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.
I have a new addition to my writing tools kit. She's as essential as my MacBook, post-it notes and imagination... a brand new teapot. But, she's no ordinary teapot selected from the beloved Price and Kensington range, oh no. This special delivery was crafted by HandDrawnWorld and I love it!
For further details: follow @HandDrawnWorld on Twitter or visit via this link
Wow! My third book ‘The Magic of Christmas Tree Farm’ is about to be published by Aria and I can’t believe a year has passedsince my debut novel ‘A Christmas Wish’ was released in 2017.
The idea for ‘The Magic of Christmas Tree Farm’ stems from the knowledge that not everyone enjoys the festive season. For some families, there is sadness and grief, for other folk relationship issues and break-ups but for the lucky ones, it is the most wonderful time of the year!
I have friends who buy presents in June and others who shop on the weekend before Christmas amongst the bustle of crowds – everyone has such a different routine regards this particular holiday. Personally, I like my house decorated on the 1st December which signals the beginning of present buying. Part of me feels cheated if I can’t enjoy my festive decorations for a whole month given the time it takes to unpack the loft and perform the transformation of the lounge. Despite loving or loathing the festive season – we all know we can’t avoid the age-old traditions, the annual invites and the fond memories of years gone by.
I wanted to explore the differences encountered by three women: Nina, Angie and Holly. Nina wants to cancel Christmas as it signifies the anniversary of her father’s death. Angie is eager to make amends this Christmas due to the disastrous year she has endured. And young Holly, she’s hoping for the best Christmas ever as she’s dating the hottest male at school.
Add into the festive mix the much discussed and yearned for moment when your stomach flips. Hollywood, Disney and true romantics constantly refer to this special moment when we encounter true love – a moment which has forever fascinated me. Nina has never felt it, Angie has but lost it and Holly… well, she’s currently experiencing it every time her and Alfie meet up.
‘The Magic of Christmas Tree Farm’ weaves the three women’s stories into a garland of festive delight and romance as each discovers what Santa has in store for their Christmas treat – and, it isn’t necessarily what they’d planned, hoped or asked for.
The majority of the novel is set in a fictional Christmas Tree farm located in a local village near to my home called Baxterley, Warwickshire. I never think of Christmas Trees as a farm crop until December arrives and I watch the local news reporter deliver their annual piece to camera regards the planting, care and sales of spruce. It intrigues me to think that someone has to nurture these spruces and firs all year round so we can enjoy our festive tree for a few weeks. Having researched the topic thoroughly, I found that growing, purchasing and caring for a real Christmas Tree isn’t an easy task. My fictional farm sells four species: Blue spruce, Fraser fir, Nordman fir and a Norway spruce - each has very different characteristics and histories which customers favour or dislike. The size seems particularly important: a teeny-weeny tree, a modest spruce or a jolly green giant seems to be the three categories favoured by customers. So, there is more to spruce buying than meets the eye – especially if you are craving the perfect Christmas on which to pin your memories. Worse still, if you are hoping to cancel Christmas, recreate previous Christmases or hoping to experience the best Christmas ever – as my three characters are planning. And then, what happens if it goes wrong? All the planning, the ideas and festive cheers goes AWOL and it’s not in your control to save or fix?
For those that love a Christmas read, I have packed the novel full of festive cheer and tradition, for those who aren’t interested in the December holidays there is plenty of romance and humour to delight and entertain whilst snuggled beside a cosy fire.
My aim is that every reader can relate to one of the females, one of their festive situations and hopefully, receive their own happy-ever-after by the final page of the story.
If anyone is wondering, on 1st December I shall be purchasing a Blue spruce, approximately five foot tall, so a modest height, to be decorated with silver garlands, bows and glass baubles. And knowing what I’ve learnt from my research, I’ll be watering it twice a day, every day until the dustbin men come to collect in January.
Update: on 1st December 2018, I visited my local Christmas Tree Farm and came home with not one but two Christmas trees! I have a beautiful Fraser fir with its distinct spicy smell and a tiny Blue spruce. I was hoping to buy a larger Blue spruce but there is a shortage this year. Never mind, it meant I could be slightly greedy and justify having both!
P.S. whilst buying my trees we spotted a peacock decoration - I couldn't resist! (My readers know that in each of my books a peacock is mentioned).
When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
As a child, I was taken to my local library at Polesworth in Warwickshire on a weekly basis. I remember my three green cardboard ticket-holders – I was amazed by the number of books available to borrow for free. I think that day was my true beginnings as a writer. Another monumental moment was when I read ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ and C.S. Lewis took my hand and led me through the back of the wardrobe towards Narnia. I’m not sure if I’ve ever returned home.
What did you do as a job before becoming a writer?
I’ve had many occupations: waitress, banking, retail industry, fitness industry and currently in education. I’ve always written alongside my other careers.
How do you carry out the research for your novels?
Research changes for each book depending upon the knowledge I currently hold on a subject or event. I tend to focus on research prior to the planning stage, a little more after the planning stage and return to researching specific details after draft one has been written. Prior to draft one, I don’t always know everything that needs to be researched so it can feel like an on-going process as the novel evolves. By nature, I’m a curious person so research and learning feeds my inquisitive side. I love discovering new and interesting topics in reference books, library achieves or interviews.
Which aspects of your writing do you find easiest and most difficult?
I adore the initial draft one writing – a blank page which is waiting for a story is my idea of heaven. Some writers hate this stage but my imagination thrives without boundaries so the words simply flow. My second favourite stage is day-dreaming. Creating new characters, their names and locations occurs as I move through my daily routines so, I tend to muse and make notes as ideas surface. My least favourite stage of writing is around draft three, when the story is captured and structured on paper but additional details are needed so it’s a case of rereading and adding, as necessary. I literally argue with myself regards over or under writing sections – quite often I add, then delete and re-amend the same detail to the point of frustration. I’m never a happy bunny until that stage is complete and I can start the first edit.
What are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing?
The majority of my writing takes place in the tiny spare room claimed a few years ago as my writing room. It’s made a huge difference having a dedicated space for all my papers, work notes and diagrams. I can write anywhere, so regularly change venue to local libraries, coffee shops or even on trains, when necessary. I tend to write early in the morning or late at night during the week, with weekends providing longer writing sessions during the day.
When you're not writing, what do you like to read?
I read everyday, though my chosen genre changes depending upon the stage that my own writing is at. When planning or drafting I tend to drift towards reading crime or classics but once my planned story is drafted I move back towards contemporary fiction. I think it’s a working habit to ensure I don’t mix ideas or be influenced by the author I’m reading.
How important do you think social media is to authors in today's society?
Social media is vital for me to stay in touch with my readers, other authors and bloggers. It makes my day when I receive an unexpected compliment from a reader who has loved my book – I literally walk about with a huge smile on my face.
Afternoon folks... I had a special author jolly this morning on Radio Tamworth 106.8fm with an interview conducted by Kiren Parmar. As always, Kiren was a delight to chat with - I can't believe that two hours simply whizzed by.
If you were busy and missed it, below is a useful link... enjoy!
A live link to RadioTamworth interview - simply press