Regular followers will know that there are occasions when I take myself away from the family home simply to write. Last week, I did just that. I didn't go far, simply to Birmingham city centre where I booked an apartment and set up camp. It might seem strange to some and a little decadent to others - to me, it is necessary.
I have a daily routine in which I constantly juggle my writing time with other aspects of my life and a day job so, to have a dedicated week alone to focus upon a specific idea is the most productive thing I can do. My intention was to submerge myself in a specific project and write without distraction, responsibility or interruption. And, this is what I did.
I realise some people may struggle being on their own for the entire time - which isn't a problem I have. I am a pretty solitary creature by nature.
I stocked the food cupboards, rearranged the apartment's furniture to suit my needs and literally lived, breathed and slept my project for seven whole days. I took my sketch pad and pencils providing a creative activity for my downtime and a reading book.
It was heaven.
I managed to plan, research and write during my retreat time which now, that I'm home, becomes the backbone of my focus over the next few weeks.
I have previously attended writing retreats organised by authors: Alison May, Julie Cohen and Rowan Coleman which have been three day affairs with other writers - which have a structured routine of workshops, one to one appraisals and plenty of interaction with other authors. My solo retreat might seem extreme, it might sound indulgent but other writers may find they benefit from a little bit of 'author time' away from daily life.
Publication days are exciting there is no denying that but today, the eve of publication is also special to me. Today, is the final day when myself and a handful of people (editors, proofreaders, bloggers and reviewers) know the story whilst the readers are kept waiting. From tomorrow onwards, the story is freely available to anyone who wishes to invest their time in reading my latest novel. From midnight tonight the ebook will download onto various tablet devices and the story will be out in the big wide world. In the morning the paperback deliveries will begin arriving and I will be sent lots of wonderful photographs of readers with their new book.
Tomorrow, readers will devour it in approximately ten hours and will have their own opinions on each of my characters, plot lines and location. There will be reviews, blogs and stars awarded based on their opinions, understanding and relationship towards: Benni, Ruth and Emma.
Some readers will create a magical world in their head of locations whilst others will recognise many landmarks in and around Brixham. Some readers will connect with the backstories of the three female characters and perhaps reflect upon their own circumstances.
Amongst the story line and the characters, I have dotted little bits of my personal history. I do this in each of my books as my creativity comes from deep within and is inspired by the life I've led. My first full-time job after leaving education was as a bank clerk for NatWest bank in Tamworth, my paternal grandmother lived in a bungalow in Redwood Drive, Burntwood and my paternal grandfather used to demolish brick cooling towers - each is mentioned within the book.
And finally, Rose Cottage is a beautiful holiday let in Brixham in which I stayed during August 2018 for one week thanks to a kind invite from good friends. It is in the small rear garden that I sat on Thursday, 23rd August 2019 and wrote the synopsis which was to become tomorrow's publication.
Today, the eve of publication is filled with excitement and delightful memories knowing that tomorrow my readers can share in my latest novel 'New Beginnings at Rose Cottage'.
Available to purchase Amazon or Waterstones
The countdown has begun with a week to go until my fourth book ‘New Beginnings at Rose Cottage’ is published. I am so excited for Thursday, 8th August to arrive – like a child waiting for Christmas.
All book publications are special to an author but this one feels a little different from my previous three. Book four is my first novel published with the fabulous team at Headline Publishing Group – who’ve embraced my creativity and vivid imagination.
‘New Beginnings at Rose Cottage’ feels different because I have written about a cottage in which I actually stayed whilst visiting Brixham in August 2018. It was a last minute invite from friends to join them on holiday. I hadn’t any intention of planning a novel whilst on holiday, I was there purely to enjoy a good rest amongst such a beautiful location. But my mind never switches off and within three days an idea sprung from nowhere. I noted down three lines outlining my main character cast into my phone app. I still look at those three lines and smile knowing what has been born from those tiny lines.
I use the world around me to stimulate me as an author. Everything that I see, feel and encounter on a daily basis plays a part in creating the world which inspires me. I love people watching. I’ve always been fascinated by watching human beings interact with one another, their gestures, their exchange of communication and body language. It’s no surprise that I felt the urge to study psychology – which helps me to portray my characters.
It’s quite common for me to be intrigued by a passing individual and wonder about their life and experiences. This is how my three new ladies came into the world. In any crowd, I see women who lead full busy lives, for which they sacrifice certain aspects in order to maintain a balance elsewhere. I wanted to explore the nature of these individuals and their inner worlds.
I created three females and sent them on a solos holiday where they know nobody and yet, are expected to live alongside two other strangers in Rose Cottage.
Benni is in her twenties but she’s yet to embark upon the independent life which she craves being a little scared to break free from her comfort zone.
Ruth has dedicated her five decades of life to loving and looking after others but sadly, she’s lost her sense of herself over the years.
Emma is an energetic thirty-something who recognises that she’s taken the wrong path in life. She wants to be her own boss but can she use her talents to secure her future?
I wanted to see their personalities and experiences entwine capturing the changes that can occur when we are placed in a new surrounding and allowed to be ourselves for two weeks. And so, ‘New Beginnings at Rose Cottage’ was born.
New Beginnings at Rose Cottage is available from Amazon and Waterstones.
I class myself as a fairly tidy person. I'm a 'everything has its place and everything needs to be in its specific place' kind of person - especially where my writing room is concerned. But, and here is a huge confession from me... in recent weeks I've got into the habit of dropping things into my writing room without putting them away, clearing or generally tidying it. My attitude was simply 'I'm busy, I'll do it another time'. But another time didn't arrive before the next pile of papers/notes/books and so, in quite a short time my room which was the solace for all I do has become an utter disgrace.
To the extent that I couldn't actually work in there without feeling the need to chastise myself every twenty minutes for the piles of paper, books, notes which cluttered every surface. The reality was I had morphed into a grungy teenager with a cluttered bedroom.
Today, I mucked it out!
It has taken hours.
Seriously, I'm not joking but boy, have I done a grand job.
I have thrown out years of stored paper be it notes, synopsis, scribbled details - gone. All gone! Three bin liners worth of gone!
Whilst 'mucking out' I have revived my love for this particular room, the tiniest room in our house. In this one room, I have created all five of my published books. I have written each NaNoWriMo project. I have pondered my possibilities of ever being published, cried about the hours spent writing before becoming a published author, opened numerous rejection letters and even, sat questioning whether I should sign the first publishing deal I was ever offered? Seriously, I did. All those things have happened in this tiny room, which I claimed as my writing room. Each one a moment on my journey towards becoming a published author.
And now, just two years after publication, I've had to literally 'muck it out' in a ruthless manner to clear away the debris enabling me to breathe. Amidst the fragrant polish and clear surfaces, I have regained my quiet solace and tomorrow, I will say goodbye to the dining room table and return to writing in my writing room.
And should I need to deliver a pile of paper to my work room, I promise to put them away immediately - otherwise I will ground myself for a week without internet connection in an attempt to curb my unwanted habit.
Seven days ago, I chose to challenge myself to see how many words I could manage on my current WIP. I wanted to push myself, I wanted to prove to myself what I could do if I stepped from my comfort zone for absolutely no reason – other than I can!
The answer: just over 18,000 words - I'm chuffed to bits!
I add such details not to boast or receive praise from others but simply to share with other writers, published or not, what can be achieved. Before I was published I wanted to know the true experience of an author, wanted inside information regards writing habits, daily routines and accomplishments... which is why I share and, share honestly about my writing.
My photos speak for themselves. Push yourself, why not?
When life hits the tracks* by Erin Green
Today, your life hit the tracks and we shed silent tears for the stranger unknown.
We waited, some complaining, in uptight carriages while red lights were hollow.
An hour late for the party - no worries. Nothing, but my deepest remorse for you and yours.
Three hours later, I alight the Euston escalator heading home. In your honour, hundreds protest upon the cold marble floor, silently contemplating and praying that life never hits the tracks without a lover to call.
Amidst the confusion, we navigate our way - staring at departures board: ‘cancelled’ repeated for ever more.
(suicide at MK station - November 2017)
The Samaritans – call 116 123 (free charge)
It's been a while since I was a member of a writing group, but recently I rejoined. I know that 'rejoined' sounds slightly strange but it's the truth, honest.
I've been a member of several different groups in the area - each one unique. The first group I attended was in a neighbouring town, they were supportive of each other but no of newbies joining their established group. I wanted to fit in, I wanted to join in but sadly, an invisible barrier couldn't be penetrated so I didn't attend after six sessions.
My next group was a brand-new group, its newness was probably sought out specifically due to the aged code within the previous one. Any way, this group had a leader who was hot on admin. Over hot on admin to the point that the formality of the meeting stifled any creativity to the point that people left, in droves. Arguments occurred, bank accounts were closed and the admin was deleted. All I wanted to do was talk about writing, give feedback on writing and possibly encourage others to write! That group partly dissolved, we kept the name and a nuclear core remained but it didn't really survive. The group went down to four members, who'd meet in a local pub once a month. Sadly, if one person was away or ill the whole night was a waste of time. And over time, less and less feedback was given to the point that it wasn't a supportive group for me to attend, so I left. Actually, I left when I asked the folks to read my website to check if it was OK. I didn't read that night because I'd made a request upon their time outside of the group. They didn't read my website, didn't show much interest and I asked myself what was I doing giving up time to attend? Because that's what it comes down to really, we each have just 168 hours per week in which to live our lives. If you're trying to accomplish a goal, such as writing or any other dream, you need to cypher that valuable time away from the rest of your life. And that, isn't easy at the best of times.
I then joined a very well established group, a group which was valued in the local area, varied in genre, known and respected amongst writers in the Midlands. Boy oh boy, talk about in house fighting and silent battles. I used to travel a fair distance to attend so, it was a whole night given up for me. Sadly, over time certain characters dominated with their views, their strops and their resignations to the point that a full blown argument occurred. I wasn't present to witness it, but at the next meeting I instantly knew that something dreadful had occurred! Knife. Cut. Atmosphere. With - arrange as you like, but it was dreadful - I never went back again. I hear on the grapevine that this group has now disbanded which is a shame because it had great potential.
I was a little lost without a writers' group - I've always embraced the idea that 'birds of a feather flock together' and benefit each other by doing so.
Then finally, I took the bull by the horns and joined a city based writing group in Birmingham. What a difference! The group was held at the newly built modern Birmingham Library, which is a joy to behold inside and out. I went for several months and it was great. There was a huge gathering of writers each meeting 20+ people writing all sorts of material short stories, poetry, autobiography plus a wide range of genres - which I never read but still found interesting to listen to and give feedback on. It was fair trek for me but I was loving it. Such is life, the minute you settle something or someone unsettles you so, the library decided it could no longer support our group as the library opening hours were being changed. What's that I hear you say? A brand new library making cut back almost as soon as it opened! Yep, that's what happened, so the group and to move to another venue. As many members went straight to the writers' group from work they brought the start time forward which made it almost impossible for me to continue at the new venue. So, I had to say goodbye.
And, I've stayed homeless without a writing group for four long years. I've missed the exchange of ideas, the feedback given and received by members, the genuine encouragement but most of all I've missed the people. the members who are each striving for their dream of being published, holding their novel/anthology/poem and acknowledging that their hard work paid off. I have genuinely missed being amongst the grass roots of being a writer, and chasing that dream. During those four years, I worked incredibly hard and was generously awarded time and attention from others in the industry - together those elements meant I gained publishing contracts and a literary agent. My dreams came true, I became a published author. And to date, I've had four book published, I'm currently working on number five.
Now 2019 has proved to be a strange year so far, so I thought 'let's do it' and I've returned to the Birmingham Writers' Group in their new venue. It is still going to be a struggle for me to arrive on time, it will always be a huge trek given my location but it's worth it. I attended for the second time last night, I even paid my annual subscription so I'm a fully fledged members again... and, I loved it. I'd forgotten how nice it is to hear other peoples' work, to give encouragement to others and be able to converse with like minded people. I'm hoping that the coming months I will be able to attend when I can and support others.
It is 00:01 hours on Monday, 1st April 2019 so, I should be fast asleep and dreaming but I'm not. I'm sitting at my desk and have been for the last ten minutes waiting for the local church clock to strike midnight so, I can begin CampNaNo 2019. CampNaNo is the April equivalent to November's NaNoWriMo 50,000 word challenge which I do each year, but this year I've decided to complete the extra challenge where you set your own writing goal. I've set a CampNaNo goal of 30,000 words to be written by 30th April mainly because I already have a major project occurring this month given that my next book needs to be submitted by Friday, 3rd May. I know, I know, I can hear you berating me but I love a challenge. So, for this month I will continue to edit Book 5 but will also finish off the first draft of a 'secret book' project I started a while back which currently sits at 53,200 words. I'm sure this 'secret book' needs just 30,000ish words to finish the tale then I can begin editing - who knows it might even become another published book!
My plan for the month is to revert back to my three writing sessions a day: morning, late afternoon and evening to write, edit and edit to achieve my goal by 30th April. It would be an added bonus if my Book 5 submission were ready a few days early!
Anyhow, I now need to begin writing the first of those 30,000 words if I am ever going to achieve... so, goodnight and I'll keep you updated on the 'home' page regards my CampNaNo word count.
I have managed 1032 words for my CampNaNo project and then spent the rest of the day editing my current 'Work-in-progress'. I've had a happy day, as today is also my birthday so, a special day all round. Have a good evening and I'll update tomorrow.
Day 4: What a great start I've had! I'm chuffed with myself for managing to juggle the two projects side by side. See, you never know until you try! CampNaNo secret project has gone well, I've managed to write 4168 words in four days which is two complete chapters. One of which was a pinnacle plot point and that simply flowed from my finger tips - a pleasure to write. My current project to be published January 2020, is doing very nicely. I'm about to begin writing the third strand of the novel, which will be a really fun story line given the situation and circumstances but will also be quite emotional in places. I have no doubts that's I'll cry when I come to edit it. I am hoping to spend the entire weekend working on this project so, Monday should see a huge difference in my word count. I'm almost treating the next few days as a 'writing retreat' at home so, I'll be doing very little else but submerging myself.
Day 10: What a super day of writing I've had today! Writing is a strange business, I think about what I'll write before you sit down at the laptop and then, my fingers tap away delivering the goods. Other days, like today, I do the exact same process but my fingers cannot keep up with the speed in which my mind is delivering the goods. Literally, I was speed typing for England and when I eventually stopped... 3012 words. 3012 words in one single writing session - that's amazing for me! I usually record such output after an entire day not in just over 90 minutes. I don't think my brain drew breath! Can I repeat the same tomorrow? I doubt it. Sessions such as these come along every now and then, purely to give author's joy and hope that the next 'amazing writing session' is just around the corner. My CampNaNo project is still plodding along nicely, alongside this main project (on which I'd had a superb day) so, the juggling act continues to work for me.
Day 15: Half way through the month and so, far I'm on track. My major project (the deadline is 3rd May) continues to grow. I've reached a particularly lovely section of the manuscript where the fun is still happening but the end is in sight. I have seventeen more days until my deadline so remain in the thick of it. My CampNaNo wasn't so easy to write today, I've got to a section which feel as if I can't lose myself into the actual story without doing more research but I can't really afford the time due to my major project. Ah well, I'll write what I can adding 'notes to myself' as I go which I can work on later. The word count is fine, its the detail that I'm not happy with at the moment.
Disaster: Notre Dame Cathedral on fire - so very sad. Guess who has half a chapter based at the Cathedral in her next book (the major project) - looks like there'll be a few description changes during my edits.
Ever wondered how a book comes into fruition from the initial idea through to submitted manuscript? Today’s blog is the time line for my fourth publication, ‘New Beginnings at Rose Cottage’ to be published 11th July 2019 by Headline Publishing Group. I’ve been totally honest regards dates, the creative process and the effort involved. I share such details, primarily to help aspiring authors who might glean information to support their own projects and secondly, for my readers who frequently ask ‘behind-the-scenes’ questions about my books.
Saturday, 18th August 2018 – Saturday, 1st September 2018
My husband and I were invited to join our close family friends on their annual summer holiday, which this year was a cottage in Brixham. They’d never been to Brixham before and neither had we, so weeks earlier we’d accepted their kind offer. For me, it was to be a relaxing holiday consisting of leisurely reading and spending quality time enjoying their company. That might sound strange, but there are times when I spend hour upon hour on my own in a room with only my thoughts and imagination for company. Don’t misunderstand me, I love my creative process and my work but I frequently recognise that I don’t clock up much interaction with other human beings. I’m not a people person by nature, which sounds somewhat insular to others. Instead, my mind is filled with ideas and projects which bring me pleasure and happiness so, I have a tendency to lean towards solitary pursuits.
Anyway, the cottage was quaint, the family fun to be with and the weather utterly beautiful so, for three days, I sketched, read and enjoyed the harbour views. Unbeknownst to me, my brain was doing what it does best in collecting information, absorbing the scenery and whirring silently in the background collating ideas. On the fourth day, Tuesday, 21st August 2018, was a family birthday so, we took a trip into the local town of Totnes to celebrate. The six of us piled into one MPV car and headed out on the short journey from Brixham to Totnes, which is a short journey of approximately twenty minutes. That’s when my muse decided to inform me she’d been secretly working. I hadn’t pen or paper so, grabbed my mobile to write a few details which came to mind (see photograph). From these few lines my mind began to spin and create story lines, back ground and histories for each woman. By the time, we arrived back at the cottage after our outing, I had three fully formed women chattering in my head. I berated myself. I was on holiday, I wasn’t supposed to be working but chilling. I’d captured the initial idea which was the important thing, but it would need to wait until I arrived home. How wrong I was!
On Thursday, 23rd August, we were enjoying a drink in the Sprat and Mackerel pub on the harbour front when I opened an email from my agent David Headley asking if I’d created a synopsis for a new idea? I hadn’t expected this email until after my holiday. I’d had a meeting earlier in the month with a senior commissioning editor and he was simply checking-in regards a potential idea. No, but… well, dear reader, you can guess the rest.
That night, while the others cooked dinner, I sat outside on the patio devising plotlines for my three ladies. Seriously, in a matter of two hours I had everything I needed to write a synopsis. With a little help from my friends, who provided feasible forenames and surnames as I blurted out specific details about each character. As sunset arrived, I began writing the synopsis. By twilight, it was complete. On Friday, 24th August, I emailed the synopsis to both the commissioning editor and my agent. As you can imagine I was as pleased as punch with my efforts given the quick turnaround from initial notes to synopsis – that, had never happened before. I usually take a couple of weeks to plan an idea and create a synopsis but hey, sometimes the ideas just flow!
Our holiday continued jogging along happily until our sad departure on Saturday, 1st September – when we packed up our belongings, piled suitcases into cars and made the long journey back to the Midlands. Who’d have thought on my journey home I’d have a new idea in the pipeline – not me!
Anyway, as an author you learn that life goes on. You can’t afford to sit around waiting for a response, you simply need to crack on with writing something, anything in fact - otherwise you are wasting valuable time.
As many of my readers know, I am also work full-time as a teacher and so, I returned to school after the six week’s holidays. I didn’t hear anything about my synopsis until 17th September when my agent called to say, I’d been offered a two-book deal with Headline Publishing Group and the first book was to be the Brixham story. The editor had taken it to their commissioning meetings and discussed in full and the only query was the title, they wished to change it. Again, it’s something authors must get used to, you can’t be ‘precious’ regards your book title, character names and even, plot events because the publishers need to make changes where they need to make changes. So, their chosen title was ‘New Beginnings at Rose Cottage’ – which I think is lovely given the location and events in the story. My agent informed me that my submission deadline was… 4th January 2019. I was thrilled to bits.
I put the phone down, and then reality hits home. The date was 17th September and my deadline was January, mmmm! I then asked Siri how many days remained until 4th January 2019? His monotone reply was 109 days!
Panic! I had 109 days to write an entire book… 108 days if I chose not to work Christmas day… 107 days if I take New Year’s Day off. Eeeeeek! Previously, my novel ‘The Magic of Christmas Tree Farm’ had been written in 147 days. Double eeeeek!
I went straight upstairs to my writing room and created my manuscript document, my working spreadsheet on which I record chapter notes and inserted my title ‘New Beginnings at Rose Cottage’. A good start, I had a title and an agreed synopsis!
At this point I have two choices:
I chose the latter! I have always lived my life with the notion that I must celebrate success because we never know if these moments will come our way again. So, I spent the evening out, celebrating and enjoying the events of the day knowing that tomorrow the hard work would begin. And, it did.
From 18th September it was full on, nose to the grind stone juggling the day-job and the dream job. It wasn’t easy and I’m not going to pretend it was a breeze, because it wasn’t. I know plenty of people who juggle two careers and it blows my mind how many hours we work to meet our goals. We each only have so much energy in a twenty-four-hour window and sadly, many sacrifices have to be made but I can’t complain. It is my choice. My theory is - if you want what you want then, you must do what you need to do. So, the weekday routine of day-job from eight o’clock until six o’clock followed by writing during my evenings restarted in earnest. Thankfully, I teach for four days a week so, have Fridays and weekends at my disposal to dedicate to writing, which I do religiously. I couldn’t afford to waste my Friday sessions, which have become my most productive day of the week.
Initially, I plotted events for each character using post-it notes, then wrote each post-it note in full. Whilst writing, my imagination always adds extra details, twists and turns so, I did stray a little from the original synopsis but it worked.
Now, we all know the best laid plans of mice and men never run as we’d like and yes, I encountered many obstacles. But, I just needed to crack on with the job in hand. There were days when the words flowed beautifully and my fingers danced across the keyboard. Those days were a pleasure. Sadly, there were days when I was metaphorically digging for coal. Hard, tough and dirty work. Those days aren’t nice but with experience you realise you learn more about yourself on those specific days than on the beautiful days. So, you plod on and hey presto, the next day is a beauty.
I repeated this pattern for 108 days - I didn’t work on Christmas day but, I did work on the evening of New Year’s Day.
I submitted my manuscript just before midnight on 4th January 2019. As an author, you can’t afford to miss your deadlines and I pride myself on having never missed one.
5th January - I took the day off. I didn’t write a thing, I spent hours reading, sketching and day dreaming in an attempt to unwind. Seriously, this brain of mine never switches off so, I try to accommodate in with other creative pursuits.
6th January – I got up early as my brain had thrown up an idea and I was bursting to make notes. I worked all day plotting out the lives of three new ladies.
7th January – I returned to the day-job.
Friday, 11th January, I received the news I’d been waiting for confirming that my editor is ‘delighted’ with the submitted manuscript. I can officially breathe… and, celebrate!
‘New Beginnings at Rose Cottage’ available from Amazon and Waterstones
On Thursday, 6th December I had the honour to spend two hours in the studio of Radio Tamworth 106.8fm alongside my friends, Kiren Parmar. In two hours we managed to chat about book reviews, cooking tips (not mine), annoying habits word of the week and even, murdering folk who plot spoil!
If you wish to listen 'on-demand' please visit RadioTamworth106.8fm or this link.