My Crazy Week of Job Loss & Book Launch

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Jessica Redland - Searching for Steven - Front Cover LOW RESOh my goodness, what a roller coaster of a week I’ve had full of highs and lows, twists and turns!

Morning of Monday 1st June – LOW – I work flexible hours in the day job and normally take a Monday off, working the rest of my full time hours across longer days for the rest of the week. As I had Wed-Fri booked off as holiday to enjoy my book launch, my manager suggested I came in on Monday instead and took my flex day on the Tuesday, giving me four days off on the trot. I’d been out the previous week running a training workshop and she’d been on holiday so I was expecting our 10am meeting to be a catch-up and handover while I had the rest of the week off. Instead, I got made redundant! I completely and utterly had not seen that one coming! Last year, there’d been a bit of a cost savings and restructuring exercise and we’d been assured that HR weren’t being looked at and there’d been no redundancies. Hmm. I got really upset in the meeting because of the shock of it. Thankfully I was allowed to go home to come to terms with the news.

P1060369Afternoon of Monday 1st June – HIGH – Hubby picked me up from work and took me into town to collect a parcel we’d missed. I expected this to be my box of books which seemed very ‘one door closes and another opens’ but it wasn’t books. It was something equally fabulous, though – my very own Steven Bear from lovely writing friends Jo, Sharon and Alys. I love him.

Evening of Monday 1st June – HIGH – I’m a Brown Owl and, to celebrate the launch, we’d decided to complete our Booklover and Writer badges as a pack this term. I’d pulled together a short PowerPoint presentation for the Brownies followed by a creative writing workshop. I wasn’t sure how well this would work but it went down a storm with lots of questions and the creative juices flowing.

Tuesday 2nd June – LOW – Reality hit that I was out of work yet again and I felt so hurt at the timing. It was meant to be the week of my life and my employer had started it by making me redundant. I’d wanted to spend the Tuesday feeling all excited as it was, after all, book launch eve. Instead, I was job hunting.

CoversWednesday 3rd June – HIGH – Searching for Steven was launched (buy it here)! What an incredibly exciting day. I seemed to spend it solidly on social media, thanking people for supporting me, and grinning from ear to ear. I had a well attended Facebook launch party on the evening and I went to bed very, very happy

Thursday 4th June – HIGH – The high continued with more excitement around Steven but also around my novella. To celebrate Steven‘s launch, Raving About Rhys (buy it here) went on a three-day free promotion and was climbing the charts as well as gathering some amazing reviews. By the end of the promotion, I’d got to number 203 in the free Kindle chart on Amazon and number 26 in the romantic comedy chart. I was thrilled about it.

P1060374Another fabulous thing that happened that day was that hubby disappeared out and then returned with a set of three canvasses for me – the cover of each book, and a dedication canvas including a quote he’d recently seen in a film: “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why” by Mark Twain. It feels so apt for me and my writing. It made me cry!

Friday 5th June – LOW – I received the devastating news that our printers had let us down. Despite expecting a box of books earlier in the week, it turns out they’d had problems with their binding equipment and hadn’t even printed my books. I was having a launch party the next day with nearly 100 guests, many of whom would have travelled long distances, and they weren’t going to get a copy of my book. I have to say, I was absolutely distraught. At one point, I even wanted to cancel the party, but my lovely hubby gave me lots of hugs and encouragement. I posted a private message on Facebook to  friends and family explaining what had happened and the outpouring of support and understanding was really quite overwhelming. I was genuinely touched at how proud people were of me and how excited they were to be coming to the book launch, with or without the inclusion of books!

11401385_10206847816496801_2560504648333263427_nSaturday 6th June – HIGH – Launch party day had arrived and what an amazing day it was. My publisher had managed to send me their two sample books by special delivery. These had a page missing and a few errors but it was a thrilling moment opening the box and putting my paws on a copy of my paperback for the first time. I’d have captured it on film but I was still in my PJs with no make-up on so that wouldn’t have been a good look!

The party was fabulous. The only downside is that I needed it to go on about ten times as long as I tried my best but it was impossible to get round everyone. I had family, old friends, new friends, former work colleagues, writing friends and it was so lovely to have everyone together to celebrate this unique occasion.

I have so many people to thank for making the day so special: hubby and munchkin, my sister-in-law Vanessa for the amazing cupcakes and cake (which I completely forgot to cut and hand out!), my mum for the scones, biscuits and caramel shortbread (nom nom), The Scarborough Anglers Social Club for such a friendly/flexible venue, Jon Mancrief for a delicious buffet, and everyone for coming. I got cards, flowers and gifts which was very unexpected. And people paid for books too! I really appreciate all your support and your positive comments. You’ve helped make a horrendous start to the week with a few dips along the way, end on a high xxx

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The End of an Era

Today is 2nd January. Unless you’re celebrating a birthday, this is probably a fairly insignificant date for you; the second day in a row where you write 2014 instead of 2015, the day you awake with a hangover after too many New Year’s Day drinkies, or perhaps even the return to work after a Christmas break. But for many aspiring writers, 2nd January is one of the most significant days in their writing journey because 2nd January is the day they can apply to the RNA’s New Writers Scheme (NWS).

_MG_1520I’d post a link for the benefit of anyone interested but there’s no point because all the places will already have gone. You see, there are only 250 places a year and priority goes to those already on the scheme. However, each year, there are many who dip out. There are those who are celebrating the amazing news of a publishing deal and graduating from the NWS, those who’ve decided to dip out the NWS due to other priorities, and even those who’ve called time on their writing dreams. Hopefully the former are far greater than the latter.

This time three years ago, my writing journey changed course forever when I received the best email in the world ever: the one that told me I’d managed to secure a place on the NWS. This was a big thing for me. HUGE! Because I’d applied the year before and had missed out. It was 2011 and applications were via snail mail. I printed off the application form the moment it appeared online, completed it and posted it first class in the first post of the day. Except it took four days to reach its destination due to heavy snow blanketing parts of the country. And, by that time, the places had already gone. I was devastated. It’s funny how things turn out because 2011 proved to be a very challenging year for me. I was unexpectedly restructured out of the job I loved into a job I’d done before and, because I was the only experienced person in a new team that had been assembled, I ended up doing four jobs and working 14-16 hour days for several months. I had no time to write. I declared that enough was enough and left that job in the November and started writing again around my new job (which didn’t consist of silly hours). I resolved to try for the NWS again. To my relief, they’d changed the application system to an online registration of interest opening at midnight on 2nd January.

P1050687After a scary moment involving our internet going down and me making provisional arrangements to go to my in-laws just in case, the system came back on and I prepared my email and waited. The countdown was excruciating. Seconds ticked by like minutes and minutes felt like hours. Then my computer screen indicated 00:00 and I clicked “send”. Then panicked. What if midnight on the dot wasn’t good enough and it needed to be after midnight i.e. 1 minute past? I sent another email just in case. The organisers probably thought I was a right numpty sending two emails a minute apart but all I cared about was securing my place. And when I received my email later that day to confirm my place, it was worth it.

I’ve submitted a full manuscript for three years: 2012 and 2013 saw the submission of the same MS, ‘Searching for Steven’ as I made significant tweaks to it based on my feedback from my 2012 critique. 2014 saw the submission of the sequel, ‘Getting Over Gary’. This year I won’t be submitting.

It feels a little strange knowing that the deadline for being part of 2015’s NWS has well and truly passed and that the new “class of 2015” will have (probably) heard already that they’ve secured a place (or not). Before today’s deadline, it didn’t feel quite so real that I’d decided to give up my place.

So why did I give up my place? Securing a three-book publishing deal would normally mean graduating from the NWS and becoming a full RNA member. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for me. The RNA have rules about membership and one of these is that a publishing company must have been in existence for two years to be recognised by them. My publisher is new so isn’t yet recognised for full membership. I could have remained with the RNA as an NWS member for another year and become a full member in 2016 when So Vain Books will have been round long enough to meet the criteria but I made the decision that I didn’t want to stay in the NWS for another year when (a) I could release that valuable place to somebody else and give them the same opportunities I’ve enjoyed, (b) I could save myself the membership fee and put it towards a writing workshop instead, and (c) I’d still have the valuable support network of The Write Romantics.

_MG_6896The NWS and RNA have given me so much over the three years I’ve been a member. I’ve set up The Write Romantics with fellow-NWS member Jo Bartlett and the support, knowledge and encouragement from that group has directly secured my publishing deal. If you’ve followed my blog, you’ll recall I got two offers. The first was from a US company who Jo encouraged me to apply to when I was about to give up and So Vain Books, with whom I accepted a publishing deal, were highlighted to us by Alys who’d spotted an advert. Jo submitted to them and secured a deal but I didn’t submit as I wasn’t sure my book was a fit. Jo spoke with the publishing director about my book and I was invited to submit as a result. I would never have received either of these deals without the WRs and I’d never have met the WRs without the NWS. And I’d never have  been part of the Winter Tales charity anthology of which I’m incredibly proud.

Two of the three reports I’ve received (the two for ‘Searching for Steven’) have been incredibly helpful and have helped shape it into the book that it is today (the one that received two offers!) The review of ‘Getting Over Gary’ wasn’t so helpful but I wonder whether part of that was because it was a sequel and my reader really needed to have read Steven first. Although I could have paid the extra fee and stayed in the NWS this year, I didn’t really want to submit the 3rd book in the trilogy and receive a critique that suffered because the reader was trying to read book 3 as a stand-alone book when it’s designed not to be stand-alone.

Good luck to all those who are continuing with the NWS and all the best to those who have secured a place for the first time this year (or maybe re-joined after a break). I think it’s the right decision to have dipped out this year and given my place to someone else although it’s a shame that this means dipping out of the RNA too. This doesn’t need to be forever, though, as I may well re-join when I’m eligible for full membership.

Thank you to all my readers, the organisers, and the RNA for playing a vital part in making my publishing dreams come true. I can’t thank you enough xx

What happens when you make the wrong choice?

My last post, “To SP or Not SP: That is the Question” received a quite overwhelming level of support and I thank everyone who took the time to convey their support or pass on their comments. For those in a similar situation, I hope it helped you gather your thoughts on which road to take on your journey.

Today I’m going to continue with the theme of wrong choices but in a much lighter-hearted vein. My strapline for this blog is “writing, reading, life, chocolate and bears” yet I’ve only ever wittered about writing. I’m going to rectify that today and talk chocolate. More specifically a chocolate brownie.

Today is Father’s Day so I’ll just pause to wish all the best to my dad, my father in law and my husband, Mark, on behalf of the munchkin. We had a lovely walk along Filey Brigg (long stretch of rocks round the cliffs at Filey, North Yorkshire, just down the coast from Scarborough where we live) and then went for tea at a lovely pub called The John Paul Jones in The Bay Holiday Village just outside Filey. We’ve eaten there once before and it was delicious. It’s slightly more expensive than your average chain pub but the food is worth it.

I’m a bit of a pudding fiend. I have always claimed to have two stomachs; one for mains and one for desserts because I can always seem to fit in a dessert even when I’m feeling stuffed from my main course. Maybe this is the variation between sweet and savoury. Or perhaps it’s because I’m a pig!

Anyway, we got round to discussing pudding and recalled that I’d made a bad choice last time I was there when my dessert arrived and was really small but the munchkin’s had been huge. Unfortunately, none of us could remember the choice I’d made last time. I tend to be drawn towards cheesecakes and, as there was a white chocolate and raspberry cheesecake on the menu, I suspected this might have been the tiny dessert. So I avoided that. The munchkin liked the sound of it and I placed our order: cheesecake for her and a chocolate brownie for me. I returned from the bar confident that I’d ordered differently from last time. Until the desserts came out for the table of five near us. A couple of cheesecakes appeared and they were definitely a good-sized portion. Someone on the table had waffles: huge. And another of the party had a chocolate fondant thing which was enormous. And at that point, panic set in. Three desserts and all big. Surely I hadn’t picked the same one as before. Had I?

ImageA few minutes later, munchkin’s large cheesecake arrived. And so did my brownie. My tiny brownie. My three-mouthfuls-and-it’s-gone brownie. Yep, I hadn’t learned. Lightning had struck twice! To add insult to injury, the munchkin couldn’t eat all of hers! Grr. I DEFINITELY won’t make that mistake again. I hope. Can’t believe I made the wrong choice. I personally think that they should note the dimensions on the menu to manage the expectations of customers like me!

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The silver lining in this sorry tale is that I’d lost 3 stone last year and was a long way off my goal but very proud of my progress. For reasons I won’t go into just now, I’ve put a lot of that 3 stone back on and looking at the photos from today was a bit of a shock. With my 3 stone off, I was overweight but I didn’t hate photos of me. I hate this one. I hadn’t realised I looked so huge again. So it was probably just as well my brownie was tiny. Diet starts tomorrow! By the way, if you’re local or visiting, definitely go to The John Paul Jones. Fab pub, fab food but if you like huge puddings, pick anything but the brownie!

And just to tie this all back into writing which is, of course, the main theme of this blog, I’ve had an unexpected development. I was all fired up about indie after my post last week. A discussion with my hubby after posting it confirmed that it would be foolish to rush things and self-publish my debut for the summer market. In fact, Christmas may be ambitious and perhaps spring, summer and Christmas 2015 would be a very wise and sensible launch plan for my trilogy. But then I received a most unexpected Facebook message from one of the big eBook publishers to whom I’d pitched at the RNA conference last year apologising for the enormous wait, thanking me for my patience, and telling me my book would be next on the list to be read. I’d given up on ever hearing from them. The idea to go indie is logical and has many pros but it was driven in the first instance by the frustration at waiting for so long to hear news from any publishers and the refusal to put myself through that again with more and more rounds of subs. Suddenly the place I thought was the best fit for my books was back on the agenda. I’m now going to be on tenterhooks all week. The message came through on Wednesday evening so realistically I didn’t expect to hear anything last week although I did have a little fantasy about good news on Friday 13th and liked the contradiction that would provide. More realistically, I could hear this week. Searching for Steven could have been read over the weekend. Eek! I tell you what, I’m going to be a wreck any time my phone rings!

What happens when you make the wrong choice? It’s a very interesting question. Make the wrong choice on dessert and there’s a severe case of food envy but perhaps some saved calories. Make the wrong choice about the home for my debut novel and my whole writing career could change. I feel like everything is hanging in the balance pending this decision. If I get a yes, I’d be foolish to say no. If I went indie and things didn’t take off, I’d be forever wondering “what if I’d accepted the offer, where would I be then?” but accepting a publishing deal (if I got the call) wouldn’t stop me going indie at some point later when I’d (hopefully) be successful and established. If it’s a no, then nothing has changed and the indie plans still stand. Although I still have another 5 irons in the fire (I had a no from one of the US publishers 2 days after posting my last entry) so it’s not over until the fat lady sings.

And I’m not singing just yet, although I will be mostly eating fruit for the next few months …