Paying it Forward – writers helping writers. Plus Books of the Month for May 2021 #writing #reading #romanticfiction @SueMoorcroft @LeonieMAuthor @kateforster @IndieAuthorALLI

A Lonely Job

I first started taking my writing seriously twenty years ago and, as I was at that time a working parent with a demanding job, it took me several of those years to have a manuscript that was remotely ready for publication. And as for getting published, that was when then the really hard work began.

But eventually after a decade of putting in the hours and, after many steep learning curves had been ascended, my first novel, Change of Life was published.

However, sitting at a desk writing thousands of words can be a lonely job. However, aside from the creative part of getting my story written down, I didn’t do it all alone. Far from it. I received a lot of help along the way – and a lot of that help came from fellow writers.

Help from Fellow Writers

There were the encouraging members of the writing groups I belonged too, there were the competition judges who gave detailed feedback on my entries, there were the tutors on the residential course I took at Moniack Mhor, and my fellow learners on the (sadly now no longer in existence) youwriteon.com website where so much positive and constructive feedback was mutually shared.

And nowadays I still have support available to me. Not least from the magnificent Alliance of Independent Authors ( https://www.allianceindependentauthors.org/ )  started by author, Orna Ross, and run by and for authors and giving access to an incredible amount of useful – if not vital information – for writers of every sort. But as well as being a member of the Alliance, I also connect with lots of other authors via social media and receive so much support – both practical and moral via that route.

Paying it Forward – Help For Fellow Writers

So, given that I didn’t get to this point, where I have now published five novels and am hard at work on my sixth, on my own, I like to be able to offer help and support to those writers just starting out on their journey to publication.

And recently I have had two opportunities to do just that. The first one came about when a friend asked me if her husband could contact me for some advice about how to go about getting his memoir ready for publication and then how to take the next steps after that. I was happy to try to help – as even although I don’t write non-fiction myself, the rudimentary principles of fiction and non-fiction are basically the same. And, after a couple of long tutorial type phone conversations between the two of us, he told me my advice and shared experience had been really helpful to him.

Then not long after that I was contacted by the friend of a friend via email. This was another apprentice writer – she’d written a historical novel and was unsure what to do next – and she wondered if I could maybe point her in the right direction. So I put together a document of what I hope were helpful pieces of information and reflections on my own experience and emailed her back. She, too, said that the information I shared was helpful.

Besides those personal one-to-one scenarios, I also like to support fellow authors in a wider sense. So naturally I buy and read books. But not only that – I mention the best of them here on the blog in my Books of the Month posts or on social media sites. I read and share reviews. And I do that vital thing of posting my own reviews of books I’ve enjoyed on online bookshop websites.

And the really lovely thing is that other writers offer similar support to me if and when they enjoy things that I have written.

A Writing Community

So yes, it’s good to be part of a community, to have colleagues to share the joys and tribulations of the job with, and it’s good to give and receive support. I do love my job!

Books of the Month

And speaking of sharing the best of my fellow workers labours – below are my best reads for the month of May. There are three of them this month and all are contemporary romances.

Finding Love At Mermaid Terrace by Kate Forster

From the back cover:

Love comes when you least expect it…

Tressa Buckland likes her quiet life in Port Lowdy, with its cobbled streets and colourful terraced houses overlooking the sea. Her job at the local paper allows her to pursue her art in her free time, with no one but her tabby cat Ginger Pickles to mind her in Mermaid Terrace. But then the owner of the paper is called away on an emergency, and it’s up to Tressa to run the paper for six months. Her first task: find a new part-time journalist.

Dan Byrne is the angriest man in Ireland – or so the readers of his very successful column, ‘Dan takes on the world’, think. But after a story goes south and he loses his job in Dublin, Dan has no choice but to start afresh. When an opportunity comes up in sleepy Cornwall, Dan and his Golden Retriever Ritchie set off for a new adventure.

For Tressa, Dan’s arrival to Port Lowdy changes everything. Tressa tries not to look too deeply at her own life, but Dan sees a story to uncover in absolutely everyone – even her. The two of them couldn’t be more different… yet, if they can find a way to work together, they may just breathe new life and joy into this sleepy seaside village.

‘Finding Love at Mermaid Terrace’ is a heartwarming new village romance about the power of love and kindness, from the bestselling author of ‘Starting Over at Acorn Cottage’.

Italy Ever After by Leonie Mack

From the back cover:

TV journalist Lou feels battered and bruised after her divorce from Phil, the father of her daughter Edie. Her confidence and sense of fun have steadily been drained away, and she isn’t sure who she is any more.

When the opportunity arises to accompany Edie on a music camp in Italy for a month in the summer, Lou jumps at the chance for new adventures, new horizons and new friends. The hazy warmth of the summer sun, shining brightly over the stunning Lake Garda, slowly brings Lou back to life.

Nick Romano, Edie’s music teacher, loves being home in Italy, but coaching his students for their concert in Milan, is bringing back difficult memories. His blossoming friendship with Lou is the perfect distraction, although a summer fling would be easier to conduct without the scrutiny of his mother Greta, not to mention the interference of his extended Italian family.

As the summer passes, full of sunshine and breath-taking scenery, gelato and delicious feasts, Lou and Nick get ever closer. But as the time for farewell creeps up on them, will they be able to say goodbye and leave their memories behind in the Italian sun, or can a summer romance last a lifetime?

Under the Italian Sun by Sue Moorcroft

From the back cover:

A sun-baked terrace. The rustle of vines. And the clink of wine glasses as the first cork of the evening is popped…

Welcome to Italy. A place that holds the answer to Zia-Lucia Costa Chalmers’ many questions. Not least, how she ended up with such a mouthful of a name.

When revelations close to home turn Zia’s world upside down, she realises the time has come to search out the Italian family she’s never known.

But as she looks for answers, she can’t help but notice Piero, the vineyard owner next door – a distraction who may prove difficult to ignore…

This summer, join Zia as she sets out to uncover her past. But can she find the future she’s always dreamed of along the way?

And that’s it for another month. As always feel free to share your thoughts and comments below – especially if your job – whether as a writer or something else –  gives you a sense of community and a way of giving and receiving support within that community.

Groundhog Month and Germinated Seeds of Hope #books of the month #writing #reading #books @MarieLaval1 @ItsEmmacooper @carbonchoicesuk

I’ll say up front the things concerning me in this month’s post are similar to the ones in my previous post(s). But the seeds of hope referred to before are now germinating and growing …

Tough Times

There’s no denying recent times have been tough. Even without the stress and anxiety caused by the presence of the pandemic, the world, as represented by the news media, has on occasion recently seemed rather hopeless and cruel. So finding ways and means to at least be hopeful – if not downright cheerful has been more important than ever.

Reasons to be Cheerful

In the UK we have just put our clocks forward by one hour. And in spite of a cold wind blowing and a scattering of snow on the high ground here in Scotland, there are signs of Spring all around.

In my garden daffodils dance in the wind, the swaying trees are in bud and the sparrows and blackbirds that live in the hedge are busy nest building.

And in terms of Covid pandemic – there are also positive signs. Infection rates are falling, the Scottish government has a plan in place for the gradual easing of the lockdown and on a more personal and very positive note, I’ve had my first dose of the Covid vaccine. So although I’m not exactly making plans – something that as an obsessive planner and list maker pre-pandemic I’ve had to go cold turkey on and learn to stop doing – I am tentatively looking forward.

Looking Forward List

And okay, I confess, I’ve got a tentative list of things I’m looking forward to  – yes, I accept it’s got to be conditional, flexible and postponeable ( I know ‘postponeable’ is probably not a word, but it definitely should be after all we’ve been through). And I’m going to share my top 10 looking forward items with you:

  • Seeing and hugging my children and grandchildren
  • Seeing and hugging my sisters and friends
  • Going to a café for coffee and cake
  • Getting on a train and having a day in the city
  • Going to the hairdresser
  • Browsing in a bookshop
  • Browsing in any sort of shop, garden centre, etc
  • Going on holiday – even if it’s not far away
  • A day at the seaside
  • Going to my yoga class in the real world rather than online

Reasons to be Grateful

And, yes it may be a cliché – but as with all cliches it falls into that category because it’s actually true – counting your blessings is sometimes a good way of raising our spirits. So, yes there’s another list coming up 😊 Just some of the things I’m grateful for:

  • I live in a beautiful place where I can go for long safe walks
  • I’ve remained healthy
  • The nurses, doctors, carers and other essential workers who’ve gone above and beyond throughout the pandemic
  • The scientists who developed the Covid vaccines
  • Being able to keep in touch with loved ones via the internet
  • BOOKS

Thank goodness for books – reading them and writing them

Yes, throughout the last year books have been my refuge. I’ve read more than ever – loving the escape, the stimulation and the much needed entertaining diversion that books provide. And after a bad case of writer’s block brought on, I think, by the mental stress of lockdown, I at last seem to have got my writing mojo back.

At the desk making up stories

So, yes, it’s onwards with the new novel AND not only that onwards with the novella I’m also writing at the moment. As some of you know the novel is (I hope) the first in a new series set in the south of Scotland. It’s a contemporary romance (of course) and is set on a farm. The novella is based around two of the supporting characters from my Skye-set series and tells the story of Sophie (Rachel’s daughter) and how she meets and falls in love with Steven. More on both of these will follow in future posts.

On the sofa reading stories

And so to a round up of the books I’ve most enjoyed reading this month –

Books of the Month

First up is non-fiction and it has been more of a dip-into rather than a straight through read. I began reading it as some research for the novel – which includes a green/conservation theme – but I quickly got caught up in it for its own sake. This is a non-browbeating, realistic and informative look at what governments, businesses and individuals can do by way of a green action plan. And the subtitle – Common Sense Solutions to our Climate and Nature Crises – is very apt.

Carbon Choices by Neil Kitching

From the back cover:

An easy to read guide to our climate crisis and what you can do about it. An international view from Scotland before the global climate conference, COP26, in Glasgow, November 2021.

Carbon Choices tells the most remarkable story on planet Earth. How one group of sociable animals came to emit 40 billion tonnes (40,000,000,000) of an invisible gas each year, changing the chemistry of the atmosphere and the oceans, and steadily destroying the environment and life support systems that we depend on. We have unwittingly driven the world into a climate and wildlife crisis by the endless extraction of raw materials and our excessive consumerism – primarily by wealthier people and countries.

Carbon Choices considers the psychology that drives us to buy more ‘stuff’ and whether this makes us happier. In plain language, it describes ten building blocks that provide us with a foundation to build sensible climate change solutions; and five common-sense principles to guide us in the decisions that we make.

By applying these principles to our daily lives – our diets, homes, travel, shopping and leisure – we can regenerate nature, improve our society, be healthier, happier and lead more fulfilled lives.

This popular science book concludes with a green action plan for government, business and individuals to make better Carbon Choices. The book will fill any gaps in your understanding of climate change and nature loss and lays out the solutions including a green action plan for government, businesses and individuals. It will motivate you to change your behaviour and maybe even inspire you to campaign to change the behaviour of businesses and government.

Next it’s a wonderful historical romance which is also a thriller complete with a Knights Templar quest –

The Angel of the Lost Treasure by a favourite author of mine, Marie Laval.

From the back cover:

An ancient secret hidden within a mother’s song …

When young widow, Marie-Ange Norton is invited to Beauregard in France by the mysterious Monsieur Malleval to collect an inheritance, she has no choice but to accept.

But when she embarks on the voyage with her fiery-tempered travelling companion Capitaine Hugo Saintclair, little does she know what waits for her across the sea in turbulent nineteenth-century France on the eve of Napoleon’s return from exile. When she arrives, she is taken aback by Malleval’s fascination with her family – seemingly inspired by his belief they are connected to a sacred relic he’s read about in coded manuscripts by the Knights Templar.

As it becomes clear that Malleval’s obsession has driven him to madness, Marie-Ange is horrified to realise she is more the man’s prisoner than his guest. Not only that, but Hugo is the only person who might be able to help her, and he could represent a different kind of danger …

And finally, it’s a contemporary romance with a really clever and original plot –

The First Time I Saw You by Emma Cooper

From the back cover:

Lost:
Six-foot-two Irish man who answers to the name Samuel McLaughlin.

Has weak shins and enjoys show tunes.
If found, please return to Sophie Williams.

Sophie Williams has the perfect career and it’s all she needs to shut herself off from the rest of the world, and more importantly, the secrets of her past.

Samuel McLaughlin is an open book. He lives for the present and life for him is his big Irish family and his friends.

Against all expectation, Samuel breaks down the walls of Sophie’s ordered world and they spend the perfect week together, but when Sophie discovers the terrible truth, she is forced to leave.

But as Samuel begins searching for Sophie, a life-changing event alters how he sees life forever.

And with each passing week, Sophie seems further and further from his reach.

And that’s it for this month – thanks for reading – it’s been a long one.

As always feel free to comment below on any of the above. What are you looking forward to if you too are still living in lockdown? Or if restrictions have already eased in your part of the world, what have you appreciated getting back to doing? What keep you hopeful? Until next time – stay safe, stay sane and keep on, keeping on.

Looking Forward in February #writing #reading #books of the month #crimefiction #romanticfiction #nonfiction

Small shoots of hope

Here in Scotland, the days are lengthening, the ice and snow have at last disappeared, and the Covid vaccination programme is progressing well. And our government has a staged plan in place for the gradual easing of the protective lockdown. So, there’s a lot to be positive about – even if the full lifting of the lockdown is still some way off.

It’s been good to be able to get out for walks more easily as spring approaches and to see all the hopeful signs nature provides as this long hard winter comes to an end. It has also been good to see the return of Scotland’s youngest children to school and nursery.

So, yes, although a full return to normality with holidays away from home, eating out, and seeing friends and family remains a bit of a way off, there is hope.

Slow and steady does it as writing progresses

In the meantime, I plan to continue making the most of online/video contact with loved ones and to continue cutting myself some slack when it comes to my work as a writer. As I said in last month’s post I’m not being a slave to the daily word count but continue to measure my writing achievements by time spent at the desk – even if that time is short and I don’t write very much. One hundred words feels like as much of an achievement as 1000 did before the pandemic messed with my concentration and creative flow.

And pleasingly both the current novel and novella-in-progress are steadily growing and developing.

I’m also hopeful that my work rate will pick up even more now that the day care nurseries are due to re-open very soon and my grandma-day-care provision will no longer be required. Although I have to say it’s been a joy and a privilege to provide this essential care.

The continuing comfort and joy of reading

And as I also mentioned last month, reading has been such a comfort throughout these hard times – and it continues to be so. My intention in 2021 is to be a bit more adventurous in my reading and to read more widely – and maybe even reread some older classics and/or favourites. But I must admit the escapism provided by contemporary romance novels means that this remains my favourite genre.

However, my three books of the month for February come from three different genres and even the romantic fiction one isn’t entirely escapist as it is set during the Covid pandemic.

February’s Books of the Month

ROMANCE

Love in Lockdown by Chloe James

From the back cover:

Do you believe in love before first sight?

Lockdown is putting Sophia’s life on pause – just as she planned to put herself out there and meet someone. When the first clap for the keyworkers rings out around her courtyard, she’s moved to tears for all kinds of reasons.

Jack is used to living life to the fullest. He’s going stir-crazy after just days isolating. Until the night he hears a woman crying from the balcony under his. He strikes up a conversation with the stranger and puts a smile on her face.

Soon their balcony meetings are the highlight of Jack and Sophia’s days. But even as they grow closer together, they’re always kept apart.

Can they fall in love during a lockdown?

CRIME

A Song for the Dark Times by Ian Rankin

From the back cover:

‘He’s gone…’

When his daughter Samantha calls in the dead of night, John Rebus knows it’s not good news. Her husband has been missing for two days.

Rebus fears the worst – and knows from his lifetime in the police that his daughter will be the prime suspect.

He wasn’t the best father – the job always came first – but now his daughter needs him more than ever. But is he going as a father or a detective?

As he leaves at dawn to drive to the windswept coast – and a small town with big secrets – he wonders whether this might be the first time in his life where the truth is the one thing he doesn’t want to find…

NON FICTION

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

(this was a re-read of a much-loved old favourite of mine and a lot of what Woolf has to say about women in society still resonates today)

From the back cover:

An extended essay which was based on a series of lectures that Woolf delivered at two women’s colleges which are part of Cambridge University. The essay explores women both as writers and characters in fiction.

And that’s it for February. I hope you too are feeling positive. Please do feel free to share the titles of any good books you’ve read this month and/or what keeps you positive – in the comments section below. Stay safe and sane everyone.