2020 Vision #writing #reading #healthyliving

Photo by Denise Karis on Unsplash

The Clear View of a Fresh New Year

Happy New Year! I think I’m still allowed to say that – the year is still young.

I enjoyed my break away from the writing desk over the festive season. Christmas was quiet and relaxed and was spent with family. Then, just a few days after Christmas, I got a slightly late – but definitely the best – gift when my granddaughter was born and I became a grandma for the third time. I also read several good books during my time off and made the most of the short hours of daylight by getting out for lots of good walks. And before long yet another year had ended and a new one had begun.

Diary Already Filling Up – Lots to Look Forward To

Real Life

In my personal life, as well as spending lots of time with my new granddaughter, I’ll also get to spend precious time with my other two grandchildren in the summer – when they and their parents come home to the UK for a visit all the way from Australia. As well as that there’s a springtime wedding to enjoy, and a birthday party to attend. There are also a couple of concerts to go to and a holiday planned. And it’s still only January! Along with all this enjoying myself – and in order that I can keep enjoying  life, I also intend to keep up the healthy lifestyle mentality – daily walks, yoga practice and healthy eating – definitely worth it and all enjoyable in their own way too – honestly 🙂

Imaginary Life

But for now, it’s back to work and I have to say it’s good to be back. And, just as in my personal life, I’ve got lots of good stuff to look forward to in my professional writing life too.

New Book Due Out Soon

First up, of course, it’s the new book. Fulfilment is the third and final part of my contemporary romance series set mainly on the Scottish island of Skye – as well as having some of the action on the Scottish mainland and in the Middle East – and, after a year spent writing and rewriting and then rewriting it some more, it’s currently with my editor. And while I await the editor’s feedback and, no doubt, suggestions for yet more rewriting, I’m in the process of agreeing on the book’s cover with the cover designer. As an author, it’s always exciting to see the final cover of one of my books for the first time, but unfortunately the cover also incorporates the blurb. Yes, that irresistible paragraph of prose on a book’s back cover that will lure readers into the story inside is what I’m currently working on. And condensing a 70,000 word story into a succinct and tempting 250 words is hard. But I’m getting there.

As well as getting the book ready for publication, I’m also planning its launch. This involves planning social media posts, asking book bloggers to read and review it, and inviting readers of my previous books to do the same.

Writer Talks

I’ve also been invited to do a couple of writer talks on my local area – something I always enjoy doing -so I’ll be preparing for these.

Starting Again

And then, once Fulfilment is out in the world, I’ll be getting down to writing my next book. I have several ideas to explore. It will definitely be another contemporary romance with fresh new characters and a different setting from my previous books. But that’s all I’m saying about it – for now.

More Reading

And, like most writers, I’m also a keen reader and I plan to keep reading my favourite authors as well as discovering some new ones. My to-be-read pile is already a teetering tower. And I’ll report back here from time to time on some of the ones I particularly enjoy.

So, over to you:

What are your plans for 2020? Do you have any writing or reading goals for the year ahead? As always, please do leave your comments below.

 

 

Tenth Author, Blogger & Social Media Birthday #writing #amwriting #blogging #books

Photo by David Ballew on Unsplash

 

Ten Years A Writer

It’s official! I’ve now been a published writer for ten years. Yes, it was in early December of 2009 that my debut book, Change of Life was first published.

It was a surreal, exciting and utterly terrifying experience. I had no idea what to expect, no idea if my book would sell and no idea how to make potential readers aware of its existence.

I had no online experience other than using email, but I quickly discovered I’d have to up my game in that respect. If I wanted to get the word out there that my book existed, I was going to have to wise up and get acquainted with social media.

Ten Years A Blogger

So it’s also nearly ten years since I started this blog.

This was my first post:

A small miracle happened to me recently.  I held my book – the book that I’ve been working on for several years – in my hand for the first time. A long gestation, a sometimes painful labour and at last it was delivered.  It was an overwhelming feeling, looking at this thing I had created, to run my fingers over its cover, to flick through its pages, to read my words on those pages.  It was the realisation of my longest held and most fervent ambition.  My maternal grandmother, herself a writer, and heroine of my childhood set me on the writing path and it’s been a lifelong, life-saving occupation for me. But for so many years it had to take a back seat. It had to be fitted in around family and working life – and it often got squeezed out. That all changed at the end/beginning of the millennium, after I got the ultimate wake-up call – i.e. intimations of my mortality in the shape of a cancer diagnosis. It was brought home to me that tomorrow doesn’t always come and the procrastinating had to stop. I promised the fates that if I survived the cancer I’d get down to some serious writing.

I beat the ovarian cancer and so had to keep my side of the deal. Writing still had to fit around work and family – but it was no longer squeezed out – priorities were reordered and the hard work began.

And now it’s here – my wonderful, beautiful first novel is here. It’s fully formed and it has gone off into the world on its own. It will now have to jostle for readers, for its place on the bookshelf – and I can only watch and support at a distance. I love my book and I want others to love it too. I’m thrilled, exhilarated and absolutely bloody terrified. I’ve never felt so proud and I’ve never felt so vulnerable.

So there you have it. Of course there’s more to the journey, more to the story than that and I hope to share more bits of it with you as I blog. I’m at the beginning of a whole new adventure and it’ll be good to have you along for the ride.

 There was no accompanying picture of the book cover, no buying links, and no mention of the book title or its content.

But over time I did get better at the whole blog post thing. The blog has been through several changes and upgrades and is now part of my main website. It has over 600 followers in its own right, as well as many more via Twitter and Facebook – yes, I joined them too.

Ten Successful Years

It’s been an amazing decade. I took early retirement from my work as a primary school teacher and writing is now my full-time job. I’ve now published four books with a fifth one due out early next year.

As time’s gone on I love writing more and more. I love the storytelling and the characters I write about, and I can’t imagine ever retiring. You’ve been warned!

In the last decade I’ve learned so much more about the art and craft of writing. I’ve learned how to talk about and share my writing – both in the real world and the online one. And I’ve gathered such a lovely and loyal readership.

And I’d like to thank any you who are reading this and are also part of that lovely and loyal band. Thank you for your support, encouragement and most especially for those precious, priceless reviews you’ve taken the trouble to write and post – whether on an online bookselling site or on your book blog. Reviews really do help sales and I’m very grateful.

What’s Next?

So, as I say, no plans to stop writing. The new book, which is called Fulfilment and is the third and final part in the Jack & Rachel Skye series ( which consists so far of Displacement and Settlement) is due to be published in early 2020. Watch out for more information on this soon. And, after Fulfilment‘s safely out in the world, I have lots of ideas to explore for my next novels.

I’ll be sticking with contemporary romance. I’m not sure whether to write a standalone story or to begin a new series set in the south of Scotland. If I go for a series it would focus on a community and each book would tell the romantic story of a particular pair of characters from that community. I need to think some more about that. And, if you’re a reader of my books, I’d be interested to hear your preferences.

But whatever I decide, it’s an exciting prospect to be starting on something new as the next decade begins. Here’s to 2020 and beyond!

Thanks for being with me on my incredible journey.

PS: you can find out more about my books and where to buy them by clicking on the cover photos – either in the sidebar or at the foot of this post – depending on the type of device on which you’re reading this. Or simply go to the ‘My Books’ page here on the website. You see I have learned a thing or to about marketing 🙂

 

Author Talk on the Isle of Skye – a bit of writing life away from the desk #writing #authortalk

Portree Harbour

Writing can be a lonely profession – all that sitting at the desk – alone with your own thoughts. So it’s good to get away from time to time – and it’s even better to be able to combine that with talking about your work and getting to meet readers and prospective readers.

So I was delighted recently to get an invitation to do just that.

I was invited to do an author talk to the Primary 5, 6 and 7 children on the 5th November at Broadford Primary School on the Scottish Isle of Skye. And not only that I was also invited to deliver a writing workshop to the Primary 7 children later on the same day. And of course I would be appearing as my children’s author alter-ego, Anne McAlpine – author of The Silver Locket (for 9 to 12 year-olds), rather than Anne Stormont writer of adult fiction.

I lived and worked as a teacher on the island for many years and the invitation came from a friend who is also a former colleague.

And it was lovely to have a reason to go back. I miss Skye so much that I hadn’t felt able to return during the (almost) three years since I left. But this offer to talk about my work as a writer and to share The Silver Locket with some of its intended readership, was the perfect opportunity to get over myself and return to the place where I left a big part of my heart.

The children listened so well during my talk about the background to The Silver Locket, how I got the idea for it and how I went about putting the story together. And the questions afterwards were brilliant and some of the suggestions for sequels were amazingly clever.

And the writing workshop with the Primary 7s (age 11) was great fun and highly productive. We began with several warm-up exercises, and then the children went on to make a start on writing their own 3 or 5 chapter novels – to be adapted/completed at a later date. Some opted for a timeslip story like The Silver Locket, others went for adventure/thriller or crime or mystery. Two of the girls even started to explore doing a manga style graphic novel. But the most rewarding thing was that not one of the pupils said they couldn’t do it or had no idea what to write. They all just went for it.

As for my adult author identity it was also wonderful to be back where I got the inspiration for my Skye set series of romantic fiction novels Displacement, Settlement and the soon to be published Fulfilment. I half-expected to meet Jack or Rachel, from the books, going round Portree Co-Op.

So, all in all, a successful and hugely enjoyable time away from the desk for me. And it came with the added bonus of an extra few days seeing old friends and soaking up the autumn sunshine as I reacquainted myself with all my favourite places on the most beautiful island in the world.

 

 

 

 

Author Research: A weird, wonderful and disturbing online search history

 

 

 

 

Photo by Charles 🇵🇭 on Unsplash

I’ve heard several crime writers say that they hope their online search history is never subject to investigation and then used in evidence against them. Some of them mention googling not only ways to maim and murder, but also how to dispose of a body, how to destroy evidence and various real and appalling murders.

Not just crime writers

I don’t write crime. My novels are contemporary second-chance romances. So you might think I wouldn’t have to do much in the way of research.

But you’d be wrong.

Checking the facts

As well as the central romance, I weave other issues such as mental health, culture and politics, and dealing with bereavement (to name only some) into my stories.  And so I have had to do a fair bit of fact finding and checking. Some of it has been in person in the real world, and some of it has been online.

And just like those crime writers I reckon my Google search history would at least look like a weird mixture if not downright disturbing. So, dear readers, in this post I thought I’d share just 20 topics from a fairly extensive list of searches that I’ve carried out for my Skye trilogy.

20 online research topics for Displacement, Settlement and (the work-in-progress) Fulfilment

  • Night sky in northern hemisphere winter
  • Geology of the Isle of Skye
  • Rare breed sheep
  • Lambing
  • Serving as a Royal Marine Commando
  • Night photography
  • Structure of Police Scotland
  • Treatment for a gunshot wound to the chest
  • Typical injuries sustained when a person is severely beaten-up
  • Aftercare and prosthetic limbs for double below-the-knee amputees
  • Israel-Palestine politics and culture
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Veteran’s charities
  • Working as an illustrator
  • Oil painting techniques
  • Sculpture techniques
  • Isle of Skye sheep and cattle auction mart
  • The 1930s Kindertransport
  • Middle-Eastern cuisine
  • Scottish Gaelic phrases

Dare you share some of the weird and wonderful things you’ve looked up online? As always comments welcome below.

The Joy of Writing: A Vital and Life-Enhancing Passion

Do I find writing to be a joyful experience? Short answer: yes and no.

Yes, there are times when it’s difficult, times when I’d rather be anywhere other than at the writing desk, and times when I think I’m kidding myself about being able to write anything worth reading and that I should pack it in.

Writing for survival

BUT those negative times are relatively rare.  And no matter how bad the writers’ block or the procrastination or the self-doubt might be, I honestly can’t imagine not doing it. It’s vital for my health and wellbeing, it’s my purpose and my passion.

Writing for daily life

The everyday, practical, non-fiction type of writing – that is the lists, the lists about lists, the problem-solving mind maps, the journaling and the diary keeping – all help me work through problems, get organised and make decisions.

And when things are getting a bit too much – during times of stress, anxiety or depression – writing, for me, has really come into its own. At times like these writing, in the ways mentioned above, has been therapeutic and helped me find my way through and out the other side.

Writing for a living

As for the professional side of my writing – the creative, imaginative stuff that I do – well, that’s where the real joy comes in. I love setting out with one or two characters and finding out from them what their story is.

For me, writing a novel truly is a joyful voyage of discovery. Those first one or two characters introduce me to more characters along the way. They reveal where they live and they share their problems, dilemmas and challenges with me.

I love fleshing out the characters, creating the details of their homes and daily lives, providing the backdrop and landscape in which their stories take place. I also enjoy getting them out of the difficult or maybe even life-threatening positions I’ve put them in.

And it’s wonderful – if sometimes inconvenient – when having hit a metaphorical wall in a work-in-progress, the solution suddenly comes to me unbidden – when I’m in the shower, when I’m about to fall asleep or when I’m out walking. But inconvenient or not, I love it when my sub-conscious mind takes care of the difficulty.

Then there’s the buzz of seeing the finished article, of holding the book I’ve created in my hands. There’s nothing like it.

Apart, that is, from the even greater buzz when a reader tells you they loved it.

And it’s most certainly not about the money earned – although that’s helpful – but as long as at least one person reads and enjoys my made-up stories – probably even if that’s just me – I’ll keep on doing it.

A life-enhancing joy and passion

Yes, writing truly is an essential joy.

So, what is your passion – is it writing or something else? What drives you to pursue it? Can you imagine your life without it?

January: The Write On Month #amwriting

Photo by Maddi Bazzocco on Unsplash

I have a love-hate relationship with two-faced January.

In the first month of the year, with the festive season over, it can be hard to get back to real life again. I hate the short, often dark days we get at this time of year in Scotland – and on such days I reckon I could happily hibernate until the spring.

However, we do sometimes get days like today – days that are very cold but also clear, bright and sunny and I can get out for a bracing and invigorating walk.

I also love the fact that it’s usually a quiet month socially – probably because everyone is recovering from all the December festivities.

And I like the fact that January is of course a good time for fresh starts and resolutions.

So as far as my writing is concerned I find this a productive time of year. I resolved to publish the third and final part of my Skye trilogy this year. So suitably inspired after my daily walk – a time when I get most of my writing ideas and insights – I’ve been able to have quality time at the writing desk this month.

I’m already 10000 words in and loving being back with my characters and meddling in their lives. I also have lots of ideas for future books – books set in different locations and with fresh new characters.

So January’s really not so bad after all – and I hope my productivity continues as the days lengthen and more distractions present themselves.

How’s January for you if you too are in the northern hemisphere? And, if you’re in the southern hemisphere, are New Year’s resolutions easier or harder to make and follow in mid-summer? Wherever you are – what do you hope to achieve in 2019? Please do leave comments below.

A Year of Writing Doggedly

Having written about my top 20 reads for 2018 in my previous post, I thought I would follow that up with a look at my writing highlights during the last twelve months.

It has certainly been a busy year of writing with many hours put in at the writing desk. And I’m pleased to say those hours were productive.

Procrastination wasn’t an option as throughout the year there were writing tasks to be done. Posts for this blog and for guest spots on others’ blogs had to be written. I had features and opinion pieces to write. I also had to keep my website up to date along with my Facebook and Amazon author pages. And I had author talks and writing classes to prepare.

But of course, by far the biggest and most important task was to finish my latest novel and get it ready for publication by the end of 2018.

I spent January and February finishing off the pre-edit redrafting of Settlement. I’d already done several redrafts and lots of rewriting but my deadline to finish this stage was looming.

I made it! By early March, the manuscript was ready to go off to my editor – that alchemist of prose, John Hudspith. Having seemingly learned nothing from my experiences with my earlier novels, I was fairly sure there’d be very little that needed changing. But of course I was wrong.

By June, I’d spent three months doing further changes in response to John’s suggestions. And, as always as a result of this process, the properly crafted and polished work was so much better than its rawer earlier version.

So by July I was ready for a holiday and me and the mister set off from a very sunny and warm Scotland for winter in Queensland, Australia. But no hats or scarves were needed and we had a wonderful time visiting our daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren.

Once back home, August was taken up with finalising the new novel’s cover with brilliant cover designer Jane D Smith. And, I must say, thanks to Jane, the cover has received a lot of praise.

Then ‘all’ that remained was to write the publicity and marketing copy for booksellers, for my website and for social media. I also booked a blog tour to be organised by the amazing Kelly at Love Books Group.

And finally, in late September, Settlement was published, launched, and off out into the world.

This meant that October and November were taken up with a lot of marketing and interaction with my readers. It was great to get positive feedback on the book – both from existing and new readers. And I was delighted when some folks asked if there would be a third book in the series which began with Displacement.

Yes, is the answer. As this year of writing comes to an end, I’ve already begun writing the first draft of Fulfilment which will indeed be the third and final book – in the series I never planned to write.

Yes, I really didn’t have series in mind when I wrote what is now the first in the set.

Displacement was supposed to be a single standalone novel – just as my debut novel had been. I intended to move on to something completely new when it was published. But my readers weren’t having it and following an online poll they convinced me that a sequel was required. And then, as I wrote Settlement I sensed that a third novel was going to be needed before I could confidently write The End and finally leave Jack and Rachel in peace. Therefore it was good when readers seemed to agree.

So 2019 looks as if it too will be another year filled with writing. Bring it on! I can’t wait to find out where Fulfilment is going to lead me.

I’d be interested to hear from readers of this post what your hopes are for the new year – either in terms of your work – as a writer or otherwise – or more generally. Please do leave comments below.

Next week’s post will be my final one for 2018 and having done a roundup of my year’s reading and writing, I plan (with reference to the subtitle of this blog) to finish off with some reflecting. You’ve been warned 🙂

 

Why I Love Being An Indie Author #amwriting #indieauthor #selfpublishing

 

And I really do. So I was delighted to do a guest post on the reasons why for Kate’s marvellous book blog. This post also nicely rounds off the publicity posts for my latest indie novel Settlement. Kate aka @The Quiet Knitter is an awesome book blogger and she is very supportive of indie authors and publishers. So, thank you, Kate.

You can read the post on Kate’s blog here.

Fiction For and About Older Adults: Do Protagonists Over 40 Have Any Appeal? #amwriting #reading

I love reading. I read both fiction and non-fiction and enjoy various genres. Romantic fiction is my favourite, with crime fiction a close second, but I also read the occasional historical novel too.

And when I write my own books I write the sort of book I would want to read. My novels are essentially romances with lots of other themes/issues woven into the mix as well. And one thing that struck me early on in my writing career was that in romance in particular the main characters in the popular novels I read were mainly young – i.e. in their 20s or 30s. But I wanted to write about characters who were a bit older than that.

So I was delighted to get the chance to explore this notion of age in fiction when I wrote a guest post for Linda’s Book Bag blog on this very topic.

You can read the post on Linda’s wonderful book blog here.

Another great review for Settlement

I can’t imagine not writing. I just love it so much. Even if nobody read my scribblings I reckon I’d still have to keep on doing it. But if even one person reads and enjoys what I produce then that’s a bonus. But of course I’m delighted when more than one person does.

I love getting positive feedback and reviews – even the less positive but constructive reactions are helpful.

I really appreciate when readers who have already done enough by buying and reading my books, also take the time and trouble to review them – whether that’s on one of the online retailer sites or on their book blogs. This all helps spread the word to other potential readers and it does my writer’s ego good as well…

And today I certainly got that ego boosted when I read book blogger Joanne’s wonderful review of Settlement. What I especially loved was that she totally got what I was trying to say in the novel and she appreciated the subtleties of the title. This was a thoughtful and, to me, very special review.

You can read her review on her Portobello Book Blog here.

You can get a copy of Settlement here