And then this happened…

And then this happened…

And then this happened…

It has only taken three years (almost) since the publication of the Kindle version, but finally there is a paperback of Square Peg! I began the process in July 2014 but could not, for some reason, get the wretched thing to work, and it became a bogey-man, haunting me with the failure. Better not to look at it, I felt, and hoped it went away. But folks kept asking me if I were going to do a paperback and I knew it needed doing.

For context, I published the Kindle version only weeks after my operation to remove the parathyroid tumour (the rogue gland formerly known as Dexter). I’d barely got my ducks in a row before the operation; one of the many hideous and insidious effects of the tumour is problems with cognitive function. Memory (especially short term memory) is impaired, as is the ability to learn new skills. I still have odd gaps in my memory from that time, from where my poor beleaguered brain wasn’t able to lay those memories down properly. They’re probably still drifting round distant corridors, looking for the right shelf. Once the gash in my throat had healed, I think it was assumed that everything would go back to normal. However, I had a long climb back to health still to go, because I’d lost a lot of good muscle and stamina, as well as a lot of other issues, some of which may never get better (due to the effects of Joint Hypermobility Syndrome, which I am now sure is a part of Ehler-Danlos Syndrome). So my attempts to get out a paperback of a fairly hefty book were ambitious, to say the least.

It’s done now. The cover is slightly different from the Kindle version, because the lettering at the top was going to be cut off by the process of printing and binding. It looks and feels rather gorgeous, too. There is a sense of having climbed a mountain that had previously defeated me.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Square-Peg-Vivienne-Tuffnell/dp/1500608882/

Anyway, lots of useful lessons learned (about gutters and so on!) that I have used for two more projects that you’ll hear more about soon. One is a surprise baby, completely unexpected, but in many ways, perfectly timed. That’ll be pretty soon, I think. The other is Little Gidding Girl, which has taken not only steps but leaps and bounds towards getting itself off my hard drive and out into the world to meet you all.

All I need now is for my writing mojo to stage a return or a resurrection and we’re good to go!

Chloe’s Christmas Presents

Chloe’s Christmas Presents

I thought I’d entertain you with an excerpt from Square Peg, from the Christmas period.

On New Year’s Day, Cathy’s van pulled up outside their house, and by the time Chloe had got to the door, Cathy was on the doorstep. She looked pinched and blue with cold, her layers of brightly coloured clothes apparently inadequate. She ate a huge bowl of pasta, drank a pint of orange juice, spent an hour and a half in the bath and then went and slept for eighteen hours without stirring once. Chloe was starting to worry that she’d died in there when she finally emerged the following afternoon looking much better but still grey with tiredness.

“I don’t think you’re terribly well,” Chloe said, when her sister’s coughing fit came to an end.

“No, I’m not brilliant. Too much sea air,” Cathy said. “And before you ask, I don’t really smoke. Too expensive. I just have the occasional cig when I can. It’s just been so cold; I haven’t managed to shake this last cold off yet.”

“I got you a Christmas present,” Chloe said.

“Christ, I got you guys presents too,” Cathy said. “I totally forgot yesterday. They’re in the van. I’ll go and get them.”

Cathy was coughing again when she came in again.

“I don’t believe in wrapping paper,” she said, and handed them each a small parcel wrapped in brown paper.

Clifford opened his cautiously; the parcel smelled strongly of seaweed. It was a wooden cross, carved out of driftwood. There was no figure on the cross but there was a beautifully carved crown of thorns where the head of Christ would have been.

“This is beautiful,” he said. “Where on earth did you get it?”

Cathy grinned at him.

“The beach,” she said, and it dawned on him that she had created this cross herself.

“It’s fantastic,” he said.

“Not bad for a few evenings with a pocket knife,” Cathy grudgingly admitted. “Go on Chloe, open yours.”

Chloe unwrapped the paper. Inside was a piece of crystal wound around with silver wire so it could be worn as a pendant. At first she thought the crystal was clear quartz, then she saw that there seemed to be another quartz point inside it. She looked at her sister.

“It’s lovely,” she said. “What is it inside it?”

“Itself,” Cathy said. “It’s what they call phantom quartz. The crystal grows; sometimes it stops growing for thousands of years and then starts again. When it starts again, the original point still shows inside the new point. I think tiny specks of dust show where the first point was. I found it in a gift shop; you know, they often have displays of crystals, lots of them in boxes. If you’re patient enough to go through them all, you can sometimes find unusual ones. I was lucky that time. So then I did the wire myself, so you can wear it as a necklace.”

“It’s fantastic,” Chloe said. “Wait a minute while I get a chain and then I can put it on.”

She ran upstairs to their room and brought down a silver chain and threaded the stone onto that, and fastened the necklace round her throat.

“This is for you,” she said, bringing out a big parcel from behind their rather forlorn Christmas tree.

Cathy undid the paper, smoothing it out as she did so. Chloe had gone to the camping supplies shop and bought the best sleeping bag they had, guaranteed to some unimaginably arctic temperature, and a fleece liner that was easy to wash and quick to dry.

“Cor,” breathed Cathy. “I could go to the Antarctic with this. Ta ever so. You’ve no idea how cold I’ve been lately.”

But Chloe had some idea when she saw Cathy’s existing sleeping bag, the following day when Cathy brought it in to put in the washing machine. It had been an excellent bag once, but that was years ago, and it was probably only any use now as a summer bag. She’d been intrigued by Cathy’s van, when Cathy agreed to show her it. It was very neat and clean, but very sparse. Cathy kept her belongings in a series of boxes that she admitted were actually old army ammunition boxes, which she could stack and fasten down in the back with a network of bungees. Her bed was a rolled up length of foam rubber, tied up during the day with another bungee. There were a number of old army blankets too, folded up and stored in one of the ammo boxes; that was obviously how Cathy hadn’t turned into a human ice lolly one of those freezing nights.

“Brilliant present,” Cathy said, stowing it away. “I get scared during the winter, you know, that one morning I won’t wake up.”

That shook Chloe; she hadn’t thought of such things before.

“I’m better off than many,” Cathy said, seeing Chloe’s look of horror. “I’ve got the van for starters. I’ve slept in the odd doorway in the past, but only once at the dead of winter and I was younger then and not on my own. Being homeless stinks in the winter.”

“You don’t have to be homeless,” Chloe said.

“I’m not. The van is my home,” Cathy said. “And I took you at your word about coming here when I needed to. And you’d even got me the best Christmas present I think I’ve had for more years than I can remember, so I know you did really mean it. But you must know I don’t want to settle down, not when there’s so much I can do. This will make life more comfortable,” and she patted the box with the sleeping bag and liner in it. “And I do appreciate your offer, believe me I do. I thought about you two quite a lot recently. That’s why I made the presents.”

“They’re marvellous,” Chloe said, touching the crystal at her throat. “That cross you did for Clifford, you know you’re really talented. Was it you who painted the van?”

Cathy nodded, and then shut the van door on her tiny home.

“Do you like it?” she asked.

“It’s amazing,” Chloe said. “I think it’s lovely. You really are good at art, you know.”

Cathy flushed with pleasure, and then shook her head.

“It’s something I enjoy doing, that’s all,” she said.

“I think you’re brilliant at it,” Chloe said.

There was a brief moment of discomfort between them, until Cathy patted the side of the van, fondly.

“Yeah,” she said. “With this thing, I can never forget where I’ve parked.”

“It’s the first time I’ve ever considered a Transit van as art,” Chloe said. “When we were in Wales in the summer, there was a family turned up at the campsite we were at in two white Transit vans. We called them the White Van Clan, but not where they could hear us. Imagine White Van Man with a family; that was proof positive that the gene pool has a shallow end.”

from Square Peg available in all Amazon stores.

Square Peg on special offer for UK readers

I’ve put Square Peg on a final Countdown offer for the year, starting at 99p, then going up to £1.99 before going back to £2.58.

I am reviewing whether these sales are actually good for me or not, so it’s possible I won’t be doing this again.

I would very much appreciate shares, tweets and recommendations. Reviews would also be welcome.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Square-Peg-Vivienne-Tuffnell-ebook/dp/B00K1D4VGA/ref=la_B00766135C_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1418633866&sr=1-4

Square Peg on special Countdown offer: limited time only

For the next week, I am running a Countdown offer for Square Peg.

For 80 hours it will be only 99p.

Then it goes up to £1.99 for another 80 hours, before returning to its original price.

I’m sorry but this is a UK only offer. I can only run the offer in either UK or US but when I did a Countdown offer for another book in the US there was a pretty dismal response.

The Countdown ought to start later today, so keep checking until the price changes:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Square-Peg-Vivienne-Tuffnell-ebook/dp/B00K1D4VGA/ref=la_B00766135C_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1408690876&sr=1-1

Square Peg arrives

Square Peg arrives ~

It’s taken far longer than I thought it ever would, but Square Peg is now out there, winging its way around the globe.
The last two years have been quite tough, with health challenges and life being uncooperative and awkward. I’ve struggled to keep going, keep writing and keep working at getting my back catalogue out there. The book market is not an easy place and I’d become more daunted by the difficulties than I was inspired by the possibilities. A good deal of that was down to Dexter, my former parathyroid tumour, sucking the life and joy out of me, but a month after his exile to a path lab somewhere, I’m rebuilding my health and energy.
So it is with great joy (and no little trepidation) I can tell you that Square Peg is now live. Here’s the blurb:
“She’d seen faces like that before, but on the television, in films and in the history books. The faces of fanatics, cold and blind to all reason staring back at her.
Chloe is a square peg in an increasingly uncomfortable round hole. Brought up by her wildly unconventional grandmother, she’s a true free spirit and has never learned to pull her punches. She’s just married trainee Church of England clergyman Clifford, and is living at the theological college and trying to figure out what’s going on around her. She’s had very little connection with formal religion, and has a talent for stepping on all sorts of emotional land-mines with the wives of the other ordinands. That would probably be fine if it wasn’t for the fact that her grandmother has inconsiderately died, and left her a house full of exotic souvenirs of her days as a travelling doctor, instructions to track down her father and sister, and what everyone else regards as a really bad attitude. She’s also lost her job, her temper, but not the will to live.
Chloe’s life begins to unravel in ways she could never have imagined as she tries to understand her own background by setting out to find out what became of her sister and father. But trying to integrate her uncompromising approach to life brings her into escalating conflict with the other women of the college, leaving her isolated and friendless. In Clifford’s final year of training, Chloe meets the arty, anarchic Isobel and together they concoct a plan whereby the irrepressible Isobel becomes the mole amid the college wives and they start to undermine and sabotage the status quo with a series of practical jokes and psychological warfare that has terrible consequences for Chloe when things go horribly wrong.”

Chloe’s a bit of a misfit, hence the title. She finds people difficult to deal with, and finds the wives at the college baffling. She’s had an unusual up-bringing by her Bohemian grandmother, and because of her less-than-ordinary role model, she struggles to relate to others. To her, faith is a matter of wonder and exploration and not rules and regulations. She works in a male-dominated profession and she’s cultivated a tough, no-nonsense approach that really doesn’t go down well with the women of the college.
Some readers are going to love her; some, I fear, might well hate her. But by the end of the novel, I hope all will empathise with her.
(For those who loved Away With The Fairies, Isobel and Mickey Trelawny appear in the book around two thirds in. If you loved Father Peter in The Bet, well, he’s Chloe’s uncle by marriage and is there also. (All my novels connect with each other at some stage.)
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Square-Peg-Vivienne-Tuffnell-ebook/dp/B00K1D4VGA/ref=pd_rhf_ee_p_t_1_9MCN

http://www.amazon.com/Square-Peg-Vivienne-Tuffnell-ebook/dp/B00K1D4VGA/ref=pd_rhf_ee_p_t_1_9MCN

Cover design is by D. J.Bowman-Smith http://djbowmansmith.com/

My writing process #mywritingprocess

My writing process~  #mywritingprocess

Janet O’Kane invited me to share my writing process as a part of the current blog tour that’s doing the rounds. It consists of four questions. I am tagging Suzie Grogan to carry the baton after me but do feel free to do the questions yourself. Add the hashtag #MyWritingProcess and see what is already out there on Twitter.

What am I working on?

Apart from waiting for surgery, I’m working slowly on a number of projects. I’m very close to getting my next novel Square Peg out on Kindle. For those who loved Away With The Fairies, this novel features Isobel Trelawny and her husband Mickey, but some years in the past when Mickey was at training college. The main character of Square Peg is Chloe, whose temperament and character is probably summed up by the title of the novel. The initial blurb is as follows:

Chloe is a square peg in an increasingly uncomfortable round hole. Brought up by her wildly unconventional grandmother, she’s a true free spirit and has never learned to pull her punches. She’s just married trainee Church of England clergyman Clifford, and is living at the theological college and trying to figure out what’s going on around her. She’s had very little connection with formal religion, and has a talent for stepping on all sorts of emotional land-mines with the wives of the other ordinands. That would probably be fine if it wasn’t for the fact that her grandmother has inconsiderately died, and left her a house full of exotic souvenirs of her days as a travelling doctor, instructions to track down her father and sister, and what everyone else regards as a really bad attitude. She’s also lost her job, her temper, but not the will to live.

Chloe’s life begins to unravel in ways she could never have imagined as she tries to understand her own background by setting out to find out what became of her sister and father. But trying to integrate her uncompromising approach to life brings her into escalating conflict with the other women of the college, leaving her isolated and friendless. In Clifford’s final year of training, Chloe meets the arty, anarchic Isobel and together they concoct a plan whereby the irrepressible Isobel becomes the mole amid the college wives and they start to undermine and sabotage the status quo with a series of practical jokes and psychological warfare that has terrible consequences for Chloe when things go horribly wrong.”

I’m working also on getting The Bet into paperback finally. The manuscript is being slowly readied for print. I’m really looking forward to having this one in my hands.

Writing wise, I am limping along with two projects. One is a novel that is running under the working title of Belle Dame, and which I don’t want to say more about yet. I’m around one third to one quarter done, and I’m very pleased with how it’s going. The other project is a little harder to explain. About three years ago I started a serial on this blog called “Lost” and I posted ten installments before stopping. Each episode had been written in a form of trance, and I decided to continue with this. Because the right mental state is quite hard to get into, the process has been slow, though I’m actually very proud of and intrigued by what has been emerging. Working title of Tabula Rasa, this novel is a journey into the hinterlands of soul and beyond and is quite unlike anything I’ve ever produced. I’m about 20k words into this and have no real idea of how long it will be.

I’m also ready to publish a longer short story, of around 18k words, called The Hedgeway, which is something I may save for the autumn and especially Halloween.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Well, as I’m not entirely sure of what my genre(s) is/are, I’m not sure how to answer that. Away With The Fairies and Strangers and Pilgrims are both listed at metaphysical fiction, which to me implies that the story has its roots firmly in the spiritual/psycho-spiritual realms. The Wild Hunt touches on that but is also heavily touched by mythology and folklore. Moth’s Kiss is very much about karma and consequences. The Bet is also hard to place, falling somewhere between literary fiction and psychological fiction.

Why do I write what I do?

I write the stories that come to me, starting with seed pearls that can be a single word, a dream, a scent, a feeling or sometimes a combination of factors that coalesce into a complex mix of narrative and characters that live and breathe in my mind. I am hopeless at following rules and guidelines and my few attempts to write to certain formula have been flat, dead and rapidly binned.

How does my writing process work?

It’s changed. At one time I would be consumed by a story and I’d write pretty much non-stop until it was done. The Bet was written in only 17 days, for example. Since my illness, the processes by which a story emerges have become blocked by memory problems and concentration issues, and it’s much harder work to get from Once upon a time to The End. But I have a general rule that when I do sit down to write, I write for a minimum time and word count, so I aim to produce a thousand words at a sitting. I sometimes set my kitchen timer for an hour, so I stay put for that hour, to ensure I have a chance to get to the thousand mark.

When I do sit down to write, I make sure my study door is shut, to ensure that cats or humans won’t be able to interrupt me. I start by lighting a stick of good incense; it’s been observed that incense smoke raises the levels of serotonin in the brain. Then I light a tea light under the oil burner, and put on essential oils that get me in the mood or which are somehow part of the narrative I am working on. I do put music on, but I find it hard to find music that doesn’t distract me by making me listen to the words. So most is instrumental. I also like using the various pink,white and brown noise generators available for free on the internet. There’s one site that you can set the noise to oscillate. Combined with a site that has rain sounds, the noise coming from my speakers ends up sounding like waves on a shingle beach. It’s often enough to put me into the semi-trance state I need to be in to allow words to flow through me from my unconscious. You see, I believe that my own creativity is not in my direct conscious control and I have to be able to step out of my own way to be able to write. That’s why my illness has been devastating, because it’s made the connections between conscious and unconscious harder to bridge, as well as affecting my ability to carry the memory of what I have already written in a story.

I also believe that the stories I write have an element within that comes from beyond me. Whether it’s from a collective unconscious or from a kind of divine inspiration, I feel sure that what I am writing is not pure fiction, that is carries with it a form of truth that at core all good stories must carry. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’ve started to call “Forever Fiction”, that is to say stories that people come back to time and again, and which are rediscovered and treasures by new readers and even new generations. My greatest wish is that I may write such works. If this sounds pompous or narcissistic or frankly “up myself” I apologise. I have always felt I was born to write. Along with the tens of thousands of other writers who believe themselves to be talented or gifted, I offer my work as a gift to the world and to my own soul.

Disneyland, Cowboys and Let’s Pretend ~ Is Suspension of Disbelief the Secret to a Happy Life?

Disneyland, Cowboys and Let’s pretend ~ Is suspension of disbelief the secret to a happy life?

 

My first experience of a depressive episode came when I was about six years old. By that point I’d been in full time school for about six
months and was already finding it a baffling experience. There was
way too much messing around and not enough learning for my liking.
Back in the seventies, before any of this National Curriculum
rubbish, teachers got to decide what they were going to teach their
classes and how. I went to school eager to learn to read and write
and all that and within a week was hopelessly disappointed at the
grinding slowness of it all. I even realised that I could actually
already read a bit.

 

The crisis came with P.E. In those dim and distant days infant schools
usually made you do P.E in your vest and pants and that was trial
enough for a shy kid like me. Balance beams and hula hoops were
endurable but one day the teacher told us she wanted us all to
pretend to be cowboys twirling our lassos. I stood for a second, not
quite able to believe it and watched as my class erupted into action.
They galloped hither and yon, waving arms with invisible ropes and
whooping with delight. I continued to stand there, baffled. I
couldn’t do it. I looked on in utter bewilderment. It defied any sort
of logic or narrative; cowboys do not go round wearing vests and
pants from the Co-op, nor do they try and twirl like that, and
if you tried that on a real horse, you’d be on the ground in
seconds…..You’d surely never have twenty eight trainee cowboys
running round together unless this was a special training session.
And we were too close, the ropes would have had someone’s eye out by now….

 

Come along Vivienne, you must join in!” said the teacher brightly, not realising that this set the precedent for my lifelong opposition to
“joining in”.

Something in my juvenile psyche fizzed and banged in a wholly ominous way and being five and a half, the inevitable happened. The tears started and wouldn’t stop. I think I cried most of the day after that.

 

Fast forward to 2008 and a shamanic dreaming workshop I foolishly attended and standing in the middle of a field with 12 other women and the leader(who will remain nameless) I watched as they all “took on the attributes of their power animal” and after watching for a minute, walked off without a word to pack my bags and catch the train home.

Fast forward to 2010 and Disneyland, Paris, and seeing hundreds of people, adults even, getting excited because people dressed in costumes were coming past them on a float, waving and wearing fixed and weary smiles. “I met Mickey Mouse!” breathed one woman with ecstatic joy in her eyes. I smiled and didn’t say, “No, you met some underpaid French student dressed in a Mickey Mouse suit.” That day was only made bearable by the company of the two teachers and some of the students I spent time with. It was actually painful. Everything was fake and almost everyone was happy to accept it for that day as real. Like an atheist among believers, I felt isolated and ill at ease.

 

During my childhood I played lots of let’s pretend games but within those games there had to be a certain structure of reality. Yes, a felled tree could be our spaceship but you couldn’t just jump out of it; you had to exit via the airlock. Yes, my paper boat could be a ship going down the Amazon, but the dolls piloting it couldn’t carry it over
waterfalls because it would be too heavy. The internal world of let’s
pretend had to follow certain patterns of logic and reason; if I was
being a boy in the game, I had to wear boyish clothes and so on.

 

I find it almost impossible to believe even for a minute in things I
know are fake, like Disneyland. It ruins any enjoyment I might get
because it grates on raw nerves, and makes me suspicious of what else they might be trying to fool me with. I’m the same with a lot of New Age matters, even though I know enough to realise not all of it is quackery and snake oil and that some is utterly genuine and helpful.
The shamanic dreaming workshop upset me badly because not only did it throw me back to that episode at five years old, but because I was unable to get past it. All I could see were grown women behaving like pre-schoolers and a leader who seemed to take more delight it it than I felt was healthy. I felt threatened by it, as if by giving in and suspending my disbelief I was somehow in serious danger. It may sound an exaggeration but at the time all I could feel was a whirlpool pulling, drawing me into a different dimension. Nobody stopped me leaving, or seemed to care much that I was upset; the leader did try to persuade me to stay and when I explained my reasons he refused to accept my point of view. I’ve never dared go on anything like that since then.

 

But observation of people who can seem to get “into the spirit of the
thing” whether for Disney or whatever has shown me something that
disturbs me more. They tend to be people who are happy. They tend to not agonise over things the way people like me do.

 

I asked one friend why she liked Disneyland so much and her response was, “I love it because I can be a child again.”

 

It’s made me wonder if I ever was a child at all.