Pinch me! July was such a fantastic writing month. The month just kept on getting better and there wasn’t a single grey writing cloud to spoil it. How often does that happen?
I was away for two weekends so I’ve been too busy playing catch up to write and reflect on it all until now.
First of all, we had The Romantic Novelists’ Conference in Lancaster.
This was a weekend of interesting talks, meeting old friends and making new and the joy of kitchen parties where everyone talked about books and writing and the joy (OK and struggle) of writing.
I particularly enjoyed Jo Baker’s talk on revisiting the past. She has written an alternative story about Austen’s Pride and Prejudice characters, ‘Longbourne’. Her talk caught my interest because my third book is set in the past and, at the moment, I’m enjoying novels set in other eras.
I went along to see my friend, Lynda Stacey, in action on the ‘Dangerous Romance’ panel. Lynda was one of four writers who blend romance with suspense and the panel talked about how and why they did it. Not one of them was the same so it made for an interesting discussion. I’ve written about this session in detail for ‘Romance Matters’ so, if you’re in the RNA, look out for it in the Autumn edition.
The next weekend was Harrogate Crime Festival.
I don’t write crime but I’m an avid reader so, as a fan and as a friend of some crime writers, I tagged along and had my first taste of their annual highlight. A murder mystery dinner at Mel Sherrat’s table with my pals Lynda Stacey and Rachel Dove and a charming pair from an accountancy who were sponsoring one of the events made this an unforgettable night of fun, detectiving and laughs.
James Patterson stopped writing (was it his millionth book?) to open Saturday’s events and he was entertaining. I listened to talks and discussions involving Jo Nesbo and Lisa Jewell, two of my favourites, chatted to Rachel Abbott, a really successful self publisher, and so many others but I don’t want to be a name dropper!
I returned from both conferences with new friends, new links to publishing and new ideas so, as you can imagine, it has been a busy old time since then.
Come August, I didrecharge my batteries in France with the family. My cousin followed her dream and bought a fabulous place in St Estephe so we are all ‘obliged’ to do our bit and visit at least once a year to see what they are growing and enjoy the lakes and countryside around there.
I’ve appreciated this sunny spell of life because I’ve had my share of storm clouds and I’m always looking for them coming over the horizon.
How was your summer? All highs like mine or a few lows too?
One of the best things about being a writer is meeting real readers and gaining a few of them for my own books.
How do I do that? By accepting a speaking engagement where there will be readers and connecting with them.
I‘ve found that, if readers like you and the sound of your book, they are generous in their time and with their money and they buy a book or take a leaflet and download it on their kindle afterwards.
I’ve given a couple of talks recently about my writing journey -the tale of how a miner’s daughter eventually became an author. After the talk, I’ve read extracts from my books, answered questions and had the joy of connecting with future readers.
One thing I’m still waiting for but it is early days and, when it happens, I’ll sing from the rooftops (well, in my head anyway) is the day that someone comes along and they have already read one of my books. Imagine that!
Writers, like many people, keep going on dreams, don’t they? What’s your best thing about your job?
A reply on Facebook this week made me sit up and think. “Chrissie Bradshaw never ever feel like you have to justify your life, you bloody earned it and why not, I say? x” Thank you to that Romantic Novelist FB friend who made me question a few things like –
Why do I feel apologetic for being part of a generation that had free uni education ? Why apologise for my luck in getting onto the housing ladder in my twenties? Why am I quiet about building up a good pension when others have to work for longer? Why am I reticent about taking a few holidays every year and spending three winter months abroad to get on with my writing? Why do I feel I’m partly to blame for being part of the Brexit generation that is spoiling our country’s future?
I know I have had some lucky breaks but hang on!
When I went to uni, I didn’t travel abroad or take a gap year. My uni digs were basic and we didn’t even have TV. I worked every holiday to pay off an overdraft. My starter home was furnished with family cast offs and the mortgage meant we didn’t take a holiday. I worked and brought up my daughter and holidays were few. I’ve earned the free time I have now and I still work. To misquote Bette Davis, “Writing is not for cissies!” As for Brexit, we can only blame a few senseless politicians who stood behind David Cameron and plotted such a daft referendum that has divided and damaged the country I have thoughtful intelligent friends on both sides of Brexit and nobody could have envisaged such a political muck up
As from today, I’m going to try my hardest to stop the apologies -especially that one where I say I’m JUST a women’s fiction writer.
Does anyone else feel like they’re always about to say sorry?
The funny thing is, many people who should be apologising about uni grants, housing, pensions and Brexit wouldn’t dream of saying sorry.
Sometimes, I wish I had a crystal ball so I could see what lies ahead. I could be prepared for the wonderful day when I get my exciting multi book deal with a publisher by having a couple of novels at the ready.
What would you like to know about your own future?
It would be such a relief and joy to know that a personal dream is eventually going to happen wouldn’t it?
Or would it?
When I was accepted into college, it took away the need to achieve high ‘A’ levels and I did a bit of coasting because my place was a sure thing.
What if the crystal ball showed no deal? I’ll never stop writing but would I lose confidence and stop trying so hard to improve?
Perhaps we should all heed the words of the author Vera Nazarian who said,
‘Not knowing is the greatest life motivator. So enjoy, endure, survive each moment as it comes to you in its proper sequence, a surprise.’
My latest novel, ‘The Barn of Buried Dreams’, opens with a surprise for Erin, the main character. She is faced with changes she couldn’t foresee. Erin returns home to care for her sick mother leaving her fiancé and London theatre life for a while.
Here is a taster.
Erin had never understood how anyone could be totally surprised by their pregnancy.
She stared at the stick in her hand in utter disbelief. Two stark lines…the test couldn’t be clearer. How had this happened? Well, she knew how, of course she did, but what were the odds? Wow.
Bloody wow. She bit her knuckle and checked the tiny screen again. Wasn’t she supposed to be doing a happy dance? Maybe. When she got over the shock. It was such bad timing. This was meant to happen in the future, very far into some fuzzy future, when it would be a thrilling moment with Damien doing the test with her. They had a wedding to plan and their careers to establish before this bit of the story.
Erin felt guilty immediately. How could she feel that way? She had created a new life with the man she loved and here she was thinking it was inconvenient. She hoped the tiny being that was beginning to grow inside her couldn’t hear her thoughts.
Her life hadn’t been her own this year and now it looked like it wouldn’t be ever again. She’d spent years working hard to get where she was but now her stage career was drifting away like an unattended beachball, bright and enticing but moving further and further out of her reach. Would it come back to her on another tide or crash on the rocks?
‘Erin, our programme will be starting soon.’
‘Just coming, Mum.’ She placed the confirmation of her future on the bathroom window sillhurried downstairs to make a pot of tea before Happy Valley started.
Mum was soon engrossed in the episode, making comments about the murder case and cursing human traffickers. ‘Sergeant Cawood won’t let them get away with this trafficking scam, will she, Erin?’
Erin tried to keep up but her mind churned away at her own inner drama. When would she tell Damien? She’d have to tell him first, even before she told her mother. What would they do about a wedding? Rush into a small ceremony before or wait until after? They would both just have to get used to the idea of parenthood. There was never a perfect time to have a baby but she was twenty-seven and they had talked about starting a family, one day, so they’d just have to put their wedding plans on hold and become a family sooner than they thought.
‘Erin?’ the credits were rolling and her mother was studying her closely.
‘Yes, Mum. What is it?’
Liz Douglaseaned forward in her chair, her pale face showing how easily she tired. ‘You haven’t followed that episode at all and your mind seems far away. Is everything OK?’
‘Everything’s fine.’ Erin managed a smile.
‘Are you sure?’ Mum could be a mind reader at times.
‘I was just thinking about Damien coming at the weekend and wondering how to keep him entertained. You know how quiet he thinks it is around here.’
‘A night at the Bridge Inn isn’t his idea of fun is it? How about the Red Lion at Alnmouth? That’s livelier.’
She caught Mum’s wicked smile and laughed. ‘Yeah, he’ll have to make do with that, or watch TV. He’s just here for a couple of nights anyway.’
Erin helped her mother up from the chair and across to the single bed that was set up in the corner of the living room. It was good to see her regaining her sense of humour and watch her getting stronger every day. In a month or so, she might be back to normal. Bloody hell, she hoped so. Poor Mum, she was really working at her recovery from a stroke but she was nowhere near to being independent again.
Erin was anxious to get back to London, the sooner she could get back to work, the better. Her agent couldn’t put her forward for auditions when she was tied up here and she missed Damien. Mum came first, though and, until she had made a good recovery, Erin would stay here. Remembering the baby cells that were multiplying minute by minute, she drew in a sharp breath. She would be limited in getting any roles once this baby started to show.
‘What’s startled you, Erin? You look like you’ve seen that Tommy Lee from Happy Valley.’ Mum looked at her curiously as she slipped off her dressing gown and sat on the bed.
Erin shook her head. ‘It’s nothing. I’ve just remembered something I need to do tomorrow.’ The phone rang, freeing Erin from any further questions as she crossed over to pick up the call.
‘Hi it’s me. Is Mum still up?’ It was Heather, Erin’s sister.
‘Yes, she’s right here… Mum, here’s Heather, for you.’ She passed the phone over and took the chance to escape further questioning by slipping into the kitchen to prepare a night time tray with water, a flask of tea, a plate with two shortbreads and her mother’s tablets. Heather would be chatting to Mum about Happy Valleyfor a while; they both loved a crime series.
Bracken barked at the door to go outside. Erin smiled as he sat smartly with his head cocked to one side waiting for her to let him out into the back garden. As she stood in the open doorway and watched the silhouette of the Welsh terrier snuffling in the bushes at the far end of the garden, Erin thought about what Heather would say when she heard her baby news. She was longing to tell her. Heather was already eight months along with her second and would be full of advice, but it was only fair to tell Damien first.
A few more days until he arrived on Friday and, after she had talked to him, she would break the news to Mum and Heather then her friend, Darcy. She just couldn’t imagine Darcy’s response. They had both shared dreams of stage careers and of finding love, but they had never talked babies.
Lying in bed that night, Erin counted backwards to work out just how many weeks pregnant she was. She’d already done this a dozen times since taking the test and the answer didn’t change. She’d run out of pills soon after dashing home to look after Mum in November and hadn’t been too concerned because Damien had a busy filming schedule and was going to see his parents in Kent for Christmas. He wouldn’t be visiting for a while so there was no rush to renew her prescription when their only contact, video call or text, was a hundred per cent conception proof.
Damien had missed her over Christmas and arrived at the door of Magpie’s Rest to surprise her on New Year’s Eve with presents and champagne. She hadn’t expected this extra surprise… she really hadn’t. Just one careless night? Hell, she must be eight weeks pregnant.
She glanced at the time, waiting for Damien to call. Last night, he said if he didn’t get in touch by midnight, it meant he was delayed at the promotion event he had to attend. There was a minute or two to go but she was tired. She decided to ring him.
‘Hi Damien are you still tied up with work?’
‘Erin! Hi babe. Yeah, can’t get away, I’m afraid.’
‘Never mind. It’s not long until the weekend and we can catch up then.’
‘Weekend? Oh…the weekend. Listen, I need to talk to you about that. Look, I can’t chat now, babe, but I’ll call in the morning.’
He wasn’t coming. She knew it. She could tell by the tone in his voice.
Erin doesn’t have a crystal ball but she is predicting that Damien will let her down. What does her future hold?
The Barn of Buried Dreams is available on Amazon as an ebook or paperback and a free read, if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited.
Whenever I pick up a pen or open my lap top, I think about two things. What am I going to write? Who is it for?
A lot of my scribbling is for myself. To-do lists, research notes, my diary and the first drafts of every novel. I’m emptying ideas from my head so I can look at them in the cold light of day.
Are you a list maker? I love writing to-do lists. They are wishful thinking and I never ever tick everything off but they help me to get a few things done.
Prepare a curry-tick
water plants – tick
write 2000 words -tick
Do you find some tasks just don’t get ticked off? For me, chores like windows and floors, can carry over for days!
This year, I kept a personal diary for the first year in ages. It started because my sister, Pam, bought me a brilliant ‘Me.You’ diary created by Dawn French.
This is such an inspired book! It’s full of suggestions, musings and blank pages. It is flexible and without dates and I found that I loved writing in it.
Looking through the pages, I see it is stuffed with big ideas, dreams and aspirational quotes that I liked but didn’t always live by. It is also crammed with rants and moans and whinges. A diary is a good place for all those thoughts – a private record of the topsy turvy year I have journeyed through.
Will I be keeping a diary again this year? Oh yes! You see, a lot of my daily writing finds an audience.
My Facebook posts tend to have a glossy filter. Do yours?
My tweets are for a wide audience and any comments n there are positive or, if they are negative, about bigger issues than my own little niggles.
My blog tends to focus on the brighter side of my life. This writing is a ‘true’ picture of my life – I always try to be authentic- but it is an edited version because I try to find the good side or the humour in any struggles.
My novels only go to readers after three or four drafts that have been read and revised by me.
A diary is somewhere to harvest and store happy memories too.
Here is the ‘I Instantly Smile when…’ page.
I love my diary, so private, full of my ideas, dreams, smiles, moans and grumbles and a great way to get rid of those thoughts that stop you from sleeping.
If, like me, you haven’t tried keeping a personal diary for a while, why don’t you give it a try. You don’t need to write every day but it is there when you have something to mull over.
Keeping a diary yea or nay? I’d love to hear from you.
Last month, after launching my book, I sat back and watched the number of books sold grow and the number of reviews increase. I should add slowly because it was great fun but a bit slower than I would want. I knew the reason why – I needed to promote further afield than my blog, my Facebook page, instagram and twitter.
I had to venture out into other people’s social media
My books are not in shops and readers have to go onto Amazon to find them so the only way I can promote ‘The Barn of Buried Dreams’ is by raising awareness that it is out there by using my social media platforms. To attract readers who aren’t already friends, I must venture forth and use other people’s media space by asking them to allow me to blog or asking them to review my book.
This is scary stuff!
It is scary because a blogger can say ‘No, I don’t want you on my site and I don’t want to read your book, either!’ This, for me, is a time when you call in an expert to ask for willing volunteers, create a buzz about your book and to arrange your tour so it goes without a hitch.
My book tour co-ordinator was worth her weight in gold. She sorted out 25 bloggers over 5 days who would give me an advertising platform. Some wanted read and review a printed book, some were happy with an ebook. Some wanted an exclusive interview, others were happy with an extract form the book or a blog from me. However, they all go their blog content via my tour guide and they could join a freebie competition too.
My tour was given this headline. You will see on the banner that this successful tour was run by the excellent, Rachel Gilbey
The bloggers accepted me onto their space and I enjoyed giving interviews, writing a post or revealing an extract from my new book.
I’d like to thank Rachel Gilbey and the bloggers on this poster for their hospitality and thank them for their thoughtful reviews about my writing. If you wander over ‘My Books’ The page shows some of their comments.
My giveaway, which was drawn by rafflecopter, is ready for send off and the lucky winner is Andrea Upton. Her goodies are shown below.
My hip operation went ahead In January but it hasn’t stopped me from getting out and about .
With this trusty customised NHS stick and my new cross body book bag – a delightful Christmas present- I’ve been able to take a short walk for a pub lunch or a coffee. More calories going in than out with that arrangement that little voice in my head nags. I know! I had better be careful or I’ll pile a few more winter pounds on and stress my new hip.
My RAS – reticular activating system- has come into play because I’ve been seeing and empathising with fellow stick users at every turn.
I think the RAS part of our brain is astounding. My simple understanding is that it takes whatever we focus on and creates a filter for it. It then sifts through all the data it receives and presents only the pieces that are important to us at any time.
A walking aid is vital for me right now and I’m seeing all those who are similar to me and how they manage. All of this filtering happens without me noticing, of course. My RAS programs itself without me actively doing anything
When you’re pregnant, you notice other baby bumps and babies in buggies. When you want a new car, you notice how many of a certain model are on the road. When was the last time you noticed that your reticular activating system had come into play and started pointing something out to you?
I’m sure it can help or hinder your New Year resolutions too because it filters the world to reflect your beliefs. If you think you are going to write rubbish, you probably will. If you believe you’re working well then you most likely will have a successful day. Your RAS helps you to see what you want to see and in doing so, influences your actions.
It has been suggested that you can train your RAS by taking your subconscious thoughts and marrying them to your conscious thoughts and “setting your intent.” If you focus hard on your goals, your RAS will alert you to the people and opportunities that help you achieve them. This certainly takes the mystery out of ‘the law of attraction’ idea. Focus on important things and they will come to you because the RAS on your own brain seeks them out.
The brain is amazing but so is the rest of the body’s ability to heal. Four hours after my hip op, I was walking with sticks and next day I was tested on walking up and down stairs before going home . My leg was working with a whole new ball and socket in it and it wasn’t too painful at all .
The most fascinating healing is the skin’s ability to heal itself and my scar improves every day. So….here I am in week three enjoying a writer’s and reader’s meet up in a pub in town . I’m glad I joined North East Authors and Readers.
I am excited about my current novel and, at the same time, worried that someone else will think of my wonderful idea. It’s both pleasure and angst being a writer and that’s why it’s so nice when a group of us meet up and understand all the fun but all of the insecurities too.
I have to say I’m grateful to our wonderful NHS and its staff and I hope it’s something we never lose. I’m blessed to be pain free and I feel for all those who haven’t got a solution to their pain.
I’m excited to be preparing for our trip to warmer climes where I will work on my novel, recuperate and discard those sticks. Next month’s blog will come from Mazzaron in Murcia
It’s hard to believe that A Jarful of Moondreams is one year old and on sale for 99p. What a year! It’s been full of highs and lows and lots of learning. Would I do it again? Yes. Would I do it differently? Of course! I made mistakes in publishing and promoting and learned from them. If I didn’t think I could do it all differently and more successfully the second time around I wouldn’t be writing this blog.
Writing and publishing a novel is like carrying and giving birth to an infant. It’s full of anxiety as well as joy and producing the finished novel can be a long and painful process that other writers and imaginative readers can appreciate.
Immediately after you write The End there is a niggling worry. Will another follow swiftly or will it be an only novel for years and years like Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird?’ Like a parent, a writer just doesn’t know for sure.
I think the most exciting time is when you finally present your months of hard labour to the reading world with a fanfare of tweets, blogs and giveaways. You want everyone to say kind things and most people do. The relief!
Gradually, the initial buzz of interest lulls and leaves you feeling unsure and full of questions. Will your newbie grow legs and run? Will it be a crawler that sells oh so slowly? You help it along and continue to post proud parent pics and news as you start on book 2.
Book 2 ( title to be revealed soon!) grabs your attention and you’re immersed in that until you look up and your published novel is a year old. If you’re lucky, the second is now ready to be delivered to the reading world and some readers are eagerly waiting for it. How can you cope with more than one leaving the nest?
This is exactly where I am now and of course I’ll cope. I have so many role models who have a shelf crammed with books in their name and if they can let go time and time again then I’ll certainly try.
Can I pause first though? Before I excitedly push book 2 put into the world, I just want to take a moment to enjoy my first book. I’d like to bask in the pleasure of knowing that readers enjoyed my novel and told others about it and it got great reviews. I need to let my debut know that it’s not forgotten.
‘A Jarful of Moondreams’ hasn’t been a great earner but it has brought me a wealth of knowledge and I’m proud of how it’s still selling for 99p this summer. I’m keeping my faith in its storytelling power and sending it on its way for another year.
I hope that, one day, I’ll be able to fill a shelf with my books but there will always be a special place in my heart for novel number one striving to find its place on your e-book shelf for 99p
I was delighted to be an award winner with my short story ‘Such Small Moments’ at the Romantic Novelists’ Association dinner this month. The photograph below shows me being presented with the Elizabeth Goudge Trophy by the chairman, Eileen Ramsay. This totally unexpected honour made the gala dinner an extra-special one that I’ll always remember.
I am over the moon because my debut novel, A JARFUL OF MOONDREAMS, is out in print and e-book on the 22nd and I have some pre-ordered copies. it is a great feeling to hold your completed novel and flick through the pages.
Here is one of my beta readers who ploughed through my draft copy with her brand new paperback. She is checking the changes since her last reading and there were a few!
Can a certain song take you back to a time or place or bring back being with a special person? Music does that for me. That’s why I am pleased to be part of a music blog event organised by Elaina James. You can read about her journey into song writing on www.mslexia.co.uk/author/elainajames and on www.elainajames.co.uk.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll listen to music in different ways.
Way 1 -Listening to music using head phones to block out all other distractions, the instrumentals sound fantastic and the lyrics are so clear that it’s like being transported to another world. I love to do this under the shade of a beach umbrella and, if there is no beach, lying on my bed comes a close second.
Way 2-Going to concerts and sharing the music with friends and other fans is a different experience. Who doesn’t get carried away by the atmosphere of a concert and a live performance? I remember most concerts quite vividly because of the thrill of getting the tickets and the anticipation of going as well as enjoying the event. Two of my favourite gigs have been David Bowie and Dolly Parton so I have eclectic taste.
Way 3- When I’m active, I like music to spur me on. I have a few favourite running tracks and they can keep my spirits up when the weather is bad or the legs feel leaden. If I have to face the gym, there has to be music to distract me and I prefer a Zumba class to the treadmill.
I use music to ease me into the writing zone too. I tend to play a few tracks when I’m using social media or sorting out my mail and before I start to write or at the very beginning of a writing session and then turn down when the writing gets going.
Jean Paul Richter, the romantic writer, said, ‘Music is moonlight in the gloomy night of life.’ I like the idea of music acting as moonlight and, when I was writing the first draft of A JARFUL OF MOONDREAMS, I created a playlist around the moon motif within the novel. Both melody and lyrics are important to me and each song is a glimpse of how someone relates to the moon. I wonder which of my tracks you will recognise?
My playlist starts with a 50s ballad and the unique voice of Sinatra singing ‘Blue moon,You knew just what I was there for,You heard me saying a prayer for,Someone I really could care for’. My novel takes place over five moon months and, yes there was that special blue moon in the July of 2015.
Van Morrison’s Moondance comes next, ‘Well, it’s a marvellous night for a Moondance,with the stars up above in your eyes, a fantabulous night to make romance,’Neath the cover of October skies.’ I love this song it is so uplifting and to maintain the upbeat mood, I have Cat Stevens singing, ‘I’m bein’ followed by a moonshadow, moon shadow, moonshadow—Leapin and hoppin’ on a moonshadow, moonshadow, moonshadow’
The timeline of A JARFUL of MOONDREAMS takes us through the pink moon of May, a mead moon, a thunder moon a blue moon through to a September harvest moon. What no cherry moon? Prince’s rendering of Cherry moon had to be on my playlist. ‘How can I stand 2 stay where I am, Poor butterfly who don’t understand, Why can’t I fly away in a special sky, If I don’t find my destiny soon, I’ll die in your arms under the cherry moon.’ Sad news this month, won’t we all miss his extraordinary talent?
The Waterboys follow on with ‘ I saw the crescent, you saw the whole of the moon.’ Bruno Mars completes the list with my most modern track. ‘I sit by myself talking to the moon, trying to get to you, in hopes you’re on the other side, talking to me to.’
So there you have the songs that lead me into my book. I think that writing and music go together but aren’t all aspects of life enhanced by music?