The Life Cycle of a Writer: Cobwebs

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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

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Life Cycle of a Writer – Hopes and Fears

I have a post-it note on my laptop with a list of all the things I want to achieve with my writing career. I started making the list when I first began writing seriously, which would probably be when I joined the RNA New Writers’ Scheme.

The list initially started off small and, I won’t say simple because at the time, whatever was on the list was something I wanted to achieve and couldn’t be done without a considerable amount of effort on my part. The first thing was ‘Finish writing a whole novel’. Then it was ‘Meet NWS deadline’ and ‘Work on feedback’.

As my writing career progressed the list became more focused and this time last year I had added to it:-

‘Find an agent’

‘This book better than the last book’

‘Top 500 Amazon’ etc.

tgwl-new-pbWith my fourth HarperImpulse novel. The Girl Who Lied, I was fortunate enough to exceed my post-it note expectations. It became an Amazon UK #1 bestseller, a USA Today bestseller, sold over 200k e-copies and is going to paperback in November.  Wow! Some of these things may have been on my list, but I hadn’t in my wildest dreams thought they would be ticked off quite so quickly, if at all. I am, of course, eternally thankful to everyone who has been behind the book and the fantastic readers. It really has been mind-blowing.

So, although The Girl Who Lied is still going strong, in the meantime, I’ve had to work on my next contracted book, The Cuckoo. With a September deadline, it meant taking the laptop on holiday with me and spending most mornings hammering away at the keyboard. My husband has been super supportive and really helped with all the things that need doing, including keeping our 8-year-old daughter busy. Having said that, she did tell me that I wasn’t allowed to take the laptop on holiday with me again. Point taken.

the-cuckooI already had an idea for The Cuckoo so I found it relatively easy to get the words down, however, with the second book of my latest contract due in spring, I found myself in a bit of a creative black hole and the doubts started to creep in.

I convinced myself it was okay and I’d be able to come up with a thoroughly decent idea any time soon.  As each day drew to a close, I realized that I hadn’t moved any of the ideas forward.  Gradually, the mild panic began to settle and grow. What if I didn’t have any more ideas, full stop? What if that was it – no more ideas and no more books, yet I still had a contract to fulfill? I think I spent two days properly panicking.

I then gave myself a good talking to and made myself sit down and thrash out some plot ideas. Forcing myself to do it,whiteboard rather than waiting for airy-fairy artistic inspiration to strike, I put together a brief synopsis and made some notes about the characters and how I saw things developing. It wasn’t perfect, but it was something tangible that I liked.  Fortunately, I met up with fellow Romaniac, Jan Brigden, at an event we both attended, and we started chatting about my book where I explained to Jan that although I liked what I had, I felt something was still missing.

 

It’s funny how someone on the outside can so easily put their finger on what might be missing. Jan patiently listening and chatted the plot over with me. She was able to pinpoint what was missing – the thing that would make it my own story, the sort of one I wanted to write and not the sort I thought I wanted to write.

Although I’m eager to get started on the new project, I’ve been thwarted by the first round of edits for The Cuckoo arriving yesterday. There’s a lot to take in and mull over, to discuss with my editor and agent to see how I can make it a much better story, so for now, I’ll have to put the next book on hold until these edits are sorted.

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Not sure what I doodled during my phone conversation with my agent, but I did make some useful notes too!

Sue

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Life Cycle of a Writer: When is Enough Enough?

When is Enough Enough?

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The Good Fight, as it was known, (ironic, now I think of it), never got beyond 20,000 words. The entire story was mapped out in my head, but for a variety of reasons, the last 80,000 words never made it onto the page. Ill health caused a delay, with debilitating headaches stopping me from sitting at the computer, but even on good days, I struggled to get the words onto paper. I loved the setting, the characters and the overall idea, but it just wasn’t working. Even now, I can’t quite put my finger on what is wrong with it. All I know is it doesn’t have the spark, the electricity it needs to keep the reader gripped.

Many times I considered setting it aside and starting something new, but I was concerned I was being wooed by the sparkly new ideas, and if I let that happen once, there was a chance I’d never finish another novel.

Thank goodness for my wonderful Romaniac friends. They guided, advised, consoled, energised and supported me. And in the last few months, The Romaniacs have enjoyed some amazing successes – a number 1 in  the UK Kindle chart, agent representation, paperback releases, competition wins, superb reviews – and each one has spurred me on.

They inspired me into action.

So, after a year of slogging away on book 4, I’ve decided The Good Fight has fought its final battle and I’m allowing myself to be wined and dined by the new, sparkly ideas.

I’m in that exciting phase of discovering new characters, researching new issues, and opening a new Word document. I have a title, which Catherine, Sue and I work-shopped last week – a fabulous session over tapas and cocktails, or in my case, soda and lime – and I know how I want the story to evolve. I can feel it. I realise that is an element missing from The Good Fight. I cannot feel it. It hasn’t hit me in the stomach or made its presence felt. The new story arrived as a mass of feelings and emotions which I could not ignore, which is how I know it is right for me to move on.

The Good Fight may come into its own one day, but for now I’m going with my gut instinct.

Enough is enough.

And yes, I am singing along to Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer.

Laura xx

 

All That is Left of Us Blog Tour: Meerkat Research

Creating Owerdale Zoo: The Research

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When I first pitched this book to my editor, the zoo was always going to be central to the story. In essence it was going to be a tale of three mums who regular met at the zoo to catch up. This was the original pitch:

Never work with animal and children, but a weekly coffee can’t hurt, right?

When three old school pals meet at an antenatal class, they decide to support each other through motherhood and get an annual pass to the zoo to meet once a week. But as past secrets come out, and a meerkat becomes a changing bag stowaway, will they make it through their maternity leave as friends, or enemies?

The book evolved from the original idea to be focused on Dawn who is acting as surrogate for her sister-in-law, Rebekah. But the meerkat idea was still going to be central and turned into the best research I’ve ever had to do.

At the point of only having a story outline, I needed to do some research to find out as much as I could about meerkat behaviour. In All That is Left of Us, Dawn’s son, Archie, is obsessed with the Owerdale Zoo meerkats and spends every Saturday morning documenting what they’re up to so it was important to have as much knowledge as possible.

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When it came to research, books and documentaries weren’t going to be enough so I contacted Paulton’s Park to see if they could help. They have their own mob of meerkats so I asked if anyone would be able to answer some of the weird and wonderful questions I had in relation to the storyline. Thankfully, they were really helpful and I met with the livestock manager, Geoff Masson, and he helped answer all of my questions regarding meerkats and their behaviour. I’ve tried to portray them as accurately as possible and any mistakes are my own. I have to confess to this being one of my favourite parts of the novel. The friendship Archie has with the meerkats is very real and his relationship with animals reflects that this is a story of love in its many forms, even the ones we don’t understand.

I really hope any readers of All That is Left of Us enjoy the relationship between Archie and his meerkats as much as I enjoyed researching and writing about them.

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Now I just need to decide what research to incorporate into the next book.

Catherine xx

HONNNNKKKKKKK!

HONNNKKKK!!!

The fireworks are being lit, the cake is coming out of the oven and the glasses are overflowing with pop as The Romaniacs celebrate the paperback release of our lovely Jan Brigden’s As Weekends Go.

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Laura: Many congratulations, Jan. What an exciting day! Your first paperback. And isn’t it gorgeous? I’m looking forward to getting my hands on a signed copy. I am thrilled for you. So well deserved, my lovely, hardworking friend xxx

Catherine: Congratulations, Jan! The honkometer cannot withstand such excitement! This level of celebration may be enough to put it into early retirement! Enjoy the day and we’ve stocked up on additional cake to mark the occasion! Xxx

Vanessa: HUGE congratulations, lovely Jan. I hope your day is filled with cake and champagne – I can’t wait to add the wonderful As Weekends Go to my Romaniac shelf!

Sue: Honkity-honk-honk-honk! Congratulations, Jan on the release of your paperback. It’s a fantastic story and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy. It will take pride of place on my bookshelf with the other Romaniac publications! I also get to stroke Alex Heath!! Well done, my friend, thoroughly deserved. xx

Celia: Sooooo excited for you, our lovely, talented Jan! Loved the Kindle version and can’t wait to see the book in paperback form, in all its glory. Massive congratulations and honks. Very, very proud of you and all you’ve achieved xxxx

Lucie: How amazing is this, Jan? I am SUPER proud of you, my friend! I cannot wait for this to be on my shelf. You are an inspiration and I hope you are celebrating in true Romaniac-style with plenty of fizz and HONKS! Love you lots xxx 

 

With love from The Romaniacs

xxxxxxx

 

 

All That is Left of Us Cover Reveal

Romaniac HQ is currently in a state of keyboards being bashed (never has our word count totals been so high) and screaming children wanting our attention as we navigate the summer holidays. It has been a crazy period of number 1 Amazon bestsellers, award winners and shortlistings. To keep up with all the latest Romaniac news make sure you follow us on Facebook and Twitter as there is so much excitement afoot.

Today, I’m delighted to be able to share the front cover for my second novel, All That is Left of Us. To sum it up, it’s about the aftermath of surrogacy within a family…

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One of My Own…

Dawn loves being a mother. No matter how Archie came into her life, or the fact he’s a little different from other children, he is precious and loved. He is hers, after all. Especially because she’s never told anyone who the father of her son is.

So when Dawn’s twin brother David and his wife Rebekah are struggling to have their own child, Dawn agrees to become their surrogate, as it is the one thing she can do to help.

However, creating the perfect family doesn’t always go to plan and when Dawn realises just how much her nephew needs his mother, she begins to wonder if the time has finally come to confront the past she has kept secret for so long.

From the author of Waiting for You comes a story of friendship, motherhood and hope.

Roving Romaniacs in Umbria (The Italian Job, Part 2)

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Sue Moorcroft’s fabulous course at Arte Umbria a few years back was something that fellow Romaniac Laura James and I will never forget. When I got the chance to go again to kick start my retirement from teaching, this time with my Romaniac buddy Debbie Fuller-White and a whole gang of other wonderful people, it wasn’t too hard to jump at the chance.

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This time, Debbie was taking part in the full course, I was doing the writing retreat thing and the terrace above was the place where inspiration struck most often (possibly because that’s where wine kept appearing.)

Sue did lots of one-to-ones, ran sessions on building characters, short stories, plotting and all sorts of other useful angles on getting a book to take shape and then beating it into submission. We didn’t write hot sex by the pool this time. It was just too…hot.

We even found a hero at the castle – a gorgeous man who also is heavily into wine production – what’s not to like about Lorenzo? Even the name is music to my ears. I finished the edits on a whole book, gave my character some much needed depth and put on half a stone. Two of those things make me happier than the other. Deb got her mojo back and we refrained from having a girlie cat fight over who should stand next to Lorenzo while he told us about…erm…I think it was grapes and stuff, but actually, who cares?

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And on the way home we did some revision on my all-time favourite of Sue’s books – the story that sparked off a memorable singing event in a Romaniac kitchen at the RNA conference. I can’t remember where we were…maybe Sheffield. But Dream a Little Dream has never been sung like that before.

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Huge thanks to Sue, to our lovely hosts David and Sara Moody and to all the rest of the gang for making Arte Umbria a place where writing is as natural as eating, sleeping, breathing…and drinking. Hic.

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