Life Cycle of a Writer ~ Jan Brigden ~ the fear and ultimate joy of my first author talk …

Earlier this year, my lovely publisher Choc Lit  announced they were off on tour and would be hosting events at various libraries around the country. On offer was an afternoon of author talks, Q&A sessions, fun quizzes, goody bags, a chance for aspiring authors to pitch their manuscripts to a Choc Lit editor. Oh, and plenty of choccies!

Tour-bus-with-books

When I heard that one of the events would be in Southampton, not on my doorstep, but a place I can get to by train direct from East Croydon, I was tempted to volunteer to be part of the author panel, but couldn’t see past my morbid fear of public speaking. I slept on it, talked to Mr B and as much as the thought of it gave me palpitations, a lingering ripple of excitement in my tummy told me I should go for it; that it would be good for me.

So I fired off an email to the Choc Lit team and before I could bottle out, booked my train ticket.

No backing out now, Jan, I thought.

I was Southampton-bound.

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Alongside me on the panel would be my fellow Romaniac, Laura James, who has written three books for Choc Lit, and Evonne Wareham and Liv Thomas (who writes under the name of Isabella Connor) – both ladies having published two books each. We’d be required to chat about our routes to publication and about our books themselves.

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My book!

 

Hideously nervous, I put together some notes, both detailed and bullet-pointed. Laura had given me a great tip to use highlighter pens for buzz words and phrases.

Other advice I received, all of which I was hugely grateful for, was as follows:

  1. Remember to breathe properly. Might sound obvious, but when I was practising my read-through, this was something Mr B picked up on, along with my habit of saying “Erm!” after nearly every sentence.
  2. It’s fine to slow things down if you feel yourself wanting to canter through it. It also gives you a chance to scan your notes if using them for reference as I did.
  3. Keep your focus on your audience soft as you begin,  until you settle into your rhythm, rather than trying to gain eye-contact with too many people too quickly.
  4. Be yourself. Smile. If you fluff a line, clam up or laugh inappropriately, it will be forgiven. You’re human. It’s your first time.

All of these tips proved invaluable, as did the public speaking/confidence hypnotherapy recordings my best friend sent me which I found really relaxing. Not for everyone, granted, but they did help me to focus on the ‘can do’ rather than ‘can’t’.

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I also drew comfort from my own memories of attending these types of events, sitting in the audience with my pad and pen, taking precious notes and listening to authors talk about their books and feeling so pleased that I’d gone along, as I learned so much. If I could in any way encourage the aspiring authors among our audience and convey to the readers and bloggers among us how very grateful we are for their time and support, it had to be worth all my doubts and fears, didn’t it?

And so off I set, armed with my wad of notes, caught my train to Southampton, which another of my lovely fellow Romaniacs, Sue Fortin, hopped on en-route as she was coming along to the event. We then bumped into Laura at the station and the three of us went for lunch, with both Sue and Laura doing everything they could to ease my last-minute jitters, having both given author talks themselves.

This nice plateful of food helped …

 

Jan Italian Meal

When we arrived at the venue, the rest  of the Choc Lit team welcomed us. I donned my T-shirt and after a lovely meet and greet session, we began our talk.

I heard the quiver in my voice as I began, was conscious of flapping my hands about a bit. I remembered everything I’d been told, though, and managed to engage the audience. We had a few laughs and talked about funny research memories and everyone on the panel had a different aspect and angle which gave the talk balance. I can’t deny I let out a long internal “Phew!” when my turn was over, but if I’m honest, I loved it and felt very proud that I’d seen it through.

FOUR CHOCLITEERS

L to R ~ Evonne Wareham, Me, Liv Thomas (Isabella Connor), Laura James

We then had a fun quiz, lots of interacting and more laughter and the whole event was professionally organised and wonderfully informal. We had some fantastic feedback and even managed to sell a few books. The chocolates kept coming throughout and it was great to meet so many of the people I speak to online.

 

Thank you to everyone at Choc Lit, readers, bloggers, writers and Southampton Library for helping to make my first author talk such an enjoyable, memorable experience.

Should anyone be interested in future Choc Lit library events, have a peep here Choc Lit on Tour for ticket info and notice of who will be in attendance.

Jan  X

 

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Life Cycle Of A Writer: Laura On Tour

Life Cycle Of A Writer: Laura On Tour

We here at Romaniac HQ have eaten our Easter chocolate, written our way through the holiday and enjoyed the occasional Prosecco. We hope you all had a lovely Easter weekend.

My poster for Littlemoor Library.

I’ve been busy on my mini tour, which continues this Saturday, 22nd April 2017, at Littlemoor Library, details here. I’m really looking forward to this Shared Reading event where I’ll be reading from WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU, and supporting my local library. It would be lovely to see you there.

Victoria Cornwall & Linda Mitchelmore

I returned last week from a trip to Exeter – the first Choc Lit Day, organised by my publisher, held at Exeter Library. It was a wonderful way to spend the day, among readers and writers. The four ChocLiteers – Margaret James, Victoria Cornwall, Linda Mitchelmore and Laura E James (me) spoke about our publication journeys and the importance of social media for today’s writers, held a fun quiz and chatted with members of the audience. There was an opportunity for writers to pitch to the Choc Lit editor, too. And Victoria Cornwall and I filmed our very first Facebook Live video.

The next Choc Lit Day is Saturday 20th May 2017, at Southampton Library, which I shall be attending, and a third date has been announced for Saturday 17th June 2017 at Stockton Library. Details here.

Following my visit to Exeter, I continued my tour with a drive up the M3 and the M25 to Watford, where I’d been invited by the Watford Writers to take part in the Watford Lit Fest. I grew up in Watford and was delighted to be asked there to chat about writing and my novels. I was interviewed by a long-standing friend with whom I used to work, Helen Nicell, herself a writer. It was a fabulous experience and one I thoroughly enjoyed.

As a thank you to Waterstones Watford, who supplied sale copies of both FOLLOW ME FOLLOW YOU and WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU at the Watford Writer’s event, I popped in to the branch the next day to sign a few books. It’s a wonderful new store in the high street and definitely worth the visit if you’re in the area.

 

It’s been hectic, but I’ve loved every minute of the tour so far. Of course, I’ve had to pace myself and allow recovery time between events, but I’m rested and ready to go.

See you on Saturday.

Laura x

Life Cycle Of A Writer: Five Years

Life Cycle Of A Writer: Five Years.

Since losing my mum, 21st March 2012, not a day has passed when I’ve not thought about her. Often it’s wondering what she would have said or thought about a particular incident, a program, a snippet of news, our children’s achievements, problems, disagreements, how she would have handled a sticky situation, what advice she’d have offered, what she’d have found funny …

I’ve written before about navigating March, so today I thought I’d share some of the events that have happened in the last five years – every single one of them came with a ‘I wonder what Mum would have made of this’ moment.

The first was meeting Jodi Picoult. It was a week on from losing Mum, but I wanted to go. My mum had introduced me to Jodi Picoult’s books and I was a huge fan. I have met her three times in the last five years, each occasion an inspiration.

Sue Fortin, Jodi Picoult & me 2016 The 3rd meeting

Shortly after, I found out I was the runner up in Choc Lit’s short story competition. My mum knew I’d entered, she’d even read and critiqued my story, Bitter Sweet, and if I recall rightly, we’d heard it had been shortlisted. It would have been wonderful to have told her about the second place, but I remember how pleased she was with the shortlisting.

Telling Tales was the runner-up in the next Choc Lit short story competition, and I received a tweet of congratulations from the lovely Erica James. Honestly, I don’t know which I was more excited about. I do recall I was with Catherine Miller at the time, though. I think we may have been heading to the Romantic Novelists’ Association conference. Do you remember, Catherine?

As well as meeting Jodi Picoult, I’ve also met Jill Mansell, Sheila O’Flanagan and Erica James. All are warm, intelligent and entertaining women. All were authors my mother read and enjoyed and whose books she introduced me to, and all are firm favourites of mine, and massive inspirations.

I have made many great friends within the writing community, the first few of whom my mum was aware – names with which she would have become familiar had she still been with us. She knew how much writing fulfilled me and how I felt I’d finally found my place in life.

I’ve written three novels. I used to say to Mum I would one day ‘write that novel’. She used to tell me to hurry up and get on with it, which still makes me smile. It’s good advice. I feel extremely privileged and very lucky that she read Truth Or Dare?. It wasn’t the first draft, but neither was it polished. It came with colourful language and hot scenes as appropriate, but I didn’t worry too much about those aspects – my mum read widely and didn’t embarrass easily. Her thoughts on the novel were honest, fair and she gave lots of encouragement, but without gushing. Had she not liked the story or the characters, or considered their actions fake or daft, she’d have said. I was writing Follow Me Follow You when we lost her, but I’d told her the plot and how I was exploring attachment disorder and PTSD. She knew all about Chris Frampton. This became my first paperback. Mum would have loved that.

What Doesn’t Kill You was released as a paperback in January of this year, and I attended my second book signing at Waterstones, Dorchester. What would Mum have made of that?

As a family, we’ve caught and run with a number of health curve balls, one being of the major variety, which I’m pleased to report appears to be under control. I’ve had joints replaced and joints removed; on top of my long term rheumatoid arthritis and colitis, I picked up a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, which I’m still learning to manage, and there has been a knee dislocation, (not mine) torn knee ligaments, (separate incident, different family member) and perforated eardrums (not mine and nothing to do with my singing). I’m convinced the hospital will start charging the James family rent.

Four years ago, we shared a healing three weeks away in Orlando. It was our first family holiday and it was exactly what we needed. Going to Disneyworld was a dream come true. Later the same year, I took a trip to Italy, on the Arte Umbria writing course and came home feeling nurtured and rested, with a way forward as to how to finish writing Follow Me Follow You, which had stalled in March 2012. I sat on the beautiful terrace at Arte Umbria and thought how much my mum would have loved to have been there. We’d talked of going to Italy together.

She’d have smiled at my news I’d shaken Paloma Faith’s hand, and that I’d seen Kate Bush sing live in London, and she’d have given me excellent advice regarding … well, all sorts of stuff, including a reminder that some things are best kept private. And she’d have made sure I keep on keeping on.

So, five years on, with the love and support of family and friends, that’s what I’m doing.

It’s head down and on with the work-in-progress. Life.

Take care.

Laura xx

 

 

Romaniac HQ Presents … Author, Kirsty Ferry

Romaniac HQ Presents … Author, Kirsty Ferry.

We are delighted to be part of Choc Lit author, Kirsty Ferry’s blog tour, celebrating the paperback release of her novel, The Girl in the Painting, and looking forward to the imminent release of The Girl in the Photograph.

Take it away, Kirsty.

Life Cycle Of A Writer: Laura Has News!

Life Cycle Of A Writer: Laura Has News!

A little over a year ago, my third novel, What Doesn’t Kill You, was released as an ebook. Much to my delight, relief and wonder, it’s received a plethora of four and five star reviews, which still take my breath away. I’d like to say right here, thank you to everyone who bought, borrowed, read and reviewed WDKY. Taking the time to read and review a book is always appreciated and to find the story, characters and setting have stayed with the reader is an amazing feeling. So, again. Thank you.

WDKY is the first title under the Dark Choc Lit imprint – compelling, emotional and hard-hitting novels. It took a year to write. There were times when I thought I wasn’t brave enough to tackle the issues within, and there were times of tears – not of frustration, but of emotion – as I lived the scenes with the characters. The research was eye-opening, and often heartbreaking, but it always left me thinking long after I switched off the PC or finished a conversation.

It’s a book I hold close to my heart, so it is with great pleasure that I share my news with you.

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To celebrate the launch of the paperback, I’m taking the Romaniac Mini out of the garage and going on tour, visiting these lovely people: Anne Williams (Being Anne), Sincerely BookAngels, Jo Lambert, The Writing Garnet, Linda’s Book Bag, Abbey MacMunn, and a few of my fellow Romaniacs. Dates from the 9th January onwards. Details to follow. I do hope you can join me. I can’t promise any stage diving or crowd surfing, but there may be a giveaway or two …

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Wishing you all a peaceful Christmas, and I shall see you in 2017.

Take care.

Laura 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 Work & No Play …

All Work & No Play …

Penrith 2012

Penrith 2012

 

This coming weekend, 8th – 10th July is the annual Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Conference.

It’s a weekend of workshops, panels, interviews and one-to-ones with industry professionals.

And socialising.

Lots of socialising, catching up with writerly friends from all over the country, sometimes from other continents.

If Jack was attending, he’d need not worry about being a dull boy.

Gretna Green

This will be my fifth conference, my first being held in Penrith, not far from the Scottish border. On that occasion, Celia and I took the opportunity to visit Gretna Green. At the conference, I had one-to-ones with an editor from Samhain and an editor from Mira, both requesting to see the full manuscript of Follow Me, now titled, Follow Me Follow You. I recall returning home on the Monday and talking to Gajitman about the amazing experience that was the 2012 RNA Conference, and casually mentioning two editors had requested the full manuscript, which wasn’t complete as it was the year I lost my lovely mum and I was struggling to concentrate on work. I explained this to the editors, who were very kind and understanding. It was later that week, on the Thursday, when I was sitting at my desk in the kitchen and Gajitman was over by the kettle, making hot drinks, when it hit me: This is serious. Two publishers want to see my work.

I had been taking writing seriously for a number of years, but the 2012 Conference, which included a fabulous talk given by Miranda Dickinson, who said if you write, you are a writer, gave me the confidence to say exactly that: ‘I am a writer.’

Before I’d completed Follow Me, I submitted Truth or Dare? to Choc Lit, which became my debut novel, published in October 2013, with Follow Me Follow You making its way into paperback in 2014.

Photo courtesy of the RNA.

Photo courtesy of the RNA.

I’m attending Conference this year with three books under my belt, the third, What Doesn’t Kill You, racking up the most reviews soIMG_1620 far. I also have a number of short stories appearing in anthologies for the RNA and Choc Lit.

I can’t believe how much has happened since Penrith, and not only for me, but for all The Romaniacs. Between us we’ve had five debuts (and subsequent books) published, a healthy number of competition shortlists and wins, lovely reviews, for which we are always grateful, and agent success. And last year, we won the RNA Industry Media Stars Award, which actually left us speechless. We hope you enjoyed the quiet while it lasted.

This year at Conference, we are hosting a panel entitled, Pals, Pens and Pompoms. Or: How to feel empowered and finding people to cheer you along the way. It promises to be lively, fun, informative, and as ever, open and honest. It’s an event to which we are very much looking forward, and we shall report back once we are refreshed and clear from the Prosecco haze which often accompanies such wonderful gatherings.

Right, I’m off to check my list: Pals: Check. Pens. Check, check. Pompoms: Check, check, check. 😀

Laura x