Have you missed me?

Oh my. Is it really two months since I last posted on my blog? That’s quite shocking. It’s been a crazy busy couple of months. Let’s face it, though, it’s been a crazy busy year … several years … decade. I guess that’s how it is when you have a full time job and try to write as well.

Writing-wise, I feel like I’ve hardly put fingers to keyboard recently although I’ve had a few key moments:
1. I attended another library talk. This one was at Filey Library down the coast from my home in Scarborough. There were 12 attendees plus library staff which was a great turn-out and I sold several copies of ‘Searching for Steven‘ which was a huge bonus

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2. I met a lovely new writing friend called Helen Reynolds. Helen is writing a historical series which sounds very exciting. She’s also a social media expert and gave me some great tips and advice

3. I finished my final edits on book 2 of the Whitsborough Bay series – ‘Getting Over Gary’. This was a big thing for me. I’d had very few edits to make for Steven but there were several for Gary including a massive re-think about the way I’d written it. I’d originally told the story from two points of view but it’s now from only one. I fought against changing it at first but am now glad that I have because I think the book is better for it

4. I’ve agreed a revised launch date with my publishers for ‘Getting Over Gary’. Instead of June 2016, it’s going to be launched on 3rd March 2016 with the final book in the trilogy coming out in late summer the same year instead of June 2017 like originally planned. Very exciting. We’re working on the final edits for the cover right now so I’m looking forward to doing a reveal soon

I’ll make this a short one and hopefully find some time for a bit more blogging soon. Thanks for bearing with me xx

Happy Anniversary to Me!

There’s a phrase I often use: “What a difference a day makes“. I’m not sure of the original origin (it didn’t come up on the first page of Google and I was far too lazy to look further), but it’s the title of a few songs, including the lovely Dinah Washington classic so I’ve linked it through to You Tube if you fancy a listen. The song talks about Dinah’s world changing from blue to joyous when the man of her dreams becomes hers. This isn’t usually the context in which I use the phrase myself. I tend to use it more to describe those occasional days that change an aspect of your life. For me, a very life-changing day happened exactly a year ago today (17th September). It was the day that I received my publishing deal from So Vain Books because that email and subsequent phone call made me into the published author I am today.

11312759_890004877705480_5647299591566996495_oAs it happens, I was already on the path to publication because a little over two weeks before, on 1st September, I’d received an offer of a three-book publishing deal with another company. I’d verbally accepted it and was going through the paperwork, but I had one or two concerns. Although they’d said they loved Searching for StevenI got the sense that they wanted to change it quite significantly and I was concerned that it wasn’t going to end up the story that I set out to write. When the offer from SVB came through, my gut instinct told me that they were going to be the better home for Steven and I’ve never for one moment regretted that decision.

So that was a day that made a difference, but it’s really been a year that’s made a difference that I wanted to talk about in this blog post. It’s certainly been an eventful year. In the non-writing part of my life, there’ve been some significant events:

  • _MG_6896Both of my parents have turned 70 (well, Dad turns 70 in two week’s time but it’s nearly within the year!)
  • Our gorgeous cat Pixie lost her battle with diabetes and left us at the young age of nine
  • We took our daughter (seven at the time) on her very first holiday abroad
  • I was made redundant completely unexpectedly, but thankfully walked straight into another job
  • Hubby and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary (again, I’m extending the year slightly because it’s actually a week today but that’s close enough between friends, isn’t it?)
  • I re-joined bootcamp and have been rising again at 5.20am three mornings a week for the past year
  • Hubby decided to take his interest in photography to the next level and has grown into an incredibly talented photographer who has taken pictures at his first wedding as well as undertaking his first corporate commission. Very proud!

_MG_5008In the writing part of my life, I can’t believe what’s happened to me! I’ve:

  • Released a novel (Searching for Steven) AND a novella (Raving About Rhys)
  • Peaked at number 399 in the overall Amazon chart with Steven
  • Received x50 reviews for Steven and x33 for Rhys
  • Only got 5-star and 4-star reviews (so far; always preparing myself for that first 1-star review and promising myself I won’t sob for hours when it appears!)
  • Been a contributor to an anthology of short stories (Winter Tales), raising money for Cystic Fibrosis Trust and Teenage Cancer Trust
  • Appeared in the local press: The Scarborough News, The Yorkshire Coast, The Scarborough Review, and The Scarborough Comet
  • Talked and signed books at two libraries, and secured talks at two others
  • 1972459_10153485966594073_1735178700762728074_nHad Steven stocked across North Yorkshire Libraries
  • Got Waterstones to stock Steven in the Scarborough branch
  • Had a launch party attended by lots of incredibly supportive and lovely friends and family
  • Had a blue plaque named for me (OK, so it was a DIY-special courtesy of my dad but it’s still pretty special!)
  • Finished my second novel, Getting Over Gary (well, it will be finished within two weeks as that’s deadline time)
  • Planned my second novella. (Confession: when I say ‘planned’, I mean there’s an idea in my head and I’ll just run with that and see where it takes me, but I took the same approach with Rhys and it worked so let’s hope second time will work too!)

Blue PlacqueYes, what a difference a year makes! I still find it hard to believe that I’m a published author. It still doesn’t feel real. I wonder if it ever will. Thank you so very much to everyone who has supported me over the last year and before that too. Thank you So Vain Books for taking a chance on me, thank you to everyone who has bought/read/reviewed Steven and all those who’ve promoted and recommended it to their friends and family. You’re amazing, every last one of you. I’ve been touched and overwhelmed by how supportive some people have been. I’ll admit I’ve also been very disappointed at the lack of support from some people who I thought would have been pleased for me and passed word on. If you’re a prolific Facebook user, how difficult is it to like and share a post and say something like “My friend wrote this. I’m not a reader myself but if any of my FB friends are, it’s got great reviews so why not give it a go?” I’d certainly have done that if roles had been reversed. I won’t dwell on this, though, as this is a happy post and the non-supporters are absolutely in the minority. Plus it’s their choice. I just thought …. *slaps wrist and tells self to stop dwelling on it* Thank you to North Yorkshire Libraries for their support, particularly Sharon Houghton from Eastfield Library, and to Waterstones for ordering copies of Steven. Huge thanks to my mum, Joyce Williams, who has left postcards on noticeboards whilst on holiday, and talked so many of her village residents into buying a signed copy of the paperback. Thanks to The Write Romantics for their eternal support. And finally thanks to hubby and the munchkin for letting me disappear into my world of imaginary friends on a regular basis without moaning that I’m neglecting them xxx

I can’t wait to see what the next year brings …

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Three more sleeps till launch day. Eek!

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I’m watching the final of Britain’s Got Talent as I’m writing this. It’s one of the few TV programmes I watch as limiting my time in front of the TV is the only way I can fit in writing alongside my full-time day job. The thing I love about BGT is that it’s all about dreams coming true and that’s something I can personally relate to right now because I’ve achieved my dream of being a published author.

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CoversMy debut novella Raving About Rhys has been available on eBook for a few weeks now and my debut novel Searching for Steven comes out on Wednesday. As my protagonist Sarah would say: EEEEEKKKKKK!!!!

I couldn’t stop grinning on the day that Rhys was released. I’ve started to get reviews through for it as well as messages on Facebook from friends and family which have been incredibly touching. I’ve got 9 x 5-star and 3 x 4-star reviews already which I’m absolutely thrilled about, including some from book reviewers and bloggers. These individuals read constantly so to get a four or five star review from them is incredibly flattering.

Jessica Redland - Searching for Steven - Front Cover LOW RESI’m at work tomorrow, but I have the rest of the week off. I haven’t decided how I’m going to spend Steven’s launch day (Wednesday). For me, just having the day off work is exciting enough! I think I’d quite like to go out for lunch with the hubby but I haven’t mentioned that yet so we’ll see. I’d actually be just as happy spending the day writing! I’m having a launch party on Saturday afternoon/evening for family and close friends and I’m really excited about that. Time off this week will give me a chance to prepare for that. I need to sort out a playlist for the background music, bake some cakes/biscuits etc. and various other party-related activities.

What feels completely surreal is having so many people asking for signed copies of my book. I can’t believe it! My mum has been incredible, bless her. She’s drummed up business in the village where she lives and has lined up 10 requests for signed copies amongst her friends and a few more have downloaded it or ordered it from their local Waterstones instead. I think I might need to give her commission! What feels extra special about her village friends wanting a copy is that I lived in her village for a month and sang in the choir for months after that when I moved back to the north, opened my own business, and started writing Steven.

11154996_865249320181036_5952108081538780600_oMy sister-in-law, Clare, is using it as her choice for her book group and so is a friend from bootcamp, Leigh. I’m so incredibly touched and flattered by this. How amazing to think that people will be discussing my book and hopefully loving it. My ears may be burning those evenings!

10402456_808549962517639_1313868131826001955_nHubby has been incredibly supportive, Tweeting about it and sharing links with all his Linked In connections and work contacts. He’s also made my fabulous promotion photos as well as taking some new author pictures which I absolutely love.

I’ll come back on Wednesday and talk about launch day so watch this space. In the meantime, you can download Raving About Rhys here and Searching for Steven can be ordered via Amazon here or direct from my publisher here. Thank you sooooo very much 🙂 xxx

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I’ve done it! I’ve written a novella … but that wasn’t the plan

Jessica Redland - Searching for Steven - Front Cover LOW RESMy debut novel, ‘Searching for Steven’ is out on 3rd June and is currently available for pre-order on Kindle here and for pre-order in paperback here which is all very exciting. But that’s not the purpose of my post today.

My lovely publishers, So Vain Books, suggested that it might be a good idea to write one or two short stories relating to Steven that we could put release for free in the run-up to Steven’s launch. What a great idea. Except I’m not so great with the concept of ‘short’. When I first wrote Steven, he was 132,000 words and had to go on a serious diet to get down to approx 100,000. When I wrote my short story for the Write Romantics Winter Tales anthology last year, it was supposed to be about 5-6,000 words and ended up being nearly 9,000. Oops. It’s not that I can’t be succinct if I need to be; it’s more of a case of discovering that my ideas are too big for a short story.

CoversMy starting point was to ponder on the character I could use. Sarah, my protagonist, splits up with her boyfriend at the start of the book and the first thought was to write about how they got together (because I already know their full back story). I quickly dismissed this idea. Why would I take the reader on a journey where they’re rooting for the heroine, she gets her seemingly happy ever after, then I end that relationship at the start of the novel? That would just be wrong. I toyed with the back story for Sarah’s Auntie Kay who is a very intriguing character, but this would ruin something that’s revealed later on in Steven so I needed to rule that out too. I couldn’t write about Sarah’s two best friends, Elise and Clare, because they have their own stories in books 2 and 3. I didn’t want to write from a male POV either (not that I won’t do so at some point, but this isn’t the right time for me to experiment with that). Which really only left one character – Callie. Callie is the sister of the ‘handsome web designer’ referred to in Steven’s blurb. At the start of Steven, Sarah meets him when he’s collecting the flowers for his sister’s wedding. Callie’s great fun. She’s young, feisty, and tends to speak first and engage brain later. She was the perfect character.

I knew that the story needed to involve her meeting the man who she marries at the start of Steven, but I didn’t know how this was going to happen. Callie’s father died when she was just two so her brother, Nick, (eight years her senior) had always been the significant male influence on her life. A logical starting point seemed to be that she went for older men, almost as a way of filling a dad-shaped void in her life. I had no idea what was going to happen other than the older man in her life was not going to be the person she thought.

I have to say, Callie’s story was one of the easiest things I’ve ever written. It just seemed to write itself. A wonderful cast of characters presented themselves and an interesting story (or at least I hope it’s interesting) spilled forth.

But it wasn’t a short story. Oh no! It was a novella!

Raving about RhysI was a little anxious about emailing it to my publishing director, Steph, because it wasn’t what we’d set out to achieve. Fortunately, she loved it and was delighted to publish a novella instead. I needed to add in another chapter as a couple of key events seemed to happen a bit too quickly, but  the new chapter also came very easily and I think it massively improved the story.

‘Raving About Rhys’ is available to download onto your Kindle right now via Amazon – just click here – for the bargain price of 99p. This means that I am now officially a published author. I was so excited yesterday when I woke up and received an email from Steph with the link. Getting ready for work (and getting the munchkin ready for school) is always pretty fraught, so I sacrificed my breakfast to post my news and links on social media. Then I got to work and it was back to the day job and barely a moment to even let the thought that I was a published author seep into my mind.

When I got home yesterday evening, though, the bears were very excited about Rhys and decided to hold a rave, glow sticks at the ready! It was also my older brother’s birthday yesterday – Happy Birthday Mike – so there was lots to celebrate!

I hope everyone enjoys reading Rhys as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you do download it, I’d love to hear what you think.

There is a free short story to come out too, but I’ll save that for another post.

Happy reading! xxx

I’ve started to feel like a real author!

Jacket

A frequent discussion amongst writers is at what point you call yourself a writer or an author and it would seem there are mixed views on this. Some would say you can only call yourself a writer when you start earning money from it, some would say you’re a writer if you write non-fiction and an author if you write fiction, some would say you’re only an author when you become published, and others would say you can call yourself a writer whenever the hell you like. If you write, you’re a writer regardless of having a publishing deal or making any money from it. I’m inclined to agree with the latter; you’re a writer if you write. However, I also think of ‘author’ as being the title you almost graduate to when you become published, whether this is by the traditional route or the indie route. This is just my opinion, though, and I’m sure others feel differently.

P1050667I found it quite uncomfortable to refer to myself as a ‘writer’ for a long time. Like so many writing friends, I’d almost whisper it in apologetic terms and dismiss it as a bit of a hobby that wouldn’t go anywhere. Yet I never saw it as a hobby. It was – and is – my passion. When I started writing much more regularly (about five or six years ago), I began to properly think of myself as a writer. Yet I would always still answer the ‘What do you do?’ question with: ‘I’m a recruitment manager’ or ‘I work in Learning & Development’ depending on what the day job at the time was. I would never, EVER, say ‘I’m a writer, and I also work in HR’! Strange.

When I got my publishing deal with So Vain Books last September, I felt like I was a real writer (‘Look, Gepetto, I’m a REAL boy!’) and I had an exciting moment basking in the proud congratulations of friends and family on Facebook. But I was away in a hotel with the day job when it happened, fighting with a crap wifi connection, and it all seemed very unreal. And also very far away!

PhotoFunia-6aa56c2The months have whizzed by, though, and we’re less than a month away from the launch of my debut novel ‘Searching for Steven’. Two weeks ago today, I had my first real author moment. So Vain Books did my cover reveal. I knew it was coming. I’d seen ideas for the design last year and had been party to changes and tweaks since, but this was the first time my friends and family would see it. I woke up to a lovely email from my Publishing Director, Steph, to remind me that it was cover reveal day … and to ask me if I’d like to have the book placed up for pre-order too. Eek! I felt so excited at that moment that I could have burst.

I then had to go to work so it was down to earth with a bump. Intermittently, I checked Facebook, but there was no sign of the reveal. I wondered if there’d been a technical hitch on Amazon to launch the Kindle pre-order (the book will be available for pre-order later). Then, at the very end of the working day, I thought to look on Twitter and it turns out it had been revealed there eight hours earlier! Can’t believe I never thought to look. I couldn’t wait to get to my Mac and do my own reveal with links to the pre-order. My hands were actually shaking as I started to receive congratulations messages, promises to buy it, promises to buy the paperback … and then those little notifications from Amazon announcing ‘I bought Searching for Steven by Jessica Redland’. Oh my goodness! People were actually buying my book! (And you can pre-order if here if you like!) It was such an incredible feeling. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face all evening.

Jessica Redland - Searching for Steven - Front Cover LOW RESMy younger brother shared the link on his Facebook page and two of his friends ‘liked’ my writer page and another five pre-ordered the book. How amazing is that? These people don’t know me, but they made the purchase!

I’ve checked out my chart position on Amazon and it was really exciting to see it reach 5,244 on the overall paid Kindle chart on day 3 of the release. That may not sound much but there are hundreds of thousands of books in that chart so I’m beside myself with excitement on that. I can’t see my sales in terms of actual numbers, but my publisher can and they advised me on Monday morning (after just a weekend on sale) that I’d already sold 17. There certainly weren’t 17 friends and family members who’d downloaded it by that point (as I know many want signed paperbacks) so some of those people must have been strangers. That’s quite an overwhelming thought. I’m determined not to get hung up on sales figures and chart positions. I know it takes a heck of a lot for a debut writer to get high sales and chart positions. They’re important and, of course I’d love to get the top 100, but I just want to enjoy the experience. This is my dream and it’s come true! If I become obsessed with clicking on Amazon constantly, I’ll suck the joy out of this amazing thing that’s happening to me.

If you’ve bought already, can I say a massive big fat THANK YOU to you for your support. I really hope you enjoy the read xxxx

 

My Lovely Blog Hop

My writing friend, Jo Bartlett, invited me to participate in the ‘Lovely Blog Hop’ (see her post here) in which writers pass on the baton to other writers to talk about what has shaped their life and writing under a number of headings. Jo is my kindred spirit of the writing world. She’s the co-founder of The Write Romantics alongside me, and we’re also publishing buddies with So Vain Books. Her debut novel ‘Among a Thousand Stars‘ is released on 17th June in e-Book and paperback formats, and will be available for pre-order within a week or two. Her novella, ‘The Gift of Christmas Yet to Come‘ is still available. Although the start and end of the book are set at Christmas, the action spans a whole year so it can be enjoyed all year-round.

Jo kindly also nominated our writing friend Sharon Booth whose debut novel ‘There Must Be An Angel‘ is available now and is a fabulous read. You can read her Lovely Blog Hop here.

First Memory

P1060221I’ve recently written something about a first memory being pushing my pram around the estate I lived on until shortly before my 4th birthday so I won’t repeat that one here. Instead, a slightly later – but probably the next oldest – memory is of being in reception class at primary school. Mrs Wheel, the reception teacher, was the school’s pianist and, once a week, the rest of the infants (KS1 in new money?) would gather in her classroom and sing songs. The reception children would put the small chairs round the outside of the room and we’d typically get to sit on these and bag some spares for older siblings. I can remember sitting on one and saving one for my older brother Michael and one of his friends (also called Michael). Mark Readman who was in my class and who lived over the road from me asked if he could sit in one and I can remember looking at him, shaking my head, feeling very strange … then promptly vomiting all over the floor! Oops! I bet the teachers absolutely loved me for doing this minutes before three classes of children were about to merge. Especially as it was on the carpeted part of the classroom too! They used to then put poorly children in the reception area on a camp bed, tucked in with a ridiculous number of wooden blankets, until their parents came to collect them. I remember a couple of teachers walking past and one asking the other who was in the bed. The reply was something like, ‘It’s Michael Williams’s little sister and she just threw up all over the floor of the classroom!’ Even at the tender age of four or five, I was mortified by this and hid under the blankets willing my mum to appear and take me away from the humiliation! Did you enjoy that memory? 😉

Books

_MG_4519As a child, I played out a lot on my bike. There were lots of children on our estate of about the same age, give or take a couple of years, so there was nearly always someone to play with when I was primary school age. I used to go out on my bike a lot, dress up and parade round the streets with my female friends, and build dens in the fields at the bottom of our road with the boys. For me, reading was therefore more of a before-bedtime or on holiday activity. I loved Enid Blyton, especially The Faraway Tree series, Famous Five and Mallory Towers. I graduated to Adrian Mole, then Virginia Andrews’s Flowers in the Attic series, then I would say I had quite a gap when I barely read. I’d say these were my university years and just beyond when life seemed to be about studying, working, and socialising rather than reading. The discovery of chicklit in my mid-twenties got me back into reading. I don’t read nearly as much as I’d like to as I’m often writing until 10pm or 11pm and then I can barely keep my eyes open to read. I have a dream of being a full time writer one day and being able to incorporate reading as part of my day. I bet I don’t … but it’s a nice thing to imagine!

Libraries

I can’t remember what led me to first visit our local library. It might have been a visit with school, but I went through a phase of going down on a weekend with my mum and selecting some books to take home. The thing was, I rarely read any of them! I was a slow reader. I still am. Therefore I would struggle to get through one book, nevermind a pile of them! I think mum cottoned onto this and stopped taking me.

P1040080The munchkin goes to the local library where we live now. My mother in law volunteers once or twice a week on the mobile library so her link has helped Ashleigh get involved. She loves choosing her books and has completed a reading challenge the last couple of years – Spooky House then Myths & Legends – where they have to read something like six books over the summer. It’s promoted through her primary school and the librarians come in with certificates and present them in assembly which I think is lovely. She has these proudly displayed in clip frames on her wall.

I’m going to be involved with the libraries in the local area soon. I’m a Brown Owl and, as a celebration of my debut book launch in June, the Brownies are going to do their book lover and writer badges after the May half term. This will involve a trip to the same library that Ashleigh uses. I happened to mention in my email that the reason I was doing the badge was because I was about to release my debut novel and they’ve become very excited about that. My husband is an amateur photographer and has met someone through this who is a senior manager across North Yorkshire’s library so she’s also been keen to work with me. The consequence is that I’m going to the local library in a weeks’ time to discuss a library tour and signing. I’ve also been invited to join their book club which is all very exciting.

What’s Your Passion?

P1060143It probably won’t be a surprise to hear that it’s writing. If you’d asked me this question 15 years ago, I’d have struggled to answer. I’d have said I didn’t really have one and that my only hobbies and interests were reading and watching DVDs. I used to deliberately leave ‘interests’ off my CV as it sounded so bland and generic! I started to write twelve years ago and would say I loved it, but it’s really developed into a passion in the last five years or so. I couldn’t not write now. I actually struggle to remember what life was like without writing.

Linked to writing, I’m passionate about stationery. I could spend hours in WH Smiths, Waterstones and Rymans, stroking the notepads and oggling at the pens! Paperchase excites me too, but we don’t have one in Scarborough. We do, however, have one in Beverley where I read my writing pals Sharon and Alys every couple of months. I always arrive early to fit in a Paperchase visit!

I love running my Brownie pack. I love the organising element that goes in behind the scenes, and the satisfaction that my five leaders and I run meetings that give so much pleasure to the girls and make our pack permanently oversubscribed.


I am passionate about teddy bears, particularly proper collectible ones. I was so passionate about this that I packed in a well paid job twelve years ago to set up and run my own teddy bear themed shop!

P1030875And bootcamp! I rise at 5.20am three mornings a week (and I’m NOT a morning person) to do a bootcamp on Scarborough’s North Bay. I’ve massively increased my fitness, but I’m useless at dieting so I still need to get to grips with the weight loss part. I love the exercise, though, especially with the beach, countryside, and castle as a backdrop. Absolutely stunning.

And, of course, I’m passionate about my family, but I hope that goes without saying 🙂

Learning

I loved primary school (other than the humiliating vomiting incident), but senior school and I weren’t such good friends. I enjoyed the concept of school, but I was bullied a lot so I didn’t enjoy actually being there. There were subjects I loved like English, History and RE and others I hated and couldn’t do like Maths, Physics, Chemistry and French (although I got a Grade A GCSE so can’t have been that bad at it!)

My rather eclectic choice of GCSEs (e.g. Humanities, Typing, Commerce) didn’t naturally lend themselves to A Levels so I went to a technical college in another town and studied a BTEC in Business and Finance. I loved that qualification. It was very essay-based and I found most of the subjects (except Economics) fascinating. I worked hard on all my assignments and came out with 13 distinctions and 1 merit (was gutted by the latter!)

I then went on to Loughborough University to study a BSc (Hons) in Banking and Finance. I found university exceptionally hard and had to work my socks off to get anywhere resembling decent grades. Looking back, I feel really frustrated as it’s only in later life that I’ve realised that I was laying out my work wrong. I was losing marks from my style of writing and my improper references which was why I seemed to put heart and soul into assignments and scrape a 2:2. Grr. Why didn’t anyone tell me at the time?

Since then, I’ve done a professional qualification in Marketing and another in HR. I’ve taken work-based qualifications in Coaching and Career Development, as well as psychometric testing for recruitment and development purposes. But it’s been years and years. I feel ready to be challenged and developed at work again, but can’t see that ever happening. Of course, I’m always learning about writing but, again, would like to find more time to read my stack of ‘how-to’ books to see if I can hone my skills a bit more.

Writing

10527383_331005803724929_5378621437399779308_nAs alluded to under the passions section, writing is now part of me and who I am. I feel a bit twitchy if I don’t do any! It doesn’t have to be work on my book; it can be a blog post or even a bit of interaction on social media but I NEED to write. My dream is to write full time. I’ve been fortunate enough at work to secure a flexible working pattern where I work my full time hours across four longer days. The day I don’t work has given me a valuable insight into what being able to write all day is like and I love it. I don’t feel guilty that I’m spending time writing that I could be spending with the family because the munchkin’s at school and hubby’s working. I long for this to happen. Please buy ten million copies of my book so it can!!!

Thank you for joining my ‘Lovely Blog Tour’. I’m passing the baton to urban fantasy writer Alys West who is also a Write Romantic and local author. She’ll be sharing her experiences on Monday 11th May. Alys is currently working on the second novel of a series of three, and I’ve been lucky enough to read the first one, ‘Beltane’ and look forward to that being published soon.

Thanks again to Jo for nominating me xxx

Working on one novel at a time? Pah! Let’s go for three and a novella!

When I set up my writing blog, my intention was to post at least once a week, preferably twice. I’m lucky if I manage twice a month at the moment. I do have a good excuse for the lack of posts, but I’ll come onto that shortly.

P1050559My good writing friend, Sharon Booth, is currently posting on her writing blog on a daily basis (every day except Sunday) and it puts me to shame. However, there’s also a good reason for this. You see, Sharon is taking part in the A-Z Blogging Challenge where bloggers blog every day (except Sundays) for a month, working their way through the alphabet in order. When Sharon first mentioned that she was going to do this, my first reaction was that it was a crazy idea. Where on earth would you get the time and inspiration from in order to generate posts for each letter of the alphabet? Sharon’s debut novel, ‘There Must Be An Angel’ (click on the link to buy it) had just been released, and she saw this as a great opportunity to promote aspects of her novel. What a great idea! Suddenly the A-Z Challenge made sense to me, so much so that I worked out my own alphabet of posts linked to the launch of ‘Searching for Steven’. Sharon had participated in the A-Z Challenge in the month following her launch, but I was going to do mine in the month leading up to the launch of mine. I was quite excited about it.

P1030956Thankfully I got no further than the list of potential posts because I’d completely misunderstood one vital aspect of this Challenge: it was a National Challenge for the month of April and bloggers signed up to it in the same way that writers would sign up to NaNoWriMo for the month of November. Oops! So I’ll hang onto my list of ideas and perhaps sign up to next year’s A-Z Challenge in the run-up to the launch of book 2 instead!

I’m also relieved that I no longer plan to do my own A-Z Challenge in May because, quite honestly, I don’t know when I’d have time to prepare the posts in-between working on three novels and one novella. Surely that’s more than enough for one writer to manage at one time.

Let me explain…

10933962_422724554553053_2755676624398073407_nMy debut novel, ‘Searching for Steven’, will be launched on 3rd June (oh my goodness, that’s only 44 sleeps away!) The MS has been edited, proofread and formatted so I now have the pdf. But there’s one last opportunity for a final read-through before it goes to print. My wonderful publishers, So Vain Books, have said that I don’t have to do the final read-through (as they’ll do one), but I feel that I want to so that I can give a final seal of approval before it goes to print. I’m away with my day job for four nights this week – lots of alone time in a hotel which is perfect for reading – so I’ve committed to having that done by the end of the weekend.

My second novel, ‘Getting Over Gary’, will be released in 2016. This is the sequel to Steven, although it can also be read as a stand-alone book. I’d edited Gary recently, but I felt that I hadn’t quite got there with a particular plot-point and I needed some direction. My lovely writing friend (and publishing company buddy), Jo Bartlett, had offered to do another beta read of it. Sharon had recently read Steven for the first time and also offered to beta read Gary for me. The feedback came back and they both had a couple of suggestions that I wanted to work on. Originally I’d agreed a deadline of end of May to get the MS to So Vain Books. This was well in advance of 2016’s release, but there didn’t seem any point in delaying putting Gary to bed. However, when I received the pdf of Steven, I flicked through to the back where the release of Gary was announced and it struck me that we were missing an opportunity to promote him properly. I had an email conversation with SVB’s Publishing Director, Stephanie, and we agreed that it would be great to include Gary’s blurb or, even better, the first chapter. But SVB would need to read Gary before we could finalise either of these so I’ve been working like crazy over the last week to do the final edit and another read-through. I emailed Gary to Steph last night. I confess I’m slightly nervous about this. What if they don’t like him as much as they loved Steven? Eek!

P1030967My third novel, with a working title (likely to change) of ‘Discovering David’ is the final novel in the trilogy. The plan is to release it in 2017 and you might think this is ages away so why worry about it now, but I want to be able to park the whole trilogy and move onto new stories before the end of the year. As someone who has a full-time day job as well as writing, it’s really important that I try to have several books in hand so that I’m not always trying to write to a deadline that I’d struggle to meet. While Sharon and Jo had Gary, I returned to David, and had got into a bit of a flow with him so I’m keen to return.

Finally, I have a novella on the go! Steph suggested that, as a good way to promote my writing, I might like to consider a short story relating to the trilogy. I knew that the heroine would need to be a minor character from the trilogy so that I didn’t give away any secrets. The obvious character was Callie who is the sister of my hero, Nick, from book 1. She gets married near the start of book 1 and I wanted to tell her story. I’m not known for short, short stories, so I was thinking that this would be more like an eight to twelve thousand word story. The problem is that, when I started writing it, Callie wasn’t content with being a short story. Her personality and her life grew and I suddenly had a twenty-four-thousand word novella on my hands. Oops! I emailed it to Steph with an apology that I’d sort of failed to deliver what we’d discussed. Thankfully, she loved the story – ‘Raving About Rhys’ – and could see great potential in launching a novella instead. Phew! It needs some minor editing as there’s a part of the story that happens a little too quickly (I completely agree). I don’t have the luxury of time, though, as this was meant to be released BEFORE Steven so it needs editing, proof-reading and getting out there fast. So I’ve also committed to returning the new and improved version by the end of the week.

P1050434I’m really excited about the challenge ahead, although I’m also looking ahead to the point when David is finished (hopefully early summer) so that I can relax for a bit. I’ve worked so hard for so long. A typical day for me sees me working until 6.30pm in the day job, getting home, checking social media while my daughter’s in the bath, then doing two to three hours of writing before bed. I try to have one evening off a week, but it doesn’t always happen. Thankfully, hubby understands. He’s self-employed and frequently has work to do himself on an evening, but I do feel that I neglect him so hope to have some office-free time soon.

Although book 4 keeps screaming at me to be written…

By the way, I hope you like the pictures. The official cover-reveal of ‘Searching for Steven’ will be this coming Friday (24th April) so I couldn’t include any images of the book. Instead, I’ve posted some snaps I’ve taken of Scarborough, North Yorkshire (except the one of me, of course, which hubby took) which is the inspiration for the fictional seaside town of Whitsborough Bay where the trilogy is set.

Jessica xx

Line edits are in. It’s getting closer …

Last week I explained how my structural edits on my debut novel made me face my nemesis: the dreaded first chapter. I said that my next stage of editing – the line edits – would be just around the corner. Well, they arrived on Tuesday evening. Ooh. Next stage!

I’m pretty new to this being published malarkey. Before I got a publishing deal, I had no idea that there were two stages of edits or what they entailed. If I were to Google it, I’m sure there’d be a stack of information explaining the differences but, as I didn’t know they existed, I didn’t know to Google them. A classic case of you don’t know what you don’t know! For those who aren’t sure, here’s my take on it and apologies if it isn’t a perfect definition; it’s what it means from my experiences:

STRUCTURAL EDITS – As the name suggests, these are changes to the structure of your novel. These can be minor (like the couple I had where it was suggested the action at a couple of points didn’t seem to come to a close) or major like removing a sub-plot, changing the first chapter, making a character more likeable or villainous or changing the order of events.

LINE EDITS – Once the structural edits have been completed (which could involve some back and forth between author and editor), the line edits kick in. These are quite simply the editor working his or her way through the novel line by line, checking for typos, consistency, clunky sentences, grammatical errors and so on.

There should also be a proof-reading stage after this to correct any final typos and grammatical errors that may have slipped through the net.

I didn’t really know what I expected. My publisher had written me a covering email saying that there were very few changes in there and a lot of them were stylistic. I was therefore a little shocked when I opened the document to find the pages seemed to be littered with track changes. Panic! Had I really done that many things wrong? But as I started to systematically work my way through them, it wasn’t quite so bad as the same offenders kept cropping up again and again. For example, a … shouldn’t (for my publisher) have a space between the word and the dots … like I’ve just put there… when I should have done it like that. Actually, this may be an industry standard. My husband is a typesetter and I vaguely recall him saying something about this before… but I wasn’t really listening!

The thing that surprised me was commas. I always thought that I had a pretty good command of commas and it seems that I do… except when used in a sentence that contains the word ‘but’. Oops. I now wonder whether I’ve been taught incorrectly. Or is it that I’ve remembered incorrectly? I wanted to learn from my line edits and ensure that I wouldn’t submit my second MS with the same mistakes so I decided to use Mr Google to help me understand why my commas were in the wrong places. Sadly, the answers he gave confused me even more and we had a bit of a falling out (Mr Google and me; not my editor and me!) I will take some time out and see if I can understand it but not just yet as I know it’s going to give me brain-ache.

Another thing that has surprised me is that there are still typos in my MS! How? It’s been read and re-read so many times by so many people that I can’t believe they’ve still snuck in there! No wonder it’s so common to pick up or download a book these days and spot one or two that have slipped through the net. Mind you, I’ve read some books recently that are littered with them and feel so sorry for the author as that should surely have been picked up before publication. The most random one had been spotted by one of The Write Romantics who kindly read Steven for me recently. She spotted the mention of ‘predicative text’. PredicAtive? Where on earth had that come from? Neither my editor nor I had spotted it but, thanks to Sharon, it’s now corrected. I must have read the MS dozens of times yet I’ve never, ever noticed it. Mind you, had Sharon not picked it up, it would have been spotted at the proof-reading stage.

My line edits took me longer than I expected, but this is because I made the decision to properly read it again, line for line. Searching for Steven is book one in a trilogy and I’ve finished the first draft of the third book. Whilst writing the second and third part in the trilogy, characters and plot points have developed but in ways that I need to reflect in book 1. Mainly these are little things e.g. I needed to change the job of a character slightly to fit with something that happens in book 3, and I’ve decided I don’t like the name of the village that my hero in book 2 lives in so I wanted to change that. He’s meant to live in a pretty chocolate-box village and the name I’d given it – South Edgeton – sounded anything but cute village.

Last night I sent my edits and comments back to my publishers. There’ll be a bit of back and forth as I’ve raised a few questions but, once this is finalised, I’m really on my way. The book will get typeset and versions will be available for reviewers which is both thrilling and terrifying at the same time!

That’s it for now. If anyone knows a great source of information about use of commas in a sentence containing ‘but’, please shout!

Jessica xx

PS Apologies for the lack of pictures but I couldn’t think of any relevant pictures for this post!

Back to the start again

A week or so ago, I was given the launch day for my debut novel, ‘Searching for Steven’. I knew it was going to be June but I’d got it into my head it would probably be late June. It’s Wednesday June 3rd! Eek! That’s only just over four months away!

PhotoFunia-6aa56c2Things are starting to happen. I’ve had my marketing plan from my lovely publishers, So Vain Books, and I’ve had a first draft of my book cover to check I like the concept. Either late next week or early the week after, I should receive my line edits. I have no idea what this will entail. I’ve been very lucky because my structural edits which I received in October last year required very little work. I was asked to address two points in the book where it seemed like the action didn’t quite end. This required an additional sentence in each case so very easy. I was also asked to tone down a chapter where a character was a bit under the influence. When I re-read it, I could see it was a bit over the top and my publishers suggested a slight tweak that I was able to run with. I think the chapter is much better as a result. The challenging part was the start. I thought I’d already blogged about this but I’ve looked back over my posts and I can’t see one. Please forgive me if I have covered this already and am just not seeing it!

Going back and re-writing the start of ‘Steven’ was my worst nightmare because it has been my nemesis in the decade I’ve been working on the book. I am not exaggerating when I say there have been about 40-50 different starts. In ‘Steven’, my protagonist Sarah moves back to her seaside hometown of Whitsborough Bay in North Yorkshire to take over her Auntie Kay’s florist shop. In early versions of the book, this was because Auntie Kay had died and Sarah had inherited the shop. I therefore had the book starting at a funeral, a will-reading, sitting in a cafe with her best friend reflecting on the loss, getting a phone call at home with the news of the death and about six or seven other variations around this theme. Then a writing friend read one of the variations and cried, ‘No! You can’t kill Auntie Kay!’ And I suddenly realised she was right. Although Auntie Kay was dead in my book, she’d become a real character in my head and I’d grown to really like her. But why else would Sarah move back home and take over the florists if her Auntie hadn’t died. Then it struck me: she could decide to retire and travel the world. Perfect. Auntie Kay was very happy to receive this news instead of a death certificate! Great news for her but not so great for me. How would I start the book now?

The answer was pretty much anywhere. I had Sarah at work missing out on a promotion, at home ending a rubbish relationship, travelling home to Whitsborough Bay after she’d split up with the boyfriend, or being in Auntie Kay’s shop and being told the news that she wanted to give the shop to Sarah to name just a few. I started the story when she was in primary school. I started the story when she was in senior school. I started the story in so many different guises that my head was spinning!

In summer 2013, I attended the RNA’s annual conference and pitched the book to two publishers. They both loved the premise and my voice which was incredibly flattering. They also both wanted to see the full manuscript. At this point, it started with Sarah travelling home to see Auntie Kay and getting the news about the shop. The MS had been way too long so I’d cut out a lot of what went before around ending a rubbish relationship in order to get on with the main story. One editor liked it but wanted to see a bit more action e.g. splitting up with the boyfriend (the chapter I’d cut) before going home. The other wanted more of a motivation as to why she was so keen to meet The One (it is a romance story, after all). Both their comments triggered a lightbulb moment and I came up with a start to the book that got the action and the motivation. Yippee!

PhotoFunia-6aa69bcProblem was, although So Vain Books loved it, they were concerned that it might set the wrong tone for the book with anyone dipping into the first chapter before buying. They were absolutely right. The book is fairly light-hearted and the beginning wasn’t.

I emailed them to say I’d be delighted to make a change to the start but HELP!!!!! I explained my million variations. At one point, I’d written a chapter that I did really love and I still had it. I felt it might be what they were looking for. I edited it a bit as some of the points made in it were no longer relevant to the rest of the story and sent it over. They loved it. Phew!

So now I wait to see what the final editing stage will bring. In the meantime, I’ve pretty much written the first draft of book 3. It needs a lot of editing as I’ve made a major change to it which I’ll talk about in another post but it’s been really timely because, as a result of finishing the trilogy, I know there are some minor tweaks I want to make to ‘Steven’. I want to change the job of a minor character in book 1 who’s a major character in book 3. I want to change the name of a village because I’ve really gone off my original choice of name. I need to change someone’s age. Little things like that. The great thing is that I have the opportunity to still do that. But there will hit a point when I can no longer tinker. Very scary!

I’m now really pleased with the start of ‘Steven’. It’s been a very painful process but I’ve got there. Funnily enough, the start to the two sequels has caused me no problems at all. I tinkered a bit with book 2 and book 3 hasn’t changed at all. Whether I planned it better because I didn’t want to go through the pain of book 1 again or whether it was easier to know where to start when the book’s a sequel, I’m not sure. Whatever the reason, I’m glad I don’t have to go through it again. Unless, of course, my publisher doesn’t like the start of either book. But we’ll cross that bridge if we come to it.

Happy reading and writing 🙂 xx

The End of an Era

Today is 2nd January. Unless you’re celebrating a birthday, this is probably a fairly insignificant date for you; the second day in a row where you write 2014 instead of 2015, the day you awake with a hangover after too many New Year’s Day drinkies, or perhaps even the return to work after a Christmas break. But for many aspiring writers, 2nd January is one of the most significant days in their writing journey because 2nd January is the day they can apply to the RNA’s New Writers Scheme (NWS).

_MG_1520I’d post a link for the benefit of anyone interested but there’s no point because all the places will already have gone. You see, there are only 250 places a year and priority goes to those already on the scheme. However, each year, there are many who dip out. There are those who are celebrating the amazing news of a publishing deal and graduating from the NWS, those who’ve decided to dip out the NWS due to other priorities, and even those who’ve called time on their writing dreams. Hopefully the former are far greater than the latter.

This time three years ago, my writing journey changed course forever when I received the best email in the world ever: the one that told me I’d managed to secure a place on the NWS. This was a big thing for me. HUGE! Because I’d applied the year before and had missed out. It was 2011 and applications were via snail mail. I printed off the application form the moment it appeared online, completed it and posted it first class in the first post of the day. Except it took four days to reach its destination due to heavy snow blanketing parts of the country. And, by that time, the places had already gone. I was devastated. It’s funny how things turn out because 2011 proved to be a very challenging year for me. I was unexpectedly restructured out of the job I loved into a job I’d done before and, because I was the only experienced person in a new team that had been assembled, I ended up doing four jobs and working 14-16 hour days for several months. I had no time to write. I declared that enough was enough and left that job in the November and started writing again around my new job (which didn’t consist of silly hours). I resolved to try for the NWS again. To my relief, they’d changed the application system to an online registration of interest opening at midnight on 2nd January.

P1050687After a scary moment involving our internet going down and me making provisional arrangements to go to my in-laws just in case, the system came back on and I prepared my email and waited. The countdown was excruciating. Seconds ticked by like minutes and minutes felt like hours. Then my computer screen indicated 00:00 and I clicked “send”. Then panicked. What if midnight on the dot wasn’t good enough and it needed to be after midnight i.e. 1 minute past? I sent another email just in case. The organisers probably thought I was a right numpty sending two emails a minute apart but all I cared about was securing my place. And when I received my email later that day to confirm my place, it was worth it.

I’ve submitted a full manuscript for three years: 2012 and 2013 saw the submission of the same MS, ‘Searching for Steven’ as I made significant tweaks to it based on my feedback from my 2012 critique. 2014 saw the submission of the sequel, ‘Getting Over Gary’. This year I won’t be submitting.

It feels a little strange knowing that the deadline for being part of 2015’s NWS has well and truly passed and that the new “class of 2015” will have (probably) heard already that they’ve secured a place (or not). Before today’s deadline, it didn’t feel quite so real that I’d decided to give up my place.

So why did I give up my place? Securing a three-book publishing deal would normally mean graduating from the NWS and becoming a full RNA member. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for me. The RNA have rules about membership and one of these is that a publishing company must have been in existence for two years to be recognised by them. My publisher is new so isn’t yet recognised for full membership. I could have remained with the RNA as an NWS member for another year and become a full member in 2016 when So Vain Books will have been round long enough to meet the criteria but I made the decision that I didn’t want to stay in the NWS for another year when (a) I could release that valuable place to somebody else and give them the same opportunities I’ve enjoyed, (b) I could save myself the membership fee and put it towards a writing workshop instead, and (c) I’d still have the valuable support network of The Write Romantics.

_MG_6896The NWS and RNA have given me so much over the three years I’ve been a member. I’ve set up The Write Romantics with fellow-NWS member Jo Bartlett and the support, knowledge and encouragement from that group has directly secured my publishing deal. If you’ve followed my blog, you’ll recall I got two offers. The first was from a US company who Jo encouraged me to apply to when I was about to give up and So Vain Books, with whom I accepted a publishing deal, were highlighted to us by Alys who’d spotted an advert. Jo submitted to them and secured a deal but I didn’t submit as I wasn’t sure my book was a fit. Jo spoke with the publishing director about my book and I was invited to submit as a result. I would never have received either of these deals without the WRs and I’d never have met the WRs without the NWS. And I’d never have  been part of the Winter Tales charity anthology of which I’m incredibly proud.

Two of the three reports I’ve received (the two for ‘Searching for Steven’) have been incredibly helpful and have helped shape it into the book that it is today (the one that received two offers!) The review of ‘Getting Over Gary’ wasn’t so helpful but I wonder whether part of that was because it was a sequel and my reader really needed to have read Steven first. Although I could have paid the extra fee and stayed in the NWS this year, I didn’t really want to submit the 3rd book in the trilogy and receive a critique that suffered because the reader was trying to read book 3 as a stand-alone book when it’s designed not to be stand-alone.

Good luck to all those who are continuing with the NWS and all the best to those who have secured a place for the first time this year (or maybe re-joined after a break). I think it’s the right decision to have dipped out this year and given my place to someone else although it’s a shame that this means dipping out of the RNA too. This doesn’t need to be forever, though, as I may well re-join when I’m eligible for full membership.

Thank you to all my readers, the organisers, and the RNA for playing a vital part in making my publishing dreams come true. I can’t thank you enough xx