Firstly, a huge thank you to the blog readers who followed my mammoth weekend task of polishing the manuscript for book 2, The Single Girl's Calendar. My job was made much easier by knowing that others were with me during the final few hours.
Monday was spent on a high! Literally, I was away with the fairies, having accomplished my task. Monday evening, I had one job which was to create a new heroine for book 3. Yes, you read that correctly, I am going straight into the planning stage for a brand new project. I am so excited, that I've spent the evening with a baby naming book selecting the right forenames for my characters. And so, it begins again... yay!
The rest of my week has been spent walking around in a daydream creating heroes, conflicts, motivations, settings and snippets of romance amidst beautiful Christmas scenes. Ahhhh, big sigh!
The gallery below shows how my planning has progressed... I'll begin draft one on 21st September.
Saturday, 9th Sept at 9am.
Welcome to my weekend! My two day window in which to complete my manuscript before it is sent to my editor, technically I have until Tuesday, 12th Sept as that's my true deadline but hey, it's me. I always plan ahead.
I'm not entirely sure how this weekend posting will work, how it will pan out and even if a live commentary post will even read correctly - I can only try. I'll call it an experiment if it hits the skids.
As an aspiring author I often wondered how published authors worked... and so, I thought I'd blog my working weekend. Simple.
The plan is to work all day Saturday, all day Sunday, drink copious mugs of tea and on Sunday evening press the 'send' button on a completed manuscript. Who knows what will happen.
Catch you laters...
11am update: still at my desk. It's amazing how many typos and repeated words you find when rereading though. I have a tendency to miss the second part of a speech mark to close the dialogue - I think it's due to my brain charging ahead when writing and my fingers failing to keep up. I forget to close the speech before moving onto the next sentence or idea.
So far so good, I just need to keep plodding and save to my external hard drive as I work. As I read, I'm mulling over the name of the mother character as I want to change it but nothing feels quite right. Hopefully, that'll come to me otherwise I may have to stick with what I have. My problem is that every name that I think of reminds me of someone I have known or know and I'd hate them to assume that's why I chose it. I want something without connotations.
I currently have a 264 page document with a 101982 word count - my favourite two, those beginning T-- E--, are yet to be written. I'll type those when I'm truly finished and ready to press 'send'.
Thankfully, hubby has delivered a constant stream of hot tea in the last two hours and yep, I now require another cuppa! Oh and dog's being very little company as he sleeps in the chair - beautiful but not bothered.
Catch you later...
1pm: Whilst working, I still haven't thought of the right name for the mother... it'll probably pop into my head ten minutes after I press 'send' to my editor. I'm plodding through each page, correcting the manuscript as I go. I actually made myself cry about ten minutes ago by reading a certain chapter - what a soppy mare? Anyway, it's amazing how it reads like a proper book at this stage and not a page of words which it felt like about a month ago. Some paragraphs I remember writing others I have no idea where they came from, but they are here in my manuscript. So, unless the dog has been playing on my Mac, I must have written them.
I need food so am heading for a lunch break at the local cafe in about ten minutes. Though, let's be honest, I need to get dressed! Yep, that's an author for you, still in their nightwear at 1pm on a Saturday afternoon, though I do have a clean face and brushed teeth. I told you I'd be honest about this weekend.
I need to love and leave - I need a cooked breakfast so I'll take an hour off and then resume my job. x
2:26pm - back from lunch... back to it!
3:15pm - The mother has a new name, thankfully that came to me whilst in the cafe having my egg and bacon. So I've changed Patti to Sue. I'm a quarter way through the manuscript and the flow of tea is good! I can't ask for better than that given the task ahead. The dog has buggered off due to lack of interest so I'm working alone in my writing room. I have about two hours of work before I need to take a five hour break to attend a party before I return to the task. So I need to be smart about what I tackle and in which order as I don't want to leave a 'messed up' manuscript for a period of time - my brain will only dwell on it while we are out.
I'm annoying myself with the number of 'just' 'really' and 'Oh' littered throughout the document. I am so tempted to delete them all by the odd one is necessary for tone/exclamation - so I have to read it through rather than do a drastic computerised cut.
There are four male characters and I must confess, I've fallen in love with one. Husband knows, so there's no squealing to be done. I was honest. I told him! The thing is will my readers feel the same way?
Anyway, must dash... I've written 'dashed' too many times as well, but needs must...
4:45pm - Hi there, my blog has had 261 visits today so there's quite a few that have checked out the blog coverage, unless it is the same person returning every few minutes!
I've found a slight sag in the middle of my manuscript. So, have had to spend some time stripping lines out and adding in a little more pace. I might change my mind later or tomorrow but for now, I'm happy with it. In fact, I'm not quite sure it was a 'middle bit' it could have been a nearing the middle bit. Either way, it's sorted.
I haven't inputted chapter numbers yet, just incase things need altering, but I'm trying to judge the lift and lower of the drama to check that my 'chapter' headings are in the right place. I'm also trying to add a little extra into the ending to create the page turn/just one more chapter kind of read. I love it when that happens during a reading book - I am desperate to turn the light out and go to sleep but can't because the book won't let me!
The weather has turned pretty dismal here, I welcome the rain drops as it makes my task slightly easier knowing that I'd be inside anyway. Today would have been far worse if the sun had been shining.
Anyway, let's crack on... another twenty minutes or so and I'll need to save on my external drive and get ready to head out for the evening.
5:33pm - signing off to attend a birthday party with husband. My manuscript is safely saved and at a suitable position to be paused so hopefully, I'll take a few hours off and come back later tonight. Thanks for following x
Sunday, 10th Sept - 7:40am
The party was too good to come home. We danced, laughed and chatted so I'm back to the manuscript this morning. Though, I did have a moment of clarity whilst dancing, where I thought of one tiny detail I could add, so that was handy. I need to disappear and ring church bells in about an hour so I need to crack on. I have tea. I have a head full of to-do-tasks so let's do it!
Catch you later...
10:35am I'm back from bell ringing, which probably woke the folk in the village. Sorry. Though, deep down I'm not really, as I love the fact that I create that sound using big church bells and a rope. Anyway back to the manuscript... I have mugs of tea, I have time and a tale to tell.
Catch you later...
12:40pm - I have reread and corrected as I want the entire manuscript of 268 pages, yay! A moment of celebration! I've now made a tick list of all the niggly little tasks that I know need addressing, such as checking tiny phrases, little details that link between chapters and write a tiny little scene that will enhance another scene. I literally need to work through the list and tick off as I go. Though first, I do need more tea!
Seen you soon...
15:20pm - Why oh why, do I always get light bulb moments as I draw near the end? I've had a really lovely link scene and now, it's bugging me to include but it would mean me moving another scene. I either drop the idea or I now have to rejig!!!!! My imagination is an asset but there are times it literally drives me crazy. I shall continue with my list of tasks and see what pans out.
I've just watched the news for the first time in three day... boy, oh boy, Irma what are you doing to the poor Americans? So frightening to see the damage caused and potential loss of life.
Catch you later...
5:25pm - I'm going for it. Now that I've had the idea for the additional scene, my brain won't let go. Typical. But nothing ventured, nothing gained. Tick list is nearly complete so I'll begin a.s.a.p.
8:40pm - Still on track with the manuscript but my head feels like an untidy shed! I have bits and bobs floating about which I am tempted to add in but then am arguing with myself that it isn't needed. Lord knows which side of me will win! I feel I have about three hours to go... so I'd bets return to it.
My day finally arrived. As the clock swept past midnight on 1st August, the ebook version downloaded, as if by magic. Husband uncorked the bottle of bubbles and I sat grinning like a Cheshire cat. Seriously, I did. My dream had come true!
We stayed up celebrating until 3am before sleep got the better of us. Though, the excitement of the day woke me early, so with hardly any sleep, we began the day. Twitter and Facebook went mental – seriously, I had messages coming in on all devices. The sound of ping, ping, ping was deafening during breakfast, but oh so lovely.
I received a beautiful delivery of fresh flowers from my publishers Aria Fiction/Head of Zeus. The delivery guy asked ‘what’s the occasion?’ It felt very strange hearing husband explain, even stranger when he asked if he could speak to me? Turns out the delivery guy is an aspiring author.
I’d decided a while back that I wanted to spend my day away from home, so we travelled to the beautiful Chatsworth House in Derbyshire. A place we have visited many times and where I wanted to be. We arrived during the mother of all thunder storms, so were forced to sit in the car for a time whilst being entertained by the dramatic lightning strikes above the stately home.
A quick dash through the rain, with my coat unattractively held above me head, was deemed necessary. How soaked can one get in two minutes? Drenched, but hey. The house delighted as ever and we spent our time seeking out the delights that always thrill at Chatsworth. The grand staircase, the painted violin, the elaborate decoration in every room and my favourite sculpture, which I have to wait right to the end of our visit to see, ‘The sleeping lion’ carved by Rinaldi, which sleeps downstairs by the exit to the gift shop. I simply love him! Even the attendant laughed at my reaction.
The weather had miraculously changed, so we traipsed the beautiful gardens in scorching heat. British weather, you can’t beat it! We had the delight of the glorious waterfall cascade and the summer houses in all their glory. I couldn’t ask for a nicer backdrop to enjoy my day.
It goes without saying that the evening was celebrated with a few more bubbles, especially when we arrived home to find copies of the paperback had been delivered by Amazon.
It still feels very strange to know that others have purchased and are reading my book. Several readers have been in touch, via Twitter or Facebook, which has been wonderful.
Finally, my verdict on becoming a published author: well worth all the hard work to experience this, I have no complaints.
I can’t quite believe it has arrived, or that I’m the one writing those simple words. After eons spent trying to create, write, edit and be published, more years than I care to count, today, 31st July 2017 is my final day as an unpublished author!
Tomorrow my debut novel ‘A Christmas Wish’ will be published and my dream will come true.
It was a fairly simple goal but the journey has been far greater than I’d have imagined. I can recall evenings spent in my single-girl house busily scribbling after work. Weekends spent in the corner of the dining room of my marital home tapping away on a tiny make shift desk. The glorious arrival of my current writing desk and how I cried when it replaced the make shift one in the dining room. I bought her in 2008 with the money given to me as a leaving present collected from staff at Woodhouse school in Tamworth. And 2013, when I finally took ownership of the tiny spare room as my writing room – I have a wooden sign to prove it!
The disappointment in November 2009 of attempting National Novel Writing Month for the first time and failing in week two. I bereted myself for not being able to write the daily 1667 words without a plan. The nerves and later ecstasy in 2012, when my new writing friend Helen Phifer held my hand for 30 days as I completed NaNoWriMo with 50,213 words. And now, the excitement of seeing my 2014 NaNoWriMo project about to be published.
I look about my writing room at the folders of scribbled research, the shelves of cherished notebooks and the well-thumbed baby naming book that supports my imagination. The post-it notes, whiteboards and pin board obsession that has developed and readily acknowledge that this journey has done little to curb my obsession with stationery. Or my book/paper sniffing habit.
I’ve read, listened and stalked… yes, it feels that way sometimes, numerous authors who have readily and affectionately become my dear friends. I’ve purchased and read books purely to dissect and deface with highlighters in relation to character arc, structure and dialogue. I’ve learnt how to build my own website, dived head first into social media and picked up the baton to host the RNA Birmingham Chapter.
I remember routines such as writing at a specified time when an alarm clock rang, free writing for thirty minutes to capture my unconscious thoughts even attending a course tutorial where a poem about a pink post-it note silenced the room. Early morning writing sessions and very late into the night writing sessions – I’ve done both. Writing in coffee shops, classrooms, during car journeys and even, in a summer house within my local graveyard – I’ve written whenever and wherever it was necessary.
Stared at people’s faces, their bodies, noted their stance or walk, their gestures, their swearing, slang and street talk – I have people watched every day of my life. Listened to numerous conversations between strangers in public places and refrained from joining in on several occasions.
I’ve laughed at myself as I’ve measured the circumference of a willow tree trunk on a public roadway with a dressmakers tape. Asked strangers outlandish questions about their lives. Interrupted silences with a loud exclaimation as a fresh idea arrives. Brought home numerous lost/found objects such as jigsaw puzzle pieces, artificial lilies, tree bark and feathers found in strange places during dog walks. Researched the unlikeliest, and sometimes unsavoury, subjects on the internet only to make husband aware that I’m not planning anything sinister - it is all in the name of research and plotlines.
All in all, I’ve done everything that anyone has ever advised me to do in relation to creating, writing and editing a novel. And after many hours of writing, consuming copious amounts of fresh tea and much hard work it has paid off.
Tomorrow, I will be a published author (with copious amount of champagne).
Each month of my calendar is dedicated to an aspect of my writing life. July is no exception. July is the RNA Summer conference. This was my fifth annual conference and a return visit to the Harper Adams university, Shropshire.
The programme of events and speakers was varied and informative, as always. I was intrigued by Fiona Harper’s talk about character arcs, humoured by Bella Osborne and Alison May’s presentation ‘Plotter v Pantser’ and delighted by Jill Mansell’s interview.
With 230 RNA delegates dashing back and forth between the conference rooms, there was much chatter about books, publishing contracts and future plans.
Saturday night brought the gala dinner – where we donned our posh frocks and dined in style. The wine flowed, the laughter grew louder and the in-group jokes about pampas grass and harp playing evolved towards hilarious.
The Birmingham Chapter made our ‘pledges’ for the coming year and I was delighted to hand Donna Ashcroft, my Katie Fforde Bursary 2017 twin the beautiful trophy which I’ve had since February.
I’ve arrived home eager to complete the edits of book 2 and musing the possibilities of a new project for Christmas 2018! All in all, I had a fabulous weekend immersed in the book world.
Thank you to everyone who took photographs and then generously shared them via social media.
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