Hey there, lovely people!
I went to a neighbour's party last weekend. I've lived on this street for 27 years and this was only the second one I've been to. In that time, older people have moved away and families have moved in. There are more young children here than I can remember in nearly three decades and certainly more than when my children were little.
An ice cream van came around the weekend before – another near-first. We live at the top of a very long, very steep hill (the kind you pray you're not going to get stuck behind a big truck when you're driving up it – who knows when you'll arrive, if ever.) People rarely come up here unless they are visiting. ? ? ?
The van was very popular (reminded me of the ice cream van in Witches at the Wedding, but no hedgehogs were on offer sadly) and it was good to see the mums and dads out in force as well as the kids. The van stopped right outside our house, presumably arranged by my husband who can't pass up a good ice cream, especially from a van with a tinkley jingle. ? ?
Earlier, I had put out some of my boys' middle school level books, glad to gain back some house space. I was so delighted to see how the children were more thrilled by the books than they were the ice cream. (I think it was the reverse for the mums and dads.)
I saw one of the boys who'd raced for the box of books that afternoon a week later at the party. I asked him what he'd taken. “Warriors!” he said. I was taken aback. The books were about fifteen years old. The fact that in 2023 there are still children who love fantasy stories about magical cats thrills me. I've spent a lot of this past week learning about artificial intelligence and its impact on the book industry. My brain hurts, yet this nugget gives me hope for humanity. ?
But first, another story.
I went to the dentist this week. I do not like going to the dentist. Let me say that again. I do not like going to the dentist. ?
This week's visit was the culmination of a long process that started with cracking a tooth in March 2020. Yes, that March 2020.
Mostly I was okay. Occasionally though, I would get hit with an explosion of pain that was so intense, I imagined it must be like being shot. But dentists were closed and I was relieved I could put things off except when that blast of pain shocked me to my core.
By the time I hauled myself into the dentist's chair, I'd got a big problem. Add high anxiety and a complex health history, and I was about to get a rep for being a difficult patient.
Three and a half years later, five different dentists, three surgeries, innumerable delays, and a fair amount of trauma later, I'm ready to be discharged. The measure of my relief is incalculable.
As I left, the dentist asked me if I had any questions. My response: “I'd like to write you and your office a five-star review. Where would you like me to leave it?”
The practice was excellent. The administration worked smoothly. Phone calls were returned. The requests from this highly anxious patient were responded to with kindness. The skill level of the nurses and my surgeon was exemplary. Did I say I didn't like going to the dentist?
Now, I have a degree in organizational behavior. Running a practice this well requires skill. From the top person down to the most junior, an expectation of quality has to be established. Standards need to run through everything from recruitment of staff, to systems and training, and management. Sometimes difficult decisions have to be made and short term opportunities forgone in order to maintain those standards.
Yesterday, as I was recovering from my final surgery, I needed to look over my five star reviews for a task. I don't normally read reviews. I was astounded at the number and quality of them. Also, they told me a lot about what resonates with my readers. The positive feedback on inventive plots, side stories, and characters that are “like real people” were consistent themes. If you were one of those reviewers, thank you.
Sometimes I feel I leave it too long between books. In this fast-paced, digital world, we consume large amounts of content. Reader expectations have increased. Many want books in their favorite series multiple times a year. Many authors produce books almost monthly. I will never be one of those authors. (To the reader who told me she was 95 and to hurry up with the next Inspector Graham, I'm sorry. ?)
My stories are ready when they are ready – like a cake. ? They can't be rushed. I don't take preorders or make firm commitments to publishing dates for this reason. I also choose to make my accountant unhappy because I won't prioritise revenue over my reader's experience. I insist on writing books in all my series instead of focusing on only the bestselling. I simply cannot abandon my characters (or their fans) in the middle of a niche series. The stories have to be told.
All this is to say, thank you for being patient. Many more books are coming, but at their own pace. And when they arrive, they will have met my standards for quality, which if you've been with me a while, you'll expect.
Authors can, and do burnout. Then there are no more books, and readers are disappointed. I choose to be a tortoise who prioritises quality and deeply drawn characters and, also someone who, by being slow and steady, can stay in the race for the long haul. Hang in there with me, friends. ?
P.S. I'm doing my dentist an enormous disservice by referring to him so. He was, in fact, a maxillofacial surgeon – a highly skilled and very knowledgeable one.
I'll be back next week with more news. I'm hoping for an announcement for audio fans among other things. ?Check your inbox on Thursday. ?