Lived Experience in Writing. Plus Books of the Month for September 2021 @indieauthoralli @Vicky_Walters @CamCavendish @TrishaNicholson #writing #reading #MondayMotivation

This month’s post contains something for writers and something for readers. Both parts though offer some much needed positivity in a world that at the moment seems a bit too full of the opposite. I hope it offers readers of the blog some reasons for optimism. Thank you for here and enjoy!

WRITING:

Keep learning and keep an open mind

Much as writing fiction is an imaginative process, when you write contemporary fiction, as I do, it has to be rooted in the real world and that can cause problems, doubts and questions for an author. My novels have included in their cast characters born and living in the Middle East, characters with disabilities, and characters whose lifestyles are often very different from my own. I always do my research but I do worry whether it’s been enough and that my understanding is accurate. So I was pleased to come across a most enlightening and reassuring article on one aspect of these sort of issues that fiction writers face.

 Inclusivity, Diversity and Lived Experience in Fiction Writing

As a writer of contemporary heterosexual romantic fiction I owe it tomy writers togive them a credible story set in the real word of the present day. There needs to be a woman and a man as the main characters, they have to fall in love and they need to overcome all obstacles to their finding happiness together and the story needs to take place in settings that support the telling. I also need to populate the setting and plot with a collection of supporting characters that reflect that setting Sounds simple. But it’s not.

After all, I want to keep writing books and I want to keep entertaining my loyal readers. However, although the above recipe of essential ingredients needs to be followed if I’m to maintain the trust of my readership, it would be pretty dull for me and them if I stuck to only writing what I know and to experiences I’ve actually had in my own life. Yes, of course I do use my own lived experience to inform and inspire my writing. But there’s only so much of it that’s gripping or even interesting to anyone apart from me.

So, I have to go beyond what I’ve experienced as a sixty-something white Scottish woman living in Scotland as a wife, mother, grandmother and teacher. I have to imagine other lives. But imagination is only sufficient up to a point. What I write imaginatively must have strong foundations. It must be realistic, fair and credible.

Therefore coming across an article which included a piece by writer Eliana West recently – on the Alliance of Independent Authors website – at selfpublishing.org – was both enlightening and reassuring. The article was called Racism and Writing but it mentioned and can be applied to writing about all sorts of diverse characters – such as those with disabilities – and included several resources for writers who want to write outside of their own direct lived experience but also to write inclusively, realistically and respectfully. Eliana’s website can be found at elianawest.com and she runs a Facebook group called Writers for Diversity.

Below are some sample quotes from the full article:

Instead of asking if you are the right person to write this story, ask yourself what your intention is with your writing and what impact you hope it will have.

As a writer Eliana West urges you to consider these intentions:

ELIANA WEST:

  • I am committed to creating characters that reflect the world I live in.
  • I will take the time to examine my own bias and do the research needed to write characters who are not stereotypes.
  • I will strive to use the appropriate language to describe my character’s identity.
  • I will recognize and be respectful of individual experience. I understand I cannot define an experience for an entire race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, or community in my writing.

And to ask yourself these questions:

  • Why do you want to write this? What is your motivation?
  • What is your personal, emotional, psychological, ethical investment in writing it?
  • Can someone else tell this story better? Is it someone else’s story to tell?
  • What does your telling of the story do? Does it replicate prior violence, oppression or injustice? Does it provide new understanding or insight?
  • What is your power balance/imbalance as a writer to the subject matter?
  • Should you write/publish this at all? As with most ethical questions, the key is not can one, but should one?

READING:

Finding information, balance and comfort through reading

It can be hard at times to keep a positive take on the world around us – especially if we pay too much attention to some of the news headlines and certain areas of social media and not enough attention to keeping things in perspective.

So it’s good to find books that help to provide balance and/or comfort.

Two of my September books of the month both non-fiction are full of optimism around two of the ‘bad’ things we’re hearing a lot about at the moment. One is about the planting of a forest as an act of faith in the future and the other is a positive take on ageing populations and on contesting the taboos and misconceptions around this topic. And my third book of the month is a touching, romantic and absorbing novel and provided the perfect escape when I needed a break from the real world.

The Five Acre Forest by Trish Nicholson

From the back cover:

Planting a tree is an act of faith, an expression of hope.

The Five Acre Forest inspires that hope

In transit from the globe-trotting life of an aid worker, Trish Nicholson came upon an eroded dune beside a lake in New Zealand’s far north and felt a strange attachment. The following year, she abandoned her Celtic roots and returned to plant a thousand trees.

Twenty years on, the author shares the physical and emotional trials and triumphs of transforming the dune into a five acre forest, and describes the lives of its native trees, birds and insects, enchanting us with local legends and her nature photography along the way.

Woven into Nicholson’s personal narrative is the deep-time story of an extraordinary landscape of dunes, lakes, swamps and beaches formed from an ancient shared geological ancestry.


Extra Time by Camilla Cavendish

From the back cover:

From award-winning journalist, Camilla Cavendish, comes a profound analysis of one of the biggest challenges facing the human population today.

The world is undergoing a dramatic demographic shift. By 2020, for the first time in history, the number of people aged 65 and over will outnumber children aged five and under. But our systems are lagging woefully behind this new reality. In Extra Time, Camilla Cavendish embarks on a journey to understand how different countries are responding to these unprecedented challenges.

Travelling across the world in a carefully researched and deeply human investigation, Cavendish contests many of the taboos around ageing. Interviewing leading scientists about breakthroughs that could soon transform the quality and extent of life, she sparks a debate about how governments, businesses, doctors, the media and each one of us should handle the second half of life. She argues that if we take a more positive approach, we should be able to reap the benefits of a prolonged life. But that will mean changing our attitudes and
using technology, community, even anti-ageing pills, to bring about a revolution.

Always and Forever at Glendale Hall by Victoria Walters

From the back cover:

What if we’re all just searching for something?

Anna Stewart is lost. After barely surviving a car accident as a teenager, Anna is scared of settling. Flitting between jobs, boyfriends and homes whenever she gets bored, she has no idea what the future holds. Then her brother Brodie, minister of Glendale, suggests she moves to the beautiful Scottish village, lining up a housekeeper job for her at Glendale Hall.

Out of options, Anna agrees to take the job just for the summer. Once at the hall, her culinary skills impress everyone, and she agrees to give Hilltop Farm’s new manager, Cameron, cooking lessons. Sparks fly between Anna and the handsome Scot, but Cameron keeps pushing Anna away, and Anna definitely isn’t looking for love. But it’s wedding season at Glendale Hall, and Anna is about to discover that her new home has a way of working its magic on even the coldest of hearts.

Will she really be able to just walk away at the end of summer, or could Anna have finally found a place to belong?

It’s summertime so pack your bags and escape to beautiful Highlands village of Glendale with this gorgeously uplifting, romantic read. Fans of Milly Johnson, Heidi Swain and Holly Martin will love this charming romance.

Update on my own writing

Before I go, for anyone who’s interested in where my own aforementioned writing is at currently …

I have finished one novel and I’m busy redrafting and generally knocking the manuscript into shape before it goes off to my editor. And I’m halfway through writing another novel. More about both of these soon …

 And that’s just about it for this month.

Just a couple of questions for you? As a writer do you wrestle with diversity/inclusivity issues? As a reader, have you read anything inspiring, informative or just downright comforting this month?  As always feel free to share in the comments below.

First Draft Complete, A Quandary and Books of the Month – August 2021 #writing #reading #romanticfiction @KathrynFreeman1 @LauraBambrey Sam Binnie

New Book Dilemma

There’s currently a feeling of satisfaction here at the writing desk and yes, okay, a bit of pride and smugness mixed in there too. The reason? The reason being – a few days ago I finished the first draft of the novella I’ve been writing. Hurrah!

Of course it’s now the hard work really begins as I start the redrafting, followed by the second redraft, followed by – who knows how many more redrafts. And then it will go off to my editor.

However mixed in with the satisfaction and smugness there’s an element of uncertainty too.

And the reason for that is twofold.

Firstly, now that I’ve written Reconciliation (working title that I may or may not go with) I’m not sure it’s a novella. It’s a bit longer than that but does that make it a short novel or simply a novel? Opinions vary in Writer Land as to the match up between word count and categorising fiction by its length.

Secondly, and this uncertainty is partly related to the first one. Do I set up this latest book up as a free giveaway when folks sign up to my (coming soon, fingers crossed )newsletter – as was my original intention? Or since it’s likely to be more than a novella do I publish it as a normal for-sale book? And if I do the latter what do I offer as a thank you to my signer-uppers?

One solution would be to publish and sell the new book and to offer prospective subscribers a short story.

Some thinking required.

Your thoughts, Dear Reader

I’d be interested to know from any readers who sign up to author newsletters if the offer of a freebie influenced your decision to sign up and if so what sort of offering you prefer. Is a short story enough?

Books of the Month – No Dilemma

Fortunately it wasn’t hard to make a decision on what have been my favourite reads this month. All are contemporary romances – no surprises there. All are really enjoyable – and refreshingly different.

The Beach Reads Book Club by Kathryn Freeman

When Lottie Watt is unceremoniously booted out of her uptight book club for not following the rules, she decides to throw the rulebook out the window and start her own club – one where conversation, gin and cake take precedent over actually having read the book!

The Beach Reads Book Club soon finds a home for its meetings at Books by the Bay, a charming bookshop and café owned by gorgeous, brooding Matthew Steele, and as the book club picks heat up, so too does the attraction between Matt and Lottie.

If there’s anything Lottie has learned from the romances she’s been reading, it’s that the greatest loves are the ones hardest earned.

The Kindness Project by Sam Binnie

Step 1. Help the lonely baker start again

Step 2. Find the true calling of the village shop owner

Step 3. Call a truce on a decades-old feud

Step 4. Forgive me . . . ?

The locals of the Cornish village of Polperran are grieving the sudden loss of Bea Kimbrel, a cornerstone of their small community.

Now her reclusive, estranged daughter Alice has turned up, keen to tie up Bea’s affairs and move on.

But Alice receives a strange bequest from Bea – a collection of unfinished tasks to help out those in Polperran most in need.

As each little act brings her closer to understanding her mother, it also begins to offer Alice the courage to open her clamped-shut heart. Perhaps Bea’s project will finally unlock the powerful secrets both women have been keeping . . .

THE KINDNESS PROJECT will draw you deep into the lives of two compelling women who should never have missed their chance to say goodbye. It will break your heart – and piece it back together again..

The Beginners Guide to Loneliness by Laura Bambrey

Tori Williamson is alone. After a tragic event left her isolated from her loved ones, she’s been struggling to find her way back to, well – herself. That’s why she set up her blog, The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness, as a way of – anonymously – connecting with the outside world and reaching others who just need a little help sometimes.
 
When she’s offered a free spot on a wellbeing retreat in exchange for a review on her blog, Tori is anxious about opening herself up to new surroundings. But after her three closest friends – who she talks to online but has never actually met – convince her it’ll do her some good, she reluctantly agrees and heads off for three weeks in the wild (well, a farm in Wales).
 
From the moment she arrives, Tori is sceptical and quickly finds herself drawn to fellow sceptic Than, the retreat’s dark and mysterious latecomer. But as the beauty of The Farm slowly comes to light she realizes that opening herself up might not be the worst thing. And sharing a yurt with fellow retreater Bay definitely isn’t.  Will the retreat be able to fix Tori? Or will she finally learn that being lonely doesn’t mean she’s broken. 

And that’s it for this month. Feel free to answer the question about the signup freebie and to share your favourite reads for this month. Stay safe and well everyone and thanks for stopping by.

Reading and Writing Romantic Fiction Part 2: the story’s the thing. Plus Books of the Month for July 2021 #reading #writing #romantic fiction @MarieLaval1 @SueMcDonaghLit @marshisms @MaggieChriste33

Photo from Pexels.com

What’s the story this month?

This month’s post is partly a follow on from last month’s where the topic was the age of the characters which you can read here. This time though I’m taking a bit of a wider view of contemporary romantic fiction.

Also last month I featured a novel from this genre – So Many ways of Loving by Christine Webber – where the leading characters were three women either in or approaching their sixties. And this month, once again, I feature another excellent novel where the central couple are no longer young.

And to round things of there are, of course, my favourite reads for this month – all of which are cracking good stories.

Variety is the spice

So, as I said in the intro, last month I was talking about the age of the main characters in contemporary romantic fiction. My point being that having an ‘older’ lead couple can lead to just as satisfying a read as you’d expect from novels where the pair are in their twenties. And in the end it’s not as if it’s that ages of the characters alone that are going to make for a romantic read – there’s their life stories to date, the places they live in or visit and then there’s the story.

My first novel Change of Life is set in East Lothian and Edinburgh and features a couple in their late forties while my trilogy of novels set on the Isle of Skye – Displacement, Settlement, Fulfilment – has a couple in their fifties at its heart. While in the novel I’m currently writing I’ve changed decades again and the main couple are in their thirties. And this latest book is set in the Scottish Borders. Why have I gone for a younger pair? Why have I chosen this location? Because that’s what the story demanded.

The story’s the thing

As both a reader and writer of romantic fiction I find it’s good to keep an open mind when approaching a story. I like reading and writing stories set in a variety of places and equally I like to read and write about different age groups at various stages in life. But much as the characters and the setting are important so too is the story. The novel can be set in the most beautiful, most challenging or most familiar or unfamiliar of places. The pair who are falling in love can be twenty-five or sixty-five, they can be the most beguiling, most handsome, most infuriating types. But it’s what happens to those characters in those places as the romance plays out that matters, that’s what will keep me hooked both as I write and as I read.

All of which would suggest that the age of the main characters is just one detail and not something that on its own should attract or repel us.

And now, I’ll step down from my soapbox and it’s over to you. What makes a story – romantic or otherwise – work for you. Is character age a deal breaker? Please do leave comments below.  

Featured Novel

The Life She Dreams by Maggie Christensen

Sadly, this is the last story of the wonderful Granite Springs series but the good news is it ends on a high.

The Life She Dreams is the story of Granite Springs bookshop owner, Liz, and the new editor of the local newspaper, Sam. And as with the other books in the series both Liz and Sam are in the more mature age range.

When they first meet she is still grieving for her late husband and he is looking for peace and quiet after the stresses of his previous job. Both have plenty emotional baggage and neither is looking to fall in love.

But fate has other plans.

This is another great read from this prolific author.  The story has its fair share of conflict and doubt but it also has so many heart-warming moments too. The strength of friendships, family (by blood and not) and community also feature strongly. And, of course at its heart there is a slow-burning and wonderful romance.

Yes, safe to say, I thoroughly enjoyed this lovely, satisfying and enchanting romantic story. It is available as a paperback and as an ebook. Here is the link to buying it online.

From the back cover:

Can the past ever really be left behind?

Liz Pender has lived alone since her dreams for the future were shattered by the death of her husband. She retreated to Granite Springs where her life now revolves around her bookshop, The Reading Corner, and her cat, Marmaduke.

Newly appointed editor of The Granite Springs Advertiser, Sam Walker, recently moved to the small country town to seek a quieter life.

When Liz’s bookshop comes under threat, Sam and Liz are brought together causing sparks to fly. But a summons for help from overseas threatens to ruin Sam’s country idyll and reignites the past for Liz.

Can Liz put the past behind her and face a future with Sam, or are her dreams destined to remain just that?

Another feel good second chance romance set in the small country town of Granite Springs where it’s never too late to fall in love.

Books of the Month for July – lots of variety and all of them fab stories …

Happy Dreams at Mermaid Cove by Marie Laval

From the back cover:

From the big city to a little yellow mobile library on the Isle of Skye … When Jenna Palmer agrees to the new position of mobile librarian on the tiny Arrandale peninsular of the Isle of Skye, she knows she’s signing up for difficult working conditions and mediocre wages. But Jenna needs to get away, and a little yellow mobile library called Buttercup could be her escape to happier dreams …
However, whilst Jenna can get to grips with foggy island roads, local mermaid legends and even big purple monsters, she never expected to have to contend with a boss as grumpy as Daniel McGregor, or a young book lover as enthusiastic as his niece, Katrina.
Arrandale might represent Jenna’s safe port in a storm, but could she and Buttercup also become a beacon of hope to Daniel, Katrina and the entire island community?

Summer of Hopes and Dreams by Sue McDonagh

From the back cover:

Can “Dozy Rosie” spice up her life and prove she’s not boring?
Rosie Bunting has spent her life caring for others, often at the expense of her own hopes and dreams. But when she overhears somebody describing her as “boring”, she decides it’s time for a change.
Little does she realise that the outdoor pursuits weekend brochure handed to her at the local Art Café will kick start a summer that will see her abseiling down a Welsh cliff face in “eye watering” leggings, rediscovering her artistic side and unexpectedly inheriting an old fire engine. It also involves meeting hunky outdoor instructor, Gareth Merwyn-Jones – although of course he’d never be interested in Dozy Rosie Bunting … would he?
One thing’s for certain: Rosie’s path to achieving her hopes and dreams might not be smooth, but it’s definitely not boring.

Unbreak Your Heart by Katie Marsh

From the back cover:

Seven-year-old Jake’s heart is failing and he doesn’t want to leave his dad, Simon, alone. So he makes a decision: to find Simon someone to love before he goes.

Beth is determined to forget the past. But even when she leaves New York to start afresh in a Lake District village, she can’t shake the secrets that haunt her.

Single dad Simon still holds a candle for the woman who left him years ago. Every day is a struggle to earn a living while caring for his beloved son. He has no time for finding someone new.

But Jake is determined his plan will succeed – and what unfolds will change all three of them forever.

So another great month of reading. have you read and enjoyed any of the above? What has been your favourite book from your July reads? Feel free to share in the comments below.

Reading and Writing Romantic Fiction: never too old to read it, write it, or to be the main character. Plus – Books of the Month for June 2021 #reading #writing #romanticfiction @1chriswebber @KileyDunbar @Isabelle_Broom @SnowProse

Age should be no barrier to living and loving – in real life and in fiction

Regular readers of this blog will know that when it comes to both reading and writing my genre of choice is romantic fiction. It’s a wide-ranging genre and includes various sub genres such as romantic suspense, historical romance and contemporary romance – to name only some.

But for too long there was one aspect that was anything but wide-ranging and that’s the age of the main characters. Indeed up until relatively recently you’d be hard pushed to find romance novels where the central couple were over thirty. Now while there’s nothing inherently wrong with a novel about a couple in their twenties and there are many excellent such books – lots of which I’ve read and enjoyed – I’m guessing I’m not alone in wanting to read and write about older protagonists too – especially as I myself am an older reader and writer.

And I’m talking here particularly about contemporary romance because by definition it should reflect contemporary times – times in which attitudes and expectations have broadened and changed. So authors and publishers are missing a trick if they don’t reflect that.  

Fortunately though there are signs of positive changes. Seasoned romance, second chance romance, mature romance, whatever you prefer to call it, is a genre that’s growing. Main characters can be anything from thirty years of age upwards. Characters in these stories have full and rounded lives which include falling/being in love and having sex – as well as negotiating often challenging career and life changes.

A Brilliant Example

One brilliant example of the above is one of my books of the month for June and it’s the latest novel from one of my favourite authors Christine Webber.

So Many Ways of Loving by Christine Webber

This is such a lovely hopeful read. It’s set in 2019 and the three main characters are all women either in or approaching their sixties and all are facing life-changing situations. There is also a fourth female character in her seventies who also features strongly later in the book. The story involves issues such as grief, body-image and ageing and yes, later life romance too. It’s a story of new friendships, new experiences, and new starts. It’s a story about possibilities regardless of age and stage in life. It’s touching, warm, humane and realistic. And its message is that life goes on in all its sometimes surprising, sometimes messy ways – but that as long as it does it is wonderful and it’s there to love, to be loved and to live. And that last sentence – caused a wry smile.

From the back cover:

So Many Ways of Loving is a novel in which, at first glance, nothing much happens – there’s no espionage, no high-speed car chases, murders, or haunted houses. But in a sense, everything happens – loss, death, grief, serious illness, but also birth, unexpected romance, fresh adventures and numerous possibilities. Three women in their 50s and 60s travel through the most momentous year of their lives, and as they do so, they are reminded of just how much we depend upon family, friends and pets.

You can buy So many Ways of Loving in bookshops and online here. It is available as a paperback and as an ebook.

You can connect online with Christine at the following places:

Website and podcast links: here

Twitter: @1chriswebber

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/christinewebberauthor

Books of the Month

As well as the book above I have three other books of the month to recommend to you. All are contemporary romances and all have main characters who have all lived more than a little.

The Borrow a Bookshop Holiday by Kiley Dunbar

An unusual and heart-warming romance. I especially loved the ending and the fact that the grandmother character was no elderly cliché.

From the back cover:

 The Borrow-a-Bookshop Bookshop Café invites literature lovers to run their very own bookshop … for a fortnight.

Spend your days talking books with customers in your own charming bookshop and serving up delicious cream teas in the cosy café.

Bookworms, what are you waiting for? Your holiday is going to be LIT(erary).

Apply to: The Borrow-a-Bookshop Bookshop Café, Down-a-long, Clove Lore, Devon.

Jude Crawley should be on top of the world. She’s just graduated as a mature student, so can finally go public about her relationship with Philosophy professor, Mack.

Until she sees Mack kissing another girl, and her dreams crumble. And worse, their dream holiday – running a tiny bookshop in the harbour village of Clove Lore for two weeks – is non-refundable.

Throwing caution to the winds, Jude heads down to Devon, eager to immerse herself in literature and heal her broken heart.

But there’s one problem – six foot tall, brooding (but gorgeous) Elliot, who’s also reserved the bookshop holiday for two weeks…

As Jude and Elliot put their differences aside to run the bookshop, it seems that Jude might be falling in love with more than just words. Until she discovers what Elliot is running from – and why he’s hiding out in Clove Lore.

Can Jude find her own happy ending in a tiny, tumbledown bookshop? Or is she about to find out that her bookish holiday might have an unexpected twist in the tale…

The Getaway by Isabelle Broom

Set in Croatia which is beautifully described throughout the story – you really can imagine you’re there, this is a romantic, mysterious and moving tale of pain, hurt, loss and the power of love.

From the back cover:

Sometimes it takes losing everything to find the person you need . . .

Most people travel to Croatia for its endless sunshine, pebbly beaches and crystal clear sea.

Kate goes there to disappear.

She needs to escape from a life that has fallen apart in spectacular and public fashion, and no one on the beautiful island of Hvar knows who she is or what she’s running away from.

Until she meets another lonely soul.

Alex is different to any man Kate has ever known, yet the connection between them is undeniable. She soon begins to open up in ways she never has before – not even to herself. But Kate is not the only person in Hvar hiding secrets. And, as she is about to discover, it is always only a matter of time before the truth catches up with you . . .

A Summer of Second Chances by Suzanne Snow

Sparks do indeed fly between an, at first, unlikely couple in this thoroughly enjoyable romance.

From the back cover:

Sparks and tempers fly when Ben comes to stay in Daisy’s holiday cottage.

Daisylikes routine. She goes to work, makes dinner for her son, then loses herself for an hour or two in her sewing. She’s not looking for change, until Bencrashes – literally – into her life.

Ben is training for a triathlon, working himself to the limit in an attempt to forget a recent trauma. Daisy wants to help, but even as they draw closer with every week that passes, he pushes her away whenever things threaten to get serious.

Can Ben open himself up to love again? And with Daisy’s life in the Yorkshire Dales and Ben’s in New York, can they have a future together even if he does?

And that’s it for this month. If you’re a fan of romantic fiction, is character age something that attracts you to, or puts you off a book? Please feel free to share your thoughts on the topic and to recommend any examples you’ve enjoyed reading where the main characters are in, or beyond, their thirties.

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.

From the Writing Desk – Mapping Out a Story: Nailing the Setting #writing #fiction Plus #reading #booksofthemonth @katehaswords @Donna_ashworth

Finding My Writing Way

As regular readers of the blog will know I’m currently writing a new novel – working title Happiness Cottage. I’m making progress but until recently it has been a bit slower than I would like.  

Writing a book is always a complex process. Writing down the words is at times the easiest part. There’s the getting to know the characters, their ages, gender, appearance and personalities. There’s the plot to wrestle with – whether that’s planning it in detail beforehand or flying blind with a vague destination in mind. And then there’s the setting. Cue for much sighing from me.

Getting Lost

I am a legend amongst my friends and family for getting lost in the real world. I have no sense of direction and I have to do many repeat journeys whether it’s round a building, a city, or in the countryside before I can visualise it in my memory. So I often find maps to be vital.

But, having said that, I’ve never had a problem with the setting of my previous novels. I knew from the start that my first novel Change of Life would be set in Edinburgh which is the city where I grew up, and in the East Lothian town of Gullane. The streets, the beach, and even the houses which feature in that book are real places, places I’ve lived in or visited often. They were places I knew well. Similarly, in my Skye series of three novels – although I changed some names, the places where my characters lived and worked were real. Again I’d lived in that township or in that cottage or I’d visited the actual place. No imagination was required. Even in my children’s fantasy novel, The Silver Locket, written by my alter-ego Anne McAlpine, the house in Edinburgh where young Caitlin lives is based on the real childhood house of a friend of mine. So, although I fictionalised certain aspects and I changed the name of certain places to ones I made up, keeping the background details in all these novels credible and consistent when describing surroundings, journeys from place to place and even the view from the kitchen window was pretty straightforward.

But this time around – not so much. For some crazy reason – don’t ask me why – I don’t know why – I decided early on that my new novel, a contemporary romance set in the Scottish Borders area of Scotland, would be set on a completely fictitious farm, near a made-up-by-me village, close to a town that only exists in my brain. Not only that, I wanted a fictional hill and a not-real river to be situated close by too. Yes, there would be some real places mentioned but they’d be in the minority.

Cue lots of scope for confusion, inconsistency and stress on the part of this author. On which side of the farm should the river flow? Where would the pretend river join up with the real world river Tweed? How long would it take to drive from town to farm? What route would the road take? Where on the farm were the buildings and where were the fields? And on and on …

Every time a character left their house – the house whose layout I wasn’t sure of – the story narrative was getting held up as I pondered how and where they’d move about. The setting seemed shrouded in fog. And the fog had to be forced to clear if me and the book were going to get anywhere.

An early attempt at the village layout

Mapping it Out

It was time to get mapping. So armed with photos I’d taken of approximate locations, an Ordnance Survey map of the area to help me with distance and scale, a ruler, a pencil and lots of paper, I began to draw. I drew a map of the village, the town, and the farm. I created landscapes which included my river and hill. And I drew floorplans for several houses and workplaces.

And you know what? It was actually quite a lot of fun as well as hard work. But more than that the process alone, never mind having the resulting charts to refer to, has meant that the setting fog has lifted. Now if I could just nail the plot and finalise the hair colour of that character …

From the Reading Chair:

I’ve read lots of good books this month – romances, thrillers and poetry. And my picks for the best reads for April 2021 are two poetry collections and a contemporary romance.

The poetry books are both by Donna Ashworth. One is called To The Women and is described as ‘words to live by’, and the other is History Will Remember When the World Stopped and contains poems about living through the pandemic. I was blown away by both books. The poems are moving, comforting and inspirational and well worth a read. Donna shares many of her poems on Facebook where they are accompanied by beautiful illustrations done by various artists.

From the back cover:

To the Women

Donna’s poems and essays for women are constantly flying around the internet bringing positivity and solidarity. This collection contains 48 favourite poems, plus beautiful quotes; truly something for everyone, to inspire, comfort and motivate. It makes the perfect gift from one woman to another. 

From the back cover:

History Will Remember When the World Stopped

A collection of beautiful poems and letters written throughout the lock-down by Donna Ashworth. Donna is followed daily by women all over the world, on her social media sites and blog. Her words are a source of comfort, inspiration and hope. Donna’s work has been published by Amnesty International and voiced by stars of stage and screen. This book is the perfect keepsake for an unprecedented time.

And the novel of the month is Finding Home, the latest book by Kate Field. It’s so good! I loved it and it was one of those stories that leaves you with a book hangover. I missed it and its characters so much when I finished it.

From the back cover:

She might not have much in this world, but it cost nothing to be kind…

Meet Miranda Brown: you can call her Mim. She’s jobless, homeless and living in her car… but with a history like hers she knows she has a huge amount to be grateful for.

Meet Beatrice and William Howard: Bill and Bea to you. The heads of the Howard family and owners of Venhallow Hall, a sprawling seaside Devonshire estate… stranded in a layby five hours from home the night before their niece’s wedding.

When fate brings the trio together, Mim doesn’t think twice before offering to drive the affable older couple home. It’s not like she has anywhere else to be. But as the car pulls into the picturesque village of Littlemead, Mim has no idea how her life is about to change…

An uplifting story of found family and true love perfect for fans of Fern Britton and Veronica Henry.

And that’s it for this month from me. As always, feel free to comment below. What have been your favourite April reads? And do you find maps useful whether in the real world or as a writer?

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.

A Life in a Day of a Writer: Author Maggie Christensen @MaggieChriste33 shares a typical writing day #writing #books #reading #romanticfiction

Today it’s the turn of romantic fiction writer Maggie Christensen to give us a glimpse into the sort of days that make up her life as a writer.

Maggie’s latest book is A Granite Springs Christmas – this is the sixth book in the Granite Springs series – but it can easily be read as a standalone – and I recently read and very much enjoyed it. You can find out more about the book below. But first over to Maggie.

Maggie Christensen’s Writing Life in a Day

When Anne asked me to take part in this, I wished I could be like a famous Australian author I once heard speak. She told how she dresses, puts on full make up and works for four hours each morning, takes a lunch break, then works for another four hours. But that isn’t my day. I do write every day, but my days vary.

Since most of the time, I’m writing one book, editing another and marketing yet another, I tend to juggle my time between them. Do I get confused? Yes.

I always start the day by checking email and my ads. Then, after breakfast and an early morning walk with my husband, I get down to work. While this may be working on my current manuscript, it may also be writing a newsletter for my readers, sending out advance reader copies of my next release, or choosing images for my next cover on Shutterstock – I can get lost there for hours at a time.

If I have returned edits from my editor, I do that before beginning my day’s writing.

Once I sit down to writing for the day, I start by re-reading what I’ve written the day before to get back into the story and reconnect with my characters – despite them having been in my head all the time. Then I start to write. I aim to write 1000 words before taking a break when I enjoy a snack with a cup of tea and the opportunity to catch up on my reading.

My goal is to write 2000 words each day. Some days, if I have arranged to meet friends for coffee, it may be less, while others, if I’m on a roll, it may be more.

When I started to write, my goal was to publish two books each year. But after doing that for a few years, and I decided to become more productive and now aim to publish four books each year and actually plan ahead. I have already written the book which will be published in January and am I the midst of what will probably be the last in my current series and be published March or April. Then there will be a new series which will have at least two books released in 2021, one of which may be another Christmas story.

It may sound a lot of work, but I find it difficult to settle to anything when I don’t have a book on the go. I never stop thinking about my current work in progress and can get some good plot ideas when I’m ironing, driving, reading – or falling asleep!

My most recent book is book six in my Granite Springs series and my first Christmas story. Magda is a character who appears in the earlier books in my Granite Springs series – a feisty seventy-something widow who lives on an acreage with the three former racehorses she saved from the knacker’s yard, and two rescue greyhounds. A masseuse and a touch otherworldly, I decided Magda deserved her own happy ever after.

I love writing this series about older characters living in a fictional Australian country town where it’s never too late to fall in love and everyone deserves a second chance.

Anne: Wow, Maggie! I think we can let you off for not being perfectly made up and sticking to a rigid writing schedule 🙂 Your work ethic and productivity rate are awesome. And I know I’m not alone in loving your later life, second chance romances. Thank you so much for taking part in this feature.

And now as promised, here’s more about Maggie’s latest book:

From the back cover:

A RETURN TO GRANITE SPRINGS. A FAMILY CHRISTMAS. A TIME FOR LOVE AND JOY…OR IS IT?

A year after a devastating bushfire destroyed Magda Duncan’s home, she returns to Granite Springs determined to resume her life and organise a wonderful family Christmas. But the elation of her homecoming quickly turns to disappointment as she discovers not everyone is in tune with her plans.

George Turnbull was Magda’s late husband’s best friend. A bachelor, he has always carried a torch for Magda and remained close to her and her sons. When he finally musters the courage to reveal his true feelings, a life changing surprise from his past threatens to ruin any chance at happiness.

Emotions are high as Christmas Day approaches. Will this be the most wonderful Christmas ever? Or will the hopes and fears of the past come home to haunt them? A poignant story of a Christmas friends of Granite Springs will never forget.

You can connect with Maggie online at the links below:

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads

Instagram

A Life in a Day of a Writer: Author Kate Blackadder @k_blackadder shares a typical writing day #writing #books #reading

Kate Blackadder’s writing desk

Today it’s the turn of romantic fiction writer Kate Blackadder to give us a glimpse into the sort of days that make up her life as a writer.

Kate’s Novel Stella’s Christmas Wish is a lovely story at any time – but especially so at this time of year– more about that later – along with information about Kate’s many short stories, magazine serials (for UK magazines The People’s Friend and Woman’s Weekly) and boxset. But now over to Kate.

Kate Blackadder’s Writing Life in a Day

When you asked me back in June, Anne, to take part in this series I did hope that things would be more normal come November but alas our lives are still restricted by Covid-19.

So, furloughed from my part-time job and with an almost non-existent social life for seven months, have I done lots of writing? Yes and no.

When lockdown looked likely in the middle of March I started to keep a diary. Sadly, things that seemed so extraordinary back then don’t seem so now. Fights over toilet rolls. Bars closed in Dublin on St Patrick’s Day. Holidaying friends unable to fly home. One day I may mine the diary for story ideas but not now.

I found physical activity excellent distraction (no one more surprised than myself about that). Newly acquired exercise bike, Joe Wicks workouts, walking the permitted hour a day. Even, belatedly in my life, gardening. Those invasive grape hyacinths didn’t know what hit them. The glorious weather added to the unreality of the whole situation.

Indoors, I did various writingy things without actually writing. Mostly I write short stories and serials for women’s magazines – so I made a fourth collection of previously published stories and put it on Kindle. I published three magazine serials, all set in rural Scotland, as a Kindle boxset (see below).

I dusted down a couple of more literary stories and entered them for competitions. I typed up seven holiday diaries and had copies printed.

My thoughts did turn eventually to new writing but I don’t have a typical day. Sometimes the more time you have the less you do. To give myself a push I set the kitchen timer for twenty minutes and attempt to write without stopping. My inner editor has a hissy fit but I try to ignore her.

Picking up either of two embryonic novels would require concentration I didn’t have. So I wrote a short story from a young lad’s viewpoint – he was aggrieved at his mother roping him into gardening for an elderly neighbour. Inspired in part by my own newfound interest – all is grist to the writing mill. Done. Sent to The People’s Friend.

The People’s Friend has a special, larger edition every three weeks and in every second Special there’s a long cosy crime story (9500 words), new territory for me. I’d had an idea for ages but couldn’t see my way into it, eg who the viewpoint characters would be. However, once I got going I loved writing it. Gardening also featured … my green-fingered sister was enlisted to fact-check. Sent.

Another story – this time set on Hogmanay, 1963, one of the worst UK winters on record. (No gardening in this one… ) Sent to The People’s Friend.

I’ve always been fascinated by names and I thought it would be fun to write a story where the characters have the same names as those recently given to storms. Sent to The People’s Friend.

No acceptances or rejections received to date for these four – for completely understandable reasons. The People’s Friend fiction staff work from home too now. Plus, they get an increasingly enormous number of submissions. They’ve always had an open-door policy for new writers – and now are one of the few remaining markets for short stories as so many magazines have stopped publishing them or have folded altogether, including two since March who between them published 350 stories annually.

Shopping habits have changed recently, concentrating on food essentials. A subscription to your favourite magazine whatever it might be could help it survive.

Not all doom and gloom though! My fellow Capital Writers and I published a collection of Dark Stories https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08LTGH358

in time for Hallowe’en.

And I got an acceptance surprisingly quickly from Woman’s Weekly for a short story so that was a boost, and a proposal for a new PF serial, my fifth, got the go-ahead two weeks later. It’s great to have something to focus on. Each instalment is 5000 words, divided into five ‘chapters’. Because you have to wait for instalment approval you can’t really write ahead and you can’t go back and change previous instalments. I do have trajectories for each of my main characters though so I work towards those. It’s a different way of writing but I find it exhilarating.

Anne: Yes, writing a serial for a magazine certainly sounds like an exciting way of working! Thank you so much Kate for sharing what your writing life is like – and how writing shorter fiction has helped you push on through during these difficult times.

About Kate Blackadder:

Katewas born in Inverness but now lives in Edinburgh. She has had over sixty short stories and four magazine serials published, and a novel, Stella’s Christmas Wish, published by Black and White Publishing.

In 2008 she won the Muriel Spark Short Story Prize judged by Maggie O’ Farrell. Four collections of her short stories and the four serials are now on Kindle, three of them – The Family at Farrshore, The Ferryboat, and A Time to Reap – are also available in large-print library editions.

She is a member of Edinburgh Writers’ Club, the Scottish Association of Writers, the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Society of Authors and, with three others, is part of Capital Writers. When she’s not writing or reading she likes films, baking and crying over repeats of Long Lost Family.

Kate Online:

Find out more: http://katewritesandreads.blogspot.co.uk/p/my-books.html

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KateBlackadderAuthor

Twitter: @k_blackadder

https://capitalwriterscouk.wordpress.com/

Kate’s Books and Boxset:

Stella’s Christmas Wish available from: HERE

Six days before Christmas, Stella must rush home to Scotland when her grandmother is taken to hospital. As she reconnects with her past, old flames are rekindled, and as Christmas fast approaches, Stella begins to wonder if her most heartfelt wish can come true?

Uprooted from her life in London and back in her childhood home of the Scottish borders, Stella is soon faced with relationships which have lain dormant for years. New opportunities present themselves, but will Stella dare to take them…

Family stories boxset  (information below) available from: HERE

Three family stories first published as serials in The People’s Friend. Available as e-books singly, or in this three-for-the-price-of-two collection:

The Ferryboat: Judy and Tom Jeffrey move north after buying a hotel in the West Highlands of Scotland, with their daughter and her chef husband – but have they made a terrible mistake?

The Family at Farrshore: Spending the summer working on Scotland’s north coast, archaeologist Cathryn is drawn into the local community – and to Magnus who is visiting the area for reasons of his own.

A Time to Reap: It’s 1963 on a Scottish Highlands estate. Farm manager Elizabeth Duncan has the unpleasant factor to contend with, and is unsettled by the arrival of an American visitor.