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Category: Books

A Long Hot Summer

Holidays

I’m just back from a lovely holiday in the Lake Garda area of Italy where it was mostly hot and sometimes thundery. It’s a beautiful area though and we explored it to the full, taking in Milan, Verona and Venice, as well as some of the beautiful villages around the southern end of the lake itself.

Back home now in the UK, the long, hot summer we experienced in May, June and July seems a distant memory and instead, apple crumbles, Halloween and Bonfire Night are on my mind. There is no thought of the C-word as yet though so please don’t even go there!

New Boxed Set

I have spent most of the last few months wrestling with the creation of a boxed set of my From Here to Nashville novel and its sequel novellas, and I’m pleased to say I have finally finished it. I now have an ebook and paperback version of my From Here to You series with beautiful new covers ready to go. These will be publishing shortly and I’m going to have a special offer for my newsletter subscribers which I will be revealing soon. However, I thought you might like to see my beautiful new cover for the series which I am so pleased with. I have Mary Jayne Baker to thank for the vibrant new covers of the rest of the series and I think you will agree that she has done a wonderful job for me.

Marketing

I have been concentrating more on marketing over the summer as well, learning how to advertise my books on the various platforms with some success, and some failures of course! But I seem to have got my head round it a bit more now. I have also been steadily building my newsletter list and this has been very successful. When people join, they now get a free download of the prequel novella to the From Here to You series and this has been very popular. If you’d like to get a copy, you can do so here.

Writing

Writing wise, I have been steadily keeping up with my 12 Short Stories Challenge so that I have now written 9 this year and as soon as the year has finished, I will be editing and publishing this collection for you all to read. My next big job though is to get on with the editing of my next book which is long overdue. This is the one set in a bistro you might remember, and I really need to get on with it now. To be fair, I have had a few unexpected obstacles to overcome, including being taken into hospital at the end of June, and subsequently, being off work for a few weeks. I am feeling much better now but I still don’t have a diagnosis as yet so I need to keep myself busy! Being able to go on holiday really helped and was great creative inspiration 🙂

So that’s all for now. Look out for more updates soon!

 

Author Talks, and a Crazy Month of Marketing

Another month in my writing life has gone by, and at times, it feels like I don’t have a lot to show for it. However, all the marketing work I’ve been doing this past month will hopefully yield some results in the very near future.

Author Talks

Firstly, I gave a talk at Flitwick Library at the beginning of May, which I had been really looking forward to. Then on the morning, it absolutely bucketed down with rain. I knew that as the talk was free, this would probably put a lot of people off from venturing out. And sadly, I was right. I had the grand total of 4 people at my talk and one of those was a lady from the library! However, they were a lovely group of people and all very interested in my writing and how I self-publish my books. The lady in the front row was in her eighties and still adamant that she would finish writing the book she’s been writing all her life. She was such an interesting person and asked lots of questions about self-publishing. I wouldn’t put it past her to finally get her book out there now. Having so few people in the audience does at least mean they can stop you and ask you questions when they want to, and the time flew by. I sold a couple of paperbacks to that same lady and I enjoyed giving the talk, so it’s never wasted. But it would be nice to have a few more people at my next library talk.

Then towards the end of May, I was invited by a former teaching colleague and friend, to come and talk to her book club. They’d all bought and read The Vineyard in Alsace before I came, and they were all very keen to talk about it and my writing. This time, there were a good dozen people there and we had a great chat about writing, in general and mine specifically. It was a really good atmosphere, even when they gave me some critical feedback. It was useful feedback though and delivered kindly so I took it on the chin 🙂 One of the book club members was a man, and he made my day when he said he’d read my book in one sitting, even though romance isn’t his preferred genre. He gave me some useful feedback too so overall, it was a great experience.

My next talk will be at Hitchin Library in Hertfordshire on 28 July. My Society of Authors group is running a Saturday Series of talks at the library over the summer and into the autumn. I went to the first one given by Hugh Bicheno, a military historian and fiction writer, and he had a full house in the audience. The talk he gave was absolutely fascinating, all about the Wars of the Roses in Hertfordshire. I even got to try on a sallet, which is a medieval helmet! Here’s Hugh wearing it on the day. I couldn’t even see out when I put it on 😉

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The full list of talks is very varied and you can see it here on The Society of Authors’ website. If you are nearby or in the area, it would be lovely to see you in July. There’s even a Facebook event page in case you want to show your interest!

Marketing

Over the past month, I have finished off two courses I’d enrolled in from The Self-Publishing Formula team; one was about cover design and the other was a self-publishing 101 course. I took the cover design course so that if I did ever want to have a go at creating my own covers, I’d have a better chance of knowing what I was doing. I’ve worked in marketing myself for many years, either side of being a teacher, and so I have quite a bit of experience of designing things, but it’s one thing to be doing posters and leaflets, or even annual reviews but it’s another to do your own covers so that they look professional. It was a great course, led by Stuart Bache of BooksCovered, and it was very practical so I had a go at making a fair few covers of my own. But, crikey, it is really hard work! Just sourcing the photos could take a whole day. I really learnt a lot and I think I could have a good go at a cover in Photoshop now. However, I don’t think I could ever do as professional a job as the designers I have used to make my covers for me. It gave me even more respect for those professionals, and a better understanding of what they do for me at the other end.

The Self-Publishing 101 course seems a bit crazy for someone who has now self-published 5 books, I know, but after the success of The Vineyard in Alsace, I wanted to be working out how to move myself up to the next level. It was a big investment but it has already proved useful. So this month, I wrote a prequel for my From Here to You series, and I’m offering this free to people who sign up to my email list. Once written, I had to commission a cover for it, and send it round to my wonderful beta readers to get feedback on it. Then I had to advertise it in the back of all my other books and set it up on Book Funnel so that readers could download it. Then I had to advertise it on my website, and set up automated emails for new subscribers to make sure they received it! In the middle of all this, we had GDPR-mageddon (as Book Funnel called it rather wittily) and I also migrated this website over from a free site to a self-hosted one. So now you know what I mean by a crazy month! I’m very pleased with the finished novella though. Here it is in all its glory:

On top of this, I was finalising the last novella in that same From Here to You series which is now up for pre-order here, and updating all my other books with details of this new one, Finding You. The final piece of the plan will be the issue of a box set of all three books in the From Here to You series. The cover isn’t ready yet so I’m thinking carefully about when to release it but it will be soon-ish!

I have learned all these things from that course, and more besides, so it has already started paying for itself. But it is fair to say that I will be glad to get back to editing my third novel when all this is done, and you never thought you’d hear me say that! It just goes to show though how much more I could have been doing to market myself and my books. I’ll let you know how that all goes next month.

One thing you learn very quickly as an indie author is that there is always something else you could be doing. I just hope that some of this activity will pay off soon!

Thanks for reading, and if you go ahead and download Before You after signing up to my list, do please let me know what you think of it.

Until next time.

A Month of Learning Opportunities

March has been another busy writing month for me but this time, it has mostly been because of so many new learning opportunities that have presented themselves to me.

Prime Reading

One of those has been being invited by Amazon to have The Vineyard in Alsace included in a Prime Reading promotion for three months. Since I signed up, my book has risen up the charts to a high point of no. 7 so far, which as you can imagine, has been fantastic to see. I am learning new things about how it works all the time and delighting in the recognition my book has been getting. I have Amazon Prime myself but I had no idea that it included books! How mad is that? So if you do too and you want to read my book for free, get yourself along to my book page here and download it! And if you could please write a review when you’ve finished, that would be even better!

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New Courses

So what else have I been up to? Well, first of all, I decided to sign up to the Self-Publishing Formula Podcast’s Cover Design course. I do some design work in my day job, and I used to do design when I worked in marketing before I became a teacher many years ago. I enjoy doing it but have never taken any courses, and as I enjoy the cover design process so much, I thought it would be useful. I don’t really have any plans to make my own covers, although there might be some circumstances when I could in the future, but I thought it would help me to understand the process a bit more. And it really has. The course is delivered on behalf of the SPF team by Stuart Bache, who designs all of Mark Dawson’s covers. Stuart’s own company is called Books Covered and you will see many familiar covers there from the romance genre. You do need Photoshop to get the most out of the course but you will then get such a lot of practice in from trying to create your own covers and seeing what goes into the process. The course is still open but is a bit more expensive now. I’m still working my way through but enjoying it immensely.

Then after I heard about the Cover Design course on the podcast, they re-opened their Self-Publishing 101 course. Hopefully, you’re thinking ‘Why would you need that course, Julie?’ when you read that! Well, that’s a good point and one I had worried over myself since I first heard about the course opening late last year. It’s quite expensive and I didn’t want to make an investment like that if I wasn’t going to learn anything new. However, even after indie publishing three books now, with a couple more to come this year, there are still things I’m not doing to best effect. I haven’t really built a proper mailing list and for that you need a reader magnet (which I haven’t written yet!) and to promote that in various ways to encourage people to sign up. One of those ways is via a landing page on your website, which is when you realise that a free WordPress website doesn’t have the scope for you to do that kind of advanced stuff. It has been on my mind for a while to migrate my website again but I just haven’t done it. So really, doing this course is about helping me to work out what I still need to do to move myself to the next level, writing a checklist and then doing it! Fortunately, you can pay monthly for the course and it is still open for a few days. If you should want to take a look, the link is here. If you can’t stretch to that kind of investment, you should listen to the podcast because there are so many useful hints and tips in each episode – it really is great!

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Writing Retreat

Finally, this month, I went on my first ever writing retreat, just in time for the second wave of snow. It sounds terribly self-indulgent but I was given it as a birthday present from my family! Last weekend, I drove up to Warwickshire to a lovely hotel and joined about a dozen other writers at various stages in their careers for a weekend of writing and learning. The course was run by two RNA members, Alison May and Janet Gover. You can find out more about their courses here. They’re both traditionally published and have lots of experience between them.

Before I got the schedule, I was expecting to spend most of the weekend holed up in my room, bashing away at my laptop in isolation. However, that wasn’t the case. There was writing time, of course but there were also tutorials and workshops, which were really helpful. The most helpful ones for me were the ones on plotting and editing. I also had a one-to-one with Janet about there first three chapters of my next novel which I’m calling The Bistro for now. One of the things I struggle with is knowing where to start with the editing process when I get my first manuscript appraisal back from the RNA. It all seems insurmountable! But as a result of this course, I now have a proper plan to work to and I made a start on the plan while I was there so when I come back to it, I feel that I will be better prepared to make a start and not be as daunted as I normally feel.

I learnt a lot from my fellow writers too, and the weekend was a very sociable experience that I would really recommend to you. I switched everything else off and just spent time on my writing, and that felt wonderful!

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My Latest Publication!

I can’t finish without mentioning that I also published a new book this month! Over You (Sam’s Story) was published on 12 March, 2018, and already has a few good reviews. It means that I now have a series – the From Here to You series – and this is book 2 following on from the end of From Here to NashvilleThe third and final sequel will be out around May, I hope. If you haven’t downloaded Sam’s Story yet, it’s only 99p on Amazon and tells a story of heartbreak, love and healing. You can get your copy on Amazon now.

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If you want to know when my next release is out, why not sign up to my mailing list here?

Until next time, thanks for reading!

Cover Reveal for Over You (Sam’s Story)!

Cover Reveal

I am very pleased to announce that my new book, Over You (Sam’s Story), my first sequel novella to From Here to Nashville, is now ready to publish! And here is my beautiful new cover! I hope you will agree that my designer has done a stunning job.

This is a new designer I’ve been working with this time and she had the difficult job of matching this cover to the style and branding of From Here to Nashvilleas well as coming up with something that worked with this new story.

I am so pleased with the final result. I hope you like it as much as I do, and that you’ll agree it sets the scene well for the story to come.

Over You (Sam’s Story) is now up for pre-order – just click here – at the amazing price of just 99p. It will go on sale officially on 12 March, 2018. With the publication of this novella of about 35,000 words, I have turned From Here to Nashville and Over You (Sam’s Story) into a series – the From Here to You series. The final novella telling Jenna’s story will be out around May time, and then I will have to say goodbye to my Nashville characters 🙁 Mind you, I did wonder about writing a prequel the other day as well…

Here’s the blurb for Over You (Sam’s Story):

Can the magic of Cornwall help two lost souls to heal?

Heartbroken after seeing the love of his life marry someone else, Sam Andrews wants to escape all the painful reminders of her and to try and move on. Remembering his happy family holidays surfing in Cornwall, he travels to Newquay to help him forget.

Following a tragic event at university, Jessie Pascoe has abandoned her course and returned home to her mum’s B&B in Newquay. But after months of counselling, she’s no closer to being healed, and she’s lost her faith in ever finding her happy ending.

When Sam and Jessie meet, there’s a mutual attraction, and they begin to see a chance of finding happiness together, if only they can both let go of the past. But can they risk opening their hearts to someone new and falling in love again?

A story of heartbreak, love and healing.

Once again, you can pre-order your copy of Over You (Sam’s Story) by clicking here. Don’t worry if you haven’t read From Here to Nashville. You could definitely read Over You as a standalone but if you want to know how Sam got to this point, it might be worth giving From Here to Nashville a read too! All my books can be found here. Happy reading!

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.

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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.

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?

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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.

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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!
 
 
 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!
 

September Brings a Fresh Challenge

My Indie Writing Life

I’m going to be trying a different format for my posts from here on, making them a bit more like a diary of what I’ve been up to between posts. I hope you find it useful 🙂 You may also have noticed that I’ve changed the title of the blog – it seemed like as good a time as any!
 
 

Writing

This is what I imagine Sam to look like *swoon*

The good news is that, as promised, I started editing Sam’s Story this week, one of the sequel novellas I’ve written to From Here to Nashville. I don’t really enjoy editing as I may have mentioned before (!) because I find it much harder than writing the first draft. When you’re writing the first draft, you can let your imagination run wild but once you get to the second draft and you already have a story in place, it becomes much harder to make changes without it having an impact on lots of other parts of the story.
This was the first book I wrote in third person so it was always going to be a challenge for me and I sent this one in to the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme for its first read in 2015, two whole years ago now. My writing has changed a lot since then, improved even and so it is hard to deal with some of the simple mistakes I was making back then. For example, head hopping, where you switch from one character’s point of view to another’s right in the middle of a scene, making it unclear who’s talking. My RNA reader mentioned this and so did one of my beta readers so I didn’t have to wonder about whether they were right – if more than one person mentions it, it’s clearly an issue and you just have to accept it. And for the most part, it wasn’t actually that hard to deal with but I was annoyed with myself for having done it. However, I think I have moved on from this now and will be able to spot it more easily in the future.
The hardest thing to deal with has been the fact that, as always in my happy ever after world, my characters fall in love far too quickly. As Sam is only just getting over the loss of Rachel to Jackson, it’s important that he doesn’t come across as shallow when meeting someone new, and perhaps falling in love on the rebound. This means that I have to make it all take a bit longer – I have this problem all the time – and in having to do that, I have to change lots of other things as well.
Unfortunately, what I find when I reach a difficult point with editing is that I just stop doing it altogether. It’s simply too hard and I will never be able to master it, is what I tell myself as my excuse for not doing it. I have been trying to do an hour a day but honestly, by the end of the first week, I have the attention span of a gnat and I’m starting to get very frustrated with myself. I’m forcing myself to stick with it because I want to get it finished but it really is proving hard!

Upcoming WI Audition

The other thing I’ve been working on this week is my 15 minute talk for my WI audition next Saturday. They are very strict about timings and I won’t have a full 15 minutes so obviously, I can’t do the full talk I would normally do. I started off by paring down my usual talk about my self-publishing journey to the bare bones confident that this would be more than enough. Then I practised saying it out loud using a stopwatch only to find that I had the grand total of just three minutes! So I have spent the whole week adding content back in – this was only supposed to be a flavour of the talk, not the whole thing! I have now reached seven minutes and I am desperate to get to 10 but I can’t think what else to put in. I never thought I would struggle to find words 😉 Anyway, I will have to plod on as best I can and finish it because the audition is next week and I want it to go well of course.

Marketing

I have been experimenting with Amazon ads again this week for From Here to Nashville with some success but it’s not been brilliant. It is a constant challenge to keep the momentum going with sales of both books really and I feel that I am now approaching the end of the peak for The Vineyard in Alsace so I need to think carefully about what to do next.

Social Life

I am looking forward to another meeting this week of my Society of Authors group, where we’ll be discussing the topic ‘What Makes a Good Story?’ I will also be attending my first RNA AGM this week now that I am officially an independent member. The meeting also includes a talk by Julie Cohen on Pacing and how not to let your reader get bored, which I’m really looking forward to as Julie is always interesting and helpful. I’m travelling down to London with another RNA friend so it will be good to catch up and be writerly for an afternoon 🙂

Freelance Work

Finally, I started a proofreading job this week for an author who writes courses on Teachable and who contacted me as a result of seeing my name in connection with the Open Book festival. It’s funny how you make these connections quite out of the blue but I’m very glad I did.
 
Thanks for reading. Please do leave me a comment if you’d like to talk about anything I mention in the post. It’s always good to chat 🙂

An Eventful Summer in my Indie Author Life

As always, it has been a busy time since my last post. I have an update about the talk I gave at my first literary festival which took place at the end of July; news of how book 2, The Vineyard in Alsace, continues to do well; progress with book 3, and finally, what I have coming up.

Open Book Literary Festival, Hitchin

It has been a bit of a while since my last blog post because I have had such a busy summer in my writing life. As I told you then, I was going to be taking part in my first every Literary Festival in Hitchin, near where I live. Before the event, I was incredibly nervous, not knowing whether anyone would turn up for my talk about my self-publishing journey. Well, the day dawned and it was rainy, just for a change. Our festival was mostly indoors but it would have been nice to have a bit of sunshine! Still, my talk was a great success with lots of people attending and a knowledgeable, interested audience who asked good questions.
We had a good turnout for our first ever festival and I spoke to a lot of people on the day. I definitely noticed an impact on my ebook sales afterwards too, and it looks like we will be doing the festival again next year. So all in all, a good thing to have done to raise awareness of my books. And look at this lovely cake made by Carol Deacon especially for the occasion!

 
The Vineyard in Alsace
My second book continues to sell well and if you are a regular visitor to my Facebook page, you’ll know that I’ve had some wonderful guest posts and interviews over the summer. First of all, I was on the lovely Tara Greaves’ website in her excellent A Look Behind the Book feature. You can read it here. Shortly afterwards, Tara posted a glowing review of my book on Amazon, which I was delighted with:

A story that warms you, like sitting outside in the late evening sunshine

More recently, I was on Linda Hill’s blog here, with a post about why I write Happy Ever After endings. I got a lot of feedback about this post because I think it struck a chord with a lot of readers. One of my writing friends even chose this theme for his MA in Creative Writing! Linda has also very kindly offered to read my book so I’m looking forward to reading her review sometime in the near future when her TBR pile has gone down a bit!
I also heard this month that my book is going to be featured in Living France magazine’s October issue as a result of me sending a paperback copy to one of their editors for review. I have absolutely no idea whether they liked it but I’m keeping my fingers crossed! I’ll let you know when I find out.
I had another milestone with The Vineyard this week when I woke up one morning to find my book in the top 100 Holiday fiction list on Amazon. It’s still hanging on in there for the moment, which is wonderful to see.

Book 3

Once the LitFest was over, I had to knuckle down in my writing cave to finish the first draft of my third book by the deadline of 31st August. It was a bit touch and go at times but eventually I did it and sent it off to the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme for its first professional read. By the time I got to the end, I honestly felt it was the best first draft I’ve ever written but only time will tell! It will be interesting next year when I’m no longer a member of the NWS and I will have to find someone else to fulfil that function. I will be a fully fledged Independent Author member by then and will have to find my own way with that first assessment of each manuscript. There are no shortage of people offering that service but they want a lot of money for doing so. Anyway, that’s something for another day 🙂

Coming Up

Next week, I will begin editing (I will, I will) the follow up novella I wrote for From Here to Nashville some time ago. I have booked this in with my editor so I really can’t afford to put it off any longer. Anyway, I do want to get on with Sam’s story now because I hope to publish it before the end of the year – ambitious, I know. Ideally, I would get it off to my editor before book 3 comes back and demands my attention. When it’s ready to go out, I have a plan for its launch that I’ll be looking for people to get involved with so keep an eye out for my next post!
 


I think that’s all the news for now, and is probably quite enough to be going on with. Do leave a comment here on my website if you’d like to or alternatively, contact me on Facebook or Twitter. Thanks for reading. And if you’ve recently read either of my books, do please take a moment to leave a review – they’re so important for indie authors especially 🙂
 

Author Spotlight – Helen Pollard

My guest in the Author Spotlight this week is no stranger to my blog. Helen Pollard, contemporary romance author, was my first guest in my Author Spotlight series all the way back in May 2015! I think it’s fair to say that a great deal has happened in Helen’s writing career in that time and she’s here to tell us all about it today and to celebrate her latest book published just a few days ago. Welcome Helen!

Summer at The Little French Guesthouse – Helen Pollard

A feel good novel to read in the sun (La Cour des Roses Book 3)
Summer sun, chilled, white wine, and a gorgeous fiancé. Nothing could upset pure bliss … Right?
Emmy Jamieson loves her new life in the gentle hills and sunflowers of the lush French countryside, managing La Cour des Roses, a beautiful, white stone guesthouse. With marriage to caramel-eyed Alain just round the corner, things couldn’t be more perfect.
The odd glass (gallon) of wine dulls the sound of Emmy’s mum in full motherzilla-of-the-bride mode, and the faint tinkling of alarm bells coming from Alain’s ex are definitely nothing to worry about. Guesthouse owner Rupert and a whole host of old and new friends are there to make sure nothing gets in the way of Emmy’s happiness.
But as Emmy gets close to the big day, a secret from the past throws everything decidedly off track. Will her idyllic French wedding go ahead as planned, or will Emmy run back home to England with a broken heart?
This summer, escape to the rolling vineyards of France for an utterly uplifting read. Fans of Jenny Colgan, Debbie Johnson and Nick Alexander will want to join Emmy for a pain au chocolat in the sun-drenched garden at La Cour des Roses.
Amazon UK
Amazon US

*****

And now for my interview with Helen:

Since you were last on the blog, you’ve been taken on by Bookouture. How did that all come about?

The first book in the La Cour des Roses series was a change in direction for me, veering away from ‘sweet’ romance towards chick lit. I’d written the first draft five or six years before, and kept revisiting it and rewriting. I really wanted to find the right home for it, where I could express my ‘voice’ and sense of humour.
I submitted to Bookouture as I’d heard that they are a very dynamic digital publisher. When I got the e-mail to say they would like to publish the book, I was thrilled that they had such confidence in the story I’d worked on for so long!

You’ve published two books in your La Cour des Roses series, with the third one just published last week, can you tell us more about your inspiration for this series?

I’d had the opening scene for The Little French Guesthouse in my mind for years – how would someone feel if they caught their boyfriend with an older rather than a younger woman – but I wasn’t doing any writing at the time (young family, no time, too tired!) Then, one summer, we were on holiday in a gîte in the Loire area of France, and I suddenly thought, ‘This is it! This is where that scene takes place!’ Once I could picture the setting in my mind, I was desperate to get that opening scene down, so I started writing again . . . The creative floodgates reopened, and the characters took on a life of their own. Could Emmy gain strength from that catastrophic start to the first book? Make new friends who might help her through it? Contemplate a different life for herself?
I had to be more disciplined with the second and third books, obviously, to set up plot points and to tie everyone’s stories together – there were so many secondary characters clamouring to have their stories explored alongside Emmy’s adventures.

Was this always going to be a series or did it develop into one along the way? How different has it been to write a series compared to a standalone book?

When I submitted the first book to Bookouture, I mentioned that I had ideas for a sequel, but they were so taken with the setting and the central character that they suggested a series. We agreed between us that three books would be the perfect number to cover the stories to be told.
Writing a series has been quite an experience, and yes, very different. With a standalone book, I’m inclined to see where the characters want to take me. That isn’t possible with a series – you have to plan more, so that everything ties together and there are no contradictions between books. Of course, you already know your characters really well, so it’s easy to get right back into the groove with them, but it also makes secondary and incidental characters more important, so the reader doesn’t become bored.

Will there be other books in this series or have you got something else planned for your next book?

So no, no further books in the La Cour des Roses series. It’s been an exhausting ride, so I’m hoping to take a good long break and recharge my batteries!

You have an incredible 705 reviews of The Little French Guesthouse on Amazon at the time of writing! What’s the secret do you think to getting so many?

Bookouture would have to take credit for getting the ball rolling on that score. They have an incredible publicity manager, Kim Nash, who is a book blogger and knows that online community well. Bookouture put the book on NetGalley, Kim got the word out, and many book bloggers kindly reviewed and – thankfully – enjoyed the book 🙂 I guess it’s had a snowball effect from there. I still can’t believe the number of reviews on Amazon myself!

Are there any other places you’re dreaming of setting another book, and if so, why?

I’d love to set a book by the sea sometime, either in Cornwall or North Yorkshire. Those coastal villages have a lot of atmosphere and the scenery is spectacular. The perfect backdrop.

I read on your blog that one of your favourite things to do with your spare time is to watch old TV shows from the eighties. One of your favourites is Starsky and Hutch, which also happens to be one of mine. And now this is a really important question…Which one of them did you love the most: Starsky or Hutch??

Oh, I was SO in love with Paul Michael Glaser. Spectacular smile, hairy chest, tight jeans … I wanted trainers like his and a chunky woolly cardi like his! But I do confess I possessed a David Soul LP, and I still have (and still listen to) a CD of his 🙂

I know you love to read as much as you can as well, naturally. So who would you say is your favourite literary hero from any book you’ve read?

Crikey! That’s a difficult one! I think I would have to go with Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye. He really resonated with me when I read the book as a teenager.
If I had to go with someone more modern, I would say Mma Ramotswe from Alexander McCall Smith’s books set in Botswana – a wise, gentle, grounded woman.
 
Thanks so much for being on my blog again, Helen. I hope you’ll come back sooner next time! By the way, in case anyone wants to know, Starsky was my favourite too 😉
 

About Helen


As a child, Helen had a vivid imagination fuelled by her love of reading, so she started to create her own stories in a notebook.
She still prefers fictional worlds to real life, believes characterisation is the key to a successful book, and enjoys infusing her writing with humour and heart.
When she’s not writing, Helen enjoys reading, scrapbooking and watching old seventies and eighties TV shows.
Helen is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and The Society of Authors.
 
Find out more about Helen here:
Website & Blog 
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