Ups and Downs and Strawberry Fool

Recently I entered a writing comp on Morgen Bailey’s blog – the premise is to write something that is exactly 100 words, based upon the prompt for the month. I entered the April comp, and the prompt was ‘Fool.’

Here is my entry:

Strawberry Fool

She sliced the strawberries, red juices staining her fingers and the wooden chopping board, ruby drops on her blade.

A bowl of whipped cream waited to receive them, peaks like the breasts of another woman, pointing skywards. She lifted the chopping board, using the knife to push the strawberries into the cream. They fell with heavy plops, staining the pure whiteness as she folded them through. From the room beyond she could hear laughter. Her husband’s. And the other woman.

Strawberry fool. Well, she thought, sprinkling sweet sugary cyanide over the bowl, let’s see who the fool is, after all.

And, I’m happy to report, I managed to get a ‘Highly Commended,’ which came with a small prize 🙂 Nothing like a little win to keep a writer going.

Because I also, today, received a not-so-great review for one of my books. Basically, the reader didn’t like the story, and felt it wasn’t for them. I can’t deny it hurt a bit, but at the same time I can’t get mad about it. We all have different tastes, and something I love might not be another person’s cup of tea at all. So the key, I think, is to let it go and move on (unless of course you get reviewers pointing out the same thing over and over – then you might want to revisit your story).

So, ups and downs, highs and lows, light and dark – it’s all part of being a writer, and something we can bring into our writing too.

Plus, it’s almost Friday.

🙂


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Reading, Writing, and Silver Fish Jumping

It’s been a little while since I’ve written an update kind of post, and so it seemed like today would be a good day.

A Thousand Rooms is currently available to read and review via NetGalley, and was recently in their Summer Reads newsletter. So far, so good. I’ve also been asked, via a NetGalley request, to take part in a blog tour for a new Random House/Penguin release, The Finding of Martha Lost. My review is due on May 24th – I’ve read the book already and can say it’s a lovely, whimsical read.

Writing-wise I’ve been forging ahead with Silver and Black, hoping to get a complete draft finished by the end of this month. I’ve been working on it, on and off, for over a year now, so it will be nice to get the structure sorted. There will be quite a bit of work after that, of course, adding in detail and finetuning things, so it’s a while away from being shared. However, the fourth Ambeth book, Under Stone, is now out for edit, and I’m sorting out the cover design with a view to publishing this summer. Then there’s The Grove, a story that’s coming to me in bits and pieces, and that I’m quite excited about. I foresee a lot of work ahead with that one…

Other than that, I’ve been looking at planning a few short trips over the coming months, so hopefully that will mean more material for my Wednesday Wanders (although I’m not close to running out yet!). Even though I’m not blogging quite as much as I usually do, I try not to miss posting those – it’s fun going back to places I’ve visited and I really enjoy hearing from everyone about places they’ve visited too. And does anyone else feel that Game of Thrones cannot return soon enough? I’m dying to find out what happens next, and think it quite mean that they’re making us wait so long. I also recently read The Handmaid’s Tale, and wish I could get the Hulu adaptation here – I hear it’s excellent.

And I’m still walking, enjoying the trees and canal and wild creatures, using the time to work out plots and ideas. Yesterday I saw herons, two swans building a nest, countless ducks and silver fish jumping, and was scattered with sweet scented hawthorn blossom as I wandered past water so smooth and still it seemed an extension of the path I walked.

Last night the gorgeous girl and I watched Eurovision together, as we usually do. We had snacks and supplies, plus I was tweeting with #BigUpYour Eurovision, which was hilarious fun. None of us, gorgeous girl included, were completely thrilled with the song that won – however, huge congratulations to Portugal on their first Eurovision win ever. Here’s to Lisbon 2018!

Happy weekend, everyone, and Happy Mother’s Day to those who are celebrating xx

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If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Lifting Yourself Out Of A Writing Slump

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I find writing to be a joyous experience. I love telling stories, living in different worlds and seeing them through my characters’ eyes, feeling what they feel, good and bad. It’s just about the best thing ever. However, there is another side to being a writer – it’s not all lattes and sitting in coffee shops for hours thinking. As writers, we have to deal with writers block, negative reviews, rejection, poor pay, long hours, a WIP that isn’t going where you want it to go, plus the endless slog of self-promotion, and there are times when it all seems too hard. I’ve run up against a couple of challenges myself this week so, on my walk this morning, I made myself a list, tentatively titled: How To Lift Yourself Out of A Writing Slump.

  1. Go for a walk. Get some fresh air and a change of scenery. I often figure out plot points, get inspiration or simply work through frustration while on a walk. Plus it’s good exercise, especially if you’ve been sitting for a while.
  2. Talk to someone. A blogging friend, a fellow writer, your mum. Writing is a solitary profession, but you don’t have to be.
  3. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Because most of it is small stuff. Weird tweets, negative ratings, rejection – it hurts, but it doesn’t last forever. Nobody died. In the end, I know I’m extremely fortunate to be writing stories.
  4. However, don’t discount it either. A lot of small stuff can build up into big stuff, so acknowledge that you’re feeling bad for whatever reason, then process it. Choose to make change and move on.
  5. Think before you speak or act. Someone annoyed you on social media? Left a bad review? Given you your 163rd rejection? Count to ten and let it go. Don’t make a bad situation worse.
  6. Write about it. If you’re suffering from writers block this may seem an impossible task. However, sit down, set a timer and just write. Write about how you feel, what you had for lunch, what you can see out the window. Setting things down on paper is a release, and can get you on the right path again.
  7. Take a break. Writing is work, and it’s hard work. So step away from it completely. Have something to eat. Watch an hour of TV. Go out. Disengage. Then come back to your work with fresh eyes.

Of course, sometimes life throws things at us that are too large to dodge simply by going for a walk. That’s different. However, if you’re just feeling a little bit low about this whole writing thing, maybe give one of my suggestions a try.

Happy Friday, everyone!

Up And Down

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Keep Looking Up…

On Monday, I received an amazing five-star review for Oak and Mist. The reviewer took the time to write a detailed analysis of why they enjoyed the book, and I was (and still am) completely thrilled.

Today, when I logged into my Goodreads account, I noticed someone had given Oak and Mist a two-star rating. No written review, just a star rating (which is fairly common on Goodreads).

So, two days, two vastly different perceptions of the same book.

Writers can be very hard on themselves. Like most artists, I suppose – self doubt and criticism certainly isn’t limited to the writing field. I’ve heard fellow writers whom I know to be talented, who’ve written wonderful work, wondering whether they should keep going, that their work will never be published, that it’s not worth the stress. It’s a very tough business, one in which we have to deal with rejection almost every day. Whether it’s yet another agent rejecting your submission, another contest where you didn’t place, another not-so-positive review or simply a day where no books sell, we need a thick skin to deal with it all.

Yet to write is to have a thin skin. To be open to emotions and vibrations and stories as they happen around us, so we can transfer them to the page. If we shut ourselves away from the world, we shut ourselves away from the potential for new ideas. If we lose the sensitivity that leads us to create in the first place, then creating becomes more difficult. An impossible dilemma.

Or is it? The other week, I wrote about the spider outside my window, who every day creates a new web. The lesson I took from this is that each day is a new opportunity. A chance to get up, dust yourself off, and get on with things. And once my work goes out there in the world, I have to accept that it is open to whatever might come along, good or bad. Art in itself is subjective – what one person might love, another might absolutely hate.

While I was on Goodreads I added another book to my ‘Read’ list. This is a book that was raved about, that had a huge display at my local Waterstones and loads of write-ups in the media. I thought it was a great story – well-written, suspenseful, and with a nice twist at the end. For me, it was a four-star read. And yet, when I checked, it had over 1200 one-star ratings.

So I guess what I need to remind myself of is this:  If you’re writing, keep writing. Do it for you. Do it for those who want to read. Be brave, and get it out there. The important thing is that you are creating something. Focus on the positives, rather than the not-so-positives.

And if your web breaks, spin yourself another one.

(Oh, and this isn’t a ‘poor me’ post – I’ve had lots of lovely comments on here about my writing, and I know I’m very fortunate. It’s just part of my journey through writing, and I think most of us have experienced days like this).

 

 

 

Helping Hands

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It’s been a busy week. I’m finalising my structural edit on No Quarter before it goes to my editor, plus there’s the usual client work and house work, which hasn’t left me a lot of time to post. So today is a very quick post about the wonderful blog community I’m pleased to be part of. I think we are enormously fortunate as writers to have such a wide community of support available online. There are many blogs offering free information, reviews and feature spots invaluable to the starting out writer, plus plenty of friendly conversation. The other thing about being part of a community is that we can stand together against book piracy, trolling and the other negative aspects of being online. Kristen Lamb wrote an excellent recent post about bullies here. Since starting to blog I’ve made some wonderful connections and am looking forward to actually meeting some of my fellow bloggers at the First Annual Bloggers Bash, hosted by the intrepid Sacha Black.

Here are some blogs I’ve found incredibly helpful as I’ve navigated the self publishing process – big thank yous to each of them!

Nicholas Rossis

Nicholas is an award winning author who posts thoughtful articles on every aspect of publishing, from statistics to advertising to social media. He’s also a really nice guy who takes the time to respond to comments and offer generous encouragement 🙂

The Writer’s Path

Ryan offers a huge range of services for writers on his blog including The Writer’s Toolbox, his critique posts called Under the Microscope and also a growing list of bloggers who will review books, separated into genres – something I’ve found incredibly useful.

Chris The Story Reading Ape

What can I say about Chris? He regularly features independently published authors (including yours truly) as well as collating links from across the blogosphere to useful articles on every aspect of publishing. He’s also a published author, yet still finds the time to respond to comments – I don’t know how he does it.

Connie Flanagan

Connie is a self-professed bibliophile and passionate supporter of independent authors. Her site offers reviews, links and lots of helpful tips.

Chris McMullen

Chris’s blog is a goldmine of information covering just about every aspect of publishing. Well worth a visit.

Of course, these are just a few of the many wonderful people I’ve connected with in blogland – I hope to feature some more links soon.

And finally, I sent Oak and Mist to a reviewer, the lovely Meredith at Mezzalilys Teen Book Reviews. I would like to make it very clear that I sent her the book with the expectation only that a review would be written – the content and evaluation were entirely at Meredith’s discretion, as I believe in honest feedback. So, fingers crossed and a little nervous I posted her the book. A little while later she wrote her review – if you’re interested, please check it out here

Right, back to editing! 🙂