The one where I look back at July

The end of July has been and gone, signalling that we’re halfway through the year already. Eek! That means we’re on the slope towards Christmas now, which is a bit scary.

So how was my July? Busy. Very busy.

thumbnail-4On 19th July, I was excited to reveal the cover for my new book, The Secret to Happiness, as part of me being Boldwood’s Author of the Day. The novel will be released on 3rd September but is available for pre-order on Kindle, for the bargain price of £1, right here. For any bloggers/reviewers, it’s also available on NetGalley.

Speaking of NetGalley, I went from excitement to disappointment a few days later when my first NetGalley review came through and it wasn’t good. With only a 2-star rating, the feedback was a little strange as the reviewer said she’d really enjoyed the main character’s story but, because it wasn’t the light summer read she was hoping for, she rated it a 2. I won’t even begin to try and understand the logic behind that. Yes, the cover is summery but the blurb doesn’t suggest light and fluffy. I know I have to be prepared for bad reviews but, because it was the first, this one really upset me. Thankfully the second one, a few days later, was 5-star and stated: “I loved this book … Overall brilliant writing, loved the plot, characters were well developed…” Phew!

Blue LogoMy good friend, author Sharon Booth, came through to Scarborough for a day and we loitered with intent in a couple of different coffee shops, having a good old writerly chat, which is always a fabulous way to while away the hours. We came to a difficult decision, though, to cease being ‘The Yorkshire Rose Writers’. Last year, we joined forces under this brand as we both live in Yorkshire, write about Yorkshire, and love Yorkshire. We thought this would be a great way to promote Sharon to my readers and vice versa, as well as have a stronger online presence. We put a huge time commitment in to blog, tweet, insta (is that a word?) and update content on the Facebook page, especially Sharon who is much better at these things than me, but we found it didn’t engage with any new readers as hoped. We also decided that, whilst we love Yorkshire, this is not our brand; our brand is us as individuals and as friends together. We therefore have a new idea that is in early stages of development but will be a little different. The blog has been deactivated and the social media activities have ceased with accounts deactivating shortly. It was short and sweet but these things are always worth a try. We’d probably have continued on Facebook but the imminent changes from pages to groups make us lose the will to live when it comes to that format so bye bye to The Yorkshire Rose Writers and thank you to those who did support our little venture.

During July, I completed a round of edits on book 11 and that’s now with my beta readers for comment. Early indications are good with one of them saying she’s struggling to put it down. I’m not sure whether Boldwood will take this one or not but it was about two thirds complete at the time I signed my publishing deal so there was no point in not finishing it.

My plan was to make some progress with book 12 and 13 but that hasn’t quite happened because I had my penultimate Masters submission due which took more time than I’d anticipated. It was a commentary about the process behind the final submission and the learnings we’ve had so far and I’ve struggled to score highly on these so far. I’ve just had the score through, though, and have achieved a distinction with 90% which is a relief. This puts my Year 2 work at 88% which is a distinction overall (distinction is 85% and above) so I’m thrilled about that. However, to come out with a distinction as my final grade, I have to score 85% or more on the final submission. I’ve done well on my fiction pieces so far, typically scoring in the 90s, but this is a much bigger piece. Fingers crossed.

IMG_6650Outside of writing, I had a short break in The Lake District with hubby, daughter and Ella, our Sprocker Spaniel. It didn’t go as planned. I managed to break my tooth about an hour into the journey eating a toffee. Oops! Thankfully it doesn’t hurt as it was a crown that I’ve snapped off a couple of times before … also by eating toffees. You’d think I’d have learned by now! I don’t think the dentist will be able to rebuild it again this time so I’ll see what he suggests next week.

The broken tooth was probably a bad omen for things to come. Our journey was horrendous. What would normally take about four hours took six including a patch of stationary traffic. We took a detour to get around that but then missed our planned lunch stop and ended up having lunch at teatime instead. The cottage wasn’t quite what we’d hoped for and it was in the middle of nowhere which we hadn’t expected either. Then the weather was poor, with torrential rain one day and storms forecast for our final day. We decided to come home a day early to sleep on a comfortable bed and to go out around home where the weather wasn’t expected to be so bad.

So, on Tuesday we visited a place called Ravenscar on the coast between Scarborough IMG_6732and Robin Hood’s Bay to see the seals. A year or two ago, we did attempt to see the seals but took the wrong path and still ended up on a cliff top with no way down to the beach, so we did the sensible thing and asked this time. The seals were sooooo adorable. The walk is very steep, though, and the journey back up was certainly hard work. I swear I’d shed about two stone in sweat but the scales laughed at me and told me otherwise!

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I went to the cinema just before our mini-break to see ‘Yesterday’. I’d seen the trailer on Facebook some time back and was really keen to see it, although I hadn’t realised at the time that it was a Richard Curtis film. We don’t have a decent cinema in Scarborough but the theatre does show some films so the munchkin so I went to see it there and thoroughly enjoyed it. You do need to suspend a bit of disbelief here and there and just take it for what it is which is a sweet, funny story with lots of Beatles songs.

My final bit of news is that the munchkin got her ears pierced last week (she’s 12) so that they have time to heal over the summer break. I’ve had mine done since I was 13 but I’ve always fancied having the top of my ear – my helix – pierced so I booked in for me to have that done at the same time. Ouch! My goodness, does that hurt! I’ve tried taking a photo but it’s just a stud and it barely shows so I will wait until the 12-week healing period has passed and I can put a pretty earring in it instead.

That’s my round-up of July. I’ve decided that my round-up posts are too long so I’m going to try to blog more frequently but with much shorter posts. Hmm. We’ll see how that goes. Still, the intention of the round-ups was to get me into blogging more regularly again and it has achieved that.

Wishing you a fabulous August.

Jessica xx

 

Beginnings and Endings

I work full-time so writing is something I need to fit around my day job which is a smidge on the challenging side. I’ve said before that my main sacrifice to allow time to write is that I watch very little television. I spend my evenings at my Mac, catching up on social media and editing my latest novel rather than catching up with the residents of Coronation Street or Albert Square.

As we’ve had a long bank holiday weekend and I managed to tag another couple of days holiday on before that, I have given myself some evening time off writing and have watched films with hubby on three consecutive nights.

Friday night was his choice: Interstellar. This 2014 release stars Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hatthaway, and is set on a futuristic dying earth. The protagonists are on a space mission to find an alternative inhabitable planet. I’ll hold my hands up and say my first preference is always for a romcom, but I’m not averse to a bit of drama (my all-time favourite film is actually ‘The Shawshank Redemption’) and I don’t mind the odd sci-fi either so I was reasonably pleased with hubby’s choice. Until I watched it. But more on that shortly.

Saturday’s film was my choice. When discussing what else had been on offer when hubby bought Interstellar, I’d asked him if he’d spotted 2014 release ‘Gone Girl’. Starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, I’d seen this trailered last year when I went on a rare trip to the cinema and (as trailers frequently make out) it looked really good. I quite like a good thriller. This wasn’t a good thriller. But more on that shortly too.

Last night, we stuck with one of the the TV offerings: Snow White and the Huntsman. This 2012 movie starring Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron, is a dark re-imagining of the Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs story. We really enjoyed this one. And that’s not just because of Chris (Thor) Hemsworth, although that certainly helped my enjoyment! 😉

As a writer, I’ve massively struggled with getting the start of my novels right, particularly my debut one, ‘Searching for Steven’ (out on 3rd June this year). Does the story hook the reader in quickly? Do they get to know the protagonist and care about her? Is there enough action soon enough, or perhaps too much and I haven’t paused to explain what’s going on? As a reader, I don’t like to give up on books as I know that some of the slower-starting books can do an about-turn and suddenly become really gripping, but it’s hard to keep going to that point sometimes, especially when I don’t know if it’s ever going to appear!

The other thing that I feel is really important as a reader is the ending. This might seem obvious, but I find far too many books have a rushed ending and I feel cheated. Assuming we’re talking a romance story, I’ve spent the book willing the hero and heroine to get together. If it happens on the very last page, I feel a twinge of frustration. I’ve spent 299 pages caring about them. I don’t suddenly want it wrapping up on page 300. I like to have a chapter – or at least a few pages – leading up to it so that the conclusion doesn’t feel rushed, as though the writer had run out of space or got bored and thought they’d better finally shove them together. Because I knew what I liked (and didn’t like) in an ending, I didn’t struggle with the endings to any of my novels.

But what happens when there isn’t actually an ending?

Okay, so that might be an odd thing to say as surely the very fact that a book finishes must mean there’s an ending. Not necessarily. And, for this, I go back to our trio of films over this weekend.

If you’re planning to watch any of them, you might like to avoid reading on… *SPOILER ALERT*

Interstellar and Gone Girl, in my opinion, had several things in common:

1. They were overly and unnecessarily long

2. They had very long drawn-out beginnings. In book terms, these would have been the stories that I’d have toyed with abandoning because they were taking forever to get into

3. They didn’t have endings

To be fair to Interstellar, there were some moments in the middle that were very gripping. For example, they landed in the sea on a planet that they believed (from data they’d received via a previous explorer) to be habitable. They knew that there was an issue with time on the planet (which I won’t even begin to try and explain because I can’t get my head round it) and that an hour down there would be the equivalent to several years in ‘normal’ time. Once landed, they could see mountains in the distance, only these turned out not to be mountains but giant waves that rippled across the planet at regular intervals, destroying anything in their wake. There was a dramatic escape attempt, a death, and the even more shocking discovery that 23 years and 4 months had passed in the short time they’d been down there. Gripping stuff (not being sarcastic here). Then the film went a bit strange when Matthew McC fell through a wormhole and could see his daughter’s bedroom and send her messages by pushing books off shelves. Yep, I won’t try to explain that either. Somehow he got rescued out of this wormhole and ended up on another planet to which the population of earth had temporarily moved (I think). He was still in his thirties but his daughter was exceedingly old and about to die and suggested he go and find Anne Hathaway on the planet she’d travelled to before he disappeared down the wormhole. It showed him taking a spacecraft. It showed her on the planet on her own. And then it ended. Hubby and I both shouted at the TV screen. What sort of non-ending was that?! What happened to them? What happened to the former population of earth? Had they saved the human race from distinction?

Gone Girl, although a completely different genre of film, had an equally surprising non-ending. I haven’t read the book so I base this purely on the film (and, again, emphasise it is only my opinion as I’m sure many love it), but it appears to be the story of two quite self-centred people who have a very lively sex life who grow to dislike each other. She goes missing and the clues point to him having murdered her. Then we discover that she’s alive and has set it up because she hates him for changing and for having an affair. All her money gets stolen so she contacts an ex-boyfriend who was a bit obsessed with her at college. He sets her up in his holiday home but she turns psycho on him after seeing her husband on a chat show acting like the man she fell in love with. She then murders the ex and, covered in his blood, drives back to Ben Affleck’s house and claims she was abducted by the ex. Keeping up so far? Ben knows she’s a psycho who murdered the ex yet doesn’t say anything because she’s managed to get hold of a sperm donation he made at a fertility clinic and is now pregnant with his child. Let me just repeat that. Wife frames husband for murdering her, loses her money, murders her ex, returns to ex, gets pregnant using his sperm donation, and he stays with her despite her having admitted she murdered the ex. Then it ends. Eh? I don’t understand? How is that an ending? It doesn’t conclude anything. Nobody is happy. Nobody gets their come-uppance. The murder of the poor ex isn’t solved.

I’m very aware that there are films out there that leave you with questions, but at least they do have an ending. I’m trying to think of examples and I can only come up with ‘Total Recall’ at the time of writing, but I’m sure I’ll think of others after I’ve posted this! I don’t think that Interstellar or Gone Girl were meant to be this type of film. Or maybe I’ve just missed the point.

Which brings us onto the third film. Although it wouldn’t feature up there with my most favourite films ever, Snow White and the Huntsman got going quickly, kept a pace throughout, and it had an ending. A proper ending. An ending where the Queen got her come-uppance (but not without a big battle first), Snow White got crowned as the rightful Queen, and there was a smouldering look from Thor … sorry, the Huntsman, suggesting they had a future too. It was concluded with the hint of the HEA too. Exactly how it should be.

It could be just me, though. I’m sure some people like the slow-build and the inconclusive conclusion (is that a contradiction in terms?), but I really, really don’t.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your opinions on any of these films, particularly around the subject of beginnings and (non-)endings.

Happy Easter everyone 🙂 xx