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 Jan Brigden @JanBrigden @TheRomaniacs shares a typical writing day #writing #books #reading

Today it’s the turn of contemporary romance author Jan Brigden to give us a glimpse into the sort of days that make up her life as a writer.

Her latest book is If I Ever Doubt You and you can find out more about it below.

Jan Brigden’s Writing Life in a Day

When I first started writing full time from home, I set myself various daily targets in the hope of mirroring the last office job I’d held.

Hope being the operative word.

So … At my desk by 8.30 in the morning. Write until 10.30. Half hour break to stretch my legs and catch up with emails/phone messages, etc. Resume writing until lunchtime, say 1pm. Lunch. Write from 2 until 4 with suitably-spaced leg-stretch breaks. 4-5pm catch up with social media. Finish at 5, ready to prepare dinner and enjoy the rest of the evening with husband Dave who usually comes in from work between 5 and 6pm or spend a few hours with friends/family depending on what I had planned.

It started well enough but I soon realised that I couldn’t write to order and was putting far too much pressure on myself to reach these daily self-imposed targets. I’d get frustrated if the muse didn’t strike and end up staring at a blank screen for ages trying to force the words to come. I’d then feel guilty if I hadn’t produced much and it would feel like a day wasted.

With time and experience and lots of advice and support from my fellow writers, some of whom to varying degrees had faced exactly the same thing, I totally changed my outlook and routine. Instead of sitting down regimentally each day, I’d go for a nice walk which I immediately found provided me with inspiration and clarity for whichever scene or chapter I was planning to write next. Instead of feeling sheepish that I was out walking or dancing in front of the TV in the lounge to one of my exercise DVDs, I realised this valuable time fired up my creativity and passion for my book. I also found that some days I’d fit more writing into a shorter space of time which would free me up for other pleasures such as reading other author’s books or indulging in anything mindfulness-related, be it books, audio or videos.

I no longer feel guilty if I’m not writing all day every day as taking time out benefits me. It was about trusting myself to let go and be more flexible. I’ve never been the quickest writer nor the most disciplined. It seems to come in fits and starts for me. I can become quite obsessive about it at times and leave it alone for days at other times.  I do have other personal family commitments, more so now, which I love and which aren’t an excuse, I’ve just accepted that as much as I love writing, it isn’t the most important thing in my life.  It’s one of them.

Anne: Thank you to Jan for this fascinating insight into her writing life. I must say I like the idea of trusting herself and being flexible in her approach to writing – seems like excellent advice to me.  You can read more about her and her latest book below.

Jan’s latest book 

 

 

From the back cover:

She might have scored a celebrity footballer, but the game isn’t over yet …

Rebecca Dunning should be blissfully happy – after a whirlwind weekend, she and top footballer Alex Heath are still going strong. But as the murkier side of the celebrity lifestyle reveals itself, so does the creeping doubt.

Rebecca finds herself isolated in the fake, flashy world of toxic WAG cliques and ruthless reporters, and when a mysterious online admirer follows Alex’s every move, she struggles to cope. Can she keep playing the media game for the man she loves, or will she have to admit defeat?

If I Ever Doubt You  is the stand-alone sequel to As Weekends Go

Buy link for e-book

Amazon

Buy link for audiobook

Amazon Audio

About Jan:

Jan lives in South East London with her husband and motley crew of cuddly toys. Jan’s written for pleasure from a young age; short stories for classmates, odes for workmates, fun quizzes for family and friends, progressing to the contemporary uplifting dramas she writes today.

The idea for her debut novel, As Weekends Go, sprang from a script she composed as part of a creative writing course assignment via The Writers Bureau. The novel went on to be published by award winning UK independent publishers Choc Lit after winning their Search for a Star competition.

Jan’s latest novel, If I Ever Doubt You, also published by Choc Lit, is the sequel to her debut.

An avid reader, reviewer and all round book devotee, Jan is also one eighth of online writing group The Romaniacs (www.theromaniacs.co.uk) who successfully self-published an anthology of short stories and flash fiction entitled ‘Romaniac Shorts: Fashionably Brief’.

Connect with Jan:

Twitter: @JanBrigden or @TheRomaniacs
Facebook: Jan Brigden – Writer
Blog:  https://janbrigden.wordpress.com/

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

Today it’s the turn of author Kate Field to give us a glimpse into her varied days as a writer. Kate writes wonderful contemporary women’s fiction. Her latest book is A Dozen Second Chances and you can find out more about it below. But first over to Kate to tell you about her writing life.

 Kate Field’s Writing Life in a Day

I love reading blogs about how other authors work, but admit that I’m often struck with a pang of envy over those brilliant writers who knock out several thousand words in one go – and that’s before breakfast. How on earth do they do it?

My writing days are very different. I don’t even have a typical day. I work part time in an office job, and rarely have the mental energy to write on those days. On my so-called ‘days off’, the hours whizz by in domestic activities, and, until recently, a 3 hour school run. Writing has to fit round real life in whatever spare hours I have. Sometimes I manage a few pages, sometimes a few lines. It all counts, and I don’t beat myself up if I have an unproductive day.

I don’t need much to be able to write: my only requirements are a pen (currently a Cross ballpoint pen given to me by a friend), an A4 notebook (I stockpile in the Paperchase sale) and peace and quiet. This last requirement has been hard to come by over the recent months of lockdown! My favourite place to write is the kitchen, as it’s bright and warm, and the hum of the fridge provides just the right pitch of background noise without being intrusive, but now the peace has been shattered by the sound of Zoom meetings echoing round the house and the constant boiling of the kettle. I haven’t had the house to myself since lockdown started, and I’ve found it hard to write at all.

I didn’t realise before I was published that there’s so much more to being a writer than putting words down on the page. On any particular day I might have to write a blog post, arrange a blog tour to promote a new book, design a graphic to use on social media, and keep my Twitter and Facebook profiles up to date. Multi-tasking is an essential skill. It’s quite normal to find that you’re writing one book, editing another and promoting a third, all at the same time. It can get very confusing!

The working day never ends for most writers; you can’t switch off the lights and close the door on your imagination. There are no weekends or holidays: I remember having to stop during a Swiss mountain hike a few years ago because I thought of the perfect words for Ethan’s declaration of love in The Man I Fell in Love With and had to write it down before I forgot. I love reading, but it’s hard to read a book without mentally dissecting the author’s skill in keeping the pages turning and playing with my emotions. I can’t watch television without being distracted by an interesting face that might inspire a character, a useful name in the credits, or by the thought, ‘what if X,Y and Z happened instead?’. Characters and conversations constantly run through my head, and they won’t go away!

In my most recent book, A Dozen Second Chances, I wrote the story of Eve, who takes the opportunity to change her life when her daughter leaves home. It’s a subject close to my heart, as I’ll have an empty nest soon too, and many more hours of my day to fill. Perhaps I can take the opportunity to change my writing life, and at last become one of those authors who write thousands of words before breakfast…

Anne: Thank you to Kate for this fascinating insight into the non-typical days of her writing life. You can read more about her and her latest book below.

A Dozen Second Chances

From the back cover:

What are the chances that twelve little tokens could change a life?

Seventeen years ago, Eve Roberts had the wonderful life she’d always dreamed of: a degree in archaeology, a gorgeous boyfriend, and exciting plans to travel the world with him, working on digs. But when her sister Faye died, the life Eve knew ended too. Faye’s daughter Caitlyn came to live with Eve, her boyfriend left, and she quickly gave up on her dreams.

Now approaching her fortieth birthday, Eve faces the prospect of an empty nest as Caitlyn is leaving home. Caitlyn gives Eve a set of twelve ‘Be Kind to Yourself’ vouchers, telling her that she has to start living for herself again, and that she should fill one in every time she does something to treat herself.

With her very first voucher, Eve’s life will change its course. But with eleven more vouchers to go, can Eve learn to put herself first and follow the dreams she’s kept secret for so long? Because life is for living – and as she well knows, it’s too short to waste even a moment…

Buy link: you can buy A Dozen Second Chances HERE

About Kate:

 Kate writes contemporary women’s fiction, mainly set in her favourite county of Lancashire,

where she lives with her husband, daughter and mischievous cat.

She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

Kate’s debut novel, The Magic of Ramblings, won the RNA’s Joan Hessayon Award for new writers.

Kate’s social media links:

Twitter: @katehaswords

Facebook:  Kate Field Author

A Life in the Day of a Writer: Author Anne Stormont describes a typical writing day #writing #author #reading

My desk area – otherwise known as post-it note city

New Feature

Yes, today it’s a post all about me – or rather it’s all about my working day as a writer. It’s the first in a new series of guest posts that I’m hoping to host here. The idea being that every month or so a different writer will share what their writing life looks like by sharing a typical day at the desk – and away from it.

And I thought why not launch the feature with my own summary of daily life as an author. So here goes …

A day in my writing life

Writing for me is a job. Yes, it’s a job I love, but it’s still a job. Therefore in order to get paid, I have to turn up. I’m fortunate nowadays to have retired from my other job as a primary school teacher, so writing is my only work.

Planned & Scheduled

However, that’s a bit of a double-edged sword discipline wise. Yes, I have lots of time in which to write but that fact only increases the chance of procrastination. So as my own boss, I have to be strict. I have to have a schedule and I have to stick to it. And this is where my previous life as a teacher comes in handy. Teaching requires lots of planning and scheduling – it’s something I’m comfortable with and actually quite good at. So I have the long-term plan, the weekly plan and the daily plan. And I mainly stick to them – my boss is strict – but she’s not entirely unreasonable 😊

Morning

My day typical begins reasonably early – around 7.30 or so and my first activity of the day is usually going for a walk. I don’t let bad weather stop me and I walk for an hour or so. I view the walk as the daily equivalent of walking to and from my workplace and I find that starting the day with exercise helps me focus once I am at work.

Once back from my walk, I head for the desk – and just the simple act of going into my den and sitting at my computer helps get me in the zone. I’ll write for an hour or so – maybe two – usually adding words to my novel-in-progress and aiming to achieve the word count target I’ll have set for the session. If I’m just beginning something new, this time can also be used for planning and maybe some research. Or if the book is at the editing stage, then this will be rewriting time.

Afternoon

After lunch I’ll write for another hour – again with a number of words to aim for – and once that’s achieved my brain has usually had quite enough of being creative.

So for the remainder of the afternoon I do the other necessary tasks that come with being an author. It might be writing a post for this blog, it might be writing something for my Facebook author page, it could be preparing for an author event – or it could be doing any of the other many managing and marketing jobs that go with the territory.

Down time

I take evenings and weekends off – but if I’m in the mood I will do some unscheduled work during those times. This is most likely to happen if I have a deadline looming or if I’m simply at the stage in a novel where the words are flowing and I can’t wait to crack on with it. But time out is important too and it’s often when I’m relaxing, walking, gardening – or doing nothing in particular – that ideas come to me or solutions to plotting problems present themselves.

A good life

And there you have it. It ain’t glamorous, it’s largely solitary and it’s often frustrating or just plain hard. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love my days spent as a writer, I love my writing life and I don’t intend to retire any time soon.

Taking Stock: Where next for the blog and my writing #amwriting #writing #books

What next?

The gratuitous photo above is of one of the flower beds in my garden – with lovely new wooden garden chairs behind. The picture has little to do with the post really, except being a writer, I also like a gratuitous metaphor. So just as my garden needs weeding and new planting from time to time so too does my blog. And writing a new book requires tending to lots of seedling ideas.

Therefore as this post is about taking stock, tidying up and letting new ideas take root, I defend my use of both the picture and the metaphors 🙂

Blog plans 

It’s almost a year since I set up and hosted the two-month-long Virtual Book Festival here on the blog. Little did I know, when I had the idea to go virtual, that in 2020 book festivals – like so many other events – would all be going online and that this would become the norm – due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It was a lot of work to organise but it was also great fun to do.

I’m not planning to do another festival this year, but I have been thinking about where next for the blog. Put it in Writing started out ten years ago as just a blog, but it has now evolved and is the front page of my author website.  And while the website pages are all about my books and my author business, my blog has always included much more than that. It was always my intention to share not only aspects of my own writing life, but also to post about books and reading in a wider sense and to offer interview posts to fellow authors. And that remains my intention.

So, to free up a bit of time and space I intend to do fewer book reviews – but I’ll keep my Books of the Month feature – which is more recommendations rather than reviews.

And while I’ll continue to offer some interview posts to other writers, I’m also going to add in a new feature which I hope readers of the blog will enjoy. This new type of post will be one where I invite an author to share their typical writing day – thereby giving an insight into how they work and what they do. It will be by invitation only and will be called A Life in the Day of …

New Writing Plans

And with the publication in May of Fulfilment, the final novel in my three part Rachel & Jack: Skye series, it’s time to explore the possibilities for my next book. I’m not short of ideas – I have a notebook full of ideas – but all these seedlings need thinning out – and only a few will make it to the plot – see what I did there? 🙂 Okay, I’ll stop with the metaphors now.

But seriously, I’m sort of spoiled for choice. Perhaps I’ll go for a series again – but this time set the books in southern Scotland and have each book focus on a different romantically entwined couple within that locality/community. Or maybe I’ll do a standalone – or two – instead of, or as well as, a series? And will I do another children’s novel – a sequel to The Silver Locket perhaps with the same three children as lead characters – and have them embark on another time-travelling adventure? These are exciting dilemmas to have and although I already miss Rachel and Jack it really is time to leave them in peace to get on with their lives without my meddling. Mind you a Christmas short story set a year after Fulfilment is sort of beckoning …

Back to the Creative Department

So after a lot of time spent on the online launch of Fulfilment, it’s time to spend less time in the marketing department and to focus on making something fresh and new – both here on the blog and with the crafting of a new novel. And I do appreciate how fortunate I am that the work I do can continue – lockdown or not.

Continue to stay safe everyone.

PS

As a postscript to this post – a question:

Like many people I’ve found I’m reading more during lockdown but that’s not the case for everyone – have you been reading more – or less – during this difficult time? If you have been reading, please do share your favourite lockdown read – and why you enjoyed it – in the comments below.

It’s Official Launch Day – Fulfilment Goes Live #reading #books #writing

Yes, today’s the day. It’s the official release date for my new novel Fulfilment. The paperback has been available for a few days now – but If you pre-ordered the ebook  on Amazon it should arrive on your Kindle today. (It’s available here)

I have a bottle of the bubbly stuff chilling for later and I’m going to enjoy toasting my new ‘book baby’ as it goes off into the world.

Fulfilment is the third and final book in the Skye series and I’m going to miss hanging out with Rachel and Jack. But it’s time I left them in peace to get on with their lives. And it’s time to start something new. More on that at a later date 🙂

In the meantime, here’s what it says on the back cover of Fulfilment:

The path of true love rarely runs smoothly…

When former Edinburgh police detective Jack Baxter met local author and crofter Rachel Campbell on the Scottish island of Skye, they fell in love. It was a second chance at happiness for both of them.

They both had emotional baggage. Jack helped Rachel cope with unimaginable grief after the death in combat of her soldier son, and Rachel was there for Jack after a criminal with a grudge almost ended his life. There were many bumps along the road but they believed they’d worked through and settled their differences.

However, Jack is struggling. Still suffering from post-traumatic stress, haunted by his past, and taunted by the demons of self-doubt, he feels Rachel deserves better.

Meanwhile, Rachel is busy preparing for the launch of her latest book – a book in honour of her son and aimed at promoting peace. So at first she fails to notice just how troubled Jack is.

Can Jack overcome his demons?

Can Rachel convince Jack he deserves to be loved?

Can they finally resolve their differences and fulfil their dreams together?

 Fulfilment is the third and final part in Rachel & Jack: The Skye series.

It follows on from Displacement (book 1) and Settlement (book 2).

If you like mature, emotional and thought-provoking contemporary romance in a dramatic setting, then this is a book for you.

Thank you or moran taing, as Rachel might say in Gaelic, to everyone who has bought, read and reviewed the earlier books in the series. If you haven’t read them Settlement  (book 2 in the series) is still on special offer here for only £0.99 – but only for the next few days -after that it goes back to £1.99.

And thanks too to everyone who has bought Fulfilment. I hope you enjoy it and I look forward to hearing what you thought of it. And if you have a time I’d really appreciate it if you left a review over at that big online store.

Cheers! Slainte! and thank you everyone for your support.

Writing and Reading news: It’s been quite a week #writing #reading #books

It has been quite a week in my writing life and with another big day coming up later this week on Friday, the excitement continues. Yes, it’s the crazy busy time around the launch of the new book.

But as well as being very busy with all things writing and publishing related, I’ve also been reading by way of relaxing.

So I thought I’d do a round up of all things bookish in today’s post.

Fulfilment – book 3 in the Rachel & Jack Skye Series launches

First of all thank you to everyone of you who has shared the news of the publication of Fulfilment via your social media channels, websites and by word of mouth. It all helps so much – especially at this time of no real life book launches.

And of course, thank you too, to everyone who has either bought the paperback or pre-ordered the ebook (here) which will be delivered to Kindles this Friday on the 15th May. I so appreciate it.

And, I have to say, it was quite an emotional moment to hold my proof copy of the book in my hands and then to put it on the shelf with its two preceding novels in the series.

Special offers on the first 2 books in the series

Book 1 in the series Displacement is free for your Kindle at the moment – but this is the last day so if you haven’t read any of the series so far – and you fancy doing so – now would be a good time to get started. Get it here 

Book 2 in the series Settlement is on a countdown deal at the moment in the US and will available to buy for $0.99 until Friday 15th May. And in the UK it will be available at a similarly reduced price from 12th May until the 19th. Get it here

So if you haven’t read them, what are you waiting for? 😊

I don’t just write books. I read them too

But as I said, I’ve been spending some time reading too. And so I thought I’d share my three favourite recent reads with you. All are – surprise, surprise – contemporary romances.

The New Guy by Kathryn Freeman

New Year, New Guy by Angela Britnell

The Switch by Beth O’Leary

All are first class, engaging, and heartwarming reads and are available as paperbacks and as ebooks and are definitely worth checking out.

So, as always, over to you – what have you read and enjoyed recently? And if you’re a writer what are you currently working on?

And remember, if you have read and enjoyed a book please do consider posting a review on Amazon. It doesn’t need to be long and involved – just a couple of e=sentences will do – but it really does help an author get some sales traction.