Life Cycle Of A Writer – The Secret To Being Organised

*Descends into manic giggles early on in the post*

Organised?

*Uncontrollable maniacal laughter*

I’d love to think my life is organised, but currently it’s as far from it as it possibly could be. I’ve just finished what I once would have considered mission impossible: writing a novel in three months while my twins are only at preschool part-time. It’s not a surprise to find I’ve come away from the event slightly bewildered and confused.

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Very messy desk syndrome

I’ve spent the week following being entirely unproductive. Not for lack of stuff to do. More an overwhelming amount of realising I don’t know where to start. It’s very hard to balance time when you don’t have much to spare and it won’t be long until I’ll be back to writing, leaving me with even less time. So, knowing I’m going to be a bit pressed, I decided I’d revert back to a system I used to use at university. It involved a notepad and highlighters and a weekly TTD list.

This time, I’ve evolved the system. I typed up a master TTD list with ten sub-categories (yes, my life is that busy) and has started off with seventy-ones things that I need to do. I’m sure there are things I’ve forgotten, but I’ll add them when I remember. I’ve then prioritised those in pretty colours (red, orange, yellow and green) so I know what needs to be sorted out first.

New system - champagne hiding #secretproject info ;)

New system – champagne hiding #secretproject info 😉

I’m then transferring all of the items in red onto a TTD list for the week. This is so I’m concentrating on the important things and not getting distracted. This week, I have enough on that list to keep me going, but as the weeks go on I hope to cross off some of the orange things to do.

The idea is, that at the end of each week, I can update my lists. I’ll cross off the items completed, add any new tasks, and for every four weeks that a task is on there, it’ll go up a priority level so that there’s not things remaining on the list for ever more. Then from the main list, I’ll create another new list for the week ahead. It means I can tackle major tasks one step at a time. Rather than feeling like I’m not getting anywhere, even if I’ve completed one thing towards that overall task, it’s a step forward.

Notepad for the weekly managable TTD list

Notepad for the weekly manageable TTD list

This won’t stop me being the person that never sends birthday cards on time (or ever). Or stop me from leaving things to the very last minute. Or stop me from occasionally making cups of tea with two tea bags. But in the very least, it’ll help stop me feeling quite so overwhelmed when faced with so many things to do, that I get lost on knowing where to start.

So, the title of this list is a little misleading. A bit like every click-bait piece of media that exists on social media. There are no epiphanies here because I’m very much on a learning curve. I don’t know the secret, but if anyone does, please let me know…

Especially because there’s a strong chance this will only carry on for three weeks and I’ll be back to wearing tops back to front and neglecting to headcount the twins.

*returns to laughing excessively*

 

 

Life Cycle of a Writer: Why Writers Never Really Take A Day Off

I’ve seen lots of FaceBook posts on the run up to Christmas about having a break from social media. I’m pretty sure that’s a good thing, although I can’t say I’ve given up that vice during the festive season.

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For some of those writers, I’m sure they will be using that time wisely and relaxing with family and having a holiday of sorts. At Romaniac HQ we have a mixed bag:  writers with deadlines working some of the Christmas period and others having a break.

But do we ever really manage to have a day off as a writer? For me, when I am at my most relaxed, it’s when my imagination kicks into play and before I know it I have an idea forming that wasn’t there before. I’ve created work by relaxing. And if it’s not that, it’s the next chapter, the next part of the story pushing for attention. My brain does not have an off switch (apart from when I’m sleeping. Thankfully, my brain let’s me sleep most of the time.)

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I do have days off (Christmas being one of them), and like my children, my books call to me. They holler often and with annoying persistence until it reaches the point when they can’t be ignored. This is true of my kids and the books. And striking a balance is both exhausting and worthwhile. This Christmas I will be at the keyboard, but that’s in the knowledge I can relax more over the summer. The only problem with relaxing, is those pesky ideas that show up and want to be worked on. But, again, a bit like my children, I wouldn’t be without them because where would that leave me?

I hope whatever you are up to, you’ve had a wonderful Christmas and 2016! Romaniac HQ can’t wait to 2017!

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Love,

Catherine xx

LCOAW: Six Years At The Bus Stop (Avoiding the slush pile)

Strictly speaking six years at the bus stop is an underestimation. My quest for a literary agent started when I was about twenty-one and didn’t have a clue what I was up to. So, to be absolutely accurate, and for anyone good at math you can work out my age, it’s really been fourteen years at the bus stop.

In my first, very naive attempts to get an agent, I sent the first three chapters of a book called Child Y?. I wrote it at university and it was way too short and proved how much I didn’t know. Friends read it and enthused and I had one handwritten response, but every other submission was followed up with standard rejections. I left University as a qualified physiotherapist and was soon too busy to even tinker with writing until ill-health caused me to consider a career change.

This time I didn’t want to find a literary agent through the more traditional route of searching through the Writers and Artists Yearbook and sending off submissions. In my earlier attempt I’d found it a bit disheartening and faceless. Those six years at the bus stop were spent making contacts, having one-to-ones, gaining feedback, making friends, and learning where to source up-to-date information. It might have been a longer route, but it was a way of avoiding the slush pile. In the end, I had two offers of representation and I’m delighted to say I’ve signed with Hattie Grunewald of Blake Friedmann Literary Agency. 

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In no particular order, these are the ways I found to approach agents without being part of the slush pile:

  • Entering competitions – sometimes literary agents are judges and it’s a way for them to potentially read your work or even meet them. I entered the London Book Fair Write Stuff competition and ended up on the stage pitching to a Dragon Den style panel of agents.
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    I’m the pink dot on the stage

  • Online events like #PitchCB – This is a monthly event that takes place where you can pitch your book and potentially get invited to submit your work.
  • Open submission periods – There are occasions when publishing houses and agencies will have a featured submission period. For example, United Agents held an open house across August.
  • Friends recommendations – Often writers will know when agents are looking to add to their list and in what particular genre.
  • One-to-ones – Conferences often offer the opportunity to have one-to-ones with agents and publishers. It was as a result of a one-to-one that I ended up signing with Carina.

I’m lucky enough to have had success with all the above in one way or another in a close space of time, but it’s important to remember that it was the result of sitting at the bus stop for years and years. And for every bus that flew by, spraying water on me as it went by, I never stopped tapping at the keyboard or believing that one day, if I worked hard enough, the buses would start stopping for me.

If you’re on the quest for an agent, the secret isn’t in never giving up, the real secret is to never stop typing.

Catherine x

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

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 Meet Kirstie Allsopp & Go To A Party

Celia, Laura, Vanessa, Kirstie, Catherine & Debbie

Celia, Laura, Vanessa, Kirstie, Catherine & Debbie

Thursday 19th May 2016 was a big day for The Romaniacs, but particularly for Catherine Miller. Catherine’s debut novel, Waiting For You, was nominated for the prestigious Joan Hessayon Award, the winner of which was to be announced that evening in London at the Romantic novelists’ Association’s Summer Party.

The day began with five Romaniacs and Mr Miller departing from various parts of the country, all heading for our favourite London hotel. After a quick catch-up and a change into our multipurpose daywear/eveningwear frocks, we took a taxi to our second port of call that day – Kirstie Allsopp’s house. For afternoon tea. As one does.

Our Catherine is masterful when it comes to winning competitions and tea with Kirstie Allsopp was first prize in a competition run by Home Start, ‘a national family support charity that helps parents to build better lives for their children.’

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The second port of call was the RNA’s Summer Party, where we met up with our writing friends and colleagues and celebrated our debut novelists whose books had been through the RNA New Writers’ Scheme and achieved publication. Our congratulations to everyone nominated and to the over-all winner, Clare Harvey.

Here are our memories of that busy, fun day.

Laura: What an incredible day. First of all, I’d like to thank Catherine for inviting me to share her prize – meeting Kirstie Allsopp was a wonderful experience. And what a lovely family and house she has. I found Kirstie to be warm, charming, funny and very down-to-earth. The evening was wonderful, too, catching up with writing friends, cheering on our debut novelists and meeting a few of our street team Sparklers. I got to bed at 02:00, but what an amazing day.

Vanessa: It was SUCH a fabulous day. It always is catching up with my lovely fellow Romaniacs, but this time with the added bonus of meeting Kirstie and getting to drink lots of prosecco in her beautiful home – and see her shoes! So many beautiful shoes… The evening was amazing, as always: I always love the RNA parties because they give me the chance to meet up with fellow writers in the most glamorous and friendly of environments. The prosecco headache the next day was totally worth it! Shoes

Debbie: I’ll confess; Kirstie is my ‘girl crush!’ I’ve long admired her so was very excited when Catherine invited me along.FullSizeRender (4) Bubbly, cake and laughter all afternoon – what could be better? Kirstie was so welcoming and every bit as warm and lovely as she appears on TV. The evening was great fun too and super, as always, to catch up with my RNA writer friends. My jaws ached more than usual the following day having spent the whole day and evening grinning from ear to ear, laughing and chatting! IMG_0437

 

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Celia: This was a very special day for us all, and for me it marked the start of a new chapter. Retiring from work will give me time to meet more writing people and catch up with the Romaniacs more often, so the party and the fabulous Kirstie visit  were a great way to celebrate the next stage. My husband worked as a brewers’ scientist for years and the Allsopp family of brewers are a big part of Burton-on-Trent’s heritage so spotting all the memorabilia on her walls was interesting. Seeing our lovely Catherine in the JH line up was even more heart-warming – as the oldest Romaniac, that was definitely a  proud mummy moment, and her wonderful Dan put up with a hoard of over-excited women very bravely all day too and was chief photographer to boot!

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Life Cycle Of A Writer: When It All Happens At Once

The writing life is full of waiting and I’ve discovered in more recent months that when it does happen, it all happens at once! Following a successful book launch for Waiting for You, I then had my deadline to reach for Book Two.

Sending the next book in was more than nerve-wracking. I’m so used to getting other’s opinions and I didn’t get the chance this time so I was thrilled when my editor informed me that it’s wonderful! So I’m delighted to be able to share the title and bio for my second book:

All That Is Left Of Us

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.

It has gone up on Amazon for preorder today! So if you want to help me through this round of revisions please click preorder. It’s due out in September.

If that wasn’t enough excitement for the week (bearing in mind it is only Tuesday), I’m now able to share the news that Waiting for You has been shortlisted for the Joan Hessayon Award this year in a stellar list with 14 other friends and authors.

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The results for that will be announced at the RNA Summer Party on May 19th. I had my photos taken by the talented Chris Neaves of Neaves Brothers Photography and although I now have some super serious author shots, don’t be concerned, in real life it’s business as usual:

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With all that having happened over the course of a couple of months, I need a spa day to rejuvenate. It’s a shame my twin girls have other ideas! Why is it all the excitement is always clustered? Maybe it’s because the powers that be know I need a lengthy period to recover.

Catherine x