Roving Romaniacs, Wimborne, Lisa Jewell and Lucy Clarke

Lisa Jewell & Lucy Clarke

Lisa Jewell & Lucy Clarke

Roving Romaniacs, Sue and Laura, headed out to Wimborne Literary Festival last week to attend a talk given by Lisa Jewell and Lucy Clarke. Here’s a few words and pictures.

Sue : Despite the awful rain, it didn’t take me too long to get down to Wimborne and after an Anneka Rice moment, managed to find the library.  Both Lisa and Lucy were lovely to listen to, very natural and engaging. It was interesting hearing how different their approaches to writing were and how they carried out research.

booksI’m a big fan of Lucy Clarke’s books and having already stocked up on her books, took one with me for her to sign. I haven’t read any of Lisa’s at this point, but her latest novel ‘The Girls’ had been on my wish list for some time. I was delighted to be able to purchased a copy and get that signed too.

After the talk, Laura and I dodged more rain and headed for The Kings Head for lunch. I encountered more rain driving home, but it didn’t matter as I had a really good day out.

Laura: Wasn’t it a great day? Wimborne is a forty-five minute drive for me, which I consider local, so I wasn’t going to miss this opportunity to meet and listen to Lisa Jewell and Lucy Clarke, both very lovely people. I met up in the first instance with another writing friend, Kathy Morgan, we found a quaint café in which we sheltered from the rain and chatted horses, cats and books. We then went onto to the library, where we met with Sue.

This was the first author talk I’ve attended where the two authors interview each other, and I loved it – what a great idea. It’s a format I would consider using the next time The Romaniacs go on tour. It worked so well; it was relaxed, humorous, interesting and warm, and Lisa and Lucy shared information about their books, writing processes and how they initially got into writing.

I had a lightbulb moment, courtesy of Lisa Jewell, who explained she takes herself away from distractions and writes a thousand words a day, no matter how long those words take to write. Due to recent health problems, I’ve returned to writing longhand, and I sit in my conservatory, away from technology, and it’s then when I am most productive. It dawned on me it’s probably because I am more than a click away from social media or Words For Friends. It’s not that I didn’t realise technology, housework or making coffee are distractions, but I think I was in denial and hearing an established, successful and very down to earth author telling it as it is, helped the message get through.

And I will sit in my conservatory until I write a thousand words, or in the case of the next fortnight, with a deadline looming, two thousand words.

Lunch with Sue was excellent. It’s amazing how many topics of conversation we can get through in an hour.

A wonderful day, well spent.

Laura, Lucy, Lisa & Sue

Laura, Lucy, Lisa & Sue

 

Life Cycle of a Writer: When Life gets In the Way

IMG_6365For over two years I’ve struggled with symptoms of ill health which I’d put down to being a woman in her late forties and my rheumatoid arthritis. I’ve experienced headaches that floor me, limbs that can’t support me because they’ve turned to jelly or they’re weighed down with concrete blocks, interrupted sleep, dizziness, nausea, the usual sore and painful joints, and starting each day convinced someone has concertinaed my feet into my shoulders overnight. Every morning I would say to my husband that my pillow was made of rocks.

My focus was shot to pieces and my memory was full of holes. There were times when I struggled to recall people’s names, which I found highly embarrassing as I’ve always been good with people and places. I was fatigued – more so than my usual fatigue that comes with RA – there were days when I couldn’t be bothered to change the channel on the TV because it took too much energy. Thank goodness for my friends and family, who never questioned my actions, or inactions, and who never pushed me to be or do more than that which I felt able.

The symptoms increased – the pain was worse, the headaches lasted longer, the waking up feeling like I’d been in a car crash happened every single day, and I was exhausted. The thing is, I’ve lived with pain for over thirty years. My mind set is that some days are better than others, the bad times will pass, and tomorrow is another day. I’ve always tried to focus on the positive. I never put much emphasis on not being able to run around with the children, choosing instead to enjoy the wonderful times I spent reading to them or listening to them read, watching Barbie or Thomas the Tank Engine videos with them, or simply chatting.

My children are older now, extremely capable and have strong independent streaks. Thank goodness, as this recent bout of poor health knocked me so flat, I couldn’t go out, I couldn’t concentrate for any length of time, and I couldn’t think straight.

And I couldn’t write.

I had book four planned. I knew the characters, the plots and subplots, the issues, the romance, the first twenty thousand words – I had it all, ready to go, but I couldn’t muster the energy to do anything. If I managed to get myself to the computer, headaches would kick in within fifteen minutes and that was me neutralised for the next few hours. I resorted to sitting in a comfy chair in the living room, intending to write longhand, but even that was beyond me, partly down to the lack of focus and headaches, and partly due to my dodgy hands and fingers. I tinkered about a bit on my laptop and it seemed the change of position and the distance of the screen helped for a brief time, but still I wasn’t writing. I was putting together promo pieces for my existing books – creating ads and images to use as pinned tweets. I felt I was doing something positive. Something other than nothing.WDKY Twitter Evie Quote

But I should have been writing.

It became my mantra. I should be writing. I should be writing.

I should be writing.

I’ve always managed to write through the bad times. Always. Why was this so different?

I think I’ve just worked it out; quite literally this minute, as I write this post with hindsight: I didn’t fully understand what had changed and it was hard to see an end to the constant cycle of lack of sleep, fatigue, pain and brain fogginess. At that point there was no promise of a better day, the bad time appeared to have no intention of passing, and tomorrow was another day of much the same. Or worse.

In October 2015, in a regular, scheduled RA appointment, when I explained to my rheumatologist that I lived each day feeling as if I’d walked into a brick wall, that my knees and hips hurt more than normal, that I suspected my jaw was the culprit of the severe headaches, he checked my medical records, gently pressed on a few pressure points around my body, which had me hitting the ceiling, and asked if I experienced other symptoms such as dizziness, lack of sleep and confusion, all to which I said yes. His conclusion surprised me but at the same time, I felt validated.

‘Mrs James,’ he said, ‘it’s fibromyalgia.’

I recall returning home with a sheet of paper which contained addresses of FM websites, in my hand, walking into the living room and my husband asking me if I was all right.

‘Yes’, I replied. ‘But this explains the last few years.’ I handed him the paper, his brow went up, and he nodded.

I hadn’t gone to that appointment seeking answers. I’d gone for my regular RA consultation, but thank goodness for my marvellous doctor and his team. I’ve been again since and between the rheumatology department and my wonderful GP, we are finding a way to move forward with the FM.

The best bit? I’ve managed some serious blocks of sleep and within the last week, I’ve got back the writing bug.

Before finishing, I wanted to thank my publisher for their patience and understanding, and say thank you to all my friends and family for the support, care and space they’ve provided.

I realise this has the potential to be a long and winding road, but today, the sun is shining, my pillow is soft, and I’m excited at the prospect of an empty page.

And tomorrow could be even better.

Take care.

Laura x


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Roving Romaniacs – Life Cycle of a Writer goes to Chichester

The Life Cycle of A Writer has been a popular feature here on the blog for over a year now where we all take it in turns to update what’s been going on in our writerly worlds. Last week saw the first live date, when The Life Cycle of a Writer went to Chichester library. It went really well and we are hoping to book some further dates at other libraries along the south coast. Here are a few photos and words from Catherine, Laura and Sue to sum up the evening.

sue laura catherine chi library

Sue: It was a great evening and although I was nervous to start with, once we got chatting I felt much more relaxed. It was good to see some familiar faces in the audience and we received some really positive feedback. Thank you to Chichester Library who were fantastic hosts.

sue laura chi library

Laura: I agree with Sue. It was a great evening. The audience was attentive and engaged and asked interesting questions, the library was a superb venue with lovely staff, and going on tour with Sue and Catherine was fun. I was chairing the panel, although that involved little input from me as the discussion flowed naturally and all three Romaniacs kept the conversation moving forward. I was in my element. I was ‘on stage’, and chatting about writing and books. I’m very much looking forward to taking the talk to more venues, and would love to return to Chichester library. So pleased we were able to encourage and help new writers.

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Catherine: I’m the one that talks with my hands. As I waved through my parts of our talk, it was great to have an audience to engage with (us writers normally have to chat to ourselves) and the Q&A session provided some excellent questions. Thanks to everyone who joined us and hopefully they’ll be another one soon. 

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SFTW: What Doesn’t Kill You.

What Doesn't Kill You Laura E James_FRONT_150dpi

I am excited, thrilled and nervous today, as my third novel for Choc Lit is released. What Doesn’t Kill You is published under Choc Lit’s new imprint, Dark Choc Lit – compelling, emotional, hard-hitting novels. Not your typical romance story.

Released on NetGalley for early reviews, I am delighted to say the novel has been warmly received, and I thank everyone who has taken the time to read and comment on the story.

Told from three perspectives, WDKY is set in and around the Jurassic Coast, making it the third in the Chesil Beach series. We meet our hero, Griff Hendry, as he stands on Portland Bill, watching the stormy sea. His life is as turbulent as the English Channel, with secrets and past torments threatening to drown everything he knows and loves. His wife, Evie, has pushed him away; he’s at odds with his fifteen-year-old step-daughter, Tess, and he struggles to understand his father’s past actions. Sometimes it seems as if his Old English sheepdog, Ozzy, is the only one he truly gets.

Waterlogue 1.1.4 (1.1.4) Preset Style = Soaked Format = 6" (Medium) Format Margin = Small Format Border = Sm. Rounded Drawing = #2 Pencil Drawing Weight = Medium Drawing Detail = Medium Paint = Natural Paint Lightness = Normal Paint Intensity = More Water = Tap Water Water Edges = Blurry Water Bleed = Intense Brush = Natural Detail Brush Focus = Everything Brush Spacing = Wide Paper = Watercolor Paper Texture = Medium Paper Shading = Light Options Faces = Enhance Faces

Griff asks the question: Where did it all go wrong?

Here’s my book trailer teaser …

For an alternative version with a different feel and atmosphere provided by the music, please hop over to my blog.

I hope you love the story of Griff, Evie and Tess, and thank you so much for downloading.

Take care.

Laura x

Life Cycle of A Writer: Bananarama, Broken Bones and Back To School

I have an ear- worm, and the best way I know to rid oneself of an ear-worm is to share, so here it is: Bananarama’s Cruel Summer.

The six-week school holiday mostly passed by in a blur of grey skies, grizzly, drizzly and occasionally torrential rain, and dim light.

My children didn’t seem to mind. The damp days were an excellent reason to stay home and play computer games, draw, and read, and, bless them, they didn’t object to me spending some of that time in the edits cave with What Doesn’t Kill You.

Not upgrading until the edits are complete ...

Not upgrading until the edits are complete …

With the years whizzing by, I’m keen to spend as much down-time with my children as possible – their adulthood is lurking around the next corner – so I kept my daylight editing hours to the minimum. I saw 3:00 am a number of times, and worked right through until 5:30 am on the last night/day to ensure I returned my work on time. This is no reflection on my editor – she is lovely and actively encouraged me to spend time with my children over the holidays, but once I get stuck into edits, it’s better if I keep going, so I can keep a mental track of the changes. Last year I explained the process to my youngest in this way: Imagine you are calculating a sum with lots of different actions – brackets, additions, subtractions, equations – working out each sum as you go along, trying to hold all that information in your head so you can give a final answer – that is what editing is like for me, except with words, plot and structure.

Beach Shack

There were a few sunny days when we managed to nip out for a spot of fresh air and exercise. We live five minutes away from the beach, and although we’d hoped to make more use of it this year, it was not to be. Thankfully, I took lots of photos of our trips out – days that earned the hashtag #summerholidaysinoneday. (I now have another ear-worm going on – Crowded House – Four Seasons In One Day, which, by the way, we experienced in one morning.)

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I purposely did no other writing during the holidays as I find it difficult to swap from edits and characters in one novel to the characters and plot of the work-in-progress, so book 4, as yet untitled, remained untouched. I’m panicking a little, as I’m only 15,000 words in, and I have six months to complete and revise. So far, a year is the shortest time I’ve taken to write a novel …

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The plan was to return to book 4 once the children were back at school, but those plans have been put on hold a little longer, as my daughter fractured a bone and tore a ligament in her knee in a Tae Kwondo accident, three days into the new term. We have come through the first week, so it’s onwards and upwards now.

Such is the life cycle of a writer …

Take care,

Laura x

 

LCOAW: Whose Head Is It Anyway?

 

Author Pic 2I used to watch a program called Whose Line Is It Anyway, where the contestants, usually actors and comedians, would improvise scenes, moments in time, and songs. It was much like me in my Theatre Studies A level class, but with skill and success. I was always impressed at how immediate the actors’ responses were to the instructions yelled out by Clive Anderson – they were out of one character and into a next within a blink of an eye.

Having finished book 3, What Doesn’t Kill You, I am venturing into book 4 territory, and I’m finding letting go difficult, as are my characters. Griff and Evie are determined to prevent Ash and Jo from moving in and occupying my (their?) headspace.

It was the same with Chris and Victoria from Follow Me Follow You.

I know exactly who Ash and Jo are – I’ve studied their personality types, I know their history, their basic fears and desires, what they look like, what body parts they love best – but still, as I sit down and type Chapter One, I’m having to nudge Evie aside.

Griff's Land Rover

Griff’s Land Rover

Evie, it’s time to go. Your work is done. Stop projecting images of Griff into my mind’s eye. Griff, with his strong, protective arms, his dark wavy hair, his sense of command …

Oh man.

And this explains why I didn’t go on to star in the West End. I’d have been a unique hybrid somewhere between Calamity Jane and Sandra Dee, singing You’re The One That I Want as, in my tight, black trousers and off-the-shoulder top, I rolled on over the plains on the Deadwood Stage, cracking my whip.

I might have to write that musical.

Talking of cracking the whip, that’s what I must do – make headway with my WIP – my work in progress – and I can only do that if I immerse myself in the world of historic secrets, TV presenters, and people who fight the good fight.

Griff and Evie Hendry, I love you. You’ve done a fabulous job treading the boards in my head, and I thank you for that. Now it’s time for you both to take a bow, and prepare for your next roles.

Ash and Jo – centre stage please.

Laura x

 

Gilli Allan: Life Is Not A Fairy Tale

Life is not a fairy tale…..

Gilli Allan Author Photo

Gilli Allan

When I was a child I was entranced by the idea of magic.  I believed in fairies (and Father Christmas) for far longer than is reasonable or rational.   I talked to the fairies in the garden and they answered me.  I admit I never actually saw one, but I suspected – because pansies have faces – that they lived in the pansies. So I talked to the pansies and they’d nod or shake their heads.  Proof.  And as I got older, even though I kind of knew it was all nonsense, I stubbornly clung to the faith, more because I wanted it to be true than really believing in it.

And, of course, my favourite reading was fairy stories.  I can still recall the smell and feel of those books.  I had a volume of Hans Anderson’s fairy stories – a Collins classic, with the dark green plasticised cover. And I had a volume of the collected stories of the Brothers Grimm.  This was a heavy, old hardback, with thick, deckle edged pages the colour of weak tea, and I suspect the famously ‘grim’ stories had been heavily expurgated, to make them more suitable for young minds. I don’t recall ever being frightened or disturbed, but I do recall being disappointed about the way many of these classic tales (Anderson’s and Grimm’s) concluded.

I was always making up stories, peopled typically with knights and ladies, princes and princesses, and fairies of course.  But I didn’t write anything down until I was nearing the end of primary school, and even then it was my big sister who gave me the idea. She was writing a Regency romance, and it suddenly struck me that writing it yourself was the perfect way to make a story turn out the way it should.  This is how I caught the writing bug.

Throughout my teenage years I wrote ‘books’.  I never finished anything.  But what interests me now, looking back, is why I was I writing the kind of story I was writing. I read Georgette Heyer, Daphne DuMaurier, even Jane Austen. Young Adult didn’t exist as a genre in those days and – other than adult fiction, which I moved onto fairly swiftly – historical romance was all that seemed to exist for teenage girls.  But unlike my sister, I wasn’t interested in writing in that style. I was far more strongly drawn to write darker tales, set in the present, of self-destructive bad boys, rescued and redeemed by the love of a girl who sees the good in him. I suppose I was influenced by pop music, films, TV and teen comics (although these were disapproved of in our house and I rarely read them).

In some ways, I think I still write in the same vein.  I am no longer romantically drawn to the haggard hero, at deaths door, either through his consumption of drugs or drink, or as a result of a horrific motorbike accident due to speeding. (This was never due to weakness or degeneracy, by the way. He would have been lured into these self-destructive behaviours to “forget” some tragedy in his life.)  But even though I’ve left these poor emaciated and emotionally damaged wraiths behind, I still prefer to write contemporary stories about people with faults and failings and emotional baggage. I write stories with an edge about real contemporary life.

I used to describe my books as gritty, but came to realise this conveys the wrong impression.  I’m not Martina Cole.  Despite my teenage tastes, I don’t write about ‘Crims’ and ‘Toms’ and seedy lowlife. I’ve never lived in that world and I don’t know it.  I don’t even watch East Enders.  But I don’t shy away from issues. I prefer to write as truthfully as I can about real people in a world I recognise, dealing with the stuff we all may have to deal with. A world where people don’t always make the right decisions – where actions have consequences – where we muddle along and sometimes, all we can hope for is the best. What I write is ‘romance for grownups’. This is not to say there are no happy endings.  There may not be a transformation scene, where the beautiful, but innocent and humble heroine is given the sparkly crinoline and marries her handsome, rich and perfect prince. But in my books there is hope, and a light at the end of the tunnel. There may not be a promise of happy ever after – who can guarantee that in real life – but, by the book’s conclusion, my heroine is always a good deal happier than she was!

 

FLY or FALL

Gilli Allan FOF CoverEleanor – known as Nell – thinks of herself as a wimp.  Even though her life has not been easy, she clings to the safety of the familiar. Married young and dependent on her teacher husband’s wage, Nell has stayed at home, in Battersea, with her children and her increasingly invalid mother.  Following the death of her mother the family’s fortunes suddenly change.  Trevor, is wildly enthusiastic about their ‘move up in the world’; he plans to give up teaching and move house away from London.  Nell, however, is gripped by a nebulous fear of some unknown disaster waiting to trip them all up, but her husband, steamrollers her objections.

Now in her early thirties, and living in an unfamiliar landscape away from old friends, Nell feels cast adrift.  She is increasingly aware that Trevor is no longer the man she married, and their young teenage twins, Jonathan and Juliet, are grumpy and difficult. The women she meets, Felicity and Katherine, seem shallow and promiscuous. The new house is unwelcoming and needs modernisation; she’s thrust into a continuing chaos of rubble and renovation.  Patrick, one of the men working for the building firm, is infamous as a local Lothario, but he doesn’t make a pass at her. At first she’s grateful – she’s not that kind of woman – but her feelings towards him grow increasingly confused and ambivalent.

When Nell takes a bar job at the local sports club, she is exposed to an overheated atmosphere of flirtation and gossip. Influenced by her new friends and the world in which she now moves, she begins to blossom and to take pleasure in the possibilities which seem to be opening up for her. She meets and forms a deeper friendship with the quirky, new-age Elizabeth, a very different character to her other friends.  As Nell begins to enjoy herself and to become enthusiastic about her life, it seems her husband is on a downward trajectory, on the opposite end of a cosmic seesaw.  When she is pursued by a beautiful and enigmatic young man, called Angel, she is tempted into behaviour she would never previously have imagined herself capable. The earthquake, felt as a tremor of apprehension at the start of the story, rumbles through her life and the lives of those around her.  When the dust settles nothing is as she previously understood it.

FLY OR FALL follows the dismantling of all of Nell’s certainties, her preconceptions and her moral code. Unwelcome truths about her friends, her husband, her teenage children and even herself are revealed.  Relationships are not what they seem. The hostility between brothers is exposed and finally explained. And the love that blossoms unexpectedly from the wreckage of her life is doomed, as she acknowledges the hair’s breadth between wishful thinking, self-deception and lies.

By the conclusion of FLY OR FALL everything has altered for Nell, the woman who doesn’t like change. But she has rebuilt herself as a different person, a braver person, and she has embarked with optimism on a totally transformed life, a life that offers the chance of love.

Biography

Gilli Allan started to write in childhood, a hobby only abandoned when real life supplanted the fiction. Gilli didn’t go to Oxford or Cambridge but, after just enough exam passes to squeak in, she attended Croydon Art College.

She didn’t work on any of the broadsheets, in publishing or television. Instead she was a shop assistant, a beauty consultant and a barmaid before landing her dream job as an illustrator in advertising. It was only when she was at home with her young son that Gilli began writing seriously. Her first two novels were quickly published, but when her publisher ceased to trade, Gilli went independent.

Over the years, Gilli has been a school governor, a contributor to local newspapers, and a driving force behind the community shop in her Gloucestershire village.  Still a keen artist, she designs Christmas cards and has begun book illustration. Gilli is particularly delighted to have recently gained a new mainstream publisher – Accent Press. FLY OR FALL is the second book to be published in the three book deal. The first was TORN, published in 2014, and LIFE CLASS is coming out later this year.

 

Links

To connect to me:

http://twitter.com/gilliallan  (@gilliallan)

https://www.facebook.com/GilliAllan.AUTHOR

http://gilliallan.blogspot.co.uk/

Books:

TORN: MyBook.to/gilliallansTORN (universal or  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Torn-Gilli-Allan-ebook/dp/B00R1FQ1QE)

FLY OR FALL: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Fly-Fall-Gilli-Allan-ebook/dp/B00XXZJ43S/