Let me tell you, Spanish villas in Murcia are freezing cold! The heat flies right out of the windows and walls and seeps through the cold tiles and that lovely cool house of summer is an ice box in March.
You may think I was lucky, to spend five weeks in Spain while I was recuperating from my hip operation, but was I? We had lots of sunny days but I discovered that missing the cold February and March weather in the UK had a price.
That price was a lovely, cosy, warm house with unlimited writing time!
I can’t write outdoors in the sunshine. Laptop says ‘no’ with a black screen and I get distracted. Yes, I’ve tried a contraption that shields the screen from the sun but it flaps about in a breeze and I forgot to pack it this trip. I can ‘ dream up’ characters and stories while I’m lying back on a sun lounger though, so all is not lost!
If I’d been at home and hiding indoors from the Beast from the East, my thermostat would be keeping me at a steady warm temperature and I would be cosy whilst looking at fat snowflakes falling outside.
In Casa Margarita, on a sunny day, I watched my husband reading in the sun as I was wearing socks jumper and blanket to try to type a few hundred words. Cold is not conducive to writing. I was so glad to finish and get out into some warmth!
Will I go again? Oh yes. We had a wood burning stove to huddle around at night. We had to sit over it, mind you, or the walls stole the heat and a trip to the kitchen or bathroom was chilly. It meant we cuddled up together too.
Next time, I’ll be prepared. Instead of buying new bikinis, I’ll be buying one of those silly but warm ‘onesies’, packing my old Ugg boots and taking a hot water bottle for when I’m writing. You can’t keep a determined writer down!
My hip operation went ahead In January but it hasn’t stopped me from getting out and about .
With this trusty customised NHS stick and my new cross body book bag – a delightful Christmas present- I’ve been able to take a short walk for a pub lunch or a coffee. More calories going in than out with that arrangement that little voice in my head nags. I know! I had better be careful or I’ll pile a few more winter pounds on and stress my new hip.
My RAS – reticular activating system- has come into play because I’ve been seeing and empathising with fellow stick users at every turn.
I think the RAS part of our brain is astounding. My simple understanding is that it takes whatever we focus on and creates a filter for it. It then sifts through all the data it receives and presents only the pieces that are important to us at any time.
A walking aid is vital for me right now and I’m seeing all those who are similar to me and how they manage. All of this filtering happens without me noticing, of course. My RAS programs itself without me actively doing anything
When you’re pregnant, you notice other baby bumps and babies in buggies. When you want a new car, you notice how many of a certain model are on the road. When was the last time you noticed that your reticular activating system had come into play and started pointing something out to you?
I’m sure it can help or hinder your New Year resolutions too because it filters the world to reflect your beliefs. If you think you are going to write rubbish, you probably will. If you believe you’re working well then you most likely will have a successful day. Your RAS helps you to see what you want to see and in doing so, influences your actions.
It has been suggested that you can train your RAS by taking your subconscious thoughts and marrying them to your conscious thoughts and “setting your intent.” If you focus hard on your goals, your RAS will alert you to the people and opportunities that help you achieve them. This certainly takes the mystery out of ‘the law of attraction’ idea. Focus on important things and they will come to you because the RAS on your own brain seeks them out.
The brain is amazing but so is the rest of the body’s ability to heal. Four hours after my hip op, I was walking with sticks and next day I was tested on walking up and down stairs before going home . My leg was working with a whole new ball and socket in it and it wasn’t too painful at all .
The most fascinating healing is the skin’s ability to heal itself and my scar improves every day. So….here I am in week three enjoying a writer’s and reader’s meet up in a pub in town . I’m glad I joined North East Authors and Readers.
I am excited about my current novel and, at the same time, worried that someone else will think of my wonderful idea. It’s both pleasure and angst being a writer and that’s why it’s so nice when a group of us meet up and understand all the fun but all of the insecurities too.
I have to say I’m grateful to our wonderful NHS and its staff and I hope it’s something we never lose. I’m blessed to be pain free and I feel for all those who haven’t got a solution to their pain.
I’m excited to be preparing for our trip to warmer climes where I will work on my novel, recuperate and discard those sticks. Next month’s blog will come from Mazzaron in Murcia
Isn’t it strange how fiction can intermingle with our lives? I wonder if you have ever followed in the footsteps of a character you like?
I have a great love of Egyptian history and decided that one of my characters in ‘A Jarful of Moondreams’ should make a trip there.
I had visited most of the places I mentioned in the novel but I’d never been to Makadi Bay. That was chosen after Internet research for a beach location.
My husband booked a December Nile cruise and Red Sea holiday for us and I thought the resort name seemed familiar but it wasn’t until we were travelling there that it dawned on me; I was following in Teri’s Moons footsteps and going to Makadi Bay!
In ‘A Jarful of Moondreams’ Teri Moon decides to take an extended trip to Egypt and leave Alex, her teenage dughter, with her older daughter, Cleo, in the hope that they will stop sparring and start to like each other a little. The novel is mainly about Teri’s girls but her holiday adventures are a subplot.
Teri meets Greg, an archaeologist, on the plane out to Cairo and they visit the pyramids and Cairo museum together before Teri continues alone on her travels to Mount Sinai.
Teri decided to take a beach break at Hurghada before the trip to Luxor and all its wonders. She was going to meet up with Greg again to explore Luxor and the Valley of the Kings. She checked into a luxury hotel, enjoying the air conditioning and the chance to skype her girls. She had been delighted at how they both seemed to be comfortable in one another’s company. Even Pharos, her cat, seemed to be settled; perhaps her plan was working.
Greg had surprised her. He’d asked if she’d mind him joining her on the beach and arrived at Makadi Bay a couple of days ago. They’d had fun and relaxed and were very easy in each other’s company. But now Teri felt rather confused. They’d held hands walking along the beach last night and she knew they were getting fond of one another. Maybe too fond?
He’d told her he was forty, that was nine years her junior. Was it such a gap? That was the main thing stopping her from succumbing to a holiday romance. That, and the fact that Greg was the first man she’d looked at in that way since Mac. It must be the spell of Egypt.
Greg’s shadow stood in the way of the sun. He dropped an ice-cold lolly on her midriff.
‘Greg!’ she shrieked. He sat on the end of her lounger. Tall, tanned, long hair ruffled by the sea, who could resist him? He was thoughtful and caring too.
‘Teri, you’ve lain there long enough. When you finish that ice lolly, we should go for a dip, then a siesta.’
‘What do you mean, a siesta?’ Teri sat up.
‘A short sleep in the cool air-conditioned rooms that we’ve got. What did you think I meant?’
She was lost for words. He’d placed the beach ball firmly on her patch of sand.
Excerpt From: Bradshaw, Chrissie. “A Jarful of Moondreams.”
So, this month, I’ve followed in the footsteps of two Neferteri’s and had a fabulous time in Egypt.
It doesn’t have to be a place, though does it? You can follow in the life experiences of a character too. Don’t get me started on Bridgit Jones! I’m sure that, if you think about it, you’d have a few of those moments. I’d love to hear them.
A promising actress is hidden under a hoard of memories and a journalist is drowning her talents in wine. What went wrong and who else will suffer before the Douglas sisters reach out to each other and find the courage to go after their dreams?
‘One for Sorrow, Two for Joy’ could take place anywhere. Do you think that the place where a story is set is important? I certainly do and that is why I try to make my settings as real to my readers as they are to me.
I picture a setting for my novels and recreate that picture with words. ‘One for Sorrow, Two for Joy’, my second novel, starts at Magpie’s Rest.
This house, situated on the outskirts of Dunleith, is the family home of the Douglases. Erin Douglas, a promising actress, has buried herself inside Magpie’s Nest ever since the death of her mother but things are about to change. It’s not just Erin who must face the past and try to make a new start. Heather, her sister, is struggling with her career, her family and the wine bottle. Their brother Fraser doesn’t seem to understand their reluctance to sell the family home.
Magpie’s Rest is one of three cottages created from unwanted farm outbuildings and it is not ‘chocolate box’ pretty because it is made of several different types of brick and was converted on a budget of recycled wood and tiles. It has character and stands out from the other cottages because of a rather splendid Magpie weathervane sitting on the roof. Liz Douglas had it especially made by Tommy the Blacksmith when she moved into the cottage.
Fraser points out that the quiet village of Dunleith is no place for Erin,an up and coming actress, or Heather, a city journalist, and the house should be sold but it is filled with family memories. A lone magpie is roosting around the house. Will a second one join him to bring back joy? Will the house be sold or will the Douglas family retain their links with Dunleith?
Whych Elm Hall features in the novel too. I me tioned Whych Elm and its fabulous restaurant in an earlier post. The hall is being refurbished by Jackson McGee and Erin becomes involved with the project . Will she become involved with Jackson?
The setting of ‘One for Sorrow, Two for Joy’ is not all about Dunleith village; the book’s setting covers a larger canvas. Heather lives in Jesmond, a suburb of Newcastle, with Mark and their children and this features in the novel as does London’s theatre district where Erin needs to return.
I have finished ‘One for Sorrow, Two for Joy’ and I’m exploring publishing options. Before I write book three, I’d love to know this. How important is setting to you when you’re reading a novel?
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!
A JARFUL OF MOONDREAMS, a contemporary novel about three strong women from the North, is published on July 22nd and people are ordering it on kindle from today! I didn’t realise that I would be so excited about launching my book.
Here is the beautiful cover showing the Moondream jar
Ebook is available as an ebook on Amazon from today.
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?