Despite trying to put it down, I read it in a day, which is pretty much the greatest compliment that I can pay a thriller.
The characters have depth and are interesting – in fact, I hope to hear more of Summer and LB in the future.
The Police Detective became my new hero when he said,
“Yes. I really hate bad cooking. I would rather go hungry than eat something out of a packet.”
How can you not like a half-French detective, living in Edinburgh?
It’s a cracking book that I enjoyed from start to finish, never quite sure how of how it would finish. Buy it from troubadour.co.uk as a paperback or if you prefer ebooks, then it’s available towards the end of the month.
Grab yourself a copy. You won’t regret it.
And remember, you heard it here first.
Every Wednesday evening, at eight o’clock, a bunch of people get together on twitter. Each week there is a different writing related theme determined by a shadowy collective that I think of as the ‘White Witches of Words’. (Boy, am I going to get stick for writing that!)
For any not familiar with twitter – to participate, we add #writingchat to each comment and then follow all comments with that #.
The chat is light-hearted, and fun. Participants are generous with their time, knowledge and experience. The forum that the chat provides allows newbies like me the opportunity to glimpse other writers and learn that many challenges are shared by all.
I have met some great people at writingchat, not least, my writing buddy Amanda Fleet. As you are reading this, the self-effacing Amanda is too – and muttering to herself something along the lines of ‘stop talking about me.’ That night’s writingchat was ‘Writing Buddies’ and neither I nor Amanda had one. We skirted the subject shyly. An experienced writer tweeted “Just swap 1,000 words and see how you get on.” So we did.
Despite her best efforts, she can’t shake me now.
Very soon, Amanda is releasing her first novel, ‘The Wrong Kind of Clouds’ as a paperback and e-book. Skip along to her blog here for details – and even a discount if you are quick enough.
It’s Saturday. One week until the end of the A to Z Challenge.
Today I am writing about ‘The Wrong Kind of Clouds’, the best ever debut novel written by Amanda Fleet, my writing buddy. You can order a copy here, and even get a discount.
I haven’t read it. Amanda had this one in the bag before I turned up. I have ‘met’ a couple of the characters. They turn up in a novella that Amanda is planning to let people have for free.
The protagonist, Summer is someone I would like to spend some time with; tough, but good fun, I think. She also has a medical condition that I had never heard of; synasthesia. Broadly, any emotion Summer feels is ‘in colour’. Mad. But great.
I’m looking forward to the release, I have pre-ordered a paperback version.
Obviously, when ‘clouds’ sells well and Amanda topples J.K. Rowling, I’ll claim all the credit.
‘She’d be nobody without me, you know.’
Go and pre-order one. If you are an e-book person, sign up to her website and get notified the moment the novel is available in your preferred format.
Remember, you heard it here first.
‘The Wrong Kind of Clouds’.
Amanda is my writing buddy.
We have never met. We exchange messages on social media, by e-mail and sometimes by post.
Amanda is a woman of many talents. University lecturer, PHD, runner, stationery addict and most importantly, writer.
She is completing the A to Z Challenge – you can visit her here. Her stationery blog is worth a quick look too, but I warn you; stationery is seriously addictive. My novel needs to succeed to support my stationery habit.
Her first novel is coming out soon, in fact there is a launch event at Waterstones in St Andrews. (She is a proper author!)
I was sitting looking at two sprawling first drafts, trying to work out what the hell to do next. Amanda and I ‘met’ on Twitter. She has been incredibly generous in sharing her approach in producing a book, and unstintingly supportive. It is no exaggeration to say that without Amanda, the best debut novel that I have ever written will not ever see the light of day.
For that reason, my first post in this A to Z Challenge is a simple thank you to Amanda.
Many people are aiming to complete the A to Z Challenge – this is the list. Go and check some out, obviously Amanda’s first.
This is the first of 26 posts in April (Sundays we get to rest) as part of the A to Z Challenge.