Sunday, 29 October 2017

Before NaNoWriMo

Don’t you just love a challenge? Well I suppose really it depends on the nature of the task in hand. If it’s physical violence you can count me out straight away. If it’s a crossword or a puzzle of some nature bring it on. But what if it’s a challenge that you want on the one hand to embrace and on the other to run away from, a very long way away from. Such for me is the nature of NaNoWriMo.

NoNoWriMo Shield
I'm loving the steaming
mug of coffee

For those who don’t know, this is an abbreviation for National Novel Writing Month. It happens in November and has done for several years now. The aim is to write the first draft of a novel. The target fifty thousand words. To save you doing the calculation I can tell you that equates with 1,666 words a day, every day. Take a day off and you have to make up the shortfall, though to prevent this happening it’s better if you can stack some extra words away in the first few days. Much easier than having a deficit and trying to catch up.

My first attempt at this challenge was in 2012 and I reached over thirty-seven thousand words before having to withdraw for personal reasons. I am happy to say that the book I began then went on to be published…eventually. There are many helpful pointers on the website so if you too like a challenge I’m throwing down the gauntlet. It focuses the mind and the feeling of achievement is well worth the effort involved.

If, like me, you write by the seat of your pants, with maybe just a few notes and pointers, then NaNoWriMo will suit you down to the ground. I have done some plotting but it isn’t detailed so perhaps I’ve got to the stage where I fall between two stools – neither plotter nor pantser but something somewhere between the two. There isn’t really time to refine the writing as you go though, as with my daily grind, I always read the previous day’s work before continuing. For one thing it takes you straight back into the plot and for another, well actually I can’t work without doing some editing as I go along.

If you are a plotter then I’ve left this post a bit late for you. However, it may be that you already have plans in place for your novel in which case go for it if you can. I only decided a week or so ago to participate again this year and I already had several commitments in my calendar for the coming month, but then it’s difficult to clear any month completely. I shall be scribbling furiously on my laptop – yeah, I know, doesn’t make sense – at every opportunity because falling behind is the one thing I really don’t want to do.

I sincerely hope that by 11.59pm on 30th November I will have reached my goal. That is my aim but even if I don’t achieve it I expect to have a large chunk to take forward that will eventually become my next novel. I’ll let you know how I get on.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Out of my comfort zone

A work in progress
We’ve been having our bedroom decorated this week and are thus sleeping in the spare room.
Nothing unusual about that, you might say, but after seven days I can’t wait to get back into my own bed. And then I realised it isn’t just the bed but the whole room (now in soothing tones of cream and mushroom). The bathroom is in a different place when I get up in the middle of the night. The window is on the wrong side of the room. So that all got me thinking. Are we always happy with where we write and does it have an effect on what we write?

We live in a traditional three-bedroomed house and some years ago the smallest of these was turned into a home office for me. I was SO excited. Bookcases lined the walls, a new desk assembled – not a posh one but perfectly serviceable. The printer was set up. I could look across the road into a field in times of reverie or when searching for inspiration. What could be better? 

Well, the temperature for a start. The room is north-east facing and has two outside walls. Even with the central heating on it never felt warm. With my back to the rest of the house, as it were, I felt cut off. This should have been a good thing as far as writing was concerned. No distractions, nothing to pull me out of my concentration. But it didn’t work. Not from the word go. Like my current experience in the spare room, I was out of my comfort zone. I felt a little sheepish when I told my husband that thank you very much but I would be returning to the hub of the home to work as before. Fortunately we hadn’t expended huge amounts on the transformation.

Writers often talk about their office or their garden shed or that place which is exclusively theirs. Some people dream about having their own space. But when it comes down to it we all have to go with whatever works for us. So I don't have white boards and pin boards and other such useful tools.

What I do have is a place where I feel at ease and can lose myself in the adventures, antics, activities, hopes and fears of my characters, all from the comfort of my armchair. My laptop sits on a cushioned tray. I have a table to right and left on which I stack the things I might need to refer to.

Do you have a dedicated office or writing space? Is it something you yearn for? Think twice before you take the plunge. Sometimes the things you most wish for are those you already have. I hope that by tomorrow night I will be sleeping in my own bed. But for now, as I write this piece, I am happily in my comfort zone. How about you?

Sunday, 20 August 2017

A Pocketful of Dreams

It would be untruthful to say I’ve always wanted to be a writer. The idea didn’t even occur to me until about fifteen years ago but, when it did, it took over my life and doesn’t look like it’s going to let go any time soon. I wrote about my journey on this blog a few months ago here but there have been a few developments so I’d like, if I may, to bring you up to date.

Escape to the Cotswolds was published two months ago and what a two months it has been! Like many of my writer friends, I would rather be creating a story and developing my characters than pushing myself forward on social media. However, there is no point in having a book published if nobody reads it. I haven’t yet found anyone who can tell me how much promotion is too much or too little. I organised a blog tour and people were kind enough either to feature me on their blog or to write a review of my book. Then there was Twitter. This was perhaps (then) the least appealing aspect of the whole thing to me. While never actually using the words ‘please buy my book’ it has nonetheless been necessary to present it in such a way that people could, if they chose, click on the link that gave them the opportunity to do so.

With the aid of I learned to create my own straps to enhance my tweets – things always look more appealing if they’re accompanied by a pretty picture. And it was/is fun! And I’ve learned to like Twitter – sort of. Here’s an example below. While I’m not proficient yet I have acquired another skill which I couldn’t have imagined even a few short months ago.

My hope is that I haven’t alienated my friends on Facebook with too much exposure there. Facebook is far more personal than Twitter. I’m a member of several forums where I like to chat to people about things completely unrelated to my writing.

So why have I called this piece A Pocketful of Dreams? Because I have recently sold a novella to DC Thomson’s The People’s Friend. This shorter book will appear in December as a Pocket Novel. It’s possibly my favourite book so far. Set in Regency times, it’s called The Ghost of Glendale. There’s a strong hint in the title!

One of my earlier books, Honey Bun, was first published as a Pocket Novel and it’s a wonderful outlet for shorter fiction. It’s now available on Amazon for any of you who prefer a book the size of which slips into, well, your pocket, or at least your handbag.

Dreams? My pockets are full of them. I hope yours are too.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Fifteen Days and Fourteen Nights

It’s two weeks since Escape to the Cotswolds was published, and what a two weeks it’s been.

The build-up was amazing enough with pre-sales going along nicely. The blog tour began three days prior to publication and I don’t think my feet have touched the ground since. But what about the dreaded P word. Promotion! My publishers, HQ Digital, provided me with some eye-catching shareables which certainly enhanced many of my posts and even made me want to read the book.

But promoting oneself isn’t something that comes naturally, either to me or, as I understand it, to most other writers. My biggest problem was where to draw the line. If you don’t advertise yourself then no-one will know you are there. That’s undeniable. But is there also a danger of over-promotion? Being irritating? Prompting people to think ‘Oh no, not again’! If this has happened to you I apologise here and now, and wholeheartedly, if I have been guilty of over-egging it.  

So what have I learnt? Amazingly that I like Twitter! I’ve always enjoyed Facebook. To me it’s a friendly place where I’ve met many people, writers and others, and it’s truly a sociable medium. Members of groups I belong to who have nothing to do with the writing world have been incredibly supportive. Some have even bought my book! But I’ve struggled for some time with Twitter, knowing that my knowledge wasn’t sufficient to take full advantage of its possibilities. I still have much to learn but I’m getting better, finding it easier to negotiate my way around.

Yesterday I ran a campaign on Twitter. Well, it felt like a campaign. There was the opportunity to win a free copy of Escape to the Cotswolds – all you had to do was retweet to be in with a chance. Not having participated in anything like this before I was staggered at the response. I carefully noted and cut up the names of all who hit the RT option and put them in…a shoe box. Here’s me picking out the winner.

For me this blog post is an opportunity to say a huge thank you to all those bloggers, reviewers, Facebook pals, Twitter supporters and anyone else who has taken the time and the interest to become involved.

See you next time.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Escape to the Cotswolds

If you read my last blog post you will know that I came to writing by accident. I had a huge amount to learn. I still have a lot to learn. Like most things in life, if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing properly. Or as properly as one can.

My first published
short story
Yes, it's Norwegian

After selling more than thirty short stories to women’s magazines worldwide I turned my hand to novels and soon discovered it’s a completely different discipline. Like many writers my first attempt ended up in the bottom drawer, or at least hidden carefully away on my laptop. Undeterred – writing friends had told me this was par for the course – I persevered. I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers Scheme which I cannot recommend too highly and my next book was taken up that same year and published in the summer three years ago. Come to that, so was the one after that, this time a pocket novel with The People’s Friend. So, with two books published within seven weeks of each other, I set to with a will.

It doesn’t do to become complacent in this industry. I have written four books in the time between then and now, diversifying, trying different things. I ventured from contemporary women’s fiction into the realm of historical Regency romance. And what fun I had. An almost lifelong fan of Georgette Heyer (I didn’t read her books as a child) I just had to have a go at writing one myself. And then another. One full length, one novella. I have yet to find a home for them but my next contemporary romance was taken up two weeks after submission to HQ HarperCollins and will be published on 21st June.

On 20th May HQ revealed the beautiful cover of Escape to the Cotswolds. Since then I have been answering questionnaires sent by people who have kindly agreed to host me on their blog. Others will be posting reviews of my book - my fingers are crossed so tightly it hurts. I have been tweeting and posting on Facebook using some of the lovely shareables sent to me by my publishers. Here’s one of them. So pretty. And now publication day is fast approaching. You can almost feel the excitement in my home. But there’s a lot to be acknowledged elsewhere as well.

This is not a journey I’ve made alone. With beta readers to point out my many glaring errors and a creative writing school (The Write Place) to make sure I made as few mistakes as possible - inevitably there are some – I seem to have come out the other side relatively unscathed. I am SO looking forward to publication day. I’m also preparing to write my next book, another contemporary for which an outline and chapter breakdown have already been done, sort of. No time to sit on my laurels BUT I’m so looking forward to 21st June. Do join me if you can.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

The Accidental Writer

I was delighted to be invited to give a talk to a local group last week. It wasn’t a writers’ group and for me that made it all the more enjoyable. As far as I am aware only one of the twenty-two had attempted creative writing but they were really interested and asked me lots of questions. What made it so nice for me was the chance to share my journey from where I began as ‘The Accidental Writer’  to publication. It’s so easy to lose sight of the overall picture when focused on what’s happening in the now. So what did I tell these lovely ladies?

Can't wait to add
Escape to the Cotswolds
In the beginning…It was a time when I was looking for a new challenge. The ten week creative writing course I enrolled in might have been chosen from the list with a pin. In fact, though I don’t remember, that could easily be what happened. It turned my life around. It’s a worse addiction than wine or chocolate. It seemed I couldn’t leave it alone, and I still can't.  For a while I belonged to a writing group which was incredibly enjoyable but I had ambition to improve so I joined a creative writing school, the Write Place in Dartford, which I still attend. In time I had a short story accepted by a magazine in Norway. You can imagine how excited I was. In the same year another of my stories was accepted by The People’s Friend. And for a while this was my writing life. But later, after more than thirty published short stories, I wanted to move on. It was time to attempt a novel. 

Success came with the publication of two books within seven weeks of each other and the high was such that I can’t even begin to describe how I felt. Now I am awaiting the forthcoming publication of my third  on 21st June. Escape to the Cotswolds is a contemporary romance in a beautiful setting. As yet I don’t have a cover photo or a link to Amazon. Not long to go now though. As soon as my lovely editor, Charlotte Mursell, at HQ Digital lets me know, I will be sharing with you. You can be sure of that! What I can give you now is a little taster:

Taking her courage in both hands, Holly leaves London and her cheating husband to start anew in the peaceful Cotswold village of Cuffingham. A talented artist, she opens a small gallery and life seems good except for the intrusion on her peace of the local vet, Adam Whitney. Gorgeous or what! And then she adopts an adorable Bordie Collie puppy. Will Tubs bring them together or will their inauspicious start only serve to drive them further apart?

Not a Border Collie
but a much loved/much missed companion

Well, I love dogs and I love The Cotswolds and as I wrote him I fell in love with Adam as well, but don't tell Holly or my husband. Will Holly and Adam ever get together? I leave it to you to guess. In the meantime, as I wait for further news, I hope you’ll be at my side as events unfold. Watch this space!

Monday, 1 May 2017

Author Interview: Elaine Everest

My guest today is Elaine Everest. With publication of her new saga, The Butlins Girls, around the corner, I just had to ask her a few questions.

Thank you so much for welcoming me to your blog, Natalie. I can’t wait for Thursday and publication day.

You join me just days before publication of The Butlins Girls. Readers of your Sunday Times bestseller, The Woolworths Girls, will be eagerly awaiting another dose of nostalgia. For some it may be a trip down memory lane, but you aren’t old enough to have lived in the period you write about, yet your research and attention to detail are impeccable. How do you do it?
I was fortunate to have been born in the fifties when times hadn’t changed that much. I lived in a town which not only had a lot of history but also still has many people who love to talk about ‘the good old days’. My family loved to chat about what happened (and when) so I grew up listening to stories of the war years. The next step was to read about those times in books – who doesn’t love reading a book?

Did you pick the era or did it choose you? In spite of the hardship of those post-war years, it seems a much kinder and gentler age than the one we live in now.
Like many writers I’ve dabbled with other genres. I have a modern romcom collecting dust but although never picked up by a publisher it did help me become shortlisted in The Harry Bowling Prize. I’d been a fan of Harry’s for years as he wrote about the area where my Aunt Doll and Uncle Geoff had their pub and his writing resonated with me. Somewhere inside me there has always been that interest in times gone by. So, to answer your question I’d say that history and sagas picked me.

Can your readers look forward to more of the same? What else do you have in the pipeline?
I’m thrilled to say that readers loved The Woolworths Girls so much I’ll be returning to Woolies later this year. Old friends and new faces - it was a joy to write. Then in 2018…

You allude to your family’s history in the world of the travelling fairground. What stories you must have to tell. Perhaps a future novel?
My love of the fairground is a link to my maternal family and my mum who died when I was seventeen. She told us of the hard life she had as a child and the bullying because she was so different to fellow school children – that’s when she got to attend school due to travelling with the fair. She made us value education and aimed to having good jobs once we had our exams. The fair closed down after WW2 so I never experienced the fun of the fair. My granddad did still own the ground and some of the old-fashioned caravans, which I remember fondly. Brightly polished lamps, china, a fierce parrot that hated kids! It’s all there locked in my memory ready to use in stories. Oh, and the family link to Billy Butlin…

In addition to writing novels, short stories and articles, you also run a creative writing school The Write Place in Dartford, as well as being in charge of social media for the Romantic Novelists’ Association. How do you fit it all in?
It’s a case of making sure I do fit it all in and all part of being a full time writer. I often tell new writers that if they wish to earn a living and be thought of seriously as a writer they need to do more than write a novel. We have to learn our craft and that can take years. Short stories help us create a piece of fiction with a beginning a middle and an end – just like a novel but not quite as long. I love the time I spent writing more short fiction. I could think of an idea and write it in one day. My record from having an idea to making a sale is 36 hours. Feature writing pays well and authors have to pay the mortgage and eat! Both fiction and features helped me build relationships with editors whilst learning the craft of writing novels. Teaching classes for Kent Adult Education Services in Dartford and Gravesend came about after I won the BBC Radio Kent short Story Writer of the Year competition in 2003 and was invited to run a few classes. I later moved on to run my own classes and workshops as I preferred to make my own decisions. Being part of the RNA committee is an honour as I get to meet so many authors and also watch as new writers progress with their career – they have great parties too!

Many of your readers will know of your love of and association with the dog world. In the past you’ve written non-fiction books on the subject. Is there any genre, fiction or non-fiction, you would like to turn your hand to in the future?
I could talk for hours about dogs and the show world! I’m honoured to have been part of a world where people breed sound healthy dogs and do their best to promote new owners. I’ve sat on a few breed committees and done my bit to keep the positive side of our breeds alive. Even though I’m not quite as active in the show world as I used to be I’m still called upon to broadcast about dogs – usually when something nasty happens. It is down to us to wave the flag for responsible breeding which means closing down puppy farms and not promoting designer dogs.

As a personal friend, I know how wholeheartedly you throw yourself into everything you do. Outside of the writing world, is there an unfulfilled ambition?
Are you giving me three wishes? To be honest I’m living the dream. I have a fabulous literary agent in Caroline Sheldon and I’m with a wonderful publisher, Pan Macmillan. So, outside of the writing world… Hmm I love Cornwall and would really like to move there but it would have to be a very large house so I can run workshops and writing retreats. I can be found most days on Rightmove dreaming over houses in the two million pound bracket. I suppose I’d better write faster!

Twitter: @elaineeverest

Thank you for such interesting questions. Xx

I’m delighted, as I’m sure your readers will be, to hear that Woolies will be returning later in the year. In the meantime, very best wishes for The Butlins Girls. I may just have to book a holiday