Welcome to the world, Andrea Michael

Okay, so technically those were probably the words my mother would have used 30 years ago if we were in an American lifetime movie, rather than the start to a blog.

However, I’ve been writing books for the last 6 years or so as A L Michael. During that time I’ve written literary fiction (Wine Dark, Sea Blue) and romantic comedies (the Ruby Tuesday series, the Martini Club series) and now it’s time for something new.

My forthcoming books are a little more emotional than my previous ones, with the focus on relationships, but not necessarily romantic ones.

I’ll be updating this blog with book news, reviews, tips and tricks for writing, and news of any new writing for wellbeing events. Stay tuned friends, and don’t forget to sign up to the newsletter!

Want to write more? Get yourself a writer squad

I am not a fan of differentiating between writing professionally and writing as a hobby in most cases. Because, to me, if you love writing, you’re a writer. End of story.

However, if you are writing professionally, or working your way on a journey to publication, having a group of writer friends can make a huge difference. To your attitude, your positivity, your decision making and your tenacity in an industry that can sometimes be a little hard to deal with.

I think it comes down to 3 types of writer friends.

Ones who write too:

I really enjoyed studying creative writing as part of my degree at university, and in so doing I found a group of like-minded people. People who wanted to explore their craft, who saw the world a certain way and wanted to dedicate their lives to creativity. Even as our lives have changed, our jobs have moved in different directions, I still have friends who are happy to chat about their fictional worlds and pretend people.

Ones who encourage you to write:

With both friends and colleagues, I’ve always enjoyed having ‘writing dates’. These aren’t so much about the talking about the writing, but just being around others who do it too. Facilitating your own writing whilst encouraging others to do it too is the most fun. It’s like a mini-retreat, where you can focus on your writing without the guilt of ignoring others, or the loneliness of locking yourself away!

Ones who are also professionals:

The professional writing world can be really hard. Submitting to publishers or agents, waiting to hear, rewriting and dealing with difficult edits, disappointing reviews or publication days that didn’t go as planned. It can be a world of crazy highs and lows and not everyone gets it.

There are loads of people out there who would dismiss someone ‘writing another little book’, or who think it’s crap, or pointless or that you’re wasting your time.

My author friends are the ones I talk to when I’m not sure if contract terms are normal, or if I’m pulling my hair out over edits. They’re the ones I tell when I get a new deal, or I’ve finished a rewrite, or when there’s exciting news on the horizon.

Someone who gets how difficult and amazing it is to write a book is the person you want to share your news with. They give it gravitas, they won’t dismiss it and they’ll understand exactly what you’re going through and what it means.

Writing can be hard enough, without coming up against negativity, doubt or that distinct look that just says ‘I don’t get it’. If you don’t know writers, hop on Twitter or into Facebook groups! They’re so full of useful information, comradery and support.

Also, don’t miss out on your agent or publisher parties – as an introvert I sometimes find them a bit overwhelming (and then I drink too much to feel confident and that is not a good idea!) but it’s so worth it to have friendships that nourish and support your creativity.

Do you have writer friends? What types? And what do they mean to you?

Review: Love, Unscripted by Owen Nicholls

Love, Unscripted by Owen Nicholls

As a movie buff and big fan of foppish romantic men falling in love with realistic, ambitious women I was super eager to read this. So I grabbed it at a bargain 99p this week.

Love, Unscripted is a fresh take on boy-meets-girl where Nick and Ellie, who met on the eve of the Presidential election in 2008, try to figure out where their relationship is headed and if it’s really over.

Told from Nick’s perspective, it’s easy to see where the Nick Hornby comparisons come in. But actually, I think it’s a lot warmer than Hornby’s books. The male narrator is self aware, and even though he’s flawed (as I hope all narrators are!) he doesn’t fall into the typical character voice. Nick is a sensitive soul looking for the real thing, a big, perfect sort of love.

He finds it in Ellie, but when they break up, he’s left trying to figure out what went wrong and whether it’s fixable.

This book really reminded me of the movie 100 Days of Summer – there’s a bittersweet element to it, with an introverted and romantic lead and his beautiful, smart, magical girlfriend. And yet, even through the almost naive gaze of the narrator, Ellie remains a real character, completely whole and normal. She was the sort of person I’d want to be friends with.

The book switches both in timeline and style, which was an interesting choice. I really enjoyed it (and did briefly think from an author perspective how hard it is to get the go-ahead on a structure like that!) as it switched between 2008 when the couple met, years later when they break up (both from Nick’s perspective) and then into a third person retelling of the times in between as Nick practices his screen writing.

Nothing much happens, I suppose, but those are actually my favourite kind of books! There’s warmth and friendship and growth and family moments. It’s a love story and a story of growth and it’s not overly saccharine or easily tied up – it’s about how life and love are complicated, and imperfect.

So, in summary, I loved it, and it’s 99p and you should absolutely read it! Excited to read more from this debut author!

The quickest way to write for gratitude

In need of a serious change of perspective? A boost of energy, a way to shake off the cobwebs and start seeing clearly again? A quick writing task can help with that!

When we talk about therapeutic writing, we often talk about writing in a workshop environment, facilitated by someone who knows how to hold the room and give structure and space to the activities. We talk about writing that releases creativity and allows for story, narrative and realisations of things you might not have acknowledged before.

And it can be a bit magic.

But what if you don’t have time for that? What if you just want to do something to shut up that anxious, listless voice in your head?

What you want is a little gratitude.

I find gratitude tends to solve almost all my problems…

So here’s the writing task:

  1. Get a lovely blank piece of paper, ripe with possibility.

2. Get yourself something to keep time, a stopwatch on your phone or an egg timer if you’re particularly old fashioned.

3. Put a glorious 60 seconds on the stopwatch.

4. You are going to write, non stop, for 60 seconds. You’re not going to give yourself enough time to think. You hand with your pen or pencil is going to completely bypass your brain. It’s you and the paper, that’s it.

5. Ready? You’re going to write a list. A list of every single thing you can think of to be grateful for in your life. Go!

So, how did it go? Did you find your list started with all the big and important stuff, but you ended up with smaller, detailed things you barely notice day to day? Did you find it easy or difficult? Was there anything unexpected?

How do you feel now, knowing you have this great honking list of things to be grateful for? Do you feel blessed? Calm? Loved? Or do you feel like you need to treat yourself and enjoy those things, surrounding yourself in even more gratitude?

Let me know in the comments how you found it!

Writing Workshops at Larmertree Festival 2019

The time has come again, dear friends, to sit in a field and tell some stories. Whether that’s round a campfire or in a tent, stories were made to be shared in the open air after a day of beautiful music and tasty beer.

By which I mean I’ll be running workshops at Larmertree Festival again this year.

I’ve been running writing workshops at Larmer for years, and it’s by far my favourite festival. It’s got a perfect balance of chill and excitement, along with the opportunity to try all manner of creative things.

So if you’re coming to our lovely festival this year, why not join me on Friday night for Letters to the Moon, where we get all mystical penning love letters, apologies, goodbyes or anything else to our lovely moon. Think of it as a message in a bottle. Maybe you want to write a letter to the man in the moon, or to the person whose face you see when you look up at the stars? Maybe you’ve been told you need to give up dairy and think a break up letter to cheese is appropriate. Whatever you want to write, it’ll be glorious.

If you’ve got your little’uns with you, I’ll be doing a family workshop called Wild Words for Families. Get ready to ROAR, Climb, crawl, wriggle and do everything else that those wild, wild words do. The kids will be creating stories full of adventure!

For those who’d love a little wildness in their adult lives (no, not like that!) Wild Words for Adults is all about setting those words free and letting them sing. Whether it’s remembering a time you felt like you were flying, or remembering a moment of pure joy in nature, wild words will bring the magic back.

Keep an eye out for me at Larmertree Festival 2019, and come get creative!

Review: The Silver Mark by Sarah Painter

The Silver Mark by Sarah Painter

I cannot tell you how excited I was to get this book. From the moment I finished The Night Raven (book 1 in the Crow Investigations series) I was desperate to read the second. In fact, I’ll probably read both again before the third comes out (it feels like an age away).

The Silver Mark brings us back to PI Lydia Crow, who has set up her own investigative firm above a greasy spoon with a little help from her dodgy uncle Charlie. But hey, rent in London is insane, and sharing the flat with a ghost is a small price to pay. Helped by the delicious DCI Fleet, who Lydia most certainly is not dating (except yeah, she sorta is) Lydia seeks to solve the problems emanating from 4 magical families in London: The Foxes, The Pearls, The Silvers…and The Crows.

Sarah Painter is so adept at creating a world that makes sense, even as the magical intertwines with reality. The 4 ‘Mafia style’ families all have their own powers, and Lydia’s back story as the daughter of one of the heads of the families, hidden away without powers, is intriguing. It’s such a full and engaging world.

The Silver Mark brings us back to a new mystery involving the Silvers, people who are incredibly capable of convincing you of anything (silvertongue, anyone?) and watching as Lydia tries not to step on any toes and cause an end to the magical truce between families is riveting.

I won’t give too much away about the plot, because I think you should run back and read The Night Raven first, then immediately buy and consume The Silver Mark. They are just so engaging and real, exactly the way I like my magic. With a sassy PI main character who drinks too much and sleeps too little.

An expected 5/5 for The Silver Mark. Now I’ve just got to distract myself whilst I wait for the next one. Although, I do have a book to write…

I’m currently reading The Garden on Holly Street by the lovely Megan Attley. Expect another sparkling review soon!