Publishing my 3rd book – here’s what I’ve learned so far…

 

In a few days my third novel, The Surrogate, will be published. A new author asked me if I still feel nervous, as I’ve done it twice before. Yes! I still remember vividly the way I felt before my previous books The Sister and The Gift were published, and although I know what to expect this time, those feelings haven’t changed. Here is what I have learned: –

 

1)        It’s okay to feel vulnerable and scared. The story you’ve put your heart and soul into, your precious words, the book you’ve lovingly crafted, line by line, chapter by chapter, is about to be released into the big wide world and there is no predicting how it will be received.

2)        You should feel proud and excited. The blank document you started with is now a novel and sticking with it through the sticky middle, ironing out plot holes, developing characters, is an incredible achievement and possibly a lifetime dream.

3)        There will be readers who will love it and those glowing five-star reviews will boost your confidence and keep you writing on the days the words don’t flow. These reviews are lovely but they don’t mean there’s no room for improvement. Never grow complacent.

4)        There will be readers who hate everything about your work. Those scathing one star reviews are often written to hurt, and they do. Never let these reviewers make you feel you can’t. Go back to point 3, dust yourself off, and write some new words.

5)        There will be constructively written reviews and you can glean a lot from these. I love to learn what readers like and don’t like and it really helps with future books, but bear in mind you can’t please everyone and your next book must be written much as your first was, as one you would love to read, not one that you think will please every reader out there. It won’t.

6)        It’s normal to have a last-minute panic, to wonder whether your editor was right, to want to reinstate characters, cut entire chapters, and generally write the whole thing again from scratch. Relax. If it wasn’t good enough it wouldn’t be published.

7)        Most writers find themselves obsessively checking the Amazon rankings around release date. My husband is now the one who checks the charts, that way I don’t get distracted, disheartened or too excited to write.

8)        Publication day is often like a wedding. Full of the best intentions to relax and enjoy it, but in reality often much to do with interviews and social media. Find time in the day to celebrate. You deserve it.

9)        It’s normal to want to hold on to your characters, they have become as real to you as your friends. Don’t be reluctant to start something fresh, you have a whole host of new people to get to know.

10)      It’s okay to question whether you can ever write another book, but you can. You will. And then you’ll go through all this again.

 

The Surrogate will be released on 27th September, you can find it on Amazon here.

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Slipping back – An excerpt from The Surrogate – #flashfiction

Image courtesy of Sarah Potter

The moon is hiding behind the rain clouds, and everywhere I look is black. Crushing. The horn blares again blasting cobwebs from my dusty memories and I think of the other time I was in a car with the dark and the rain. Suddenly I am terrified.

I’m arced over the wheel now, hyperventilating. Panic tearing my chest in two. I haven’t felt like this for years. It’s all starting again. Just like I always knew it would.

Lisa is back in my life and I am slipping into the past.

The good. The bad.

All of it.

 

I was delighted when I saw this week’s cobwebby prompt as if fits perfectly with an excerpt from my forthcoming book The Surrogate which will be published next week! I’m ridiculously excited. Early reviews have been fabulous. If you want to, you can find it over on Amazon here

Friday Fictioneer’s is a weekly photo prompt posted by Rochelle. Can you write a 100 words flash fiction story? Join in here – it’s great fun. 

 

A day in the life of…debut author Nicola Cassidy & COVER REVEAL

This is such an exciting time for Nicola Cassidy. I remember the huge excitement blended with nerves as I prepared to release my debut. One of the things I was hugely looking forward to was seeing my first cover and I know Nicola felt the same – look how gorgeous her cover is! She’s understandably thrilled.

 

So, Nicola. It’s such a busy time for you. Please tell us about a typical day.

I’m not sure when my day begins. Is it at 7.30am when the eldest appears, hovering at the bedside, pawing at my head or arm, requesting ‘juice’ at intermittent pitch levels until I waken and acknowledge her and tell her to shush or she’ll waken the baby? Or is it at the 3am feed? For the six-month-old? She comes into the bed, snuffling and mooching, ready for milk, animalistic and hungry – my favourite form of her – her at her most basic, needing me the most.

The 3am feed, could be 4am or another one at 5.30am. There are no long stretches of sleep. I’m not even programmed to take them, should they, in a night of miracles, appear. I’ve never been a good sleeper. Everything wakes me. Mostly worries – stresses that loom in the dark, rendering me wide eyed and tired, tossing and turning, willing sleep to cover the gaping problem that stretches across my mind. Always worse, in the dark, in the pre-dawn.

Writing, is probably, a form of therapy. I could always write. It was just there. It was picked up quickly, by my teachers, by my parents – who encouraged it. I had pen pals, I had letters and stories printed, I was a mini journalist before I even knew a journalist was.

It took a time to craft it in such a way that it fit into my life. Properly. Space made. Time given. Using those lofty words about myself – writer. And now, author.

My days are dictated by the structure of our small village, creative lives. My husband is a musician and producer and works late hours. I need to let him sleep, in the mornings, which means getting up with the children, no matter how many times I’ve been up in the night. Currently I’m on maternity leave, so I feel obliged to be with the children, all of my time.

Soon, I’ll return to work, three days a week at an electrical engineering consultancy, and I fear the tiredness that can be covered with cups of tea among the squalor at home, will descend into exhaustion at work. But I’m energised by people. I like the routine. I like having to be presentable, engaging, and my work as a marketing manager, teaches me many skills that I put to use in my promotional work as an author and in my hobby, as a lifestyle and parenting blogger at http://www.LadyNicci.com

I hope returning to work will put a routine on the chaos that is being a stay at home Mum. I might find it easier to write. I work better when my time is limited and structured. I am strict – if I have an hour to write, I will take it, regardless of what else needs to be done.

I have learned to write anywhere. It used to be only at my desk, which I installed in our spare room and set up in an Ikea inspired brochure quality weekend. Now I prefer my bed, beside the sleeping baby, cosy and settled, tapping away on my purple laptop, a gift from my husband who has always believed in my writing. In me. In my success.

On the days at home, there are thousands of jobs to be done. I don’t make a good housewife. I would love to live in a showhouse, but I seem to be missing the part that can make that happen. I envy homes I go into where everything is in place, organised, candlelit. I’m learning though. I’ve started using a launderette and soon, we’re hoping to hire a cleaner. I need to give the time to writing – to understand that my time will be better spent, producing words and editing than scrubbing the floors or the bathroom again.

On my days with the children, we might visit a playground, or family, or meet with friends, or go to town, shopping. Carting two small children around is no easy feat. Some days it takes two hours to load us all into the car, fed, washed and dressed. But I always feel better getting out. They get bored at home.

In the evenings I cook a family meal. I thank Slimming World for teaching my how to cook. I’m trying to be strict, to rediscover the figure I once had. But two babies in three years and a penchant for wine, crisps and all things chocolate usually lay waste to my skinny plans.

I’m thinking about the book launch. About the photos. About how I want to look my best. I plan on having a big party – an event to mark my dreams coming true. We had a huge white wedding, but I was overwhelmed – I couldn’t enjoy the day. This is my second chance. At celebrating. At marking what is a significant time in my life. I’ve wanted to publish a book since I was a child.

Late evening, if we manage to get the baby settled, we will watch a programme we are currently following. We like gripping TV dramas, House of Cards, Mr Robot, Game of Thrones – anything with a good script. I will watch fantasy, but I don’t read it. I like literary fiction, particularly if it’s set in the past. It inspires me – I hope to one day achieve such a level in my writing.

On the nights when my husband is working, I will take my laptop out again. I’ve had to stop writing at night, because of exhaustion; I don’t have the energy to be coherent. But I might blog or do some marketing, or email friends or do some online shopping. I rarely watch TV on my own. I see it as a waste of time. Time is precious. Free time, time that is yours to do what you wish, is so rare.

When my book was picked up and I knew that I would be working with a professional editor, I thought that I would be facing into a type of deconstruction – my words pulled apart, everything examined, changes imposed. But it hasn’t been like that at all. The whole thing has been an enhancement, facts checked, issues resolved, a massage of the manuscript, to be turned out, sharper; something I can stand over, proud.

Every night, since I signed with my agent in 2016, I visualised myself signing a book contract, just before I went to sleep. It was my version of counting sheep. I knew it would happen. I just wasn’t sure when, or how.

Now, I am unsure what to visualise. Sometimes it is the launch. Other times it’s a ranking on Amazon. But rankings don’t have quite the same visual effect as being offered a book deal. Nothing really can compare to that.

And then the baby is awake again. It’s 3am and the cycle of my day begins again. Children, home, work and writing. It is my life. A very lucky, lucky, life.

I’m in awe of anyone who even manages to get dressed with a new baby in the house, let alone write books! Thanks so much for sharing, Nicola and best of luck with your debut. 

Nicola Cassidy is a writer and blogger from Co. Louth, Ireland. Her debut historical fiction novel December Girl releases on Thursday 26 October 2017, published by Bombshell Books. She is married to Ronan and is Mum to August (3) and Bonnies (mere months). Find her on her website or follow her on Twitter or on her blog

It’s too late… #FlashFiction

Photo courtesy of Kelvin M. Knight

‘Bread and water,’ mum had said clipping him around the ear. ‘That’s what you’ll get if you’re caught nicking again and no soft, warm bed.’ She made him return the sweets he’d stuffed into his pockets to the corner shop where he’d muttered apologies he didn’t mean. Later, as he’d picked at too-thick stew and sticky dumplings he wished he’d still got that Mars Bar. He hated mum’s cooking.

***

Mum was wrong. His bed is soft and it’s always warm here. The food is good, no bread and water, but still, right now he’d give anything for home-made stew and dumplings.

 

I’m delighted that in less than 2 weeks since publication The Sister has entered the Top 20 Paperback chart in the UK. Tesco are currently featuring The Sister as part of a ‘Try a new author’ for £2 deal’ so grab yourself a bargain (other supermarkets have their own offers running too). In the run up to publication day my self-doubt set in big time. You can read that post here and my Waterstones launch party was a mixture of emotions, you can read my post on that here

It’s too late was written for Friday Fictioneers. A weekly 100 word story photo prompt. Hop over to host Rochelle’s blog to find out how to join in.

Writing for Joy – How & Why I Keep a Gratitude Journal

 

“Give thanks for a little and you will find a lot” Hausa Proverb

Recently I put a post on social media commenting it had taken a long time to fill out my gratitude journal that day, I was feeling so thankful. I received quite a few messages asking how and why I journal gratitude. I wrote this piece about six years ago for a spiritual publication but it’s still relevant now. Gratitude journaling is always something I do every day so I thought I’d share this adapted post here.

In my early, dark days of first acquiring a disability, I didn’t feel I had an awful lot to be thankful for.

It was like I had spent my whole life getting to the point where I had a thriving holistic therapy practice I loved, an amazing social life with great friends, and my beautiful dog, who I would take on daily country walks.

Life was perfect. I had so much to be grateful for, but then it was suddenly snatched away. 

I was left with constant pain, immobility, and three children who I felt I was letting down as I wasn’t able to run around with them. So what did I have to be grateful for, right? The previous ten years had been the best I had ever experienced, and I was naturally appreciative of all I had. After my accident, appreciativeness soon turned to hurt, anger, self-pity, and eventually self-loathing.

I caused myself more pain by resisting the enforced lifestyle change and couldn’t see a purpose in anything. It was at this point I knew I had to make a change.

I’d heard of gratitude journaling and since I love writing, it seemed to be an obvious starting point.

That night I sat with my journal, intending to begin with three things I was grateful for that day. Just three. Piece of cake, right? After an hour, I gently closed the cover on the tear-stained, still blank first page and cried myself to sleep, mentally adding “failure at journaling” to all my other perceived shortcomings.

A couple of days later I decided to try again. Determinedly opening up the book, I quickly wrote my children, my home, and food to eat. Feeling a smug sense of satisfaction, I replaced the pen lid. I was done, right? Objective achieved.

The next day I opened the book and froze. What could I write? The three things from the day before were all I could think of. I couldn’t repeat them, and yet nothing else came to mind.

I laid the incredibly crumpled but virtually blank book down again and rested my head against the window as I watched a robin tentatively sitting on the garden fence, anxiously watching all directions while trying to keep an eye on the birdseed my son had put on the feeding station before school.

For half an hour, this beautiful bird made several trips, came back with friends, and triumphantly cleared all that we had offered.

It dawned on me that while I had been watching, I hadn’t felt sorry for myself once. I had been mindful and in awe of nature and how beautiful it can be.

Excitedly, I reached for my book again. I ripped out the first page and discarded it. Yes, my children, home, and food were things to be grateful for, but I just wrote them for the sake of reaching my goal. I wasn’t really feeling anything at the time I wrote them, and I knew the exercise had been an empty one.

That little tiny bird, with its beautiful red breast had evoked a truly positive emotion, and from that I started to become more and more aware and recognise these precious moments as they occurred, which they generally do if you watch for them each day.

It hasn’t been easy. It is now ten years on, and journaling has become an important part of my life. It has really helped me change my mindset and move forward.

There is joy everywhere, but it can be overshadowed by pain if you allow it. 

When I have a bad day now, I read back over my journal and I remember that life has so much to offer. I still have a lot to be grateful for. Yes, I am one of the lucky ones. I have a life and I love it.

If you want to start a gratitude journal I recommend the following:

  1. Don’t just go through motions. Make a decision to be consciously more grateful.

Don’t reluctantly journal because you think you should. Feel what you write. Believe it.

  1. Don’t set yourself a minimum number of things to write per day.

In my experience, there are days I can’t fill a page, and that’s perfectly okay. On balance, there are days I can fill multiple pages. Don’t put yourself under pressure to stick to the same amount each day. Be flexible and don’t take the joy away by being too regimented.

  1. Don’t wait for the right time.

I try to integrate this into my bedtime routine, but if I have a joyful experience, I often write it down straight away. This reinforces the positivity felt and ensures I don’t forget anything.

  1. Elaborating on why you are grateful allows you to really explore your feelings.

If, like me, you intend on flicking back through your journal, make it clear why you are grateful for the items you add. For example: For the first entry, I put “my children.” On day two, I wrote, “my children for putting on a sock puppet show after school and making me laugh.” That triggers so many memories each time I read it and always makes me smile.

  1. Focus on people rather than things.

As much as I love my iPod, it can never give me the same warm, fuzzy, loved feeling my partner instils by making me a surprise breakfast in bed.

  1. Don’t rush; savour every word.

Don’t see this as another chore to get through. The fact that you can make a list of things that make you feel grateful should make you feel, umm, well, grateful!

  1. Include surprises.

Unexpected events often elicit a greater emotional response. They’re also wonderful to look back on when you feel that life is mundane and the same old routine all the time.

  1. Keep the negative out.

If you want to keep a diary to record how you feel, this can be constructive, but leave your gratitude journal as a purely positive only exercise.

  1. Mix it up. Don’t put same thing every day.

Expand your awareness. The more you do this, the more you’ll start to really appreciate what a gift life is. The world is beautiful. Learn to really experience it.

  1. Be creative.

Who says a gratitude journal has to be full of lists? Mine contains everything from concert tickets to photos and restaurant receipts. Have some fun with it.

  1. Give it a fair chance.

Some experts say it takes, on average, twenty-one days for a new habit to form. Don’t give up or dismiss it as not working before then. Commit to just three weeks and then see how you feel. What have you got to lose?

I would love to hear how you get on.

A day in the life of…Book blogger Joanne Robertson

 

Getting to know book bloggers have been one of the highlights of being published. To meet like-minded people with a passion for stories is a dream come true. Today I’m SO excited to welcome Joanne Robertson whose own blog, My Chestnut Reading Tree is one of my favourites. How do you fit in all the reading you do, Joanne?

I’m an early riser but not by choice! The Grumpy Scotsman always kisses me goodbye when he leaves for work at 0530 bringing me a cup of tea in bed (weak, black and no sugar!) so then I’m awake and straight away I’m on social media sites! I check Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and then I’m straight into WordPress sharing any posts that my fellow bloggers have posted since the previous evening. Then by 7 I’m up to get showered and ready for the day ahead. By 7.30 I’m waiting for the grandchildren to arrive. It depends which day of the week it is as to how many I’m looking after but I look after all 4 of them while their mummies (my 3 gorgeous daughters!) go to work. They range from 6 years to 10 months and I absolutely adore every single one of them! So after cuddles I then give them breakfast before depositing them at school/nursery then back home for 9.

Most mornings I’m free to do some work on my blog (Baby tv and naps for the 10 month old if I have her for a couple of hours!) I blog most days and my posts go live around 8 each morning. So once home I will then share that post in a multitude of FB groups, catch up on Twitter and do another WordPress sharing session. Then I check my emails and this can take a while as I respond to review and blog tour requests that have come in since the day before. I check publication dates and pop reviews on Amazon etc and share reviews again of any books out that day.I am obsessed with my blog and love raving about the many brilliant books I get sent to read and review. I’ve always loved reading so I’m so ecstatic to have finally found my niche in life. Since starting to blog 18 months ago I’ve achieved over 6,000 followers across my sites plus I’m an Amazon top 500 reviewer and Goodreads top 100 reviewer so I work hard to maintain those!

At 12 I’m childfree so I go off to work. Although I’m not really childfree, as I work at my local primary school as a “midday assistant” which I absolutely love! By half 1 I’m home again and have a quick lunch. If I’m childfree I will do either work on my eBay business selling preloved children’s clothing, do some housework or I will read for an hour or so. If I have my grandson then he needs a nap so it’s into the pushchair for him, dog on lead, audio book on my iPhone and we go for a lovely long walk. I live in a gorgeous little village in Cheshire where everyone knows everyone so we often stop to chat to people! My postman arrives after lunch as well so if I have book post I take some pics for Instagram and make sure their publication dates are logged in my diary.

Then it’s school finishing time so everyone is back to Nana’s house for homework, playtime and tea until all the mummies come to collect them and I reach for a large G&T and some Twiglets!! Until recently we had one daughter and one grandchild living with us but now it’s back to just me and the Grumpy Scotsman again which is weird! He loves it but I miss the hustle and bustle of busy family life. After I cook us a meal, he’s off to walk the dog while I sit to write reviews and do another catch up on the social media side. The other wonderful thing about blogging is the friendships I have made and it’s in the evening that I like to catch up with those friends too. I’m not a huge tv watcher but I do like a good crime drama so I will watch if there’s one on with a cuppa (I’ve given up coffee this year due to palpitations!) and a Twirl! But by 10pm I’m ready for bed! Unfortunately my brain isn’t and I don’t sleep very well so normally this is when I do most of my reading. I read on my kindle at night so as not to disturb the Grumpy Scotsman who is snoring within 2 minutes of his head hitting the pillow. I have always been a fast reader and I can read a book a night, usually dropping off around 12 although I’m often awake till 2 in which case there’s a very cold cup of tea waiting for me the next morning when I

Family & books. I’m feeling all warm and fuzzy after reading this. Thanks so much, Joanne. You can find Joanne’s fabulous blog here and follow her on Twitter here

Writing Diverse Characters – Book Review

 

Writing Diverse Characters for Fiction, TV or Film is the third ‘How to…’ book by Lucy V Hay. Lucy is an editor and script reader with impressive credentials and I couldn’t wait to read this book.

Before I dived in, I looked up the definition of diversity in my Collin’s English dictionary “the quality of being different or varied.” As a disabled writer I was interested to find out what groups Lucy would cover in this book, after all my ‘normal’ is someone else’s ‘different.’ If I were a character in a book I guess I’d be classed as diverse and that initially made me a little uncomfortable but Lucy begins by saying we need diverse stories to actively change society and break down barriers and I couldn’t agree more.

I don’t believe a writer has to necessarily have experienced what they are writing about but creating a diverse character takes time and research. Lucy points out that the characters ‘difference’ does not have to drive the story and shouldn’t be used in a stereotypical way, i.e. a disabled person, depressed, alone and unable to cope. In other words although the character’s difference should have some relevance to the story and the way they live (everything featured in a book should earn its place and have a purpose) characters still need to be fresh and authentic.

Recently, social media has really shone a spotlight on diversity. Readers and movie watchers feeding back to the creators what they like and don’t like regarding plot and characters. With the current popularity of psychological thrillers, particularly female ‘unreliable narrators’ mental health issues are featuring more and more. This bucks the trend of historically main characters being male, white, straight and able bodied. But it’s important these diverse characters emerging don’t become ‘tick box’ created as it were. So does this book help?

Lucy mainly focuses on race, colour, disability and sexuality and it quickly becomes apparent she has done a LOT of research. There are references throughout to both novels and films which make her thoughts really relatable with specific examples frequently given. Lucy has also included quotes from a selection of those in the industry including agents and novelists. Helpfully Lucy also shares the common themes and characters she comes across day to day in scripts and how to think outside the box, suggesting ways to flip those ideas so they become a little less run of the mill.

There are sections in the book covering protagonist goals, character growth and supporting characters and how to research, and Lucy also shares what agents, publishers, producers and filmmakers are looking for – and why.

Lucy doesn’t give you a magic formula for creating diverse characters – there isn’t one – but what she offers is a well researched, thought provoking and concise book which will give you much to ponder on whether you’re a seasoned script writer or a new novelist. This is a valuable addition to my writing library and I’m sure it’s something I’ll be dipping in and out of for years to come.

Lucy V. Hay is a novelist, script editor and script reader. She is one of the founding organizers of the London Screenwriters’ Festival, associate producer of the 2012 film Deviation, and the author of Writing and Selling Drama Screenplays and Writing and Selling Thriller Screenplays. Lucy has read for a variety of production companies, funding initiatives and screen agencies as well as individual directors and producers with her Bang2write script consultancy.

You can buy Lucy’s books on Amazon UK here and Amazon US here.