The View From Here

Looking Back At The Journey To Publication.


The journey from the blank page and blinking cursor to successful author with books on shelves is a lot like mountaineering (or, as close to it as a decidedly NON outdoorsy person like me is ever likely to get).  You’re constantly striving for that peak, head down and ploughing on against an onslaught of unforgiving headwind. All you can do is keep on keeping on. One foot in front of the other, barely able to see the path ahead.  And when you reach that coveted peak? Well, you quickly discover that there’s another, even more insurmountable, mountain straight ahead.

My debut novel Poster Boy will be released exactly two months from today. It’s safe to say, I’ve scaled a few slippery peaks to get to this point. And yet, I’m always looking at the next, seemingly unreachable, summit instead of taking the time to appreciate my current surroundings. And from talking to other authors, it seems we’re pretty much all guilty of that.

So today, instead of staring at the next obstacle and feeling ill-equipped to conquer it, I’ve resolved to stop and look around at the view I have already achieved for myself. And wherever you are in your expedition, I encourage you to do the same.

This time five years ago, I was still at base camp. Tapping away tentatively, writing and submitting short stories, finding my bearings and trying to acclimatise. It was time well spent, and when I embarked on climbing my first peak (completing a novel) there were already other footsteps in the snow beside me – in the form of the critique partners and friends I had found among the writing community. Going out in such hostile conditions completely alone would be madness, after all. By pooling resources and expertise, we all stand a much better chance out there.

This time four years ago, I had scaled Mt Finish A Novel.  But I quickly slid down the other side and landed on my arse when I realised I had NO idea how to turn that 120k word story into something resembling a structured novel, or even what freaking genre it was. Yup. I’d been climbing with my shoes on backwards and paying no heed to my depleting rations.  So, Changing Skies never saw the light of day (Or rather, never darkened an agent’s inbox). It sits on my hard drive still, any maybe one day I’ll revisit that first mountain, better equipped to tackle its pitfalls.

So, I then found myself at the bottom of the second peak, Mt Write-A-Better-Novel. But this time, I was much more prepared. I’d learned what supplies I would need, put my shoes on the right way, and improved my climbing technique. Plus, there were even more footsteps in the snow around me than before.  After a couple of years of pushing ever onward, with the occasional fall (thank goodness for the safety rope that is my writer friends!) and more than a few ‘I can’t go on!’ moments, the first draft of Poster Boy was complete!

But there was no time to sit atop the mountain exclaiming ‘huzzah’ and drinking lashings of ginger beer, oh no. For now I was faced with peak three – the formidable Mt Edit-That-Shit. The tricky thing about Mt Edit-That-Shit is that it doesn’t follow the standard ‘just keep heading up’ format of Mts Finish-A-Novel and Write-A-Better-Novel. Oh no. Mt Edit-That-Shit is a tricksy mistress. In order to reach its peak, you have to do a lot of walking backwards. You have to be prepared to undo what seemed to be progress in order to make real progress. And let me tell you, it’s the peak on which many a story meets its demise. The paths are littered with the corpses of the manuscripts that refused to be restructured or rewritten. If you listen carefully, you can hear shrieks of, ‘But it’s the best scene in the book!’ on the wind.  It’s a cold, harsh mountain to climb.

But climb it I did. And there I set up camp, and may very well have ended my expedition, so scared was I to attempt the next challenge, if my fellow travellers hadn’t shoved me off the top and sent me hurtling to the base of peak four – Mt Query-Agents.

Although Mt Query-Agents has its challenges, to say the least (those avalanches, otherwise known as ‘form rejections’ can make you lose your footing if you’re not ready for them), it does follow the keep-on-keeping-on rule. With an occasional rest stop to re-evaluate your submission package if you’re not making any progress, of course. Plough on, plough on, side-step the falling snow, negotiate the black-ice of the schmagents and ghosters, on and on and ever on, until you make it to the other side of the communication dead-zone and a friendly voice radios in to tell you that you’ve made it. From now on you’ll have a guiding voice helping you navigate. Which is just as well because, after a brief respite at the oasis of revisions, it’s on to the most treacherous peak yet.

Mt We-Do-Not-Speak-Its-Name (it’s On Sub, guys. Mt On-Sub 😉 )looms tall and foreboding. Shrouded in dense fog, few travellers ever speak of the horrors they encountered there. When you’re climbing all the previous peaks, you can send postcards. You can shout about your journey on social media, get words of encouragement when you face rejection and whoops of joy when you have success. But not Mt On-Sub. For, tis not the done thing to speak of it. Occasionally, you might reach out in the dark and find a fellow climber, whereupon you’ll whisper good wishes to one another before disappearing back in to the swirling mists, hoping to meet again at the top. Now and then, your radio will hiss and your heart will thump, but it’s just your agent telling you you’re at a dead end and suggesting a change in direction.

Mt On-Sub is the final resting place of many a valiant manuscript.  But those who make it to the summit of Mt On-Sub find themselves in possession of the very thing they never thought possible back in the days of blank screen and blinking cursor – a publishing deal.

And that, my friends, is where I sit today. Already I’ve forgotten how much I once coveted the view I now have, so consumed am I with making preparations for the next climb. But just for now, just for once, I’m going to take a moment to look back across all the terrain I conquered to make it here, and hold my past-self tight and tell her she WAS good enough, all along.

Wherever you are on the journey, I encourage you to do the same. Take a breath. Take a look around. You’ll miss this mountain once you’ve conquered it, I promise you. Think for just a moment of all you’ve achieved thus far, count the footsteps in the snow beside you – and thank your travelling companions.

I can’t stay still for long. Mt Make-A-Successful-Career is calling my name. I have no idea how to conquer her and I don’t feel capable, or equipped, to begin. But, guess what? I felt that way about all the peaks that came before too…


No, not that sort of flashing – get your mind out of the gutter! If you’re expecting a discussion about the virtues of going commando under your best anorak, I’m afraid you’ve come to the wrong place. But don’t worry, this is the internet, it won’t be hard to find what you’re looking for 😉 . I’m talking, of course, about flash fiction.

People keep asking me when my next short story will be out. In case you missed the announcement on Twitter (and let’s face it, if you’re following more than a couple of hundred people it’s impossible to keep up with everyone!), the lovely people at Page and Spine have recently published my flash fiction story ‘Dearly Departed’. You can read it for free here:

However, I’m afraid all will be quiet on the short story front for a little while, as I really need to focus my efforts on getting the first draft of ‘When Jimmy Saved London’ (my current novel in progress) finished. I have been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and support of my fantastic alpha readers, who have so generously given their time and expertise to help me with this project. There are very few people willing to have in-depth discussions about explosives, hypothetical economic crises and theoretical new technologies with a slightly insane writer, so I count my lucky stars I found three of them! Gary, Steve and Ash, I am forever in your debt, and I couldn’t possibly do this without you!

So, seeing as I keep being pestered for new shorts by some, and moaned at for writing them when I ought to be working on the novel by others, I thought I’d try for a compromise. Below are some flash fiction pieces previously written for various competitions, (and a link to my very first interview – eeeeek!) I hope you will enjoy them. As always, comments are very welcome 🙂

Be patient my pretties, the novel will come… if you’re very good (or very bad, he he) I might share some excerpts soon…

Just Maybe… by N J Crosskey (Winner of MicroBookends 1:27)

Silent treatment, that’s what she accuses me of. Then it’s all: You Never, You Don’t, You Aren’t.

Well maybe I don’t and maybe I’m not. But maybe Glynis, just freakin’ maybe, YOU don’t and YOU aren’t either.

And maybe, just maybe, you sound like a flock of constipated pigeons. Maybe you’re a shrill, controlling harpy who kicks me when I’m down, so MAYBE, just maybe, I Don’t and I’m Not because of YOU.

Maybe I’ll smash your skull in with a freakin’ shovel. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll bury you on the hillside with the other cows…

…Or maybe I’ll just turn the sound up so I can hear the film.

You can also check out my Winner’s Interview here:

Losing Coral’ Honourable Mention – Flashmob Writes wk 7

Losing Coral (499 words)

I’m wearing a cream blouse.

The air smells of lavender and bleach. The woman beside me kisses my cheek.

“Bye Mum,” she says, and I realise it’s Meghan. Silly of me, must be the new ‘do. She looks so different.

I forget things sometimes. That’s why I’m here; I think… a word flies across my mind so quickly I can’t hold onto it. I chase it, but it’s gone. So has Meghan.

I walk down the corridor to the lounge. The fraying, floral chairs are occupied by people much older than I. The woman beside me must be ninety if she’s a day. I’m only… well, I’m not sure exactly, but I’m much younger.

She smiles at me, I smile back. “I’m new,” I say.

“That’s nice,” she replies. “Have you ever been to Storrington? I’m from Storrington. Course I didn’t work there. I always caught the number thirty-seven into town-”

She talks, a lot. I listen politely as she tells me every nuance of her life. It’s not until she says, “I must telephone my father, he’ll be dreadfully worried.” that I realise she’s crazy.

I look at the others more closely. One of them polishes a teaspoon, frantically, with her jumper. Another gets up, sits down, and gets up again. They’re all crazy. That word I was chasing rushes forward, belts me round the head. Dementia. I’ve heard it a lot. I’ve heard it said about me.

I’ve got dementia. The memory kicks me in the guts, I struggle for breath. I’ve got dementia, and it’s going to consume me, take away everything I am. I look at them all, locked inside their bubbles. Like scratched records, stuck in one groove. How long before I am the same?

Someone starts to wail. I realise it’s me.

I’m wearing a blue nightdress.

The air smells of smoke. My house is on fire! I flee my bedroom, race to the front door. But it’s locked. I can’t get out! I scream, hammering my fists in vain.

“Help me! I’m burning alive!”

Footsteps thunder toward me. Uniformed arms grasp mine, stopping me from hitting the glass pane.

“Coral,” the young lady says, “look at me.”

I’m shaking, but I obey.

“It’s Okay.” She speaks slowly, deliberately.

“My house is on fire!” Why isn’t she panicking?

“No honey. Not now. You’re safe.”

She leads me back down the corridor, sits me down. She tells me things I half remember, things that seem like whispered dreams.

I left the stove on, burned down the house.

“That’s how you came to live with us.” She says.

I’m wearing a green jumper.

I must change before my date tonight. I pick up my mirror to check my lipstick. A shrivelled face, covered in burns and framed by grey hair stares back at me. I scream.

I’m wearing a purple dress.

I sit next to a woman much older than I. “I’m new,” I say.
“That’s nice,” she smiles. “Have you ever been to Storrington?”

Honourable Mention and Special Challenge Winner – Three Line Thursday  wk 27

Viscous secrets, sparkling champagne.
Some things, once opened, cannot be closed.
“Don’t pry, little girl.” Mama poured out another.

‘Heaven’s Gate’ Special Mention – Flash! Friday vol 3-18

Heaven’s Gate (210 words)

I’m never drinking with Seraphim again. Bastards. Getting into a theological debate was a bad idea. Taking the bet was worse.

It’s not that I don’t support the Watcher’s strike. But, closing the gate, forever? My species can’t have got that bad.

Raziel just laughed. “Alright,” he said. “You try. I’ll grant one last place. Just one. And I’ll bet you can’t even fill that.”

So here I am. Scouring humanity. And I’ve probably lost my own slot, what with the coat stealing. But, those gilt-winged gits dropped me here buck naked. I’ll plead entrapment, Pete’s a good guy, he’ll understand.

And I’m losing. Raziel was right, things have changed. The city is a cold sea of scowls and selfish aspirations, drowning kindness in its tide. The crowd may move as one, but they live apart.

A man slumps beside me on the bench, cloaked in dirt and body odour.

“You look like shit,” he says. “When’d you last eat?”

I shrug. I don’t think “fifty years ago” would go down well.

“Ain’t much, but here…” He offers me a half-eaten sandwich. “Reckon you need this more than me.”

I smile, and press Raziel’s crumpled ticket into his hand.

“Buddy,” I say, “you just became the richest guy on Earth.”

The Day Maker
(199 words)

“If I left tomorrow, would anyone even know?” The Day-Maker asked his wife, as he collapsed on the patchwork sofa.

She looked at him, and smiled. He worked so hard, so tirelessly. Whilst all the world slept he toiled. Weaving dappled sunlight to greet their sandy eyes, brewing gentle breezes to kiss their cheeks, or distilling cleansing rains to water their crops.

But lately, the shadows had darkened around his sparkling eyes. He winced as his muscles screamed in protest and rubbed at his back. He needed a rest.

“No,” she whispered as she stroked his long grey hair. “I don’t think they would.”
He breathed a sigh of relief and fell into a deep, dream-filled sleep. And tomorrow never came.

When at last he awoke he was refreshed, invigorated. He gave the birds a brighter song, the sun a more vibrant hue. He hopped and skipped his way through the day’s ablutions. His wife’s heart was filled with joy at the sight.

“Oh my love,” she said, “I think you should skip a day every year! Nobody would miss silly old February 29th anyway.”

He frowned, and thought for a moment.

“I’ll work one in four.” He said.

Party Games (360 words)

“Ziro points for originali-ti-ness you bastards.” Rhys yelled. He pulled at the cuffs holding his hands behind his back. They didn’t give. When he looked down the cracked pavement was spinning, a kaleidoscope of pinks and greys. When he looked up, the streetlight overhead flooded his retinas with a sickening orange haze. He groaned, the bile churning in his guts. What had been in that last pint?

“What’s up mate?” Ed yelled from across the street. “Feeling a little WOOLLY headed?”

The pack of Neanderthals he called colleagues roared, slapped each other on the back and disappeared into the bar.


At least the inflatable sheep strapped to his middle was covering his (now painted green) modesty. But seriously, how predictable. Welsh name, Welsh parents – doesn’t matter if you’ve never actually lived there, you will, on the eve of your nuptials, end up with a white plastic effigy on your groin. It was horribly inevitable.

God, he needed to scratch his nuts. The thick seam tickled his inner thigh. He wiggled a little, hoping to alleviate the itch. Then stopped abruptly when he realised how his gyrations might look to passers-by.  Just have to bear it. They wouldn’t leave him here long, surely?

The minutes lolloped by. Couples joined at the hands sniggered as they ambled past.  An old lady tutted, yanking her spaniel away as it tried to cock its leg up his lamppost-prison.

A gaggle of high pitched shrieks approached, all tutus and deely boppers.  A young woman wearing a ripped veil, and an oversized “L” plate ran up to him, squealing like a saw drill.

“Hey girls, get this!” She sidled up to him; he could smell the vomit on her breath. She pulled down her top, thrusting her breasts at him, wiggling her yellowed tongue.

Her coven of harpies reached into their bags and pulled out their phones. All at once the true horror of his situation hit him.

YouTube – another crashing inevitability.

He groaned, and cursed himself for his folly. Old Etonian buddies or not, you should never, ever let a member of the opposition organise your stag do.

He’d never get re-elected now.