Life Cycle Of A Writer: NaNoWriMo – Sinking, Swimming or Soaring?

nano

Erm…I’m not too sure about this. It’s my first time. Be gentle with me, NaNo. I’ve wanted to get to know you better for a long time, but…well…life got in the way before. Can we stop if I don’t like it? Will it hurt?

Those were my ponderings in early October, still buzzing with the prospect of no work commitments this autumn; no planning or marking, no Christmas play to create – just writing, writing writing. Or so I thought…

Within a week, we’d had a sudden death in the family meaning trips up north and lots of sadness and my beloved firstborn was in difficulties health-wise. Add to the mixture a close friend needing lots of help and poorly in laws, and things lurched from tricky to downright worrying. Was it unreasonable to try to carry on and do NaNoWriMo anyway, whatever else was happening?

I decided to plunge in and have a go. If nothing else, starting something brand new would be a distraction, and I’d be bound to get at least some words down on paper. But 50K? Hmmm. Maybe if I launched myself into a children’s book, I could get the whole thing finished by November 30th?

So Arthur Angel and the Nine Lives was born – the tale of a disgraced Guardian Angel forced to come down to earth to complete his missions in cat form.

arthur

To start with, the story seemed to tell itself. I went back into school and worked with my favourite class of nine year olds to get their junior NaNo going and to have feedback straight from the ones who count. The first chapters flooded out.

Then the first trip up to Northumberland knocked the ground from under my feet. I’d become seriously addicted to the little graph that appears on your personal NaNo dashboard, and I was flatlining! There was snow on them there hills, not just in Arthur’s story, my nose and toes were freezing and my brain absolutely refused to cooperate.

But better progress was just around the corner. Back home again, the tide turned in the right direction and although life is still very turbulent to say the least, the words are flowing again. By the end of today, I might be back on track, but even if not, I’m loving the challenge, and it’s very hard to bite your nails when you’re typing. I’m having to miss the RNA meetings and party this time but the writing…let’s hope it carries on, if only for distraction purposes.

Here’s the first chapter if you’re interested. Wish me luck. I’ll see you on the other side…

 

Arthur Angel and the Nine Lives

Chapter One: Getting In

 

Yuck. I hate snow. I pick my way along the track through the woods to the cottage and stop by the door to shake the worst of the slush off my fur. Disgusting stuff. It gets in your paws and sticks to your dangly underneath bits in lumps. And the trouble with being mostly white is that if you get lost in a snow storm, nobody can see you.

To be honest, getting lost in the snow comes a long way down the list of problems of being a cat. Number one’s got to be the D word. Why do dogs have to chase us? Why? Who tells them it’s a good idea?

The flea thing’s not great either.  Don’t look at me like that, I didn’t ask them to come, okay? They just seem to like me. And don’t get me started on catching mice.

Someone’s just opening the door – that’s my first lucky break for years. Have you ever tried ringing a doorbell when you’re on four short legs? Now, watch and learn. This is one of the trickier bits. Here’s what you need to do if you ever need to find yourself a cushy fireside and a kipper.

1) Fluff up the fur

2) Put your head on one side

3) Open your eyes really wide.

4) Miaaaaaaaow in the most pathetic way you can manage.

5) Be ready to roll over on your back at the first sign of them cracking – that one never fails

Right, here goes. The door’s wide open and now someone’s shouting from inside about not letting the cold in. Pah! He should try being me. It’s a GirlKid on the step. They’re usually the easiest of all. Wish me luck.

‘Dad. DAAAAAAAD!’

‘Rosie? Is that you bellowing again? Are you going to shut that door or have I got to come and do it for you?’

Heavy footsteps…coming closer. Great, now I’m going to have two of the human creatures staring down at me. The shorter one – the GirlKid – is quite nice to look at, if you like that sort of thing. She’s got curly ginger hair, nearly as good a colour as the bits of me that aren’t white, and she’s smiling. That should help.

‘Look, Dad. There’s a cute little kitten on the step. I think he’s hungry. Can I let him in? It’s so cold out there tonight.’

Kitten? What’s all that about? I’m a fully qualified Guardian Angel, I’ll have you know, GirlKid, and I’m at least three hundred years old, give or take a few months. Is it my fault if I’ve been sent down here as a smallish white cat? No, it isn’t.

‘Let him in? Aren’t four mouths enough for us to feed? I thought you’d have learned your lesson after last time.’

The big one isn’t smiling. He starts to shut the door but she stops him.

‘No! We can’t leave him outside. Look at his little face. He’s so sad.’

I do my best poor little me expression and start to wash my whiskers with a paw. That usually goes down well. I tell you, after three times of being sent down here as a cat instead of a human-looking angel, I’m getting to know all the tricks.

‘Aaaaaw, look at him. Dad, he’s soooo sweet. And anyway…I bet Jake’d like him, wouldn’t he?’

They look at each other and I can tell she’s won the first round.

‘Oh, go on then. At least we can shut the door. Your Gran’s already under two blankets.’

Result! I’m in before they can say kippers, down the hallway and into the living room, and I’m heading for the old lady with the rugs over her knees. She must be the brains around here – fast asleep and snoring, right in front of a roaring log fire.

She wakes up with a jump and closes her mouth just in time to stop her teeth dropping out. I take a big gamble and leap straight up onto her knee. Have I got it right? Is she a cat lover or one of those loopy humans who flap their arms at us and make a big fuss.

The old one reaches out a wrinkly hand and starts stroking me even before I’ve settled down properly. ‘Oh, what a beauty,’ she wheezes, ‘Where did you come from, my fine fellow? You remind me of my Charlie. He was handsome just like you.’

Time for my best move. I roll over on her lap and stretch out, revealing a very fine furry tummy, if I say so myself.  I start to purr deep in my throat to show her I’m a big fan of all this fuss.

The GirlKid’s on her knees next to the old lady’s chair now, looking up at the Dad person.

‘Look, he likes us already. Can we keep him? Please? You know Jake loves cats…well, he used to, anyway…’

As she says this, all three heads turn to look over to the far wall. My eyes swivel to follow them. I don’t want to stop all this attention, but there’s someone else there. It’s a BoyKid with the same curly red hair as the girl version, but he’s nothing like her in any other way. For one thing, he’s not making a sound. For another, he’s sitting in a chair with wheels on it. His face is much paler than hers and he’s all dressed in black, whereas she’s like a walking rainbow.

He’s not looking at me, or at any of the others. It’s as if he’s trying to pretend he’s somewhere else. The fur on the back of my neck stands up, just like it always does when I realise why I’m down here. This BoyKid needs the services of Arthur Angel.

 

 

 

The Life Cycle of a Writer: Cobwebs

img_2727

I’m just back from a major spring cleaning of the brain. Sometimes a writing retreat in the wilds of Northumberland is just the thing to blow the cobwebs away and recharge your creative bits and bobs, but this time it was more of an escape from reality that was needed. Or maybe a step into an ideal world? One where phones don’t ring much because the signal’s pants, and the sun shines, and the tide always seems to be out. Where breakfast appears every day as if by magic bursting with calories and yummyness and you get to read whenever you like.

It sounds perfect, doesn’t it? And so it was, but now real life has kicked in. I’ve just given up the day job but instead of the wide expanse of writing time, swimming, walking, pilates, the odd bit of housework and loads of wine/cake/both, there seems to have been a big dollop of worry lurking in the wings. You can’t predict when the people you love will be taking a nose-dive and needing propping up, can you?

So, on to Plan B. I’m hoping to map out every day to have writing hours in it as well as doling-out-TLC-and-nourishing-soup time. The next chapter is going to be one where every hour counts. And that means ditching the panster tag and being…organised? Well, let’s just see how it goes…

Celia

img_2741

 

Summer in Tintagel – Amanda James tells all.

Mandyinterviewpic

The Romaniacs are delighted to have the very talented Amanda James reclining on our sofa today. Good morning Mandy, and welcome to HQ – Jan’s hoovered the Romaniac cat in readiness for your visit, Sue’s arranged the flowers, Laura, Debs, Vanessa and Lucie are tuning up for a welcome chorus and I’ve just made a fresh batch of scones, so settle back and relax. Jam? Clotted cream?

Mandy: Oooh lovely! Can I have cream and jam please?

Celia: Absolutely. I had a feeling you’d be celebrating in style because you’ve got exciting news for our blog spot and an ebook giveaway as a bonus. Tell us about the launch of your fabulous new novel.

Mandy: Well…ishst crawled Shummer  in… Phew sorry about that, not a good idea to speak through a mouthful of scone. Sorry, Celia? I have cream on my nose? Really? Gawd, thanks for the tissue. So glad we’re not on videocam or whatever it’s called. Okay, it’s called Summer in Tintagel and came out a few days ago. (Ed: It’s out today, folks😀 ) As you can see from the blurb it’s full of mystery, secrets, love and a search for the truth. I am doing a blog tour and chatting nonsense… no, I mean telling people really interesting stuff about my life and writing. I’m giving an ebook away at the end, so please do try to keep awake. Celia, you’re snoring.

Celia: So, let’s go back in time. How long have you been writing and what started you off?

Mandy: I’ve been writing for a hundred years, or since I was about eight. I asked my parents for a typewriter for Christmas and I never looked back. I was published the next year and made the bestseller list. Okay, yes, I do realise that I might be exaggerating. So the truth is I wrote short stories and poems for years and years and years, but never did anything with them. For some reason I decided that I would take my writing a little bit more seriously around 2002 and eventually had a short story published in 2010. So it didn’t happen overnight as you can see. Since then I have had four novels published, Summer in Tintagel is the fifth .

Celia: My Kindle is waiting for it excitedly – I’ve loved all the others. Thinking more about your writing process now; what/where are your favourite places to write?

Mandy: My dream place to write would be in an old beach house by the side of the ocean. You know the ones one stilts that are found in California? The noonday sun would have peeled some of the paint from the outside and it everything would smell of salt air and hot sand. I would sit on the veranda in a huge straw hat with a cold glass of wine to hand and occasionally raise my head from the laptop to watch a pelican or two glide by… In reality I write in the back bedroom but I can see the ocean six-miles away on a clear day!

Celia: And what are you reading for pleasure at the moment?

Mandy: I’m reading a book that I have always meant to, but never got around to.  I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou is just wonderful. It’s autobiographical and set in segregated Arkansas in the 1930s. I find it quite extraordinary how a poor black girl, more or less abandoned by her parents growing up in such times managed to achieve everything she did in her long life. The writing is stunningly beautiful and the story extremely moving, yet so inspirational. I’m really enjoying it and would recommend it to absolutely anyone. In fact, everyone go out and buy this book now!

Celia: How would your ideal writing day go? Talk us through it…

Mandy: Ideal? Okay, I wake very early and write for three hours, then I have a top chef cook me a very extravagant breakfast, after which I have a snooze on the veranda – see above. Then I write for another three hours and then go off for a walk on the beach. The rest of my day is filled by witty conversation with my friends and family, and to finish, a lovely barbeque on the beach at which everyone drinks champagne, swims in the sea and dances to live music under the light of an unfeasibly bright moon.

Celia: Just getting the sausages sizzling ready to join you. That sounds amazing! Picking up on the live music part, I know live gigs have been happening a lot around you lately – which bands/singers have inspired your writing and do you like to write with music in the background?

Mandy: Yes, I have been very lucky to see some excellent live music lately. Coldplay at Wembley, Tom Jones at the Eden Project and Jools Holland and his band in Falmouth. The highlight was the mighty Coldplay though – they make everyone so happy with their music so much so that you can see pure joy on every face. Having said that I didn’t count all 90,000 faces in Wembley – that would have been impossible. I have also seen Paul Simon a few times and find his music equally inspiring but in a different way. One of the first huge influences on my life and therefore my writing was David Bowie. He will be sadly missed by people of my age group and some younger folk too, I think. No, I don’t like music on in the background while I’m working – isn’t that odd?

Celia: I’m with you on that one. So, what’s your next ambition?

Mandy: To keep on writing and for my endeavours to be well received. Of course, I would eventually like to make best seller list and have the overnight success that in my case would have been a hundred years in the making.

Celia: I can already see your name at the top of that list alongside all the ones who’ve been hanging around there waiting for you to turn up. Speaking of other writers, which authors or books influenced you to start (and continue) reading as a child?

Mandy: I loved all the Enid Blyton ones, especially The Famous Five as they went to Cornwall, or perhaps it was Devon…anyway they had huge adventures. I wanted to be George as she was so feisty and gave the boys a run for their money. The Lord of The Rings was introduced to me when I was 13 and my goodness it was a revelation. I adored it and got totally lost in Tolkien’s world.

Celia: And so – this will probably be tricky – who are your three all time favourite authors?

Mandy: Yes it is a bit tricky…Okay, Dean Koontz because he’s a phenomenal writer and took the time to write to me three times, Charles Dickens because he always roots for the little guy and Tolkien because of the above.

Celia: Okay, now for some quick-fire questions so we can really get to know you;

Champagne or beer? Yes please…Oh I have to pick one? Champagne.

Seaside or mountains? Seaside.

Log fire or hot tub? Hot tub. Just off the veranda in my beach house…

Eric or Ernie? Eric. Loved that guy – he can still make me laugh, even though I know what’s coming.

Ant or Dec?  Neither. Can’t abide them.

Chocolate or cheese?  Cheese.

Dawn or dusk?  Dawn.

Heels or flats? In my head, heels. In reality – flats.

Dancing or swimming? Dancing.

Walking or running? Walking, my knees won’t take the running bit nowadays.

Jeans or frocks?  Jeans. Frocks for special occasions.

Home or away? Home, as Cornwall is just wonderful. Wouldn’t say no to away though!

Celia: Thanks for being with us today, Mandy – and just for being so interesting, you can have the last scone.

Mandy: Thanks, for having me Celia! I have really enjoyed it…and by the way, you have jam on your lip.

Celia: Oh, cheers! Pass the tissues over here, please. Hey, we forgot to give the details of the ebook giveaway competition thing…

*Mandy has promised the lucky winner of our competition a digital copy of Summer in Tintagel, hot off the press, as it were. All you have to do is tell us who is your all-time favourite author, and why – in no more than three sentences.*

Here’s some background information about Amanda James and her new book.

Mandycoverpic

Bio:

Amanda James has written since she was a child, but never imagined that her words would be published. Then in 2010, after many twists and turns, the dream of becoming a writer came true.

Amanda has written many short stories and has four novels currently published. A Stitch in Time was published in April of 2013 by http://www.choclitpublishing.co.uk and has met with great success.

Also with Choc Lit are Somewhere Beyond the Sea and Dancing in the Rain (March 2014)

Cross Stitch (December 2014)

Her latest novel is Summer in Tintagel – Urbane Publications and is out now.

Amanda’s blog – http://mandykjameswrites.blogspot.com/

Twitter – @akjames61

Summer at Tintagel

BLURB:

We all have secrets……

Ambitious journalist Rosa Fernley has been asked to fulfil her grandmother Jocelyn’s dying wish. Jocelyn has also passed on a secret – in the summer of 1968, fleeing from the terror of a bullying husband, she visited the mysterious Tintagel Castle. Jocelyn wasn’t seeking love, but she found it on the rugged clifftops in the shape of Jory, a local man as enigmatic and alluring as the region itself. But she was already married, and knew her husband would never let her find happiness and peace in Jory’s arms.

Now as her days are nearing their end, she begs Rosa to go back to Tintagel, but is unwilling, or unable, to tell her why. Rosa is reluctant – she has a job in London, a deadline that won’t wait and flights of fancy are just not in her nature. Nevertheless, she realises it might be the last thing she will do for her beloved grandmother and agrees to go.

Once in Tintagel, Rosa is challenged to confront secrets of her own, as shocking events threaten to change everything she has ever believed about herself and her family. She also meets a guide to the castle, Talan, a man who bears a striking resemblance to Jory.

Will the past remain cloaked in tragedy, sadness and the pain of unrequited love? Or can Rosa find the courage and strength to embrace the secrets of the past, and give hope to the future?

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Summer-Tintagel-Amanda-James-ebook/dp/B01H9BS1JE?ie=UTF8&ref_=asap_bc

Summer in Tintagel eBook: Amanda James: Amazon.co.uk: Kindle Store

www.amazon.co.uk

Summer in Tintagel eBook: Amanda James: Amazon.co.uk: Kindle Store

 

Summer in Tintagel (Urbane Publications July 2016)

Cross Stitch (Choc Lit December 2014)

Somewhere Beyond the Sea ( Choc Lit April 2014)

Dancing in the Rain (Choc Lit March 2014)

A Stitch in Time (Choc Lit) – http://www.choc-lit.com/

Righteous Exposure (Crooked Cat) – http://www.crookedcatbooks.com/

Blog – http://mandykjameswrites.blogspot.co.uk/

 

 

 

 

 

Life cycle of a writer: when life gets in the way…

Moondancing_by_CelinaJ_Anderson-500

 

This Life Cycle of a Writer post is a bit of a rush job. My fourth book, Moondancing, is out today and instead of celebrating with cake and champagne, our school has a two day Ofsted inspection. This in itself would be daunting, but we have been waiting for this hammer to fall since last May when they first visited in the middle of SATs week and told us we were as bad as we can be. Now, I don’t have rosy tinted spectacles about my beloved school, but rubbish we most definitely are not. Politics stepped in and we took it on the chin but now we are being reinspected on my launch day! And on top of that, my all-time hero, David Bowie, has shuffled off this mortal coil.

To counteract this frustrating work/life imbalance, I decided on Sunday that the only way to keep any sort of writing momentum going was to separate the day job from my dream. Maximum furniture lugging happened, muscles were pulled, cobwebs were found, drawers were emptied and a new writing space was created. Now, this upstairs corner is just for ‘proper’ writing and the downstairs one is for school work, emails and fun on Facebook. Watch this space – we’ll see how it goes.

For school work and emails/Facebook etc

For school work and emails/Facebook etc

 

And the place to follow the dream...

And the place to follow the dream…

LIfe Cycle of a Writer – Celia J Anderson – Cover Reveal!

Moondancing_by_CelinaJ_Anderson-500

 

Whoop! It’s pre-order time for Moondancing – the prequel to Little Boxes –  and it’s only 99c until publication day on January 12th.

Little Boxes by Celia J Anderson - 200

This is a very proud moment for me, at a time when writing has had to take a definite back seat due to the day job. I love our school and my brilliant work-mates in equal measures, but we’ve been having a very tough time lately, and it’s been getting harder and harder to find  time to be able to settle down to anything but depressing Ofsted follow-ups and policies and action plans.

Anyway, before you fall asleep in your tea, let me just say that Moondancing was the very first book I managed to finish. It began as a sample chapter; an assignment for a pre-teaching English Literacy course, and over the years…a lot of years…was one of those ongoing projects that were just for fun and nobody thought would ever be finished. But, eventually, THE END was written and Moondancing (then veering crazily between being called Something For Molly and Start Again) set off on its first journey – to a mystery reader for the RNA New Writers’ Scheme.

Frankly, the reader was underwhelmed. Moondancing was a hot potch of writing styles, multiple viewpoints and quoted song lyrics – it had travelled with me through being widowed, my children growing up and leaving the nest, a new career, marrying again, meeting my wonderful Romaniac friends and lots of other inspiring writers…it was a patchwork quilt of love, loss, black humour, wine and cake. In other words, it was awful. So I carried on and wrote some more books – but faster.

SWEET PROPOSAL (1)

LivingTheDream3 (1)

Finally, after the publication of Sweet Proposal, Little Boxes and Living the Dream, I dug Moondancing out again and gave it a complete facelift. It was then edited by the fabulous Mandy James and sent off to my publishers, Tirgearr, where it had another spring-clean by the equally talented Christine McPherson.

Moondancing is a very different book now. It’s still full of unexpressed longing, frustration, love and grief, but it has a purpose, and it leads directly into Little Boxes. It’s a case of ‘What Molly Did First’ rather than ‘What Katy Did Next’. Here’s the blurb:

Together since their teens, Molly and Jake have four children, a house in a sleepy village, and jobs that bore them to distraction. Their marriage is an accident waiting to happen. When Nick arrives in Mayfield, young, disturbed and in desperate need of mother-love, Molly doesn’t realise that he will be the catalyst that blows everything apart. Add a headmaster whose wife doesn’t understand him, and Molly’s unpredictable, frustrated best friend to the mix, and the blue touch paper has been well and truly lit.

I hope you enjoy reading Moondancing as much as I enjoyed writing it, but also hope it doesn’t take as long…

Celia x

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Moondancing-Celia-J-Anderson-ebook/dp/B017XQTUIQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1447741183&sr=8-1&keywords=celia+j+anderson+moondancing

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sweet-Proposal-Celia-J-Anderson-ebook/dp/B00DRI0N2C/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1447741576&sr=8-3&keywords=celia+j+anderson

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Moondancing-Celia-J-Anderson-ebook/dp/B017XQTUIQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1447741183&sr=8-1&keywords=celia+j+anderson+moondancing

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Moondancing-Celia-J-Anderson-ebook/dp/B017XQTUIQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1447741183&sr=8-1&keywords=celia+j+anderson+moondancing

 

 

Life Cycle of a Writer: Stimulation!

 

photo (47)

Now, this isn’t going to be one of those rude blog posts with shades of 50 Shades, so if you were hoping for smut, go and put the kettle on while I ramble because you’ll only be disappointed.

The stimulation I’m talking about today is the kick-in-the-pants sort you get when you either have a deadline to meet or some lovely person has shown an interest in your work and wants to see it when it’s completed. The sort that can either be worth its weight in fruit cake to make you get your finger out and get moving, or drag you into the doldrums, making you feel guilty if you so much as pick up your Kindle for a crafty read.

The RNA conference last month was a shot in the arm for a lot of us. Not only did the Romaniacs meet lots of wonderful writers/agents/publishers, many of whom were up for an impromptu Sparkle interview, we also heard their words of wisdom about not giving up. That was the message that came across loud and clear. Lots of authors were willing to recount their own setbacks and depressing moments, and it couldn’t fail to show anyone watching the interviews that even the most glittering of Sparkle interviewees had had their down moments by the shed load.

The other boost for me was the chance for a one-to-one with an agent and a publisher – both really encouraging. Felled by a very bad back soon afterwards, having to miss Sue Moorcroft’s Italian course and with a list of school jobs to do longer than the Nile, I moved back several places in the game, but now I’m almost up and running again, have made my first list of the holidays, been given a fabulous new notebook and used the notes Sue M gave me to reshape the first chapters of my WIP. All I need to do is to finish writing the book  now…

What’s your own kick-in-the-pants tip?

Celia x

Life Cycle Of A Writer: Learning How To Promote

This weekend at the 2015 Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Conference, we set up a corner for our Romaniac Sparkle Spotlight. It was a chance to put some of the talented writers we know in front of the camera to tell us about their high point, the toughest thing in their career and what they are currently working on. We had a tremendous amount of fun doing it, not just because there were bubbles involved, but because it was like the coffee break chats we might normally have at these events only we get to share them with the world. There was a theme of tremendous achievements despite the difficulties that get in the way and it was really a privilege listening to the answers people provided. It was also rather fortuitous that we were based outside the one-to-one rooms. It meant we managed to persuade an agent and editor to take part, so it gives a real flavour of the RNA conference.

10687485_712047512233806_6544138669881981900_o

Currently, the videos are being edited at a pace and we should be able to release them soon and it is with great thanks to those who took part. It was on a voluntary basis and all those who stood in front of the camera were complete naturals, even if they were nervous about doing it. We’re already planning to do the same again at the next conference so please do sign up next year if you want to take part.

We ourselves are all on a learning curve of how to best promote ourselves and we’ve loved doing this, this year. And behind the camera, doing most of the questions was our lovely, Celia J Anderson, who it turns out, is a brilliant interviewer  and she is currently on tour. Celia’s next book, Living The Dream is on a blog tour and if you pre-order either today or tomorrow it is only 99p! Then it comes out with Tirgearr Publishing later this week.

Celia and Lucie ready for ACTION!
Celia and Lucie ready for ACTION!

Have any writers out there been brave enough to stand in front of a camera yet? And do you prefer to read blogs or watch vlogs to find out about your next read?

Catherine x