Finally, the 1st July has arrived! Regular followers will know how delighted I am to begin another NaNoWriMo month, but more so this time given that my enjoyment of April NaNoWriMo was scuppered by the untimely arrival of structured edits. It was pure chance, but the edits for Shetland 4 landed on my desk which meant juggling for the entire month and not experiencing a NaNo month as I wish despite reaching my word count goal. Though I do know my proofread for Shetland 4 is due to arrive on Monday, 4th July, but given the nature of the task it won't interfere with my writing plans.
My Camp NaNo July project is next year's Summer book - which I've already started to write, but I aim to add another 50,000 words in the next 31 days. I have a new set of characters and brand new location so wish to immerse myself in NaNo until 1st August. As always, I'll update as I go! I know several authors follow my NaNo blogs watching my progress before venturing to commit themselves to a future NaNo.
Day 1: let the fun begin!
Way back in 2004 when I was a secret scribbler, I belonged to a writers' circle that met in the back room of a local Conservative club. It was a huge group of enthusiastic writers who had far more experience and writerly knowledge than I had, so I'd nervously trundle along each month clutching my latest piece ready to receive feedback. The group was so large that on many occasions I didn't get the chance to read aloud my tiny offering, but the evening was never wasted listening to the others, be it poets, aspiring authors or potential playwrights. It would provide a gem of creativity for me which I stole away and made good use of until the next gathering took place. Simply listening to the others 'fed me' something which I couldn't access from elsewhere in my life.
I attended for approximately eighteen months before my attendance wavered and ceased. I think I lost sight of what I gained from attending the group. I was caught up in the onslaught of receiving rejection after rejection from publishers, disappointment at not receiving group feedback for my offerings and probably in the mire wondering if I was chasing a non-sensical dream!
Roll forward to February 2022, with our covid hibernation over, I needed to return to social interaction. So, I returned to the fold after an absence of nearly two decades! There was a new venue, a reduced group of six, but three members who remembered me from all those years ago. Imagine how surprised I was! I hadn't taken anything to read, so took my seat and simply listened as they each read their offerings. In a flash, I knew what I'd been missing in recent years - the grass roots of creativity. The group didn't pry or make a fuss, as any new member is a bonus, but the organiser did ask, 'So you're still writing then?'
Last night was my fourth session. I chose not to read aloud from my current project, but enjoyed listening to ten other members reading an array of stories and poems. I did enter two anonymous entries for the groups' annual competitions, the short story and non-fiction categories, so I'll let you know how I get on when the results are received by the external judges.
Amidst the excitement of book nine being published and the copy edits for book ten being completed, I’ve been given the go ahead from my editor regarding two of the three books I pitched a few weeks.
So the official news is … I have a brand-new location to write about! It won't be easy waving goodbye to Shetland as it has filled my head every day since April 2019, but needs must. I’ve had a long weekend away from my desk in order to spring clean my mind and blow the cobwebs away, but this morning my new location can move in and take possession. Exciting, or what?
I’ve already started to write this project - a habit of mine prior to pitching; I like to feel the characters before I write a synopsis for the publishing team. From today, there is no going back, no changing my mind, but simply full steam ahead. My deadline is the beginning of October, so I have a summer of writing to bring a cast of characters to life.
I'm thrilled to share the final book cover in my Shetland series. This four part series will draw to a close with publication in September 2022. I love the idea that the final book has Lerwick Manor fading into the background, plus it includes an alpaca!
Will the gift of friendship save their past, present and future?
Callie has taken multiple jobs to make the money she desperately needs. Her favourite is being the new guide for Lerwick Manor's alpaca walks. But her troublesome past is making it difficult to prove to others that she's learned from her mistakes.
Heather has been content breeding Sheltie sheepdogs and taking care of her grownup daughters. But now she feels that something is missing. Taking the leap into online dating, she makes an unexpected connection to which her daughters react very differently.
Tabitha sells homemade soap at the Stables Gallery, but her true passion is for amateur dramatics. Winning a role in the group's festive production of A Christmas Carol, Tabby is determined to make her mark - but will her growing feelings for fellow actor Rabbie distract her?
As Christmas draws near, can true friendship save the past, present and future of the Lerwick community?
Preorder available: here
It's strange when things happen which are a 'first for you' in the publishing world. Be it your debut novel, your first book signing or meeting an avid reader who's read all your books - each creates a wonderful memory in your journey. Yesterday, I had four orange 'best seller' flags showing across the Amazon web site. Now, that is a first for me! I'd previously seen three displayed on occasions. I can't describe what it means to know that readers are actively seeking and purchasing my books for their enjoyment. I still pinch myself that somewhere a reader has settled with a fresh cuppa and has chosen to dive into one of my stories for some precious 'me time' amidst their busy life. Thank you, readers - it means the world to me!
As always, I stayed up until midnight to witness an ebook copy safely arrive on my Kindle - I can then sleep knowing the ebook versions have been safely delivered without a hitch. Though I rarely sleep for long, given that publication day feels like Christmas day once did as a small child, so I was up early preparing for the day ahead. Most will wonder what for? Publication day can be pretty hectic as you juggle answering social media 'best wishes' messages, flower deliveries from publishers, emails from bloggers/reviewers who had read your book ahead of publication, book signings for friends/family and for me, a day out! I never stay at home on publication day; I always plan an 'author jolly'. This time, I took off up North, so wanted to hit the road early to be ahead of the morning traffic. I got my wish and juggled my day answering a multitude of well-wishers and enjoying celebratory bubbles.
An unexpected highlight of publication day, was having three orange best-seller chart flags showing on various books throughout the day!
I was thrilled to stay overnight in a beautiful hotel who gave me a gorgeous room - the four poster bed reminded me of my favourite childhood fairy tale, 'The Princess and the Pea'. My trip concluded the next day when I travelled home to find that my final book delivery had arrived enabling me to package, parcel and post book 'giveaways'.
Finally, a huge 'thank you' to every reader who pre-ordered or has purchased since Thursday - you make my dreams come true each and every time!
Last night, I gave away two signed paperback books of my latest release 'Sunny Stays at the Shetland Hotel' to readers who are members of the 'Erin Green Readers' group on Facebook. The books will be signed, packaged and posted a.s.a.p. - I'm hoping they arrive before publication date, fingers crossed.
The reason I started the Facebook group was to bring readers who have enjoyed my books together in one space where they can ask direct questions, comment and simply have a place where they can enjoy knowing the whys and wherefores behind my books, as I write them. I'm pretty honest about my writing, so happily share my journey on a week by week basis. I sometimes ask the group questions eg. can you suggest a full-time career? using several of their suggestions in current projects. It goes without saying that I will always offer 'giveaways' to this specific group before other social media outlet as a 'thank you' for their continued support.
The book group is for genuine readers and not 'avid competition' folk - as previous prize giveaways have been sold on eBay (seriously, true). My aim is to give genuine bookworms the delight of winning a signed publication! For this reason membership can be refused, sorry if that offends.
Congratulations to the two winners - I hope you enjoy Pippa, Natalia and Autumn's story!
Being an aspiring author can truly suck at times. Honestly, I remember it well. You're faced with the task of writing without a deadline or promise of publication, surrounded by constant reminders that you could be doing other things and little recognition for the hours you dedicate to your work-in-progress. It's so frustrating; you can't sell a book without writing one yet you have to 'fight' with daily life for the time needed to write a paragraph.
An advantage of your 'apprenticeship', which is how I view my aspiring decades, is the time and opportunity available to learn from other authors and make decisions - which you hope will come to fruition. I vowed I would always celebrate publication days - some authors don't 'it's just another day', they say. I believe each one is a personal celebration which was never guaranteed as mine. Like birthdays, I won't know when the last one has arrived, so I need to enjoy as many as I can!
Another is book dedications. As a bookworm, I always read the dedication, if there is one. They're not always funny, poignant or reflective, but sometimes heartfelt and insightful. It feels like a cameo appearance to me as if I glimpse the author for a second before I'm lost amidst their words.
I will always have dedications, a vow made many moons ago. Mine are written at the beginning of a project, when the essence of the idea are fresh in my mind and my creative muse is on-fire - some authors leave it until completion as a finishing touch. I've dedicated one to a specific person, but the rest are dedicated to various 'things' in life. Some are witty, others poignant, but all reflect a theme within the book giving my readers a hint of the storyline before reading Chapter one.
The image above shows the dedication in my latest book: Sunny Stays at the Shetland Hotel.
I don't agonise over the wording or meaning, but each one offers a glimpse into my world!
It might not seem writing related, but deep down it is. Last night, was my school reunion party for the Class of '87 which I was thrilled to attend. I have an incredibly good memory, so spent a wonderful night recalling names, faces and funny stories about my fellow pupils and our school days.
Sadly, I didn't have the nicest end to my school days; I bailed out from attending sixth form to avoid a particular group of students. I should have followed my original path and remained to study 'A levels', but hey ho, you live and learn!
It was wonderful catching up with so many of my lovely school pals, laughing and dancing the night away. Despite being a designated driver, on diet coke all night, I was tipsy on the sheer warmth and love that was shown towards me. Plus, taken aback and immensely humbled by the number who had read my published books. Even, the guys! I hadn't expected such lovely comments and support from the school crowd - they really made my night very, very special.
Though, I have woken this morning with an inkling towards writing a reunion book!
One of the positives born from the covid situation has been Zoom Author Q&As; which allow me to connect with groups regardless of distance. This week, I connected with one delightful group: The Tregolls Lodge book club in Truro. It was a one hour session which felt like ten minutes given the speed with which time past, plus the laugh we had!
Authors are usually sent a few questions before hand to give the group an idea of their make-up. I thought I'd share my answer below:
1. What is the first book that made you cry?
I can't remember. Tears equal a five star review in my world, so there have been many over the years!
2. What is the most unethical practice in the publishing industry?
Buying window space in book shops, e.g. WHSmiths and clearly stating 'bestseller' when the featured book isn't a best seller but then the public buy it without questioning, thus making it a 'bestseller'. Urghhhhhhh, Richard! But good luck to you - I simply wish it were me!
3. Does writing energise or exhaust you?
Energise. It keeps my blood pumping!
4. Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
Errr, I do. My birth name was originally deemed 'commercially unviable' by a previous editor.
5. Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
6. What other authors are you friends with & how do they help you to become a better writer? 7. How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
There are too many to list. The sweetest, loveliest authors to me have been Bella Osborne, Katie Fforde, Jo Thomas, Alison May, Janet Gover, Christie Barlow, Ros Rendle, Josie Bonham, Victoria Walker, Sally Jenkins and Lynne Selby. All super smashing people who simply have good hearts!
7. How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
It didn't. I was still juggling the 'day job' alongside 'the dream job' so yeah, I went to work each day and taught Shakespeare, Steinbeck and Dickens!
8. What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
I now live off my wage, so every day in a bonus day. My very first purchase with my royalty cheque was a beautiful piece of art by Darryn Eggleton (see above picture) I still look at it and take pride in the fact that my readers' bought it for me. Thank you, I love it x
9. As a writer what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/ spirit animal?
My spirit animal has always been a tortoise. I have owned several during my lifetime. My Grandad Peel bought me my first when I was aged five. Apparently, Bill died several times over and was hastily replaced, which I always argued and spotted after each 'fake' hibernation, but yeah, a tortoise. I currently own three girls: Nettles, Acorn and Willow.
10. What’s the best way to market your books?
There are many - Twitter, Facebook, in person, loyal fans.
11. How do you select the names of your characters?
I love names. Names are incredible important to me - it has to be the right fit for the fight person otherwise, nah! I chose teams from grave headstone, the closing titles of films, school registers, overheard on the street - I make a list of 'lovely' names and them select when I needed. I've been known to change names part was through writing a book because the chosen one lost its value or really wasn't right!
12. Do you read your book reviews and how do you deal with bad or good ones?
I read every review I can see. On Amazon reviews, I am the 'one person liked this' person beneath the recent ones. I learn from my reviews as they are the voice of my readers. If several readers pick up on the same thing, then I make note of their likes/dislikes and feed that into my next book. I love reviews ... five star or otherwise! I can honestly say my reviews have shaped my future books. I will never write the perfect book, so will always gain one star reviews. Thank you, reviewers!
13. What was your hardest scene to write?
The ones that contain personal information/events that I have experienced in life. They don't make me cry during the writing stage but make me sob during editing. I try to put a piece of me into each book that way the memory will live forever.
14. Describe a typical day for you?
At my desk for 8am writing. Breakfast at nine. Writing again from ten o'clock. Home alone with my dog, cat and tortoises for the day. I work until at least four. The dog drags me out for exercise. Return home to eat, hobby time and sleep. Repeat.
15. What do you feel are your biggest achievements?
Me! That might sound very arrogant, but it isn't, it is honest! The woman that I am and have become, based on what I have been through, is my greatest achievement!
16. What is in your handbag/satchel?
17. What advice would you give a budding novelist?
Simply write! Write. Write. Write. Stop fooling yourself when you don't write. That fool doesn't pen a single word! (Sorry if that sounds harsh).
18. What are your ambitions in life?
To remain happy.
19. Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?
Happy and writing.
20. Happiness is?
Inner peace, writing and a fresh cuppa!
21. What three words would you use to describe your latest novel?
Healing. Healthy. Inspiring.
22. Which authors inspire you?
I love my Classics: Austen, Bronte, Dickens, Eliot.
Modern day: Marian Keyes, Bella Osborne, Jill Mansell, Milly Johnson, Christie Barlow
23. Are your books plot driven or character driven?
Character and persona.
24. How much of you is there in your books?
I'm in every line!
25. How important is the setting in the book?
Very important. A sense of belonging and setting is important to me.
26. Which of your books have you been most proud of?
All of them; I can't chose between my babies!
27. Do you have a favourite book?
Easy. Pride and Prejudice - Austen. I own ten different copies and bought myself a new version for a big birthday during covid lockdown!
28. How long does it take you to write a book?
Longest time 6 years. Shortest time 108 days!
29. Where do you write?
In my writing room, which is a spare bedroom in the house. I like coffee shops too, or train stations, or belfries, or airports, or park benches - anywhere ... I like anywhere I can write.
30. Which authors dead or alive would you invite to a literary dinner party?
Austen, Brontes, Dickens, plus Elvis Presley and Charlie Chaplin because I adore them too!
31. Have you been to any literary festivals to listen or to speak?
32. Who was your favourite author when you were a child/growing up?
C.S.Lewis. I had to put my name on the school library list in order to read 'The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe' and the wait seemed like years, but finally it was my turn. I actually the remember the night, I sat in bed reading about Lucy going through the back of that wardrobe. It was as if Lewis took my hand and walked me through the fur coats, snow, pine needles ... I'm yet to return home! Pure magic!
33. Did you or do you now borrow books from your local library?
I always have a borrowed book from the library. I'm a regular user for ordering books. I'm good at returning, I rarely pay fines! I attend local talks too, which gives the librarians a giggle as I don't think they expect me to take an interest in certain subjects. But I'm quirky like that; I love local history!
34. Do you prefer paper books or an e-reader?
I'm a book sniffer, so I like paperbacks!