Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Happy New Year!

A huge and heart felt thank you from me for following my blog. I wish you all a fabulous and sparkley happy New Year... I pray that 2015 is as creative and productive as 2014 was. Enjoy!

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Merry Christmas to everyone!

Just a quick note to wish you all the Christmas you desire. Whether it be a crazy family filled one, an intimate quiet day, a party-all-day one or a cosy snuggled day with those you love - I hope all your dreams come true!

I have had a fabulous day so far, my hubby bought me a very special road sign which links to my current WIP... I absolutely love it. He's my hero, armed with a hammer and nails on Christmas Day, he's already hung it in my writing room. ❤️


Monday, 22 December 2014

Reading books for 2015

Many months ago I wrote about my rekindled love of reading. I've manage to read 27 novels during 2014 thanks to the Goodreads Reading Challenge, so my intention is to continue into 2015. Yesterday, accompanied with a large glass of vino, I took a leisurely hour to select 20 books from my little green bookcase - books that keep calling my name as they are long overdue to be read.

Below is my selection, not necessarily in order:

Choices for 2015...

I can't possibly predict the number of ebooks I'll read in 2015 so made sure I left plenty of reading room for the unexpected - but the first ebooks of the year will include:

A suitable young man - Anne L Harvey
It started at Sunset cottage - Bella Osborne
The olive branch - Jo Thomas
Anything and everything written by Helen Phifer - hopefully book number 4!

So here's to 2015, where I'm hoping to lose myself amongst the pages of these delights.


My Little Green Book Case... an old picture...
as now it has piles of books stacked
infront and on top!
.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Holiday, promotion and a plethora of bugs

It's official, I'm on holiday! Given my absence for two weeks you won't know just how good that feels. I've had a nightmare, quite literally. I wrote my last blog regards November being such a dream then bang! December serves me a plethora of bugs, colds and coughs.... the worst I've had in years. I stopped writing... for four days solid, that's how bad I was. To be fair I haven't completely recovered but I can write... a sure sign that I'm on the mend. The effect on 'December Daily' a pledge made with my friend Bella Osborne has been a immense turning it from a daily task to a game of weekend catch-up - definitely not what we'd pledged and shook hands on. 

Some good news, I secured myself a promotion at the day-job which alleviates uncertainties and stresses. All good news in my book.

You know me well enough to know I have plans, a tick list and a whole host of mini goals prepared for this holiday. Over the next seventeen days I hope to write, blog and tweet on a regular basis - so please take my hand and let's step into Christmas.    

Saturday, 6 December 2014

November 2014 - missing you already x

It is official November 2014 was the most productive, informative and pleasurable month in my writing career. And, just 6 days into December... I'm missing  him already.

My November started in Sneem, Ireland where I was completing a research trip so I can finish off my current project. We'd had four fabulous days chatting with the locals so I was truly sad to leave.

The 1st November also triggers my 'crazy gene' in relation to NaNoWriMo forcing me begin my opening chapters at the airport, whilst waiting to fly home.

By the 15th I was well on track to complete Nano ahead of the usual schedule so was pretty happy with myself. Then delight of all delights, I was invited to attend Alison May's writing day in Birmingham. I can honestly say, I had a huge light-bulb moment in relation to the psychology of writing. You'd think I'd have figured it out before having got my name plastered on a BSc Psychology (with honours) - but I hadn't. Anyway, the moment was this... when I'm talking or thinking about my work I always use the same phrase 'I'm writing a book' - that term will be repeated for nine months/a year. The thing is my brain gets sick of the same 'task' so begins to dwindle... which in turn effects how I think about the project. When the reality is 'I'm planning a book', 'I'm drafting a book', 'I'm doing major edits on my book....' you get the pictures I'm sure. I need to recognising the actual process which will help reassure my brain that we are moving through the stages and the finishing line is in sight. Sounds simple... but until that day I hadn't realised what I had kept doing. Now my little brain is happy and skippy knowing that one huge task 'I'm writing a book' has been cut into sizeable chunks. Based on this epiphany moment I even did homework for Ms May, seriously on a Sunday morning! As a visual learner... I have printed and laminated (you've got to love my teacher gene) a series of cards that clearly state which stage I'm in... woo hoo the correct card now hangs beside my desk as I work... just in case my brain forgets where we are and goes all dwindly again.

I also purchased a second hand wooden chair as my back ache was becoming unbearable... I don't think it's a coincidence that the selling household lived directly opposite a large old-fashioned pub. So hush... 'cause if you tell the Blue Boar I'll deny all knowledge... anyway, they can't have it back I've now painted it in Annie Sloane's Louis Blue!

So much and I'm only at 19th! This was a first for me 'The RNA Winter Party'. I had the cheek to ask the big boss of the day job if I could leave 25 minutes early. I took a gamble and it paid off with a resounding yes and a very generous signature. I promise: I shall repay you in day job loyalty terms for granting me the time. I could actually attend the party and be with my writing buddies.

We had a fabulous night, I was introduced to so many more wonderful writer bods and was able to catch up and hug many of my already known lovelies. As always at an RNA do - my gushy girl fan moment was with Jo Thomas... such a warm, lovely lady (if you haven't read The Oyster catcher yet, you must)... and bless my buddy Bella Osborne for her quick-thinking-fancy-pants-phone-snapping moment, I have it captured for ever. I voted Talli Roland as the nicest, most supportive, uber glamorous, well-dressed women gracing our Earth... thank you to whoever it was that gave her a helping hand on the path to publication inspiring her to follow suit and always, always support other writers... there's a lesson for us all.

I already know that I shall try to attend every London party because I had a wail of a time. From the pre-drinks in Waterstone Piccadilly through to the very slow late night train from Euston - I didn't stop laughing... which one hilarious moment with Bella Osborne, captured by the official camera gal at the party, had better have been deleted!!!

22nd November dawned: my NaNo was complete. I have managed to write 50,004 words in just 22 days - seriously, I was in shock. As I'd said to everyone that was following my progress the book is just flowing out of me... an usual experience but it did. My brain having been booked and psyched up for a 30 day stint told me I couldn't stop there, so we didn't... by 30th November I had managed 60,019 words! On validation NaNo's electronic system confirmed and awarded 60,105 words - I'm not going to quibble.

Every day in November was driven by my writing, it's no coincidence that I loved every minute of the month. This writing game is a funny pursuit but with  months like that I'll just keep plodding x

Sunday, 30 November 2014

30 November - the final day of NaNo 2014 - let's just see...

A year ago today I had to write 8,800 words in one day just to reach 50,448 words to complete NaNo 2013 - thankfully NaNo 2014 has been an entirely different experience. Last Saturday on day 22, I reached the 50,004 target :-) As you can see from my NaNo widget I have a added a little extra but today 30th November, the very last day, I need to go for it... purely for my own satisfaction I need to see if I can hit the next magic number. I have no idea where the plot will come from but I know I must write.

So, my starting word count is 53,414 words, let's crack on and see what happens by the end of today...

UPDATE: in four hours I have written 6691 words which took my total to a fabulous 60,019 words... woohoo!

I validated with the website, who generously to gave me a beautiful words count of 60,105 - done and dusted for this year folks... whose up for Nano 2015?

Saturday, 29 November 2014

A Hard Day's Write - Library of Birmingham - update

A brief note to mention an event 'A Hard Days Write' taking place today on the second floor of the  Library of Birmingham - a marathon writing session where participating writers (me!) will follow each other in writing a specific story. Like in a relay each writer will complete a set time and follow the work and style previously set by the other writers.

I'll give a full account of the day in a follow up later.

I plan to dedicate tomorrow to NaNoWriMo - I hit the 52,000 words then paused due to the day job but tomorrow I am going for it... let's see what I can achieve on the final day!

Enjoy!

Update:

Yesterday was a day of firsts. Firstly, I didn't write at 2pm as planned by the organisers but at midday, as one writer didn't show for their slot. I turned up early just to let them know I was on site and eager to write at 2pm.... within seconds I was seated and filling the midday gap!

If you're a regular follower you'll know that the genre I pay the least attention to is sci-fi. I have no feel for it, no understanding of the elements or minutia that relates to the genre. Boy how I chuckled, to myself, when I sat down to find... a sci-fi story started at 9am by the first writer. I'm not one to shy away from anything so off I went. I didn't have time to moan, sulk or think about the wonderful possibilities if it had been a romance... I simply started to type. Me writing sci-fi - now that was a first! I managed 800 words in the time given and yes, I took the story slightly off course (I had to introduce a tall, dark and handsome) but I retained the sci-fi element and left the next writer entering a sterile room decorated in stainless steel.... Lord knows where he took it after me.

Partway through my write, the organiser Iain Grant switched the projector leads; my typing was projected onto the ceiling in an instant - yep, a first for me in the Library of Birmingham. It seemed strange making spelling errors that everyone could see in an instant and yes, I nimbly changed them hoping nobody noticed.

A moment of delight was when I needed a male name for a new character - a young lad walked by so I cheekily asked 'what's your name?' I pointed to the ceiling and he watched as he 'Dylan' became the new character mentioned in conversation - also a first, hubby usually gets the job of quick fire input.

All in all, my time slot whizzed by, I was pleased that I participated, which again was a first for me, and would gladly participate in future. I don't know how the story ended, what the word count reached or whether 'Dylan' remained or disappeared but what I do know is that us writers need all the creative stimulation we can get; in any form, at anytime and in any location - yesterday ticked all the creative boxes for me.

I can only thank @IainMGrant and @HeideGoody for allowing me to participate in their event - cheers!

A Hard Day's Write: me busily writing Sci-Fi... a first!


Saturday, 22 November 2014

Nano Day 22 = 50,004 words complete!

There isn't much to say other than... I have surprised myself - woohoo!
So, I'm off to enjoy the champers and have a little read of my Jill Mansell book.


Monday, 17 November 2014

NaNo day 17 - woohoo!

As my NaNo word count widget depicts I'm currently at 42,454 - an amazing achievement for me. I can honestly say the words are simply flowing and I'm not about to stop anytime soon. I'm not even going to attempt to analyze for reasons why? I'm just going with it.

Last year on 23rd day my word total was 33,000 word count - which gives you a fair comparison regards my current progress.

I intend to continue until the 30th November so we'll see where I end up.

For now, I'll just keep plodding x




Saturday, 8 November 2014

NaNoWriMo meets OCD

This week NaNo 2014 has shaken my world. In order to write 1667 words a day, I've had to change my routine drastically: it's been a while since I saw 5am! Yet, this week he's become my new best friend as I changed my alarm clock to write before work. OMG it was a shock but well worth the effort as 500 words before the day job begins is not to be sniffed at!

I've written during my break time  and lunchtime - when I usually read a book (which I have missed doing). Then once home from the day job I've completed another 100 minutes. Yep, I know slightly weird but hey when NaNoWriMo meets OCD... well anything can happen (including 'cod or a minnow')*

But, it's been worth it; I've had my best ever start to NaNo reaching the fifteen and a half thousand mark by week one!

A positive side effect has been my re-evaluation of my daily energy focus day job v writing job - which is always the litmus test for me. Plus the massive high I've experienced from yet again being involved in this crazy event. I've also encountered numerous new NaNoers on-line and one in the flesh!

So given that I'm wide awake at 2am on a Saturday morning I'll love and leave you to notch up a few hundred words on my NaNo project.

My aim this week is to continue the routine and get further ahead just incase life deals me a nightmare day later in the month.

Enjoy x


* an anagram of NaNoWriMo OCD

Follow up: I stayed up and simply NaNoed through the night - see what I mean about this crazy event?

Follow up 2: OMG! The NaNo madness hasn't subsided and so.... I have just clocked up my 25,013th word in just 9 days!!!!! Proof is attached.

 

Sunday, 2 November 2014

NaNo Day 1 and Day 2

Day one

It's here! The crazy world of NaNo began for me late on Saturday evening of 1st November having arrived home from Ireland I sat down to write. It felt so good to be purely writing and the words flowed beautifully and in no time at all I had my reached and exceeded the daily target with 1690 words. Goodnight and thank you x

Day two - I had the house all to myself; so made the most of it by cracking on early and achieving my daily goal of 1667 before 11am. Throughout the rest of the day I've snatched 15 minute sessions here and there between jobs. It all helps towards NaNo - 5111 words today! I'm a happy chick tonight. Fingers crossed my NaNo widget is now reading 6801 total words.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Research and Nano

Ever wondered what a panda, fairies and a knot have in common? No! Nor me until I arrived in Sneem, County Kerry earlier this week on a research trip. I arrived with an empty notepad and an empty camera - I'll be heading home with everything I need to complete book three. Seriously, this trip was taken as a means to an end and yet it has proven to be invaluable. I'm a firm believer in writing what you know or can experience - I've certainly absorbed and experienced everything in the last three days. 

Why Sneem? I've been asked that question so many times in the last 72 hours. The answer: I opened a map of Ireland, closed my eyes and prodded the page - on Sneem! Within three weeks I was booked on a flight with a hotel reservation. In a curious way lots of little details match with my novel - but hey, I won't go into detail, maybe fate has played her role?

Tomorrow I return home having filled my muse with beautiful ideas and my heart with a renewed love for Ireland x

* * * *.*

31st October - there's just two hours before the fun begins for NaNo 2014

1st November - day one of the madness we lovingly know as NaNoWriMo - a crazy month in which writers attempt to write 50,000 words. A month where I scribble at every opportunity to avoid the midnight writing session to hit the daily 1667 words, or risk falling behind.

I'll attempt to blog my daily progress but forgive me if I lapse  - I'll be busy writing x

Sunday, 26 October 2014

The Greatest Gift...

It may sound corny but my parents rationale of encouraging me to read from the age of four has been one of the greatest gifts given to me. In August, I blogged regards re-discovering my reading pleasure after a long stint of academic study had killed a life long enjoyment. I'm delighted to say I'm currently devouring books like never before - which has led to further self reflection.

Back in August, I named five books that I would read before the end of this year:

Hazel Gaynor - The Girl Who Came Home - have read and would highly recommend
Rowan Coleman - The Memory Book - have read and would highly recommend
Pamela Hartshorne - The Memory of Midnight - waiting patiently on my desk
Jill Mansell - Mixed Doubles - waiting patiently on my desk
Miranda Dickenson - Fairytale of New York - waiting patiently on my desk

I have been side tracked by other reads that grabbed my attention so jumped my reading queue:

Siobhan Dowd - Bog Child
John Boyne - The boy in the striped pyjamas
John Green - The Fault in Our Stars
Jo Thomas - The Chestnut Tree
Christine Stovell - Only True in Fairy Tales

My reading pledge has been phenomenal in lots of ways:

  • I've regained my love of reading
  • I've rediscovered the contentment of a quiet half an hour with a book
  • Recognised the daily need for a reading-come-meditation slot in a busy world
  • Have visited genres outside of my writing genre
  • Enjoyed reconnecting with other readers via Goodreads website
  • Completed my Goodreads Challenge 2014 - see widget in left hand panel
  • Plus have discovered a gem of a book The Book Lovers Companion

As pledged, I will read the three unread book decorating my desk before New Year but I'm currently stalling knowing that my dear friend Helen Phifer's new novel The Forgotten Cottage is released this coming Friday, 31st October.

           

Sunday, 19 October 2014

NaNoWriMo 2014 - get ready!

It's nearly here folks, that crazy month that is November! For some blokes it means growing facial hair in support of charity, children hankering for bonfires and fireworks but for us writers, it simply means  the crazy 30 day challenge of NaNoWriMo.

Yep, I'm doing it again. But this year I will follow last year's experience 2013 and not the previous year of 2012.

My 2012 experience was my first successful completion year encouraged by my dear buddy Helen Phifer, who has succeeded for numerous years. Anyway, it was the ultimate learning curve for me. Come 00:01 on 1st November 2012 I began to write - all I had was a name! Seriously that was it. I hadn't a plot, I hadn't even thought through a viable idea, I had nothing! The entire 50,213 words simply flowed and took shape as I wrote each day. Some would say this was the true experience of NaNo - the freedom to just write and go wherever the tale takes you. At the time I agreed, as I knew nothing else, so on completion I printed the manuscript and stored in a document folder. This folder sits on a shelf in my writing room and in all honesty, will sit there for evermore.  In hindsight, I recognise that I have a 50,213 word document that I simply can't bear to open or peruse. There's a story in there for sure but... and this was my lesson learnt, I know that the effort and time for me to untie that bundle of unplanned knots equates to me metaphorically climbing Mount Everest.

By 2013, I changed tack; I plotted. It was a simple structure and outline for each chapter and character laid upon a time line - but the difference was amazing. I knew where I was heading, whilst retaining the freedom to seize opportunities and ideas as they arose. By the 30th November I had a part manuscript that was a viable draft one and not the knotted mess from 2012. It is this manuscript that has evolved in my third book.

2014 will be a repeat of 2013, for sure! My task for this week is to plot my NaNo onto index cards during my lunchtime slots. A gentle change of routine as my lunchtime slots will become part of my Nano writing routine, along with early get ups and late night sessions.

I've already signed in, donated and updated my profile on the official nanowrimo site. To the left of this blog you can see my word widget is ready and waiting too.

One great thing about this year's Nano is the five weekends in November, it might seem a small thing but if you're a working bod than it makes life a tad easier. I aim for the daily amount of 1667 words but if I fall behind or life throws me non-writing day I catch up at the weekend. Weekends during NaNo equate to a safety net - so use them wisely.

Another hint is to connect with your local regions NaNo events - it's amazing how much writing you can produce at a 'write-in' surrounded by other writers whose fingers are tapping away.

Final word of caution, don't be put off if your writing buddies charge ahead and you are plodding on the daily amount. Everyone has a different writing routine and it can make a huge difference to your mind set. It really doesn't matter how they complete NaNo, it's about how you complete NaNo.

Should you wish to buddy up simply search for my NaNo username: ODW11

To participate or for further details check out nanowrimo.org

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Being married to one of us

Ever wondered what it's like being married to one of us writers? I do, frequently. When I'm seated alone in my writing room, fingers tapping away and my mind chugging on towards a set word count. I frequently wonder what hubby's thoughts or feeling are regards my choices. So, today my blog is his...

Q. What's the best thing about being married to an aspiring writer?
Hubby: Don't call yourself that... you are a writer, you write. (Continue...) The best things are being part of all the things you do for your book... from the ideas to the away trips and days out. I think its funny how I'll be busy doing something and you dash in asking me to suggest a list of male names befitting a certain age and lifestyle. I'm not imaginative in any way but it's funny knowing that some of the names were spot on. We wouldn't be heading to Ireland in a few weeks if it wasn't for this current project, would we? I know you'll want lots of photos, lots of local information - that's nice being part of that research. Being proud of what you do... I know you don't mention it to many people but I tell people you write, some people at work, my friends know. I think it's funny seeing you get excited about word counts... funny but weird, and the stationery obsession - that's very weird.

Q. What's the worst part of being married to a writer?
Hubby: It can be restrictive regards weekends. I know you want to write as much as you can but it stops us going away, I suppose we do well working around it - we do what we can, don't we? You've got two jobs, I see as that. (What else?) I felt p***** off when that group couldn't be bothered - things like that aren't nice. I see what you do each week; then others just can't be bothered or are unkind about your efforts - that gets to me. I'm glad you said and didn't just put up with it. (What else? Do you mind the hours I'm writing upstairs) Not  really, I know it's what you want to do... and it gives me chance to do things I want to do... so I can't complain. I'd prefer you doing your writing than the stuff other wives seem to do. I think its unfair that the 'day job' stops you from attending writing events. I know you can't choose your holidays but given all the extra hours you do if they'd just let you leave an hour early you might make the midweek party in London or arrive at an event when everyone else does but you don't; you always arrive hours into the event - I wish that was different for you.

Q. What's your wish for my writing future?
Hubby: That's simple... that you get everything that you wish for. Honestly, I don't mind where the writing takes you as long as you're happy doing it. I'd hate to see you in a situation having worked so hard, and for so long, and you don't enjoy what you're doing. 'Cause in that case you might as well stay with the 'day job' situation, but I know you want this more than you want that. I'll be happy with that.
                                                                        * * * * *

After eleven years together I knew most of his answers but I'm glad I asked. I've often felt a little guilty regards the time I spend writing, when the reality is he wants me to succeed and recognises my effort. I can't really ask more than that... though maybe I'll ask him for yet another female name, one that fits a middle aged café owner and see what he offers.

His answer: Suzy :-)

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Fighting the fear

Ever felt those nagging doubts niggling in your head? Or those stomach churning moments that prevent you from achieving? I think we've all experiences them at some point in our lives, and from what I'm hearing writers seem to have an endless supply of these experiences. The sad thing is the niggling thoughts and fears stifle their creative flow and hinder them in their craft.

On Wednesday night, I attended a writers' group meeting in Birmingham - in contrast to my previous visit the numbers were much lower. The reason: a workshop. The evening was a dedicated workshop on plotting - personally, I jumped at the chance to attend and had a whale of a time doing group work and I'm pretty chuffed with the plot our group produced in virtually no time. But, and here's the relevance, I reckon others shied away from the experience, stayed at home for the fear of having to work in groups, the fear of trying something new and maybe the fear of learning new methods.  How do I know this? Because there was a time - way, way back, when I'd have been one of them... honest, I would have been. I'd have kidded myself that I didn't need any more tips and skills on plotting, a night of writing would be more advantageous for my project and discussing various genres other than my own wouldn't help me in any way. But I'd have been wrong, the truth being I was squashed by fear. I continued to be wrong until I learnt there's a bigger enemy than fear, and that's regret!

For me this was an epiphany moment; my own self-constructed fears were stopping me achieving. And I, was the only one that could change that. Looking back fear had hindered me since childhood not just in writing but it's something I had to change. That may sound easy, it wasn't. You need to look at your mind set, the way you view/react to opportunities and on some occasions go against your natural instinct but face the fear you must! Having done it a few times I found it got easier, but hey doesn't everything with practise? After years of doing it, I don't give it a second thought now.

My advice to any writer would be 'just do it' regardless of the nagging doubts - because one day something wonderful will arise from your creative efforts and then neither fear nor regret will exist for you.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

A lifetime of ideas

Ever wondered where writers get their ideas? It's a simple answer - life. I'm blessed for an active imagination but my primary source still remains life: mine, family/friends and complete strangers that I read or hear about on a daily basis. Admittedly I cherry pick experiences, twist and view from various slants, add a humungous dollop of imagination and stretch my artistic licence as far as humanly possible but the fact remains, I'm inspired by life.

Last Sunday, I took my seventy year old mother up in a hot air balloon, she's always wanted the power to fly like a bird so I thought it a fitting treat to celebrate her big birthday. I'd already flown in a balloon as part of my fortieth celebration so knew what to expect. At 3000 feet, high in the sky over Staffordshire, suspended within a huge wicker basket amongst twelve strangers I witnessed life's reactions. I might never write about ballooning but I will need to write about the cheesy grin of happiness, the white knuckle grip of fear, the phobia panic of heights, the confidence shown by any expert - even the admiration of a daughter watching her mum enjoy herself - all these emotions/behaviours/remarks are captured within my memory bank for future works. It goes without saying that certain details need to be captured on paper to ensure I don't forget but my memory is like a huge slide show based on the events of my life.

In my forty odd years, and believe me some have been very odd, I have:

  • swum with dolphins... twice
  • been struck by lightening whilst sitting in a car
  • hot air ballooned... twice
  • been engaged, married and divorced in sequence order of three times, two and thankfully just once!
  • worked as a bank clerk, gym instructor, aerobics teacher, landlord, office girl and teacher.
  • holidayed worldwide - far too many places to mention, I'm pleased to say.
  • been chased by a group of baboons, stampeded by an angry elephant and held birds of prey.
  • owned cats, dogs, rabbits and numerous tortoises while husband kept bees, chickens and ducks.
  • attended numerous theatres, plays, concerts, church gatherings, promo events to fill anyone's diary.
  • taken numerous day trip with family, school and holidays that flood the mind with settings.

That's just a snippet of my life but each experience has given me a little something that I can draw upon when I need an idea, a setting, a face, an event or emotion. Add to this list my innate gene for nosiness, an incredible memory and my ability to hear a conversation three miles away... and you too would have all you need to write.

Still unsure where writer's get their ideas? Look inside for those memories, the ones you laughed, loved and cried about - there's a lifetime to muse about.


Me and my mum - 21.09.14  

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Writing groups - essential part of my tool kit

Ever sat at your desk and felt the loneliness of writing taking a grip? I think we all have at one time or another. For me it was the early days, way back when I was shy about my writing. I was happy to spend hours writing alone but knew that I wanted, and possibly needed, the interaction and chat of other writers in order to achieve my goals. That's when I joined my first writers' group. I didn't stay for long as the members were very 'clicky' so didn't embrace new folk joining. I stayed for just six months, but hey, it gave me a taste of what I was searching for.

I have to say, there as many different types of writing groups as there are types of writers. The formal group with minutes, subscriptions and constitutions or the informal groups who meet at an agreed time and place - the go with the flow groups. There's pro and cons to both, one size doesn't fit all; I benefited by attending two groups: one formal, one informal.

The formal groups are more focussed upon writing as there's usually a narrow time slot of two hours for each meeting. The formalities helps to discipline the routine of the attending members and focus purely on the business in hand: writing - off topic chatter occurs at the mid-meeting break. The informal groups do as they please, no one person runs or manages the group so each meeting simple happens depending on what essence each member brings to the session. Off topic chatter can go anywhere, the focus can go anywhere too - which can be great or frustrating depending on your specific needs. One huge bonus with the informal group is its free, no subscriptions but the disadvantage is people can drop in and out when it suits.

For the last six years I've attended a local informal group and three years ago choose to travel to a formal group as well, getting the best of both worlds. This week that all changed.  Actually a few weeks ago that all changed.      

For me the greatest part of attending my groups is the interaction and support that is offered. I may not have work to share at sessions, I'll explain why later, but I always look forward to attending to hear what others have produced and hear their news. After a busy day at the 'day job' there's nothing better than kicking back to chat about writing. You have to support each other otherwise what's the point? I know I've spent hours listening to other peoples' work, giving feedback, buying their book and taking time out of my busy life to read and review, attend their spoken word projects taking notes then writing web reviews without charging for my time, even having to research genres that I don't read purely to understand their work and give constructive feedback. You do it willingly, if you believe in your group.

There are a couple of drawback with writing groups - not everyone reads or knows your genre but will freely give you feedback and their opinion. I made an enormous error with my first book, I edited based on feedback then later found my original writing was spot on, so had to undo and rewrite huge sections. I had viewed my fellow members as a reading sample, so felt their view was important - that was another huge lesson learnt.  I simply forgot that none of them write my genre so don't necessarily understand the essential structure. It was my naïve error not theirs. Which is one reason I don't read out current projects, plus the informal group meets in an open bar/lounge so I've been warned about sharing my commercial ideas so openly.  Industry professionals know what is essential to your genre, so follow their advice to the letter.

So why the recent change? Why this indepth reflection? Having spent six years giving of my time and effort I asked one favour of the informal group, which would have taken each member two minutes out of their week. No one could give me those precious minutes. It doesn't sound a lot does it? But to me, as an emerging writer who values their support it was a clear and simple message: my support wasn't there. I know that the next few years are vital to my progress; I know that I need support from others to achieve my dreams. My RNA friends knew I was gutted; they flooded me with similar stories of their own experiences before taking the time to complete the two minute task for me, many of whom I've never even met in real life. As for the informal group - just one person has since contacted me to apologise for being so thoughtless - the rest remain silent. It goes without saying, I've left. I'll still support them, wishing them all well but from afar.

So, after much encouragement by hubby, my next step has been to find a replacement group, a much bigger group in a city centre where I'm hoping the spectrum of publishing experience knows how to support. It's an ultra modern type of writing group with additional web forums and member page log-ins - all very different to me, but fresh and exciting.

The light bulb moment for me has been the realisation of how much I value my writing groups. My advice to any writer is to go and seek; find a local group - chat, enjoy and test the waters - you may find you're missing an essential tool in your writer's tool kit.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Festival of Romance 2014, Leighton Buzzard

Have you ever shyed away from attending a literary or writers' festival? Ever wanted to go but backed out thinking I won't know anyone? Yep, me too in previous years, but this year I have finally made it to the Festival of Romance in Leighton Buzzard. I arrived last night eager to collect my tickets and spot the faces, many of whom I know, some which I don't. But, and here's the beautiful thing about romance writers, you don't have to know anyone, honestly you don't. At times, we may be introvert creatures but we always chat to a friendly face, include another in the crowd and willingly share a bottle of rose!

Last night, I attended an author panel 'Girls' Night In' comprising of Rowen Coleman, Jane Lovering, Mandy Baggot and Jill Steeples - the session was filled with much laughter and humour. Each author spoke openly about their routines, novels, writing desires and next project. The audience welcomed their honesty when answering questions and their encouragement to the unpublished.

I have tickets for:

'Meet the publishers and pitch your novel' at 11am in the library theatre.
A session packed with questions for the panel of publishers - a dozen brave folks pitched their novels and received immediate feedback from the panel. Kate Nash did a superb job of balancing the timings giving everyone chance to be heard.

'An afternoon with award winning authors' at 2:30pm in the library theatre. Liz Fenwick hosted the author panel: Katie Fforde, Carmel Harrington, Tracey Bloom and Fiona Harper - who answered questions regards their writing having each given a reading from their latest book. Sadly, the one hour session simply flew by.

'Romance Readers awards 2014' at 8pm in the library theatre were as follows:

Best Romantic Read - One Step Closer to You by Alice Peterson
Best Historical Read - The Dress Thief by Natalie Meg Evans
Best Short Romance - Taming Her Italian Boss by Fiona Harper
Best Ebook - The Oyster Catcher by Jo Thomas
Best Author Published Romance - Christmas Yves by Nicola May

A huge congratulations to anyone who was short-listed - that alone is a massive achievement.

Alongside these events there is an open air authors' book stall in the Main Street, so fingers crossed it stays dry and each author sells every book.

I arrived home on Sunday filled with a renewed vigor and lot of memories filled with laughter. Who couldn't laugh when a certain group of ladies are taking photos of non-tattooed arms, some are doing their rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody to accompany the barman playing the piano and finally, guessing the weight of firemans' equipment raises the roof! Thank you for a fab weekend, I'll see you all next year x  

Saturday, 6 September 2014

New routines, sharing and lessons learnt

September has finally arrived amidst a flurry of golden leaves and darkening evenings. More importantly for me, the month signals a period of annual change and reflection. First and foremost, the return of the 'day job' after the long summer holidays - this has an enormous impact upon my writing routines and creativity. From this month onwards my routine will revert to weekend writing supported by the slithers of time snatched during each day. It isn't an ideal routine but it's one I can manage alongside the 'day job', enabling me to dedicate a large amount of time and effort during the weekends whilst supporting the momentum with smaller daily sessions. It's essential that I write every day, large or small, it is a must for me.  

Secondly, with the dark evenings fast approaching my hibernating gene kicks in welcoming the long cosy evenings; perfect for additional reading or plotting a new novel. Better still are the weeks leading up to November where I can muse and dream freely in preparation for NaNoWriMo 2014 - this year which I'll be participating in for the third consecutive year.

Thirdly, I usually undertake an inventory of my work for the year so far. A simple spreadsheet that details what I've written, submissions and a general reflection regards the highs and lows of my creativity. Each year I'm surprised by the things I'd created and yet forgotten about - letters, competition pieces and short stories that I meant to edit, rewrite and resubmit but didn't.

This week I took the snap decision to share my writing with another work colleague, I'm always dubious about who I tell due to a previous bad experience, some readers may remember this blog was originally called secret writer for that exact reason. Anyway, a conversation on writing occurred and I just simply couldn't lie or hold back. So I outlined my progress and current project. I was delighted that the news was greeted with genuine enthusiasm and support, which in the long run will help me to succeed by easing the pathway at the 'day job'. It made me smile that secret writer is slowly disappearing and fading into oblivion :-)

Sadly, there are always lesson to the learnt with this writing malarkey. I've always promised to be honest about my writing journey, rarely does this blog contain a negative aspect but today it does. I've had a huge lesson this weekend that I should never assume. What's the saying? Assume makes an ass of you and me - well, it didn't make an ass of me but has left me feeling let down. In our writing worlds we create little networks of writing friends who we assume will assist and support - this week I've found that one tiny group isn't as supportive of me as I have been towards them over the years. It's a realisation that comes out of the blue but hey, it makes you so grateful to those that take a genuine interest in my writing and progress. My RNA friends picked me up, brushed me down and sat me at my laptop to write. I'm sure Helen Phifer, my writing buddy, would have feed me wine and chocolates to aid recovery - sadly, I didn't need the emergency treatment for romance writers! Very rarely do I let others' effect me but today I've been saddened by the realisation, but hey, onwards and upwards.

And finally, I am currently reading Rowan Coleman's 'The Memory Book', which has recently been chosen by the Richard and Judy Book club - I have to say, it is such a beautiful read and I can't stop telling people about it. If you have the chance to read it, especially during these dark autumnal evenings, I promise you won't regret it.


 

Friday, 22 August 2014

Reading: falling in love - again!

As the title suggests, I have an announcement. I, O'Dwyer, have fallen in love with reading for the second time in my life.

The first time was as a tiny imp when my parents took me to our village's local library, which I'm proud to say, remains open. I was given three emerald coloured cardboard tickets - I can still see them as I write this, and was overwhelmed by the idea that I could choose from all those books, lined like soldiers. To cut a long story very short, my love of books began - I devoured whatever I could.  Fast forward through life, there's been an ebb and flow regards the amount of material I have consumed each year but never have I stopped reading books. Though, I've also never stopped breathing, so it figures really.

So why the falling in love, again? Well, nine years ago I decided to study for a psychology degree, and a short time after that decided to stretch my sanity to the limit by studying for an English Literature degree  - yes, alongside the psychology degree study. I know, a moment of sheer madness but hey, I completed both with decent grades! The academic reading that I had to undertake was enormous, and I recognise that I couldn't have contemplated such a feat if I hadn't already been an avid reader, but over six years the constant deadline for reading academic literature meant I hadn't much time to read for pleasure. That luxury had died, everything I read came from my pre-printed study lists filling my free-time between the day job and my writing. Let me add, I still purchased books, I couldn't resist browsing whilst shopping - a girl has to maintain her sanity in whatever form she can but, to leisurely read, consume and while away time reading anything unrelated to my study  had near enough gone. I read the odd one or two new releases, The Ghost House by my friend Helen Phifer was one such read, it took me nearly three months to complete! Shocking but true.

Arrive Thursday, 5th June 2014 my final exam for my English Literature degree. That day finally arrived and on arriving home the very first thing I did was to browse my 'To-Be-Read' bookcase. Yes, not just a pile a bookcase, which as I look across my writing room is crammed full but there's also 32 books piled on the floor in front. Anyway, I picked my first book to read for pleasure. I can't explain how good it felt to know I could take a day, a week or seven months to read the book if I wanted. No one was breathing down my neck regards study deadlines, so began my rediscovery.

Fast forward a few weeks and I am back, head over heels in love with reading but more surprising I'm loving that I'm loving it. I've been on holiday from the day job for five weeks now and I'm proud to say have devoured five books in that time. This week, I started 'Birdsong' by Faulks, I know I must be the only woman not to have read it, but hey, I was busy. I've revisited the 'Goodreads' website and updated my entries on their reading challenge, I've even joined two on-line book clubs. But most of all, I've enjoyed curling up in the armchair, with a fresh cuppa and simply reading. The simple action of turning each page excited to continue to the next has been wonderful.

So, for all the moaning over recent years that my reading habit had been destroyed by my academic study I'm actually pleased to have experienced the situation, and rediscovered my reading habit. To ensure that such joy continues I've have already chosen my next five reads:

Five beauties!

Jill Mansell - Mixed Doubles
Miranda Dickenson - Fairytale of New York              
Hazel Gaynor - The Girl Who Came Home
Rowan Coleman - The Memory Book
Pamela Hartshorne - The Memory of Midnight

Hopefully this little selection will keep me busy into Autumn.

Please feel free to comment or recommend a book, I now have time to read them x


My 'To Be Read' bookcase... and my sax!








Thursday, 7 August 2014

Research, Reading and Retweeting

Hi folks, I've had a busy few weeks since the school holidays started so thought I'd drop by to update. Yesterday I spent a fanciful day at Blenheim Palace doing research for a novel - which was a welcome change from my writing room. It was my first visit to Blenheim; it certainly won't be my last. We enjoyed a champagne afternoon tea in the Indian Room which was utterly gorgeous which beat both hubby and I, forcing us to bring a selection of cakes back home. Anyway, after much chomping and slurping we spent a considerable number of hours striding about the corridors and gardens snapping everything that moved. My muse was in her element absorbing everything that could be useful or tangible.

I took a previous research trip to London a few weeks ago - spending the weekend plodding about the capital armed with a camera and dictaphone. This writing lark is all good fun - nothing is ever wasted but stored until required ;-)

Whilst off work I'd promised myself that I'd indulge my love of reading, so far I've managed to read:

Janice Preston's  Mary and the Marquis

Alison May's Sweet Nothing

And am partway through reading: PJ Nash's Triage

My next read will be Louise Marley's A Girl's Best Friend

Which brings me onto retweeting, it's a habit of mine to retweet book links, cover reveals, publication launches and reviews whenever possible. I'm selective I only ever retweet what I believe followers would be interested in. I truly feel we should always support other writers, regardless of our own publishing position - it's better than being one of the green-eyed brigade who seem hell bent on denying the competition any publishing success. Retweet like crazy and help push a novel up the charts - it feels good and authors are eternally grateful.

Time to love and leave you, so enjoy!

Saturday, 19 July 2014

RNA conference, holidays and pledges

Good morning folks, I am officially on school holiday. I have six glorious weeks to write and I can't tell you how good that feels. But first, I need to share the delights of the RNA conference from last weekend. Regular followers will know this is one highlight of my year, three days of indulgence amongst my writing buddies. This year was no exception. The location was Harper Adams university in Shropshire, I arrived at 7pm after a busy day at school. As you can imagine everyone else was in the full swing of the event having arrived at 2pm. I soon caught them up :-)

The timetable of talks and events was crammed with interesting ideas, knowledge and experience - always a dilemma regards selecting which workshops to attend, whilst hoping your friends can fill you in on the ones you missed. Anyway, I attended talks given by Hazel Gaynor, Liz Harris, Nina Harrington, Jean Fullerton, Pamela Hartshorne, Alison May, Alison Baverstock, Philippa Ashley and Nell Dixon - all excellent sessions giving an insight into their writing world.

Amidst the writers' talks, the workshops and celebration are the kitchen parties that buzz each evening producing a wealth of blurry photos and endless giggles.

Saturday night gala dinner is always a delight; gorgeous food and scintillating chat amongst the writers. I was thrilled when Janice Preston won the Elizabeth Goudge trophy for the fairy tale themed short story. This is the third consecutive year that the Birmingham Chapter have either won or been placed runner up for this award.

You may remember that at last year's gala dinner four of us made pledges to be completed by this year. All four fulfilled our vows so this year every member of the Birmingham Chapter joined us in making their own pledge, which need completion before the gala at Mile End next year.

In addition to all the fun, there is the serious business of publishing, I was lucky enough to pitch my novel to a publisher, who wishes to see the full manuscript by the end of this year. I had my sights on a specific publisher and am delighted for the opportunity offered.

So, you won't be surprised to hear I'll be writing for the next 45 days! Working my little socks off to ensure my manuscript is the best it can possibly be before school begins again.

I'd best get started, I don't want a moment of freedom to escape me - enjoy!



Sunday, 6 July 2014

Camp NaNo, RNA countdown and door signs

Morning world, you find me hard at work in my writing room armed with tea and biscuits. I'm making the most of a quiet Sunday morning to write. The location is now official as my beautiful door sign arrived yesterday, so no longer is this the spare room.

The week has been slightly disappointing for me regards writing; Camp Nano isn't flowing how I'd like it too and my editing hit a brick wall. The Camp Nano feels different because my buddies aren't in it, NaNo usually has me fired up as I feel I'm working in a team, sadly there is only one other that is communicating with me so it feels pretty dire. Regards the editing - that's purely a plodding situation chapter after chapter.

This time next week I'll be at the RNA Summer conference - woohoo, I can't wait! I've booked from the Friday but I won't be arriving till at least six o'clock due to the day job. But once I arrive, boy am I going to make up for lost time :-) It sounds crazy but this conference really is a delight to attend, every year I catch up with my writing buddies and meet a host of new ones. This year is a little special as I have an appointment with a publisher who I am desperate to be signed with. So, fingers crossed for me. Plus, I've entered the Elizabeth Goudge competition to be announced at the gala dinner.

Anyway, enough chatter, this gal needs to crack on and work. Love you loads x


Sunday, 29 June 2014

1stJuly - Camp NaNo

I forgot to mention my countdown to 1st July Camp Nano has started! I'll try and find a widget thing for my blog.

Shout if you're joining or search for me ODW11.

Follow up: less than four hours till Camp NaNo kicks off at midnight. I am contemplating a short snooze so I can be at my desk from the off at 00:00.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Momentum, Mad Hatters and proms

Morning folks, I'm awake far earlier than I'd wish to be, but hey! I've had another busy week due to the day job. Do I ever have a quiet week?

Following my mini retreat to Worcester I started the week on a 'high'  regards my writing. The plan was to continue the momentum through the week, though that plan didn't quite work out, nearly but not quite. It does seem the strangest concept, but seriously removing yourself from your daily life to focus on your writing works every time. I'm sure it is the psychology of the situation that helps to focus my mind.

Wednesday evening I attended the Mad Hatters writing group which meets every two weeks but the attendance has dropped since last December and each meeting is being effected. So, with sadness we decided to change the meetings to once a month hopefully everyone will be able to attend fewer meeting but hopefully each meeting will be vibrant.

Thursday night was an evening of celebration with the day job. Year 11 prom was held to celebrate the achievements of the young folk who had recently left school. I had a wail of a time on the dance floor - it was a pleasure to attend and say goodbye, for now, to the youngsters.

And so, to today...I'm awake with the lark so I'll crack on with exam marking - I have a shed load to complete. Tomorrow will be dedicated to my writing... Bliss!

Hope you have a good one whatever you're doing x


Saturday, 21 June 2014

Worcester Lit Festival, Fownes hotel and... football

Evening folks, you find me in a state of delight having had a fabulous day. Firstly, I attended Worcester Literary Festival meeting up with RNA members: Morton Gray, Janice G Preston and Ellie Swoop - who are simply the best gals! Secondly, I attended the author panel consisting of Christine Courtenay, Liz Harris and Sue Moorcroft led by Alison May - what a delight to hear such experienced authors discuss their careers, reviews and writing process. After the Q&A panel the ladies sat and chatted which was such a lovely touch - RNA bods are truly the nicest people! This world would be a better place if the RNA folks made the rules.

Having filled my boots with lovely RNA babes, I left to be thoroughly spoilt in the Fownes hotel - a hotel with a central location but truly a gem. I have spent the last four hours receiving excellent service, beautiful food (the mussels are to die for), attentive staff who are a delight to speak to, in the most pleasant and relaxed atmosphere. What more could a girl want on a Saturday? Nothing!

So, the only shadow, on what has been a top class weekend is.... the football. England are coming home, Lord knows where you've been hiding if that is news. But hey ho, wherever there is sunshine some shadow must fall.

Enjoy the sunshine, I'll chat next week x

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Meet my main character

'Meet my Main Character’ Blog Hop

Morton Gray has tagged me to contribute to the ‘Meet my main character’ blog hop. Morton is currently editing her novel Rosie and Tanner and hopes to see the novel in print one day. I thank her for the opportunity to introduce my main character, Maggie Monroe.  
What is the name of the main character? Is she real or fictitious?
Maggie Monroe, fictitious to you but very real in my head – I’ve lived with her for about two years.
When and where is the story set?
Her life is based in Pooley, a fictionalised village in Warwickshire, she’s an A&E nurse at St. Bede’s hospital, who lives alone apart from her pet cat, Archie.
What should we know about her?
For the last eight months, Maggie has been struggling to come to terms with the death of her fiancé Guy, in a tragic car accident. Having dated for seven years they’d planned their future together. Now Maggie is alone, wanting no one but her Guy.
What is the main conflict? What messes up her life?
Maggie’s conflict arrives in the form of Asa, an upbeat artist, who wants to get to know her better. He’s prepared to be knocked back, prepared to take it slow, prepared to be friends  - prepared for anything but not to watch a beautiful woman waste away.
What is Maggie’s goal?
Maggie wants to dedicate her life to loving and remembering Guy, forsaking all others. Asa’s goal is to re-waken her thirst for life, leading to love.
A tiny snippet about Maggie but I’m hoping it gives you a taste of my novel. I have tagged two writers: Helen Phifer, my dear writing buddy who has motivated me so much over the past year, her blog can be found at helenphifer. My other author is Anne Harvey, whose blog can be found at thewritespotannelharvey.blogspot
Watch out for their posts next week. I’m looking forward to reading all about their main characters.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Main characters, liberation and Festival of Romance

Morning folks, I'm wide awake early on a Saturday morning when my body and mind could really do with a lie in. Long gone are the days of teenage sleep when you rise and half the day has flown.

 I've had an strange but liberating week. Firstly, I shared my writing with two close colleagues at work. That might not sound much to others but I rarely mix my day job with my writing world based on past experiences. This is my sixth year in this particular school and I've hidden my novel writing to avoid the added stress and pressure of constant questions about 'are you published yet?' But Monday, I took the bull by the horns and let them into my world - thankfully both were delighted and a tad shocked. For me it was a huge mile stone, it felt liberating to relax rather than retain my nightly musings. I can hear you asking 'when are you telling the rest of the day job?' Hmmmmm, when I have a publishing deal.

This week I've been tagged by Morton Gray in the 'Introduce your main character' blog game, so please check out her blog at mortongray.blogspot.co.uk and meet Tanner Bryant, from her W-I-P 'Rosie and Tanner'. Next Friday I'll be adding my contribution to the tour and you'll be able to read about my main character 'Maggie Ingram'. I know, a snippet from my current work-in-progress, I never give you that, do I?

And finally, just a small nudge incase you've forgotten to purchase your Festival of Romance tickets for 12th and 13th September in Leighton Buzzard. festivalofromance.co.uk

So, I'll love and leave you to crack on with the writing - enjoy x

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Freedom and my summer reads

It's official, I'm free from any study work to focus on my writing. Boy, does that feel good! My first task, was to consume a bottle of champers with hubby, the second task - clean my desk for this brand new chapter in my writing career.

My aim: a published novel.

The excitement is such that I couldn't sleep past 5:17am, so I'm up at this ungodly hour on a Saturday!

My second pledge is to catch up on my reading - my time has been consumed by academic literature. I've made a start with Jo Thomas' 'The Oyster Catcher' and have a fabulous 'To-read' pile for the summer, here are my next five:

Alison May - Much about sweet nothing Sweet-Nothing
Louise Markey - Nemesis Louise-Marley-Book-Bundle
Talli Roland - No Kids Club No-Kids-Club
Trisha Ashley - Every woman for herself Every-Woman-Herself
Rebecca Chance - Bad Girls Bad-Girls

So, wishing you all a fab weekend - let the magic begin x

Thursday, 5 June 2014

OFSTED and exam day - yay!

Morning! I started the week knowing that I had to remain focused on today, Thursday for the big exam. Sunday evening I listed my plan for the final few revision sessions and was happy and content.
Monday morning everything changed with a phone call from school inspectors OFSTED. They were coming in on Tuesday and Wednesday - now, all schools folks will know how stressful it is. Non-school staff might not appreciate the admin, paperwork and sheer energy that is needed for those two days. Their questions, their data requests, their eagle eye, their efficiency at inspecting every aspect of school life.  My exam revision plan went out the window. Instead, Monday night having worked all day, I worked until two in the morning collating my data and lesson plans, went into work Tuesday on three hours sleep, taught all day and then repeated the process ready for Wednesday! OMG, I am spent! I haven't had a moment to even look at my revision cards.

So, Tuesday and Wednesday are over, Thursday (exam day) has dawned - I'll spend the next few hours cramming and doing revision before the 2:30pm start. Not the situation I'd envisaged but hey, my saving grace will be the hours I revised during my holiday.

Wish me luck folks, it's been a tough few days x

Follow up: yay, the exam went well! I am so pleased that the questions were to my liking and I was able to answer four as needed. Thank you to my beauties for supporting me, special thanks to my buddy Helen Phifer - you've lightened the load the last couple of days x

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Priorities, Camp NaNo and exam countdown

This week's holiday has been strange for me. I usually have a set goal regards my writing but this week my writing priorities faded due to exam revision. As I mentioned last week, I hadn't written for eight days due to exam prep, and boy, did I miss it! Wednesday, I indulged by locking myself away in my writing room for the entire day - then attended my writing group on the evening. It was bliss, I felt I'd returned home after a holiday. So, I've vowed that I'll write each day up to my exam - I can't stop doing what I love, instead I'll limit the time slots.

Today, I'm polishing and printing the competition entry written on Wednesday. It amazes me how a few days distance from a piece helps with editing. I never used to do this, I used to write it, keep polishing it over and over then would print and immediately post. Lord knows how many errors I missed. Thankfully, I've learnt my lesson and now let time pass before rereading and correction.

During a break from exam revision, I signed up for Camp Nano starting 1st July. I've completed the November NaNo a couple of times but I wanted something to focus upon leading into the school Summer holidays, which are literally seven weeks away! Check it out at campnanowrimo.org

Exam countdown has begun so I'll love and leave ya - enjoy!

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Eight days, Jo Thomas and a much needed writing day

Morning guys, apologies for my absence but life has elbowed its way into my writing world and knocked everything off kilter. My admission: I haven't written for eight days! Eight days - it feels like a month, and all because I have exams looming next week, 5th June. But today, I am having a writing day. And, I'm raring to go!

A quick update regards the Joan Hessayon award - Jo Thomas, author of 'The Oyster Catcher' was named the winner - I've downloaded the book, but am waiting until after the said exam to consume. The-Oyster-Catcher-Jo-Thomas-ebook
My dear friends Helen Phifer and Alison May, both beautiful ladies and winners in my eyes, had a fabulous time at the party.

Between the revision slots, I've booked a weekend visit to Worcester Literary Festival 21/22nd June and Festival of Romance 12/13th September in Leighton Buzzard - hoping to catch up with many of my RNA buddies and recharge the batteries.
 http://festivalofromance.co.uk

And so, to my writing day, the plan Stan is to draft a short story entry before diving back into the novella.

TTFN x

Update: woohoo a lovely day of writing - it feels good. I managed to complete draft one of a two thousand word story and write a chapter of the novella. Enjoy!

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Prince, exam revision and good luck!

Afternoon folks, I'm running late this week as the 'To-do-list' has exploded and taken over my existence - though, I assure you, I'm winning.

A strange week for me, as my writing has had to take a back seat in preference to exam revision preparing for a big exam on 5th June on 19th Century Novels. Yesterday was spent at a revision workshop cramming as much info as possible and forging links between the numerous novels. Phew, my brain ached on completion! The upside is come 6th June my life will be study free enabling me to concentrate on my writing, less juggling.

Last Thursday night was a cracker of an evening, I went to see Prince in concert, yep, I'll type that again, I went to see Prince in concert! OMG, he was awesome! Boy, did we dance and sing. I was whacked and hoarse the next day but I didn't care. I've been as high as a kite since, energy levels have gone through the roof.

Sadly, I didn't hear anything back from my Nibfest entry but the idea has grown somewhat and I am going to use a spin off as my NaNWriMo 2014 - see nothing is ever wasted as a writer.

And finally, good luck to both Helen Phifer and Alison May, each nominated for the RNA Joan Hessayon award presented on Thursday evening at the RNA Summer party. My fingers are crossed.

Enjoy the sunshine, catch you later x


Sunday, 11 May 2014

Nibfest, RNA chapter and Library of Birmingham

Morning folks, sorry for the late update, but in have been a busy gal. This time last week I knew I had several writing tasks to complete: a uni essay, a sex scene for writers group and a Nibfest competition entry.  I wasn't sure how I was going to squeeze them all in but woohoo, I managed it. My uni essay turned out to be a bugger, taking me into the small hours on three nights until it was complete come Saturday morning.

I managed on Thursday morning before work to reel off a steamy sex scene in 700 words ready for my Grace Dieu writers' group. Boy, did we have a laugh. I didn't have much trouble writing the scene but I struggled to read it aloud at group. Though, so did everyone else.

Saturday, knowing that I'd successfully complete two out of three tasks, I spent the day in Birmingham. My first stop was a RNA Chapter meeting - we had a great meeting filled with laughter and chatter. We were only a small gathering, as many people had prior engagements but we certainly made up for those absent. Meetings such as these are the icing on the cake regards my RNA membership.

After the meeting, I wandered across to have a self-imposed write-in at the Library of Birmingham.  Such a fabulous office space in which to work, as long as you can work with others surrounding you. I'm well aware that many can't but thankfully I can lose myself and ignore the coming and going of others. Anyway after two hours, I was kicked out at closing time but I'd managed to write a bumper section towards the 5000 words for the Nibfest writeathon competition.

This morning, I've managed to write the final thousand words and edit - all against the ticking clock. I was able to complete and send with just twenty minutes to spare regards the midday deadline. Phew! A busy week completing three tasks alongside the novella writing.

My plans for next week - focus on the novella and with just four week to go, begin work on exam revision.

Take care, I'll catch you laters x

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Nibfest, uni essay and a new blog

Morning folks, we're enjoying a long weekend break here in the U.K. so I have the luxury of a three day weekend! Yesterday was spent in the garden, musing amongst the flower beds and lawns. Today, I'm watching the clock for midday the beginning of 'Nibfest' a competition where I'll be given an opening line from which I need to follow with 5,000 words by next Sunday, 11th May. I'll let you know later what we're given - let's hope it ignites a head full of ideas. www.nibfest.co.uk

My novella project is taking shape - though I have to keep reminding myself that I haven't the word space for complicated add-ons. I'm dabbling in something new and it feels refreshing. I've even decided where I'll be submitting it once complete - which was a consideration discussed at a recent workshop.

Today, I must complete a uni essay comparing Chopin's 'The Awakening' with Bronte's 'Jane Eyre' and Austin's 'Northanger Abbey' - my final one for this course, so fingers crossed this draft polishes well.

And finally, I've found a lovely blog by a woman on a road to self discovery and improvement - it really is a beautiful read, take a look, support if you can. www.helpmeblog.net

Wishing you all a fab day - catch you later x

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Uni, pj day and a write-in

Morning folks, I'm up bright and early due to a busy day. I have a uni session this morning, I'm currently waiting for the train to Birmingham, studying Conrad's 'Heart of Darkness' and Chopin's 'The Awakening'. After which, at midday, I am attending a Camp Nano write-in - my very first session meeting up with the Birmingham group.

I had a pj writing day earlier in the week and managed to get my planning completed. For me, I feel it is purely mind set that can determine my productivity. I select empty days on the calendar and literally create a designated date - thankfully family/household can indulge me.

Ok, I need to dash, my train has arrived. Catch you laters x

Update: my uni session had my head spinning so it was a delight to switch to the write-in at Cafe Lounge's basement. It was obviously a regular occurrence as the other ten knew each other very well, but they made me very welcome. I stayed for three hours and was quite amazed at how much I achieved. I'd previously doubted how much work I'd achieve in company but it really wasn't a concern.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Solitary, Nosiness and obsessive genes

Morning folks, I hope this post finds you happy and healthy. I'm just entering the second week of holiday so need to crack on this week with my work. Last week, I managed a fair amount but it was squeezed in between the fence painting and shed building that has consumed our household. Boy, have I painted some fencing - which has amazed the males in my world, though I think the stamina and lack of back ache comes down to my 'plodding genes'. Which got me thinking; which of my qualities helps my writing?

When I look back on life certain characteristics have always been present in my personality. Firstly, my ability to be solitary and alone for hours, even days on end. Some people despise it, don't they? Me! I love it! My parents hated this, worried about it in fact. I've always socialized when needed too but returned to my comfort zone of one a.s.a.p. It may sound pretty selfish but essential if you wish to write.

Secondly, my nosiness gene helps a lot. I hear or see the tiniest details and I'm instantly curious; who? What? When? How? Why? I met people, honestly I do socialize sometimes, and drink in anything unique about them. Which coupled with my skill of listening and a freakishly excellent memory for detail means I can recall on so many of life's encounters and experiences.

Thirdly, I have an obsession about time. Sounds crazy doesn't it but as a teenager my father was seriously ill and I realized at an early age how precious time is. I remember being shocked realizing that a week has just 168 hours! Even more so, on witnessing people waste those precious hours! Anyway, as an adult, I waste very, very few - which might explain to some, who know my in the flesh, why I'm always 'busy doing' - it's down my time obsession.

Finally, but definitely as important, is my imagination. I can be lost in another world, live it, breath it and feel it in a childlike manner. You know when young children are absorbed in a task and they don't answer you? That's me, my imagination takes over and I'm elsewhere when writing.

I feel quite fortunate to have discovered a role that must be helped by specific characteristics - could you be a writer without being nosey, needing company of others around the clock and wasting those precious hours?

On that note, I'll love and leave you - I have a work to do which isn't going to write itself. X


Thursday, 17 April 2014

Bovary, The Secrets of the Shadows and novella

Morning folks, I start with a confession - I missed my writing group meeting last night. Having taken full advantage of the holidays, I lost track of days and thought it was Tuesday, nope it was Wednesday. I realized just in time to text a quick apology. Tut,tut!

On a brighter note, I've complete my uni essay discussing Flaubert's Madame Bovary and Collins' The Woman in White - not the easiest assignments for me but, hey done and dusted. I now start studying for my final assessment prior to the exam season, oh the joys!

I'm currently reading Helen Phifer's 'The Secrets of the Shadows' - her second novel published by Carina. I don't usually read crime/contemporary horror but make the exception as she's my RNA writing buddy. So far, I've read 20% of the book and am gripped by certain characters:Annie, Father John and Sean... I'll let you know how I get on being the scaredy cat wuss that I am. Please check it out as she's currently number one and number five in Amazon's contemporary horror charts.
www.amazon.co.uk/The-Secrets-Shadows-Helen-Phifer-ebook

Let me love you and leave you on a writing note, my novella plotting is coming along nicely. Yesterday I wrote a few pages note regards character and setting - today, I'll prepare my scrapbook of ideas and pictures.

Catch you later x

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Holidays - novella v fence painting

Hi folks, it is official - I'm on holiday! So, my plan for today was to start plotting a novella. I thought I could work on this project for the next few weeks. So, I got up early, as you do, to make a great start but somewhere between the landing and my writing room my brain seriously malfunctioned. I had the strange idea that if I paint a garden fence panel, just one each day, by the time I return to work the whole garden fence would be freshly painted and looking beautiful. Lordy, Lordy. I have to confess - after seven hours I now have a beautifully painted garden fence and not a single word of the novella plotted or written! What am I like?

So, my plan for tomorrow - to start plotting a novella!

Catch you tomorrow folks x

Saturday, 5 April 2014

RNA Birmingham Chapter meeting - writers' workshop

Morning folks, I write this as I sit on the train heading for a RNA Chapter writing day at the new Birmingham library. Our workshop is being lead by author and RNA member, Sue Moorcroft. It's going to be a full day of writer indulgence from 9 till 4pm.

I have to be honest and say, I am totally exhausted having completed my March challenge. But I only have myself to blame, though it has made me wonder at the output and the physical cost that writing has upon our bodies. I'm sure anyone reading this that have never written for extended periods might be shaking their heads, but I kid you not my back isn't back to normal, I did have a sore neck and have had several headaches since last weekend - which I 'm putting down to the writing stints. So, why do we do this to ourselves? Just because we love the written word? No, I did it because the finishing line was in sight and I was desperate to meet my deadline. Could I have moved the deadline date? Of course, but deep down I didn't want too. And, that's the point! I've moved deadlines before and they've become rolling dates that suddenly become pointless.

My birthday was last Tuesday, 1st April - yet another reason for my writing deadline - it was a day job day so I made the most of it by pranking as many pupils as I could. Lots of giggles on my part and numerous groans on theirs.

And so, back to this week. I have a writers' meeting on Thursday for which I have homework to complete before hand. Other then that, my mind is free to dream, muse and plan a new plot line in my head while my manuscript is away.

Enjoy the weekend folks, I shall return later with a mini update regards the RNA Chapter writing day, enjoy!

Follow up: What a fab day! Twenty writers shared, laughed and learnt so much from Sue Moorcroft, who it has to be said was very humorous throughout the day, and also very honest. I came home with my head buzzing and my heart uplifted eager to pursue my next project. If you have the chance to attend one of Sue's courses, I 'd recommend you go!

Monday, 31 March 2014

Deadline 31 March - yay!

Hi folks, I've been quiet, haven't I? I am literally on the last few hours of polishing my RNA NWS manuscript ready to post tomorrow. Just as I vowed. Has it been easy? Hell no! I literally haven 't done anything else other than writing work in order to meet this deadline. My back is hurting, I'm tired and to be honest exhausted by the routine I've stuck too. But I've managed it. Phew!

Now what? Well after tomorrow, which by the way is my birthday, I shall have a few days off before I begin to plan the next idea that is queuing in my head. Crazy aren 't we? Yep. But while I am enjoying myself musing my RNA NWS manuscript will be winging its way to a reader, who in time will produce a feedback report just for me. I can't wait.

So, bye bye for now, I'll be back tomorrow - albeit a year older... and wiser.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

De-stressed, happy and writing

Morning folks, how the devil are you? Me? I'm on cloud nine. I've had a corker of a week: day job was great, writing week was fab, saxophone playing was surprising and writing group was expressive. What more could a gal ask for? In addition, to all this fabulous positiveness (is that even a word!) my house sale was completed yesterday so my 'plate' is currently lighter as I've off loaded one huge item. Good week, hey?

Wednesday night, I attended my writing meeting Mad Hatters, were I actually read. I've given up trying to take novel chapters in for feedback because remarks on a work-in-progress isn't healthy for my creativity. I learnt that with my first novel 'Her' - so vowed never to do it again. The group is flagging, almost dying to be fair, so to give a boost to Janis, who regularly brings work, I took in a flash fiction piece. They loved it, bless 'em. It made such a difference to the discussion, and thankfully a third person Gina, had bought a poem so we ended up having a lovely evening.

Tonight, I'm attending a friend's AmDram performance of 'Shakers' in Nuneaton, Warwickshire - which will be a great giggle as the play contains lots of saucy humour.

So, the plan Stan: I have just 10 days remaining before my deadline looms. I have much polishing to do before this draft is ready, but it will be done. I have two entire days this weekend to dedicate and write. So, it's BOSFOK for me, for the majority of the weekend, give or take a Costa break.

Catch you later x

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Mother of all weeks

Morning folks, I'm back. I've been very quiet all week due to lack of time, and very little humour. Seriously, I've arrived home late, written like a robot and slept very badly. Plus, finalized the contract for a house sale - so solicitors and estate agents dealings squeezed into every free gap. My creativity and humour have been squeezed as a result.

But, what have I learnt? That I have an endless supply of stamina, a fabulous hubby who orders me to write when I look like slacking on my 1700 word challenge and that 4am is a beautiful time of day!

Amidst all the work/writing I still attended my writers' meeting even though my sleep deprived body wished to cancel.

Finally, my week closed on Saturday, I spent the day at uni studying Madame Bovary, The Woman in white and A Portrait of a Lady - and plenty of student chat. Quite an achievement!

And so, to this week. I'll continue my MaNoWriMo challenge (just two weeks to go), attend my writers' meeting on Wednesday and.... my new saxophone arrives. Woohoo!

Catch you later x

Saturday, 8 March 2014

MaNoWriMo, carrot cake and nerdiness

Morning folks, you find me pondering the plot of a short story for my Thursday's Grace Dieu meeting. An in-house exercise that we set every second month, and one which usually stretches our talents beyond our comfort zones. Anyway, I had a flash of inspiration late last night and have woken with a gem of an idea. Funny how the mind works overtime whilst I sleep, if only it could encourage the ironing fairy to visit in the same manner!

My MaNoWriMo challenge is continuing nicely - I've managed a minimum of 1700 each day, though Wednesday was tough as I didn't sit at my desk until 10:45pm!!! Shocker of a busy day: day job, parents' evening and then Mad Hatters' writing group... and finally home, to write! Anyway, you'll have seen my word count rise from 44,000 into the 60,000 over the past week, which motivates me no end. If you read my blog tour entry, you'll appreciate my nerdiness regards word counts. Is nerdiness even a word? Oh well, it is now!

Plans for today, I've had a great start by consuming carrot cake for breakfast - it seemed a good idea at the time, but now I want more (which isn't good news). I have kept the day free to hibernate in my writing room and write. Simple.

Please check out Morton Gray's contribution to the blog tour 'My Writing Process' which will appear on Monday morning at www.mortongray.blogspot.com

I'll catch you later x


Follow up: I had a fabulous day yesterday. I managed to writer 3274 words on my RNA NWS submission and... I bought a saxophone inbetween writing sessions! I already play the flute and violin  so I'm hoping the transition onto a sax is pretty smooth. Creative in all areas which I believe helps to stimulate my writing.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

My Writing Process - blog tour



Bella Osborne invited me to contribute to this blog tour where writers share their process. Bella is a member of the RNA’s new writer’s scheme, a project manager and a Mummy (not the Egyptian variety) who is currently writing her second novel whilst she has her fingers crossed that someone would like to publish the first one. She blogs at http://bellaosborne.weebly.com/blog.html and can usually be found on Twitter, @osborne_bella

What am I working on?

I’m busy working on my submission for the Romantic Novelists’ Associations’ New Writers Scheme, a contemporary romance with a hint of comedy. It’s my third novel and I’m determined to complete by 31st March, clearing the decks for my birthday on 1st April.  My goal is to submit by the end of March, then on receiving the reader’s feedback I’ll address any weaknesses. Come May, I’d like to be submitting the novel to agents and publishers – so fingers crossed, but hey, you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men!

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

No disrespect to other writers, but I think the difference is the honesty and worldly experience of the author. Like a potter with clay, I tend to use experiences, emotions and knowledge from my own life to shape and mould the raw material enabling me to write from the heart. I don’t ever write about anything that I haven’t lived or can’t research/experience in-depth. As a result my romance novels address darker emotional issues with a healthy dollop of laughter – much like life.

Why do I write what I do?

I love the inner strength of people – that ability to cope in circumstances that we never thought we’d encounter and yet somehow, we survive. Whether it be the ultimate betrayal and break up, close bereavement or serious illness – the human ability to breathe in and out while enduring the greatest heartache - simply amazes me. I feel my work captures the essence of an emotion present during a difficult situation and that’s why I write what I write. I’m also a sucker for a love story. 

How does your writing process work?

For me, the seeds of an idea usually begin with a character trying to cope with a specific situation. From this point, I can walk around for months with the idea growing and germinating in my mind, as I go about my daily work. Once a few more characters have joined the cast, I sit down and create a detailed scrap book – pictures, names, birthdays, addresses, photographs, diagrams, diary dates that becomes a reference book containing every detail of the new novel. I tend to spend hours with a baby naming book – I love names with meaning and so my characters tend to grow from those pages. I tend to plan certain scenes – so outline these on small index cards and place in order – there is always plenty of scope for the unexpected to occur while I’m writing – which is one particular enjoyment of writing draft one. I’m a goal orientated person, husband calls it ‘nerdy’ but I set up a spreadsheet to record my daily word count, complete with a mini graph. I gain a satisfaction from seeing the trends and trough of my work pattern, it also means I can’t kid myself regards productivity!

Next on the blog tour

Morton Gray is a member of the RNA's New Writers' Scheme and is busy polishing novels to submit for publication. She was shortlisted for the Festival of Romance New Talent Award in 2013. Her blog at www.mortongray.blogspot.com is a glorious mixture of things she comes across on her writing journey. To follow Morton via Twitter search for @MSGray53 or on Facebook as Morton Gray.