A Postcard from 2018

Everybody is doing a big fat quiz of the year, but here’s my personal postcard from 2018 – edited highlights of what has been a rollercoaster ride.

January – The excitement of starting a year knowing I had just signed my first publishing contract is offset by panicking about packing for a six week trip to Australia and New Zealand. How many pairs of pants…

February – Visit Australia and New Zealand. Too many wow moments to mention and definitely too many pants in my suitcase, but fulfilling a childhood ambition of cuddling a koala pretty much tops the highlights list. I know it’s not ‘PC’ but the opportunity was there…

March – Coming home from Australia and discovering we had missed the Beast from the East and all the fuss about the snow. First steps into the magical world of publishing as I begin working with a professional editor on The Theatre of Dreams.

April – Discovering two short stories I’d submitted to Writing Magazine competitions had been shortlisted in the same month.  Another successful competition entry at Hampshire Writers Society for the first 300 words of a commercial women’s fiction novel, is actually mushrooming into a commercial women’s fiction novel. Could this be Book Number Two? Yes it could. Change name of book from competition title of Marrying Mother to Your Secret’s Safe With Me after all sorts of plots twists infiltrate the original idea.

May –The rush is on to finish Your Secret’s Safe With Me so it’s out of the way before the launch of The Theatre of Dreams.

June – Choosing my book cover, writing blurb and dedications and then coming home from a week’s holiday in Spain and finding a paperback copy of The Theatre of Dreams waiting for me on the doorstep.

July – How do I launch a book? Surely if I just throw a few tweets out there, chat about it on Facebook, add a few Instagrams, tell a few friends…that’ll work, won’t it? The first Amazon reviews are in and they’re very good – but they are all written by people who know me.  Fulfil another personal ambition and visit Hampton Court Flower Show on the hottest day of the year.  We all wilt and have to be revived by large doses of Pimms. I do, however, gather ideas for a winter knitting project if the writing career plummets.

AugustThe Theatre of Dreams is officially launched into the world and the euphoria soon ends with a look at my sales figures.  How do you make one book stand out against so many millions of others? Maybe I should have done a bit more tweeting and making friends on social media. Maybe I should have just paid out big bucks for a professional book promotion service.  Maybe I need a much bigger family. It’s a steep learning curve but on the plus side more reviews are in and they are not written by people who know me…

September –  We set sail on a two-week cruise to the Baltics.  After traipsing through a mere smidgeon of the 22km of corridors at the Winter Palace in St Petersburg it’s easy to see why the Russians had a revolution.  It’s jaw-dropping opulence in the extreme. Publisher accepts Book Two.

October – Do what we we’ve been meaning to do since we returned from the Netherlands twelve months previously – put house on the market and plan an escape to the country. Yes we are that couple of empty-nesters looking to downsize to a house with sweeping views in rural isolation but close to all local amenities and obviously we still need something big enough for all our stuff, and our children’s stuff that didn’t leave the nest with them…

November – Onwards and upwards to conquer the Everest sized mountain of book marketing and self-promotion.  Meanwhile, start edits on Your Secret’s Safe With Me.

December – First author talk, nobody fell asleep which I take to be a good sign.  Continue to try and make self more alluring and interesting on social media. House sold – first challenge of 2019 will be to find a new one that ticks all our 101 boxes. Edits complete on Your Secret’s Safe With Me and launch date set for 18 February 2019.  Who’d have thought, this time last year…

Book Links:

The Theatre of Dreams

Your Secret’s Safe With Me

 

Many thanks to everyone who has supported my writing journey and also to my fellow authors who have guested on this blog during the year, either talking about their favourite comfort reads or their own magical books.

Wishing you all a very happy and prosperous 2019.

 

 

 

The Importance of Creating Headspace

The last twelve months have passed in a bit of whirlwind with house moves, job changes, and of course, the book. Before acquiring my publishing contract for The Theatre of Dreams my forays into social media were limited to a personal Facebook page and a low-key blog about being an ex-pat.  Then I had to up my game and reach out into the whole new world of marketing. If writing a book is Dr Jekyll, then I’ve discovered  marketing it is my Mr Hyde. And unfortunately one doesn’t come without the other.

I’ve heard it said before that writers can feel consumed by their book. It’s true. It does take over your life. That baby you created, loved and cherished can easily become a monster.  The path from pitch to publication is a rollercoaster. There are the highs – the contract, the launch, and the lows – what comes after. It’s been a whole  witch’s brew of new skills. You don’t just have to be creative, you have to be tenacious,  relentless and/or extremely well organised.

Sometimes you have to step away from a situation to see it more clearly. When Mr T and I lived overseas we made the most of our weekends. We set out with our guide books to soak-up the history and culture of our adopted homeland. We promised ourselves that once we settled back in the UK, we would attack our local area with the same sense of  vigour. It’s very easy to overlook what’s on your own doorstep. In the Netherlands we explored towns – the Dutch countryside can be somewhat samey. But here in the UK even within a short distance of home the landscape changes. We’ve spent several recent weekends setting out on walks and hikes all within a thirty-minute drive of our home.  Up on the downs or down on the coast, the scenery and the exercise has proved quite liberating. Not only have we discovered some amazing new places, but more importantly these walks have provided the opportunity to gather thoughts and clear some headspace.

 

I’m a total novice into the world of book promotion but even I have quickly come to the conclusion that checking Twitter to see how many people have liked a tweet is not good for the soul.    I can be quite witty when I want to be, but that wit isn’t always spontaneous. Blink and a tweet is gone – and with it another missed opportunity!  I can’t be glued to my phone all day.  I’m not a teenager and I have to rise above it (and I’d just like to add in here I’d hate to be a teenager today, or even the parent of a teenager. Nobody needs that pressure!). Yes I am disappointed that my Amazon ranking is heading downhill with the speed of an Olympic skier – but my book is just one of many millions out there. It’s very hard to stand out from the crowd. I have to put it in perspective. It’s important to look at what you have achieved as opposed to dwelling on the perception of what you haven’t.

So okay, although not a bestseller (it always helps to lower your expectations) The Theatre of Dreams  has accumulated several 5* reviews on Amazon.  People have enjoyed it, and that’s why I write. My Instagram account is growing. Twitter – the necessary evil – has to be dealt with.  However, I do now have an author platform that didn’t exist twelve months ago and I’ll admit, I should have put more emphasis on building up that following before publication as opposed to after. I blame it on my upbringing – I was always told modesty is a virtue, but in today’s flooded book market, it really isn’t!

I’ve had my moments of serious self-doubt, but headspace cleared, and a deep breath of Hampshire air  I feel ready to continue the challenge.  Thanks to my publisher, Crooked Cat, my second book, Your Secret’s Safe With Me will be out next year.  More news about the book will follow soon – so watch this space, or even better subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss any updates!

The Book Launch

The day finally arrived – The Theatre of Dreams was officially launched and it’s like sending a baby out into the big wide world. You hope everyone is going to like it, you hope you’ve created something endearing and captivating, but of course, books are subjective and not everyone is going to be enthralled by your style or even interested in your genre.

It seems to have been an awful long time coming – eight months in total since I signed that publishing contract and it has been hard keeping the momentum of  ‘I’ve got a book coming out’ going. I have tried to build an ‘author platform’ during that period – it’s a been a learning curve that has taken me right out of my comfort zone and I’ve still got a long way to go.

I’ve extolled the virtues of my book, I’ve described it as warm-hearted, as funny, entertaining, now at least it’s out there in the public domain people can read it for themselves, make up their own minds and hopefully agree.  The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. I think I’ve baked something quite delicious but now it’s time for the taste test!

The Theatre of Dreams is out there taking its first steps, and the online launch  – interacting on social media with four different devices all pinging away at the same time – went without a hitch,  and the physical launch, more of a celebration with friends and family and an open invitation to everyone I’ve ever met in Southampton to come along, went better than I could have hoped, and in fact provided a wonderful opportunity to catch up with a few people I hadn’t seen for years! (Oh yeh, and I did sell a few books too…)

As much as I’d now like to sit back and take a break from social media I can’t. The launch is just the beginning – a book is for life, but I no longer feel quite so much like a one-man band. I’ve had good reviews, I know I’ve written a well-rounded story and I will keep on plugging away.   Hopefully I will have more confidence to go out there and promote myself.  I read somewhere that the best marketing tool is to write another book. That’s taken a bit of a backseat over the last couple of months  but I feel ready now to pick up the WIP and attack it with new vigour.  And more importantly, breathe…..

Time Out

I am very lucky, I don’t have to cram my writing into evenings and weekends, or get up five o’clock in the morning to write for a couple of hours before work, or taking kids to school. There is a saying, if you want something done, ask a busy person.    A few years back, that would have been me – a busy person.  I was a working mum. When your body is already wired in to operate at frenetic speed, what’s one more task to fit in? I’m a Virgo, and we’re notoriously hardworking, meticulous people.

But I’ve been out of the professional work-space for some time now.  I’ve got out of the habit of having deadlines. I’ve got used to being a lady of leisure. I’ve got used to thinking, I don’t need to do that today, I can do it tomorrow.

I want to be taken seriously as a writer. If people like my first book, they’ll want another. Writing The Theatre of Dreams was fun, because I had no other demands on my time, but now I have. My other half, who works for a multi-national oil company, doubles up with laughter when I tell him I feel under pressure, but as all authors know, the sequel to The Joy of Writing  is The Joy of Promoting Yourself on Social Media. And it’s not just the technical competence I lack, when it comes to efficiency, I’m out of condition. My work-space is chaotic and my time-management skills are zilch. I worry constantly that if I don’t keep up with what’s going on people will forget about me. Come that magical publication date of 1 August, nobody will know who I am.  I need to arrange a book launch, write blog posts, compile guest articles, add witty comments on Facebook and Twitter, post pictures on Instagram, surreptitiously promoting my book.  Creating an ‘author platform’ takes cunning, guile and time.

Time. That elusive commodity slipped through my fingers last week when I caught up with some girl friends from my ex-pat days.  We escaped to Guernsey, and it had nothing to do with the current hype about the Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society – it just so happens one of my friends is lucky enough to live in the Channel Islands, and we’d planned our visit long before the film’s release.  Guernsey is a beautiful place, a throw-back to a slower pace of life, a land where a traffic jam only lasts for five minutes and the busiest road is a single carriageway.

I shouldn’t be here at all, I thought in a moment of panic, that’s three days of not writing or posting meaningful literary-related comments.  I’m chatting when I should be tweeting, I’m admiring fields of cows when I should be creating publicity,  I’m walking along footpaths overgrown with pink campions and cornflowers, buttercups and stinging nettles when I should be….doing exactly just that.

What’s so wrong with not being busy? Sometimes you just need to take time out to relax and breathe.

And write a blog post very quickly when you get back home!