Six years of blogging – come celebrate with me!

Six years of blogging – come celebrate with me!

On the 9th of February 2009, I started this blog. I wasn’t really sure what I was doing, but it felt like the right thing. Six years and over 850 posts later, and I’m still not very sure what I’m doing, but it does still feel like the right thing!

I’ve seen a LOT of changes. Blogging friends who have burned bright, and then burned out, deleted their blog, started new ones, vanished utterly from the blog-o-sphere. The vital impact of blogging has waned, possibly under the sheer weight of social media outlets, yet still I continue because I have things I need to say.

My blog predated my publishing journey, and while that’s been a big part of my blogging, Zen and the Art of Tightropewalking has been more than just another writer’s blog. It’s not here to showcase my work but to share the essence of who I am. I’ve decided 2015 is a Jung year, and reading Man and His Symbols, I came across this quote from Wassily Kandinsky: “Everything that is dead, quivers. Not only the things of poetry, stars, moon, wood, flowers, but even a white trouser button glittering out of a puddle in the street….Everything has a secret soul, which is silent more often than it speaks.” I blog so that the secret souls can be heard, the voices of the stones, the trees, the beasts and the birds, and my dialogue with them is what feeds my writing.

To celebrate this anniversary, I’m offering my first published novel, Strangers and Pilgrims at a ridiculously low price (the same as for the short story collections) , worldwide, for about 48 hours, as a thank you to my readers. I’m very wary of the way many authors under-price their work so this is why it’s a very short period of discount, and the price will go back up within a few days. I hope you enjoy it; it’s my way of saying, Thank you for being with me for a time on this journey.

Interview and give-away

I’m gearing up for surgery tomorrow but I thought I’d share this interview that Sonya did with me this week. For the very first time, I am offering a giveaway. There are 3 copies of The Moth’s Kiss in paperback up for grabs for those who comment at Sonya’s blog, so pop over and have a read and enter the competition:

http://aloverofbooks.wordpress.com/2014/03/25/interview-vivienne-tuffnell/

I’m hoping to have a post  for Monday as usual but it depends how I feel. It also depends whether I’m home from hospital or not. I know I could schedule one but even after five years, I like hitting *publish* for a post.

Blinking in the spotlight ~ an interview with me

Earlier this week I was interviewed by Jorge Salgado-Reyes at the Indie Authors Press. It’s ever so slightly daunting being questioned by someone you know to be a private investigator (and the Dire Straits song Private Investigations was playing off and on in my head during the interview) but the results are enjoyable.

It was good to get a chance to review the writing process and also to get some exposure for the forthcoming novel Square Peg too.

Enjoy!

http://www.salgado-reyes.com/breakingnews/shining-the-spotlight-on-vivienne-tuffnell/

Tales of Amber

A few weeks ago, I was asked if I would write an article for Women Writers, Women’s Books

It took me a week of letting my mind go blank, letting it off the lead before it came back with the ideas for the article. It’s combined my love of the semi-precious material amber and my love for writing (and reading)

Do go and have a read, pass it on, share it and if you would like to comment, do please leave your thoughts on the article.

 

http://booksbywomen.org/tales-amber/

There’s no such thing as a free lunch ~ on the rightful exchange of energies.

There’s no such thing as a free lunch ~ on the rightful exchange of energies.

I’ve seen a good deal lately about free books. If you buy e-books, you’ll probably have gathered a few freebies. Amazon allows its Select programme authors to make their books free for five days out of the ninety day exclusive period. Many authors believe that the exposure having a book available for free brings in sales later, especially if the book charts in one of the best-seller categories that run side by side, paid alongside free. When the opportunity to “sell” your book at the free option first came around, a lot of authors found that their books soared to the top of categories as people in their thousands downloaded it. As time went on, the numbers downloading became lower and the paid sales that came on the back of it dropped even lower too.

Today I came across Erika M Szabo’s blog post explaining how she has people messaging her and asking her when her books would be free  http://lovetotalkalot.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/free-book.html I’m certain her experience is far from unusual. It would seem that the plethora of books offered for free has meant that a lot of readers now expect books for nothing.

Some time ago I stopped downloading free books, just because they were free. In fact, I stopped doing it within a few months of getting my Kindle. Most of the ones I nabbed remain unread, lost somewhere in the hinterlands of my device. I realised that the books that got put into the folder named Freebies seldom came out again. I have occasionally picked up a book that’s been offered free, but it’s generally ones I might well have bought. Currently I am reading a non fiction book about food in the books of Jane Austen. I’ll probably write a review when I finish it, as a thank you.

I’m sure if people thought about it properly they would understand that while authors do want their books to be read, they don’t really want to give them away. There’s something more complicated going on, something subtle and easy to miss. Giving away books can be part of a strategy to gain more readers: either on the off chance that those who grab it when it’s free will read it (and even better, write a review), or because the book has been given as an ARC (Advance Review Copy) in exchange for an honest review later. I know from other writers than ARCs often bring in poor returns; many readers never get round to writing the promised review. I don’t generally accept ARCs myself either because the time factor is such that if it’s a book I want to read in the first place, I prefer to buy it because that gives it greater weight in the sliding scale of what I an afford to spend time on. In my mind, a book I have bought (exchanged money for) is likely to be read far sooner than one that I have been given in the hope that I will review it. If I have paid money for a book, too, I feel that the basic exchange of energies is in balance. Once I have read that book, depending on how much I have enjoyed it, there is then a possibility that I feel the balance has been upset again. A book I have adored creates in me the desire to share it, to review it and to make up the deficit in energy. So a four quid book that I loved requires something more to settle the scales.

Of all the commodities today, for many of us, time is the most valuable. I’ve read scathing reviews of books that often refer to the time they have lost reading a book they didn’t enjoy, and often it’s only the fact that it was free or cheap that has redeemed it. But my time too is valuable. To write a book takes time and dedication and while you can argue that writers make that choice to use their time to write (and no one is holding a gun to their heads) I do believe that demanding unlimited free books is an obscenity. The motto of my faculty at university was Haec otia studia fovent which roughly translates as This leisure(wealth) fosters/favours study; one could use the same basic sentiment to declare that this leisure fosters creative works. Without the time taken out of other activities few books would get written. There are few authors I know who can write full time. Most of us have day jobs. We write for all sorts of reasons and while there’s some who write in the hope of making their fortune, I think most accept that very few succeed in that way.

My own books are the product of intense, focused periods of creative energy, with all the concomitant hours of extra work to polish and prepare them for public consumption. I have never made any of them free on Kindle and I probably won’t. However, I do happily give away copies to individuals and I have my own code for this. I don’t send out ARCs out before a book is published (but I may do something of the sort one day when I get all my ducks in a row) because I’d rather not create obligation in others. If a book has given enjoyment that is worthy of the very reasonable price, then I think that’s all square. The reviews that come in give me great pleasure and I’m deeply grateful for them.

Every free book has been the product of a lot of work and hope too. It’s greedy to gobble them all up and demand more of the same without offering something in return. An author cannot keep on churning out more and more of the same product endlessly without something going back to feed them, and for readers to see authors as mere providers of their favourite mental snacks will create even greater imbalance. Authors will get discouraged and they will give up. Many already have.

If you enjoy reading, whatever your preferred genres, remember that exchange of energy, especially if you “buy” free books. Make time to review the ones you enjoyed, or buy a book by the same author if you liked their style, let others know about books they may also enjoy. 

Why do we care what others think of us?

Why do we care what others think of us?

I sometimes see people declaring that they don’t care what anyone thinks of them. I envy them this, at times, because I do care what other people think of me. I know that can’t change anything, and I ought not to be a people pleaser (and I’m not) but nonetheless, it bothers me what others think of me.

It upsets me when people have a poor or negative opinion of me. I know it shouldn’t but it does. It means that I hate the idea of anyone visiting when the house has slid from being amiably Bohemian to being an out-and-out mess. I have a sliding scale of how far into the house people are allowed to penetrate, depending on how much I trust them not to judge me and find me wanting. There are few people I would allow near the scullery (it’s a utility room but I like the old fashioned word more) because it’s inevitably a chaotic mess of recycling, cleaning equipment and it’s also where the cat litter tray is stationed. Very few people are ever allowed upstairs; not because it’s a mess (though sometimes it is) but because it’s the most private and personal area of our home.

But why do I worry about the state of my home? Surely no one has any right to judge how I run my own house? You’d be surprised how many would consider they have every right to denigrate someone for their lack of pride in housekeeping. That aside, it comes down to shame. I am ashamed of being such a poor home-maker. The script in my head runs like this: It’s not as if you actually work, you’re home all day after all, how can you live with all this mess, doesn’t it bother you that you haven’t washed up yet, what have you been doing with the time, you lazy, feckless waster….

Familiar?

On a good day I can counter this with evidence that actually housework isn’t important to me, that I do what’s really needed, and far from not working, I work very hard. But the script does keep on running and running, and I’m far from conquering it with the realisation that I’m not a housewife and never will be, that I have another calling. Because writing is a vocation and like any vocation it takes more time and energy than those who don’t write can imagine. The end results of writing (like this blog post) are the one tenth of the iceberg that’s visible.

Another area I get upset by is my appearance. I’m never going to be a size ten, let alone a size zero. My illness has meant weight gain, and there are days when leaving the house feels like I am a lone mammoth heading out into the vast empty steppes for hunters to throw spears at me. Of course, the spears are unkind words, and thankfully they are rarely voiced directly at me. Yet the disparaging comments that are directed daily in torrents at the overweight and obese fill up a space that we all hear. The assumption is that fat people are lazy feckless greedy pigs, stuffing their faces and never shifting their lardy arses to get any exercise. It permeates social media and it permeates society. I’ve heard people dismissively condemn the overweight as stupid too, claiming that since the equation is calories in, calories out and adjusting to make sure you eat less than you expend is hardly rocket science, ergo fatties like me are also thick as pig shit. Needless to say, it’s far from that simple but I’m not discussing this right now.

Surely it is easy to say, ignore it all, that people who don’t like me/you do not have opinions worth valuing?

Well, that may be true but it’s been noted that it only takes one negative opinion to outweigh dozens of good ones. Most writers forget about their swathe of five star reviews when the one single starred one pops up. We remember pain and censure more readily than we do approval and kindness.

So. Why do we care what others think of us? Why does it matter so much?

We’re social animals, tribal beings. To lose approval means to risk losing your place in society. At one stage, to be ostracised (here is the definition of it under Athenian rule http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ostracism) meant certain death. If everyone turned against you, you were doomed. No one would help you, no one would sell you food. You ceased to exist to all intents and purposes.

The psychology of ostracism

Most of the research on the psychology of ostracism has been conducted by the social psychologist Kip Williams. He and his colleagues have devised a model of ostracism which provides a framework to show the complexity in the varieties of ostracism and the processes of its effects. There he theorises that ostracism can potentially be so harmful that we have evolved an efficient warning system to immediately detect and respond to it.[29][30]

In the animal kingdom as well as in primitive human societies, ostracism can lead to death due to the lack of protection benefits and access to sufficient food resources from the group.[31] Living apart from the whole of society also means not having a mate, so being able to detect ostracism would be a highly adaptive response to ensure survival and continuation of the genetic line.

It is proposed that ostracism uniquely poses a threat to four fundamental human needs; the need to belong, the need for control in social situations, the need to maintain high levels of self-esteem, and the need to have a sense of a meaningful existence.[29] A threat to these needs produces psychological distress and pain. Thus, people are motivated to remove this pain with behaviours aimed at reducing the likelihood of others ostracising them any further and increasing their inclusionary status.

( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_rejection )

The anxiety that the first signs of rejection bring to us, are, I believe part of our collective unconscious. These days, it’s unlikely that we could be rejected to the extent to which we would die from lack of social acceptance, but I do feel that a part of us dies or becomes deeply dormant, the further we are rejected and reviled.

It becomes a question of caring, not too much but not too little either. People whose opinion we value will seldom actually reject us, but it’s deeply painful when they do, for a reason that goes beyond the fear of social isolation. It’s because it taps into our fears that those pejorative terms our inner critic hurls at us may actually be accurate representations of who and what we truly are.

I fear that I am lazy, feckless, untalented, a show-off, ungrateful, chaotic, greedy, etc so when this is played back to me by suggestions made either directly or indirectly, it magnifies that horrible inner critic to shouting volume. And that feeds in powerfully to the fear that once one person has rejected me, everyone else will follow.

In the wild, it has been observed among chimps that an individual who is cast from the group will often wander away to lie down and die, even though there is food and shelter around them. Like chimps, humans can and do die of loneliness.

Low Resolution, High Resolution ~ New Year Thoughts

Low Resolution, High Resolution ~ New Year Thoughts

 

I considered calling this article, The Last Post, because it will be the last one to appear in 2013, but then I realised that this might sound as if I am giving up blogging. This year has been a huge struggle to keep going with lots of things and I confess that making sure I post a new piece once a week has sometimes been quite a challenge.

That makes me wonder who I am blogging for and why.

Blogging is almost by definition confessional, personal and yet very public. I share my thoughts because I believe that they are worth sharing, that those who read what I write may find it interesting, helpful or challenging. At times the conviction that this is so is shaken; a former colleague made various attacks on me on Facebook indicating that she found my outpourings tedious. It upset me more than is reasonable and made me question the worth of my writing, especially my poetry. In the end, I chose to ignore that viewpoint based on the torrent of support I received.

I wasn’t sure I had anything I could offer today as a hope-encrusted gem, making the best of the year gone by and projecting desires and wishes for the year to come. I don’t generally do the whole New Year’s resolution thing, not since teenage years when it usually consisted of one muddled wish to be thinner. Yet, here I am in middle-age, fatter than ever. Nothing ever works out quite how we desire it to.

2013 has been a hard year for me. I had to fight to get diagnoses of two conditions, one life limiting, the other life limiting AND life threatening. I knew there was something very wrong, and yet getting through to medical professionals with it has been terribly tough. I can’t help thinking that had I not been who I am, I might well be looking at a grim future and an early death. While I accept that neither condition is easy to diagnose or well-known, it seems criminal that blood test anomalies had been ignored and glossed over probably for some years. I have now seen my enemy on an ultrasound screen. 8mm by 5mm doesn’t sound that big but given that the gland the tumour grew from should be no bigger than the head of a pin (or thereabouts) it’s colossal. I’m hoping that the removal of it will give me new life. I’m sick of pain, sick of the fogginess and memory fuzziness, the feeling of being significantly impaired, of being woken 8 times a night because of the polyuria, of having a permanently dry mouth that means I need to sip water to stay hydrated. I’m tired of being tired, and of all the other nasty symptoms that doctors were originally ascribing to depression. I’m fed up of being sad and being unable to feel good about things. My real hope for 2014 is that I can start to live again.

The writer’s block I have wrestled with for as long as I’ve been blogging may well turn out to be a direct result of the malfunctioning parathyroid. It’s hard to carry ideas, plots, characters, dialogue, settings and descriptions when your short term memory is peppered with tiny holes. Much of my writing is brewed in the subconscious layers of my mind, but is filtered through the conscious strata and ordered by the logical, methodical processes that are affected by the illness. The continuation of writing during this long illness is something I feel I should be proud of, yet I fear that perhaps I’m actually a crap writer who’s burned out all her good stuff years ago.

I did some of the things I aimed at doing this year. I published The Moth’s Kiss, got it and The Wild Hunt out in gorgeous peachy-skinned paperbacks. I reviewed and re-uploaded the Kindle version of Strangers & Pilgrims, cleaning it of the typos that had marred it. You perhaps cannot imagine how very difficult and painful that was for me, or how cathartic it was. I spoke at the TAP conference in March. But I didn’t get The Bet out in paperback, and I didn’t put together the book I intended to release of the top posts from this blog, or the ones I wanted to do of my poetry.

I began a new novel in January, which has been hard work to write and I think I am roughly half way. I’m about half way through the story I began originally here as a serial, Lost. I’ve written some short stories, some poetry, and I’ve managed to blog here at least once a week, all year. It’s none of it been easy.

Things I want to do next year include delving ever deeper into the Grail lore I’ve been studying and writing about, mostly privately. I want to write more for myself. I’ve realised that while I have a niche for my writing, and I have a lot of wonderful readers, I’m not going to ‘make it’ as a best selling author, selling tens of thousands of books, or even millions. To have even one person read, enjoy and benefit from my writing is success. I’d rather stay small and stay myself than be lured into chasing the will o’ the wisp of commercial success. I can remain resolutely amateur and while I wish to present my work in as accessible and attractive a manner as possible, to invest money I don’t have in let’s say,cover art that aims to seduce the potential reader (and other stratagems) I’d rather be original and myself and risk being deemed ‘unprofessional’.

I do want to get my poetry out there and also the compilation of the best posts from this blog, but I don’t want it to be something to pressure myself with. I know now I am quite ill and the last thing I need is to stress myself with foolish self-imposed deadlines. I’d rather have the pleasure of using my clearer moments to write things, and enjoy writing, than spend the time on things I don’t enjoy. If my hopes for this illness are borne out, then once I begin to recover, then tasks I have hitherto found as hard as tap-dancing in quick drying cement, may flow more readily and take up less energy.

There’s books on my hard drive ready to be polished up for publishing; I’m about half way with Square Peg so if there are any of you who fancy being beta-readers or proof readers, I’d be happy to hear from you. There are two sequels to The Bet. And several other tales I’ve maybe never mentioned before, as well as the incomplete ones (two of which I have mentioned already, and another two I haven’t), and a longer short story I’d hoped to have out for Christmas and failed.

Anyway, I have meandered and muddled along through this article and I need to wrap it up by saying a huge thank you to everyone who has read this blog, either as a regular thing or as an occasional dip-in. I’d like to thank those who have bought and read my books: you do not know quite how much that means to me.

May the new Year of 2014 bring you blessings and challenges in a balanced measure, enough to grow and develop and also to have much joy to counter the sorrow that is woven through all of life. 

Self-publishing, morphic resonance and why I’m never going to be a businesswoman

Self-publishing, morphic resonance and why I’m never going to be a businesswoman

I’ve been fretting about writing this for some time. It’s churned and turned and roiled and boiled inside me for ages and I’m never going to get any peace if I don’t try and sort my thoughts into order.

The last two years have been a very interesting ride. In that time I have published three novels, two short story collections and a non fiction book of meditations. I’m not counting the eighteen months where Strangers and Pilgrims was available as a paperback, because I had little or nothing to do with that side of things. For me self publishing began when I put that novel onto Kindle. As self published authors go, I’m doing quite well, I guess. Still mid-list, which is what you can generally expect for the kind of vaguely literary fiction I write. I have books consistently in the top 100 for their category; I have some excellent reviews. And I’ve had some fun.

But the last six months or so something has begun niggling at me, and the niggles have become more than occasional discomfort and have begun to really cause me some distress.

It’s this: the constant pressure to do better.

I don’t mean write better. I like to think I work hard at that anyway. I mean, to sell better. I spend a lot of time on social media, and I follow links and I read articles and it’s making me ill.

The nub of it is that self-published writers still generally wish to be taken seriously, to be counted as the equals of those who have a contract with a legacy publisher, and to sell as well and to live the so-called writer lifestyle. To do so, there is endless discussions about what you must do to compete with the Big Guns. Professional covers, formatting, editing, proofreading, book trailers, book tours, signing tours, being on every available e-reader format, having a professional website (God forbid you use a bog standard WordPress blog!) There are sites that shame amateur looking book covers. I won’t go on. I’m sure you’ve seen the same kind of things if you’re a writer. This constant pressure to show you are as good as a ‘proper author’. And in doing so, there’s a trap that’s become more and more obvious.

Equal and identical are different things. In the rush to prove we’re as good as authors who have a publisher, we’ve missed the point of the revolutionary nature of self publishing. We’re trying to do what the Big Guns do, reproduce the same sort of books, the same sort of covers, and sell at the same level. And get paid a substantial amount more for the work we’d have had to have done anyway in terms now of the promotion every author is obliged to do. (unless they’re Stephen King etc).

So, this has been getting me down. It’s been interfering with my creative flow like a bloody great dam. I can’t write now without the ghost of a thought of, “Will this sell? Will this be the one that tips the balance into making me a massively successful best seller?”. It seeps into the whole process, and I’ve only just pinned it down.

It’s not wrong to want to sell lots of books, make a living from them. It’s not wrong to want to share your words with thousands of people, entertain and inform them.

But surely it should not be that energy that is unconsciously directing my writing? If there were a formula to what will sell, and how to do it, believe me it would be a closely guarded and very expensive secret. There isn’t and there can’t be because it’s something so nebulous that it’s even harder to predict than long range weather forecasts for Britain.

When self publishing first began to be a phenomenon, there was a great deal of excitement about it. You might do anything, publish anything. Niche books. Experimental books. ANYTHING at all. There were endless possibilities, all waiting for people to leap in and try them. What has changed it is the need to sell, to make money, to make back what you shelled out to produce a work, to be compensated for the time and tears it took to produce a book. We all have bills to pay, debts too, and day jobs that can be stultifying and depressing; the dream that someday you may earn enough from writing to quit the day job is very seductive, and the thing that can make that dream a reality is MONEY. So morphic resonance kicks in: the path of self publishing has been set now to be like publishing but without the publishers. The lists are chocka with excellent and not-so-excellent books that are in the main, pretty like the books you might find in a book-store packed with the latest blockbusters, must-reads and the latest from your favourite mystery authors.

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with any of this; please don’t get me wrong. But the whole drive for independence was originally about freedom. Freedom from the constraints of genre and of commercial viability, so there would be new worlds to explore.

I read with increasing dismay and depression the exhortations to be professional, to do things a certain way. To see writing as a business. To have five year plans and to keep to them. And all the many articles covering these subjects all end with the veiled threat that if you do not follow these paths, then your work will never sell, and you will never achieve your dream of leaving the day job behind. You’ll never be interviewed on breakfast TV with your latest runaway best seller; you’ll never mingle with the great and the good in the world of literature and books. You’ll never win prizes and accolades and be lionised as an example of how a self-published author can prove the nay-sayers wrong.

Well, bugger that for a game of soldiers. It’s not going to happen. I don’t want to chase a dream someone else (some tens of thousands of others in fact) seem to think I ought to be chasing. Even thinking about it is getting in the way of writing. And that’s all I am: a writer. I’m not an entrepreneur, nor a business woman nor a graphic designer or a marketing guru or any of the other things it seems one has to have some skills at. I write. I write stories that come to me, or which I chisel out of the bedrock of my being, and that’s it. To try and transform myself into this superwoman figure is wrong on some many levels. I was given gifts, which I have worked hard at honing and honouring, and they’re gifts that (without being immodest) many would sell their souls for. It’s entirely churlish to demand that somehow I turn my back on that, demand that I transform myself into another animal.

One of the most moving and powerful things in my life is the feedback I get from people about my writing (whether it is the books, the poetry or articles here). I know that my writing has made a difference, changed people’s lives in some ways, and the reason it can do that is because I’ve kept a hold of who I am and what I do. But the last six months I have felt my grip loosening, the compulsion to conform becoming almost unbearable. I imagine some might read this and think, “Oh poor dear, she thinks she’s a speshul snowflake!” . To those, I will say simply, yes, I do think I am a speshul snowflake and the reason I think it is because this is MY life and I get one chance to live it the way I choose to.

So I am choosing to live it (and to write) according to my own definitions of integrity and being true to myself and my gifts.

A Very British Blog Tour

A Very British Writer blog tour

I’m quite a reserved sort and it always discombobulates me to be asked to participate in various events. I’m the wallflower, standing at the side hoping no one asks me to dance. But this one intrigued me because on several occasions it has been remarked upon how much I clearly love my country and how it influences my work. So when Roz Morris nominated me, I stammered my thanks, took a deep breath and started to think about the questions.

http://nailyournovel.wordpress.com/2013/03/22/a-very-british-blog-tour-post-at-authors-electric/?replytocom=17531#respond

YOu can see the previous post here: http://authorselectric.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/a-very-british-blog-tour.html

Q: where were your born and where do you live now?

A: I was born in a small village about fifteen miles from Cambridge. I’ve lived all over Britain but about six months ago I moved to a small, quintessentially English market town in Norfolk. My family is originally a mix of Welsh and Irish, indeed my great grandmother’s cottage is in the open air National Folk Museum of Wales. Dad has traced my mum’s family back to a Norman warlord called Fulke the Rude (of Anjou), an ancestor of the Plantagenets in the late tenth century, though.

Q Have you always lived and worked in Britain or are you based elsewhere?

A: Always, though I do go to Europe for my day job as tour guide/courier.

Q Have you highlighted or showcased any particular part of Britain in your books, a town, a city, a county, a monument, well-known place or event?

A: The English countryside is a big part of my writing, but generally I avoid naming specific places. Away With The Fairies is set in part in a landscape that is not unlike Wiltshire and the surrounding counties but I never state exactly where it is. Strangers and Pilgrims has all the characters connected by the same long river, again never named, though at the end of the book three tremendously English locations are visited: Glastonbury, Bath and Walsingham, all homes to famous springs. I very specifically refuse to reveal the location of the Wellspring that is at the core of the novel; it is a real place and one I’m never going to betray by naming it. The Bet is set partly on the North Yorkshire moors, but I choose not to name precise locations. I’ve long loved the moors and would love for others to discover them as a result of the book.

Q: There is an illusion – or myth if you wish- about British people that I would like to discuss. Many see Brits as ‘stiff upper lip’. Is this correct?

A: No. And yes. There are many like this, especially men but less so than it was when I was a child. Personally I find it very hard to show my emotions and rarely cry.

Q: Do any of the characters in your book carry the ‘stiff upper lip’ or are they all British Bulldog and unique in their own way?

A: I think most of them do, to some extent. We’re generally not terribly good at expressing strong emotions. In particular, Antony Ashurst, the hero of The Bet, struggles bitterly to express emotions, having had much of that squashed out of him as a child by his ghastly aunt who brought him up. All six of the main characters of Strangers and Pilgrims are concealing quite how desperate they are. Isobel in Away With The Fairies doesn’t know how to grieve and keeps on keeping a stiff upper lip until she cracks.

Q: Tell us about one of your recent books

A: The Bet is quite a shocking story and it shows the extent to which certain mores of sexual behaviour have changed. It’s a book that deals with the fall-out of treating people as commodities.

Q: What are you currently working on?

A: I’m working on several books. I am getting a collection of creepy short stories ready to publish, in the grand tradition of British spooky tales. I’m working on a novel that is essentially an inner journey, a very interesting project of letting my psyche tell the story without too much interference from my ego. I’m also working on a novel that touches on the influence of John Keats, and about what we believe truth to be (Beauty is Truth). This is set in a very English university city which I never name. I’ve got another novel fermenting that explores the living element of folklore in modern society, but I ran into some problems because it was set too firmly in a place I knew well. I want to aim at what T.S Eliot described as “England and nowhere.”

Q: How do you spend your leisure time?

A: I’m a bee-keeper. I also enjoy long walks across the countryside. I’m also a lazy but loving gardener. I read a lot.

Q Do you write for a local audience or a global audience?

A: Global but it seems that it appeals most to a more local set of readers.

Q: Can you provide links to your works?

A: I can. Go to Amazon. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Vivienne-Tuffnell/e/B00766135C/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

Q: Who’s next?

A: Lemme see. No pressure but:

Jane Alexander.

James Everington.

Sarah Barnard.

Dan Holloway

Marc Nash

Roberta McDonnell

Suzie Grogan

Elizabeth Jackson

Four Years on…Celebrating Blogging.

Four Years on…celebrating blogging.

 

Today is a special day for this blog. Four years ago today I made my début into the world of blogging. I’d been feeling a sense of stagnation in my online life, which at the time consisted entirely of the internet forum for Sacred Hoop magazine, to which I’d belonged since ’99. So in the autumn of 2008, I made a decision to step back from it and see what came to fill the void. By the Christmas of that year, I’d realised that blogs were a medium I’d hitherto known nothing about, and in the January I became part of a co-authored blog Café Crem. By the end of the month, I knew I wanted a blog of my own, and Zen and the Art of Tightrope Walking was born.

Blogging is a way of connecting, for me anyway, and of sharing the thoughts and observations that come to me. It’s been a way of meeting extraordinary people, too, and while one or two have proved to be men or women of straw, the vast majority of the folks I’ve connected with have been people I am proud to call friends, even if most of them will never be sitting in the same room, enjoying a coffee with me.

The general focus of this blog has always been about trying to find a sense of balance in life, especially when challenged by mental and emotional distress, and I am always deeply moved when I receive feedback to remind me that while I often feel I am typing into a vast empty void, there are people reading and who find my words and experiences resonate with theirs. If I do nothing more in my life, knowing that I have offered comfort, reassurance and inspiration to others with my words is something I can hold onto in my darker days.

I’ve long wanted to do a collection of blog posts, rounded up and licked into shape as an e-book(or even a paperback) but the scale of the task defeats me. There’s over 700 posts here now. Some are like this one, words for a moment that will pass. There’s poetry (yes, and I keep promising to do an entire book of poems, but am discouraged by the knowledge that so few people read poetry, as well as the fact that I have no clue about creating a table of contents for an e-book of any sort) and there’s fiction. There’s dozens of essays about grief, depression, and spirituality, and even a few humorous ones too. I’ve announced the release of my novels here, and also of life changes too. I try to answer all comments but sometimes I just can’t. I sit and stare at the comments sometimes and I cry, because they’re often so kind I don’t know what to say. Sometimes I can’t answer because I have nothing to say. But I appreciate each and every comment, even the occasional critical one.

The last year, I have posted less often, aiming to post weekly rather than more often. This is simply because I have limited energy these days. I’m trying to conserve it, and use it as wisely as I can. I’ve covered vast areas of subjects and some posts receive daily traffic even years after they were first posted. Some posts seem to slip by without anyone noticing. It’s baffling. I’d love to write one of those posts that goes viral and gets read by tens of thousands but in honesty, it’s probably not going to happen. That’s often down to luck but also to appeal. I write about things that are not really terribly fashionable or appealing, and I know that it’s not a popular cup of tea kind of blog. That’s OK, really. Like with my novels, I write primarily to please myself, to let the being who dwells inside me have her voice (and Monday’s post is about her, the Invisible Woman) and though sometimes I moan about the relatively low number of people who read my stuff, I am content that I do not change who I am and how I write to chase a market that is as nebulous and changeable as the British weather. Writing for a market is a dangerous choice. If I write for myself, then there is one person in the world guaranteed to be pleased with it.

Anyway, I am glad to have all my readers along for the ride, so thank you all for taking the time to read, whether once in a while or as regular thing. Without readers, we would all be just talking to ourselves in the darkness, and without connection we would all be dreadfully alone. Some days I feel so alone, and then I remember that perhaps I am not.