Distress Signals is out in the U.S.! (Plus, a new video blog)

Guys, we made it! A 28 day straight blogging bonanza. Thanks so much for sticking around this past month.

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Distress Signals is out now in the US! It’s available in hardcover, e-book and audio download. You can read the beginning of it here or find out more about it here.

I did my final video blog this morning, which answers your questions about the US edition. I also show you the little pile of other people’s books I’m dying to get stuck into now that I’ve finished the latest draft of my own book, and shed about half a pound of hair.

Congratulations to katielookingforward who has won the signed copy of DS! (Please message me with your address, Katie.) Thank you for all your comments, retweets, Facebook shares, etc. over the past month. I am now going to take a few days off from this blog, you’ll probably be delighted to hear.

If you’re reading Distress Signals any time soon, I hope you enjoy it! x

3 Productivity Tips I’m Going To Try

Welcome to the Distress Signals Blogging Bonanza! What’s that, you’re wondering? Well, you can either go and read this post or read the next sentence. In a nutshell: Distress Signals was out in paperback in the UK and Ireland on January 5 and hits the U.S.A. tomorrow (!!!!), and every day in between I’m going to blog as per the schedule at the bottom of this post. 

[UPDATE: I just realised, a couple of hours after I posted this, that I forgot to mention something kinda important. Today, 1 February 2017, is this blog’s 7th birthday! Yes, seven years ago today, 1 February 2010, catherineryanhoward.com was born. Time flies when you’re a very sporadic blogger. Thanks for hanging around!]

Guys, it’s the penultimate day of the DS Blogging Bonanza! Distress Signals will be out in the U.S.A. in hardcover, e-book and audio in mere hours.

In a few weeks’ time, Book 2 will (hopefully) be ready to move to the editing stage which means it’ll be time for me to get started on – GASP – Book 3. The problem is that (a) I just had a completely self-induced nightmare binge-writing the last draft of Book 2, which is something I never want to repeat again and (b) right around Book 3 Getting Started Time, I’ll have 3 x 5,000 university assignments due and an exam to study for as well. I want to be organised, relaxed and on a normal person’s sleep schedule, while also getting s–t done. There’s no point, I think, trying to change habits or implement new ones while there’s a deadline looming – now is the time to do it, pre-emptively.  So here’s a few productivity tips and ideas I’ve come across that I’m going to try…

DON’T BREAK THE CHAIN

I’ve blogged about this before, but since when I do it I find it really works, I thought it was worth mentioning again. Don’t break the chain works something like this:

  1. Get yourself a calendar, wall planner or at least something that has a box for every day, and hang it somewhere prominent
  2. Commit to writing a doable amount of words every day, e.g. 500
  3. Every day you do this, put a big red cross in the corresponding box
  4. Do this every day for at least few days and—
  5. Ta-daa! You have a chain. Now, don’t break it.

Tip: it is immensely satisfying to start this on the first of the month, on a gleaming, clean new page of a month-to-a-view calendar. I have my lovely new Parisian Life calendar all ready to go.

HAVE A CHANGE OF SCENERY

I really find it difficult to write anywhere except at home but at the same time, I realise this is just a habit. And this isn’t always a good thing, because although it’s lovely and quiet where I live, my coffee machine, Netflix and about 831 other distractions live there too.

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Do you know where this is? It’s the Swan and Dolphin! Well, the Dolphin technically – the resort where I used to work in Walt Disney World

The good news is that there’s about that many coffee shops within a twenty minute walk of my place too. This article on StylistForget working from home: coffee shops are the key to freelance success – is really food for thought. I think there’s a lot to be said for getting dressed, getting out of the house and ‘going to work’, even if it is just you and your computer in a different spot.

UNPLUGGING (A BIT)

Late one night I was watching TV with one eye on Facebook. In my absentminded scrolling, I spotted a link that said something like If you’re reading this, you’re probably depressed. Catchy title, I’m sure you’ll agree, but it piqued my interested so I clicked…

And read with horror about how the author of the piece was horrified about the fact that the average teenager spends 61 minutes on social networks a day.

Um… 61 minutes?

A day?

Dude, I start my day with 61 minutes on social media! I’ve usually clocked that during the several post-snooze, pre-alarm interludes I enjoy before I get out of bed.

Now I am not one of these people who goes on a complete digital detox for the sole purpose of returning to Twitter to smugly announce its conclusion a week or month later. Blackouts are not the answer – and they’re not practical for me. I need email, Twitter, Facebook and my blog for work, and I need the internet for college stuff and, you know, online stationery shopping (!). I don’t think the presence of the internet is the problem anyway. I think it’s that my attention span is shot.

Rather than avoid the internet, I think I just need to contain it more. Here’s three ways I think you could do this:

  • Delete all e-mail and social media apps from your phone. I have to admit, this makes me feel a bit nervous. I’m not sure about the e-mail, because I use e-mail like telephone calls and text messages, and I don’t let the idea of being out of contact all day if I’m out and about. But Twitter and Facebook? They can definitely go. Instagram really only works on your phone, but I don’t use that anywhere near as much as the others anyway.
  • Put devices out of reach. To give you an example: I am currently watching the TV while writing this post, and my phone is on the couch with me. Once I put the laptop away, I’ll have the phone in my hand. That’s just terrible, isn’t it?
  • Re-think bedtimes. The last thing I do before I go to bed is check that my alarm is set for the next morning – but it’s on my phone, so that usually means I do a quick social media account check as well. And the first thing I do when I wake up is turn off that alarm, and then… Well, you get the idea. I don’t think it’s too bad in the morning, but it can’t be good going to bed with blue light and tweets in your head, especially with all that’s going on in the world at the moment. So: must stop this.

What do you think? Are there any productivity tips, tricks or books that you think are good? Let me know in the comments below.

Join me tomorrow for the last day of this mayhem which will include a video blog and me picking a winner for a special, signed hardcover ARC of Distress Signals. Anyone who left a comment on any post published here since January 5 is eligible to win. If you haven’t entered yet, just leave a comment on this post. One entry per post. Open globally.

See you tomorrow!

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How Do You Write A Book?

Welcome to the Distress Signals Blogging Bonanza! What’s that, you’re wondering? Well, you can either go and read this post or read the next sentence. In a nutshell: Distress Signals was out in paperback in the UK and Ireland on January 5 and hits the U.S.A. on Thursday (February 2) and every day in between I’m going to blog as per the schedule at the bottom of this post. 

So Distress Signals is out and Book 2 is almost there. Although writing them were two very different experiences, without setting out to do it, I wrote both of them pretty much the same way (albeit in very different periods of time):

  1. Initial idea. Fun fact: both thrillers were sparked by magazine articles, although in very different ways. Percolation ensued, i.e. I didn’t immediately sit down and start writing.
  2. Post-It Plotting Party. I get a pen and a stack of Post-Its and I write down every idea I have about the book. This could be something big, like what it’s actually about, or something as small as a sentence a character may utter at some point. Then I take a chart of some kind – calendars are my new thing – and I arrange all these Post-Its on it in the order in which I think these events might appear in the book. This gives me some signposts to help lead the way.
  3. Vomit draft. A draft that doesn’t even deserve to be called the first one. A free-wheeling experiment. No editing as you go, no reading back if you can. This is where I figure out 70% of what happens in the book – the ideas come while I work through it. This is why Book 2 turned into a bit of a stressfest: because, drowning in self-doubt and distracted (oooh, shiny book launch stuff!), I pathologically procrastinated and didn’t leave myself enough time to do a truly vomit-y vomit draft. I had to go straight into a first draft, which proved to be a pressure cooker because I had to figure out if I could tell this story and how to tell it at the same time. Never again. Lesson learned.
  4. First draft. I give the book the break and then I go and re-do step 2. Except now that I have a vomit draft behind me, I know enough to plot out the whole book in more detail before I type ‘Chapter One’. This makes writing a first draft – the first one that could be read by someone else as a coherent book, realistically – much easier than writing the vomit one. Once this is done, my agent and editor come in and we start the editing process.

Here’s the thing though: there is no right way to write a book. And I’m eternally fascinated by how other people do it, because I’m always looking for a better way (and a magic pen). So tell me: how do YOU write a book? Let me know in the comments below – and don’t be shy!

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Remember: there’s a super sexy hardcover edition of Distress Signals (the American one, out February 2) up for grabs, signed to you from me. To enter, simply leave a comment on this post or any post published here between January 5 and February 2. One entry per post, so comment on more than one and increase your chances. Open globally. Good luck!

 

Sunday Coffee Reads – Yeah, On a Monday (Jan 30)

Welcome to the Distress Signals Blogging Bonanza! What’s that, you’re wondering? Well, you can either go and read this post or read the next sentence. In a nutshell: Distress Signals was out in paperback in the UK and Ireland on January 5 and hits the U.S.A. on Thursday (so close!!) and every day in between I’m going to blog as per the schedule at the bottom of this post. 

Except the schedule has now been totally abandoned for several reasons, which is why this post, which I’m writing on Monday evening, is actually the one I’m supposed to post on Sunday morning. Just go with it, okay? We’ve only three days left.

What You Might Have Missed

Here’s what went down this past week, the last full one (thank FUDGE) of this 28-day blogging bonanza.

We started off with what would prove to be the most popular post of the week: How Do You Know When Editorial Feedback Is ‘Right’?

On Tuesday I implored you to tune into The Bestseller Experiment podcast, starting with the episode in which they interviewed John Connolly. Since then, I’ve listened to the episode in which they interview Sarah Pinborough and, oh my god, that was another must-listen.

Wednesday I revealed the truth about my desk. Sometimes we see writers supposedly working at gorgeous, neat, organised, colour co-ordinated desks of magnificence – but at three in the morning when you’ve got the espresso shakes and your deadline was three days ago, things don’t always look like that.

Thursdays are for replaying old posts, and this Thursday I did that with How Did I Get My Agent? (The Answer May Surprise You) which was an incredibly clickbaity title, yes, but still I think a potentially helpful post.

Now, imagine a window. Now, imagine me throwing the schedule out of it. That’s what happened on Friday. So for no logical reason whatsoever and absolutely not in adherence with the schedule, closing the week then we had The Secret to Getting Published, some Clark and Michael and me posting at 3:30am about FINALLY finishing Book 2 Draft 2.

Sunday Monday Links

Here’s some things I came across in the past week that I thought were worth a read, preferably with your coffee (or wine, going by the time I’m posting this):

Also, if you’re on Instagram, there is a great chance to win one of 3 hardcover editions of the U.S. edition of Distress Signals. Search for the hashtag #CJSReads2017 over there to find out more.

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Your 254th reminder: Distress Signals is out in paperback in Ireland and the UK now! If you’ve read it already, hunt down someone you know who likes thrillers and tell them that my rent is very, very high. (Or that you liked it, if you did. You know, whatever works.) If you have no idea what I’m talking about and you’re not quite done with your procrastination yet today, you can find out more about Distress Signals here.

Look What I Did… (FINALLY!)

Welcome to the Distress Signals Blogging Bonanza! What’s that, you’re wondering? Well, you can either go and read this post or read the next sentence. In a nutshell: Distress Signals was out in paperback in the UK and Ireland on January 5 and hits the U.S.A. on February 2, and every day in between I’m going to blog as per the schedule at the bottom of this post. 

It’s still Sunday somewhere, right? I’m going to say it is.

Look what I just did:

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That’s why there was no blog today. That’s why for the last eight weeks or so I’ve glared at anyone who’s asked me, ‘How’s the book coming along?’ and said, ‘Don’t even ask.’ And now, regular life can resume. And by regular life I mean (a) answer the 3,012 emails I’ve been ignoring, (b) prepare for the US publication of Distress Signals – on Thursday! Yikes! and (c) start on my dissertation proposal (ugh) which is the next item on the To Do list.

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Remember: there’s a super sexy hardcover edition of Distress Signals (the American one, out February 2) up for grabs, signed to you from me. To enter, simply leave a comment on this post or any post published here between January 5 and February 2. One entry per post, so comment on more than one and increase your chances. Open globally. Good luck!

Some Light Relief

Welcome to the Distress Signals Blogging Bonanza! What’s that, you’re wondering? Well, you can either go and read this post or read the next sentence. In a nutshell: Distress Signals was out in paperback in the UK and Ireland on January 5 and hits the U.S.A. on February 2, and every day in between I’m going to blog as per the schedule at the bottom of this post. 

So. I committed to blogging every single day for 28 days as per the schedule at the bottom of this post, and I have only 5 days to go. Yesterday was supposed to be a video blog day but I didn’t have time to film one, so I swapped stuff around and did the ‘One I Made Elsewhere‘ yesterday with the promise of a blog today. But then today turned out to be one of those days when you wake up, scroll through Twitter and want to weep for humanity. I don’t want to get all dramatic about it, but I just don’t feel like doing anything today. Not when every detail about what’s happening at airports all over the world – including here at Dublin airport – seems worse than the one before.

Therefore, no video blog today. But it’d be a shame to break my 28-day streak when there’s only a handful to go. So instead, I’m just going to point you in the direction of some light relief, which does involve writing (albeit screenwriting): Clark and Michael.

This was a 10-part CBS web series starring Michael Cera and Clark Duke from back in 2007. Done in a mockumentary style, it follows the fortunes of aspiring TV showrunners/out of work actors as they do everything wrong trying to get a TV show made. If you like the sort of ‘cringe comedy’ of things like The Office, Christopher Guest movies, The Comeback, etc., you’ll love this. All the episodes are on YouTube.

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[Comments are closed. The giveaway will resume tomorrow.]

The Secret To Getting Published

Welcome to the Distress Signals Blogging Bonanza! What’s that, you’re wondering? Well, you can either go and read this post or read the next sentence. In a nutshell: Distress Signals was out in paperback in the UK and Ireland on January 5 and hits the U.S.A. on February 2, and every day in between I’m going to blog as per the schedule at the bottom of this post. 

I’m going to do a little bit of swapping around this week. Today I will point you in the direction of a post I wrote elsewhere and tomorrow there will be a video blog. T-minus only SIX days until Distress Signals hits the U.S. – can you believe it? (Also, T-minus six days until I give myself a month long blogging holiday. Hooray!) Today’s “one I made earlier” post is a piece I wrote for the Irish Times back in May about the secret to getting published. If you missed it first time around, here it is again…

Before I became an author myself, I was shamelessly obsessed with them. I clipped newspaper interviews and recorded their appearances on TV. Attended workshops, seminars and literary festivals, sidling up to the panellists afterwards under the guise of getting my book signed. Made forensic examinations of the advice they shared in magazine articles and blog posts. Googled the names of the agents and editors they thanked in their acknowledgements. Systematically worked my way through the reference section of Waterstone’s on Patrick Street, Cork, reading every How To Write a Book, Get Published and Make Millions – This Weekend! style title they had in stock. I once even took a day trip from Amsterdam to Paris just to giggle like a tween at a Justin Bieber concert in front of Harlan Coben and see what a publishing superstar smelled – I mean, um, looked – like in the flesh.

All in pursuit of the answer to this question: how did you get published? I needed to know because I was desperate to get published myself. Was there a special pen I should be using? An optimum type of paper? Maybe a particularly inspiring brand of coffee grounds? I heard Maeve Binchy got up at 5am every morning to write but then I also heard that Cecilia Ahern stayed up until then to do it, so I didn’t know what to believe. Where was I going wrong? Just tell me which bloody pen, okay?

CONTINUE READING ON THE IRISH TIMES WEBSITE HERE.

 

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Remember: there’s a super sexy hardcover edition of Distress Signals (the American one, out February 2) up for grabs, signed to you from me. To enter, simply leave a comment on this post or any post published here between January 5 and February 2. One entry per post, so comment on more than one and increase your chances. Open globally. Good luck!