I blame Husband. It was his idea. ‘You could write a book about a group of dog-walkers,’ he said.
At the time we were walking our dog, George, in our local park, a favourite with canines. Husband was telling me about the various characters he talked to when on his own.
‘How come you talk to them?’ I said. ‘You’re not usually a chatty person.’
He shrugged. ‘They talk to me.’
‘They don’t talk to me,’ I said.
‘You don’t have my good looks and charm.’
That would be it.
So that’s how The Dog-walking Club came to be. At least that was the inspiration. The actual work of writing took a lot longer. Submitting to agents took an equally long time. Then rejection depression set in and the manuscript sat on the shelf – or in the folder on my hard drive – for another length of time while I struggled with the ‘I must be a rubbish writer as no-one wants to publish my books’ syndrome.
Then one day I got up and said, ‘Blow it,’ or words to that effect. ‘I have written books; I think they’re good; I am going to publish them and get them out there.’ Otherwise negativity and low self-esteem will have won.
I had previously self-published my first novel, This Time Next Year, and had received a number of very positive reviews, which made me wonder why it didn’t sell more copies. But what I hadn’t done, I realised, was market it. Most of my sales went to my uncle who bought twenty-five copies to send to various lady friends. Sadly, for all sorts of reasons not just this, he’s died since so I can’t rely on his ‘funding’.
So this time I decided I should get myself onto social media as an author and do proper promotions. Which sounds all well and good, and for a few weeks I did seem to be at least having an online presence even if not making any sales. Then life got in the way. Children, grandchildren, houses, holidays, you name it, it stopped me writing. I lost not only my mojo but my jimjam too.
But now I have some time. The foreseeable future isn’t over-crowded. (Even writing this scares me a little as it’s a sure way to ensure my diary gets filled again.) Having been thrown I need to get back on the promotion horse as soon as I can. No more excuses. But even this afternoon I toyed with doing other things – cleaning even – rather than sitting down and writing this post. I don’t know what it is. I can write long epistles in my head but sitting down faced with a blank page I suddenly remember I must, absolutely must, dust my desk right now.
And that’s just one of the problems I have. You can add it to keeping track of FaceBook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram accounts, remembering which one is which and which I’m on at any particular time, wondering exactly what the point is of Instagram, and how to attract followers for any of them. Not to mention when anyone finds time to write with all this vital – we are assured – social media activity.
Many thanks to Katie for giving me this opportunity to share some thoughts. This is my first guest blog post so forgive me if it’s a little rambling. I’m still learning to ride this horse.
The Dog-walking Club
(from the opening chapter)
Maggi’s eyes were filling with tears. She’d known from the start that this was going to be a bad idea. If only she’d paid attention to the sensible part of her brain instead of the trying-to-please-everyone bit.
Her plan had been to make a preliminary enquiry on the telephone. If she’d stuck to her resolve and said, ‘No, I don’t need to visit the dogs’ home. If you can just tell me if you have a suitable adult dog, not too old but well-behaved, good with people, and in need of a good home, that’ll be enough for now.’
But, no, she’d agreed to go along to the dogs’ home and meet some of its residents, and now she knew why the girl on the phone had been so insistent: at that precise moment Maggi was on the verge of saying, ‘I’ll take them all!’
First she’d been introduced to Tigger. ‘His owner died and her son – who was more than happy to take the house – didn’t want the dog that came with it,’ the kennel girl said. ‘Tigger used to be very playful I’m sure,’ she added, as the black and white spaniel-cross stared listlessly at them through the mesh of the cage ‘and probably would be again in the right home.
‘Tyson here,’ she said as she moved on to the next cage where a Jack Russell chewed frantically on the wires, ‘has anxiety issues, probably as a result of mistreatment. A good caring home is all he needs though.
‘Oh, and this is a sad story. Chloe’s owner neglected her and we had to shave her. As you can see from the sore lesions on her back she needs some tender loving care.’ The shorn brown and white whippet shivering in the corner of the cage had brought tears to Maggi’s eyes.
The snarl from the next cage as they approached made both Maggi and the kennel girl jump back. ‘Ah, yes,’ the girl said. ‘This is Casper. He’s quite protective of his territory and can appear aggressive but …’
‘All he needs is a good home?’ Maggi finished her sentence for her.
‘Yes,’ the girl agreed, delighted that Maggi had understood. ‘You did say you don’t have children living with you, didn’t you?’
‘I don’t but would that be a problem?’
The girl sighed. ‘It depends on the dog. But mostly we like to find homes where the dog, for its own good, will take centre stage and get plenty of attention. A lot of our dogs have come from difficult backgrounds and need’ she gestured with her hands, ‘bringing out of themselves.’
The Dog-walking Club
Every dog walk brings new drama into the lives of these dogs and their people. A supermarket shelf-stacker, a stay-at-home dad, an elderly widow and a freelance photographer sound an unlikely bunch of friends but they have one thing in common: they all walk their dogs in Beauville Park at roughly the same time each morning. And that’s enough for Angela, bored organiser without a cause, to get them together to form the Dog-walking Club.For Jock the Scottie, Benji the spaniel, Pixie the boxer, Mitzi the poodle and Bassett the … all sorts, walking each day with their friends is a dream come true. And it changes the lives of widowed Sybil who’s spent a lifetime hiding her secret sorrow, hopeless-with-women Jon who’s wandering almost unwittingly into an affair, freelance photographer Jemma who is at every wedding but her own, and Maggi who is frantically trying to save money to visit her family in Australia. And for long-suffering Angela a nasty shock turns into a new start in disguise for her and her husband – and their love life.
This Time Next Year
When her decree absolute arrives in the post with her 50th birthday cards Alison Turner wonders if middle age life can get any worse. When the highlights of the last year include being told off by the plumber for ‘putting feminine items of hygiene down the lavatory’, and her husband leaving her for a 28-year-old ‘bimbo’, it’s easy to understand why Alison exclaims in her diary, ‘I do not want another year like that. I must get a new plumber.’ But if the romantic aspect of Alison’s life leaves a lot to be desired (including sex, which is something the rest of her family appear to be enjoying) the everyday aspect is full of incident. In a year of well-intentioned ineptitude, as Alison records in her diary, she is thrown out of a pub for the first time in her life, begins to diet eight times (at least), finds out twelve unappealing things about dogs and discovers that first impressions can sometimes be misleading.
All about me
I am an experienced freelance writer with an MA in Creative Writing (Trinity College, University of Wales). My short stories have been published in Cambrensis (the now sadly-defunct short story magazine of Wales) as well as in several anthologies including Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe (Parthian) and Catwomen from Hell (Honno). I am also the author of several non-fiction books including A Cop for Christ (Hodder) and Dear God (Kevin Mayhew), as well as Generation Gap (Kevin Mayhew) and Zero In – the essential teen survival guide (Scripture Union).
I published my first novel, This Time Next Year, initially as an e-book and then as a paperback. I have been gratified to receive many good reviews from, I suppose, women like me who enjoyed the trials of a 50-year-old divorcee coming to terms with life as a single middle-aged mother.
As well as The Dog-walking Club I have completed two more novels that I’m planning to publish within the next year or so. And when not writing I’m to be found walking my dog, baking cakes, looking after grand-children or supporting Welsh rugby – I forgot to mention I once had an article featured on the New Zealand All Blacks website!
My writing blog
My everyday blog
Notanotherwannabewriter Liz Hinds