How Music Inspires Me

DSCN0296This week, I’m taking part in a blogging event about music organised by my RNA writing friend, Elaina James as part of a series she has been writing for the Mslexia blog about chasing your writing dreams, told from the perspective of a lyricist with stage fright. Her final blog focuses on the unexpected chance to turn her words into an actual song with music. You can find Elaina’s Mslexia page here.

Elaina and I ‘met’ on Twitter only fairly recently but we’ve also had the good fortune to meet in real life when we both braved the Curtis Brown Discovery Day and pitched our books to agents. So we’ve already been through a lot together! I am honoured to be one of a number of writing friends joining in with Elaina’s blogging event so do pop over to her blog to read some of the other brilliant posts on this theme.

So how has music inspired me? Well, music has always played a very important part in my life. The radio was always playing in my house when I was growing up and I came to love many of the LPs that my mum and dad had collected and regularly played on their record player. This is how I came to love everything from The Beatles to Glenn Campbell to Marvin Gaye and Barbra Streisand and eventually, it’s what led me to start have singing lessons when I was in my early teens. I performed in all kinds of festivals when I was young and although I learnt to play the violin and the piano as well along the way, nothing came close to singing for making me happy. As I got older, my musical tastes widened and I remember playing Michael Jackson’s ‘Off The Wall’ album until I knew every word of every song and had a dance move to go with them as well so I could strut my stuff at the local disco on ‘Ladies Night’ every Thursday. Ah, those were the days 🙂

When I was around 17, I joined a semi-professional choir in London at my singing teacher’s suggestion and I had all kinds of wonderful experiences with them, including trips to France, Spain and Italy to take part in some fantastic concert performances. It was on the plane to one such trip in Rome that I met my husband and we bonded over our shared love of music. We still do now nearly thirty-one years later.

Both my children are musical and love music as much as we do. It is wonderful to find that we often like the same kinds of music as well, despite the age difference and that’s the thing. Great music is simply that. It doesn’t matter how old or young you are, you can appreciate it all and it is that shared appreciation that brings people of different ages together. When we finally went to Nashville last year as a family, my two teenage daughters loved it just as much as we did. They both discovered Johnny Cash and Elvis on that trip, as well as soaking up the live performances by new musicians that we had never heard of.

It was really no surprise then that my debut novel From Here to Nashville was about a UK-based singer/songwriter called Rachel who longs to travel to Nashville in Tennessee and become a country music star. As a singer, occasional songwriter and, most recently, music teacher, I based Rachel very loosely on myself but her dream was entirely her own! However, it was my love for country music and specifically, the start of the TV series Nashville on our screens over here that gave me the idea for my first novel. As I began writing, I found it easy to write lyrics for Rachel’s own songs as well as to create a playlist of my favourite songs for her to sing. You can find that playlist here if you’d like to hear it.

Although I don’t listen to music as I write, the words of a song will frequently spark an idea for me that I will then use in my writing. For example, there is a particular Brad Paisley song that I love called ‘We Danced.’ This gave me an idea for my next book and I can’t wait to start getting it down on paper. I don’t think a day goes by without music being in the air in our house and although some of the songs might have changed, the feeling of contentment gained from listening to good music still remains.

coverYou can find my debut novel on Amazon, still priced at just 99p!

Thanks for reading. I’d love to know how music inspires you. Do leave a comment below if you’d like to share your inspiration 🙂

Our Holiday Adventure From Here to Nashville (part two) and a Week of Book Fairs!

This week, I promised to tell you about the other things we did on our holiday that I didn’t refer to in my book but which were all amazing and well worth doing if you’re ever in Tennessee.

The first thing I wDSCN0149anted to mention was The Johnny Cash Museum in Nashville. This was my favourite museum of all the ones we visited, with The Ryman and The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum coming a close second. First of all, the café and shop were quite small and clearly not the main focus of your visit (this was to prove very important when we went to Graceland a few days later). This meant that the museum took up all the room and rightly so. There were so many fantastic exhibits, ranging from Johnny’s birth certificate to a piece of wall from his house!

DSCN0175

There were lots of music items too, like his guitar and his boots, along with other outfits he’d worn. There was a whole room given over to his platinum and gold records and beyond that, an exhibition devoted to Sun Records where he started out. One of our favourite things was a stand where you could listen to one of his songs in all its different formats – a 78, then a 33, then a 45 record, a cassette, a CD and finally, an MP3 version. It was great listening to the difference in ‘hiss’ on the different formats. Strangely, the 78 record seemed to offer the best quality.

If you like Johnny Cash, you will love the museum of course but even if you don’t know his music much at all, you will come out eager to go and find one of his albums and listen to it again and again. My older daughter felt just like this and it was great to see how much she enjoyed it.

DSCN0176

 

We did so many musical things while we were in Nashville, going to The Bluebird Café, singing with a Live Band at The Hard Rock Café’s weekly karaoke (there are videos but you’ll have to pay me a lot of money to let you see mine!), listening to some Honky Tonk music at Robert’s Western World and we ended our week with a trip to The Grand Ole Opry House for their Saturday show. The Grand Ole Opry started out as a one-hour radio show on WSM dedicated to country music and has had various homes around the Nashville area. It is now housed in a building east of downtown Nashville near the Opry Mills shopping mall and the show we went to lasted for over two hours. It’s a curious blend of traditional and contemporary country music, interspersed with adverts from their sponsors and some quirky acts like square dancers! It was a bit cheesy at times but we spent a lot of time laughing along with the rest of the audience. It is a part of Nashville’s history and we loved it. One of the best moments for me of course, was seeing Charles Esten who plays the character Deacon in the ABC TV series, ‘Nashville.’ He was the inspiration for my character, Jackson, and so it was fantastic to see him perform on stage.

DSCN0421

A week after arriving in Nashville, we set off on our first road trip of sorts, travelling three hours west to Memphis. People had joked with us when we told them we were going there next about how it is one of the most dangerous cities in the US and we’d need some luck to make it out again safe and sound. We then made the mistake of looking it up on the internet so that by the time we did arrive, we were all feeling a bit tense about it. I’d booked a hotel near Graceland so that we could get there easily and I tell you, they did a fantastic job with their photos on the site. We had an interstate on one side and a cement factory on the other but curiously, neither of those details is included in the sales blurb on the booking site 😉 Here’s a pic of the view from our window for you to get the idea.

DSCN0498

Our room was pleasant enough though and everyone was really friendly so yes, it was functional but it served its purpose for two nights. We ventured into Memphis the first night to eat out and apart from a very persistent but friendly panhandler, we survived! It was very similar to other cities we’ve been in the UK and we adapted fairly quickly. It was very different from the atmosphere in Nashville, a bit more edgy I guess but I think that was to be expected.

 

So the next day, we went to Graceland which was the main point of the trip to Memphis and somewhere I’ve always wanted to go. It was a real operation, starting with the price! We then had to wait for a shuttle bus to take our tour group across the road (!) and while we waited in line, we all had to have our photos taken in case we wanted to spend $40 later on a souvenir photo pack. We were given iPad audio tours and eventually made it across the road to the home of Elvis Presley. We had no time to take a photo outside before being hurried inside to start the tour of the mansion. It made me sad to see the big tourist operation that this visit has become. I enjoyed the visit in that I liked hearing the story behind the house and the life Elvis had lived inside it but I didn’t like being herded along with no time to appreciate the finer aspects at my leisure. When we went back across the road, every exhibit we went in brought us out into another shop as well. Apparently, in 2011, Elvis was one of the top three grossing celebrities who have passed away which for me, says it all. I wouldn’t have missed the experience but I think it could have been so much better.

And so we reached our last night and we wanted to do something really special so we saw that there was a live band on at BB King’s Blues Bar on Beale Street so off we went. We had a great table, right next to another British couple (shut up!) and we sang along to a whole host of our favourite soul songs. It was such a great way to finish our holiday and a memorable way too. I can’t recommend this trip highly enough as I hope you can tell 🙂

 **********

WP_20150414_001The week or so since we’ve been back has been crazy for me so I wanted to share the highlights with you. Firstly, I went to the London Book Fair on Tuesday. It was a great, if exhausting day and I attended lots of useful seminars and met up with some other lovely authors.

 

I was just about recovering from this by Friday when I attended the Indie Author Book Fair organised by the Alliance of Independent Authors as part of Indie Recon 2015. Along with about 60 other indie authors, I had a stand at Foyles Bookshop in the Charing Cross Road in Central London. It was a wonderful occasion and really busy, giving us all the chance to engage with readers face-to-face and to draw strength from each other. I was scared to death beforehand but I’m so glad I went and once it started, I just got talking and then I was fine! So here’s a couple of photos of me and my stall.

DSCN0594

DSCN0593

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a result of my sale last week and the great success of the Indie Author Fair, I have had a good number of sales this week and today, I found out that this had all pushed me into the the Amazon Top 100 Bestsellers’ List for Romance Literary Fiction. I might have only been there briefly but for me, it was the crowning glory to a wonderful couple of weeks 🙂 Wishing you all a great week and thanks for reading, as always.

Screenshot 2015-04-19 09.22.29

Our Holiday Adventure From Here to Nashville (part one)

And so it’s back to life and reality now that our big holiday adventure is over. Oh, but what an adventure it was 🙂 I checked out all the places I referred to in my book and I’m pleased to say that I think I did a good job. For today’s post, I’m going to share those places with you and to tell you some of what we got up to while we were there.

The Journey From Here to Nashville

DSCN0039The first photo I took was at Heathrow where I was pleased to see a branch of Tiffany’s. I spent quite a few minutes with my daughters looking at all the beautiful jewellery there but didn’t find the exact pieces that Jackson buys for Rachel in the book. It didn’t matter though, it was just good to be in there 🙂

 

 

We were slightly delayed on the journey from Heathrow to Chicago and then sat on the tarmac when we got there, watching the window for our connecting flight to Nashville get smaller and smaller. We decided to go with the flow though and not let it bother us too much. We knew there were flights later that evening so we were sure it would all be okay. Some very kind people fast-tracked us through immigration and security but by the time we’d picked up our bags again, we thought we had definitely missed our connecting flight. Then, just as our bags were being retagged, we were told that our flight had been held for us and so we ran all the way to meet it and finally arrived in Nashville about half an hour after our original arrival time. Sadly, our luggage didn’t make it on time but we did get it  before the night was out!

Nashville

Day 1

On our first day, we walked towards the Nashville Farmers’ Market and after some breakfast there, we made our way downtown.

DSCN0077

I had no idea when I wrote my book that the 7th President of the United States was from Nashville. His name was Andrew Jackson and by pure coincidence, his wife’s name was Rachel Jackson, a lovely combination of the names of my two main characters 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

DSCN0080

And as we continued on our way down the hill from the Capitol building, we came across The Hermitage Hotel (named after Andrew Jackson’s Presidential home), and Rachel’s bolt-hole when everything goes a bit awry. The clothes shop in the hotel is called ‘Rachel’s Boutique.’ Such a delight finding out these little things along the way.

 

 

 

 

 

DSCN0085

And here is our first view of The ‘Batman’ building as it is affectionately known in Nashville. Everywhere we went, the AT&T building rose high above the skyline and I thought of Jackson describing it to Rachel every time 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

And DSCN0105after we’d had a play around at The Visitors’ Centre, walked the length and breadth of Broadway and had some tasty Tex-Mex for lunch, we went on The Music City Hop On, Hop Off Trolley tour. On our way back to our condo, I led the way past the inspiration for Jackson’s loft.

 

 

 

 

 

Day 2

DSCN0144

And so on to the iconic Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. A wonderful building on both the inside and the outside and we spent hours just marvelling at everything there was to see and hear. We loved the history and the variety of exhibits and memorabilia. Our girls focussed mainly on the Taylor Swift exhibits, of course but they had fun and that was the main thing!

 

 

DSCN0128

It was soon time for our trip to RCA Studio B where so many great musicians have recorded songs over the years. It was a great experience, full of history and memories from another musical era.

 

 

 

 

DSCN0129

And here’s the piano that Rachel sits at, sensing all the greats that have sat here before her, including Elvis Presley.

 

 

 

 

 

Day 3

DSCN0185We were all very excited about this day because I’d managed to reserve us a table at The Bluebird Café where Rachel sings her first ‘Open Mic’ session. It is a very small venue, just about 100 seats in all and I’d been lucky enough to get us a table on my second try at using their automated reservation system. The night we attended, it was an ‘in the round’ session organised by ASCAP (The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers). This meant that the four performers were sat in the middle of the audience and they took turns telling us about their songs before performing them. It was a fantastic show, with such talented performers that you will never have heard of I’m sure but I really hope they all get their moment one day soon. If you want to look them up, they were: Ryan Shea Smith, Austin Jenckes, Andrea Pearson and Jonathan Kingham.

DSCN0209

 

Day 4

I haven’t told you as yet how beautiful the weather was while we were in Nashville but on this day, it actually rained. It was only a quick shower though and we were soon able to get on our way to visit the Parthenon as we had originally planned.

DSCN0265

It is a replica of the real Parthenon in Greece, of course, built for the Centennial celebrations in Nashville and then rebuilt once again at the request of the people who couldn’t bear to see it torn down once the celebrations were over. It was meant to represent Nashville as ‘the Athens of the South’ on account of all its veritable educational institutions. We had a fun time visiting it and reading all about the history of the celebrations.

 

 

 

 

Next week, I will post about all the other wonderful things we did on our trip which I didn’t refer to in my story, including our days in Memphis. If you haven’t read my book yet though and now feel moved to do so, it is on sale this week at 99p! Here’s the link: http://bit.ly/FromHeretoNashville

Lastly, if you’re in the London area on Friday, April 17th, I will be attending the Indie Author Book Fair, hosted by Triskele Books and the Alliance of Independent Authors at Foyles’ bookshop in the Charing Cross Road. It starts at 4.30pm and it’s free. It would be lovely to see you and sign a book for you.

Thanks for reading as always and do please leave me a comment below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to List a Goodreads Giveaway (and Post C2C Festival fatigue!)

AsIMG_0057 I mentioned in last week’s post, I was busy this past weekend attending the C2C (Country-to-Country) Music Festival at the O2 Arena in London. And what a great festival it was once again. We attended a special CMA Songwriters Series event on Friday night which was fantastic and a taste of what’s to come when we go to Nashville at the end of this month.

Then we went back to London again yesterday for a full day at the festival. I was really looking forward to seeing Lady Antebellum again, having been lucky enough to see them in a smaller venue last October but I also wanted to see as much British Country Music talent as I could as well. The singer I was really looking forward to seeing play live was Callaghan. I heard one of her songs on Bob Harris’ Country Show on Radio 2 a couple of weeks ago and since then, I’ve listened to her music as much as I can and also followed her to keep up with what she’s doing. She has been lovely and interacted with me a few times so when I was able to see her play yesterday and say hello, it was a real highlight for me. Her story is an interesting one: she’s from the UK originally but went out to Atlanta four years ago at the request of Shawn Mullins, an American singer-songwriter who specialises in folk/Americana music and he helped her record her first album. She’s now based in Nashville. You might see now why her story delighted me when I read it just a few weeks ago! I’m not sure if there’s any romance though 😉

So I knew that I would be tired this morning and that it would therefore take me a while to get going on this morning’s blog post. I had not planned on it taking me quite this long though 😉 If you have ever tried to do anything on Goodreads as an author, you will probably understand why!

During the week, I received the proof copy of the paperback version of From Here to Nashville which comes all the way from the US to authors based in the UK. When it arrived, I was very excited of course, until I realised that the only thing I’d forgotten to include in the copy was the ISBN which I had paid precious pounds for the privilege of using. Doh! Anyway, I quickly amended it and uploaded it to CreateSpace fairly painlessly. It took a few days and then, hey presto, there it was, up on Amazon and linked to my ebook page as well without any problems. I had been expecting some difficulties but I was glad in the end that there weren’t any. If you want to go and buy your copy, here’s the link.

So I decided to write my blog post about listing a giveaway on Goodreads. Before doing anything, I read a couple of other blog posts about it first which were both very helpful and their links are here for you – Catherine Ryan Howard and Novel Publicity. I really would recommend you to read these and to mostly ignore the Goodreads advice on what to do!

Here are the main tips I would highlight for you if you’re planning to list a giveaway yourself.

1. Is your paperback book on Goodreads? The most important thing is that you must have your book in the database before you can list it. I had thought it would automatically upload to Goodreads once it was listed on Amazon but it didn’t so I had to add it as a new edition of my book first. You do this from the existing book’s page and make sure to add a cover file as well. Then you have to combine the editions, which I found I couldn’t do myself so I had to contact Goodreads and ask them to do that for me. They did this pretty quickly.

2. Where are you prepared to send it to? Catherine Ryan Howard’s advice is to list it for all countries which I have now done. This does mean being prepared to send it anywhere in the world but most likely, your winner will be in the US because that is where most Goodreads members live.

3. How long should you run it for? Goodreads suggest running your giveaway for as long as a month but this way, your giveaway will get hidden amongst all the others. The advice from those who have tried running one seems to suggest that shorter is sweeter.

4. How many copies? If you’re self-published, you will be thinking about every penny (or whatever your currency is!) Novel Publicity’s experience from doing a number of giveaways is that it’s not the number of books that matter. You can run several short giveaways (spaced appropriately apart) and offer a copy at a time. The thing to remember here is that the goal is to increase your visibility and you should do that regardless of the number of copies being given away. Do make sure that you highlight the fact that it will be a signed copy too!

5. When will it start? Schedule your giveaway for a few days ahead because it will take a couple of days for Goodreads to upload it for you and you may change your mind about the contents after you have time to think about it.

Hopefully, next week, I will be able to tell you that my giveaway is going really well because I’ve set it to run from Thursday this week to Tuesday of next week. If you’d like to enter the giveaway, the link is below. Remember though, it starts on Thursday.

Have you run a giveaway on Goodreads? What was your experience? If you have any questions or comments, do remember to leave me a message below. Hope you have a great writing week.

 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

From Here to Nashville by Julie Stock

From Here to Nashville

by Julie Stock

Giveaway ends March 16, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Paperback Writer – A Week of Good News

dfw-js-fhtn-cover-3d-nologo

Now that the ebook version of From Here to Nashville is well and truly on its way, I have been trying to sort out my paperback version. As I mentioned last week, I was about to order my proof copy from CreateSpace, Amazon’s printing arm. When it came to pushing the order button, there were three delivery speed choices. The cheapest, slowest one was going to cost me $10 so as I wasn’t in a rush, I went for that option, thinking it would probably come quicker than the date they’d given me of April 8th. Ever the optimist, that’s me 😉

Then something wonderful happened 🙂 I found out that there is going to be an Indie Author Book Fair in London on 17th April, 2015 for members of the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi).  This has been organised as part of Indie ReCon 2015, a global conference for independent-minded authors, being run this year with the support of ALLi. The great thing is that the book fair, which is open to everyone and is free, is taking place in Foyle’s, one of the largest bookshops in London and so, I took a leap and booked myself a table. The only slight problem is that I don’t have any books at the moment!

Cue my first email exchange with CreateSpace. Well, you have to wait 24 hours for a reply 😦 Then when it came back, the answer was that it had already been boxed so no, they couldn’t change the delivery speed and get it to me any faster. I decided to give them a call then, in America…yes, I know. Still, I spoke to a very helpful man and he confirmed that it was too late to change that order but he then said that as I was only ordering one copy, he would send me another one, free of charge, on super-quick delivery! So I will have the proof on Wednesday this week. However, I still don’t think they could provide me with books for a sale at a reasonable price so I went and had a chat with other ALLi members on their Facebook members page. They said that as I have used my own ISBN, I can go to a local printer to get books for my own use at fairs etc and I just happen to have a very good printer not far from me who seems very clued up about self-publishing. I am going to email them today to see if they can print the books for me in time and if they can, then this Cinderella will go to the ball! As you can tell, I’m quite excited about how it has all turned out and the thought of being able to sell books in a shop like Foyle’s is really wonderful.

I have also had a great time this week chatting with an Etsy shop owner who lives all the way over in Phoenix, Arizona. I love the internet sometimes! This has all come about because my husband went to a music convention in L.A. in January and came home with a little wooden guitar he’d received from one of the stands there. I thought this would be a nice promotional item for my book and set about getting in touch with the company who makes them. To cut a long story short, their costs were very high for my small order numbers so I couldn’t proceed with them but I wanted those wooden guitars! You know how persistent I am by now 😉 Then I went on Etsy and found this man making wooden guitar magnets and we got chatting like you do. Yesterday, I placed my first order for thirty of these lovely magnets and not only that but they’re going to be delivered to our condo in Nashville. How cool is that?

Etsy Guitars

So how can you get your hands on one of these? Well, I have asked my newsletter subscribers to tell me, when they’ve read From Here to Nashville, whose story they’d like to follow. All you have to do is read the book, sign up here and then send me a message! Alternatively, if you are in London around the Charing Cross Road area on the afternoon of 17th April, I’d love you to pop in and buy one of my signed paperbacks and I will give you a guitar magnet at the same time.

Thank you all for reading and I hope you have a good week. By the time I write my next blog post, I will have been able to enjoy a whole weekend of live country music at the Country to Country (C2C) Music Festival at the O2 arena in London so next week’s post may be just a little bit country, y’all 😉 Please do leave me a comment below and tell me something good about your writing week.

Very Inspiring Blogger Award

inspiring

I’ve been nominated for another award! This time, it’s the Very Inspiring Blogger Award and I was nominated by Pam McIlroy whose wonderful blog about reading and writing can be found here.

Here are the rules of the award:

  • Thank and link to the person who nominated you.
  • List the rules and display the award.
  • Share seven facts about yourself.
  • Nominate 15 other amazing blogs and comment on their posts to let them know they have been nominated.
  • Optional: follow the blogger who nominated you, if you don’t already do so.

Seven Things About Me

Well, this is starting to get a bit difficult because I’ve received a few of these awards now and I’m not sure there’s anything new for me to say about myself but I’ll try! I’ve decided to go with a romance theme since it is a very important theme in my life.

  • I write romance novels in my spare time. I hope to publish my first novel before the end of this year so it’s a very exciting time.
  • Talking of romance, I have been married for 25 years and celebrated this milestone with my husband and family with a trip to New York earlier this year.
  • We got engaged in Paris and spent our honeymoon there too. I spent my last big birthday there and we also took my older daughter there for her 16th birthday last year.
  • My husband and I met when we were travelling on a ‘plane to Rome to perform in some choir concerts there. It was to take us more than twenty years to get back again!
  • Travelling is one of my favourite things to do and there are still so many places I would like to see. Apart from Europe, I have only ever been to America so that leaves a heck of a lot of world still to see!
  • I play the piano (not very well) and a little guitar too, as well as being a singer.
  • My favourite romance stories or films are often ones where someone dies! I’m not quite sure what this says about me 🙂 Anyway, I love the film ‘Truly, Madly, Deeply’ and I also love ‘P.S. I Love You.’ In my view, the best romances make you cry your eyes out!

And now for my 15 nominees:

1. Cat Lumb: The Struggle to be a Writer

2. Heidi-Jo Swain: Writer’s Blog

3. Joanne Phillips: A Writer’s Journey

4. Helena Fairfax: Romance Author

5. Cynthia Harrison: Novelist

6. Karen Soutar: Fact and Fiction

7. J.E. Nice: Writer

8. Rebecca Bradley: Crime Writer

9. Janice Preston: Writer of Regency Romance

10. Bernadette O’Dwyer: Writer

11. Norah Colvin: Teacher and Writer

12. Debi Smith: Writer and Chocolate Lover

13. Sandra Danby: Writer

14. Ruth Livingstone: Fiction Writer and Blogger

15. John de Gruyther: Freelance Writer

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Julie Stock and My Writing Life, 2013 – 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Julie Stock and My Writing Life with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

New York, New York!

A week ago today, my writing blog tour post was published in my absence because I was on a trip to New York with my family to celebrate my 25th wedding anniversary. I was amazed that I had even managed to successfully schedule its publication in the first place and secondly, I was surprised by how my Twitter friends just took it up and so kindly retweeted it on my behalf. This trip was important then for another reason: it brings to an end my first full year of writing and what a year it has been. In fact, this is my 52nd post on this blog as well so I have many, many reasons to celebrate 🙂 I arrived back to the comments from my beta readers on my debut novel, From Here to Nashville as well and these were really encouraging, even more so than on previous drafts so I feel like I am making progress. I am still busy with Camp NaNoWriMo this month which is going pretty well for novel number two and then in May, I will be editing FHTN with a vengeance so I can send it off to the RNA for assessment.

In this post then, I’m going to write a diary celebration of our New York trip because it symbolises the culmination of so many things for me and also because I know you want to know what we got up to. Right?

DSCN8421Friday As you may know, the island of Manhattan divides into Uptown, Midtown and Downtown and very conveniently, we were staying in a hotel right in the Midtown area, a few minutes walk from Penn station, the largest station in America. Our train from Newark (how brave were we?!) brought us into Penn on that first evening and soon, we were checked in and ready to go….to bed! It was about 10.30pm US time so we’d done well to stay awake that long (3.3oam UK time).

On the Saturday morning, we woke up feeling refreshed and ready to explore Uptown so we set off walking up 7th Avenue towards Times Square. It didn’t take us long to work out that the streets go horizontally (our hotel was on West 29th Street) and the avenues go vertically. That first day alone though, we walked almost 50 blocks up to Central Park and found ourselves regularly doing this every day. Anyway, we reached Times Square in about twenty minutes, having photographed every yellow cab in the city on the way and stood there for quite some time, just absorbing the chaos! DSCN8429 I suppose it’s a bit like Piccadilly Circus or Oxford Street, in that it’s one of those iconic places that tourists just have to see. It was chaotic but it was fun as well and it was funny how our two teenage daughters gravitated towards what must be one of the largest Disney stores in the world (two floors no less!)

DSCN8455By the time we reached Central Park, the sun was out in full force and we were having to remove some layers of clothing and put sunglasses on. The park was beautiful and we enjoyed a good stroll around the western side of it leading up to the John Lennon memorial and then, we went on to the American Museum of Natural History, known to all of us from one of our favourite films, A Night at the Museum. We spent a lovely afternoon there, exploring all the exhibits, although we were a little disappointed that none of them do actually move 😉 After that, it was back to the hotel on the subway for the first time, for a rest before dinner and bed.

Sunday was our day to explore Downtown and we had booked to go to Ground Zero first this morning.DSCN8506 I hadn’t heard much from anyone about the 9/11 Memorial and I was glad about this really because it allowed us to come to it with no preconceived ideas. I had expected it to be a moving experience of course but I had no idea just how moved I would be. It left me with an overwhelming sense of sadness for such a tragic and pointless loss of life.

From there, we walked down Wall Street and towards the free Staten Island ferry, which sails right past the Statue of Liberty on its journey to and from the island. We had a pretty good view of the statue but we were still quite far away from it. We’d decided not to RSCN8537visit Liberty island itself for a number of reasons but I think if we do ever go back, that’s something I would like to do. We spent a nice couple of hours having lunch on the island before taking the ferry back and making our way to Brooklyn Bridge.

When we came out of the subway there though, we could hear music playing and were drawn towards it to find out what was going on. We didn’t realise what a treat we were in for. There was a small group of street performers, dancing and performing acrobatics, with various members of the public being ‘persuaded’ to join in and it was a lot of fun on a Sunday afternoon. We made our way, along with hundreds of others, on to the bridge after that, to admire the fantastic view of the skyline and we even saw a couple get engaged whilst we were there! Another wonderful day was drawing to a close. However, that evening, we’d decided to try and go to McGee’s restaurant to fulfil one of my younger daughter’s dreams of eating in the restaurant from ‘How I Met Your Mother.’ We weren’t that confident of getting in and had prepared ourselves for the upset that would surely follow if we didn’t but luckily we did and as we sat in one of their famous booths, drinking cocktails, it felt good to be alive.

DSCN8579Monday Our Midtown day began with a looooong queue to go up the Empire State Building but it was definitely worth the wait and I was also glad that we had left going up until we had been there a few days and could recognise some of the famous landmarks from up on high. We only went up to the 86th floor (!), deciding that going to the 102nd floor wouldn’t necessarily add to the experience, and what a fantastic experience it was looking out across the whole of New York. I love going up a tower of any kind in any city but each one brings its own rewards and this one was no exception. The good weather was still holding and so we had lunch in Madison Square Park, having sung Kirsty MacCall songs as we walked along Madison Avenue. It was lovely sitting in the park watching all the people walking their dogs and cooing over each other’s babies. People watching is one of the best things in life, I think and New Yorkers are very entertaining, friendly people.

The afternoon was taken up with a visit to Grand Central station and the New York Public Library, both as impressive as we’d expected. That evening, as we sat in a lovely pizza restaurant, recommended to us by our Time Out guide, I told my family about my idea for my third novel! What was great was that they all loved the idea and chimed in with suggestions as to how I could develop it. I was so pleased that I’d managed to get their full attention for a start but also that they had liked the idea and I’m now itching to get on with that story 🙂

Tuesday The day of our wedding anniversary dawned and with it came some light rain and slightly cooler temperatures but hey, we’re British, we’re RSCN8643used to that. We spent the whole day at the Solomon R. Guggenheim museum, admiring the vast collection of modern art before taking a cab back to the hotel to prepare for our evening entertainment – we had managed to get tickets to see ‘Once: the Musical’ on Broadway! I can’t begin to tell you how excited we all were and even though it was raining slightly header as we walked up there, it did not dampen our spirits in the slightest. We had front row seats in the mezzanine and it was such a wonderful show and experience. The cast were truly talented and the music was fabulous. It was wonderful and a lovely way to mark our big day. When we came out of the theatre though, we couldn’t believe the change in the weather. It was snowing! We had to dash through it (literally!) to get to the restaurant but we survived and ended the day with a delicious meal and lots of lovely memories.

Wednesday Finally, it was our last day. After the brief flurry of snow, we woke up to a bright but slightly chilly day, perfect for walking down to Greenwich Village and having lunch looking out at Washington Square Park. We said goodbye with regret to New York, having loved every minute of our stay. I hope that we’ll get back there but for now, the memories of this trip will serve me for a long, long time.

As always, thank you so much for reading and if you have any memories of a trip to New York that you’d like to share, I would love to hear them.

RSCN8570

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Julie Stock and My Writing Life, 2013 – 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Julie Stock and My Writing Life with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.