Ramblings Between Edits

Although the summer seems to have gone on for ever locked as we are in our own little world, August 1st marks a turning point. The fine weather, if we are lucky will carry on for two more months. How will we cope with the uncertainty of a winter still shielding ourselves from the outside world?img_20200801_075540 Who knows? There is time still to take enjoyment in early morning walks.

At least I have had my hair cut, and very safe it felt too with masks,  hand sanitiser, visors and distancing, but I fear my pedicure next week will be cancelled following the latest restrictions.

My lovely editor sent my book back with a long list of changes. Lockdown made me too self-indulgent. I can see that now. The book will be leaner, cleaner and lighter. I had allowed a certain despondency to to creep in to what is essentially a love story. It’s still going to be dark in places. People, after all, live through difficult times, but we also need hope. Beta readers will have to wait for this improved version.

Amidst all this, we are selling the house we have lived in and loved for thirty-five years, which, in lockdown comes with its own set of rules. Viewers have to wear masks, are not allowed to touch anything, surfaces have to be anti-bact’ed before and after etc. We have to depart well ahead, resulting this week in our first trip to Arundel for months. The weather was poor and it seemed a reasonable place to walk around in cool, damp conditions. We also took a trip to Littlehampton on a brighter day, last visited on my last ghost tour. My husband had some paintings exhibited in a gallery there. He did sell one, so that’s one less of the many on our walls.img_20200729_104701

I see that another friend has the same idea to move closer to their son, in our case, grandchildren. The past few months have given us time to reflect on what is important. Although we had to give up on the idea of a year of travelling before we are totally cast out of our European freedom, we have learnt to take pleasure in small things.

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A Panster’s Life for Me.

I have been working on the blurb for my new book. This book is a departure for me because it’s set in the present day – well finishes in the first months of 2020, before lockdown. It’s modern but with references to past lives.

Having begun it more than a year ago, I wasn’t at all sure how the story would develop, how it would be structured and how it would end.  It’s a true pantser (i.e unplanned novel). It’s my favourite way of working. I like the writing to be spontaneous, enjoy working out the action on the page and letting ideas flow naturally. I have never written anything on a post-it note, nor have a plan, other than a few scribbles in a notebook. If I am unsure what I called someone earlier, I type xxxx, so that I can check later. I am not alone in working like this and have listened to talks by two other well known novelists who begin writing with no idea where the story will take them. I do need an idea to get me started and I am searching for a new one because, we could be in this ‘new normal’ for quite a while yet. A new project is out there somewhere.

The second main character, Peggy, in this new book, and the catalyst for change appeared as I was writing, and without warning. I think her story which is mostly written in the first person is amongst my favourite writing. Peggy is unable to speak after a stroke many years before. Her granddaughter introduces her to an iPad and it changes Peggy’s life. So when I found this image on Shutterstock it seemed perfect for the cover. shutterstock_1708867147The sea is also important in the novel as the action moves from the south coast of England to the east coast of Tasmania and New South Wales, with a few other places in between. Oh yes, and Melbourne gets a mention too. All the places I wish I could visit in lockdown.

I am hoping to send the book out to selected beta readers shortly while my editor does her work.

 

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My WIP has Flown the Nest

Yesterday, I pressed send to my editor. I can’t tell you how thrilled I am that my new book is now within sight of being published in the Autumn. It has been read and enjoyed by one other person and will shortly be winging its way to a few other beta readers for their opinion.

I am beginning to think of the cover and blurb so it’s all systems go. It’s strange that a year ago I wondered whether I would ever have another book ready, but then this time last year, I had just said goodbye to my best friend and was watching my mother decline fast. Hard times indeed. Lockdown has been the fillip I needed to get me writing again.

I have been working on elevator pitches for my books and this one is for my latest book. Lost and lonely, a young woman sets out to discover family secrets and finds more than she bargained for, including herself.

I am still thinking of Tbluebird1he Bluebird Brooch for the title and I have found a photo for the front cover. I would like to see if the image of the brooch can be turned into the first letter of the title. It’s almost a T – what do you think? More importantly what will my cover designer think.

Considering I have done no marketing beyond the odd tweet, sales and reads of my other books have been steady. It will soon be time to move on up a gear as we come out of lockdown.

I am still enjoying my zoom sessions with my granddaughters. This week we have looked at 1950s inventions, toys of the 1970s – both parts of the school curriculum and a creative writing session this morning which had me gasping at the quality of description by the 8 year old and the inventiveness of the ten year old. Both budding writers I hope.

Next week, we have a socially distant readers’ group scheduled, the first not by zoom since March. How exciting to have some social contact again. I have been flirting with reading only because of the hideous RBdigital app which is all that the library offers. I have tried 3 books via the app, including Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light. After it had crashed and lost my page for the tenth time, I gave up. I tried it today on Chromebook instead of Kindle and it’s still hideous. However, I now have A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier and On Chapel Sands by Laura Cumming in my inbox, both which I have long wanted to read, so maybe I should persevere. Wish me luck.

 

 

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Two Edits Down

The  great news is that I have completed two edits of my new novel. My editor is booked for July, so hopefully the book will be ready to launch later this year. I will be sending it out to a few beta readers to guage their reaction.

gold pen on journal book

Photo by Jess Bailey on Pexels.com

This book is a departure for me because it is set in 2019 with a few flashbacks to previous eras. I have found it quite liberating to write about the modern era. There is always research with any novel but not so in depth with a modern one. In some ways this has speeded up the writing process.  These last few months of concentrated work have made me fall in love again with writing, after a fairly barren year last year. So along with further editing, writing a blurb and thinking about a cover, I will be trying to work out a new project. While travel is off the horizon for the foreseeable future, this seems like a plan.

Marketing, however, has taken a back-burner, in that I have done none. It’s amazing and gratifying that I am still selling books.

The zoom teaching is going well. This week’s project with the elder granddaughter was to write a newspaper article on the moon landing of 1969. I img-20200618-wa0000have now got the hang of how to share screens and work out the lesson plan with that in mind. My husband is going through a steep learning curve but he managed a lesson on Pop Art. I wonder what next week’s session will be.

By chance, I managed to buy Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell for the knockdown price of .99p instead of £8.99 on kindle this week. I am a third of the way through.Hamnet: SHORTLISTED FOR THE WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION by [Maggie O'Farrell]

If this book doesn’t win every prize going this year, it will be a travesty. The writing is superb. I am absolutely loving it. I remember reading the Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox and found it haunting. I will now try to read other books by her. She is a talented lady.

I have tried reading books offered online by the library service through RBdigital and given up because the software is dire. The formatting of the books is terrible, when you turn a page, it flips to random places, nor does it remember where you were. Maybe it’s kindle not liking that you are using an alternative or maybe it’s just a rubbish platform. I would be interested in what other people think.

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Creative Writing Challenge

I have been designated Creative Writing Tutor for my granddaughters this half-term. As I haven’t seen them since February, I jumped at the chance. With 5 books to my name and a sixth at the editing stage, the thought terrifies me as well. We’ll see how the first session goes this afternoon. It’s via zoom, of course. I know how technology is not ideal for children. It’s difficult to keep their attention at the best of times and I am reliably told by my youngest granddaughter that their mother is not as stern as her teachers. Perhaps I need to set some ground rules.

I have done sessions over Skype with children in India via the Granny Cloud.  The technology was often a problem but we somehow managed. We sang songs, I read stories and we usually made something together, a dragon, a spaceship or a Christmas tree out of cardboard, glue and scraps. The children were delightful and forgiving.  I hope my grandchildren will be the same.

So how did it go? It took a few false starts to connect and then sort out the sound. Something in my settings needed to be adjusted. Then we were away and I loved it. We have been waiting for their school to set a project which they haven’t done as yet. I, therefore, had to second guess what the children would be interested in. My duaghter had given me some clues.

img-20200605-wa0000I chose a day in the life of the Ice Age for the eight year old. She has to choose her character, find out about the animals, how they hunted, did they have fire to cook with, how they recorded their experiences (cave art) etc? She will create an Ice Age quiz on google drive, find out the symbols they may have used in cave art and write a page of story about her character.

For the ten year old, I asked her to write a letter to a friend about joining the Beagle as Darwin’s assistant. She went off to research the voyage and then we discussed the kind of things she might put in her letter, which she will type up and send to me.

They were both engaged, busy, with lots of ideas. I now look forward to reading the results and helping them edit.

I think the Granny Cloud organisers would be proud.

PS the school have now decided the projects for the half-term. The older one has 40, 50s and 60s. That covers a wide spectrum. The younger one has the 70s and 80s. We’ll see what guidance they give. I have lots to get my teeth into whilst I do my first round of editing for the new book.

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Reflections on Lockdown

I have read several posts about how people are taking the time to enjoy nature during this awful time. I am no exception. We who have gardens are so lucky. The thought of being stuck in a flat and worse in a tower-block flat at that would have me crawling the walls. img_20200520_155358

As we’ve been thinking about selling our house after thirty-five years and needing somewhere more manageable, this time has made me think about what is important. For me, I now know it is to look upon nature, if not my own garden, green fields, trees, the sound of birdsong and running water. We had been thinking of moving to a small city to take advantage of cultural activities and the convenience of good bus services. Now I would gladly live in a field or by a Scottish loch, as long as Supermarket deliveries are within reach.

The only noise I can tolerate above silence when writing is birdsong. Unfortunately, I sit here surrounded by builders. Two neighbours have chosen this time to have new patios or drives laid, resulting in angle grinders, hammers, drills and men shouting at each other above the noise. As soon as that is finished, the builders have returned to finish the house renovation behind which was abandoned a few weeks ago. Why is the screech of seagulls bearable but the constant thump of a hammer makes you want to scream?

img_20200520_142733Seaside walks are generally calming if taken in the early morning or late evening when dodging cyclists and dog walkers is easier. The prom is barely wide enough for 2 metres distancing at times, but people are generally trying their best and patiently waiting for people to pass safely. Yesterday, canoeists, sunbathers and swimmers made a comeback and the world felt normal. The beach wasn’t crowded, it rarely is here, another thing to be thankful for.

Last night we walked around eight o’clock and it was one of those special, magical evenings. The sea was a shimmering blue,  an opalescent jewel meeting a band of smoky pink on the horizon where the setting sun shone on white windmills far offshore, making them look like tiny lollypop sticks in a bowl of candyfloss. It’s hard to think of moving when you have moments like that. Perhaps we never will.

 

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Travelling Through Writing

Stuck at home for the last two months has enabled me to write, although I should have just finished a three week tour of northern England and Scotland and be planning another tour, in Ireland this time.

Instead I have been revisiting places as settings for my new book. There is an outside chance of completing the first draft within the month or at least by mid June, if lockdown continues.

My present chapter takes place in Liverpool; I city I visited four years ago. I remember being knocked out by how interesting it was. The regenerated Albert Dock is part of the Unesco World Heritage Site.  Importing goods from around the world, this Liverpool dock was once the beating heart of the Empire, now it contains an outpost of the Tate Gallery, museums, wine bars, public art and is a place for relaxation and exercise. My heroine is fascinated by the bronze cart horse at Albert Dock. carthorseIt represents the thousands of carters and horses transporting goods to and from warehouses over two hundred and fifty years. During WW2 over 4000 horses were working the docks. How many stories are wrapped up in each one of those horses and carters?

Earlier this week, I took my heroine to Tuscany to stay at an old watermill. I was there last September on my writing course. Anghiari StreetI can visualise her delight as she wonders around the narrow streets of medieval Anghiari with her camera, marvelling at the ancient buildings and the way the sunlight and shadows play on the stonework.

As I write, I am discovering the story and the character of my heroine. Each of the places she visits she discovers more about herself and what she needs to grow as a person.

The story is growing in my mind, it’s like a recipe for one of my cakes. Anyone who has suffered from my baking knows that I am renowned for cakes which do not rise. As I bake more in lockdown, I am experimenting with new recipes and I find that the more eggs and the newer the flour I add, helps to create something more edible. If I keep stirring my story, it will be interesting to see what emerges.

By the way, I think I have a title, The Bluebird Brooch. What do you think?

 

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My Mojo has Resurfaced

Lockdown has been good for my writing. I am well into a new adult novel. It’s not that historical, it’s more modern. I have been playing with it for a year, unsure where exactly it was going. I wrote eighteen thousand words and then stopped in September while I finished my children’s book. This year, I wrote nine thousand words towards the ending and stopped again. Then eleven thousand words, the preceding chapters, before another stop.

Panic set in. I couldn’t get a handle on the story. I knew the chronology but it was more about where the focus was. It’s part genealogical mystery, but mostly modern. Three days of wandering around the garden, sitting in the conservatory and listening to the birds sing has helped clear my mind. img_20200418_115246The historical characters are bit players, they don’t need to surface and speak, otherwise they will only confuse.

This is a story about a lonely, young woman, Laura, let down by her long term boyfriend. Friendless and without a supporting family, she discovers herself through following clues she finds in a box of letters and scrapbooks, assisted by a  possible new love interest, but most importantly of all, a grandmother she didn’t know existed. A grandmother who lives in a care home and hasn’t spoken, is still unable to speak  for the past twenty years, a grandmother who has secrets of her own and those secrets will set Laura free.

This is an homage to my mother who died in her care home a year ago. I am profoundly grateful that she didn’t have to live through what is now happening in carehomes across the country.

It’s about the relationship I wish I could have had with my mother. We didn’t see eye to eye on many things. I honestly believe that she was hampered by her lack of education and it created a barrier between us. She was a generous, dutiful daughter herself, looking after her mother who could be difficult. My mother was modern in her attitude, very independent and strong-willed. Maybe we were too similar.

I know that she loved me but we clashed. I wasn’t that daughter who stayed close by while I had my own children. I wasn’t someone who shared her world view or was able to put that aside. She couldn’t see my views without dismissing them. Yet in the end I cared for her for ten years, ,and we learned to get by. I fought for her right to have the best care and she did.

Mother and daughter relationships feature strongly in this new book. It’s a way of me working things out in my own mind.

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Author Chat with Julia Firlotte

Today, I am conducting a virtual chat with new, local author, Julia Firlotte, author of Trust in You which has just been released. Congratulations. Hi Julia. Trust In You: A first love summer romance full of intrigue, lust and lies. (Falling For You)

Hi Rosemary, I hope you have coffee and cake ready.

Yes, indeed. Mine’s a cappuccino and carrot cake. Can you tell us a little about yourself and background?

Although I studied English Literature at A-Level, my passion during education was languages and I went on to study Spanish and German along with International Trade at University. I’ve worked since then in Logistics and Exports, but always loved reading. In fact University was key to this, because I completely fell out of the habit of watching TV in the evenings and never resumed. I’m married and live with my husband, two children and cats.

When did you know that you wanted to become a writer? And how did you go about it?

I always had stories in my head and one day I simply went out and bought a laptop. As soon as I started, I couldn’t stop. Of course I had a lot to learn, I still do, but I knew I really wanted to do it professionally when I had my first manuscript printed on A4 at a stationers for beta feedback and couldn’t stop grinning. It was an exciting moment seeing it on paper for the first time. I also joined The Author Learning Centre and Chindi.

Who are your favourite authors, who do you feel has influenced you the most?

Jaine Diamond is my favourite author, although her writing is at a heat level higher than my own, I simply adore her wit and the character interactions in her stories. She portrays the male characters particularly well and always leaves you not wanting to put the book down until you finish.

Writers are often readers too, what is on your reading list?

At the moment I have a list of novels to read for ARC reviews, so they are mostly authors I have not read before. Usually though some of my other favorites are Chrystal Kaswell, Kendall Ryan and Charlaine Harris.

Do you base any of your characters on real people?

No! But I might take certain characteristics of people I know and blend them a little.

How much of you is in your heroine?

Not a lot! She’s not very resilient,but will get stronger.

Can you tell us what genre your books are and the audience you write for?

My books are romance, they range from romantic suspense, contemporary and also futuristic. I write primarily for ladies between 30 and 50 years old.

Tell us about your road to publication. Was it short and sweet? Long and winding with many bumps?

I decided to start my journey as self-published, simply because I think as a debut author, I’d heard that being accepted by a publisher was a tough and often crushing process. Not that I’m not up for a challenge, but at the time (and now!) writing was my passion and release, I didn’t want anything to taint that experience.

I did later approach a publisher, was accepted to be reviewed, however soon realized that many aspects of my book and established marketing plan I had already invested heavily in (and got exactly as I wanted) would likely then be altered and the lead-times greatly extended. For better or worse, I also wanted the challenge of managing a business, so decided I preferred to be my own boss and withdrew my application. Flexible deadlines which I can manage alongside my job and family and writing what I want are also key for me.

What is your writing process? And how long does it take?

I’m a bit of a pantser to be honest, although I try and have a rough idea where the story is headed. That’s probably the reason why I’ve in effect written five full length novels and actually only have one fully finished. I get beta feedback and then find I have to re-write nearly the whole thing! I’m sure as I continue to develop my craft, I’ll get better at this.

What is more important in your books – the plot twists or the characters?

The Characters! It’s all about the emotions and feelings for me!

How do you go about editing? It is a tricky business for self-published authors BUT very important.

As a new author with no connections, I found my editor by going through the writer’s guidebook editors’ section in detail, shortlisting a few and getting a sample of their editing style. What’s most important for me, aside from experience and ability, is that my editor is enthusiastic and encouraging. Prior to editing I of course go through the Beta readers stage for feedback.

Who designs your book covers?

I found a few different design companies at the London Book Fair last year, and although I know there are many, many cheaper companies online, I chose Hybert Design for the high quality of their work.

How do you divide your time between promotion and writing?

When I’m in the middle of a novel I spend more time writing than on promotion and vice versa prior to a launch. I also use a local social media company who post for me on a weekly basis, with a young family and day job, there are only so many hours in the week.

How do you keep track of your plot, characters, sub plots and so forth as you write?

I constantly re-read my work at different sections; it keeps the plots fresh in my mind.

Are you influenced by films and TV dramas, if so which?

No, I read, read, read and except for the occasional box set series, I watch no TV at all.

If your books were made into a film. Who would you pick as your leading actors?

Adam Brook would be Tom Hardy

Dan Monks would be Chris Hemsworth

Ella Peterson would be Emily Rudd

Apart from writing what are your favourite past times?

Reading, haha, does that count? I’m a black belt in Judo, I go to the gym, love cycling, salsa dancing and also enjoy cooking.

What inspires you?

Everything! From seeing strangers interacting on the tube, to imagining my characters reactions to different weather conditions and environments to family interactions,

What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on a futuristic enemies to lovers romance called Shockwaves, although I may change the title, it’s currently in the 2nd draft stage.

I’m also planning the next two in the romantic suspense series Falling for You series called Faith in Him and Believe in Me. The first novel in the series is my debut, on sale from April 6th 2020.

Julia Christine FirlotteWell, good luck with the new book. It’s exciting times and thanks for stopping by, Julia.

Links

Author Website and Blog:   https://www.juliafirlotteauthor.com

Purchase via:                       https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=Julia+firlotte

Readers reviews:                 https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/47841242-trust-in-you

Facebook Page:                   Julia Firlotte Author

https://www.facebook.com/JuliaFirlotteAuthor/

Facebook Group:                 Romance Chit Chat

https://www.facebook.com/groups/501897750557397/

Twitter:                                   https://twitter.com/juliafirlotte

Instagram:                             https://www.instagram.com/juliafirlotte/

Groups

First Tuesday of every month, Romance Chit Chat – Readers and Writers Group.

Creations Hair Salon, Chichester – 6-8pm – to be resumed after the lockdown, hopefully.

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Another Day in Lockdown

We went for a walk today;  img_20200331_124546far fewer people out and about. It’s such an eerie feeling to walk the empty streets, pass closed shops – but the worst is when you do pass people. We side step to avoid them and they do the same but they don’t look at you. They cast their glances aside as though we are dangerous – so sad. A small child guided away from us by her big brother, looked worried and didn’t return our smile. I find that heartbreaking. How long will it take people to get back to normal once this is over? We learned to self-distance within days. Somehow I worry that unlearning it will take longer.

I am getting a little concerned now that we still can’t get a Sainsbury’s delivery. I have registered as elderly and my shopping list is ready to go, but if we have no joy over the next two days, one of us will have to bite the bullet and go supermarket shopping.

My children’s book, Ella Midnight and the Mystery of the Missing Nose launched to no fanfare on Sunday. The first copy sold to America and I’m a bit worried how they’ll cope with the bit ellaMidnightof cockney and Norfolk I’ve thrown in.  Will an American child have a clue about evacuation, gas masks and blackout. Perhaps the strangeness of lockdown will make it more empathetic.

At least now that this book is on its way, I can get back to my WIP, having written nothing for weeks, I am able to use this time quite profitably. I am writing the ending but knowing that I don’t want to finish with an incipient pandemic. I’m worried I won’t be able to avoid it. This book, a first for me, is written mostly in the present with glances back to the past.

By writing the ending, I don’t mean it is almost finished. There’s a whole lot of middle to work on. It will be several months before a first draft is finished. Will we still be in lockdown? Who knows?

 

 

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