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From Sheep Bells to …

Some weeks, the days disappear so swiftly that it’s hard to remember anything that has happened on them or in them. They simply seem to have be swallowed up by the mechanical and practical business of living.

Then there are other times.

Which is where the sheep bells come in.

The past four mornings I have woken up and for a fleeting few seconds have had to focus on exactly where I am.

On Thursday morning, early, the sun was streaming into my room in our Cretan house and the sheep in the village land next to us (they only graze there in certain months of the year) were making their presence felt as I went outside, bare foot, for a final hour or two of spring warmth before flying back to the UK.

Then, after scant time at home, I was driving up to Leicester and a night at Premier Inn with a view, not of the White Mountains with the last of the snow sliding away, but of the car park, and the sounds of traffic.

Every year, (with the exception, of course, of the two pandemic years) I attend the Self-Publishing Conference in Leicester run by my publishing company and welcoming all sorts of experts and professionals from the publishing industry. And each year, it gets better and better – and not only because its location has changed to a splendid conference centre that serves the occasion so well.

It’s also because by now I have so many contacts and friends there – people I have only met through writing and publishing – and it is wonderful to have a day devoted entirely to our creative art and endeavours and to share experiences.

And in a space of one day, it’s possible to learn so much – pick up new ideas about marketing or be reminded of ones that have somehow been lost in the flotsam and jetsam of the year.

And always I return home re-energised and focused for the months ahead.

The pace of change in the publishing world is extraordinary.

And in marketing, of course, with social media leading the way to connect with other writers and, most importantly, with readers.

The range of genres now being written is so extensive – I had no idea that paranormal romance was now A Thing – and very, very popular too! Historical Fantasy, Police Procedural, and numerous other subgenres of crime are being written and read extensively.

It always makes me feel vague and undefined when people ask me what kind of thing I write. I hear myself saying, well, character-driven sort of literary/commercial fiction crossover, book group fiction kind of thing.

But it’s the kind of thing I read. And I have never yet met an author who does not write the sort of novels they like to read.

Which takes me onto my recent reads.

Sebastian Barry’s new novel Old God’s Time is beautifully written – naturally, he’s a wonderful writer – but seared in such sadness. There’s almost a quality of stream of consciousness in its style. Memorable and evocative in mood and setting.

Then a very different writer and novel – Jodi Picoult’s Wish You Were Here. This was very compelling and interesting – certainly a story with a twist – and although the fact that it’s set during the pandemic sounds like enough to put anyone off reading it (hard enough living through it without having to read a novel set in it …) it actually creates a very thought-provoking novel.

Or so I found it.

So no more waking to sheep bells for me for a while.

But I do have a novel to send off to my publisher when I finally convince myself all the edits are done.

And there are all those ideas I heard about at yesterday’s conference to exploit and put into practise …

More than enough to distract me from the distinct change in temperature from Cretan climes!

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