Oh I do like to be beside the seaside!

A day out at the seaside? We all know what that means,

A kaleidoscope of what must be uniquely-British scenes.

Embarrassing socks and sandals sported by your dad,

And sand you find in places that you never knew you had.

**

You pack a range of sun-creams to help your pallor wane,

But find yourself in what feels like a full-scale hurricane.

Instead you need a sleeping bag draped across your knees,

The windbreak at an angle of around fifteen degrees.

**

You decide to cheer things up by buying fish and chips,

Despite the fact the deck-chair can barely take your hips.

Seagulls descend like ninjas, they’re nothing if not plucky,

But being in their firing line feels anything but lucky.

**

Still too cold to take a dip you head towards the pier,

There you find a fun-fair and the kids let out a cheer.

Soon you’re several tenners lighter and then put out your back,

Flying down the helter-skelter on an old potato sack.

**

Heading to the arcades, you know it isn’t wise,

To do battle with the grabber that never yields a prize.

Next on to the pub and a pleasing little red,

Let’s do this again tomorrow, is what you somehow said.

**

Despite the dodgy weather and the seagulls on attack,

You love the British seaside and you’ll soon be coming back.

Just before you head off home, you brave a little wade,

An encounter with a jelly-fish is how memories are made!

**

SEB 3I thought I’d start off today with a tongue-in-cheek homage to the British seaside. Although given the weather we’ve been having in my part of the country this week, it’s got even more appeal and is apparently hotter than the Med.

Now I don’t want this little poem to give you the wrong impression, I LOVE the coast and can’t seem to stop writing about it. Maybe not the type of resorts with arcades, but those filled with the sort of uniquely British charm of places like Polperro and Southwold. But it’s the Kentish coast I love most of all and which features in my stories. Maybe it’s because I was born a stone’s throw from Dover’s white cliffs or because I live about five minutes from the pretty seaside town of Whitstable.SEB 2

I set my first novel, Among A Thousand Starsin the real Kentish seaside town of Sandgate, but my new series was inspired by the fictional town of St Nicholas Bay’s connection to Charles Dickens. As a result it combines the old world charm of Rochester’s quaint tearooms and quirky shops, with the steep high street at Broadstairs, which leads down to a golden bay lined with colourfully painted beach huts. Many people who’ve read the Christmas novella that sparked the series, and which will be re-released by Accent Press in November, tell me that St Nicholas Bay is a character in itself.

Somebody else's boy cover finalSo if you fancy a trip to a beautiful seaside town, with none of the hassle of getting sand in your unmentionables, I’d be thrilled if you checked out my new novel, released today – Somebody Else’s Boy. It tells the story of Jack, a young widower raising his baby son alone and the new life he finds against the odds in St Nicholas Bay, and his house-mate, Nancy, who’s struggling to keep a secret because of the promise she made to someone who no longer knows her name…

Either way, I hope you have some fabulous plans for the bank holiday weekend and maybe a little trip to the seaside is in order after all!

Jo xx

Somebody Else’s Boy is released by Accent Press on 25th August 2016 and available here.

Please, sir, I want some more

IMG_0910I’ve become a bit Oliver Twist lately. I keep wanting more. Okay, I confess, it’s not just been lately. The desire has always been there. Ten more minutes in bed? Ooh, can I have an hour more please? One lottery number in the draw? No, thanks. I’d rather have all six! One jaffa cake? No, thanks. I’ll take the whole packet instead! And when the tendency to munch my way through too many full packets of jaffa cakes (or tubes of Pringles … or pieces of cake; they’re interchangeable!) takes its toll and I toddle off to Slimming World or WeightWatchers for the millionth time, step on the scales and discover I’ve lost 6lbs in my first week, I feel disappointed that I haven’t lost 7lb or 8lb or, let’s face it, five stone in one week!

And I suspect I’m not the only one.

I decided to ask Google the question, “Do humans always want more?” A multitude of links came up offering thoughts and opinions, but all of them pointed to just one thing: it’s human nature. Good. Because I feel a little less guilty about it knowing that I’m not alone and that my “Please, sir, I want some more” attitude is not about me being greedy. Well, my desire for the extra jaffa cakes may be about me being greedy, but I hope my writing-related desires are purely human nature.

IMG_0900It started when I submitted my first manuscript Searching for Steven to the RNA’s New Writer’s Scheme in 2012. Like every aspiring writer who submits to the Scheme, I prayed that I’d get some positive feedback. I did. But I found myself wishing my MS had been good enough to be put forward for a second read. Please, sir, I want some more! Maybe the following year? I re-submitted Steven the following year as I’d made some significant changes. Perhaps I’d get my second read then? As it happens, the second read system was scrapped so I’ll never know.

The next big moment came when I clinched a publishing deal in September. Woo-hoo! It was an eBook only deal and, you’ve guessed it … Please sir, I want some more! Whilst absolutely astounded, flattered, and thrilled to have secured a publishing deal, I found myself wishing it was for a paperback as well as an eBook. Doesn’t every writer long to hold their own paperback in their paws? Sometimes wishes come true and, before I’d signed, another publishing deal materialised and, this time, it was for an eBook and paperback. Double woo-hoo!

But, please sir, I want some more. It wasn’t enough for me to have a paperback available via Amazon or my publisher’s website. I wanted people to be able to walk into a bookstore and buy a copy of Searching for Steven. My publisher is new and small and they don’t have the links to make this happen … or at least not just yet. So it was down to me to be brave, like Oliver, and ask for more myself. Waterstones in Scarborough were my target and, although a change in manager meant that the enquiry slipped through the net several times and we missed the summer market completely, they stocked Steven. I knew they’d placed an order, but I didn’t know how many or when it would arrive so I kept popping in during my lunch hour at work. It was on my third or fourth visit that I finally spotted him nestling on the bookshelves and …

Please, sir, I want some more! It’s human nature to imagine scenarios and many of us will imagine the best possible scenario. IMG_0911My best possible beyond my wildest dreams scenario was a huge quantity of paperbacks piled up with pride of place on one of the tables rather than the shelves, with a sign beside them reviewing the book and pointing out that I was a local author and that Steven was set in a fictional version of Scarborough. Realistically, I knew that wasn’t going to happen, but I couldn’t help but feel a pang of disappointment that there was no signposting whatsoever. I’ve seen little review cards before pointing out recommended and local books, but Steven didn’t have one. I had to admonish myself to be grateful that (a) they’d stocked it, (b) there was more than one copy (there were 4 or 5) and (c) it was on the shelves forward-facing. I wanted to take a selfie of this amazing moment, but this would have involved an embarrassing lying on the floor moment because it was on the second from bottom shelf so I had to settle for a shelfie instead!

My next drama was whether it would sell. Four or five copies, not signposted, not on the tables, probably most likely to be selected by someone actually looking for my book rather than browsing on the shelves … would Waterstones be doing a return to distributor? I was therefore stunned and excited when Michelle, with whom I do a bootcamp, said to me a week gone Friday, “I bought your book in Waterstones yesterday. It was the last one on the shelf!” Eek! There’d been 4 or 5 on the Monday that week! I know where another two of them have gone – two of my work colleagues made a purchase – but I don’t know where number four and five went which is very exciting.

Of course, this has brought on another please, sir … moment because I now want Waterstones to restock! I want them to say, “Goodness me, those Jessica Redland books flew off the shelves. We must stock some more. And put them on a table in the middle of the sales floor. The best table. Ooh, and let’s add one of those review signs. In fact, let’s put some in the window too and flag up our local talent.” Hmmm. Might be getting a bit carried away there!

Yes, I think it’s human nature to always want that bit more. Yet that doesn’t mean I’m not satisfied with everything I’ve achieved so far. When I started writing, I had an idea and felt compelled to put it to paper. I didn’t really imagine that I’d be a published writer one day; I just needed to write a book. It’s amazing to think I managed that, never mind that it’s now out there for the general public to (hopefully) enjoy.

I’d love more. Who wouldn’t? I’d love to be top of the charts in Amazon, I’d love to appear in bookshops nationally, I’d love to have my books translated into other languages and available around the world, I’d love to sell the film rights. I doubt any of these things will ever happen and that’s fine because my main dream has already come true and I’ll be forever grateful.

Speaking of wanting more, though, where’s those jaffa cakes?

Jessica xx

Wednesday Wondering – What Does Easter Mean to You?

P1060222Happy Easter! Okay, so the bank holiday weekend with the key days of Good Friday and Easter Monday is now behind us, but it’s still school holidays and some of you may be enjoying time off work still. I was back to the non-writing day job yesterday, but I’m looking forward to having tomorrow and Friday off too.

My question for the WRs this week was, quite simply, ‘What does Easter mean to you?’

I attended church until I left home for university aged eighteen and remember there being a Palm Sunday parade from The Salvation Army Church at one end of the high street, past my church (Methodist) and up to the Church of England church at the other end for a multi-denomenational service. I’d parade as part of the uniformed organisations (Brownies, Guides, then Rangers) and I my over-riding memory is of being absolutely freezing because we weren’t allowed to wear coats or jumpers. Back then, the Brownie uniform was a dress, although I was certainly grateful for my bobble hat. I remember being giggling each year because the donkey always seemed to go to the toilet outside the church. I’d then spend the rest of the service trying to warm up, knowing that we’d have a freezing cold parade back again!

P1060226As a child, we’d get loads of Easter eggs – one from each set of grandparents, and from each auntie/uncle. My childhood home had an extra room downstairs called the study. It was originally a garage before we moved in and had been converted to a room, but it always retained that cold feeling of a garage. As such, it was the perfect place for storing Easter eggs and selection boxes at Christmas, keeping them nice and cool. It was also the perfect place for helping myself to chocolate when nobody could see me! I used to raid my Easter eggs and those of my older brother; such a pig! When I was 19, my habits hadn’t improved. My boyfriend in my 2nd year of university bought me a fabulous Easter egg. It was a large Cadbury’s crème egg one with a picture of a juggler on the front. The hollow chocolate egg was his stomach and his juggling balls were 2 normal-sized crème eggs and 7 mini crème eggs. I’d been presented with it about a week before we broke up for the Easter holidays and it sat enticingly on my shelf with strict instructions not to eat it until Easter. I think I lasted about a day before I broke into it. If I just ate one of the mini eggs then placed the foil back in the mould, that would be okay, wouldn’t it? So I did that. But it was really yummy. So I had another. And another. By the time we broke for Easter, I packed my Easter egg to take home. Except there wasn’t any chocolate left in it; just a plastic mould with the foil wrappers shaped into it to look like it was all still there! Oops!

Jessica xx

So, what does Easter mean to the WRs?

Sharon says…

P1060225I have very happy memories of Easter. One of the main ones is watching Jesus of Nazareth starring Robert Powell. We all – my mum, dad, sister, brother and I – gathered round the television to watch it, enthralled. My mum and dad weren’t religious at all, but they were really absorbed in the programme. As for me, I cried absolute buckets. I totally believed in the Easter story and it broke my heart to see it played out on screen before me.

Easter, for me, has always been one of the most important times of the year. Of course, when we were children, it also meant Easter eggs and time off school to me and my sister. One year, we got thirteen Easter eggs each from aunts, uncles, grandparents, parents, family friends…Quite ridiculous, really.

When my own children were little I made it very traditional. Fish on Good Friday, Easter eggs, lots of Easter themed television, a turkey dinner on Easter Sunday and sometimes church, too. Now they’ve all left home and my faith has sadly dwindled, I think, in my mind, Easter is simply tied in with spring – daffodils, new lambs, new life, new hope. In that sense, I suppose it has that much in common with a story of resurrection and overcoming even death. I do think that, if you’re a Christian, Easter is the most special time of year, even more than Christmas. I wish everyone – of all faiths or none – a happy Easter.

DSCF0005-smallRachael says…

Easter time here on the farm is like any other day. The daily jobs of milking and feeding continue regardless of what holiday it is. This only makes family time all the more precious, although with two older teenager’s social lives to be factored in this Easter, it may prove difficult to all be around the table for dinner on Easter Sunday.

As with most families, Easter is also about chocolate eggs and probably far too many of them! It’s good also to stop and reflect about why we are celebrating Easter. Just as Christmas isn’t all about the gifts under the tree, Easter isn’t all about mountains of chocolate.

I hope you all had a lovely Easter weekend and that you haven’t eaten too much chocolate!

Lynne says…

P1060224Easter to me is a time of new beginnings when the world wakes up from its winter slumber. For me my reading tastes change a little, from the fireside reading of winter, when I love P.D.James and Charles Dickens to livelier, more summery tomes. This year is a special treat, because there’s so many of my lovely Write Romantics’ stories available now in print and electronic form. Roll on better weather when I can loll around in the sun with an iced drink and suntan lotion and call it research!!

Jackie says…

church and daffodilsI was brought up as a reasonably strict Catholic and went to a Convent school from the age of ten. I would attend St Dominic’s church every Sunday in my best hat (even if I had a terrible cold and sneezed through most of the service) Lent was all about the money I would give to charity if I gave up sweets etc, rather than an excuse to diet or stop the booze (which it seems to have turned into today) and Easter was all about Christ dying on the Cross. So my memories of Easter are mostly about the dreaded Stations Of The Cross in church. There were I think, fourteen ’stations’ and the gathered congregation would kneel and pray at every icon reflecting on the image of Jesus at his crucifixion, before standing and walking to the next ‘station.’ I recall this took forever and one time I got a fit of the giggles with my best friend. She suppressed her laugh rather too much and it came out the other end as a loud ‘trumpet’ noise. This made us laugh even harder and she continued to ‘trump’ for Britain. People around us started tittering, but the nun in charge of us hoisted us up and sent us to the back of the church to reflect on our sins. She didn’t say what our sins were as I suspect such a thing as a ‘blow off’ couldn’t be acknowledged as it was far too unladylike! It was actually a bit of a result as we messed around with the rosaries and ‘palms’ that were for sale at the back of the church until it was all over.

Deirdre says…

Easter for us is a quite a low-key affair these days – not that we ever did a great deal but certain little traditions, like painting the shells of boiled eggs for breakfast, have slid off the radar now, mainly due to not having any children in the family, and the demise of my mother-in-law who celebrated Easter as she did everything else, with a cook-fest.  She used to make scrumptious spicy hot cross buns which were sent down to us on the morning of Good Friday, not before, not after.  Then on the Sunday there’d be a family gathering at her house for the big roast, followed by Christmas pudding from the batch she’d made the previous year.  She made simnel cake thick with marzipan and iced in lurid green which is the traditional colour, and on the top was a plastic egg decoration with a chick inside which came out year after year.  If we weren’t full after that lot there were home-made Easter biscuits sparkling with green-coloured sugar (no worries about additives for her), as well as the Easter eggs themselves and other chocolate treats.

Peggy at EasterI still do a roast – which has to be lamb, nothing else – and this year I was farseeing enough to get an extra Christmas pudding, having let them all down so badly last year by not providing one.  We have Buck’s Fizz mid-morning and champagne with lunch.   Any excuse.  The boys still get eggs, old though they are (the boys, I mean, not the eggs) and I always have daffodils in vases to brighten things up.   In the loft we have gigantic folded-paper rabbits and another rabbit that plays a tune which we stand about, if we remember to get them out.  We always invite my husband’s Aunt Peggy.  She’s 91 now.  This is a photo of her at ours last Easter.  As you can see she’s still got a sparkle in her eye, as well as in her glass.  We don’t do outdoorsy things at Easter. The weather always seems so cold, but we usually go for a drive in the country on Easter Monday and maybe stop off at a likely hostelry.  That’s something we did when I was a child, and we used to pick primroses if they were out in time, but of course you can’t do that now.

I do like Easter-time.  It’s so colourful with the daffodils and other flowers, and the Easter displays in the shops.  And of course you know that summer’s not that far away – always a cheering thought.

image1Helen R says…

We’ve never been a religious family so Easter has never been a big event in our house. This is hard when the kids fire questions at me about ‘why do we have Easter?’ Only as an adult did I find out eggs are given to each other to signify new life and it’s nice to have a basic understanding now.

As for the chocolate side of things I’m afraid I’m over excited this year. It’s my first Easter in the UK since 2000 and the Easter eggs on display in the shops are amazing. I shall make my selections this year and remember the meaning of the occasion.

Jo says…

disc 3 612I think Easter, a bit like Halloween, is a lot *bigger* now than when I was a child.  I don’t remember Easter egg hunts or anything like that, but my mum would make birds’ nests from strands of shredded wheat, dipped in chocolate, and fill them with little candy eggs.  We had a big family and so would receive lots of chocolate eggs from relatives and they’d all be lined up on the sideboard.  My sister would still have most of hers in June, but I’d eat all of mine by the week after Easter. Once or twice I even broke into her stock and tried to smooth out the foil after I’d eaten the egg, to make it look like it was still in there.  It’s no wonder she’s three sizes smaller than me, even now!

With my own children, we’ve always had Easter egg hunts, even when we’ve been away on holiday – which we often are for the school break.  Here’s a photo of the eldest three when we were in the New Forest one Easter and about to set off on a trail through the woods.  This year is no different, we’ll be staying in a converted barn in the Llyn Peninsula in north Wales and I’ll be hiding eggs for the big hunt on Easter Sunday.  I’ve tried suggesting that they might have outgrown it now that they’re 10, 13, 14 and 16, but they’ve insisted they’ll never be too old for an Easter egg hunt.  Here’s hoping I’m not still looking for places to hide their eggs when they’re in their forties!

What about you? We’d love to hear about your Easters past and present. You can comment by clicking on the ‘comments’ tag at the end of the teeny words below this post. Thank you xx

J Keller Ford on the Art of Make Believe

JKellerFord-web-301Our guest today is J.Keller Ford (aka Jenny).  With a father in the army, Reader’s Choice award winner Jenny, spent much of her childhood travelling the world and wandering the halls of some of Germany’s most extraordinary castles hoping to find the dragons, knights and magic that haunted her imagination. Though she never found them, she continues to keep their legends alive.  Her story, The Amulet of Ormisez, is available as part of the MAKE BELIEVE anthology. Jenny also had a YA short story, Dragon Flight, released December 2013 as part of the ONE MORE DAY anthology  When not at her keyboard breathing new life into fantasy worlds, Jenny spends time collecting seashells, bowling, swimming, riding roller coasters and reading.  She works as a paralegal by day and lives on the west coast of Florida with her family, three dogs, and a pretentious orange cat who must have been a dragon in his previous life.   With a fascinating bio like that, of course we have loads that we want to ask Jenny…

Why did you choose to write young adult and new adult fiction?

In a nutshell, I don’t want to grow up. When I was young, so many people told me, ‘Enjoy your youth.  It’ll be gone before you know it and you can’t get it back.”  Like a typical teen, I snarked at those words.  Now that I’m a grown-up, I don’t want to be.  I wish I could go back and change things. I wish I’d been a bit more daring, maybe prettier, stronger, more adventurous.  In writing YA and New Adult fiction, I can do all the things I couldn’t or wouldn’t do as a teen. I can re-live my youth vicariously through my characters.  Every day holds endless possibilities for my young characters.  Love is new and fresh.  Heartache is raw. Dreams aren’t wasted.  It’s fun to see my characters do what I always dreamed of doing if I hadn’t been in such a hurry to grow up.

What gave you the idea for In the Shadow of the Dragon King?

Oh wow, there are so many factors that came into play, but I suppose it boils down to my brave, knightly dad, and a soldier who wanted a little bit of fairy dust to save the world.

My dad was in the Army, and on the rare occasions he tucked me into bed, he would tell me stories of how he battled dragons and protected us (his family) and his lands from bad magicians and evil-doers. I knew better.  I watched the news, but my dad’s version was so much better, and thus my love for fantasy began. Between the ages of 6 and 8, my dad was stationed in Germany. My mom, knowing of my dad’s stories, made sure she took my brother and me to as many castles as she could, thus solidifying my love for fantasy.  Sadly, my father died a few years later, slain by a figurative ‘dragon’, and a very sad story began to churn in my mind.  It wasn’t until after the end of the first Gulf War in 1995 that the story resurfaced and started taking shape. I saw an interview with a soldier who said he wished he had magic and fairy dust because he’d sprinkle it everywhere to make the world a better place to live. I saw these brave men not as soldiers but as chivalrous knights battling evil for the sake of humanity, and if they had a choice, they’d prefer a little magic, rather than lives, to save the world.  Over the course of several years, I toyed with plots, characters, and ideas, finished my first draft, and then let it sit for a very long time.  I picked it up about 3 years ago, dusted it off and allowed it to breathe.  Soon it will be ready to present to the world, thanks to my dad and an unsung hero who wished for a little magic and fairy dust to save the world.

perf5.250x8.000.inddWhat advice would you give to aspiring writers looking for publication?

First thing:  never, ever, ever give up.  I don’t care how many rejections you get, how difficult the process may seem. Never throw away your dream of being published.

Second, as time passes, more and more paths to publication are opening up.  I’m of the old school.  I like the traditional publishing route.  I like being vetted before my work gets out in the world.  On the other hand, I have some lovely writer friends who have been very, very successful in self-publishing, hitting best-seller charts on Amazon all the time. There are so many avenues to travel and so many doors to open that make it easier now than ever before to be published.  I do recommend, however, if you choose to self-publish, please produce your work to professional quality.  Yes it costs money, but if your book is worth publishing, it’s worth publishing correctly.  Get a professional editor.  Make sure your book looks like a mainstream book.

I think it’s also important to be present in some fashion of social media.  You don’t have to be on all of them, but you should have at least one prominent presence. You need to make sure people out there know you.  Be yourself. Be someone that others want to interact with. Help others promote their work whenever you can.  Once you have a following and have established yourself as someone trustworthy and helpful, they’ll do everything they can to promote your work when the time comes.  Always be thankful.  Always be respectful.

Do you have any advice for UK based writers looking for a publisher in the US?  Are there any things we should think about or avoid in our writing?

First, check tax laws.  Self-published U.K. Author, Karen Inglis, wrote an extensive blog post on taxes, ITIN and EIN numbers and paying U.K. Tax on book Royalties.  You can find that article here and I recommend everyone from the U.K. to take a look at her very informative blog on the matter.

I would also pay attention to local colloquialisms.  Some words or phrases may be viewed differently in the U.S. than in the U.K.  I’m aware of a few words that mean nothing here, yet are frowned upon or mean something completely different in the U.K.  Of course, if a book is set in Britain, some words and phrases might add flavor and color. Just make sure they don’t make the book confusing or distracting.

As to covers, U.S. publishers usually do not consult with the author.  American publishers will usually write their own blurbs for the back of the book. They may also change your title to suit the market.

It may be worth your while to get an agent to sell your rights to a U.S. publisher who will ‘translate’ and sell your books.  Always ask any publisher or service to give you full details of their plans for your book, especially how they intend to use the rights. Never give world rights as standard.  Works published in the U.S. are subject to U.S. copyright laws, not those of the country of origin.  Always be aware that if an agent sells your book in the U.S., they are entitled to all subsequent income on that book in the US even if you part ways with the agent somewhere down the line.  Always do your research and try to stay abreast of the latest international publishing laws. It’s a lot to take in.  A lot to do.

Who are your favourite writers?

OMGosh, I have so many.  There are the classics:  Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemingway, Jane Austen, George Orwell, Jack London, John Steinbeck, and the list goes on.  More recent favorite authors would include J.K. Rowling, Kristin Cashore, Tahereh Mafi, Veronica Rossi, Kiera Cass, Cassandra Clare, Jocelyn Adams and Julie Reece.

perf5.250x8.000.inddWe see from your blog that you love visiting castles and we wondered which was your favourite?

Neuschwanstein, by far.  The first time I saw it, I forgot how to breathe.  It was more grand and opulent than anything I could imagine.  It was (and remains) the epitome of everything I ever imagined a fairy tale castle to be.  Not only that, the “Mad” King Ludwig only lived in this magnificent palace for 172 days before his body was found, along with the body of his doctor, floating in a nearby lake.  While his death was ruled a suicide, the demise of this romantic and popular German king remains a mystery to this day.  There is so much history in this castle and is a must-see place of beauty and serenity.  It is a reminder that no dream is too big. Anything can be accomplished if we set our minds to them.

Thanks so much for joining us on the blog today Jenny, it has been an absolute pleasure to have you and we hope you will come back again and see us really soon.

Find out more about Jenny and her stories at the links below:

http://jennykellerford.wordpress.com/

http://www.amazon.com/Make-Believe-J-A-Belfield-ebook/dp/B00ACMPEGQ

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5832198.J_Keller_Ford

http://www.amazon.com/J.-Keller-Ford/e/B00ADKZTJO/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_3

Follow Jenny on Twitter at @jkellerford

 

Wednesday Wondering – Procrastination

By Helen Rolfe

Procrastination comes with most jobs, or most tasks for that matter. After all, why do today what we can put off until tomorrow? But writers are in such a solitary occupation that there is a real danger of procrastination interfering with them achieving their goals. After all, the only boss keeping track of the hours put in, counting how many words get onto that page, and knowing just how much effort has been put in, is the writer themselves.

I am guilty as charged when it comes to procrastination. At the moment I have the valid excuse that we are in the process of selling our house and approaching the big auction day, but I’m not always quite as justified. Sometimes that pile of washing just needs to be folded and neatly slotted away, or I must get the washing on the line before the sun disappears. Or sometimes I simply must catch up on emails to family in the UK or organise the next catch up with my girlfriends.

Writers are able to procrastinate like professionals, but we are also very capable of making ourselves feel guilty when we really shouldn’t. We beat ourselves up for not sitting at that desk long enough, for not churning out enough words. At times we are the strictest bosses in the world! Thinking back to my time in the workplace there were always tea breaks, we chatted to colleagues. I was never glued to my desk but I never felt guilty for that.

With my writing I sometimes find that I need to take a step back because otherwise whatever I write will be so bad that I will probably end up deleting most of it anyway, or ruining what I have already written. Sometimes I have been so dedicated for days or weeks on end, strict with my hours, that I need to get out in that big wide world just to clear my mind. And, after all, the big wide world and the people and places around us are what inspire our writing in the first place.

A recent article on the BBC News website titled “The slow death of purposeless walking” (BBC News, Rohrer F, 1 May 2014) talks about writers including Wordsworth, Charles Dickens and Virginia Woolf, all of whom used walking for inspiration, to let their thought process flow more freely.  Walking is another strategy for me when I find myself procrastinating. I don’t think that I consciously go for a walk to work through a scene or think of ideas, but I think that by relaxing my mind and soaking up what’s going on around me can help to trigger answers that I’m looking for or start me on a thread of ideas that help in my writing. Of course there are also the endorphins that are naturally released when we exercise so combined with some time away from the keyboard is a real help.

The Write Romantics have shared their guilty admissions right here, and how they take themselves to task and make sure they get the work done. We would love to hear what strategies you employ to get over the procrastination, and what helps you when the ideas and the words just won’t come?

Helen R x

P.S – Don’t forget that May is National Walking month in the UK so put away those car keys, pull on some comfy shoes and off you go! And you never know, that scene that needs work could just become clearer with every step.

Jackie says…

I will do all manner of things before I sit down to write- check eBay, emails, BBC News, Facebook- and sometimes do it all again as I’ve been so long checking updates! Mostly what works, is just opening the latest ‘bestseller’ and writing, although you can guarantee that as soon as I do I’ll realise I need a cup of tea and a biscuit- and off I go again. I’m amazed that I ever get anything finished actually as I don’t think I’ve ever sat down for more than an hour at any one time. The only upside to my writing is that I do write pretty much every day and I ALWAYS have either a laptop or my iPad within arms distance. I take my iPad everywhere as I can’t abide finding I have ten minutes spare somewhere and nothing to write on. I think I have developed a bit of a ‘time’ problem because of it- is there a name for this kind of behaviour?

Helen P says…

At the moment my time is so sparse that I have no option but to write whenever I get a minute. But when I was writing The Ghost House and would strike a blank moment I used to get the dog and take her for a walk in the woods where I set the book, I’d call and see my brother or his wife who live in the middle of the woods and then I’d come back home and be inspired all over again.

For The Secrets of the Shadows I had the wonderful excuse of driving to the Lake District and Bowness where I knew my main protagonist Annie was going to end up working. Sitting in a coffee shop in the middle of the hustle and bustle and looking at the amazing views was a massive help.

For book three which is unnamed as of yet, I’ve been so busy I’ve just had to crack on with it 😉

Deirdre says…

I find this writing thing a very contrary business.  If I can’t get to the computer for any reason, even if I’m off out for the day somewhere lovely, chances are the words will be flowing in my head like crazy.  And yet having a long expanse of interrupted time in front of me can have the opposite effect and leave me completely flat and totally uninspired.  At those times I have to force it, sit down, switch on and read some of what I’ve written before until, after a while, I’m really into it again.  In other words, my main remedy for not writing when I should be is simply: turn up.  If I’m stuck on a sentence that doesn’t work or haven’t a clue what’s supposed to happen next in the story, taking a break definitely helps, whether it’s going for a walk or just making a cuppa.  One thing that always gets the words flowing again is reading.  It doesn’t matter what type of book it is, if I’m enjoying it, ideas for my own will pop up all the time, so I always keep the notebook handy.

Rachael says…

Okay, before I answer this I’m just going to go and do that pile of ironing! It’s amazing that when writing ideas slow to a trickle everything else you usually avoid doing if at all possible, becomes so much more attractive.

At this point I have a choice. Clean like mad and iron until I’m actually scouring the bedrooms for more washing. Both of these are of course good things to do, but in moderation and not in preference to writing. Note to self – remember this. If I feel the housework urge, I go for a walk. My dog is elderly now and so it’s just a gentle stroll with her, but sometimes a good power walk does the trick. I usually arrive back at my desk invigorated and with a better idea of where to go next with my writing.

Julie says…

It’s a tricky question because, when I’m in procrastinating mode, there’s very little that can snap me out of it except giving myself a good talking to. I often procrastinate when I’m not 100% sure where I want a plot point to go and, deep down, I know I’d make a mess of the edit of I did something when my idea wasn’t quite ready. I therefore think a bit of procrastination can be good. I’ve been doing far too much of it lately by staring at social media when I should be writing.

As for the ideas and words not coming, I haven’t had this happen to me much. Once I had my initial idea for book 1, it was like the dam gates had been opened and a stack of ideas flowed. They’re not all good but there are certainly lots of them. Like most writers, I have days where the words flow better than others but I’ve learned just to get on with it. If I’m struggling with an emotional scene, for example, as the words aren’t flowing quite so well, I’ll often write INSERT DETAIL, highlight it, and move on. I then return to it when I’m feeling more inspired. I think this works for me because I used to work ridiculous hours and commute a long way for my day job so writing time was so limited and precious that I trained myself to just get on with it. Now that I work locally and to a normal 9-5 day, I still have the ability to work like this.

Alex says…

When the words really won’t come I’ve learned that it’s usually because something is wrong with the plot or the characters and I’ve found that the best thing is to go away and do something completely different. Whatever the problem is it usually works itself out better when I’m away from my laptop.  I’ve had ‘lightbulb’ moments when I’ve been doing the cleaning (the current state of my house proves that I really need to get stuck more often) and doing the ironing.  Sometimes going out for a walk helps or watching a film. If all else fails then I think sleeping on it works really well. I often wake up and know exactly what the answer is and those are the days when I’m sat here writing in my pyjamas.

Jo says…

I’d like to say that I do something really interesting to help me get started when I’m procrastinating or when the words just won’t flow, like standing on my head or making a special creativity potion. Sadly, the truth is much more boring than that. Although wine is a potion of sorts and that often helps – at least I think it has until the read-through the next day! For me it’s the usual stuff, like fresh air and a good walk. There’s nothing like looking up at the light filtering through oak trees on a woodland walk or out to sea if I choose the beach instead. I’m lucky enough to live really close to both and there are lots of wide open spaces and big skies to offer inspiration or just clear the head. Other than that, I think people-watching and eavesdropping work best for me and have inspired aspects of lots of my stories. In fact, they are two of my favourite pastimes which I have done ever since I was tiny. My mum said if I ever disappeared as a young child, she’d find me standing in between the nearest group of women looking up, listening to every aspect of their conversations and sometimes even asking questions! These days, when hubby and I go out for dinner, if he starts tapping his nose it means I am making my eavesdropping too obvious and need to rein it in a bit… or at least make some effort to listen to what he’s saying to me instead.

The Wednesday Wondering: You’re Fired!

If you share my (dubious) tastes in TV programmes you won’t be a stranger to the title of this week’s Wondering.  Yes, that’s right.  The famous phrase comes out of Alan Sugar’s mouth at the end of every episode of The Apprentice.  Whether you find it compulsive or repulsive viewing, you’ll be sure to know what it’s about.  Hard to avoid, isn’t it?

You may remember I was grabbing inspiration for this month’s Wonderings from March itself, in which case you may be thinking I’ve wandered off piste here.  Not so, because next Monday, March 24th, is Lord Sugar’s birthday. (He happens to share the same birth year as me but we won’t go into that if it’s all the same).  A bit obscure as a remarkable event, perhaps?  Well, yes, all right, but at least you’ve gathered a new bit of useless information…

But back to The Apprentice theme before I lose the plot entirely (and none of us wants to do that, do we?).  I asked my fellow Write Romantics this question:

If you could be apprenticed to a well-known writer, have access to their innermost thought processes while they write and have them mentor your own novel, who would you choose? (Time machines permitted)  And what would you hope to learn from them? 

The Write Romantics were spoiled for choice, as you’ll see.

LYNNE:

I’d love to be apprenticed, Write Romantics excluded, to Jojo Moyes. I loved ‘Me Before You,’ and am now totally loving ‘The Peacock Emporium,’ recommended by Deirdre. Her stories are so good, yet what I really love is her emotional descriptions. You really feel like you are there with the characters, learning first hand what they’re seeing and thinking. I love tales that are rich in emotion and these you just can’t beat!

HELEN P:

It would have to be my hero, the amazing Mr Stephen King. I would love to see how he plots his books, how he comes up with his ideas, where he stores them but most of all I would love to sit behind the desk that he writes at and just soak up the vibes. It would be even better to have his personal input and advice into a story I was writing. The only thing is I fear that if I ever did get to meet him I wouldn’t be able to speak because I’d be so in awe of him or I talk a load of absolute rubbish and bore him to death. I would hope to learn just how to keep on going and producing book after book which was a best seller around the world so that I too could have a writing room just like him.

JULIE:

Can I only pick one? It would be between five people (all women) – Enid Blyton, Virginia Andrews (the original one who passed away), Catherine Cookson, Jill Mansell, Marian Keyes, so a time machine would be needed for 3 out of 5! All of them have had a lasting impression on me for getting me engrossed in books at different ages with the latter two being about my discovery of romantic comedy. For all, I’d love to explore where their ideas came from, how they develop their characters and how they plot out their books because all of them, in my opinion, have written page-turner after page-turner. What an amazing talent to have!

HELEN R:

I’d like to be mentored by Alexandra Sokoloff. She’s an award winning author of thrillers – not my genre and even the book jacket blurbs scare me, but I think she has such a wealth of knowledge about techniques in both film and novels. I attended the online RWAus conference in 2013 where Alexandra Sokoloff hosted a workshop and since then I have read and re-read her book “Writing Love” many times as it helps to plot a new story, prevent it from having a “saggy middle” and give readers what they want. She also advocates watching films to help us master storytelling techniques, and this works really well for me, I’d definitely recommend it.

ALEX:

I’m really glad I can have a time machine for this one because I want to go back to the Thirties and apprentice myself to Dorothy L. Sayers.  For me she is the real queen of Golden Age detective fiction and I’ve loved Lord Peter Wimsey since I was about 17.  Sayers is an amazing crafter of stories.  I’d love to learn the techniques of mystery writing, her knack of producing realistic dialogue and how she makes her characters so real and so complex.  From what I read about her I think she wouldn’t suffer fools or mince her words and so being her apprentice could be a bit daunting.  However, it also seems she had a fine sense of humour as shown by this quote:

“Lord Peter’s large income… I deliberately gave him… After all it cost me nothing and at the time I was particularly hard up and it gave me pleasure to spend his fortune for him. When I was dissatisfied with my single unfurnished room I took a luxurious flat for him in Piccadilly. When my cheap rug got a hole in it, I ordered him an Aubusson carpet. When I had no money to pay my bus fare I presented him with a Daimler double-six, upholstered in a style of sober magnificence, and when I felt dull I let him drive it. I can heartily recommend this inexpensive way of furnishing to all who are discontented with their incomes. It relieves the mind and does no harm to anybody.”

DEIRDRE:

I’d choose to spend my apprenticeship with Ian Rankin because although I’m not a great lover of crime fiction, I do admire his writing.  It never feels forced or over-written; he never rambles but makes every word count.  That’s the kind of writing I’m aiming for and hopefully something of that would rub off.  I saw a documentary in which Ian agonised over his plot and confessed he had no idea what came next in the book he was writing.  Heartening to note that even the famous ones can be plagued with self-doubt!  It would be fascinating to be with him at those moments and see how he gets around them.  Also I’d get to see Edinburgh which I understand is a beautiful city, and, from what I’ve gathered of Ian’s lifestyle, spend a lot of time in the pub!

JO:

This is an easy one for me.  It would definitely have to be Charles Dickens.  I’d want to learn how he created such memorable characters and wrote such a range of stories that could transcend generations and give quite moral messages, yet avoid being cheesy or overly sentimental.  If an apprenticeship with Dickens could give me a cat in hell’s chance of writing something that leaves a legacy as embedded in our culture as say A Christmas Carol or Oliver Twist, then it would be well worth risking particle displacement on a trip in a time machine for!

JACKIE:

I would quite like Jilly Cooper to mentor me because I know I'll never write literary novels so would be happy with learning how to have a page turning quality. I also think she's be a good laugh as wouldn't like someone who took it all too seriously (although I would love to write like Anita Shreve and have deep understanding of emotions).  Hopefully it would be gin time at four in the afternoon and I would roll home sozzled and happy. 

RACHAEL:

If I could take any writer, go back to any time I would chose two. Greedy I know, but there you go. Firstly I’d love to be an apprentice to Maeve Binchy. Each time I’ve picked up a book of hers, I’ve been hooked and that is what I’d love to learn from her. How to hook the reader and keep them hooked. Not only that, but how to make your story have such an impact that the reader can still ‘see it’ in their minds many years later. I have two favourite books of hers, Circle of Friends and Tara Road.

Once that was done, I zip back in time to sit with Jane Austen. Now that would be something. I’d just love to be with her as she wrote Pride and Prejudice, I’d love to know what she thought of the characters she was creating and did she ever believe it would be such an everlastingly popular story.

Well, it’s a bit of fun, isn’t it?  Perhaps you’ll find a moment to tell us where your dream apprenticeship would take you.  We’d love to know.

Deirdre

The Wednesday Wondering – What We’re Reading Right Now

When a writer is asked what advice they’d give to other writers, one of the most commonly cited gems is to read. A lot! As you’d probably expect, The Write Romantics are all avid readers although how we all find time to fit it in between family life, writing, running a farm, working, volunteering and the million and one other responsibilities we have between us is an absolute mystery!

Today’s Wednesday Wondering was posed by nosey me and is quite simply:
What are you reading at the moment? What drew you do that book?

Let’s find out what The Write Romantics have to say…

HELEN P:

I’m currently reading about ten different books but the one I’m trying to concentrate on and read is ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens. I’ve never read it and my writing group’s homework is to bring in a piece of seasonal writing and introduce it, so I thought it would be very apt. Plus I thought I’d best take a look at how one of the great master’s writes a ghost story 😉

DEIRDRE:

I’m reading The Hidden Cottage by Erica James. I didn’t set out to buy it but, armed with a load of lovely book tokens I won in a writing competition, I decided to break into them with a little mooch around Smith’s. First I picked up a book I’d had on my list for a while and as it was part of a buy-one-get-one-half price deal I began the search for another. The Hidden Cottage spoke to me straight away. I’m a sucker for a book title with the word ‘cottage’ in it, the cover is delightfully colourful and I’ve read many of Erica James’ books before so I kind of knew what I was getting. I’ve read about two thirds of it, and it does live up to its promise in that it’s a cosy read about family relationships, which is what the author excels in. I wouldn’t say I’m loving it as much as her previous one, The Real Katie Lavender, but the characters feel genuine and all have traits you can easily identify with. There is a tragedy in it, which I won’t give away here, but mainly it’s an easy, warm-hearted read and it’s perfect for reading by the fire when the rain’s hammering down outside.

RACHAEL:
At the moment I’m back in the reign of Henry VIII with a new release by Judith Arnopp. The Kiss of the Concubine is all about Anne Boleyn and is a time in history that has always fascinated me.

The reason I’m reading this book, is not just because it is written by a friend and neighbour but because, despite knowing Judith, I would have to read each and every book she writes. They are just so different. It’s not history through rose tinted glasses. It’s real and makes me wonder just what it would have really been like to live then.
The opening chapter is brilliant and drags you in straight away and is so different from anything else. It’s a must read!

http://www.juditharnopp.com/kissoftheconcubine.htm

ALEX:
I’m currently reading ‘Rumours’ by Freya North. I picked it up because I’ve read and enjoyed many of her previous books and while I’m recuperating I wanted something that’s not too taxing. I am enjoying it although it has some ‘interesting’ switches of POV which I find a bit annoying. Just as an aside, years ago when I worked in a bookshop in York I met Freya North. She came into the shop with the publisher’s rep. Her first book had not long been out and I had no idea who she was. I do remember that she was very polite and unassuming so I was a bit surprised when I later read her book and found out how many sex scenes were in it. Just shows that you really shouldn’t judge an author by what she looks like!”

LYNNE:
I’m one of those people who can’t just read one book at a time. I have to have a book with me all the time so there’s generally one wherever I happen to be. In the car I’ve got ‘The Children of Green Knowe.’ I know my childhood’s long gone, but I do enjoy children’s books now and again and this one is especially good. I visited the manor house in which it’s set, Hemingford Grey, the author Lucy Boston’s home. It was magical and one of the loveliest homes I’ve visited. I’m also reading ‘The Last Runaway,’ by Tracy Chevalier. This is excellent. I saw it as a recommended read from Richard and Judy and I liked the fact that it is set in America in a Quaker community. It has a lovely sense of atmosphere and a gripping storyline!

On my To Be Read pile isSusan Lewis’s ‘One Day At A Time.’ I love her work, she chooses some very emotional issues and I like that. On a completely different note I have Diana Holman-Hunt’s memoir, ‘My Grandmother’s and I.’ She was granddaughter to the great Pre-Raphaelite painter William Holman-Hunt. He painted my favourite painting of all time, ‘The Light of the World,’ which is beautiful and exactly what I think Jesus looks like!

That’s my favourite thing about books, there are so many and they’re all so different!

HELEN R:
I’m reading “Too Charming” by Kathryn Freeman. It’s utterly brilliant with one very sexy hero. I downloaded this onto my Kindle in response to an advert by her publisher, Choc Lit. I highly recommend it.

JAXX:
I’m reading Henriette Gyland’s book The Elephant Girl, which is a roller coaster of a book with mystery, interest and a lovely hero and heroine that you feel you know by the end of the book- a very satisfying read.

JO:
I am reading David Walliams’ Gangsta Granny. The reason is because I have had an idea for a Middle Grade book I’d like to write after I finish the current NaNo project and get it off to the NWS. I’ve read and loved a lot of Roald Dahl and I think Walliams is seen as a modern-day equivalent. I’m reading it to look at techniques, the language and vocab levels and the pitch of humour versus plot. I want to get an idea of whether my story idea has enough legs before I take it further and I’m loving reading something so different and being a kid again for a bit!

JULIE:
I’m reading “Beneath an Irish Sky” by Isabella Connor on my Kindle. I was drawn to his book because it’s a collaboration between two writers, Liv and Val, who we interviewed over the summer on our blog. The idea of a “joint” book sounded interesting, as well as the story itself. I’m really enjoying and find it refreshing to read from predominantly male POVs. Sadly, progress is very slow – not because the book isn’t a page-turner but simply because I have absolutely no time to read at the moment. I like to get really engrossed in a book and read large chunks in one sitting as I enjoy it more that way. I think therefore that I may just put the Kindle away until November is through and I’ve therefore finished NaNoWriMo which will hopefully give me a little more reading time. I have a Christmas book I want to delve into in December so I would like to finish Beneath an Irish Sky within the first week.

So, quite a mix of books and genres, old and new. Have you read any of the books we’re currently reading? Do you have any recommendations for us? What are you reading at the moment? Please join in and let us know.

Julie

The Wednesday Wondering – The One That Got Away!

Welcome to our 2nd posting of The Wednesday Wondering. Can we just start by saying thank you so much to everyone who joined in and commented on or responded to our 1st posting last week.

This week’s question was also posed by Write Romantic Julie:

What is the one published book that you wish you’d written and why (doesn’t matter if it’s a change of genre for you)? 

Ooh, tricky! What will the Write Romantics go for? Will it be their favourite childhood book? Will it be the one that banked millions? Will it be something that inspired them to become a writer? Or simply a story so delicious that they wished they’d thought of it. Let’s find out. I promised Alex I wouldn’t always post them in alphabetical order so she has the constant pressure of being 1st so here are our responses in a completely random order…

DEIRDRE:

When God was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman (Headline Review, 2011): It’s the story of childhood and growing up in the 60’s and 70s, following the narrator, Elly, through to her adult years.  It has the feel of a memoir about it and the relationships she draws between her unconventional family and her friends ring so true that I found myself constantly saying ‘Yes!’ as I read it.  It’s funny and sad and quirky and I so wish I had created this cast of oh-so-real characters.  As a debut novel it’s inspirational as well as an engrossing read.

 
JO:
Going to be fairly obvious and say Harry Potter. Not just because it would allow me to bathe in Champagne, sleep on a bed made from the down of long extinct dodo birds and turn up to the RNA conference in a chaffeur driven Bentley convertible, with George Clooney at the wheel, but also because my kids might actually rate me as cool!
 
ALEX:
I’d love to be able to write a big fantasy book. The kind set in another world full of heroes, villains, magic and monsters.  However, as I struggle to write about anywhere that I haven’t actually been to, I don’t think my brain is capable of creating an entire fantasy  universe. It feels hugely presumptuous to say this seeing as George R. R. Martin is such a brilliant writer but I would have loved to have written ‘A Game of Thrones’.
 
LORRAINE:
Charles Dickens. A Christmas Carol. It is one of my favourite novels. I love the way it takes you into the life of Ebezeezer Scrooge, we get to see all of his life, what it has been, and how only he has the power to change his own future. It is all about second chances. We also see the lives of those he deals with on a daily basis, and how he affects their lives, by the decisions that he makes. An amazing story, that I would have loved to pen.
 
JAXX:
All of them!
 
JULIE:
I’m going to really cheat here because I have three but for very different reasons and one of them is a huge cheat because it’s actually a series. 1. The Malory Towers series by Enid Blyton but, if I had to pick one, it would be Second Form at Malory Towers. I was bought the 1st one as a birthday present from a neighbour and begged my mum to buy me the rest as I was gripped. I loved the ‘nasty girl’ and how the relationships developed between the protagonist and her boarding school friends. 2. Flowers In The Attic by Virginia Andrews which is my favourite book. It made me cry and I could not stop reading it. It’s the first page-turner I ever read and the only book I’ve read more than once (think I’ve read it about 6 times). 3. Bridget Jones’ Diary. It put ‘chick lit’ on the map and opened it up to a whole new reading set. I remember laughing out loud so often and relating (like most women) to so many aspects of it. Well done, Helen Fielding; amazing work!
 
So, you’ve heard what some of The Write Romantics have to say. What would your answer be. We can’t wait to hear from you!