RED January – Getting Active for my Mental Health

In January, I took part in the RED January challenge for the first time. RED stands for Run Every Day but the challenge was simply to be active in some way every day and as I hate running, I decided to walk every day instead. The good thing about the challenge was that it was a positive thing to do – I took something new on rather than having to give something up – and the idea behind it was to boost my mental health and wellbeing. Many people also did it as a way of raising funds for Mind, the mental health charity.

And so instead of walking one or two times a week, I upped my game and set about walking every single day. I walked in sunshine, rain and snow, and found new places to walk in my local area that I had never been to before. I’m proud to say that I didn’t miss a single day and I know it really boosted my spirits to go for a walk every day like that. The challenge finished on Wednesday of course, and I’ve had a couple of days off since then but I already miss it on the days I haven’t been out. So I may have to get back to it now that I’ve got into the habit. As I work part-time for a local Mind association every morning, and I would generally go for my walk after that, I found it was a nice way to sign off from that before starting my freelance work in the afternoons.

I can certainly recommend walking as a way of keeping fit for writers and also as a way of getting some thinking done. I’ve heard many writers say that they have been able to solve plot problems while out on their daily walk! I also use the time to listen to podcasts about writing sometimes, which is another good use of your time. The other thing I have enjoyed is taking photos of the view while I’ve been out and about. Sometimes, it’s been incredible to see how blue the sky has been on the days I’ve been out. I have put some of my pictures below for you to see the range of photos I took – unfortunately, you can’t see just how cold it was on some days!

I’d be interested to know what you do to keep yourself active as a writer, and how you find it benefits your mental health. There’s no doubt that if you take your writing seriously, you will be spending a lot of time sitting down at your desk staring at your computer so it really is good for your health to get out and about if you can, even if only for a short while.

 

Short Story Writing Challenge 2018

Followers of my Facebook page will know that I have signed up to write 12 short stories this year as part of a short story writing challenge. You can find out more about the challenge here. I’ve written a few short stories but I’ve never really felt like I’ve cracked the art of writing them so I decided to sign up to this challenge to make myself do it, and hopefully, get better at it as the year progresses. When I’ve finished, I will then have 12 stories to publish together in an ebook, which will be an added bonus!

The first story came out on Wednesday last week, 24th January. The prompt this month was ‘The Bridge’ and the limit was 1200 words. You can write in any genre. Being a musical kind of person, I went for a musical link to that prompt. I asked people on my Facebook page to see if they could guess what I’d written about and it turns out that they know me quite well! Most people guessed that I’d choose something musical and some even said I’d write about the bridge in a piece of music. No-one knew though that the bridge in songwriting terms can also be referred to as the Middle Eight, meaning the middle eight bars that link back to the original verse/chorus style. Often they’re unsung but not always. You can look at pretty much any song by The Beatles for a good example of how this works.

When we post our story for this challenge, the idea is that we comment on four other stories so by return, I have had a good bit of feedback on mine so far. This month, I’m going to post my whole story here for you to read. I won’t do this every month because I’d like to keep a few back for when I publish but I would really welcome your comments on this first story to see if I can improve it. Remember that fulfilling the story arc in just 1200 words is not as easy as it sounds! And next month, we have only 1000 😉 Thanks for reading and good luck with your short story writing too 🙂 Until next time.

*****

Middle Eight by Julie Stock (All Copyright Reserved)

Josie stared at her notepad willing inspiration to strike so she could finish the final eight bars of her song. She’d been staring at the paper for several hours now and she still had nothing to go with, not a single note, let alone a bar. She threw the pad down on the table in front of her and stood up, stretching out the kinks that had developed in her neck as a result of sitting in the same position since lunchtime – hunched over with her hand poised above the page for when the first seed of an idea appeared.

She made her way to her kitchenette, realising she hadn’t had a drink for hours which might explain why she was so parched. She poured herself a long, tall glass of water from the fridge and downed it in one. It was a steamy hot summer’s day and she’d been stupid not to rehydrate herself throughout the afternoon. That was the last thing she needed when she was due in the recording studio first thing tomorrow to start laying down the tracks for her new album.

She’d never experienced a block like this before. She’d written a catchy chorus and several verses which told her story so well but she just couldn’t find the contrast she needed for the eight bars that would make up the bridge. She wanted lyrics as well as chords, and she had some minor chords in mind but she simply couldn’t find the words to say what was on her mind. She usually had no problem deepening the emotional impact of her songs in those middle eight bars; in fact, she thrived on it. But she was starting to worry she might be losing her touch. She looked wistfully at her battered old acoustic guitar. She loved it like a member of her own family. It had seen her through all the good times, as well as the bad. But today the magic was missing.

She decided to go out for  some air. Maybe she just needed some time to think away from her notepad, her guitar and the confines of her small apartment. She picked up her purse and keys, slipped on her sunglasses and headed out.

She made her way down to the river bank, her favourite place to think when she was struggling musically. She sat down on the parched grass and stared out at the water bubbling over the rocks on the river bed. The flow of the water soothed her spirit and her eyelids began to droop as the calm washed over her. She lay back on the grass, looking up at the cloudless sky – such a beautiful day. In no time she was asleep. The next thing she knew, something wet was nudging her arm and as she came to, shielding her eyes from the afternoon sun, she saw a small dog had appeared next to her.

‘Hey, where’d you come from?’ She reached out her hand and the dog sniffed it and gave her a lick, encouraging her to stroke his sleek, red coat.

‘Brandy! Where’ve you gone, boy?’

A man emerged from behind a tree and stopped in front of her. His intense, dark-brown eyes appraised her and she didn’t know what to make of his scrutiny.

‘Hi there. Is this your dog?’ She went for the friendly stranger approach, rather than ‘I was about to kidnap your dog and you caught me.’

’Sure is, I’m sorry he bothered you.’ The man smiled revealing a set of almost startling white teeth.

‘No bother, he’s lovely. Brandy, was it?’

‘Yep, not very original, I’m afraid.’ They both laughed then. ‘Well, I’ll let you get back to your day. Bye.’

Josie watched as he went on his way with his energetic little dog, and she missed them at once. She stood up and brushed the grass off her dress. She needed to get back and she wasn’t sure she had found any more inspiration down at the riverside. The air grew heavy as she made her way home, a sure sign that rain was on the way. As she approached her apartment block, she felt the first raindrop and picked up speed to avoid getting drenched when the inevitable downpour came. She ran the last few yards but when the raindrops fell, it was so refreshing to feel the water on her skin that she stopped, allowing the rain to soak into her. She turned her face up to the now overcast sky and gave herself to the elements.

Josie was up early and into the recording studio long before she expected anyone else to be there. She’d brought her guitar with her so she could do her final practice on her own. By the time the sound engineers and the rest of the band turned up, she was more than ready to start laying down the tracks for her album.

‘Hey, Josie, how’s it going?’ Her manager, Brad, was the most positive person she’d ever met and whatever her mood, he was always upbeat.

‘I’m so good today, you won’t believe it when you hear,’ she replied with a conspiratorial grin.

‘D’you finish that final song you’ve been struggling with?’

‘Sure did.’

‘Well, I can’t wait to hear it.’

The morning passed quickly as they laid down the songs telling the story of her life. By lunchtime, Josie was tired but happy with the progress they’d made. She went to speak to Jed, the chief sound engineer, to see what he thought of what they’d done so far.

‘You should be real proud, Josie. You sound fantastic out there. I don’t say this to many but yours is one of the best début albums I’ve ever heard.’

She blushed at Jed’s praise knowing she must have really earned it for him to speak so highly of her work. She touched him lightly on the arm to convey her thanks, and went back to the live room to lay down the final tracks. They’d made a conscious decision to go with the first take of each track without revising it at this stage. They’d listen back to the album as a whole before deciding whether to make any changes.

It was finally time to sing the final track, the one she’d struggled with for so many days – until she’d met Brandy. She’d been so hung up on finding the right words for her middle eight but as Brandy had come bounding into view, the burbling river providing the backdrop to her story, she’d realised that words weren’t necessary. Her guitar did the rest, and although it had taken her most of the previous night to note it down, she’d known in her heart that she’d cracked it. She only hoped Brad agreed with her. As she played the last note, she looked up into his eyes. When he didn’t give any indication of his feelings, she glanced over at Jed, before looking round at the rest of the band. Silence. Silence, followed by rapturous applause.

‘That one’s a winner, Josie. For sure.’ Brad beamed at her and so did everyone else. If only Brandy could see her now.

Author Spotlight – Karen Ankers

This month, I have romantic suspense author, Karen Ankers in my Author Spotlight feature. Karen’s début novel, The Crossing Place, described as a love story with dark edges, was published last week and she’s here to tell us more about it and her other writing today.

Karen Ankers – The Crossing Place

A desperate decision made by a young homeless couple has far-reaching consequences and years later, Laura finds her mundane life disrupted by a series of unsettling dreams. When she meets Paul, a handsome and charismatic past-life counsellor, she refuses to accept his suggestion that these dreams might be memories from a previous life. One particularly difficult dream has her turning to him for help and advice, but revelations about his past make her question whether she is able to trust him. When danger comes from an unexpected source, both Laura and Paul have to deal not only with very real threats in the present, but also doubts and fears from the past.

Amazon

Stepping Stones

Video

 

*****

And now for my interview with Karen:

1. Can you tell us more about what inspired you to choose the setting for your current book?

I set it in Chester, which is where I grew up, so it was easy for me to envisage where the various scenes were taking place. It’s also a city that offers some really interesting places to set scenes.

2. I know you write poetry and plays as well as romantic suspense. How do you go about coming up with ideas for them all?

Ideas come from all sorts of places. People I meet, snippets of conversation, memories, family dynamics.   One of my plays, Frogs, was sparked off when my partner peered into a glass and said “There are frogs in my beer…”! I use writing poetry simply as a writing exercise. It’s a way of stretching my writing muscles and I very rarely know what a poem is going to be about. I just accept and work with what appears on the paper. My novel, The Crossing Place, was inspired by Brian Weiss’ book about reincarnation, Only Love Is Real.

3. How long did it take you to write your first draft of your novel? How many more drafts were there after that?

The first draft actually took several years, because I wrote it and then put it away, meaning to get back to it and revise it. But then life got in the way and it ran the risk of being abandoned. When I eventually got back to it, I wrote two more drafts in the space of six months.

4. What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

The hardest part of writing is trusting my characters enough to let them do what they want. So many times I have tried to make them fit into a story, rather than allow the story to work around them.

5. What do you enjoy most about the writing process?

I love playing with words. I started my writing career as a poet, so I have an inbuilt sense of rhythm and music.

6. Is there going to be a recurring theme in your novels or will each one be completely different?

I think they will be different. It will depend on what the characters want to do! I don’t have a set genre. But I imagine that themes will sometimes recur.

7. Have you started work on your next novel yet? If so, can you tell us anything about it?

My next novel is called The Stone Dancers and is set in Moelfre, North Wales. It’s about a woman whose attempt to reinvent herself is challenged when events from her past catch up with her. So far, it’s a bit of a mystery, with lots of Celtic myth and legend thrown in.

*****

Thanks for being my guest on the blog this month, Karen. Good luck with your new novel.

*****

About Karen Ankers

Karen Ankers lives in Anglesey, North Wales, where she draws inspiration for her writing from Wales’ mythic landscape and from the Celtic storytelling tradition. She started her writing career as a poet and has had poems published in various magazines and anthologies.   Her first poetry collection, One Word At A Time, was published last year and she regularly reads at local spoken word events. She also writes one-act plays, in which she tries to give a voice to those usually ignored and unheard. These plays are published by Lazy Bee Scripts and have been performed in the UK, America, Australia and Malaysia. The Crossing Place is her first novel.

 

Facebook

Google

 

 

Another Year Over…

Happy New Year to you all – I hope your Christmas time was a good one. This time of year is always a good one to reflect on what has happened in my indie writing life over the past year and what I hope is to come in 2018.

Looking back over this past year, I have been very proud of the success of my second book, The Vineyard in Alsace. As you’ll know, it took me a while to decide to self-publish again but it seems that this is a common difficulty for many writers. The trouble is that we all want validation in some way or another, and in many ways, that’s what a traditional publishing contract gives you. However, seeing my book sell so well and start to bring in a decent income for me, has given me a good sense of my potential as an author. There is no doubt that it is hard to self-publish and it’s also expensive. It can also be difficult to keep your spirits up when you have no-one fighting your corner and telling you that you’re great. However, when you do succeed, the satisfaction is still as good and deserves to be celebrated. The publication and subsequent sales of my second book, have now allowed me to become a full member of both The Romantic Novelists’ Association and The Society of Authors, and that has made me proud of myself for persevering.

I finally finished writing, editing and proofreading my first novella sequel to From Here to Nashville, my début novel, in 2017 as well. I had planned to publish it straight away but then I decided to go straight on and write the second novella about a different pair of characters from the story, with a view to publishing them both together at the same time. This will allow me to make the novel and two novellas into a boxed set too, as a kind of mini-series. The only downside with this plan is that I will need three new covers – one each for the two novellas and one for the boxed set – which may end up being prohibitively expensive. As I am only just over halfway through the first draft of the second novella, I may change my mind on the plan to publish them both at once. This is my dilemma for January 😉

I was pleased to have blogged more consistently throughout 2017, until I reached December anyway! I managed to have a nice mix of author spotlight posts and posts I wrote myself. Most of my own posts were also sent to my newsletter subscribers and I managed to double my newsletter list during the year as well using Instafreebie.

I also tried out advertising From Here to Nashville on Amazon, Facebook and BookBub during the year, none of which was spectacularly successful but when I consider that I sold five times as many copies of FHTN during 2017 than in 2016, maybe it was more successful than I’d realised. Admittedly, having a second book come up did help, too.

I managed to attend a good number of writerly events during the year, which I thoroughly enjoyed as always. I loved going to the Deepings Literary Festival in April, and then in July, I spoke at my first ever Literary Festival in Hitchin, near where I live. This was a great experience, although probably not one that will happen again in the near future, sadly. I did get accepted by the WI this year, which was an exciting experience as well, although I’ll have to wait till 2019 to actually give a talk!

So, all in all, it has been a good year. In the coming year, I hope to publish my two novellas and also my next novel. I’ve already made a good start with one novella finished and the other halfway done, although that is only the first draft. I’ve also written the first draft of my next novel and received a positive report on it from the RNA New Writers’ Scheme ( my last one). It needs work but it’s not insurmountable. I’m going on my first ever writing retreat in March and hope to make a head start on that second draft when I’m there.

The other main thing I would like to do this year, is to upgrade to a paid WordPress website. I tried this once before, some of you may remember but it was all a bit scary for me back then. Now, I think the time is right to try again. I’m not quite sure whether to do it myself or to get someone’s help but I’m going to take my time and see how it goes.

All of this will keep me busy of course and then there’s my day job and the new voluntary role I’ve taken on as the RNA’s Social Media Co-ordinator. One of my good writing friends asked me how I fit it all in – and the truthful answer is that I’m not really sure! To be honest, sometimes I bite off more than I can chew and that has caused me a few anxious nights but I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing and hope it all works out! Wish me luck 😉

Happy New Year to all of you and I hope that 2018 brings you all you wish for in writing terms and otherwise. I read this wonderful quote on Emma Darwin’s blog the other day, from Ray Bradbury in Zen and The Art of Writing, which I shall leave you with until next time: ‘Quantity gives experience. From experience alone can quality come.’

 

 

Author Spotlight – Susanna Bavin

This month, it’s my very great pleasure to welcome my writing friend and fellow RNA member, Susanna Bavin, to my blog for my Author Spotlight feature. Susanna’s debut novel, The Deserter’s Daughter, a 1920s saga, was published earlier this year and I can thoroughly recommend it as a cracking good read!

The Deserter’s Daughter – Susanna Bavin

1920, Chorlton, Manchester. As her wedding day draws near, Carrie Jenkins is trying on her dress and eagerly anticipating becoming Mrs Billy Shipton. But all too soon she is reeling from the news that her beloved father was shot for desertion during the Great War. When Carrie is jilted and the close-knit community turns its back on her as well as her mother and her half-sister, Evadne, the plans Carrie nurtured are in disarray.

Desperate to overcome private shock and public humiliation, and with her mother also gravely ill, Carrie accepts the unsettling advances of well-to-do furniture dealer Ralph Armstrong. Through Ralph, Evadne meets the aristocratic Alex Larter, who seems to be the answer to her matrimonial ambitions as well. But both sisters put their faith in men who are not to be trusted, and they will face danger and heartache before they can find the happiness they deserve.

Amazon

*****

And now for my interview with Susanna:

1. Can you tell us more about what inspired you to choose the setting for your current book and how you went about your research?

The Deserter’s Daughter is set in Chorlton-cum-Hardy, to the south of Manchester, and I’m enormously proud of readers’ and reviewers’ comments about the strong sense of place. My second saga for Allison & Busby, A Respectable Woman, is set in the same area and readers will recognise one or two landmarks.

As for the research – well, Chorlton is where I grew up, as did several generations of my family before me, so I know the area very well. I studied old photos to make sure that I got the details right about how the various buildings, roads and landmarks looked 100 years ago. I also used the maps drawn by my late father. Dad was very artistic and he used his skills with watercolours and calligraphy to produce beautiful maps of Chorlton as it was when he was a boy. He even made notes about the shops he remembered and who lived in which house in his road.

2. Do you find it hard to come up with ideas for stories? How do you go about it?

Hard to think of ideas? Never! But the way I go about developing ideas has changed. Gone are the days of knowing how the story ends and then letting the plot and characterisation develop and find their own way there.

When Allison & Busby bought The Deserter’s Daughter, they also wanted to see the synopsis for a second saga. It was news to me that you could write a synopsis before you wrote the book. Didn’t you have to finish the book first so you knew what to put in the synopsis? Apparently not. I wrote a detailed synopsis and A&B bought A Respectable Woman on the strength of it.

My agent and my editor both told me I didn’t have to stick to the synopsis if the story took off in another direction during the writing, but – aside from a couple of minor plot details – I did keep to the synopsis.

3. How long does it take you to write your first draft? How many drafts will there be after that?

I don’t think there is a single answer to that. The first draft of The Deserter’s Daughter was written while I was a teacher. It took 15 months of writing at the weekends and in the school holidays, but it wasn’t until I had produced the fourth draft that I attracted an agent and the published version is the fifth draft.

Being a member of the RNA New Writers’ Scheme was a big help. That August 31st deadline certainly worked for me. The two novels I submitted after The Deserter’s Daughter were both written in under a year. I respond to deadlines! Of those two books, one has now had two drafts and needs a third to finish it off; while the other has had three and needs a fourth.

4. What is the hardest part of writing for you?

All I need is the right first line and off I go; but sometimes I spend ages agonising over that perfect first line. I know I shouldn’t do that. I know I should just get writing and change it later if needs be.

5. What do you enjoy most about the writing process?

There are many answers to this, so I will take the first three that sprang to mind.

Firstly, I love the physical act of writing. I love putting pen to paper. I am more creative with a pen in my hand than I am composing straight onto the screen. Also, writing by hand makes the writing completely portable and I can take it anywhere, such as…

Secondly, I love writing on the train. Is that weird of me?

Thirdly, I love the way ideas develop simply by being written. Writing can surprise you and take you down unexpected paths. I once wrote a scene in which the heroine went to her friend for help. I started the scene fully expecting the friend to say, “Yes, of course I’ll help. Tell me what you want me to do,” but instead she said, “No – and how dare you ask it of me?”, which came as a big surprise to me as well as to my heroine.

6. Is there a recurring theme in your novels or is each one completely different?

One theme that fascinates me and that I particularly like to explore is the legal position of women in the past and the social impact this had on their lives. The most obvious and basic example of this is a woman’s marital status. To be single was to be an old maid and therefore looked down on, and probably dependent on your father or brother to look after you; while all aspects of marriage were weighted heavily in the husband’s favour. I have a book of Victorian documents – letters, diary entries, newspaper clippings etc – and one is about a lady whose stolen handbag was recovered by the police, but when she went to the police station to claim it, she wasn’t allowed to have it. Her husband had to go and claim it, because technically it was his.

Something I have never forgotten from Anne of Avonlea was one of Anne’s friends – Jane, I think it was – saying she wanted to be a widow. A spinster was an object of pity or scorn; a wife could be pushed around by her husband; but a widow, as well as being an object of respect, could do as she pleased. The perfect solution!

7. I know you have finished your next novel. Can you tell us anything about it?

With pleasure. It is called A Respectable Woman and is a story of second chances – in life, in work and in love. The respectable woman of the title is Nell Hibbert, a young back-street housewife in 1920s Lancashire. When she discovers that her husband is leading a double-life, she runs away to make a fresh start for herself and her young children in Manchester, where her neighbours and fellow-workers believe she is a respectable widow. Nell realises various things about herself in the course of her story; that she is ambitious and highly capable; that love can sneak up on you; and, hardest of all, that the past is difficult to run from.

There have been various happy moments this year, starting with signing with Allison & Busy in January; but possibly the most surprising moment was when I found A Respectable Woman available for pre-order on Amazon a whole year before it will be published.

8. What does success as a writer look like to you?

As a former librarian, and coming from a family of library users, I am thrilled that The Deserter’s Daughter is in public libraries. One of the high-points of this year was finding it in my local library catalogue. The paperback edition won’t be published until next spring, so I hope that any readers who are interested will request it from their library. Can I also say how chuffed I am to see my book as a hardback? Many books go straight into paperback these days and I’m proud that mine is starting life in hardback.

I’m also delighted that The Deserter’s Daughter has recently been released as an audio book. I have listened to audiobooks for years and always have one on the go. I used to have a job that involved a lot of driving and being paid to drive round while listening to stories felt like a great perk. Now other people will be listening to my book, read by Julia Franklin, and the thought of that is just wonderful. If anyone would like to listen to a snippet, here is the link:

Thank you, Julie, for inviting me onto your blog. I’ve enjoyed answering your questions.

*****

And thank you, Susanna for a lovely interview!

*****

About Susanna Bavin

Susanna Bavin has variously been a librarian, an infant school teacher, a carer and a cook. She now lives on the beautiful North Wales coast with her husband and two rescue cats, but her writing continues to be inspired by her Mancunian roots. The Deserter’s Daughter is her first published novel. Her second 1920s saga for Allison & Busby, A Respectable Woman, will be published in June 2018.

 

 

Find out more about Susanna here:

Twitter

Website

Improving Your Writing Craft

The Punishment of Sisyphus

At the beginning of October, I had my first round of edits back on my From Here to Nashville sequel novella, Over You, with suggestions as to what I might rewrite before submitting it for the final, final edit. As I wrote this book some time ago, before The Vineyard in Alsace in fact, there were a lot of things that I thought I had improved on since then. So I got to work and sent it back to the editor again, hoping that I had put most of those rookie errors right.

Then while I was waiting for that one to come back, my latest novel, let’s call it The Bistro, came back from the Romantic Novelists’ Association. This is a first draft that I had sent in for my final New Writers’ Scheme assessment. I told one of my writing friends that I thought this was the best first draft I had ever written. Famous last words! The report I had back is nine pages long and very thorough, and also very supportive, but I was gutted to see the same comments coming up about where my writing isn’t quite hitting the mark. You know: show don’t tell, ‘goal-motivation-conflict’, make sure you describe the setting etc. And my heart sank because I really thought I had worked on all those things and cracked them. Still, I left it for a few days while I tried to think positively about where I stand with my writing craft four years down the line.

And just as I was getting there, Over You came back with its final edits as well. Many of the comments are about things I really should have got to grips with by now – or at least, I feel I should have. Everything I have to do is manageable but it still leaves me feeling like I’m not making any progress, and that is so disheartening. It has left me wondering whether if I was traditionally published, with an editor guiding me, I might actually be a better writer by now. Don’t get me wrong, I know in my heart that I am a better writer in many ways, but the progress really does seem slow sometimes 😦 I keep reminding myself that a first draft will need work, and so will the second, third etc, and that the final draft is the one that needs to be the most polished, so if it’s not perfect yet, it doesn’t matter. And that’s what we use an editor for of course – to help us produce the most polished version we can. I can at least say that I have been very lucky with the majority of editors I have worked with.

I have picked myself up enough to make a start on the novella edits from tomorrow and then I’m going to push on and write the next, and final, From Here to Nashville novella which will tell Jenna’s story. Then I hope to publish them both together early next year. After that, I will come back to the next novel and hope that with the passage of time, I will feel better about my report and not so vulnerable about my weaknesses as a writer.

I’d be interested to know whether anyone else feels like this when they get their edits back and whether, if you’re traditionally published, you have an editor who is more like a mentor for you?

*****

News

As you know, in September, I auditioned to be added to the WI’s directory of speakers in my region. At the audition, I was really nervous but it seemed to go well. I have heard back since the last time I posted to say that I have been accepted into the directory and I am really pleased about it. I have also received my first booking but incredibly, it is for January 2019! I thought it was a mistake at first but it’s not – they just like to plan ahead! Still, I’m looking forward to it and I’m glad I applied.

*****

Marketing

As you may know, I did a Kindle countdown deal last month for From Here to Nashville, which saw my debut novel reduced to 99p. I tried to get a BookBub featured deal for it but to no avail – apparently, they only accept 5% of the submissions they receive so that did make me feel a bit better! I did have some success with some smaller promotion companies but although I sold a fair number of copies, it wasn’t earth-shattering. Many people supported me though, especially on Facebook where I also did a promotion, and for that I was very grateful. I also sent out a newsletter to my subscribers (you can join it here if you’d like to be kept up-to-date with what I’m doing), and this was well-received and widely shared.

I have now taken FHTN off its automatic re-enrolment to KDP Select and towards the end of the month, I’m going to expand distribution to other platforms again to see what happens. However, I should say that this year, since The Vineyard in Alsace came out, I have sold five times as many copies of From Here to Nashville as I did last year, so that is good news.

I have had a number of guest appearances on other blogs since my last post was published here. I was featured on the Love Books Group blog for their #FavFive feature and I was also on Delightful Book Reviews talking about a typical day in my writing life as an author. Not only that but The Vineyard in Alsace was also reviewed in France magazine and it was a favourable review too!

 

 

 

*****

Social

Next week, I will be giving a talk at our monthly Society of Authors meeting about how I use Scrivener in my writing. Scrivener’s not for everyone but it works for me and our group of writers is very interested to know more about it. If you’re engaged in NaNoWriMo at the moment, Scrivener is usually offered as a prize if you make it to the end. I bought my copy for my half-price way back when I did NaNoWriMo and it has been worth every penny.

I’m also meeting up with my local RNA group for lunch this coming week. Next week, I will be attending the RNA Committee’s Christmas lunch to which I’ve been invited as the Deputy Editor of our quarterly newsletter, and after that, it is our Winter Party in the evening. The week after that I’m meeting another RNA friend for a writerly catch-up as well so will be keeping myself busy, and full (!), with all these social activities.

In the final week of November though, I’m going to The Society of Authors’ AGM because they’re holding some workshops as well, one on ‘Building Your Brand’ with Joanne Harris no less (swooning already!) and one called ‘Beyond the Book’ which is about innovative ways to market your book and reach new audiences. I will report back on all this activity next month.

*****

As always, another busy month lies ahead and that’s all before we even get to Christmas. I hope all is going well for you with your writing. Please do leave me a comment below and tell me how you’re getting on. Thanks for reading!

 

From Here to Nashville reduced to 99p!

From Here to Nashville is on promotion this weekend and reduced to just 99p until 11pm on Sunday, UK time. Here’s the link for you to buy your copy wherever you live: From Here to Nashville. It’s reduced on Amazon UK and US.

If you haven’t read it as yet, you might want to snap up a copy now before the sequel novella is published very soon. I’m planning a special offer for all subscribers to my newsletter on that novella as well so if you want to be up to speed on the story before then, now’s your chance! You can subscribe to my newsletter here.

If you know someone else who might fancy a read of a country music romance, please do share this post to them. The blurb is just below, along with some stunning reviews.

*****

Can Music Really Bring People Together?

Rachel Hardy dreams of being a successful country music singer in Nashville’s Music City, four thousand miles away from her lonely life in Dorset.

When Jackson Phillips, an independent record label owner, encourages her band to audition for a nationwide ‘Open Mic’ competition, she decides they have nothing to lose.

But when she starts to fall in love with Jackson, the stakes suddenly get higher and she finds herself with a great big dilemma on her hands. Should she abandon her dream and take the easy way out or should she leave the life she has always known behind and take a gamble on a man who has personal demons of his own?

Follow Rachel and Jackson as they learn to trust in love again and to see whether music really can bring them together.

Get your copy here.

*****

What readers are saying about From Here to Nashville

‘This book gives what we want from a contemporary romance, escapism with… a story that is interesting and which maybe isn’t quite as predictable as you might expect.’ TheTBRPile.com

‘It kept me entertained from beginning to end. All in all, a great début and I look forward to the next book!’ Annie’s Book Corner

‘An entertaining contemporary romance with a country-music feel to it and characters easy to connect with right from the first page.’ Reviewed the Book

‘From Here to Nashville by Julie Stock is one of the best books I have read in 2015!! She had me smiling from ear to ear throughout the book. I knew I was going to like the book because of my love of country music and romance novels. However, I had no idea how much this book would actually touch my heart. There was even a part in the story that I shed a tear – a happy tear.’ Heidi Simon Book Reviews.

 

Thanks for reading and if you do decide to buy, I hope you enjoy it!