Fun on the Norfolk Broads

A break away from writing yesterday as I traded laptops for life jackets and headed on out for fun and frolics on the Norfolk Broads.

Now this is why I love Norfolk. Yes, we might have a lot of people with webbed hands and feet and yes we might be the world capital of wolf fleeces and yes we might have more tractors and beet lorries on our roads than cars, but we also have the fantastic broads.

Seventeen of us headed out in three boats, armed with water pistols,  alcoholic picnics, captain hats (because you have to wear a captain’s hat if you’re gonna drive a boat, right?),  two umbrellas (brought by the pessimists) and one bikini (worn by the wildly optimistic member of our gang).

We left Wroxham under grey skies, and in true Brit style, smiled through gritted teeth, as we shivered and drank coffee/Bacardi/beer (depending on which boat you were on) and speculated about what a wonderful day we were going to have, despite the weather. By the time we made our first pub stop, ominous spits of rain were falling from the sky, but we were hardcore and remained out in the beer garden.

And then the sun came out.

I managed to burn my nose again and now resemble the reindeer who wasn’t allowed to join in any reindeer games, we had a man overboard incident after one of our party tripped on the dock while untying the boat (and it wasn’t clumsy old me), the umbrellas disappeared and Caroline’s bikini came out, Dave got carried away during the water pistol fight and chucked Caroline’s muffins in the water and we had fantastic conversations, the kind only Norfolk friends can have.

Example:

Jody to Dave who has just ordered tomato and mozzarella salad: Are you vegetarian?

Dave: Um, well, I suppose… Well I guess I am during the daytime.

Yup, we had a daytime vegetarian with us. At night I expect he is out there stalking deer and sheep.

All in all a fabulous day out with good friends and a great chance to recharge the batteries; and I was reminded yet again of the great opportunities for setting one of my book plots on the Norfolk Broads. There are so many good places to hide the bodies.

 

Even this writer gets spooked sometimes.

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We all get spooked at one time or another. As a writer, I draw on personal experience when writing creepy scenes. They stick out in my mind and I can remember exactly how I felt at the time. The tension, the thumping heart, feeling so frightened I barely dare to breathe.
On one such occasion I had been out partying with a friend. I lived with my parents at the time and she was staying over. We didn’t leave the club until late and short on money, had to get the cab we’d caugh…t to drop us about a mile and a half from my home.That mile and a half was down a deserted wooded road, not at all dissimilar to the one in the picture.
It was about 3am and there was no traffic at all and I remember it was a windy night; the breeze rattling through the trees, leaves shaking and twigs snapping, making it sound as though there was something hidden amongst the branches watching us.We walked dead centre of the road, not wanting to get too close to the woods on either side, pretending to be brave, but both of us spooked and on edge.  As we headed out of the woods and into my village, I remember feeling relief. We were back on safe ground and only a few minutes walk away from home.As we neared the turnoff that led down to my house, a figure stepped out into the road. He was close enough to distinguish as male, though his features were unclear, and he just stood there in the middle of the road staring at us.

Waiting.

I remember we both clocked him at the same time, froze to the spot and my legs turned to jelly.It was late. No one was supposed to be about and we had to go past him to get to my house.Those few seconds – and I am sure they were only seconds, even though they felt like an hour at the time – were completely terrifying.

Eventually he turned and walked to the side of the road, disappearing into the small enclosed bus shelter on the edge of the village green. Out of sight, but still there and we still had to get past him.

Slowly we crept along. Stupid, as he knew we were approaching, but we clung to each other, barely daring to breathe, let alone talk. Instead of passing the front of the bus shelter, we decided to cut around the back of it. We did so, constantly watching in case the man to reappear.

He did, just as we had passed the shelter, stepping out onto the green in our direction. All I remember from that point was both of us running and not stopping until we reached the safety of my front door.

Who was he? I don’t know to this day. My guess is he was probably a tramp and we had disturbed his sleep when he heard us approaching.

Regardless of whether or not he meant us any harm, it was still one of the most scary experiences of my life and I have never and will never go walking in the woods in the middle of the night again.

Am I the only writer who…

 

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Gets a five hour window to write, spends four of those hours staring at a blank screen willing the words to come, then in the last hour manages to churn out a dozen or so pages?

Goes to the day job and spends the entire time acting out scenes with my characters and wishing I was home working on the book?

Overhears a line of dialogue or notes someone’s mannerism and thinks ‘I’m nicking that for one of my characters’?

Out of the most ordinary situations, has a seed planted, that then grows into a full blown plot?

Has moments where I think ‘I can’t do this. I will never finish my novel’, but then other times where I look at what I’ve written and proudly think ‘this is bloody good. Go me’?

Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! Don’t you forget about me.

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Everyone needs to recharge their batteries now and again and I have just returned from ten gloriously sunny days on the Spanish island of Menorca.

Before I departed England, I made a conscious decision to switch myself off from all social media. No Facebook or Twitter posts, no blogs, no book promotion at all. I knew my pages would take a hit. After all, out of sight is out of mind, and a week and a half is a fair amount of time.

I was right and on return my Facebook author page, where I am most prolific, and where it is easiest to analyse viewer statistics, had dropped by over a 100 regular viewers to just 6. Proof perhaps to those who think they can write a novel and sit back for an easy life, that if you want your book to sell, you have to be marketing on a daily basis, making the public aware of your existence.

By that, I don’t mean shamelessly self-promoting your book on every web page going, but instead building up a presence as you, the author, and engaging with your audience through entertaining posts. There is nothing wrong with an occasional polite and gentle reminder of your product, but keep ramming it down your audience’s throats and they will soon grow sick of you. Instead tell them how things are going with your current book, give updates as to what you are working on at the moment and mix things up with a few witty anecdotes from your personal life.

So readership of my page has dropped and over the coming weeks my job is to try and get this back up. I don’t regret my decision to switch off. I needed a break, to forget all things Dead Letter Day related for just a little while, and spent my ten days lazing in the sun and catching up on reading.

I used to be a voracious reader, but between writing, promotion and a full time job, I’ve struggled to complete more than a couple of books over the past six months. While on holiday I had time to immerse myself in four excellent novels (two by established authors, Karen Rose and Nora Roberts, and two debut novels by Megan Denby and Phil Simpkin) and I was reminded of the importance of reading to an author.

When I wrote Dead Letter Day I was probably averaging twenty books a year and I fully believe that reading makes you a better writer; not in terms of plagiarism, but because it helps unlock your mind and gets your creative juices flowing. And I can’t wait to get back to working on my new book.

If you are interested in checking out my holiday reading, please see the links below.

Karen Rose – No one left to tell

http://www.amazon.co.uk/One-Left-Tell-Karen-Rose/dp/0755373960/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1373192615&sr=8-1&keywords=no+one+left+to+tell

Megan Denby – A thistle in the mist

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Thistle-Mist-Megan-Denby/dp/1482699168/ref=sr_1_1_bnp_1_pap?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1373192648&sr=1-1&keywords=a+thistle+in+the+mist

Phil Simpkin – Jack Ketch’s puppets

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Jack-Ketchs-Puppets-Introducing-Borough/dp/1482712008/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1373192680&sr=1-1&keywords=phil+simpkin

Nora Roberts – Black Hills

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Black-Hills-Nora-Roberts/dp/074992893X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1373192717&sr=1-1&keywords=black+hills+nora+roberts