I've spent a lifetime chasing a dream. The dream that others would read and enjoy a book written by me. For years, my mantra had been 'one day' - I knew I wouldn't be giving up my quest any time soon so, 'one day' my publishing deal would materialise. I'd trained myself in response to the sporadic flow of rejection letters that would puncture my confidence, the two days of recovery I'd need to 'get over' the disappointment and even adapted to a strange routine of juggling the day-job whilst writing.
There were plenty of times when I felt guilty for spending hours crafting my work, not being with those I love - instead alone in a tiny room consumed by my imagination and obsession with word counts. I learnt to deal with the non-believers who politely smiled and chuckled that 'it'll never happen'. The ones that would announce my dreams at inappropriate moments just because their conversations had wavered. Even the constant flow of 'the next JK Rowling' remarks that accompanied party introductions followed by my stumbling explanation that 'no, I didn't wish to be the next JKR, simply a published author.'
But all that has changed. Four weeks today, my debut novel 'A Christmas Wish' will be published. After a lifetime of waiting I'll have achieved my dream. My world and mantra has definitely changed, and so have my future dreams.
Link to Amazon page to pre-order - click here
Have a pair of dark, sultry eyes ever stopped you in your tracks? Made you gasp for breath and rendered you speechless? That was my experience when I visited Edinburgh’s Scottish National gallery several years ago. Instantly, I fell in love with Miss Gertrude Vernon.
Her true marital title was Lady Agnew of Lochnaw and my reaction was in response to her suggestive stare from her elevated position. I froze and out stared her alluring gaze causing a back log on the gallery’s staircase. Seriously, I did.
What’s not like about this beauty? Smouldering dark looks, casual yet conscious pose, a bloom of femininity yet a flash of defiance. What more could a woman desire in life!
Much like Perryman’s ‘Mahler Experience’ this painting has the power to hold my attention, which others fail to do. I can’t explain how she speak to me, but that stare captivates me.
Like many passions in my life, I’ve done my homework about Singer Sargent’s masterpiece and have read her back story. I tussle with her status, her privileged life and possibly her contentment as a martial possession. One thing I can’t argue with, or dearly hope, is that our Lady Agnew’s knowing smile and sultry gaze hopefully hints at her darkest secret.
Should you ever visit Symphony Hall in Birmingham, I beg you to spare a few moments to view a piece of art that has inspired me. Enter the Symphony Hall building from Board Street, take a left-hand turn towards the bottom of the main staircase - there you will find an exquisite painting by Norman Perryman: The Mahler Experience. A magnificent painting that simply takes my breath away.
In November 2016, I contacted Perryman to express my appreciation and delight felt each time I stand before the piece. Imagine my surprise, when he replied saying that he was currently visiting Birmingham as the organisers had commissioned another piece of art from him. Would I like to meet to discuss the piece? There was no way, I was going to miss this opportunity.
I’d emailed him on a Sunday afternoon, he replied that evening by the following evening at 7:30pm – I was meeting the man himself. He is such a genuinely warm man, I felt I’d known him for a lifetime. We met in front of his beloved painting. Imagine my surprise when he asked me to explain his painting to him! So, I did. He was touched by my explanation and interpretation. We spoke at length about his motivations and talent – I didn’t want the moment to end. Eventually, my husband, who was also blown away by this man’s generosity, made me say goodbye.
So, should you ever pass by Symphony Hall, please visit and stand before The Mahler Experience – I hope you too can enjoy, celebrate and be inspired by this exquisite and passionate piece.
Like any author, I try to seek new and refreshing triggers for my imagination but I have to be honest, music and memories are my biggest inspiration. I only have to hear certain tracks to return to a moment in life, my emotions can alter in a second and I am back there. The memories of a person, a time or a situation, good or bad, are intrinsically linked to music.
On Saturday morning, I spent a delightful couple of hours creating a playlist that accompanies the novel I am currently working on. To anyone else, my playlist would appear to be a mish-mash of artists and songs but not me - each track is linked to a specific theme, a nuclei, for want of a better word. I’ve used playlists for every novel I’ve written. I’ll use my playlist as background music as I work on the novel and will include some songs that are essential to the plotline.
It’s quite remarkable how humans react to music, a colleague of mine frequently quotes ‘where words fail, music begins’ – I think it’s quite true. Music has a magic that can touch our soul when all else fails.
As a small insight into my world, here is one of my favourites: The Everley’s singing ‘Let it be me’
I saw the title of my publisher’s email: cover reveal. My mouth went dry. I have been waiting for this precise moment for the majority of my adult life, and here it was. I was on a coffee break so knew I had a small window of opportunity. View or not to view? That was the question.
I couldn’t resist. I knew I should try in case I didn’t like what I saw and sadly, break wouldn’t be long enough to compose a tentative email enquiring if changes could be made? Despite running that risk, I opened the attachment and burst out crying.
Before me was one of the most beautiful images I’ve seen to represent a Christmas book. I’d spent days imaging lots of snowflakes, coloured tinsel and blankets of snow but this beauty was so much more. Instantly, I loved it.
I had just enough time to dash off an elated email to my agent saying how delighted I was before my coffee break was over and I had to refocus on work. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would fall head over heels in love with a book cover, but I have.
Pre-order from Amazon - published 1st August 2017
My dream came true! After years of writing, deleting, editing and rewriting my moment to move from aspiring author to contracted author arrived on Tuesday, 14th March 2017. The fairy-tale improved when the very next day, fairy god-mothers granted my second wish, and a highly respected literary agent agreed to represent me.
So, I have secured a three-book publishing deal with Aria Print (an imprint of Head of Zeus) and my first book ‘A Christmas Wish’ will be published before Christmas 2017, yay! I can’t actually believe I am typing the words, but I am.
Since the golden moment, it has been a non-stop. There were friends I shared the news with, there were folk who learnt that I actually wrote (honestly, not everyone in my world knew, surprise!). I’ve had some beautiful reactions creating some amazing memories, one example being a class of GCSE teenagers to whom I told ‘my big news’ and received the warmest applause - which made me cry!
My hairdresser squealed with delight, my neighbours made the connection between the light in the spare room always being on early morning or late at night. Husband’s fire brigade colleagues were chuffed, he was taken aback and choked by their response. I’ve received congratulations cards and beautiful letters from those far and wide – all in all, a truly wonderful experience for me.
The glorious reaction was repeated by my writing friends when I announced via social media. My Macbook, Ipad and Iphone were all pinging simultaneously, I couldn’t keep up with the messages of congratulations and hugs. I feel so lucky to be surrounded by such warm and caring folk who are genuinely proud and pleased with my news.
I don’t want to count how many years I have waited for this chapter of my life to begin. Firstly, it makes me feel incredibly old but secondly, it now seems insignificant. My publishing career has officially started. I now have official deadlines, an editor and a literary agent to please… and it feels wonderful!
I’m delighted to share my news that I am the co-recipient of The Katie Fforde Bursary 2017, alongside Donna Ashcroft. We were both delighted and overwhelmed to accept such a generous award from Katie, presented at the Romantic Novelists’ Association meeting.
Each year, Katie Fforde selects an unpublished writer to receive her bursary as she remembers how it felt to be so-near-and-yet-so-far in the journey towards publication.
Donna and myself hadn’t met before the day so, it was great to realise there are many similarities and connections in our journeys towards publication.
Previous recipients include:
2002 Sue Moorcroft
2003 Caroline Pread
2004 Linda Michelmore
2005 Elizabeth Beacon
2006 Pia Fenton
2007 June Moore
2008 Henrietta Gyland
2009 Kate Thomson
2010 Brigid Coady
2011 Susan Alison
2012 Katie Carr
2013 Jo Thomas
2014 Janie Millman
2015 Catherine Miller
2016 Marie MacNeill
2017 Donna Ashcroft & Erin Green
So, here’s to the two of us - I hope that 2017 brings us nearer to our dreams.
Ever seen the Waterstones store events notice for an authors' talk, promised yourself you'd attend and then kicked yourself a month later on realising you'd forgotten and missed it? Yes? Yes!
Yesterday I made it to a Waterstones' event in Birmingham. Seriously, I did! Because I booked my seat the moment I saw the who's who line up: Miranda Dickinson, Maggie Harcourt and Lauren James.
Three talented authors discussing romance, falling in love and fandom - who entertained an avid audience with their delightful chatter, wit and entertaining anecdotes. The panel host was book blogger, Chelley Toy who was as enthralled with her guests as the audience were. She asked intriguing questions that dug deep into their creative psyche, their likes, their horrors and even to retell embarrassing stories that made them physically cringe.
Definitely an event worth attending and one which has kept me smiling throughout today as I remember their snippet stories and witty banter.
What's that I hear you say? You missed it! Boy oh boy, learn from that mistake and book your seat as soon as you see the event notice in Waterstones - you won't regret it!
This writing malarkey can feel like a long hard slog at times, so a few years ago I began my success bottle. This glass bottle, with its mini talisman, stands on my desk and throughout the year I pop coloured post-it notes inside. Each post-it notes represents an achieved writing goal: be it a competition entry, a writing milestone or a personal success, big or small - if it was a writing celebration then it goes into the bottle!
There are so many things in life we wish we could preserve and bottle – positive moments are like delicate perfumes that can remind us of specific days or achievements.
As the year passes, it becomes a powerful reminder of how much I’ve achieved and how much I have to look forward to. Each January, I empty, read and reflect – helping me to set writing goals and targets for the coming year.
Question: What do you get if you cross a room full of book lovers, a themed location and Kim Nash? Answer: a delightful Saturday filled with chat and laughter. Seriously, you do. Kim Nash, publicity manager for Bookouture, had the Midas touch yesterday bringing together an array of authors and book bloggers. It was my first invite to her afternoon shenanigans, which have previously occurred in Birmingham and London; it won't be my last!
The location was the Bacchus bar beneath The Burlington hotel, conveniently opposite Birmingham's New Street station. On entering the themed bar with its mixture of Roman and Egyptian decor it felt like another world; gone was the bustle of the city centre and hello, new people!
Instantly, I recognised many book bods and soon the air was filled with excited chatter. Though, walking about with a white sticky label positioned above your right boob which others openly peer at as a name reminder guarantees joviality - the vino helped, thanks to the god of wine.
I was delighted to catch-up with the lovely Bella Osborne and Helen Barrell - who were on fire regards conversation. I really wouldn't like to make sense or explain the sequence of our conversation as we belly laughed through numerous topics: Dermot O'Leary, Welsh receptionists working at STD clinics, poisonings, scientists (including Davy and a certain, Ms Barrell), RNA conference, house sales, book blog tours, sailor tattoos, Chesterfield station, Rod Stewart, Bono, parking tokens and mishaps whilst riding the London underground. Phew! Seriously, there was much more but slightly too saucy to mention the Italian guy's phone call and Johnny Depp.
It was great to see the girls again, and three o'clock arrived all to soon. I'll definitely be attending Kim's future events and would recommend other authors to come along and meet the book crowd.