It’s hard to believe that A Jarful of Moondreams is one year old and on sale for 99p. What a year! It’s been full of highs and lows and lots of learning. Would I do it again? Yes. Would I do it differently? Of course! I made mistakes in publishing and promoting and learned from them. If I didn’t think I could do it all differently and more successfully the second time around I wouldn’t be writing this blog.
Writing and publishing a novel is like carrying and giving birth to an infant. It’s full of anxiety as well as joy and producing the finished novel can be a long and painful process that other writers and imaginative readers can appreciate.
Immediately after you write The End there is a niggling worry. Will another follow swiftly or will it be an only novel for years and years like Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird?’ Like a parent, a writer just doesn’t know for sure.
I think the most exciting time is when you finally present your months of hard labour to the reading world with a fanfare of tweets, blogs and giveaways. You want everyone to say kind things and most people do. The relief!
Gradually, the initial buzz of interest lulls and leaves you feeling unsure and full of questions. Will your newbie grow legs and run? Will it be a crawler that sells oh so slowly? You help it along and continue to post proud parent pics and news as you start on book 2.
Book 2 ( title to be revealed soon!) grabs your attention and you’re immersed in that until you look up and your published novel is a year old. If you’re lucky, the second is now ready to be delivered to the reading world and some readers are eagerly waiting for it. How can you cope with more than one leaving the nest?
This is exactly where I am now and of course I’ll cope. I have so many role models who have a shelf crammed with books in their name and if they can let go time and time again then I’ll certainly try.
Can I pause first though? Before I excitedly push book 2 put into the world, I just want to take a moment to enjoy my first book. I’d like to bask in the pleasure of knowing that readers enjoyed my novel and told others about it and it got great reviews. I need to let my debut know that it’s not forgotten.
‘A Jarful of Moondreams’ hasn’t been a great earner but it has brought me a wealth of knowledge and I’m proud of how it’s still selling for 99p this summer. I’m keeping my faith in its storytelling power and sending it on its way for another year.
I hope that, one day, I’ll be able to fill a shelf with my books but there will always be a special place in my heart for novel number one striving to find its place on your e-book shelf for 99p
Let’s look at frustration – Does expectation feed frustration?
I want to write brilliant novels that readers want to read and I want someone, an expert, to take the publishing part out of my hands. It’s a big ask, I know but I’m asking.
The writing frustration comes and goes and, when the writing goes well, it’s a feeling like no other. After the hard work that went into publishing ‘A Jarful of Moondreams’ I can’t imagine how I’ll feel when someone tells me that they will do the publishing part. Frustration be gone!
I’ve read that the best way to deal with frustration is to focus on the outcome I want instead of the obstacles in my way and that makes sense to me. I’m in this for the long haul and the success of publishing of my novels will seem even sweeter after scaling a series of obstacles. Those obstacles? They are just stepping stones to my goal.
I try to focus on the right things – the possibilities rather than the problems. Whoever observed that if you chase two rabbits, you’ll lose both didn’t know the tenacity of an author. Only two? Writing involves taking time to promote book one and my writing , to complete re -writes on book two and to plan book three. Believe me, having my head in three different novels takes focus and I’m not letting any of them get away.
Playing with words is fun and, as a writer, I do this every day. The other fun part of my writing life is talking about my writing journey to readers who might just buy my novel and using social media to network to readers and fellow authors. I’ve learnt that 4 and 5 star reviews from readers who have paid for your book and enjoyed it are the best reward for sharing your work with readers and that’s a good thing because new writers rarely make a living from their novels. The fabulous leg photo I used above was sent to me via Facebook by a reader who was reading this on holiday. It made my day.
Making my novel better is fun. Novel two has had an excellent critique full of great advice from the wonderful RNA new writers’ scheme. I’m enjoying a final redraft and revision of the novel before pitching it to agents and publishers this summer.
Winning awards is fun! OK only one award so far. The highlight of my writing year was to receive the Elizabeth Goudge Trophy at the Romantic Novelists’ Association gala dinner last July. I’ll be sad to return it from its pride of place on my sideboard but there is a future winner who will give it loving care next year.
My first pitches for novel two will be at the Romantic Novelists’ Conference this July. Wish me luck!????
What’s the title? How did the pitches go? I’m looking forward to writing about this in my next blog . It will be all about the book and its reception. (Note that I don’t say it’s rejection????)
So you’re not a super juggler? Relax, I’ve found out that you can still have it all- just not at the same time so don’t beat yourself up about dropping something every now and then. Better still, relax with your drink of choice -tea or a chilled wine for me – and escape into a book or take time out to dream up the life you’re after.
Just what does your ideal life story look like? Do you ever let yourself dream about it? I pictured being at the top of a successful career, in a happy marriage, with a child, money to travel, time to exercise, time with family and friends and time to write a novel or two. I’d be so content with some of that life.
I couldn’t do it all at once and I didn’t try. There just aren’t enough hours in the day and I find that, if ever I take on too much, I enjoy none of it. My head can’t be several places at once and my juggling becomes clumsy. I’ve experienced that a few times and I’m sure you have too so let’s be kinder to ourselves and remember it’s a LIFE story. Some parts of it will take time.
That’s not to say we should forget our long-held dreams. That almost happened to me until I got a very loud wake up call.
In my late twenties and thirties, I juggled my career with being a single parent and all ideas of finding my ideal man or travelling and writing had to be put on hold. My energy was used up with the school run, a challenging job, after school activities and then more work so even exercise was put on the back burner for a while. Luckily, I loved my job and loved my daughter so I was tired but happy and fulfilled. The childhood years are precious and we can’t grab them back even though we sometimes think the summer holidays are neverending!
The man that I loved enough to marry came along by surprise a few years later and, after years of being a singleton, having a partner was a wonderful change. My days were full and life sped along at an alarming rate. Holidays already? Another birthday? It can’t be Christmas! You’ll know the feeling. I visited some amazing places with my husband, my daughter was independent and I still had time to catch up with exercise and writing in the years to come.
A challenge from my sister meant that I took up running. I wasn’t good at it or anywhere near as speedy as I’d like to be but I enjoyed it and managed 5 K, then 10k and then a half marathon. While I was running, I’d sort out life’s niggles or make up stories. I still didn’t get round to writing them down. The Great North Run gave me such a buzz. I felt like life had treated me well and I almost had it all. I promised myself I’d even start writing that book one day soon. In the pic below I’m running with my sister for Bliss, premature babies charity.
If you’re waiting , thinking something must come along to take the wind right out of my sails, you’re right. It was a bloody great storm in my G cup. I felt healthy and happy but, although I was surprised when I found out I had an aggressive breast cancer, I didn’t ever think ‘why me?’ Why not when it happens to 1 in 8 of us women? I felt numb as I prepared for the treatments and prepared for the worst scenario. Would my time be far shorter than I’d ever imagined?
As I went through a lumpectomy followed by chemotherapy and baldness, then daily sessions of radiotherapy, I began feeling much older than my years. I set about writing a bucket list. I’m good at writing lists but not so great at carrying them out. This was the most important list I’d written.
I thought about writing and the pleasure it gave me so that went on the list. I thought I would quite like to do a lot of things but nothing compared to writing. My real regret was not ever getting down to writing those novels in my head so my bucket list was short. Write a bloody novel!
As soon as my ‘chemo fog’ lifted, I got to work on an idea I had been playing around with for far too long. Had I been afraid I wasn’t up to the task? I could write better than I could run and I’d managed a half marathon so what was there to fear? I didn’t care if my novel was published or not as long as I finished it. That was my promise to myself.
It took almost three years, I was still juggling family, holidays and treatments remember, but at last I typedTHE END and that was a wonderful day. Soon afterwards, I went off to France with my husband and our dog for a month and felt on top of the world.
I came to earth with a bump when we got home and a letter lay in wait asking me to go to the breast cancer clinic. This time, I have to admit I did think why me a second time? I was angry that my breasts had let me down again, especially as I was taking tablets meant to keep stray cancer cells at bay that gave me chronic joint pain. I thought long and hard about treatments and opted for a double mastectomy. I wanted to try my best to live and do all I could to prevent hearing that news a third time.
As I was recovering from my mastectomy and reconstruction, I took solace in the fact that I’d finished one novel and started another. I was now a writer so I decided to put myself out there and get my first novel published. Would it be any good? My daughter and sisters thought so, my husband believed in me, but they weren’t the big wide world.
I sent my manuscript to the Romantic Novelists’ Association because I’d become a member and they critique new writer’s novels. My professional reader liked it and read most of it in one sitting. That was enough to encourage me to send it out to several agents. Agents do get a lot of manuscripts and they are notoriously slow in getting back to writers but it was so hard waiting and then being told that the novel was well written but not quite right for their lists.
What should a woman who wants it all do? After two months, I decided to find a publisher myself. I didn’t have the time to wait around and see whether my first novel would fit an agent’s list. I believe that we help to make our own dreams come true. My book, A JARFUL of MOONDREAMS is out there now and proof of that. Yes, I found a publisher and that’s why I can say that I think you CAN have it all.
Knowing what I’ve gone through before having the courage to finish and publish a novel, you’ll understand my pleasure when I received the Elizabeth Goudge writing award for 2016 at this year’s Romantic Novelists’ conference. What a surprise and boost to my writing confidence. I look at the silver trophy and think, I’m a writer.
I couldn’t have it all at the same time but, if I have any tip to pass on, it is this –
Don’t try to juggle everything at once but don’t procrastinate and take TOO long either. Remember, I was almost too late!
Going after your dreams is about pacing yourself and enjoying each of life’s events enough to keep you going when the bad times happen. I’m in great health, for now, and I don’t ever take that for granted. I’ve changed the day job to writing. It doesn’t bring in a load of money but it’s fun and I’m writing my second novel.
My debut novel, ‘A Jarful of Moondreams’ follows three characters- a mother as she approaches her fiftieth birthday, her career obsessed daughter who is in her thirties and her younger teenage daughter. The story takes the Moon family through a turbulent summer when they are all chasing their dreams and colliding into love. The sisters don’t get along at all and we find out why when they are thrown together for the summer. Their mother decides to go travelling and holds onto the hope that they will bond while she is away. Family secrets spill out that change all of their lives and make it a summer to remember. If, like me, you love a good plot that involves modern women and their relationships and has an element of romance, this could be just the novel for you.
Writing ‘A Jarful of Moondreams’ has been my escape from troubling times so, although it tells the story of an eventful summer, it has to have an upbeat ending. Reading is all about escaping for a little while isn’t it? If you want to read about another family’s dreams and find out how they captured them and you think this might interest you, here is the link.
I was delighted to be an award winner with my short story ‘Such Small Moments’ at the Romantic Novelists’ Association dinner this month. The photograph below shows me being presented with the Elizabeth Goudge Trophy by the chairman, Eileen Ramsay. This totally unexpected honour made the gala dinner an extra-special one that I’ll always remember.
I am over the moon because my debut novel, A JARFUL OF MOONDREAMS, is out in print and e-book on the 22nd and I have some pre-ordered copies. it is a great feeling to hold your completed novel and flick through the pages.
Here is one of my beta readers who ploughed through my draft copy with her brand new paperback. She is checking the changes since her last reading and there were a few!
Can a certain song take you back to a time or place or bring back being with a special person? Music does that for me. That’s why I am pleased to be part of a music blog event organised by Elaina James. You can read about her journey into song writing on www.mslexia.co.uk/author/elainajames and on www.elainajames.co.uk.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll listen to music in different ways.
Way 1 -Listening to music using head phones to block out all other distractions, the instrumentals sound fantastic and the lyrics are so clear that it’s like being transported to another world. I love to do this under the shade of a beach umbrella and, if there is no beach, lying on my bed comes a close second.
Way 2-Going to concerts and sharing the music with friends and other fans is a different experience. Who doesn’t get carried away by the atmosphere of a concert and a live performance? I remember most concerts quite vividly because of the thrill of getting the tickets and the anticipation of going as well as enjoying the event. Two of my favourite gigs have been David Bowie and Dolly Parton so I have eclectic taste.
Way 3- When I’m active, I like music to spur me on. I have a few favourite running tracks and they can keep my spirits up when the weather is bad or the legs feel leaden. If I have to face the gym, there has to be music to distract me and I prefer a Zumba class to the treadmill.
I use music to ease me into the writing zone too. I tend to play a few tracks when I’m using social media or sorting out my mail and before I start to write or at the very beginning of a writing session and then turn down when the writing gets going.
Jean Paul Richter, the romantic writer, said, ‘Music is moonlight in the gloomy night of life.’ I like the idea of music acting as moonlight and, when I was writing the first draft of A JARFUL OF MOONDREAMS, I created a playlist around the moon motif within the novel. Both melody and lyrics are important to me and each song is a glimpse of how someone relates to the moon. I wonder which of my tracks you will recognise?
My playlist starts with a 50s ballad and the unique voice of Sinatra singing ‘Blue moon,You knew just what I was there for,You heard me saying a prayer for,Someone I really could care for’. My novel takes place over five moon months and, yes there was that special blue moon in the July of 2015.
Van Morrison’s Moondance comes next, ‘Well, it’s a marvellous night for a Moondance,with the stars up above in your eyes, a fantabulous night to make romance,’Neath the cover of October skies.’ I love this song it is so uplifting and to maintain the upbeat mood, I have Cat Stevens singing, ‘I’m bein’ followed by a moonshadow, moon shadow, moonshadow—Leapin and hoppin’ on a moonshadow, moonshadow, moonshadow’
The timeline of A JARFUL of MOONDREAMS takes us through the pink moon of May, a mead moon, a thunder moon a blue moon through to a September harvest moon. What no cherry moon? Prince’s rendering of Cherry moon had to be on my playlist. ‘How can I stand 2 stay where I am, Poor butterfly who don’t understand, Why can’t I fly away in a special sky, If I don’t find my destiny soon, I’ll die in your arms under the cherry moon.’ Sad news this month, won’t we all miss his extraordinary talent?
The Waterboys follow on with ‘ I saw the crescent, you saw the whole of the moon.’ Bruno Mars completes the list with my most modern track. ‘I sit by myself talking to the moon, trying to get to you, in hopes you’re on the other side, talking to me to.’
So there you have the songs that lead me into my book. I think that writing and music go together but aren’t all aspects of life enhanced by music?
‘Sometimes, on the way to a dream, you get lost and find a better one.’ Unknown
My 2016 new year plans for publishing ‘A Jarful of Moondreams’ have changed. It’s usual for me to let my resolutions slow to a crawl or fall by the wayside (What dry January? Who said diet?). I’ve surprised myself by increasing the challenge and moving forward on this year’s resolution much more quickly than I intended.
Those of you who read January’s blog may recall that I was going to send submissions to agents for several months and wait to see if someone would represent me before turning, as my last resort, to self publishing. A good plan, I thought.
Sending off three or four submissions per month was taking up a day or two of writing time and then there was the waiting for an answer, or no answer to deal with. It took up more thinking space than I thought it would and each month it was hard to settle into writing book two.
In January, submitting was a new task. In February it was a chore that had to be done if I wanted to be published. By March, the rejections started coming in; I received three very thoughtful rejection emails. ‘A Jarful of Moondreams’ wasn’t for these agents but they wished me luck.
I had been prepared for rejection but the ‘not hearing’ from agents is hard even though I know they’re really busy people. So, with my March submissions being even more of a grind, I decided to give the submissions a rest for a month or so and just get on with book two. I didn’t want to call a halt to getting my book out there but I had submitted to eight agents and, if they didn’t want it, who would?
I enjoyed becoming immersed in writing my new novel but, without looking for the topic, I kept reading about self publishing in news articles, on twitter and on Facebook.
This has happened to me before and I recognise that it’s a sign that I want to do something even though the rational part of my brain is not so sure. It’s a bit like seeing pregnant women everywhere when you’re feeling broody. My understanding of this is that it is the reticular activating system filtering and focussing on the thing your subconscious knows you want. ( A Lou Tice course during a previous career taught me this and showed how it could be used to come up with solutions to your goals.)
A couple of my own previous examples are – I kept seeing people with terrier pups when I was in a position to have a dog at last and it had been a long awaited goal. I kept reading about authors who were in the RNA new writers’ scheme when I felt like I wanted writing support but wasn’t sure where to find it. Once I had my pup and once I was on the RNA new writers’ scheme, those pups and writers were still about but they didn’t register in my RAS with as noisy a ‘ding’ every day because I had achieved those things.
I decided that, if my RAS was flagging up self publishing and I was less enthusiastic about sending submissions, I had the answer to rethinking my plan.
It was an article by Rachel Abbott- don’t you love her thrillers?- about her route to self publishing that first got me thinking. Rachel’s novels are best sellers but she couldn’t find an agent. Her success has been phenomenal and she got her agent. Lizzy Kremer represents Rachel now but she still self publishes .
A Facebook friend sang the praises of Matador, part of Troubadour publishing, who supported her self publishing journey. Accent press advertised their new venture in the self publishing market. Well established publishers are collaborating with authors who want to self publish. Why not give it a try?
I had to discuss financing this plan with the other half of the team and, straight away, he said, ‘Yes, do it.’ Readers, if you’re out there, (I had already married him) I did it. Gulp, big decision made.
I sent my novel to the two reputable publishers that I’d heard of and both gave me a good choice of levels of publishing and marketing. I decided to go with Octavo ( part of Accent press) who were offering a discount to RNA members and, now the decision is made, I’m delighted to be starting on this exhilarating journey.
My book, ‘A Jarful of Moondreams’, will definitely be available worldwide as an ebook and as a paperback this year. How exciting is that?
Was my decision too hasty or would you have done the same as me? Has your RAS ever gone into overdrive about a goal? I’d love to hear your views.
‘Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans’
I first heard this in John Lennon’s song, ‘Beautiful Boy’ and John’s fate is my reminder to appreciate each day as it comes whether your plans work out or not.
We do thrive on plans that take us forward though, and I’m happy that my writing plans for 2016 are forging ahead.
I’ve completed my final draft of ‘A Jarful of Moondreams’ and , each month, I’m sending it off to two agents and a publisher. I figured that this means I’ll always have one of two people considering my work and won’t have all my rejections back at once.
Talking of rejections, I’ve just had my first. It was a nicely worded rejection and I’ve been told so often that I’ll get lots on my journey to publication that it was a sort of right of passage. Opened it, read it, over it.
As well as looking for representation, I’m looking into self-publishing. My plan is to be published one way or another and, while I would be delighted to be taken on by an agent who loves my work, I’m prepared to go it alone.
I’ve sent ‘A Jarful of Moondreams’ out into the world to be read by my nearest and dearest. That, I feel, is harder than giving it to strangers. ”Love It!” ‘Hated Neil” “perfect summer holiday read” ‘Ha! I can’t believe ….(spoiler)” ” I loved that man” It is lovely to hear that people couldn’t wait to find out what happened to my characters. I even got “Is there a sequel? I want to know more about….”
I’ve loved writing for the past couple of years but now I’m learning how satisfying it is for my novel to have readers. I know I’m going to have great fun when I’m taking it out into a wider field and promoting it.
While the first born is getting out there, novel 2 has not got a title. There are several that I like but I don’t want to pin it down yet.
With number 2, it’s easier to make writing time, to allow the characters to develop as they come to life on the page and to allow the odd new twist to appear in the story. There’s a welsh terrier who wants to make an appearance. He’s a lovely character like my welshie , Oscar, but older and wiser. I’m enjoying drafting this story because I’m getting rid of the ‘this is rubbish’ voice that used to crop up when I first started writing. If it whispers that it’s rubbish, I say that I can always go back and change it. I’ve written right up to THE END once so I can do it again because I’m a writer.