Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Cover Reveal: The Crash

For a few weeks now I've been blogging my novel, The Crash, and last week things really heated up as we found out that hotshot businessman Jason Jackson-Jones has a dirty secret - he's been cutting corners in the manufacturing process in a way which could cost lives.  So this seems like a good time to interrupt the story for a very important announcement.  The Crash now has a cover!

I'm celebrating by getting together with a few writing friends on their blogs.  You can read an interview with me on the blog of Angela Wren, who first helped me introduce Jason to the world:


And if you'd like to find out more about serialising novels and how I was inspired by Dickens, head on over to visit Viki Meadows!


That's all for today - do come back next week for another instalment of the story.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Welcome Nancy C Weeks

Hello Nancy!  It's lovely to have you visiting again! I interviewed you in 2013 when Shadow of Greed came out, and you said that it was going to be part of a five book series. How did it feel, seeing the whole Shadows and Light series come together?
It was such a wonderful feeling, but that doesn’t really express what seeing all five books in a row did for me. For years, I dreamed of being an author, like Nora Roberts or Kat Martin. And here I was with a completed five book series, and in less than two years. It verified in me that dreams come true.
Do you think you have changed as a writer over the course of the five books in the series? (And/or) Can you share something you learned along the way?
There is no way I’m the same writer who sent In the Shadow of Greed into Crimson Romance with every finger and toe crossed. I think the greatest learning experience I have had is working through developmental edits with my amazing editor, Julie Sturgeon. With each book, she pushed me to go deeper into my characters and bring out their unique personalities onto the page. It’s grueling, mind boggling –hard work, but hopefully, I’m a better writer.
You've also written a tech-twist on a traditional fairy-tale which appears in Modern Magic - tell us a bit about how you came up with that idea.
I loved being part of Modern Magic. In fact, I was working on The Eyewitness when the project came up and I actually put The Eyewitness aside so I could write His One Wish. I couldn’t resist writing my own modern day Aladdin. The story of a true hero, an injured veteran who can no longer do what he trained for years to do, that one thing that defined him as a man now feeling he has no worth, no value. I had to find him a Jasmine, or in my story, Jazlin, who would turn his world upside down, and prove to him that he has more to offer this world than he could possibly imagine. Now, that’s a romance, a happy-ever-after I had to write. And I loved every minute. His One Wish flew off my fingers as fast as the word formed in my head. That, dear readers, is rare.
Your new book, The Eyewitness, is a romantic suspense novel. What inspired the story? Is it a standalone or part of a new series?
The Eyewitness is the first book in a three book series. I decided to keep my characters in the same world as the Shadow and Light series for one reason---it’s so hard letting go of my sexy, amazing McNeil brothers. And maybe, one of them will find time to pop into this new series.
I explored the amazing world of forensic science in this story. As with all my books, I get my ideas from the sometimes crazy world I live. I don’t think I was would use the word inspired, but the suspense element in The Eyewitness came from a tragic event way to close to home. Two men plague my state of Maryland for months in 2002, shooting victims at random. The news channels dobbed the criminals as The Beltway Snipers. My villains—the way all three series are connected—copy-cat on that event.
Let's see the cover. Can you tell us a bit about the cover image and how it represents your story?
I loved this cover. The woman on the cover is a spitting image of how I imagined my heroine, Emersyn D’Azzo. The Crimson Romance art department rocks!
Are there any other projects, either already published or in the pipeline, we should know about?
My most immediate future goal is to finish the next two books. Once the D’Azzo series, [Emersyn, Tessa and Nathan] is in the world, I want to try writing something a little calmer maybe a romantic suspense comedy. I not sure that sub-genre exist, but I’m going to give it a try.
And finally, can you share the blurb and perhaps a short excerpt? And of course a link to where we can pre-order/buy the book?
I would love to share my blurb. 
I hope the excerpt isn’t too long. I loved writing that scene.

The blurb:

Fans of TV’s Blue Bloods will love this dynamic new suspense series.  Maryland PD forensic scientist Emersyn D’Azzo has an explosive past with her father’s younger, sexy partner, Detective Alec Pearce. Then an ill-timed kiss destroys the thin line of trust between her and her dad, just before tragedy strikes and someone guns down her father. The fatal bullet turns out to be tied to the ongoing spree of random sniper kills across the state, but Emersyn knows this wasn’t a random act of violence and is determined to find the killer. To do so, she’ll need to rely on help from Alec, whom she doesn’t quite trust but just can’t resist. When they discover a connection to a decades-old disappearance of a college student, their investigation takes a deadly twist. Can they learn to trust each other with their hearts to save their lives?

The excerpt for The Eyewitness

In this scene, Emersyn did something that she needed to do, but in the process, hurt Alec deeply. As always, they spend a few moments getting along before they turn back into vinegar and oil. But no worries, I eventually give them a good shake. They mix together just fine. Enjoy! 

Emersyn opened the driver’s door then faced Alec. He moved in close, the back of his finger brushing away the moisture on her cheeks. She didn’t pull away when his hand rested on her waist. “I’m sorry, Alec. I thought clearing my father’s office would help.”
“You don’t owe me an apology. I get why you came here, and it is me who should apologize. I took my mood out on you.”
He tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear. Emersyn ached to press her hand over his and feel his heat on her face. But at the same time, a new sense of self-preservation prickled across her skin. Who could she trust? Her own mother had warned her that she really didn’t know the man in front of her.
Fear had a way of distorting reality. Her world had become so damn confusing she couldn’t find balance. She slipped her hand into her pocket and fingered the flash drive. The small piece of plastic could be nothing—or it could be everything.
“Em, where did you go?”
She faked a smile. “Just thinking about work. I keep expecting an email from security requesting my badge.”
He drew her close, wrapping his arms around her, his warmth calming her immediately. She couldn’t pull away. She needed this—something else she couldn’t understand.
He finally dropped his arms and took a step back. “I know Angela McCain well. Regardless of how she feels about you right now, she will get to the bottom of what happened yesterday.”
“I keep running the events through my head. The fire had to come from inside the walls, but there was no burning smell.”
“The fire marshal and CI team are on scene. This wasn’t a lab accident, and they aren’t treating it as one.”
“Why haven’t they questioned me?”
“I’m sure they will at some point.” He lifted her chin. “Something else is wrong. I see it in your eyes. What else happened?”
“You are a terrible liar.” He let her go, resting his arm on the roof of her car. If he was trying to make her feel trapped, it worked.
“From my house to here, what could have possibly happened?”
“What do I have to do to get you to trust me, Em?”
The annoyance in his voice set her back up. “I’m not getting into this with you in the parking lot.”
“Answer my damn question.”
And they were right back where they always seemed to fall, at each other’s throats. She tossed her shoulder bag into the front seat. Hell, if it was a fight he wanted, then maybe a good bitch-slap was what she needed to clear her head. “For starters, you can stop pissing me off with things like this.” Emersyn knocked his arm off her car so she could drop into the seat. He blocked the door when she tried to close it.
“How, Em? I walk into a room, and your blood starts to boil.”
She couldn’t get the shields up fast enough. “You could at least pretend you don’t despise me, maybe treat me once in a while like you treat Tessa.”
He knelt and reached for her hand. “I don’t despise you.”
“Now who is lying?”
Sorry, I had to stop. Stephanie asked for a short excerpt. But here is where you can find The Eyewitness . If you chose to read it, I hope you enjoy it as much as I loved writing it.
And here is where you can find me if you would like to stalk me. But…the best way to keep in touch is to sign up for my Newsletter and/or join Nancy’s Corner, a site I created for a more personal relationship between me and readers. Please stop by and check it out. I would love to have you. Enter as guests, leave as friends.
Unless there's anything else you'd like to tell us about, that's it for now -thanks very much for visiting!
Thank you, Stephanie! I love dropping by for a chat on your lovely blog.
I love having you to visit too.  And now I'm off to read The Eyewitness!  

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Do you need to change your beliefs about writing?

It surprises me slightly that I recently felt the need to write a blog post about affirmations.  I used to think they sounded woolly and new agey and I couldn’t imagine them working for me. Somehow, though, I couldn't quite give up the feeling that this technique had something important to offer me.  It had worked for Jeannette Maw and Louise Hay and so many other people I admired, that there had to be something to it.
The idea of affirmations started making a lot more sense to me once I read a bit about how the mind works, and realised that the work some coaches I admired were doing with affirmations was very similar to the model developed by Harper and Ellis and espoused by a whole generation of therapists.

The model, often described as ABC, provides a framework for understanding how an event (activating event, A in our alphabet) triggers a set of beliefs (B) which in turn have consequences (C). I’m grossly oversimplifying here, partly due to my own limited knowledge and partly to keep this post a reasonable length, so please bear with me as I try to explain how this applies to us as writers! For a writer suffering a crisis of confidence, the ABC model might look something like this:

A - activating event - my story is rejected for an anthology

B - belief - my story is rubbish and I'll never get anywhere as a writer

C - consequence - I give up submitting and lose interest in my writing.

The ABC model suggests that if we can shift our beliefs, which are the turning point in the model, we will then think differently, act differently and get different results. In our writing example (a fictional example, obviously, because I've never sulked on receiving a rejection… and if you believe that you'll believe anything!) I might look at the event of my story being rejected and the belief that it's a poor piece of writing and I'll never get anywhere as a writer. Then, knowing that this will lead to the consequence of losing interest in my writing, I might choose to look for a different and more empowering belief.

Instead of believing I'll never get anywhere, I might choose to believe that what I have to say is important, but this story hasn't found its right home yet, which would result in the consequence of deciding to send the story off to another anthology where it might be accepted, enter it into a competition, or even just post it on my blog. All of which are much more positive and productive than giving up submitting my work.

And how do we change our beliefs? It starts with an awareness of the belief we want to change and a decision about the new belief we want to adopt.  But once I’ve chosen a new belief, it isn’t going to imprint itself on my unconscious.  I need to practice asserting and acting on the new belief I’ve chosen, which is really nothing more than affirming the thing I’ve chosen to believe and acting on the new belief until I start seeing different consequences.  In this case, I believe in the value of what I have to say, and my ability to persist until I find the right publisher or way of reaching my readers. As a result of this belief, I’m regularly writing and submitting work again, and eventually seeing positive consequences in the form of work accepted for publication, and payment landing in my bank account! Those are the beliefs I'm choosing to affirm this week. 
Are there any new beliefs you'd like to adopt about your writing?

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

The Crash: Chapter Four

In last week's instalment we met Jason's new PA, Gaby, and his potential new Engineering Manager, Brad.  This week we spend some time getting to know them both and finding out some of the secrets of Jason's factory.

Chapter Four

Gaby looked around at the polished horse brasses on the walls and the faded tapestry seat-cushions in mild surprise.  This wasn’t the kind of place she’d expected to find recommended by a man who surrounded himself with blank walls and modern rectangular leather sofas.  However, a glance at the specials board told her why it would be the lunchtime venue of choice for a man with reasonable taste – which was certainly what Jason Jackson-Jones considered himself.  Brad ushered her to a table in a snug corner near the open fire, and went to the bar to fetch drinks for them both. 
“So what brought you to England?” Gaby asked on his return.  He paused while he set down her lemonade and his beer, and then answered slowly, “It was because of my wife.  Look far enough into anything and there’s always a woman behind it, don’t you think?”
Coming from someone else, that might have sounded cynical or chauvinistic, but Brad’s matter of fact observation made Gaby laugh. 
“To the power behind the throne,” she said, raising her glass.  Brad clinked his bottle with her glass, took a deep slug of the drink, and then asked, “What are you eating?”
“The mozzarella and sun-dried tomato ciabatta.  What about you?”
“Maybe the steak and Guinness pie.  With hand-cut chips of course.  Do you think they taste different depending on whether the cutter is mechanical or manual?”
“I don’t suppose so.”
“Sure I can’t tempt you to a cooked meal?  Or a pudding to follow?  My treat if you’re worried about your boss’s expense account.”
“No, that’s fine thanks.  It’s not a good idea to eat too much at lunchtime.  I need to stay awake in the office this afternoon, and it’s been a tiring few days.”
“Really?  Why’s that? If you don’t mind my asking.”
Gaby stared into the flames as she answered vaguely, “I was moving over the weekend, and then I got a call out of the blue this morning asking me to come in because Jason had lost his P.A.”
“Careless of him,” Brad joked, settling back further into the thick cushions.  “Did he check she wasn’t just under a pile of files?”
“No chance of that,” Gaby laughed, remembering Jason’s bare, paper-free office. 
“So have you worked for JJ before, or did you just start there today?”
“And they let you out with the company credit card?”
“I’m a trustworthy person.” 
“I’m sure you are.  I just didn’t see Jason as a trusting one.  Although maybe it’s just men he distrusts." 
“Maybe,” she conceded.  “What did you think of the company so far?  And the job?  Is it like what you’ve done before?”
“Similar I guess.  I spent a year at the forge before last time I went back to the States, so it’s probably a lot like that.  Hot, grimy, and hectic, but I did enjoy getting to put my MBA theories into practice.”
Brad paused as the waitress leaned across him to place Gaby’s sandwich on the low table in front of her. 
“Thank you,” Gaby smiled up at the waitress, but the woman’s eyes were firmly on Brad as she straightened, giving him a lingering view of her ample cleavage.
Brad, to his credit, did an excellent job of pretending not to notice, and carried on as soon as she’d left, “Jason didn’t make this job sound the most appealing, it must be said.  I mean, he carried on about the grit and grime as if he thinks I wear five hundred dollar Italian suits every day instead of just for interviews.  But that’s not so bad.  It’s more the fact that he seems to think everyone should jump when he says jump, even down to travelling for trade shows at ten seconds notice, and working day shifts or night more or less according to his whim.”
“I know,” Gaby agreed, wiping a stray smear of tomato off her lip.  “I can see how that could get annoying.  Especially if you’ve got a family waiting for you at home.  I suppose I can be more flexible, and I quite like knowing that I’m working for someone who’s so dedicated to his company.  After all, if he didn’t take it seriously, a lot of people would be out of jobs.”
“That’s true,” Brad conceded.  “And I suppose I’m pretty used to hard work and odd hours.  As a student, I didn’t exactly keep a steady nine-to-five.”
“You must’ve worked really hard to get a Harvard MBA.  It’s supposed to be one of the best, isn’t it?” Gaby said, remembering seeing shelves of Harvard Business Reviews lined up along the office walls of businessmen and women she’d respected. 
“Pretty hard, and I suppose smart too.  You soon learn what needs doing and what’s an optional extra if you want to stay afloat.”
“I bet.”  Gaby munched on her sandwich and watched and listened as Brad outlined his experience of being a Harvard student, in between bites of steak and Guinness pie. 
When he’d finished, Gaby smiled.  She’d enjoyed listening to his account and it had cemented her sense that he was exactly what Jason Jackson-Jones needed, whether he knew it or not. 
“I do hope you’ll come and work for Triple J Auto Parts,” she said truthfully.
“If I do, it’ll be more for the P.A. than the Managing Director.  I have to admit, the idea of having such a lovely colleague is appealing.”  Somehow the compliment, delivered with Brad’s polished urbanity, disturbed Gaby.
“And what would your wife think of that?” she asked, more caustically than she’d intended. 
“Probably about the same as I think of her having a poster of a different Brad on her wall,” he joked, and the moment of tension passed, but Gaby was sure she’d seen a flicker of something – annoyance, or maybe even pain – in his eyes.  
“Which Brad would that be?  Brad Awl?” she joked, and was rewarded with a second, unstrained smile. 
“I’d better let you get back,” Brad suggested, and Gaby agreed, although for a moment she’d been tempted to neglect her duties a little longer.  
“Well, I hope you’ll be joining us once we’ve checked out your references and so on.”
“We’ll see.  I might be seeing you tomorrow.  If not, I’m sure there’ll be something I need to speak to Mr Jones about before too long.  Or at least his P.A.”
Gaby laughed and followed Brad out of the door, shivering a little as the chilly air hit her thin suit. 
She wanted to get in out of the misty cold, but she didn't want Brad to walk out of the car park and never come back. 
"No, I didn't.  Thought JJ might be keeping trade secrets until I'm actually employed."
"Maybe.  I don't suppose you could steal too many trade secrets just by walking around the factory."
Brad laughed.  "You'd be surprised what an expert can learn from just the sound of a machine or a glance at a plan left out on a desk."
"And are you an expert?"
"Yes."  It wasn't an arrogant observation, particularly, just a statement of fact, as Gaby might have stated that she was a good assistant, that she made a difference to the lives of the people she worked for, even if it was only for a short time.  She wasn't a fan of the British tendency to talk down one's own abilities.  There were enough other people in the world willing to do it for you, if you let them.  Brad's high opinion of himself wasn't a problem.  The problem was that, if it was true, and she had every reason to believe it was, JJ might well not be happy with her letting him look around.  But she was sure that he needed to see what he was taking on before he could make an informed decision, and she couldn't see him as the type to take on a commitment whose nature he couldn't assess.
"Maybe I shouldn't let you back in then," she joked. 
"You can trust me," he said, giving a mock sleazy grin.
"Yeah, I'm sure," she joked back.  "Oh well, what have I got to lose? Come on.  Donna promised me a tour this afternoon.  I'm sure she won't mind taking two of us around instead of one."
She led him back inside and told Donna what she had in mind.
"Jason doesn't like non-staff being on the shop floor."  Donna's eyes were nervously wide as she seemed to contemplate Jason's reaction.
"He took his visitors around this morning," Gaby said.  Brad seemed to be happy to hang back and let her do the talking.
"They're customers."
"And Brad's nearly staff.  He could be coming in to manage the shop floor tomorrow.  Jason can hardly expect him to manage a factory he's never even seen."
"I suppose."
"Sign yourself back in and Donna can take us round," Gaby told Brad, and this time Donna capitulated. 
Brad signed his name in the visitors’ book.  Donna dug three sets of bright yellow earthing strips out of her desk drawer and asked everyone to put them on their shoes for safety.  That done, she handed watch covers to Brad and Gaby, and a ring cover to Brad for his white platinum wedding ring.  While they were putting them on, she dropped her own watch into her desk drawer and covered it up with a phone message pad.
"There.  Ready to go," she announced, and led the way through the sound-proofed double doors at the back of reception.
The corridor that faced the trio was a strange no-man’s land between the smart, shiny marble and plush carpet public face of the reception area, and the clunky, clattery, metal and plastic shop floor.  Brad and Gaby stepped aside to let Donna lead the way along the corridor, and punch in the code for entry to the secure shop floor. 
Inside, it was a strain to hear anything, so they spoke little as they walked around from one machine to another.  Occasionally Brad asked Donna something, but he had to lean so close to her that Gaby could make out neither his questions nor her responses. 
One machine in particular seemed to interest him.  It stretched from the floor almost to the ceiling, two stories higher.  Inside the hulking green shell, something grey and heavy clunked inexorably up and down.  To Gaby, it looked almost evil - something Blake would have written about belonging in a dark satanic mill - but Brad brightened visibly as he studied the small blinking red lights on the front and watched two boiler-suited men checking and moving the boxes it produced.  He picked out a few pieces from one of the boxes, ran a finger over one edge, and asked a question of the elder of the two men.  The grey-haired man frowned and shook his head, and shouted a response which against the harsh sounds of the factory still sounded little more than a whisper. 
Brad frowned, shook his head, asked something else, and then got another inaudible response. 
He made another remark, still looking unusually serious, and then the man beckoned to him and led him back towards the door by which they’d all entered.  Gaby looked at Donna, who looked back at her, shrugged, then joined the procession.  They must have looked for all the world like a mother duck with her ducklings making their way in order across the factory floor.  The sight of not one, but two, smartly dressed women drew eyes to their progress, but if there were any comments, they were lost amidst the din of machines. 
After a walk that seemed longer with each deafening second that passed, as the air became thicker with the scent of something metallic and Gaby's shoulders tensed at the thought of the hammering that the steel was taking, they reached the door by which they'd entered.  Compared to reception, the blank corridor had seemed bare and shoddy, but compared to the inferno they'd just left, it felt like a haven of luxurious tranquillity. 
Gaby was glad she'd never had to work permanently in an environment like that, and hoped she never would. 
Coming in, Brad had been eager and chatty, but now he seemed distant and preoccupied, following without a murmur as Donna led them off a side door, into the canteen, and showed them where the catering team posted the weekly menu.  She then pointed them in the direction of the toilets and storerooms, and finally led the way back to reception.
"Interesting?" Gaby asked Brad as they removed the earthing strips from their shoes and returned watch and ring covers, and Donna unlocked her drawer and fished out her watch. 
"Very," he answered, still sounding abstracted. 
"What was all that about with those two guys?" Gaby asked, wondering whether that was what was absorbing his attention.
"Which guys?"
"The ones on the big machine," Gaby said, to a smothered laugh from Donna, who had no doubt observed that there were at least a dozen big machines on the shop floor, most of them operated by two guys. 
The description was sufficient for Brad, however.
"Oh, that.  There are some issues with the steel quality and JJ doesn't seem keen to sort them out."
"That's not good, is it?"
"Not good might be an understatement," Brad said darkly, then, with a flicker of his eyes towards Donna and a nod towards the small conference room where his interview had been conducted, he suggested wordlessly that they take the conversation elsewhere.
"Thanks, Donna," Gaby smiled at the receptionist.  "Brad and I are just having a quick word in the small meeting room, if anyone needs me."
She followed Brad through the door, took one of the huge leather seats, and waited.
Brad didn't take long to fill her in.
"The steel they're using isn't good enough for all the jobs they're making it do.  It's ok for the sheets and hinges, but the springs undergo more tension and they're getting a very high failure rate, but not yet high enough for Jason to want to do anything about it, because better steel's more expensive."
"Well, surely that's his decision," Gaby said, but she could feel the tension and knew that there was more to it than that.  Brad was seriously worried, and his next remark explained why. 

"If they're failing that high in the factory, there's a good chance more could fail in use.  Which could mean deaths on the road."

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Hollywood Kisses: Cover Reveal

I'm excited that my romance Perfect Partners has been selected to appear in an ebook bundle along with some of my favourite Crimson Romance authors including J Arlene Culiner, who I interviewed on my blog way back in 2015.  

The collection features a selection of romances set around the large and small screens, and although I can't help thinking that the inclusion of Perfect Partners in a Hollywood themed collection may be cheating a little - it's actually based around a UK dance show filmed in London and Blackpool - I'm delighted my book will be in such good company.

It's up for preorder now on Amazon UK, and at £1.99 for six full-length stories, it's cheaper than a box of popcorn, never mind a cinema ticket!

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

The Crash: Chapter Three

I recently introduced hard-nosed businessman Jason Jackson-Jones in Chapter One of The Crash. After week one saw him waiting for a new PA and Engineering Manager, in Chapter Two he filled the first of those gaps.  But is his new PA exactly what he's looking for, or a bit too good to be true?  

Jason pushed open the door of the office adjoining his, and did a double-take.  Sitting at Lucy’s desk, for all the world as if she’d been there forever, was the most extraordinarily stunning, tall, black-haired woman.  When she stood to greet him, he realised that her height was in part due to very high black heels.  She should have looked like a waitress, in a white blouse with a black skirt and jacket, but it was inconceivable that this elegant creature might actually stoop to serving food or drink.  It seemed unlikely enough that she was here to type his letters and do his filing, though that was the only explanation he could find for her presence.
“Mr Jackson-Jones?”  She put out her hand.  “I’m Gabriella, or Gaby for short.  I’m your personal assistant for this week.”
“It’s very nice to meet you, Gabrie... Gaby.”  Considering her height, her hand felt surprisingly delicate in his.  “I hope you’ll enjoy working here.”  It wasn’t a sentiment Jason had ever expressed to any of his previous P.A.s – and there were many. 
“Has Donna showed you around?  And how to log into the computer?  And answer the phone?” 
“She’s showed me around and set me up on the computer.  I found the manual for the phone in the drawer, so that should be fine too.”
As if in response, the phone rang, and Gaby snatched up the receiver as promptly as if it might explode on the third ring. 
“Triple J Auto Parts, can I help you?”  Gaby didn’t yet sound like a bored receptionist, but then they never did on the first day.  The constant stream of sales calls, customer complaints and meeting rearrangements could hardly fail to grind down even the most dedicated assistant eventually, but Jason hoped he’d see at least a bit more of the enthusiasm first. 
Gaby paused, her chiselled face tilted as she listened.  Jason knew he should go into his office and get on with his work, but instead he stood watching as she nodded and smiled at the person on the other end.
“Thanks, Donna.  I’ll let him know.” She ended the conversation swiftly but politely, and turned to Jason.  “The agency have sent you over a CV for a potential Engineering Manager who’s available for interview now, and to start tomorrow if you like him.”
“Why’s he available so quickly?”  Jason was instantly suspicious.  Of course it was convenient, but he’d learned to be suspicious of things that were too convenient.  ‘Available immediately’ usually meant, ‘recently fired’, and often for a good reason. 
“Apparently he’s been abroad for family reasons, and has just moved back to the UK.”   
Not such a problem, then.  If it was true.  Well, if the guy sounded good at interview he’d have Gaby check out the story before he appointed. 
“OK.  Get him booked in for eleven thirty, and then print me out five copies of the contract for the lunch meeting.  Donna can show you where they’re kept.”
He noticed as he settled back at his own desk that Gaby did as he requested without needing to disturb the receptionist, having already worked out how to access his diary, check which meeting was taking place this afternoon, and then select and print the relevant contract in the customer’s file.  She was quick.  Which, sadly, meant she wouldn’t last long. The good ones were always in demand and soon moved on.  Not, he was quick to remind himself, that he was looking for anyone permanent from the agency.  Temporary agencies were just that – designed to provide an overpriced but convenient stopgap until a cheap school leaver or recent graduate could be appointed. 
As he started flicking through the eighty-three emails that had arrived during his meeting with the Japanese, the computer flashed up a meeting request.  Gaby had booked the interview for eleven thirty in the small conference room.  A few minutes later, she came in, dropped five copies of the contract in his in-tray and left without speaking.  Jason could get used to this level of convenience.  But he’d better not.
Today everything seemed almost too good to be true.  Things continued to run smoothly with Gaby insulating him from the outside world, and at eleven twenty-nine exactly Donna called through that his candidate for the Engineering Manager job was waiting in the small meeting room.  He picked up the CV that the agency had faxed through, glanced at the name on top, and headed downstairs. 
Jason walked through the door of the small meeting room on the dot of eleven thirty.  Like Gaby, Brad stood to shake hands.  Brownie points for that.  He was sharply dressed in a grey suit, with shades peeking from his breast pocket, but Jason decided not to hold that against him.  The November sun sometimes sat low over the hills, and sunglasses were almost more necessary than in summer, especially when the dew or overnight rain made the roads reflect like shimmering streams. 
“So, talk me through your CV,” Jason requested, sitting back with his arms folded in a pose that demanded, ‘Impress me.’  In part, he did this to see which aspects of their work history a candidate would single out as important.  It was also a useful reminder of the key aspects of a CV he’d only taken a moment to skim.
“As you can see, I graduated with a BA from Vassar, worked for Hamex Manufacturing for seven years and then went back to school to take my MBA at Harvard.” 
Jason winced, as much at the smooth American drawl as at the straightforward delivery of this textbook career history.  A Harvard MBA wanted a job at what Jason was honest enough to admit was a pretty parochial manufacturing company?  Something didn’t stack up here, and he was going to get to the bottom of it. 
“I met my wife Rachel at Harvard.  She’s a Brit.  Her family are from Sheffield and she didn’t want to leave the area, so we settled here.  I worked at Forgemasters for a year, but then my Dad got sick back home and I went back to care for him during his last months.  Now I’m back, looking for somewhere to put my experience to work.”
Weird turn of phrase, that.  Made it sound as if he thought his experience was something separate from himself.  As if it was going to walk around the factory, adjusting machines and chivvying along slack workers. 
Something about the whole spiel put Jason’s back up, and he decided to make things difficult for the guy.  After all, it was in the heat of the crucible that the steel was forged.
“Why aren’t you going back to Forgemasters?”
Brad gave a nonchalant shrug.  “I didn’t know how long I was going to be away.  They could hardly keep the job open indefinitely.  They went ahead and hired, and by all accounts the new guy’s doing a good job.  They’d gladly have me back, but it wouldn’t be at the same level, and I don’t want to be sitting around waiting for dead men’s shoes.  I want to be up and doing.”
“But doing what?  This is a tough job.  A lot of time on the shop floor.  It’s not a place for expensive suits.”  Jason looked the other man up and down with what was intended to be, and was, a scathing glance. 
“I can handle tough.  I know my CV reads like I’ve always had a silver spoon in my mouth, but the truth is I had a tough time before I got my scholarships to college.  Scraped my way out of what was really one step off the ghetto.  I thought I’d have made it once I got a job where I didn’t have to sweat, but when I got a job sitting at a desk all day I found it bored me senseless.  At college I learned to wear expensive suits and take my place in a board meeting, but I also learned that I need to spend at least some of my time at the sharp end, or I get antsy.”
“So what do you think you’d be doing here?”  Jason had flummoxed a fair few interview candidates with this one, delivered deadpan and accompanied by a piercing blue stare.  Most of them fumbled around, eventually delivering some variant of, ‘Aren’t you meant to tell me what the job involves?
Brad didn’t miss a beat.  It was obvious he knew his stuff. He swiftly summarised the main duties, cleverly working in a brief summary of the main tasks he’d performed in his previous jobs and the skills he’d bring to the party. 
When he wrapped up, Jason moved straight on, rather than following up with probing questions as he normally did.   He was satisfied that, provided his references showed he’d done what he said he had, Brad was more than capable.  His doubts were more on the score of willingness than ability, and to that end he fired off a few more questions about unsociable hours, last-minute travel arrangements and total dedication to the company. 
When Brad answered them all with equal panache, Jason came to the conclusion that, against all the odds, the first candidate might actually be the man for the job. 
When twelve o’clock came, he ushered Brad out to reception and asked him to leave details of his referees with Gaby when she came down.  Then he asked Donna to buzz Gaby, and get her down to collect Brad’s details.  “In fact,” he suggested, “why doesn’t one of you take Brad to lunch?  Book a table at the Old Bell.  Take the company credit card.  I’d join you,” he added for Brad’s benefit, “but I’ve got a prior engagement.  I’ll be in touch shortly.”
He shook hands with Brad, said his farewells, and then stepped into the print room to grab five brochures to accompany the five contracts.  That was one thing he’d learned over his ten years at the helm of JJ Auto.  Never stop selling until the ink is dry on the contract.
When he came out, Gaby was already downstairs, and his emergence from the print room was, probably coincidentally, greeted with a gale of laughter from reception.  Gaby had only started that day, Brad wasn’t even employed yet, and already they and Donna seemed to be chatting like old friends.  He couldn’t help feeling a little left out, even though he knew the way to keep a healthy level of respect from staff was to keep your distance. 
“I’m off to lunch with Hexhams.   Hold my calls,” he told Donna, and made for the car park.  Brad’s loud, pealing laugh seemed to stalk him out of the building, and he wondered what Gaby had said to provoke it. 

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Affirmations Do Work: Affirm Your Way to Writing Success

Recently I read a post on one of my favourite sites, mindbodygreen, entitled ‘Why Affirmations Don’t Work and What You Should be Doing Instead.’  I’d started an argument with the author before the page had even finished downloading. A few minutes later I realised that for many years I’d actually agreed with the author, and in some ways I still do.

The word ‘affirmations’ is often associated with new age thinking, get rich quick schemes and unrealistic positive expectations.  If by saying that ‘affirmations work’, you mean that you expect to sit in front of the TV eating junk food and affirming ‘I’m rich, famous and beautiful’ and have it suddenly become true, then it’s perfectly accurate to say that they don’t work.

But at its root, the word ‘affirmation’ simply means ‘the act of affirming something’, and affirm has two meanings: to state something publicly, and to offer emotional support or encouragement. So affirmations are simply statements of support, made publicly or at least out loud or in writing. It’s possible to affirm one’s commitment to an outcome, or to offer oneself support or encouragement with a goal by way of affirmations. And in this broader sense, I definitely believe in the value of affirmations.

The world is too full of negativity and drains on our energy. Anything that helps to refill the well of positives has to be a good thing. 

Sure, if you make your affirmation too far from your current reality, it’ll trigger the part of your brain which responds like a sarcastic teenager: 'yeah right. Like heck'.  (OK the word might not be heck, but I'm mindful that I’ll probably want to show this post to some of my older friends at writers' group who aren’t fans of strong language).

I'm a millionaire? Nah.  Barely paying the bills.

I'm a slender size zero? That size doesn't even exist in the UK. 

That’s another problem with a lot of the affirmations you’ll find floating around the Internet. Most of the ones I’ve come across are geared towards a US audience. Which means they generally just confuse me, rather than inspiring me. Money affirmations are accompanied by pictures of dollar bills. Healthy eating affirmations mention foods I’ve never even heard of.  What the heck are zucchini?

Which brings me to rule number one: for your affirmations to work they must be personal, using language which means something to you.

Rule two: they must also be believable. The article I mentioned earlier suggested using questions instead of statements, but statements actually work just as well… provided they state something that feels true, or at least possible, for you.

That’s why I say affirmations are the words that bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to be. Each affirmation you use should take you a tiny bit closer to the desired reality.

Want to be a bestselling writer but never finish a project? Don’t start by affirming that you’re a rival to James Patterson or JK Rowling. Start by affirming that you complete every project you start. Or if even that feels too much, how about, ‘I always know the next step to take in my projects’? Or ‘I enjoy taking the next step on…’ and finish by naming the next project you’d like to complete.

Affirmations can work, but making them effective requires careful thought and deliberate choice of words.  Fortunately you’re in the best possible place to achieve that – after all, you’re a writer, aren’t you?!

Have you tried affirmations to help with your writing goals? Did they work for you? I'd love to hear your experiences in the comments.