Wednesday, 30 December 2015

The Right Time To Write

Is there an ideal time of day for writing and getting the best results?

Writers are always being advised about when the best time is to write, be that first thing in the morning, carrying a note book around and writing whenever the mood takes or having set of hours to fit in with the rest of our lives. And, let's face it, we do have lives, busy ones, that can really get in the way of our writing.

But so many writers have successfully written works of art while holding down a full time job or two and or having a family to raise.

It's not to say that I don't get down to my writing but, when I do, I often get distracted and the writing session doesn't seem to flow, especially if ideas aren't coming easily. I get restless and start wondering if so and so returned my email; asking myself if I spent enough time on social media; what should I cook for dinner; will I ever hear back from that publisher, and so on.

I've tried various methods to try to improve my productivity. For a while I used the Pomodoro method. It worked well but it didn't stop me checking emails during the 'break' period.

I know a lot of you will say that it all comes down to will power, how passionate you are about what you're writing and how seriously you take it. If you know me, you'll know how seriously I take my writing but I seem to be seriously running out of steam.

So what is the best time for me to write and be at my most creative and productive?

THE ANSWER:  No surprises when I say it varies from person to person, right? And that's exactly what I had to get my head around after several painstaking hours of mental torment, anguish, panic and checking of emails. I have decided to log all my writing sessions. I'll look at how long I spent writing, how happy I was with the results and how many times I got distracted. I will also log, where I was when I was writing and how I felt, emotionally.

After a period of time I will look at my log and try to determine whether or not there is an optimum time for me to write or, if I'm just one of these people who has to go with the flow and write until I become distracted and want to do something else.

But most of all - I'm not going to panic anymore. I sat and wrote this without becoming distracted once.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Writers - Let's Brag About Our Books!

Writers are constantly being told by social media experts that they mustn't shout about their books. They say it's like meeting a stranger at a party and banging them over the head with your latest novel and demanding they buy it - and you haven't even introduced yourself.

 I see the sense in that.

To the other extreme, I read an article this morning about Elena Ferrante, who writes her novel and then says, let it find its reader, without doing any publicity whatsoever. I'm pretty sure you'd have to make your name as a writer for that to work!

But when I say, 'Let's brag about our books,' what I really mean is, let's brag about what other people are saying about them. That's got to be all right, surely.

As writers and authors we can all become insecure at times. For example, I'm hard at work doing yet another edit of When Skies Are Grey. At times I'm wondering if I'm getting it right. Did I have it in the second draft? Did I lose something by removing that sentence? Did I kill the scene when I added that one? I'm doubting myself and driving myself crazy.

On top of that, I sent my short story collection out to two independent publishing houses and I'm waiting to hear whether my submissions were successful or not. Will they like my writing? Will they think I'm worth investing in?
I decided to put all this stress and doubt into perspective and take positive action. I recently got a lovely message on my website from a reader. It read like this:
I was at the author event at Isleworth Library last month - in fact I am in the photo. I have just returned from holiday when I got the chance to read Holding Paradise. It was so brilliant I finished it so quickly, I had to borrow another book. It is a lovely story with redemption at the end. I found it was very easy to read. Could you add me to your list of people who want to buy your next boo. Thank you Marylou
How lovely is that? And then I went on Amazon and re-read all my reviews for Holding Paradise, especially the five star ones. Okay there aren't millions but my writing touched a group of people and that's what counts. 

Sure I wish there were millions more like these but it's a start. It's something to brag about and something to make me remember I can do this. I can write. And let's face it - we wouldn't be doing it unless we thought we were good.

Keep writing ... and bragging.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Write! Keep Going

I feel like a hamster trapped in a wheel with all the writing I've done in 2015. I haven't counted how many words I've actually written but I'm sure I must have written at least four books worth of words this year alone.

And that still isn't enough! Seriously. What with all the ghost writing I do, the writing under a pseudonym, the submissions of my short story collection to publishers and the joint writing project for a series of children's books, I still haven't finished the edit of my second book, When Skies Are Grey. Some of you will know that I decided it wasn't finished and went in for a final edit.

That final edit is taking a long time to get through. Not because I'm not writing and being creative but because it is always last in my list of 'things I want to write.'

But, I did have a bit of a break through. The other night I rushed from a four hour rehearsal to my three hour writing critique group only to find that just three of us had turned up. Not only that, I had hurriedly written 900 words of the edit of When Skies Are Grey, that morning, to read to the group only to discover that I'd only have two opinions on my 900 word.

As it turned out those two opinions were the most helpful ones I've received in months! and they've helped fire me up again to continue with this edit.

I also read this article, which added to the creative process.

So what's next for 2016. My prediction is more of the same: Writing and then More Writing. I only hope I can keep going!

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Inspired by Creative Writers

Last week I led a Creative Writing Session. I was there as a guest facilitator for an established group so I didn't know what to expect. Sometimes it's hard to walk in to a place as the new person but straight away I felt welcomed. After introductions we got down to the business of writing and I have to say I was blown away by what the writers in this group produced - and in half an hour too!

Have you ever sat for ages, staring at a blank page. I know I have. Just being part of the creative buzz that went on the room was enough to get me thinking about my own writing. (Something I find I'm having less and less time for as I make way for the paid writing jobs). I got out my notebook and I started writing. I was forming ideas for my own work for a change and it was great.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, how grateful I am to the writers of the Pinner Writing Group. They asked if I would come back and I'd absolutely love to. I need the inspiration!

Friday, 16 October 2015

Butterflies and Book Events

What always amazes me about having to speak publicly about my writing is how nervous I become before the event.

Yesterday evening I went to promote Holding Paradise at Isleworth Library, one of my local libraries, and I had the usual butterflies in my stomach. As usual I didn't pre-plan a talk, I just had a general idea of what I wanted to say and thought I'd go with the flow. I don't like going to talks where the speaker reads from a page, quite frankly, so I wasn't about to do that.

I have butterflies as I get ready to leave, on the journey there and just as I enter the venue. Then, as normally happens, the second I walk into the event, I'm fine; I start to speak and I forget all about the butterflies.

This was helped a lot by the fact that the participants were all fabulous. I was particularly thrilled to bits that one member of the audience had read my book in a day! She said she couldn't put it down. I loved that. I also secretly wished that another million of her existed because then I would be bestseller, right? Well a girl can dream can't she?

Below are a few pictures of my dream author event (sorry about the quality). I have another in a few weeks.

Bring on the butterflies...

Monday, 5 October 2015

Pub Crawls to aid Creativity

Feeling a bit down and unable to write, I decided I'd go for a run to clear my head. It's worked for me in the past. Despite it being the Sunday morning after a late Saturday night, I realised I had to do something to help me complete my 2000 words a day quota for my ghost writing job. It must be noted that I do far fewer words on my own projects a day - but at least with ghost writing I get paid.

You might be wondering how a pub crawl comes into any of this. It does, but in a round about sort of way. My minimum run is 5K and that's how far I ran on Sunday. On the route I chose, it ocured to me that I pass several pubs. Seven to be exact. Eight if you count the Beehive which is just visible before I turn off for home.

Seven pubs. As I run by all these pubs, I catch my reflection and realise that I'm not actually running. I'm ambling and eventually I look like I'm crawling. And that's how my attempt to give myself a creativity boost becomes a pub crawl.

Yes, I was tired and, to be honest, I haven't run in a while. My running was slow and plodding and all because I'd left it too long between runs.

That said, I hadn't left long breaks in between writing but I was still having problems getting up to speed. With a ghost writing job, in fiction at least, sometimes the plots you are given can be so thin you could bump right into one because you didn't know it was there.

The run itself helped me look at the plot in a new light. I was able to see a way of crawling my way to the end of the dreadful storyline by adding some much needed detail. In another 6000 words, I would have fixed this dreadful story. Then I'll move on the next and hope to goodness I don't have to resort to another pub crawl to get the best out of another loose plot.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Black History Month Ocotber 2015

This year my local library have invited me to talk about my first novel, Holding Paradise as part of Black History Month.

I didn't hesitate, I jumped at the chance. Not only because I'm black and slightly historical, but because I get to talk about the stories and history that influenced me to write the novel in the first place.
Since the novel's publication in 2014, I've started many writing projects. I am a ghost writer now, I write under a pseudonym and I embarked on a joint writing venture. All very exciting stuff that keeps me busy. But Holding Paradise was where it all started and it's nice to take a trip down memory lane.

After finishing the novel and long before the publishing deal came along, I was still being visited by scenes and people from the book. I couldn't get the characters and settings of Holding Paradise out of my mind and had to go in and do a follow up. It came in the form of a short story collection called: The Long Way Home. 

I'll be discussing both books, doing a couple of readings and answering questions. So, if you're anywhere near Isleworth on Thursday 15th October I'd love to meet you at this free event.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Fighting Writer's Block

Yesterday I was tearful. My writing, in particular, the re-drafting of my second novel, just wasn't flowing. I had the house to myself for days - more peace and quiet than I've had in ages - and yet I couldn't write.

Months ago I thought I could put down the pen and call my second novel finished. But feedback from beta readers told me otherwise. Following rejections from 12 literary agents, I sent the manuscript to beta readers for feedback. A few agents told me my work was good but not quite right for them. The beta readers helped me see where I'd gone wrong and I set about starting another 'final' draft.

Trying to re-work a manuscript you thought was finished is hard but I was sure I could do it. Feedback was positive and from the comments from betas and my critique group, I was confident about the story.

I had been putting off the this draft for a while, preferring to read fiction rather than write it. Last night, after reaching just page two of the final draft, I had had enough. I could hardly string a sentence together and I didn't know why.

I went off to bed and picked up a novel which was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award. It's a great read and wondered what it was about this book that got it shortlisted. Previous to reading this book I'd read a short novel that was set in the same era and part of London as my story. It had been recommended for the tone. And just before that book I'd read another great book in which the writer expressed the emotions of the characters beautifully, something a few people from my critique group said my story lacked.

At the beginning of my writing career I was always told that to be a good writer you must read a lot. Then it occurred to me that the two books I'd just read and the current book could potentially be the answer to my re-drafting prayers and the cure to my writer's block. All I had to do was analyse the style of these writers, absorb what they were saying and how they said it.

What was it about these books that made them so good, so readable and successful? What did they have that mine didn't? The answer to those questions haunted me as I drifted into a fitful sleep, woke several times through the night and rose with a revelation. I knew the answer. I knew what these writers had done and I knew how to apply their expertise to my own story.

This morning I beat writer's block. I re-drafted those first two pages and I have way forward - at last! So what were the books that helped? Here they are:

Helped me improve on how I was putting across the emotions and feelings of my characters

Gave me a better flavour for the period I was trying to capture
Showed me the standard of quality of writing that gets a book shortlisted for a prestigious prize

Being a reader doesn't mean copying. You can't copy someone else's style and expect to be as good as someone else. So if you are blocked, look at what you've been reading and unravel the reason it has you turning the pages. Apply it to your work and cook until golden!

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Author Interview - Rebecca Burns

Today I am happy to feature Rebecca Burns, writer of Literary/Historical Fiction and author of two short story collections, Catching the Barramundi and The Settling Earth.

Tell me your success stories in terms of publishing/self publishing?

I started writing short stories in 2008, when I was pregnant with my second child and forced to take a period of absence from work. My first story sent away for publication – “A Pickled Egg” – was accepted by The London Magazine, one of the UK’s oldest and best established journals. Since then, over thirty of my short stories have been published online or in print. 

I have been featured as a writer as part of the Grassroutes project, a project funded by the Arts Council and run by the University of Leicester, which showcases the best transcultural writers in the county. I won the Fowey Festival of Words and Music Short Story Competition (previously the Daphne Du Maurier Festival) in 2013, and was runner-up in 2014. I was winner in the Black Pear Press Short Story Competition in 2014 and was longlisted for the Green Lady Press Short Story Competition in 2014. 

In 2012, my debut collection, Catching the Barramundi, was published by Odyssey Books, and was longlisted for the Edge Hill Prize in 2013. In 2014, my second collection, The Settling Earth, was published by Odyssey and was again longlisted for the Edge Hill in 2015.

What are your top writing tips for any aspiring writer?

Send your work out! It is important to build up your portfolio, if you want to interest publishers or agents. There are hundreds of journals and online magazines out there who might be interested in your work – sign up to a search engine/database for these journals and take note of their submission rules. Then work on your stories and send your stuff out.

What are you working on now?

The Settling Earth is set in colonial New Zealand and I drew on my research undertaken for my PhD, achieved in 2005. I am working on a novel which takes up the lives of several characters from The Settling Earth, and is set in 1893, the year that New Zealand gave women the vote. The novel explores the experiences of two sisters – their loves, their challenges, and their engagement with the suffrage campaign.

Thank you Rebecca

Discover more about Rebecca on her website and connect with her here.

For a print copy of Catching the Barramundi click here  or for ebook, click here 

and, to purchase a print copy of The Settling Earth click here or for ebook, click here

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Squeezing It All In – Making Space For Your Passions

Squeezing It All In – Making Space For Your Passions

About a year ago I submitted a post to Books By Women (follow link above). It was published around the time Holding Paradise was released.

I still get comments about the post so I thought I'd post it again here to see what you think! Comments below lovely reader:)

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Brain to Books Blog Tour

This summer, author Angela B Chrysler will be hosting the Brain To Books Blog Tour on her websites, Brain To Books and Angela B Chrysler

If you have not heard of this writer, then do hop over and check her out. Very few writers with as much experience as Angela take the time to help out other writers. Angela does - and she doesn't charge! But she gives up her time. Highly commendable I think.

Lots of authors are signed up for this tour to have their books and their interviews featured on the above sites and sites of the tour hosts. Originally this tour was set for August but will now start on 24th July (my spot is on 25th July).

To discover a wealth of writers you may not otherwise have heard of, then please, click on the links above and show some support!

Monday, 15 June 2015

Author Interview with Lisa Bevilacqua

It's publication day for Lisa Bevilacqua!
Congratulations on your debut release of One and Done and thank you for taking part in the Author Interview.

Welcome Lisa

What was the thing that influenced you to start writing?
My horrible dating life! In 2009, I was in my mid-thirties, newly divorced/single, and completely clueless as to how to go about dating in the 21st Century! Between all of the dating apps, the birth of texting, and of course, all of the social media sites, I was overwhelmed. Which led to some poor decisions on my part in terms of whom I chose to go out with.

Having met my ex-husband in law school, and most of my other boyfriends previously in college at frat parties and campus bars, I was besieged with <pop> culture shock. Plus, I had always had very traditional views when it came to courtship. So seeing many of my girlfriends now seemingly chasing after guys, I was confused. Had dating really changed that much since I left the scene in 1997? What happened to being pursued? And being selective? It seemed like the older we women got, the more desperate we became. Which led us to lay down our swords, so to speak, and accept dates with men we typically wouldn’t have batted an eyelash at years ago.

And to make things worse, once we agreed to go out with these unsuitable suitors, we almost ended up disappointed and single once again a short time later. I couldn’t figure out what was going on. And more importantly, I was kind of sick of constantly dating guys who, despite knowing weren’t the right fit for me from the get-go, I dated nonetheless. And then I either got dumped, or was forced to dump them because of their unacceptable behaviour. Hence, the need for a tactical strategy arose, and OAD came to life.

My plan entailed drastically cutting down the amount of dates I would go on with each guy. Down to just one.  One date per guy only.  Ever.  And my plan was to have as many first dates with as many men as possible, for a maximum of one full year.

So, before I met him, before he uttered his first words to me, before he even asked me out, I met my date with the stagnant, preconceived notion that I’d never see him again after our one encounter. Why did I do this? Because I needed to start listening to my gut by being completely honest, objective and in control when it came to asking myself the basic question, “Do you like him?” If I even thought there was a “but” which followed my “yes”, he was done. I didn’t want to waste my time with men who weren’t right for me anymore. So, by going into the date knowing it was the first, last and only date with him, it really gave me a lot of clarity and objectivity when it came to answering that question.

Tell me your success stories in terms of publishing/self publishing? 
Being an attorney, I’m just happy I figured out where to go and how to do it – that is my lone success thus far.

What are your top writing tips for any aspiring writer?
Preserverence. It took me 6 years to complete OAD. I had a full time job and lots of life events sprinkled therein during that time. I wrote whenever I was afforded a break.

What are you working on now?
I have a few (non-literary) ideas which have sprung from OAD, but nothing in motion yet. I am also exploring a concept for a partially fiction (yet based on some true events) book in the crime/legal drama genre with a big twist/reveal at the end.

What do you draw on for inspiration?
Real life events that are unbelievable but for the fact that they actually occurred.

Please tell me anything else you'd like the reader to know about you.
I am now 44 years old, currently residing in NYC with my husband, JT.

Thanks Lisa!
To get your copy of Lisa's novel follow this link!
To connect with Lisa, follow this link!
And check out Lisa's website!

Monday, 1 June 2015

Hard Work!

I survived the A-Z Challenge in April but I seem to have failed in keeping the blogging going since then. But that doesn't mean I've stopped working. In fact I've been hard at it with various writing projects.

I've taken on another client for my ghost writing and I'm trying to keep up to date with the novella writing under my pseudonym. My joint writing venture in children's fiction is off to a flying start and now for something else!

Back in 2011, not long after completing my first novel, I started a new story idea. I began the first draft of a psychological crime drama but got overwhelmed after a couple of chapters and couldn't finish it.

Instead I went on to write a short story collection, take an MA in Creative Writing and complete a second novel - as you do.

But, after the success of Gone Girl and since reading The Girl On The Train, I really feel it is time to revisit my story. It is called Last Seen and I am gearing up for a new challenge.

My Challenge:

To complete the first draft of Last Seen by writing 5000 words per day, every day in August!

If I have one day off in August, that means a first draft of 150,000 words. Therefore well on my way to having a third novel written. Now that I am publishing this challenge there is no backing there? Is there?

Anyone else up for the challenge? Drop me a line if you have a big writing project ahead or if you would like to join me and write a novel in August. I am embarking on what could be the most satisfying or the most ridiculous thing I've ever done in my writing life!

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Z for Zenith

From its title, When Skies Are Grey, might lead you to believe that the story remains within the settings of the grimy streets of west London.

But the bright lights of some of the biggest stages around the world awaits one of my characters.

At some stage we will see Rayna at the zenith of her career.

She will swap beer pumps for a microphone, her market stall dresses will be replaced by glamorous gowns and she will undergo a complete makeover.

She travels for her work and is followed by the Paparazzi wherever she goes. She swaps a single room in a dilapidated house for an expensive house of her own in a fashionable part of town.

But I just wouldn't be me if I gave my main character all of this if it didn't come at a price, now would I?

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Y for Year

English: Stack of books in Gould's Book Arcade...
It took me a year to write When Skies Are Grey, my theme for the A to Z Challenge. But way after the challenge is over I suspect I'll still be editing and proof reading the manuscript before it is finally ready.

Some writers can churn out two books a year. My first novel took five!

Are you a fast writer?
Do you give yourself a certain number of words per day to complete?
Or - do you just go for it?

What's your process for getting a novel written and finished?

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

X for Kiss

The A to Z Challenge always gets difficult when it comes to the last few letters of the alphabet. Like many of you might have done, I struggled when it came to X.

But this little letter is a symbol for many things. One of which is the the symbol for a kiss.

And how does that relate to my theme - my novel, When Skies Are Grey?

Well...There is a very significant kiss that marks the turning point in the story. This kiss should never have happened. The kissing couple were already in relationships with other people. But the kiss is discovered and there are repercussions.

It affects the relationships of many, not just the two people who exchanged bodily fluids. But can the two ever be forgiven by their significant others?

Monday, 27 April 2015

W for Working Titles

For any writers dropping in for the A to Z Challenge, a quick question:

How many times have you started using a working title that you decided to keep once the story was complete?

My theme is my novel, When Skies Are Grey. The title has been with me since the beginning and I've decided, now that the tale is told, to keep it.

Choosing the title originated during the early research I was making into jazz music (a big theme in the book). I stumbled across the song "You Are My Sunshine." Originally penned by Davis and Mitchell and first recorded in 1936. Followed by subsequent recordings throughout the years by famous artists including many from the world of jazz

The lyrics: You are my susnshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy, When Skies Are Grey, you'll never know dear, how much I love you, please don't take my sunshine away.

And it is the song I always sang to my eldest son to rock him to sleep!

Saturday, 25 April 2015

V for Voice

A quick post for any writers dropping in for the A to Z Challenge.

Just thought I'd share with you a few books on the subject of the writer's voice I found extremely helpful during my MA in Creative Writing. They helped me in the writing of my second novel, When Skies Are Grey, my theme for this year.

Alvarez, Al (2006), The Writer's Voice, London: Bloomsbury Publishing

Edgerton, Les (2003), Finding Your Voice: how to put personality in your writing, Ohio: Writers Digest Books

Lamott, Anne (1995), Bird by Bird, New York: First Anchor Books

Nestor, Theo Pauline (2013), Writing Is My Drink, New York: Simon & Schuster,

The latter is my favourite - but these are all great for new writers. If that's you then have fun finding your voice!

Friday, 24 April 2015

U for Undoing

The theme of my A to Z Challenge has been my forthcoming novel When Skies Are Grey (even I'm groaning about the number of times I've said that). So I thought I'd do a quick post about the subject of 'undoing' in novels in reference to the ubiquitous WSAG.

In most works of fiction there is normally a turning point for a main character. A reader wants to follow this character's journey and somewhere along the line something has to happen to them: self growth, gaining knowledge, completing a quest etc. Somehow or other your character has to change.

For Rayna Dawes, her lies are her undoing or, more accurately: the truth she didn't dare speak. When the truth catches up with her the turning point occurs; the big change. She is no longer viewed in the way she was, her confidence is shattered and she falls from grace.

The truth has a way of catching up with you and for Rayna, her life and the lives of those she is closest to, are devastated...

Related articles

Thursday, 23 April 2015

T for Terry Collins

Interview with lead character, Terry Collins from When Skies Are Grey:

Terry is the owner of The Pelican Public House, a focal point of the novel. He's a jazz fanatic who vowed to have live jazz music in his pub ever since hearing a certain song on the radio.

Terry, we all know you love jazz and there's live music playing every Friday night at The Pelican but what else is special about the place?

At the pub everyone can come together and be friends under one roof, despite all the tensions in the area. Doesn't matter what colour you are, what you had for breakfast, you'll always be welcome there.

There's something about you, though, that draws people to you. What would you say that quality is in you?

Maybe it's because I'm a family man. I stick up for my own, I support them and back them all the way. People can trust me because I wouldn't lie to anyone.

But your kindness has backfired on you hasn't it?

That's true. Maybe because I don't go looking to deceive, it's easy for people to pull the wool over my eyes. And they did. I learned the hard way that people aren't always what they seem. My wife lied to me and so did my best friend. 

Do you think you'll ever recover from the hurt that those closest to you have caused?

I hope so but on a positive note I still have the pub and I still have someone who loves me.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

S for Supporting Characters

This post comes in the way of a writing tip. A few nuggets I read up on the way on creative writing courses and that you might find helpful when choosing and creating the supporting characters of your novel or story. They certainly helped when I cast my supports for When Skies Are Grey:
  • Choose supports that help to balance character traits of your lead e.g. I balance main character Rayna, who comes across as quiet and nice, with mouthy barmaid, Sandra and no-nonsense landlady Mrs Chester.
  • Add a character who can torment your hero. This is someone who puts obstacles in his or her path, might drive your hero to distraction or certainly tests your lead in some way. For me this is my lead character's music agent. A nice guy but forces Rayna to face up to thinks she wants to avoid.
  • Make sure supports don't steal attention away from your lead. So making them stereotypical is okay especially if they pass through the story to add something to your main character's story and head straight off the stage. Mr Chamberlain, the croaky landlord plays that role in the novel.
  • Lastly, supports do need to be realistic too. There's no point in adding supports that do nothing to enhance the story and leave the reader wondering why they were there in the first place. So don't be indulgent, get real with your supports.
Have fun casting those supports!

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

R for Rayna Dawes

An interview with the lead character of When Skies Are Grey

What brought you, a young girl on her own, to 1950s London all the way from the sunny Caribbean?

I needed something new for my life. I wanted to start again and not go back. The Caribbean is sunny but they were not sunny days for me. In London I could be anyone I wanted to be.

How did you find music and achieve the great career you have now?

It was just by chance. I found The Pelican and took a job as a waitress. A great jazz musician heard me sing there. He taught me all he knew and I was very lucky to have a supportive husband. Not to mention the friends who became like family to me.

With all you know about the price of fame, what would you advise your daughter if she wanted to follow you into the music business?

I would say to make sure you are tough enough. It isn't all bright lights and glamour and your personal life doesn't stay on hold. You have to be able to balance both. 

You seem to have a problem with trust - do you put that down to not being a trustworthy person?

I made mistakes in my life, I admit that. I let people down and I got found out. Those things will haunt me forever. But I hope one day my family will forgive those mistakes and maybe my fans will too.

After twenty years of success and being at the top of her career, Rayna Dawes played what could have been her last concert, and the lies still haunt her.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Q for Quotation

As I'm talking about When Skies Are Grey for a month (yes a whole month!), I thought I'd add a quotation. Here's a small passage my writer's critique group all seemed to like:

Rayna smiled. She caught the look on Terry's face. He was miles away from whatever words the blonde was whispering into his ear and just as distant from the crowd, his body rocked in a steady pulsing movement to a bass drum in his mind alone. He had not touched the whisky she'd placed at the table for him. She followed his eyes to the stage. From there, Eddie Keane lifted the mouthpiece and winked at her before blowing long and seductively through the reeds.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

P for Pelican

English: The Pelican, Tacolneston Public House
The Pelican Public House in my novel When Skies Are Grey is the place where everything happens - well, maybe not everything. But it provides the backdrop for many of the major events that help to move the plot along.

Being a pub it made sense to hold special occasions at the Pelican. Like a wedding and a birthday party, or a gig. At each special occasion a startling revelation occurs, a secret is shared or a lie was told.

Most certainly, the Pelican is the place for important dialogue, conflict not to mention the live jazz music on a Friday night. Although several scenes of significance happen to my characters outside its walls - outside London, or England even - somehow or other, they all find themselves back at The Pelican.

I just plucked the name out of the air as a working name for my pub but decided to look into the myths, legends, religious connotations and history surrounding the pelican to see if it suited the pub itself. (Although I'm already sure the name will stick).
  • In Ancient Egypt the pelican or henet is depicted in relation to funerals for protection against snakes in the afterlife and is also scene as a goddess.
  • In an old myth by the Murri people of Australia, the pelican was once all black. He daubed himself in white to seek revenge on the woman he fell in love with but who ran away from him after he saved her life. Another pelican killed him for looking so strange and pelicans have been black and white since.
  • The Moche people of ancient Peru were lovers of animals and often depicted the pelican in their art.
  • In Christianity the pelican became the Passion of Jesus and the Eucharist because of the female's attentiveness to their young - to the point of drawing her own blood to feed her offpsring if food was scarce.
  • Pelicans are featured extensively in heraldry in relation to Christianity. Amongst many emblems where the pelican is featured, Corpus Christi Colleges in both Oxford and Cambridge Universities use the pelican in their coat of arms.
And the list goes on. So, by chance, I came to use a significant bird in the naming of a pub that has so much significance to the atmosphere, setting and cast of When Skies Are Grey.

Friday, 17 April 2015

O for Opening Lines

So, a writer friend of mine, someone I send occasional scribbles to for an opinion, told me that once I get into my writing it's fine but I always trip myself up on the opening lines.

As writers we are always told how all important those opening lines are. Book buyers read them after being drawn in by the blurb. So as the writer you don't want to lose the reader (miss a book sale even) if your opening lines didn't draw the reader in.
So today I'm having a poll. These are the opening lines of When Skies Are Grey. Please read them and have your say:

The evening air was cold on her cheeks when she left 4 St Ervan's Road and closed the front door. Along the pavement all she could hear was the echo of her heels. The curtains were shut in each of the terraced houses and the doors locked. The lampposts emitted a faint amber light and with every one she passed her head turned as she scanned the view over her shoulder. There wasn't a soul around, no-one coming towards her, nothing to confirm her fears. She was on her own.
Approaching the bridge at the end of the road, she pulled her thick coat that bit tighter at the collar and mounted the wooden steps. Like an explosion, a Metropolitan Line train thundered along the tracks below, and a chilled breeze circled her stockinged legs as she descended the steps on the other side. Just over the bridge was The Pelican Public House. From its frosted windows, lights filtered through onto the pavement in front.

Let me have your opinion. Would you want to read more? Do you think I can hook my readers in?

Thursday, 16 April 2015

N for Notting Hill

If you've followed my challenge, you'll know I've been talking about my forthcoming novel, When Skies Are Grey, which is mostly set in the Portobello Road/Notting Hill Gate area.

A member of my writers' critique group commented on an excerpt from the book saying, 'I can't wait to see the film.'

So I decided I'd list just a few films that were shot in the same location as When Skies Are Grey is set (secretly hoping that once the book comes out someone will make the film version).

Notting Hill (of course) 1999, starring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts. The famous blue door in Westbourne Park and shots taken in Portobello Road.

Sliding Doors 1998, starring Gwyneth Paltrow. A restaurant scene shot in The Mangrove restaurant in All Saint's Road W11.

Withnail and I 1987, starring Richard E Grant and Paul McGann are chased out of the Tavistock Hotel Pub (I use this pub in my novel but rename it The Peleican) in Tavistock Crescent W11(I lived there as a young girl).

Alfie 1966, starring Michael Caine who speaks to the camera as he walks down Notting Hill
The Spy Who Came In From The Cold 1965, starring Richard Burton, some of this Cold War thriller was filmed on Westbourne Grove.

This is a very short list, indeed. But what a feeling I'd have if my book was made into a film and could join this list!

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

M for Motherhood

The subject of mothers and motherhood throws up lots of questions in When Skies Are Grey. Actually I could see these questions being placed in the back of the book for Book Clubs to discuss.

There is certainly nothing conventional about any of the mothers in the novel. I hope I didn't go too far by never having a 'normal' mother in the book. But then again - what is normal? Everyone has there own version of that, surely.

The dictionary description purely says a mother is the female parent. It doesn't say anything other than that. In the case of the mothers in When Skies Are Grey, they at least meet the description.

"Motherhood": Sculpture at the Catac...
"Motherhood": Sculpture at the Catacumba Park, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
One mother who is heard but never seen, is the one who signs her name 'Mother' at the end of her letters to her daughter. It could be argued that she appeals to the image of the kind, loving, head of the family figure who appears to have done all she could for her family. Sadly, she doesn't seem to have been thanked for what she does. (I can hear lots of mums out there saying, 'Story of my life.').

I did have to think long and hard about my portrayal of motherhood. Hopefully readers will understand the choices I made.

Did you ever write anything you thought might cause controversy? How did it work in the piece you wrote?

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

L for Letters

As part of the structure of When Skies Are Grey I introduce a series of letters signed by 'Mother'.

There are eight letters from Mother, mostly found in the first part of the novel. I use these letters as a means of plot development but also to create an element of intrigue for my main character.
The letters are addressed to Gaynor, a character the reader has never encountered, but realises quickly that Gaynor is someone they know well. The question I want to put into the reader's mind is; why has she changed her name and what is she hiding? She certainly hides the letters away for some reason, she very rarely answers them either.

The use of letters in a novel can be a very handy device for writers. In the Colour Purple by Alice Walker, letters were used as part of the narrative. Each one starting 'Dear God'. The letters carry the narrative when two main characters are separated from each other, allowing the author to be in two places.

In When Skies Are Grey the purpose of the letters is really for dropping hints and making suggestions about things to come. Hopefully enticing the reader to stick around for the revelation.

If you've ever used letters in your writing, how did you use them and why?

Monday, 13 April 2015

K for Kill

Wait a minute, that doesn't mean that When Skies Are Grey  just became a murder mystery novel. It still remains within the Women's Fiction/General Fiction genres.

I'm referring to the death of one of my characters.

The Rubber BandNot to be confused with the William Faulkner quote - "In writing, you must kill your darlings." Which I discovered is to do with deleting passages in your writing to make for a better reader experience (even though you thought it was a work of genius), and has nothing to do with having one of your favourite characters whacked over the head with an iron bar on the way to the pub.

But, sadly it was one of my favourite characters I killed off. It wasn't gratuitously either. It was all to do with the journey my lead character was on and the loss bore significance to that. I have to admit, though, each time I did a draft and read it, I cried. Yes I know I wrote it and I knew it was coming up, but I felt sad all the same.

I once read an interview with a literary agent in which she said, if you read your own work and it makes you laugh out loud or makes you cry, then she wants to see it. Is that a test of good writing? Who knows. But have you ever read your work and thought, 'Hey, that's pretty cool'? Or worse, looked at it and thought, 'What the hell was I thinking'? If your answer is yes to the latter - you know what to do...

Saturday, 11 April 2015

J for Jazz

Category:Wikipedia requested photographs of ja...
There's lots of jazz in When Skies Are Grey. From jazz fanatic, pub owner Terry Collins to the Eddie Keane's jazz band who play at the pub once a week. It's the music that leads Rayna towards her new career as a singer.

The jazz band that unites the pub goers every Friday at the Pelican Public House are all from the West Indies. I particularly wanted to draw attention to the fact that during the 1930s, 40s, 50s and onwards, there were a lot of West Indian jazz musicians, touring the globe who were very influential in the world of jazz music.

Usually we here of all the American players and the big names from Europe but a lot of talent came from those small islands.

For example Joe Harriott, a Jamaican jazz musician and composer, whose principal instrument was the alto saxophone. Initially a bebopper, he became a pioneer of free-form jazz.

Notable musicians who played with Joe and went on to perform, tour and record with big names such as Django Reinhadrt and Quincy Jones, included saxophonist, Harold Mcnair and bass player Coleridge Goode.

Cooleridge Goode
Cooleridge Goode (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Hailing from Dominica (my lead character, Rayna Dawes was born there) is Eric Allandale a trombonist who came to England and became a powerful jazz master in his time. 

Many jazz musicians coming from Jamaica might have gone to the Alpha Boys School from which several high flyers in jazz had gone to study.

We have to keep the A-Z Challenge posts short but I could go on and on. I researched this area a good deal before writing When Skies Are Grey and I'd encourage anyone interested in jazz musicians to follow the links and follow whatever links they may lead you to, and discover more.