It’s that marmite time of year again

_MG_0218It’s Valentine’s Day today. That marmite time of year. Do you love it? Or do you hate it?

As a romance writer, it might follow that I love Valentine’s Day. Hearts, flowers, declarations of love, proposals. All fabulously romantic and lovely and just what a romance writer would adore, surely? Who wouldn’t love 14th February? Well, me actually.

Sorry to say it but I’m not a fan. I know that there are many people who hate it because they think it’s an overly commercial day designed just to make card companies, chocolatiers, and florists a wad of cash. They may have a point but retail is a tough business (she says having run her own shop) and I don’t begrudge them the opportunity.

There’s also the belief (sometimes held by the same people) that there shouldn’t be one day of the year set aside on which you must specifically show you love someone; if you love someone, you should demonstrate it all year round.

I can see both of these points but neither are the reason why I don’t love Valentine’s Day. I don’t love Valentine’s Day because Valentine’s Day doesn’t love me.

Let me explain…

_MG_7511My very first brush with Valentine’s Day was making a homemade card for a lad I fancied at primary school. I can’t remember whether there was a postbox set up or whether I sneaked it into his tray but I vividly remember him being unbelieveably disinterested in it. He made no enquiries to find out who’d sent it. He didn’t care. Boys eh? Needless to say, I didn’t get any cards that year. Or any other year at primary school.

When I was about fourteen, I was thrilled to receive a card and a heart-shaped chocolate in the post. My very first Valentine’s card. And it came with a gift! It was from a lad that I’d befriended on an adventure holiday the previous summer (I knew because he’d signed it). I went into school all excited… only to discover that he’d also sent one to my best friend who’d been on holiday with me and another girl we’d befriended there. It was a gesture of friendship. Nothing else.

I was eighteen before another card came my way. This time it was from my boyfriend in my first year at university. We’d been to the Halls of Residence bar on the evening of the 13th February with a couple of friends. One of them lived on the same floor as me and kept me up close to midnight, asking if I liked surprises. I thought this was a little strange. As midnight struck and Valentine’s Day arrived, the doors to the floor burst open and my boyfriend came running round the corridor dressed in nothing but boxer shorts covered in hearts, carrying a bottle of wine, a card, and a red rose. I’m going to sound so awful saying this, but my recall (many years later) was that it was a bit more embarrassing than romantic! Plus, I had lectures the next day and I was really, really tired! I didn’t want to drink wine and be romantic. I just wanted to go to sleep.

P1060175I had a free period later that morning and propped open my door and wandered into the kitchen to make a cuppa. When I came back, there was a card and a Sad Sam (remember those? Puppies with big, sad eyes that were all the rage in the late 80s/early 90s) sat on my bed. The lad in the room next-door (with whom I was friends) had put them there. Apparently he’d fallen for me and, even though he was also friends with my boyfriend, he seemed to think it was okay to share his feelings too. It was Valentine’s Day after all! I can’t remember whether I guessed it was him or whether he told me, but I somehow found myself sitting on my bed with him confessing his undying devotion to me and telling me that he’d be there for me if I ever wanted to ditch the boyfriend. Please keep remembering that the boyfriend and he were friends. Not so much after that. You see, the boyfriend knew I had a free period so came to see me and found me on the bed having a heart-to-heart and holding a card and a Sad Sam that he hadn’t given me. He understandably wasn’t too chuffed with my neighbour’s bold declaration of devotion. It was quite a fraught free period and I have never been so relieved to have an Economics lecture to attend as I was that morning; perfect opportunity to escape the tension!

The boyfriend and I went out for a romantic meal that evening. Only it wasn’t at all romantic. He was livid about the incident with the next-door neighbour and, even though he knew I didn’t feel anything for the lad, the betrayal of friendship hung in the air. Great.

P1060177In my final year at university, I was stunned and delighted to receive three Valentine’s cards, especially as I was single at the time. One was from a good friend who wanted to cheer me up, one was from a lad with whom I’d had one date but who’d made it clear that he didn’t want another date or a relationship as he was on the rebound from someone. Not really sure to this day why he sent me a card. The third was a mystery, though. It contained some song lyrics and I knew I recognised them but I absolutely couldn’t place them. These were the days before t’internet. I couldn’t just Google them. I was sure I knew who’d sent me it – a lad who I’d dated for about a week the term before – but he demanded to know why I thought it was him. I had to solve the clue in the lyrics. I finally sussed the song but I still couldn’t work out the connection to him. By the time I worked it out (the name of the band was connected to his name), it was a week or so later, and the moment was well and truly lost. He admitted that it had been him but I think he was annoyed that I hadn’t worked out why as, when we’d been dating, he’d told me that, if he ever sent someone a Valentine’s card, he’d put the lyrics of a song by this particular band in his card. Clearly I’d forgotten that conversation which suggested I’d never been listening to him in the first place and had therefore been a pretty rubbish girlfriend. Oops!

_MG_0221After that, I had years of being single and I seemed to go through a phase of being away with work on Valentine’s Day. I was exceedingly self-conscious about dining in the hotel alone as it was. Throw into the mix a restaurant full of couples gazing adoringly into each other’s eyes and it was excruciating.

I’ve now been with hubby for eleven Valentine’s Days. When we first met, we exchanged cards and a few silly gifts (I remember buying him some Purple Ronnie socks, for example) but I’ve never had any flowers, teddies, or anything particularly special from him on Valentine’s Day. Several years ago, I declared that I only wanted a card. I’ll admit this was more of a defence mechanism; declare that you only want a card and you won’t be disappointed when you don’t get anything else and will be pleasantly surprised if you do! I sometimes wish he’d surprise me and present me with some flowers. Or perhaps something that’s even more me… like a romantic novel, some heart-themed stationery, or a film. Or all three but that’s just greedy! But would I really want this on Valentine’s Day? When I see my Facebook feed later today full of friends and family declaring, “Look what I got” and posting pictures of bouquets, champagne, teddy bears holding hearts, posh meals out, and so on, I know I’ll get envious (because I do every year) and wish I was on the receiving end of all these lovely gifts. But then I remind myself that past experience has made me dislike this day because of the pressure and disappointment it brings, whether you’re single or not. Why, therefore, would I want to acknowledge this day?

Perhaps I am more with the school of thought that showing you care should happen all year round; not just on February 14th. The problem is, my husband isn’t romantic. He doesn’t buy me flowers. In nearly twelve years together, he’s never sent me a bouquet. He’s bought me some flowers home from the supermarket on a handful of occasions, along with the weekly shop. Not quite the same thing. The thing is that I don’t really want flowers on Valentine’s Day. I object to the inflated prices. But it would be nice to have some at another time of year. Perhaps.

Hubby doesn’t surprise me with romantic meals either. I can’t remember the last time we went out together, just the two of us. Or even as a group. To be fair to him, we were meant to go out between Christmas and New Year as a six. One of the group was ill so that couple pulled out but the other couple then cancelled as the plan had been to go out as a six. Hubby and I could have gone out as a two but I couldn’t be bothered. I’m not very good at dealing with changes to plans and a takeaway in front of the TV seemed so much easier than getting all dressed up and braving the cold.

P1060118So hubby doesn’t do meals and flowers but he does do other things that show he cares. He spends ages choosing the right cards with the right words in them and he always adds some of his own instead of just signing his name. He lets me lie in on a weekend and brings me a cup of tea and some breakfast in bed. He reads my bootcamp blog without fail and is really proud of me when I achieve my goals. He bought me a necklace one year (for birthday or Christmas) with a pendant of St Paul on it, the Patron Saint of Writers. I went on a girly trip to York last month with my mum and sisters-in-law and wasn’t going to buy anything because we’re trying to save some money. He insisted I treated myself to a teddy bear for my collection as I’d been really down about work last year when I thought I was going to lose my job yet again. And I mustn’t forget coming home from my shopping trip to discover that he’d been creative and designed a photo for the launch of my debut novel. I hadn’t asked him to. We’d never discussed it. He just did it.

10933962_422724554553053_2755676624398073407_nIt’s not over the top displays of romance but, when I break it down, it’s all evidence that he’s thinking of me and he cares. Isn’t that what romance is? Especially the little things that he does regularly like reading my blog and making me breakfast in bed. Do I need bouquets of flowers when I have this? Hmm. Well, maybe not constantly but once in a while would be lovely 🙂

Whatever you’re doing today, I hope it brings you happiness, whether you’re in a great relationship, a relationship on the rocks, or single. Find something that makes you happy. For me, it’s a script-writing workshop at our local theatre and tea with hubby and the munchkin. What a fabulous way to spend a Saturday. Watch this space for a future blog about the script-writing workshop.

Happy weekend 🙂

Jessica xx

Back to the start again

A week or so ago, I was given the launch day for my debut novel, ‘Searching for Steven’. I knew it was going to be June but I’d got it into my head it would probably be late June. It’s Wednesday June 3rd! Eek! That’s only just over four months away!

PhotoFunia-6aa56c2Things are starting to happen. I’ve had my marketing plan from my lovely publishers, So Vain Books, and I’ve had a first draft of my book cover to check I like the concept. Either late next week or early the week after, I should receive my line edits. I have no idea what this will entail. I’ve been very lucky because my structural edits which I received in October last year required very little work. I was asked to address two points in the book where it seemed like the action didn’t quite end. This required an additional sentence in each case so very easy. I was also asked to tone down a chapter where a character was a bit under the influence. When I re-read it, I could see it was a bit over the top and my publishers suggested a slight tweak that I was able to run with. I think the chapter is much better as a result. The challenging part was the start. I thought I’d already blogged about this but I’ve looked back over my posts and I can’t see one. Please forgive me if I have covered this already and am just not seeing it!

Going back and re-writing the start of ‘Steven’ was my worst nightmare because it has been my nemesis in the decade I’ve been working on the book. I am not exaggerating when I say there have been about 40-50 different starts. In ‘Steven’, my protagonist Sarah moves back to her seaside hometown of Whitsborough Bay in North Yorkshire to take over her Auntie Kay’s florist shop. In early versions of the book, this was because Auntie Kay had died and Sarah had inherited the shop. I therefore had the book starting at a funeral, a will-reading, sitting in a cafe with her best friend reflecting on the loss, getting a phone call at home with the news of the death and about six or seven other variations around this theme. Then a writing friend read one of the variations and cried, ‘No! You can’t kill Auntie Kay!’ And I suddenly realised she was right. Although Auntie Kay was dead in my book, she’d become a real character in my head and I’d grown to really like her. But why else would Sarah move back home and take over the florists if her Auntie hadn’t died. Then it struck me: she could decide to retire and travel the world. Perfect. Auntie Kay was very happy to receive this news instead of a death certificate! Great news for her but not so great for me. How would I start the book now?

The answer was pretty much anywhere. I had Sarah at work missing out on a promotion, at home ending a rubbish relationship, travelling home to Whitsborough Bay after she’d split up with the boyfriend, or being in Auntie Kay’s shop and being told the news that she wanted to give the shop to Sarah to name just a few. I started the story when she was in primary school. I started the story when she was in senior school. I started the story in so many different guises that my head was spinning!

In summer 2013, I attended the RNA’s annual conference and pitched the book to two publishers. They both loved the premise and my voice which was incredibly flattering. They also both wanted to see the full manuscript. At this point, it started with Sarah travelling home to see Auntie Kay and getting the news about the shop. The MS had been way too long so I’d cut out a lot of what went before around ending a rubbish relationship in order to get on with the main story. One editor liked it but wanted to see a bit more action e.g. splitting up with the boyfriend (the chapter I’d cut) before going home. The other wanted more of a motivation as to why she was so keen to meet The One (it is a romance story, after all). Both their comments triggered a lightbulb moment and I came up with a start to the book that got the action and the motivation. Yippee!

PhotoFunia-6aa69bcProblem was, although So Vain Books loved it, they were concerned that it might set the wrong tone for the book with anyone dipping into the first chapter before buying. They were absolutely right. The book is fairly light-hearted and the beginning wasn’t.

I emailed them to say I’d be delighted to make a change to the start but HELP!!!!! I explained my million variations. At one point, I’d written a chapter that I did really love and I still had it. I felt it might be what they were looking for. I edited it a bit as some of the points made in it were no longer relevant to the rest of the story and sent it over. They loved it. Phew!

So now I wait to see what the final editing stage will bring. In the meantime, I’ve pretty much written the first draft of book 3. It needs a lot of editing as I’ve made a major change to it which I’ll talk about in another post but it’s been really timely because, as a result of finishing the trilogy, I know there are some minor tweaks I want to make to ‘Steven’. I want to change the job of a minor character in book 1 who’s a major character in book 3. I want to change the name of a village because I’ve really gone off my original choice of name. I need to change someone’s age. Little things like that. The great thing is that I have the opportunity to still do that. But there will hit a point when I can no longer tinker. Very scary!

I’m now really pleased with the start of ‘Steven’. It’s been a very painful process but I’ve got there. Funnily enough, the start to the two sequels has caused me no problems at all. I tinkered a bit with book 2 and book 3 hasn’t changed at all. Whether I planned it better because I didn’t want to go through the pain of book 1 again or whether it was easier to know where to start when the book’s a sequel, I’m not sure. Whatever the reason, I’m glad I don’t have to go through it again. Unless, of course, my publisher doesn’t like the start of either book. But we’ll cross that bridge if we come to it.

Happy reading and writing 🙂 xx

Time for a big hug!

Did you know that yesterday* was National Hug Day aka National Hugging Day? No, me neither! Well, that’s a lie because obviously I did know it is otherwise I wouldn’t be writing about it. What I should probably have said is that I hadn’t heard of it until it was mentioned on my local radio station that morning. There seem to be national days for everything and I suspected it was one of the many invented recently to jump on the bandwagon. But I was wrong. It’s actually been around since 1986! Yes, you read that right: 1986. The year that John McCarthy was kidnapped in Beirut, work finished on the M25, we piled to the cinema to watch Tom Cruise in Top Gun, and Nick Berry’s “Every Loser Wins” was the second best-selling single of the year in the UK (The Communards with the far more respectable “Don’t Leave Me This Way was number 1). That’s a long time ago!

I did some research and apparently it was invented in the USA by a bloke called Kevin Zaborney who felt that Americans didn’t express their feelings enough and should hug family and friends (and even strangers) even more because of the sense of well-being this gives. Awww. Nice idea. Here’s the munchkin and me having a nice hug on a holiday in the Lakes.

P1030342So on my blog today, I want to talk about hugs. But not the snuggling each other variety. I want to talk about the teddy bear variety. Afterall, the strapline of my blog is “Writing, Reading, Stationery, Life, Chocolate & Bears” and I haven’t yet devoted a post to bears.

You may or may not know that a collection of teddy bears is known as a hug. Isn’t that just adorable? And I have an exceedingly large hug. I’m what’s known as an arctophile which is the official name given to someone who collects teddy bears. I don’t think it’s as warm and fuzzy a word as it should be but it could be worse.

As a child, I liked bears. But I also liked dolls, lego, and colouring books so I wouldn’t say bears stood out as “my thing”. When I was in my mid-teens, I started to like bears more. I’m not really sure why. I had quite a few plush bears and I found myself drawn to them in shops. It became known I was a bear-fan and gifts started to become more and more bear-themed. When I bought my first house, my plush collection was huge and my house was strewn with teddy bear pictures, salt and pepper shakers and placemats. I drew the line at the rather scary teddy-bear vacuum cleaner cover my mum once bought me, though. It looked more like a giant mouse in clothes and started to give me the fear so it disappeared!

P1060143It was only when I hit my thirties that I discovered that there was a world outside plush teddy bears and I started my journey to becoming a true arctophile. We probably all have at least one rubbish relationship in our past and Dave (name changed to protect him; not that he deserves it) was mine. But I’ll always be grateful to Dave for one thing; back in 2001 he introduced me to my first collectible bear. He took me to a gorgeous bear shop in his home town. I’d never heard of Steiff or Dean’s or any of the other bear companies but, as I gazed round the packed shelves, I was in awe. Gorgeous faces stared back at me with “pick me” eyes.

Then I looked at a price tag.

Oh. My. Goodness! £70 for a bear? £150 for a bear? £300 for a bear? What?????!!!!

But it’s only when you start exploring the world of collectible bears that you appreciate the history, artistry and materials that go into them and you get it. You really do.

P1060145I walked out that shop that day having fallen in love with a particular Dean’s Bear (oldest UK teddy bear manufacturer) called Scruff but there was no way I was paying £70 for a bear. We walked round the city, had some lunch, walked back towards the car park … and straight into the bear shop. Scruff became the first member of my collectible hug and I’m sure you can see why (although hubby is the photographer in the family; not me!)

I slowly added to the hug (with those prices, it’s not exactly a regular purchase). In 2002, I finally realised that the only value Dave brought to my life was that he’d introduced me to collectible bears and we parted company. Phew! I then completely changed my life. I packed in my job, moved back to the north, and opened a teddy bear shop. Obviously.

P1060142Being surrounded by bears and bear-themed products (stationery, cards, bags etc.) was a dream come true. The challenging part was not taking them all home to add to the hug! I was like a small child at Christmas every time a delivery arrived, particularly for collectible bears. You see, I had reps for the plush bears I carried (mainly Gund and Russ) but all my collectible bears were ordered from a catalogue which meant opening a Steiff, Dean’s, Robin Rive, Hermann Teddy Original or Merrythought delivery was a very special moment. I know it probably sounds really sad to anyone who isn’t a teddy bear lover but I’d line them up on the counter and gaze lovingly at them before finding a new home on my shelves and in my glass cabinets.

P1060144Quite often the shop would be empty and I’d stroll around and have a hug and a squeeze, or turn the head slightly on a collectible bear to make him even more appealing.

I hate to say it but I had my favourites. Sometimes the adoration was immediate but sometimes they grew on me the more I caught their eyes. I’d say to them, “If you’re not sold in three months, you’re coming home with me.” The only problem then was that I’d have a mild panic attack any time a customer started showing interest in them, hoping they wouldn’t leave the shop yet knowing that I needed to make the sale to stay afloat. Munchie (the fluffy one above) and Caramel (to the left) are a couple of examples although I promise that the names had nothing to do with the decision to bring them home, despite my sweet tooth!

P1060140I attended a bear-making workshop at a (sadly now closed down) teddy bear shop on Elvet Bridge in Durham. I made my first bear there. Meet Mark Elvet (named after my husband and the shop location). I made another one from the same pattern who I called Cinnamon Brown then I attended an advanced workshop where I experimented with spray-dying their noses. I called my bear Mustard Green. But I sold both of them. I wanted to keep them but I decided to experiment and see whether a customer would love my bears. They did. They sold. They joined new hugs. My only regret is that I never actually took photos of them. This was just before everyone turned digital so snapping away at everything simply didn’t happen.

When I closed the shop in 2005, a lot of the bears sold. It’s rare that collectible bears are reduced so the sale brought in a lot of interest. A few of my favourites may have slipped into the hug somehow pre-sale (no idea how that happened) and a few other unloved ones joined them when they hadn’t gone to new hugs by the time I locked the doors for the last time. They may have been unloved by the general public but they weren’t unloved by me!

Since then, the additions to the collections have slowed but there’s always room for one more. And another … and another. Because, let’s face it, bears like to hug and the more of them there are squeezed up close together in my bear cabinet, the more hugs they get from each other!

I know it’s no longer National Hugging Day but, if you missed it yesterday, celebrate it today instead. You’ll feel great 🙂

I’d love to hear from you about your hugs or your teddy bears. Please click on the comments box and share. I’ll do some more posts about bears and the shop over the year as well as writing ones.

* Slight confession: I planned to post this yesterday on National Hugging Day and I prepared the post during my lunch break at work … then somehow saved it to my work PC instead of my USB stick so I had to retrieve it today and post a day late!

What’s lurking in “The Tin?”

We had our first family holiday abroad in October which meant opening “The Tin”. I’m sure most households have something similar. “The Tin” is a long metal box from Ikea in which I store important stuff: passports, birth certificates, spare cheque books etc. But I also use it to store my old school reports. I have every report from the five years I spent at my local comprehensive and I have no idea why I’ve kept them. I suppose it’s one of those things where I’ve kept them this long, why chuck them, especially when The Tin has space to store them safely.

We often hear quotes from school reports cited in the media where a teacher has either predicted that someone will end up in the profession for which they’re famous (e.g. writer, actor, politician) or where their teacher tells them they’ll amount to nothing.

P1050081I haven’t read my school reports for years and years but, as I rifled through The Tin to retrieve our passports ready for our holiday, I wondered whether there were any clues in my English reports to suggest my teachers knew I had it in me to be a writer. I knew there wouldn’t be anything disparaging because I worked hard at English and enjoyed it so I was rewarded with good grades as a result.

Here’s what my reports had to say:

1st Year (age 11-12) – 69% – 8=/29 – “works very hard, is enthusiastic and presents her written work neatly and thoughtfully”

2nd Year (age 12-13) – 75% – 1=/29 – “well done! Work has been excellent this year. She works with imagination and enthusiasm and is a pleasant and helpful librarian” [I’d actually forgotten I’d been a school librarian!]

3rd Year (age 13-14) – 70% – 6/30 – “done very well this year” [There’d been lots of teaching strikes that year so the report was a much reduced affair!]

4th Year (age 14-15) – no exam results as I was doing my GCSEs and it was all coursework-based – “has worked steadily since September and I have been pleased with the quality of the work she has produced. It is always neatly presented and she seems to have grasped what is required in literature. Her oral work is also satisfying” [the use of the word “satisfying” makes me smile as I went on to speak in public as a career in my recruitment and training roles]

5th Year (age 15-16) – Language – “always works to the best of her ability and not only is her work of a high standard, it is beautifully presented. Her folder is a credit to her and I hope she receives the grade I feel she deserves”

Literature – “as with language, she has worked conscientiously on her literature folder. The result is a pleasing selection of work which is of a high standard”

_MG_1543There are some themes aren’t there? Good presentation and enthusiasm seem to be strong themes. Sadly, there are no spoutings of my literary brilliance [hee hee]. No suggestions that I had exceptional talent and would take the publishing world by storm [please know that I’m giggling as I’m writing this!]

In the end, I got a GCSE grade A in English Language and in Literature (A* didn’t exist as this was the first year of GCSEs) and was extremely proud of those results. I’d have gone on to study A Levels at college had our local college offered English Language at the time but they only offered Literature. I’d have added Psychology to that but I have no idea what other subject I’d have gone for so I went to technical college and studied a BTEC in Business & Finance instead. I wonder whether my road to publication would have been any quicker had our 6th Form offered English Language. Would I have then gone on to study English at university? Would I have become a teacher perhaps? We’ll never know. What I do know is that I’ve always loved English, always loved reading, and always loved writing. Long may it continue.

The reasons for the early Christmas prep … whinge time!

I posted earlier this week about my procrastination for my writing and promised I’d explain why I think I’m doing this. So here’s the explanation. Frustratingly, I started writing this post immediately after the 3rd Dec one but I’ve somehow lost it. I must have closed it down without saving it. Grr.

Let’s crack on. Here’s are several things that have happened that have led to my crisis of confidence:

P10507461) My NWS report earlier this year. I submitted novel 2, ‘Getting Over Gary’, and my reader didn’t have many positive things to say about it. She kept saying there were lots of positive things … but somehow managed to emit them from my report. She kept referring to it as a “draft” but I actually felt like it was pretty much there. Thankfully my incredibly supportive fellow-Write Romantic, Jo Bartlett, had beta-read Gary. I asked her to look over the report and she was really encouraging in allaying my concerns

2 ) I started to edit Gary as there were a couple of points that my reader had made that I decided to act upon. I’d loved the book before submitting it but began to really doubt it was good enough as a follow-up to Steven. One of the points that plagued me were that my heroine of book 1, Sarah, and her best friend, Elise (the heroine of book 2) weren’t different enough. I write in 1st person and have given myself a bit of a challenge. Book 1 is told completely from Sarah’s POV but book 2 is Elise’s story and mainly told from her POV but it also continues with Sarah’s story and includes chapters told from her POV. By book 3, we have Sarah’s, Elise’s and Clare’s (new heroine) POVs. I began to realise that my reader was right and I wasn’t really sure what to do about it. Jo came up with a great suggestion of expanding on some aspects of Elise’s personality that I’d touched upon in book 1 but hadn’t made much of in book 2. If I built on this, I’d get my difference but it meant quite a bit of work and I struggled with it.

I then got the amazing news of a publishing deal. Then another. In the two-offers excitement, I pretty much wrote off September, not writing anything. Early October was then devoted to getting ready for the launch of our anthology, late October was a holiday, then I returned to start NaNo …

_MG_69113) I failed NaNo. Last year I “won” it, finishing Gary and starting on book 3, ‘Discovering David’. I wanted to use the 50k word goal to finish David after which I’d turn to Gary again and try to finally resolve the issues in that. The thing is, I started NaNo knowing the plot of David wasn’t perfect. I had a big event happen near the start and I realised earlier in the year that I needed this happen much closer to the end to ensure my heroine, Clare, had a good character arc. This meant a lot of re-plotting. I took my notebook away on holiday with a plan to re-plot it then but I just didn’t find the time to look at it on a family holiday.

I decided to just crack on with writing the chapters I’d mapped out (as I’d still need them) then re-order things later. I managed about 20k words which was probably about 17k more than I’d have done without NaNo but I lost my confidence and let myself get distracted my the whole Christmas preparation thing I talked about in my last post.

4) Our anthology, ‘Winter Tales – Stories to Warm Your Heart’ came out at the start of November which was very exciting. But, on the day it was launched, I had a bit of a panic attack. We’d discussed as a group whose short story would feature first in the anthology. It was decided that mine would because (a) I’d been the one to pull the stories together and my husband had typeset them and (b) My story is called ‘Not Just Another Winter’s Tale’ which fit well with the title of the anthology. Very exciting. Very flattering. Actually, very scary and that fear hit me big time when I went onto Amazon to look at our book and registered that the “look inside” would mean potential readers got to sample most of my story. Only my story. Nobody else’s story. Just mine. Which meant that some people might make the decision not to buy because they didn’t like my work. Huge pressure. Of course, the logical side in me is telling me that I have no way of ever knowing whether someone chose not to buy because of the sample but my Doubting Thomas tells me they could well have done

P10506875) The reviews for ‘Winter Tales’ started coming in. Some of the group had made contact with book reviewers and provided them with advance pdfs so a few reviews came in pretty quickly. It was amazing to get 4 and 5-star reviews from these individuals with hundreds or thousands of followers and I basked in the collective glory of the anthology. But I was also hit with doubts. One thing I hadn’t been prepared for was any of the reviewers specifically naming stories as their favourites. The first reviewer picked four stories as her favourites (not mine) and the second one said she preferred the non-traditional romance stories (also not mine). Ridiculous isn’t it but this really threw me. I certainly hadn’t expected to have my story named as a favourite but it hadn’t entered my head that others would be picked out either. Which took me back to point 4

6) I’m feeling really down about work at the moment. This time last year, I’d been out of work for several months and had just secured a job with the company I currently work for. A month or so back, my team received some information that indicated that we could find our roles at risk. Several other pieces of data came to light that suggested this would definitely be the case and, whilst I’ve been now told my role isn’t at risk, there will definitely be a restructure in the new year and I have no idea what my role will look like. I saw a promotion opportunity internally recently and, as I’ve taken a big step down in salary and level to work locally and avoid a huge commute each day, I knew I could do this job. The recruiting manager knew I could do this job too but she felt that I’d be wasted in the role because I’m good at and passionate about what I do at the moment. So the promotion isn’t open to me and I just have to hope that whatever restructuring happens in the new year finally provides clarity on my role and a pay rise. Not going to hold my breath, though 😦

So there you have it. The job situation is having a huge effect on my confidence but I’d be lying if I said it was the whole thing. I think the bigger concern is around writing books 2 and 3. I’m exceptionally proud of Steven. I was proud of Gary until I submitted to the NWS and I was very happy with the story for book 3 until I started writing it. Musicians often cite “that difficult second album” and I think I’m suffering from the difficult second and third book. I’m also doubting my story in the anthology and am doubting I have what it takes to be anything other than a “one-book wonder”. And I’m not even that yet because it won’t be released until next year!

On the positive side, I’ve had wobbles before and got over them. I’m also meeting my writing pals Alys and Sharon tomorrow who should help to slap me and cheer me up. Jo has reminded me that I’ve got a three-book deal but, whilst amazing, my publishers haven’t seen Gary or David yet. What if they don’t like them. She suggested I could send Gary over for a look but I don’t know if I dare, especially when I know it’s not quite there.

I think what I need to do for now is just focus on Christmas, try to relax, stop panicking about the writing and crack on with it when I get my work confidence back as that is definitely on my mind.

Right, going to stop moaning now. Before I go, though, I’ll just point out that our heating broke down overnight on Thursday and we can’t get anyone out until Monday. We had our first frost today and it’s freezing so I’m feeling extra sorry for myself today. I’m writing this in my PJs AND a onesie, thick socks, and the lounge fire on (thank goodness for an electric fire), trying to get some heat into my bones. I think this is probably making the writing doubts even worse!

Thanks for listening xx

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas … and there’s a reason for it

1522851_784506671588635_6474462348225739404_oDo you prefer the build-up to Christmas or Christmas Day itself? I find Christmas Day quite exhausting and, after the munchkin has opened her gifts, I think a year of hard work usually catches up on me and I just want to sleep for England. So, for me, it’s the build-up I prefer and specifically one aspect: the moment when the tree is up and the boxes have all been put back in the attic and I can settle down on the sofa and gaze at the gorgeous lights and decorations. I absolutely love fairy lights and would happily have them up in the house all year round. We moved house 3 years ago. When we had our kitchen re-done in our old house, we had a couple of sets of shelves that looked perfect with white fairy lights on them all year round. Somehow we lost the plugs in the move so our current kitchen doesn’t have any. However, I’ve just treated myself to a couple of sets for the office although they haven’t quite made it out of their boxes yet.


I don’t particularly enjoy Christmas shopping (I’m not a shopping fan full stop) but I love gathering all the gifts together and wrapping them. I like to adorn them with bows and curly ribbon and can spend hours on the task. This year, I’d done them all just before the end of November in a film-fest of The Proposal and What Happens in Vegas. Usually I would watch Christmas films but they were still in the attic. They came down with the decorations so Saturday was a Christmas film-fest whilst tree-decorating.

P1040382I’m greedy. We have three trees! We have a large artificial one in the bay of our lounge, my daughter has a small pink one on a coffee table in the lounge and we have a third smaller artificial one in the dining room window. This may seem an indulgence but we originally bought this extra one because we had large shelved recesses in the dining room in our old house and, in our new house, the lounge is at the back of the house and the dining room is at the front. I like to see Christmas lights from the road so I simply had to put the small tree on display on the large window ledge there.

I’m ridiculously organised this year. I’ve bought and wrapped nearly all my gifts, have written my cards, and have put up all the decorations. I just have gifts for the hubby to buy. He’s an absolute nightmare to buy for so I’ve put it on the table that I haven’t a clue what to get him this year so ball’s in his court to tell me or he’ll have nothing. So far, he’s suggested a blu-ray so progress isn’t great! I’m not normally this organised. Don’t get me wrong – I’m a pretty organised person – but I’m not normally this far in advance with Christmas which begs the question why. What’s different this year?

I think I know.

IMG_0305I’m procrastinating. I’m going through a phase of self-doubt with my writing and, if I immersed myself in spending two evenings producing a spreadsheet with all the things the munchkin had on her wish-list and posting links to said items at the best price (yes, I really did do this!), if I spent two evenings wrapping gifts, two days putting up all the decorations and an evening writing cards, not to mention a morning’s shopping trip and several hours online, then I didn’t have to write. And I didn’t have to face my doubts. And I could continue to be an ostrich. But the shopping’s done, the decorations are up and the cards are written which means I can’t bury my head in the sand anymore. Eek. I’ll tell you more about the self-doubt in my next post.

What to do now? Should I write? No, I think I’ll get those fairy lights out their boxes …

Something special to mark the occasion & new beginnings

P1050691Last week, I brought you the exciting news about two book deals in my post “A Tale of Two Contracts” Acts I and II. It’s been lovely receiving so many positive comments from excited friends, family, and fellow-Write Romantics. Some of them have even generously bought me gifts so I wanted to share a couple and thank the senders.

P1050673The first gift arrived in the post from my lovely writing friend and fellow-founder of The Write Romantics, Jay Bartlett. Meet Smithy, my gorgeously soft brown teddy (names as such because he’s exclusively made for WH Smith which feels like a very appropriate supplier for a writer who aspires to have their book on the shelves of WH Smith one day). He’s wearing a white t-shirt bearing the message “You got ‘the call’ Julie” (Julie being my real name rather than my pen name). Jay has been an invaluable source of support. She’s read Steven on two, possibly three occasions and provided feedback and support. She’s also been the voice of reason and encouragement through the inevitable moments of self-doubt every writer has. Thank you Jay xxx

P1050694I have a wonderful colleague at work called Joanna who makes me laugh so much. When I got my first publishing offer which was for eBook only, she was a bit gutted because she wanted to read the book so badly but didn’t have an eReader and wondered how she could acquire one without letting on to her dad who’s very anti-eReaders. When I got – and accepted – the second deal and she knew there was a paperback coming, she said “I’ll pay full price. I won’t even wait till it’s 3 for 2 in Asda!” Hee hee. Bless her. Anyway, Joanna bought me this fabulous pen with the engraving “Julie – Published Writer” especially for my first signings! How lovely is that? Thank you to you, Joanna, for always believing in me 🙂 xx

P1050692Fellow Write Romantic Alys met me for tea in York last week and she presented me with a gorjuss coaster. No, that’s not a typo – gorjuss is the make of these absolutely gorgeous characters. I love them. This one says “we can all shine” which feels such a positive message for someone whose dreams have come true. I have a couple already. I have one by my bedside of a girl standing on a pile of books and I have another on my desk that says “I found my family in a book”. I actually use two coasters on my desk; one for my water and one for my tea and now I can replace the Pooh-bear one with my new gorguss one. Alys, like the rest of the WRs, has been really encouraging and supportive throughout and also read Steven for me which was really lovely of her when it’s not her preferred genre of books. Thanks Alys. By the way, Alys also gave me a heart-shaped purple-foil-wrapped chocolate lolly. But I troughed it before I thought to take a photo. Oops!

P1050687I bought myself a little gift, too. I have a friend who makes beautiful hand-crafted signs and I’d previously asked her to make me one for my office with both my names on it. I asked her to produce a matching one with a wonderful quote introduced to me by Write Romantic Helen Phifer which I find incredibly apt.

P1050667

My final gift was my fabulous purchase at the weekend courtesy of my husband. I collect teddy bears. I love soft, plush bears and have many but I collect proper jointed teddy bears made by companies like Steiff, Hermann Teddy Original, Dean’s and Merrythought but I also love artist bears which are hand-crafted by people who simply love teddy bears. I told Mark that I’d love to have a collector bear to commemorate by book deal so he took me round the three bear shops in York at the weekend to look. It wasn’t looking good at first. I wanted the bear to have some connection to my writing although I didn’t know quite how I’d manage that. I hoped it would just “speak” to me. In the first two shops, I came across the same limited edition bear (15000 pieces I think it was) called “Jessica”. Perfect name but I wasn’t sure I loved her. She wore some pink pearls and I think it was them that were putting me off. She’d have been better without them. I resolved that I’d go to the third shop and if none of the bears grabbed me, I’d come back and have a good, long look at Jessica again to see if she was right. It wasn’t looking good in the third shop either. I saw a gorgeous artist bear that didn’t really have any relevance but I loved him. He was very expensive, though; four times what I’d planned to pay so there was just no way. Then, as we were leaving, I decided to study a glass cabinet with smaller bears in it and that’s when I spotted Kasimir. He’s an Astridbear; an artist from Germany and I have two fabulous Astridbears already. The word “love” on his dungarees just spoke to me. As a romance writer, I’d found my meaningful bear and he’s settled into life in the bear cabinet very well.

P1050693Thank you everyone for your cards (mum & dad, Joanna and Norma), gifts, and well wishes. I actually signed my contract on Monday so it is 100% official that I’m a So Vain Books author. I’ve come to terms with referring to myself as a “writer” for a long time (as opposed to an “aspiring writer”) but I think it will take me a long time to get used to referring to myself as an “author”!

I’ve managed to negotiate a flexible working contract at work. I’ve been toying with putting in a request since the law changed in the summer allowing anyone to request the right to flexible work (although the company doesn’t have to accept). I liked the idea of working my normal hours across four longer days and having a day off to write but I never got round to submitting it. The book deal was the push I needed and I was eternally grateful to have my request accepted immediately. It’s a trial until the end of the year to make sure it meets the needs of the business but I can’t see it being a problem. I had my first Monday off this week and it was amazing to sit at my desk and feel like an author, working for a solid day on writing-related activities.

Something else lovely happened this week at work which made me feel like a real author too. I got a phone call from our HR Manager on a completely non-work-related issue. She said that she was delighted to hear the news of my writing deal and said that she was part of a reading group and that they all take turns in choosing books. She said that, when my book was published, she’d like to choose mine to read and would I mind going along and talking to the group? Wow! How flattered was I? Naturally I said yes. It feels like things are really starting to happen.

I’d better sign off or this could go on forever! Thanks to everyone who has been part of my journey so far and to all of those who’ll join us along the way.

Jessica xx

 

A Tale of Two Contracts – Act 1

P1050690Have you ever got something you really, really wanted? Something you’ve longed for years and years? How did it feel?

On my wish list for the past eleven years or so has been “to become a published writer”. My husband and I have often joked about this making us millions and us moving to a huge grand “author’s house” in the countryside but that’s not why I wanted to become a published writer. Don’t get me wrong, it would be very lovely thank you, but the real reason is the one I’d expect many other writers to cite: I have stories to tell and I want people to read them.

On September 1st, I took a step closer to my dream. I awoke on a dark Monday morning and checked my phone like I always do. Typically this results in cleansing my inbox of Groupon deals, Nectar points info and some freegle messages. But September 1st was not a typical Monday. Because sitting there in my inbox was an email from a US-based publishing house. And they wanted to publish my book.

I’d dreamed of this moment for a long time but this wasn’t quite what I expected. I’d imagined “the call” being exactly that; a phone call coming through on a dreary day and lighting my life. I hadn’t really imagined an email and especially not one with a “but” in it. You see, they wanted my book but they felt it was a bit long (it was 100k words) and wanted to know if I’d be prepared to cut it. I wandered round in a bit of a daze as I got ready for work. I didn’t feel excitement; I just felt a bit numb. Was it because I couldn’t believe I’d finally got the call? Was it because the call was an email? Or was it because there was a “but”? I’m not really sure.

P1050689I emailed them back saying of course I’d consider a reduction in words but how much and what sort of guidance would they give? Plus, would they be interested in the other two books in the series? The wordcount cut concerned me as I’d already cut my novel by 32k words and felt that it couldn’t lose much more without starting to lose the story. Cue anxious several hours (damn time delay!) before a reply came back saying that my editor loved series and would be delighted to offer me a 3-book deal and not to worry too much about the word cut as she loved it all so much that she was struggling to see where to cut words. Phew! Finally, excitement set in. Telling my immediate family was thrilling; especially telling my parents because my mum was beside herself. It was lovely to hear how proud they were of me for working so hard at my dream and never giving up. I also made an announcement on Facebook. I was away in a hotel with work and it was a joy to sit back and watch the likes and the congratulations messages flowing in.

A template contract was sent to me, I sought some advice on it, and several emails were exchanged about the content and size of books 2 and 3.

Then Black Friday hit.

I picked up an email from my editor to double check that all the books were about 100k and to tell me she wanted them to be 80k instead. A 20k reduction? One fifth? Twenty per cent? Look at it whichever way you like, that was a hefty reduction and I’d thought the word count didn’t matter. Especially as the offer was for eBook only where surely the size doesn’t matter quite as it does with paperbacks (and the costs incurred).

It got worse.

P1050686There are two threads in my stories; romance (obviously, given that romance is my genre) but there’s a secondary theme of friendship and it’s really important to me that the stories I tell contain both. My editor wanted to check there definitely was a romance in book 3 as it hadn’t come out strongly in my summary and she also said that the friendship had to be a background story with the focus being on the romance. I panicked. Big time. You see, before I’d had the offer, I’d made the decision to go indie. Part of the reason was that I couldn’t bear the waiting times to hear news from some publishers and part of it was so that I could get the control; tell the stories I wanted to tell, with the covers I wanted on my books, the pricing and timescales I wanted and so on. I knew I’d not be able to resist a publishing deal if one knocked on my door as a foot on the ladder to getting my name known but I also wanted to be sure the deal was right. And there were some alarm bells ringing that this one may not be quite right after all.

I emailed back and expressed my surprise at the significant wordcount reduction. I also outlined where the romance came into book 3 and asked it if it was ok. An email came back the next evening saying the romance was fine and not to worry about the wordcount. Again. But we’d been there before. My contract would be with me by Friday 19th September.

But on Wednesday 17th September, another email arrived. It would seem that publishing deals are like buses because this email contained another offer from a completely different publisher. This was a publisher who could offer me a deal for a print version of my book as well as an eBook but who presented a risk because they were new.

So what did I do? Come back later in the week and I’ll let you know!

So many choices and so few decisions

I have a problem. My problem is that I’ve done a lot of writing recently … but hardly any of it has been novel-related. I’ve written a short story for The Write Romantics Anthology out later this year which I enjoyed and I’ve written several blog posts but I haven’t really progressed with my novels.

Why?

I think the fact that I say novelS – plural – rather than novel could be part of the problem.

By the end of November last year, I was absolutely storming it with my writing. I’d finished book 1 and it was out there seeking representation, I’d also finished my first draft of book 2 thanks to NaNoWriMo AND cracked on with about a third of book 3. (I cheated on NaNo. Officially you’re meant to start from scratch with a new book but that simply didn’t work for me timing-wise so I finished one and started the next and, let’s face it, my aim was to do 50,000 words and I achieved it. It made no difference to me whether that was on one, two or even twelve novels! Eek. Twelve. The thought brings me out in a cold sweat).

Fast forward eight months later and I’m in exactly the same position. Book 1 is out there seeking representation (still waiting on the final publisher decisions before going down the indie route), book 2 is no longer at 1st draft but it still needs work, and book 3 is still a third in and I’ve changed my mind about the order of events that I’d plotted out so carefully so change is needed. Problem is, the change is within the third I’ve already written. Typical.

So what I’m doing right now is dithering. I do a bit on book 2, I then move to book 3 and I’m now feeling I want to revisit book 1 again and all of this is not actually getting anything done.

A few thoughts spring to mind as to why a normally-organised and in control person like me is dithering so much:

  1. I’m bored of writing the trilogy, having worked on it for 11 years now and I’m ready to start something fresh
  2. I’m having a crisis of confidence thanks in part to my awful NWS critique on book 2 (where my reader kept saying there were lots of good bits then forgetting to tell me what they were)
  3. I’m genuinely not a good enough writer. I can see there are plot points to be improved upon and I’m not talented enough to do anything about them
  4. There is too much else going on in my life. Between a full-time job with a ludicrous amount of unexpected travel, family time, Brownies, keeping up with social media (as a good writer should) and life in general, I don’t have the time or energy to undertake the amount (or quality) of writing I’d like to
  5. I feel like my life is on hold whilst waiting for three final publishers to come back to me. One of these is several weeks overdue and the other two are due this week (specific timescales they gave me via email discussions as opposed to the general guidance provided at submission time). If I did get the call and if I did accept it, where I go next with the books may be quite different to what I’d do if I became indie so I’m in a state of flux not knowing at the moment

Or could it be all of the above? 

I’d say it is. Except perhaps 1. Eleven years is a heck of a long time to work on a trilogy but I’ve had significant periods within that time when I haven’t written at all (we’re talking several years when I had the munchkin) so it hasn’t been eleven solid, intensive years. I also love my characters, my setting, and believe in their stories so I don’t think I’d ever get bored of them. But perhaps that links into points 2 and 3. Because I love them so much and am so passionate about the stories they want to tell, I panic that I can’t do them justice.

Another problem is that my writing time is so snatched. I may get two hours one evening and then 2 days with nothing. This is hard for the thought process. Approx two months ago, I scrolled through book 2 and wrote on a set of post-it notes the main points of the chapters. I stuck them on a glass display cabinet next to my desk. As I was writing these out, thoughts were whizzing through my mind as to what I could link/change/add in/remove. The next step was to capture these but we were going out so my thought process got broken. A week later, I had time to pick it up again but the cogs that had been turning so well were now dormant and rusty. I tried to look at the chapter details and remember. But I couldn’t. So I put some token thoughts on in other pretty-shaped post-it notes and it all looks very impressive … but it’s not quite right because of that break. And because it’s not quite right, I’m putting off returning to book 2 because I’m still unclear what I want to do to it or why. What I really need to do is do that whole exercise again in its entirety. But where do I have time to do that?

Answer: Take a month off work (at least) and write solidly.

Likelihood of that happening: Absolutely zero.

So how do I overcome points 2-5 above and deal with the snatched writing time so that I can get this trilogy finished to the absolute best of my ability (ignoring the doubts of points 2 and 3)?

I don’t actually know.

One of my day job roles is a coach. I ask questions of others and I guide them to help them reach the solution that they have within themselves. I’m quite good at coaching myself and I like to do this in the form of writing. I’ve found that writing down my thoughts in a post such as this really helps. I explore the options and the pros and cons of each, coming to the conclusion that’s right for me. I’ve effectively coached myself through the problem. I did this with my recent decision to write under a pen name and the exploration prior to that around the indie route. When I started writing both those posts, I wasn’t really sure what I’d decide and the process generated my conclusion.

This time I can’t coach myself because the answers aren’t within me. I will put my hands up (or I would if I didn’t need them to type this) and say I honestly don’t know what to do.

Do I just hang in there and wait for no 5 issue to be resolved and hope the timescales given to me are met? What if they aren’t met, though? How much time might I wait? Time that I would be wasting. Time that I could have been writing. If I could get my act together and write!

Hmmm. Answers on a postcard please or, even better, in the comments section below. I’d love to hear your take on it. Do you recognise yourself in this post? How did you overcome it (assuming you did)? Help!!!!!

Indie Jules & the SP Quest

Tuesdays are normally a fairly harmless day. Perhaps they’re a little closer to a Monday than I’d like and not quite close enough to the weekend but, generally, they’re ok. Today was an exception. 

Today started off with the usual battle to get out of the house for work with the munchkin washed, dressed, brushed, fed and watered. But we managed it. We usually do. Today didn’t start with me having to clean cat mess up in the kitchen, dining room and hall thanks to Pixie clearly having a dicky tummy. No, that was yesterday’s pleasure so today was already looking much better than Monday.

So I arrived at work this morning with a plan of activities and priorities and was looking forward to a productive day. But the best-laid plans usually come unstuck and today they unravelled before my eyes. I won’t bore you with the details but I had to spend most of the day re-working some stuff that I really shouldn’t have had to re-work at the 11th hour because it had been out there for comment 2-3 weeks ago and nobody commented then. Grr.

Hubby picked me up from work and I had a little rant then felt much better. Next stop was Currys to return an iPhone dock that declared on the front that it was “iPhone compatible” but is actually only compatible with an iPhone 5. And I don’t have one of those. Cue sarcastic young chappie on the desk who says, “That’s why it says on the front of the box that it’s got a lightning connector”. Yes, young man, it might well say that. But if you don’t have an iPhone 5 and don’t have an interest in technology, how the hell are you supposed to know that a lightning connector is something that connects into an iPhone and not some technology that just makes the sound better or the connection stronger. He ignored me when I tried to point this out. Rude. But at least I got my refund.

We made it home a little after 6.30pm and I logged onto my computer while the munchkin had her bath and the day deteriorated even more …

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about my decision to go indie and then, last week, a spanner was lobbed into the works when one of the eBook publishers I’d pitched to at the Conference got in touch, apologised for the delay, and said my book would be the next she read. For a few days, I was incredibly excited because this was the eBook publisher who, out of all my submissions, I believed I fit with best. And for a brief moment, despite them having taken nearly nine months to respond to my submission despite having asked for a full in person at the RNA Conference, I forgave them and started imagining what it would be like to receive “the call”. For me, “the call” has always been about that affirmation that I can write because a publisher thinks highly enough of me to take me on.

But then the doubts set in.

You see, I really did (and still do) believe that indie is the way for me. I consider myself to be pretty good at my day job which includes planning, organising, engaging with customers, promotional activities and many other skills that I could directly transfer from a company to myself as my own business. Why wouldn’t I do that? Why would I let someone else take control over deadlines, edits, promotion etc when I believe I have the skills (and would pick up the experience) to do it myself and buy in professionals to do bits I can’t do? I met my lovely writing friend and fellow-Write Romantic Alys, for a drink and a spot of sticky toffee pudding (would be rude not to) at the start of last week and we chatted about her wonderful news that she’s secured an agent (read more about it here) and my dilemma of indie v “the call”. We discussed the pros and cons. We even got out the calculator and did some sums. And everything still pointed to indie so I posed the question to the other Write Romantics and asked them what they’d do. Everyone admitted they’d struggle to say no to “the call” and I should accept it as a platform to get cracking, perhaps becoming indie later. Yes. Very sensible. Probably the right thing to do. Yet I couldn’t shake the feeling that indie was still for me and the longer I waited to hear back with a decision, the more convinced I became. Let’s face it, did I really want to work with an editor who had kept me waiting for nine months, then told me I’d be next, then kept me waiting another fortnight?

Let’s return to the bad day. I logged on to my computer and there was an email from the ePublisher, a day shy of two weeks since I was told I’d be next. And it was a strange email because it didn’t say “no” but it certainly wasn’t “the call”. Instead, it was a further apology for the inexcusable wait and a thanks for my patience (believe me, I have NOT been patient!) Then there was something nice about the premise and the setting. Then there was something not so nice about it needing further development and three tips to help me improve this book and “future ones”. I’m not going to list these and declare that I disagree strongly with these tips because that will sound like I’m being all defensive. All I’ll say is that feedback is subjective and the three points raised are ones that my NWS critique and beta readers also raised … but in the opposite way i.e. they think I’ve done those things very well. Who’s right? Who knows?! I’d like to go with the NWS critique and my beta readers. There’s more of them. My little army!

As for the end of the email, it just said to ask if there were any further questions. That was it. No, “so regretfully it’s a no from us but we wish you every success in your future writing” or “please do these changes and resubmit” or any other variation on these themes. It just ended. No offer. No rejection. No next steps. No good luck message. Have I really waited nine months to hear that?

Four submissions are outstanding. I’m sure one must be a no as this is the other ePublisher who I pitched to, who wanted a full, who didn’t respond and who hasn’t replied to chase emails despite a promise that everyone will hear either way. The other three will, I am sure, be rejections but I won’t prolong this post with the reasons why.

I actually cried when I read the email this evening. I cried lots. Those proper fast-flowing tears that drip down your cheeks and wet your blouse and feel like they’re never going to stop. And it wasn’t because I’m upset at the rejection. I’d believed I’d been rejected a long time ago and somebody just forgot to tell me. No, that wasn’t it. It was because I’d been built up only to be trampled down again. It was because I’m frustrated as a frustrated thing that’s really frustrated with this whole ludicrous dance we do to try and get noticed. And it was because, quite honestly, I’ve had a crap day and it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I nearly cried at work so I was already teetering on the edge.

Have you ever been interviewed for a job that you don’t really want but you need a job because either (a) you hate your current job and are desperate to leave or (b) you’re out of work and desperate to be earning again? Do you find yourself hoping it’s a “no” so that you don’t have to make the difficult decision as to whether to accept or turn it down. I’ve been there several times with jobs and this situation reminded me so much of it because, deep down, I wanted a no so that the decision would be made for me and I wouldn’t have to push indie aside for fear of turning down a publishing deal. I got what I wanted, didn’t I? The decision has been made for me and that particularly publishing footpath leads no further.

But is it a case of be careful what you wish for? Watch this space …

 

I can’t sign off without saying thank you so much to the wonderful kindred spirits that are Jo, Alys and the other Write Romantics for their valuable guidance, support and advice and to honorary WR Sharon Booth. And to hubby who let me cry on him too. There may have been some snot in there too. Sorry about that! xxx