Welcome to the World, Leo – WIPpet Special

Leo instigram close upIt’s been more than four months since I last wrote a post for this blog. It seems like a lifetime ago because on the 27th February Nik and I welcomed our beautiful baby boy, Leonidas (Leo for short), into the world. If someone had told me this time last year that in less than twelve months we’d have our long-awaited baby I wouldn’t have believed them. But miracles do happen and our little miracle is having a cuddle with me at the moment.

Leo will be 16 weeks-old tomorrow and the time seems to have flown by. The last four months have been hard work but absolutely magical at the same time. I lost count (by about day two) of how many dirty nappies I’ve changed and I spend most of my time feeding him, but it’s an absolute joy after wanting to be able to do these things for so long. What’s even more exciting is how interactive he now is and how interested he is in us and the world around him. And as for those smiles… just lush.

Car seat smiles instigram

So, my blog has been abandoned for quite a while and I won’t be posting regularly for the foreseeable future (although hopefully I will manage to do occasional posts including another one this week after being invited to take part in Debbie Young’s The Writing Retreat Blog Hop). Instead I want to spend what time I have available (usually when feeding Leo) to continue writing book two of The Time-Shift Trilogy. Which, as today happens to be Wednesday, brings me neatly on to today’s WIPet – admittedly a short extract but it is new stuff from the middle of book two. My WIPpet maths is simple: 1+8 = 9 sentences for the 18th June. This snippet sees Maisie in 1940s London contemplating time-shifting and the adventure she’s had so far.

The four of us fell silent. I scratched the groves of the wooden table with my fingernail. This time-shifting was getting way too complicated. As soon as we’d found one person, someone else would go missing. Wherever we’d been since time-shifting from Danny’s room we’d managed to put other people in danger and it was all my fault. We’d been chased in ancient Rome, nearly caught by Hunters in 1481 and attacked in Roman Chedworth. My heart skipped a beat. “We’re not even safe here. I mean, if Hunters managed to track me and Danny down in Rome and in 1481 Towcester, then they’re going to find us here too.”

By the way it’s good to be back and joining in with WIPpet Wednesday again. I’ve missed you guys. A big thanks as always to K L Schwengel for hosting. If you fancy reading or joining in with the WIPpeteers then click here.

I’ll get round to reading everyone’s WIPpet posts at some point today but that’ll have to be in-between Leo and I heading off to Bristol Zoo on this beautiful sunny morning for a picnic with a couple of friends and their babies. Have a great day everyone!

 

 

 

Writing a Novel in a Month – Yes Really

KindleWell no, actually. I had every intention of taking part in NaNoWriMo and writing 50,000 words of Time Shifters – A Long Way From Home in November, which would have meant having almost a first draft completed by yesterday. All I needed to do was write 1,675 words every day between the 1st and the 30th November and ta da! 50,000 words would have miraculously appeared. Easy right? Well, for the first five days it was – I nailed my daily quota of 1,675 words and saw my word count grow on my NaNo stats page. And then on day six, other stuff took over.

There was cleaning and sorting in our house to be done whilst both Nik and I were off; appointments to go to and friends to see (despite the fact that I’d tried to keep November as free as possible it didn’t work out that way). The other – and probably main issue – was not having a detailed enough plot written out before starting NaNo to enable me to keep the flow of writing going. Despite this being the second book of a trilogy and already knowing the characters, plus having an idea of what would happen next, I’d only really plotted the beginning of the novel. I usually write like this and just have a vague idea of certain scenes and where the story is going to go but for NaNo this approach certainly slowed the word count progress down.

My total word count in November was a not-too-shabby (in my mind anyway) 20,117 words. Okay, it’s a good way off 50,000 words but I have managed to kick-start book two, discovered new characters I wasn’t expecting, and am pretty much one-third of the way through the book. Not bad really for one month’s writing. If I carry on like this I could have a first draft written by the end of January. (Watch this space but please don’t hold your breath…)

Taking part in NaNo has also made me aware of the way in which I write. Usually when I write something whether it’s a paragraph, a whole chapter or a couple of thousand words in one go, the next day I’ll go back to it, read through and edit it before writing anything new. With NaNo that way of working isn’t really possible, you just have to keep writing. In many ways that was quite refreshing to lock away the editor in me and simply keep putting words down. Even if they’re the wrong words and will need to be edited at some point in the future, what taking part in NaNo has successfully achieved is the sense of a story and in which direction book two will go in – even if it is unbelievably rough.

Whether you took part in NaNo or not I hope you had a productive writing month.

Exciting Non-Writing Related News to Announce!

SleepsuitsMany of you who follow my blog already know my happy news but I thought I would officially announce that Nik and I are expecting a baby in February! It’s taken just over four years to get to this point and there’s been a lot of disappointment and heartache along the way but at last we can look forward to the future and the arrival of a little son or daughter in four months time! We had the 20 week anomaly scan yesterday which showed one very lively baby who just wouldn’t stay still for the lady doing the scan. Everything looked normal – heart, lungs, brain and spine plus all arms, legs, fingers and toes were accounted for. To say we were relieved is an understatement. Now all we need to do is get cracking finishing decorating our bedroom, turning our spare room into a nursery and generally sorting the house out. Oh, and buying stuff of course. We’d resisted buying anything as we wanted to make sure everything was okay first but yesterday I bought three very cute sleepsuits (see the photo).

I say the news is not writing related but in many ways it is. I now have a very real deadline to get things done, not least of which is to finish Time Shifters in preparation for publishing it in January (there will be no hope if I leave it until after the baby’s born). To launch Time Shifters will be a massive achievement, particularly as that will mean I’ll have published two novels in less than a year. Not bad going (and about time) considering I started writing The Butterfly Storm in 2004 and Time Shifters in 2008.

On top of that I have grand plans to start not one but two new novels. I’ve already made a start on Time Shifters – A Long Way From Home and plan to take part in NaNoWriMo next month to see just how much I can get written. I also want to get stuck into a new contemporary women’s fiction novel, The House of Stone. I’ve got a rough synopsis and just need to start putting words down. As for what happens writing-wise once our little one makes an appearance, who knows, (but I imagine not a lot for a fair few months!) so I want to get as much done as possible before then.

For a year that didn’t start off well 2013 has turned out to be incredible in more ways than one, and as for 2014, well that promises to be even more exciting.

Elaine Jeremiah Guest Post – How I Became a Writer

Elaine JeremiahI’m absolutely delighted to welcome my friend Elaine Jeremiah on to my blog today as part of her blog tour to promote her debut novel, The Inheritance, which launches today. Elaine has written an insightful guest post (the first on my blog I’m pleased to announce) about her journey from wannabe writer to published author and all that’s gone on in-between. So without further ado I’ll hand you over to Elaine.

How I Became a Writer

Although I’ve always enjoyed writing stories, I didn’t always want to be a writer. In fact when I was about eleven I wanted to be an actress and I would fantasise about winning the Oscar for best actress! But it didn’t quite turn out that way. I kept on writing but the acting fell by the wayside.

I come from a family that loves telling stories. When I was little my mother would tell me stories of her own childhood that began ‘when I was a little girl’. I used to listen avidly to her tales of life with her two older brothers and the scrapes they’d get into. So it was natural for me to start telling stories of my own. Travelling with our parents through France, me and my younger brother and sister would get bored, spending long hours cramped in the car. So I’d make up stories to tell them. Some of them were quite outrageous, like ‘heroic’ dogs that would make pesky cats go away or even die by planting itching powder on them without them knowing!TheInheritance

I began to write stories too, many of them as part of creative writing exercises at school. I wrote a story about a girl who’s subjected to racist bullying at school; another about a girl trying to cope during the Blitz and one about a girl whose mother is a prostitute. Quite serious stuff I guess, but I was constantly trying to experiment with my writing.

As I got older I had to focus on exams and essay writing as I did my GCSEs, A levels and my degree. For years I did so little work on my creative writing it almost dried up. Once I’d graduated from university though, I had time to focus on it again. I felt liberated now that I could write what I wanted with no constraints. A few years ago I completed my first novel, aimed at teenage girls. I sent it off to a few agents but it was rejected.

Discouraged, I decided I’d do something completely different and began a fantasy story for older children. It went well for a while and I used it to apply for an MA in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa University. I had an interview for it but unfortunately I wasn’t successful and I ran out of steam with writing the story. Different people had suggested I change different things and it all got too confusing.

I felt a bit down about my writing and unsure what to do next. My husband suggested that I put the story to one side and do something completely different. I wrote a few short stories which really invigorated my writing and I started to think again about writing a longer story, maybe a novel. I was searching for inspiration and then I thought why not take ‘The Prodigal Son’, one of the parables Jesus tells in the Bible, and update it to modern day England with two sisters as the main protagonists.

And it went from there. I’ve finished The Inheritance and I’ve published it. It’s available to buy now. My journey as a writer hasn’t been entirely straightforward. But I’ve got to the point where I have the opportunity to get my writing out there for people to read through the wonders of self-publishing and that is a truly wonderful feeling.

*       *       *

I know how long and difficult the journey can be from writing the first word of a novel to being confident enough to publish it and make it available to the world. With that in mind I hope you’ll join me in congratulating Elaine on her accomplishment and more importantly head on over to amazon to buy The Inheritance! Not only will you be supporting an indie author at the start of her publishing career but you’ll get to enjoy an excellent story too.

The Inheritance is available on amazon.com and amazon.co.uk. Elaine is celebrating her launch day over on her blog today so do please drop by and say hello to her if you have the time. She can also be found on Goodreads and twitter @ElaineJeremiah.

Massive congratulations Elaine! Here’s to the success of The Inheritance!

The Butterfly Storm Blog Tour 2013

The next two weeks are going to be all about The Butterfly Storm on my blog, although I’ll try and throw something else into the mix so you don’t get fed up of Sophie and Alekos, Leila and Despina and their exploits in Greece and north Norfolk.

Not only will I be blogging about The Butterfly Storm but some other lovely and very generous writers, authors and bloggers will be hosting me on their own blogs either through guest posts or interviews, so if you’d like to follow my blog tour and support both myself and the fabulous hosts then here’s where I’ll be stopping off at:

  • Friday 14th June: The tour kicks off with a guest post on the very talented and successful Joanne Phillips’ blog. She’s the author of bestsellers Can’t Live Without and The Family Trap.
  • Sunday 16th June: Review of The Butterfly Storm on Maryann Miller’s, It’s Not All Gravy blog.
  • Monday 17th June: Interview with fellow WIPpeteer the lovely Alana Terry, author of The Beloved Daughter and What, No Sushi?
  • Wednesday 19th June: A guest post featuring a conversation between myself and my main character, Sophie Keech, on It’s Not All Gravy.
  • Friday 21st June: A guest post on chick-lit novelist Laurey Buckland’s blog.
  • Monday 24th June: Interview with my friend and talented writer Elaine Jeremiah.
  • Tuesday 25th June: Guest post on the very lovely Raewyn Hewitt’s blog.
  • Wednesday 26th June: I’ll be visiting Jade Reyner, recently published author of Twelve Days – The Beginning.
  • Thursday 27th June: Guest Post ‘In It For the Long Haul’ on author of It Started With A Click, Estelle Wilkinson’s blog.
  • Friday 28th June: Interview with Stacie Theis on her fabulous blog, Beach Bound Books.

I hope you will join me on my blog tour as I cross the pond and visit Alana Terry, Maryann Miller and Stacie Theis of Beach Bound Books in the US; stick around in the UK with Joanne Phillips, Laurey Buckland, Elaine Jeremiah, Jade Reyner and Estelle Wilkinson; and head all the way down under to visit Raewyn Hewitt in New Zealand. Also, in July I hope to be doing a Q&A over on Off The Shelf Book Promotions with the lovely Debbie Young, author of Sell Your Books! and on the 23rd July check out a review of The Butterfly Storm on Chick Lit Plus.

In the meantime I need to stop blogging and tweeting for an hour or so to go take Frodo for a walk and grab some lunch!

Inspired by Peace and Quiet – Thursday’s Children

Thursday’s Children – A weekly blog hop where writers come together to talk about whatever inspires them.

This is a very quick Thursday’s Children post today as I’m swamped with a long list of things to do in preparation for the launch of my novel, The Butterfly Storm next Wednesday 12th. Six days to go. So much to write. And there have been so many other things going on that have taken up my time and concentration. Sometimes it can all get overwhelming but as author Joanne Phillips pointed out in a recent post you just have to pick one thing and do it. Wise words indeed.

So actually, when everything gets a bit too much whether that’s to do with writing or life in general, instead of fighting it just take some time out. Even five minutes to reflect can help put everything in perspective and inspire you to tackle your tasks with renewed vigor, whether that’s editing a blog post or starting a new novel. I wrote in a previous post that my ‘thinking’ time is when I’m out walking the dog. Despite my long to do list I took the time to take Frodo for a walk this morning and, apart from the obvious benefits of fresh air and exercise, it was just so lovely to do nothing except stroll in the sunshine, listen to birds singing and the sigh of the wind in the trees. Oh, and sneeze because I have really bad hayfever at the moment. See, it was almost perfect. That ‘me’ time today wasn’t to think about The Butterfly Storm or my new WIP or what’s going on in my life right this moment, but to clear my head of clutter before coming back to my desk and cracking on with writing.

Hopefully by the end of today I’ll have ticked a good few things off my to do list. Now that will be inspiring.

If you find yourself with 5 minutes to spare next Wednesday 12th then come and join me on my blog for the launch of my debut novel, The Butterfly Storm. I’d love to see you!

Inspire and be inspired by clicking on this linky and joining in with the Thursday’s Children blog hop. Big thanks go to hosts Rhiann Wynn-Nolet and Kristina Perez.

Blog Awards Special and ROW80 Update

I’ve been given three blog awards in the last week so I thought it was about time I said thank you to the lovely bloggers who nominated me for the awards and then pass on the love.

Firstly a big thank you to my friend Elaine Jeremiah who gave me the Seed of Light award on Wednesday. As you can see it’s a very lovely looking award and the rules for accepting it are simple. If you receive this award, simply pass it on to another blogger who inspires you through the beauty of their words/images as well as any blog which brings joyful awareness to nature and our connection to each other.

I’d like to pass this Seed of Light award to Raewyn Hewitt and Alana Terry for their inspiring posts and their wonderful way with words.

 

Yesterday both ReGi McClain and Emily Witt nominated me for the Wonderful Team Member Award. The rules of this award are as follows:

  1. Display the logo.
  2. Nominate 14 readers you appreciate.
  3. Announce the nominees, either all at once or over seven days.

 

Emily also very kindly nominated me for the Shine On Award. For this award I need to tell you seven facts about myself but as it’s Sunday and I really should be doing a ROW80 update as I missed last Sunday’s check in, I thought I’d use my seven facts to go through how I’ve been doing with my ROW80 goals.

  1. I have spent very little time working on my new WIP, The House of Stone, and definitely not the 30 minutes a day I had set myself at the beginning of April.
  2. I have, however, decided on the name for my main character… Poppy Stone.
  3. The cover for The Butterfly Storm is finished and I revealed it two weeks ago.
  4. I have the beginnings of a blog tour sorted for when The Butterfly Storm is launched on the 12th June, kicking off with a visit to Joanne Phillips’ fabulous blog on the 14th June.
  5. I’ve been busy planning launch day for The Butterfly Storm and deciding on giveaways and how to celebrate the novel being published after nine long years!
  6. I have finally joined Pinterest and Goodreads, both of which will hopefully be good ways of promoting The Butterfly Storm.
  7. I’m well into Alana Terry’s beautifully written novel, The Beloved Daughter and I’m loving it. I also interviewed her earlier on in the week so if you fancy finding out more about what she’s written and currently working on you can read it here.

So, down to business – I’m going to nominate the following five people for both the Wonderful Team Member Award and the Shine On Award, simply because they’re 1) wonderful, 2) talented and 3) supportive:

I will announce the rest of my nominations for the Wonderful Team Member Award in my WIPpet Wednesday and Thursday’s Children posts.

Phew! That’s a lot of nominations and probably a lot of duplications as there are a huge amount of awards doing the rounds at the moment. Everyone I’ve nominated please don’t feel obliged to accept the awards – I just wanted to pass them on to fellow bloggers and writers who I’ve found to be both lovely and supportive and whose own blogs I very much enjoy reading.


The Versatile Blogger Award – Anniversary Special

On Wednesday the very talented Emily Witt of A Keyboard and an Open Mind awarded me The Versatile Blogger Award. So now it’s my turn to tell you a few things about myself and then pass on the award to seven deserving bloggers.

Today is mine and Nik’s 5th Wedding Anniversary, so in celebration I thought instead of telling you seven facts about myself I would share seven facts related to our anniversary.

 

  1. Nik and I met over 13 years ago when we worked together in a multiplex cinema in Bristol. We got together at the staff Christmas party on the 12.12.00 and we prefer to celebrate that anniversary in December rather than our actual Wedding Anniversary.

    The Proposal

  2. Nik proposed after a private dinner on a moonlit beach on Makunudu Island in the Maldives on the 10.05.07 and we got married exactly a year later in Greece.
  3. On the morning of our wedding, despite the best laid plans, we didn’t actually know where we would be getting married – yes really. But it all turned out fine, we managed to tie-the-knot and then had a fantastic reception with lots of food and Greek dancing.
  4. We had two honeymoons (greedy I know) – one was just a few days after our wedding when we went to Santorini and the other one was nine months later when we were lucky enough to spend two incredible weeks in Tanzania and Zanzibar.

    African Honeymoon

  5. On a day out to St Fagans: National History Museum a few years ago, I got accosted by a poet who was being filmed for a local TV programme about Valentine’s Day. She asked if she could write a poem about us, I said yes and to Nik’s dismay horror we ended up being filmed while she asked Nik what he loved about me the most before writing a poem there and then and reading it back to us – cue much oohing and aahing and appropriate looks of love from us both. He said my eyes by the way.
  6. Our 12th anniversary – you know the December one that we celebrate – fell on the 12.12.12.
  7. This evening, as befits a couple who met while working at Warner Village Cinema, we’re going to go and watch Star Trek Into Darkness in the Director’s Lounge of our local cinema (think big, comfy seats, a private bar and snacks such as nachos and chicken wings to eat while watching the film). Happy days.

Now, on to the important bit – here are seven bloggers worthy of an award entitled versatile (there are loads more bloggers that I could have chosen but Emily had already nominated them):

The rules of The Versatile Blogger are simple:

  1. Thank and link to the person who gave you the award.
  2. Tell seven facts about yourself.
  3. Pass it on to seven other bloggers.
  4. Link to specific posts on their blogs to they’ll be notified by pingback.

 

Woodsmoke – Thursday’s Children

Thursday’s Children – A weekly blog hop where writers come together to talk about whatever inspires them.

Walking beneath the gatehouse at Ashton Court the other morning and smelling woodsmoke immediately conjured up images of days gone by, of draughty castles with a fire blazing in the great hall, of cosy 18th century cottages and sprawling Elizabethan mansion houses. There’s a place in south Wales near Cardiff called St Fagans: National History Museum, a place where dozens of historic buildings from all over Wales have been re-erected in beautiful parkland, and that smell of woodsmoke on Tuesday morning took me right back there, to a cold day in winter warming ourselves up by the roaring fires in the cottages that were permeated with the delicious smell of woodsmoke.

The senses play a huge part in writing fiction and bringing scenes and places to life. I read a blog post yesterday on The Story of Ink and Papyrus‘ blog, which included an extract of her novel that made my nose wrinkle at the thought of the stink of rotting fish and human waste. Sometimes a simple description is enough because as readers we know what coconut, cigarette smoke, car fumes, fresh bread, or indeed rotting fish smells like (or at the very least we can imagine how disgusting rotting fish smells).

Just like listening to a piece of music can take us back to a certain time in our lives, certain smells can remind us of places we’ve been to or experiences we’ve had. I love the smell of woodsmoke – it’s an evocative and somehow comforting smell that not only makes me think of the past and St Fagans but it also reminds me of Christmas at my grandparents farmhouse in Norfolk where Grandma would go downstairs early in the morning to clean and reset the fire and by the afternoon the living room would be filled with warmth from the glow of the open fire and the whole family would be curled up on the sofa and armchairs watching TV or playing a game.

I use smells quite often in my fiction: honeysuckle framing a doorway; the taste of salt in the air; damp soil after rain; and the richness of roasting lamb being released from the oven. In fact the smell of woodsmoke and horses features in the first chapter of my children’s novel, Time Shifters. My new WIP, which I’m giving the working title of The House of Stone, is one where I think the senses, smells included, will play an important role. I spent two weeks in Tanzania and Zanzibar a few years back and I vividly remember the assault on my senses from the heavy sticky heat, the feel of hot sand been my toes, the pungent smell of spices and the less appetising stench of fish guts sweating and old blood drying in the sun that made me gag when walking through the fish and meat market in Stone Town.

Do smells play an important part in your writing? Does a certain smell trigger a memory of a good or even bad time in your life?

Inspire and be inspired by clicking on this linky and joining in with the Thursday’s Children blog hop. Big thanks go to hosts Rhiann Wynn-Nolet and Kristina Perez.

Day 7 – ROW80 Update

Seven days into the ROW80 challenge and it’s been a productive week and I’ve pretty much met my targets. One thing I have learnt this week (in fact I’ve known this for a while now) is that I need to be more organised with my time. I need to write a list at the beginning of the week, maybe on a Sunday after posting this update, of my aims for the coming week and break it down with the things I need to do each day and then tick them off as I go along. So that’s what I’ll try over the next seven days and let you know how it works next Sunday. In the meantime this is what I’ve achieved this week:

The Butterfly Storm: Just over a week ago I emailed the Word doc of The Butterfly Storm off to my proofreader and I got it back on Friday with the suggested amendments. Over the next two weeks I now need to go through all those amendments, write all the blurb for the front of the book, format the novel for Kindle, convert it to PDF to send back to my proofreader by the 21st for her to do a final check.

New WIP: On Monday I had no idea what I was going to start writing next, all I knew was I wanted to write a follow up book in the same genre as The Butterfly Storm (contemporary women’s fiction), which I’m publishing in June. Because I’m only at the plotting stage 250 words a day doesn’t really work as a target, so I’m going to change the goal to spending 30 minutes a day working on the idea and when I get to the point of starting to write it, I’ll then change the goal to a manageable word count. Oh, and I should say I do now have an idea and the sketchy beginnings of a plot. All I will tell you at the moment is it’s going to be set in Tanzania and Zanzibar…

Reading: OK, I have to admit I haven’t yet finished reading Susan Buchanan’s Sign of the Times, the book I started on Monday but I have at the same time been beta reading The Inheritance, a soon-to-be-published novel by my writing friend Elaine Jeremiah. So really I can argue that I’ve met my target. The next book on my list to read is Joanne Phillips’ Can’t Live Without.

Got your own goals and want to take part in this second A Round of Words in 80 Days challenge then why not join in. Otherwise click here to find out what everyone else has been up to.