Richard Rodgers, South Pacific
I’ve written two novels ‘ A Jarful of Moondreams’ is out now, ‘The Barn of Buried Dreams’ is released in October and I’m part way through my third. Can you see they have a thread running through them? That thread is part of the tapestry of our lives.
You see, my novels are about the struggle and determination that we need to follow our dreams.
We have cherished dreams from childhood and yet more get added when we discover what it is that we yearn to do with our lives. We are great dreamers but we have to turn into doers too!
My childhood dream was to own a dog like Lassie or Rin Tin Tin. I was also an avid reader and thought that Dodie Smith had the best job in the world. Maybe, some day, I could be a writer with a houseful of pets?
When I eventually got my first pup, in my mid-twenties, she was named after a character in my favourite Dodie Smith novel. I know what you may be thinking, but no, she wasn’t called Pongo or Perdita! Cassie’s name came from ‘I Capture the Castle’. She was my wonder dog.
It took a lot longer to call myself a writer and I’m still working on the ‘successful’ part of the writing dream.
I think following our dreams gives us a zest for living and achieving them is icing on the cake. Hold on to the icing on the cake comparison because it will reappear!
Last month, we travelled to France and spent a week with Pauline and Allan. Pauline loves to grow her own fruit and veg, she loves to cook and sewing gives her real pleasure. How can she possibly be related to me?
Pauline and Allan moved to St. Estephé in France last year and now she is growing strawberries to make jam, picking cherries to make cherry brandy and brushing up on her French. She has a sewing room for making her patchworks. Allan has a workshop in the barn to refurbish furniture and a ride on lawn mower to tame their acres of land.
They have both worked hard throughout their lives, faced tragedies and experienced set backs but they have never given up on their joy of living. Doesn’t it take courage to sell up in England and start life in a new community to follow your dreams? They took the plunge, and I have never seen this pair looking happier.
Another exciting trip was to support my youngest sister who is working to make her business dream come true.
Urban Cakehouse -unique, contemporary, unconventional cakes -started up in her kitchen and she is getting it up and running while working and running a household including three teens, a husband and a dog.
Lisa has a PhD and works within the NHS but has always loved to be creative. Her dreams of being an artist have veered more towards cake and this is where the icing on the cake comes into play. I was so proud to be at her ‘Cake meets Canvas’ exhibition at the Fly tower in Sheffield.
Dreaming is easy but putting a dream into action is damned hard work. Both Pauline and Lisa have to put in the hours and make sacrifices to do what they love while considering their families. It does not always go smoothly and it is risky to follow a dream but they think it is worth it and so do I.
I don’t dig the soil, sew the cushions or bake the cakes; their dreams are my nightmare!
I just lounge back on the cushions, eat the cake and listen to the chatter and use it at times to draft the stories of women struggling through day to day challenges and doing their best to make their own cherished dreams come true.
If you’re a doer – take time to dream and if you’re a dreamer – take time to do
‘The years spin by and now the girl is twenty, though her dreams have lost some grandeur coming true. There’ll be new dreams, maybe better dreams and plenty before the last revolving year is through.’
Let me tell you, Spanish villas in Murcia are freezing cold! The heat flies right out of the windows and walls and seeps through the cold tiles and that lovely cool house of summer is an ice box in March.
You may think I was lucky, to spend five weeks in Spain while I was recuperating from my hip operation, but was I? We had lots of sunny days but I discovered that missing the cold February and March weather in the UK had a price.
That price was a lovely, cosy, warm house with unlimited writing time!
I can’t write outdoors in the sunshine. Laptop says ‘no’ with a black screen and I get distracted. Yes, I’ve tried a contraption that shields the screen from the sun but it flaps about in a breeze and I forgot to pack it this trip. I can ‘ dream up’ characters and stories while I’m lying back on a sun lounger though, so all is not lost!
If I’d been at home and hiding indoors from the Beast from the East, my thermostat would be keeping me at a steady warm temperature and I would be cosy whilst looking at fat snowflakes falling outside.
In Casa Margarita, on a sunny day, I watched my husband reading in the sun as I was wearing socks jumper and blanket to try to type a few hundred words. Cold is not conducive to writing. I was so glad to finish and get out into some warmth!
Will I go again? Oh yes. We had a wood burning stove to huddle around at night. We had to sit over it, mind you, or the walls stole the heat and a trip to the kitchen or bathroom was chilly. It meant we cuddled up together too.
Next time, I’ll be prepared. Instead of buying new bikinis, I’ll be buying one of those silly but warm ‘onesies’, packing my old Ugg boots and taking a hot water bottle for when I’m writing. You can’t keep a determined writer down!
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
Isn’t it strange how fiction can intermingle with our lives? I wonder if you have ever followed in the footsteps of a character you like?
I have a great love of Egyptian history and decided that one of my characters in ‘A Jarful of Moondreams’ should make a trip there.
I had visited most of the places I mentioned in the novel but I’d never been to Makadi Bay. That was chosen after Internet research for a beach location.
My husband booked a December Nile cruise and Red Sea holiday for us and I thought the resort name seemed familiar but it wasn’t until we were travelling there that it dawned on me; I was following in Teri’s Moons footsteps and going to Makadi Bay!
In ‘A Jarful of Moondreams’ Teri Moon decides to take an extended trip to Egypt and leave Alex, her teenage dughter, with her older daughter, Cleo, in the hope that they will stop sparring and start to like each other a little. The novel is mainly about Teri’s girls but her holiday adventures are a subplot.
Teri meets Greg, an archaeologist, on the plane out to Cairo and they visit the pyramids and Cairo museum together before Teri continues alone on her travels to Mount Sinai.
Teri decided to take a beach break at Hurghada before the trip to Luxor and all its wonders. She was going to meet up with Greg again to explore Luxor and the Valley of the Kings. She checked into a luxury hotel, enjoying the air conditioning and the chance to skype her girls. She had been delighted at how they both seemed to be comfortable in one another’s company. Even Pharos, her cat, seemed to be settled; perhaps her plan was working.
Greg had surprised her. He’d asked if she’d mind him joining her on the beach and arrived at Makadi Bay a couple of days ago. They’d had fun and relaxed and were very easy in each other’s company. But now Teri felt rather confused. They’d held hands walking along the beach last night and she knew they were getting fond of one another. Maybe too fond?
He’d told her he was forty, that was nine years her junior. Was it such a gap? That was the main thing stopping her from succumbing to a holiday romance. That, and the fact that Greg was the first man she’d looked at in that way since Mac. It must be the spell of Egypt.
Greg’s shadow stood in the way of the sun. He dropped an ice-cold lolly on her midriff.
‘Greg!’ she shrieked. He sat on the end of her lounger. Tall, tanned, long hair ruffled by the sea, who could resist him? He was thoughtful and caring too.
‘Teri, you’ve lain there long enough. When you finish that ice lolly, we should go for a dip, then a siesta.’
‘What do you mean, a siesta?’ Teri sat up.
‘A short sleep in the cool air-conditioned rooms that we’ve got. What did you think I meant?’
She was lost for words. He’d placed the beach ball firmly on her patch of sand.
Excerpt From: Bradshaw, Chrissie. “A Jarful of Moondreams.”
So, this month, I’ve followed in the footsteps of two Neferteri’s and had a fabulous time in Egypt.
It doesn’t have to be a place, though does it? You can follow in the life experiences of a character too. Don’t get me started on Bridgit Jones! I’m sure that, if you think about it, you’d have a few of those moments. I’d love to hear them.
Henna design from a Nubian village near Aszan
Bedouin children greeting us when we stop for a break. There is a baby goat riding on the donket too. They are sharing out a bag of crisps.
It’s not every day you get the chance to meet a hero or heroine in the flesh. One of my favourite writers and a writing role model for me is the wonderful Marian Keyes and, on a dark and rainy evening, I headed for the bright lights and warmth of our local Waterstone to meet her- actually hear her speak.
It was lovely to mingle with other fans, have a glass of wine and and buy my copy of her latest book, ‘The Break’. We were all glad that she was generous enough to travel to the far North to chat to her readers in Newcastle.
It’s a risky business, meeting some one you have admired for a long time. Would she live up to my expectations? You can all breathe a sigh of relief – she did not disappoint. Not one bit. She was as small and sparkly as I imagined and the Irish lilt was as strong as you hear on her vlogs and TV. She talked about everything, from nail ‘farnish’, to boots to Peppa pig sweets, as well as her new book and she was lovely. She even brought Himself along with her and other fans of Marian will know how important he is to Marian’s life.
But Marian is more than all that lovely stuff I have mentioned. She also talks about the tough things in life like bereavement and depression and how young women can’t have abortions in Ireland because of the eight amendment of the Irish constitution. She stood up to this and became part of the ‘Artists’ Campaign to repeal the eighth amendment’. Marian Keyes picks her battles and this is a worthy one.
Her new book ‘The Break’ touches on these topics and, during the evening, she didn’t shy away from any questions. Her new book also has a rather attractive Geordie (male) in it . Her Newcastle readers are in for a treat! I reviewed The Break for net galley and gave it 5 stars on Amazon but if there were 6 it would have got them. It’s a brilliant read. You can read a full review on my book review page.
You’ll already see why she is a good role model for a new writer like me but my main reason for aspiring to be like her is her determination, she’s back on form after crippling depression, and her delightful unique voice. You know Marian’s work because of that Irish voice that tells a good tale and broaches the subjects we all worry ourselves about yet can still be laugh out loud funny at times..
I want to write books that allow readers to escape and laugh then cry with the characters. Isn’t that far easier to say than to do? I found that out when a wrote ‘A Jarful of Moondreams’. That’s why Marian is my role model and I’m so glad I met her. If Marian Keyes can recover from alcoholism, face up to depression, write wonderful novels and travel all around the country to meet her readers, she can be one of my role models for life not just for writing.
I hope I’ve got you thinking about a special meeting with a hero that you’ve had or, if not, I hope I’ve tempted you to plan one. I’d love to hear who you admire and why.
You can reveal all on here or I chat on Facebook Chrissie Bradshaw Author and tweet @ChrissieBeee
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 want to write brilliant novels that readers want to read and I want someone, an expert, to take the publishing part out of my hands. It’s a big ask, I know but I’m asking.
The writing frustration comes and goes and, when the writing goes well, it’s a feeling like no other. After the hard work that went into publishing ‘A Jarful of Moondreams’ I can’t imagine how I’ll feel when someone tells me that they will do the publishing part. Frustration be gone!
I’ve read that the best way to deal with frustration is to focus on the outcome I want instead of the obstacles in my way and that makes sense to me. I’m in this for the long haul and the success of publishing of my novels will seem even sweeter after scaling a series of obstacles. Those obstacles? They are just stepping stones to my goal.
I try to focus on the right things – the possibilities rather than the problems. Whoever observed that if you chase two rabbits, you’ll lose both didn’t know the tenacity of an author. Only two? Writing involves taking time to promote book one and my writing , to complete re -writes on book two and to plan book three. Believe me, having my head in three different novels takes focus and I’m not letting any of them get away.
Playing with words is fun and, as a writer, I do this every day. The other fun part of my writing life is talking about my writing journey to readers who might just buy my novel and using social media to network to readers and fellow authors. I’ve learnt that 4 and 5 star reviews from readers who have paid for your book and enjoyed it are the best reward for sharing your work with readers and that’s a good thing because new writers rarely make a living from their novels. The fabulous leg photo I used above was sent to me via Facebook by a reader who was reading this on holiday. It made my day.
Making my novel better is fun. Novel two has had an excellent critique full of great advice from the wonderful RNA new writers’ scheme. I’m enjoying a final redraft and revision of the novel before pitching it to agents and publishers this summer.
Winning awards is fun! OK only one award so far. The highlight of my writing year was to receive the Elizabeth Goudge Trophy at the Romantic Novelists’ Association gala dinner last July. I’ll be sad to return it from its pride of place on my sideboard but there is a future winner who will give it loving care next year.
My first pitches for novel two will be at the Romantic Novelists’ Conference this July. Wish me luck!????
What’s the title? How did the pitches go? I’m looking forward to writing about this in my next blog . It will be all about the book and its reception. (Note that I don’t say it’s rejection????)
My 2016 new year plans for publishing ‘A Jarful of Moondreams’ have changed. It’s usual for me to let my resolutions slow to a crawl or fall by the wayside (What dry January? Who said diet?). I’ve surprised myself by increasing the challenge and moving forward on this year’s resolution much more quickly than I intended.
Those of you who read January’s blog may recall that I was going to send submissions to agents for several months and wait to see if someone would represent me before turning, as my last resort, to self publishing. A good plan, I thought.
Sending off three or four submissions per month was taking up a day or two of writing time and then there was the waiting for an answer, or no answer to deal with. It took up more thinking space than I thought it would and each month it was hard to settle into writing book two.
In January, submitting was a new task. In February it was a chore that had to be done if I wanted to be published. By March, the rejections started coming in; I received three very thoughtful rejection emails. ‘A Jarful of Moondreams’ wasn’t for these agents but they wished me luck.
I had been prepared for rejection but the ‘not hearing’ from agents is hard even though I know they’re really busy people. So, with my March submissions being even more of a grind, I decided to give the submissions a rest for a month or so and just get on with book two. I didn’t want to call a halt to getting my book out there but I had submitted to eight agents and, if they didn’t want it, who would?
I enjoyed becoming immersed in writing my new novel but, without looking for the topic, I kept reading about self publishing in news articles, on twitter and on Facebook.
This has happened to me before and I recognise that it’s a sign that I want to do something even though the rational part of my brain is not so sure. It’s a bit like seeing pregnant women everywhere when you’re feeling broody. My understanding of this is that it is the reticular activating system filtering and focussing on the thing your subconscious knows you want. ( A Lou Tice course during a previous career taught me this and showed how it could be used to come up with solutions to your goals.)
A couple of my own previous examples are – I kept seeing people with terrier pups when I was in a position to have a dog at last and it had been a long awaited goal. I kept reading about authors who were in the RNA new writers’ scheme when I felt like I wanted writing support but wasn’t sure where to find it. Once I had my pup and once I was on the RNA new writers’ scheme, those pups and writers were still about but they didn’t register in my RAS with as noisy a ‘ding’ every day because I had achieved those things.
I decided that, if my RAS was flagging up self publishing and I was less enthusiastic about sending submissions, I had the answer to rethinking my plan.
It was an article by Rachel Abbott- don’t you love her thrillers?- about her route to self publishing that first got me thinking. Rachel’s novels are best sellers but she couldn’t find an agent. Her success has been phenomenal and she got her agent. Lizzy Kremer represents Rachel now but she still self publishes .
A Facebook friend sang the praises of Matador, part of Troubadour publishing, who supported her self publishing journey. Accent press advertised their new venture in the self publishing market. Well established publishers are collaborating with authors who want to self publish. Why not give it a try?
I had to discuss financing this plan with the other half of the team and, straight away, he said, ‘Yes, do it.’ Readers, if you’re out there, (I had already married him) I did it. Gulp, big decision made.
I sent my novel to the two reputable publishers that I’d heard of and both gave me a good choice of levels of publishing and marketing. I decided to go with Octavo ( part of Accent press) who were offering a discount to RNA members and, now the decision is made, I’m delighted to be starting on this exhilarating journey.
My book, ‘A Jarful of Moondreams’, will definitely be available worldwide as an ebook and as a paperback this year. How exciting is that?
Was my decision too hasty or would you have done the same as me? Has your RAS ever gone into overdrive about a goal? I’d love to hear your views.