Progress Report! (Or how I learned to love my work again!)

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BABY STEPS!

 

I have been an editor/proof-reader for years and always considered myself reasonably good at my job. I never had any complaints, which is my benchmark for how good you really are. In fact, several Literary Agents complimented me on the quality of our submissions.

English was always my favourite subject and I read a lot of books, but never once considered being a writer. I was far too busy managing Anita’s books, back in the day when manuscripts had to be submitted to agents and publishers in a very particular fashion.

Over the years, we received stacks of very encouraging and favourable letters from both agents and publishers alike, almost leading to publication a couple of times but sadly, despite almost being good enough, Anita was never published.

This might have been why I didn’t think of being a writer, after all, I knew better than most, just how bloody hard it was. But eventually, my muse arrived. This was just after the Kindle phenomena took off. Suddenly, everyone could publish their books on Amazon, and it was supposed to be so easy, anyone could do it.

I have to say, in fairness to all the wonderful writers out there, I did find it very hard to write a full-length book. 70.000 words seemed an impossible target, and I doubted my capabilities every step of the way. That first book taught me so much about plot and dialogue, character arcs and subplots, even though it made my head spin. The day I finished Nine Lives, a sense of achievement crept over me as I realised I had become a writer!

That was in 2014, and I went on to write two more thrillers after that. Most of you will know the fun I have had finding the right covers for my books, but I didn’t worry about the content at all. After all, I checked them for spelling errors and I had my editor head on, so they had to be fine.

Or so I thought.

What happened to make me doubt myself?

I had written a memoir/novella about my fight with breast cancer and published it on Amazon. It received one review that commented on how short it was, and when I took a long hard look at it, I had to agree. Not only was it far too short, it could be a lot better. That was when I knew I would have to check my other books too.

I read Nine Lives again and was shocked at the state of it. Where was all the brilliant writing, the competent editor, the jaw-dropping prose? To say I was disappointed would be putting it mildly, I wanted to crawl away and die. For nearly a week, I battled with unpublishing my books and throwing them away, for the thought of rewriting them seemed an impossible task.

Gradually, common sense prevailed. They were my babies, I was an editor, I could fix this.

One thought kept me going. If I can now recognise the faults in my writing, does that mean I have improved over the years? I am pretty sure I have, for I am looking at my work with a totally different mindset. Most of what I see is amateur, almost childish. There were so many repeated and wimpy words and adjectives by the bucket load. It probably would have been easier to start afresh, but I am nothing if not stubborn, so I have tried to improve all three books, or die trying! They might be the only thing I leave this world to remember me by!

 

The View from my Writing Desk…

 

 

 

Although we live in a town, it isn’t an inner-city town. Tucked behind the South Downs in Hampshire, we are just 19 miles from the sea.

An ordinary town really, rows of streets spreading out from the town centre with all manner of shops and businesses. The local council keep it tidy and provide us with well-kept trees, bushes and green areas.

Sometimes, if you know where to look, you can find something special here, something that doesn’t quite belong. Hidden among the sprawling streets, small treasures can be found. Little rivers emerge unexpectedly, creating a magical atmosphere. ( I have recently found another such treasure. Post to follow…)

We have such an oddity in our back garden.

We all have trees and bushes in our gardens, but we have a giant gum tree. Far taller than our house, it dwarfs every tree for miles around.

It seems so much supple than other trees and maybe this has something to do with it being a gum tree. The leaves smell faintly of eucalyptus and it has such a graceful way of moving with the wind.

I watch this tree most mornings as I wait for my brain to warm up, but this morning we had the aftermath of Storm Eric.  The wind was fierce, so the view from my window was dramatic. Strong gusts tried to break the tree, viciously pushing and shoving until I thought one would give way. But the branches were so supple they simply danced away, ducking and weaving like a Whirling Dervish until the wind abated.

We could learn a lot from trees. Most of them have been here longer than we have and will remain long after we have gone. They survive, I think because they simply do what they were born to do and they do it well. They take what comes in their stride (so to speak) patiently waiting for the seasons to change or the wind to stop blowing.

A lesson for us all there, I think…

This week in the Den of Doom…

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The lockdown and isolation has entered the Den of Doom (my office) with a vengeance this week.

We have tried desperately to maintain an optimistic attitude about everything, including all those annoying PC malfunctions. I seem to spend more and more time trying to catch up, meaning I never manage to get around to anything creative anymore.

So much so, our respective muses have been AWOL for days!

Undaunted, I had been looking forward to working on the new bonsai shelves. The wood has arrived and so did the freezing weather. I don’t do freezing to death as my old bones refuse to function below a certain temperature.

So, the waiting will continue…

Shame, for I was looking forward to spending hours away from the computer.

 

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Life isn’t waiting for me…

 

In the middle of the week, I started what I thought was a bad cold, streaming nose and sneezing. Of course, I immediately thought I was dying, but relieved to discover that sneezing is not a symptom of the Covid19 virus.

When the tickly cough arrived, I slipped into denial in a hurry.

The experts say that most people will only get mild symptoms and recover quickly, but not people over 75 who also have serious medical problems like heart conditions, asthma and hypertension, also like me.

Denial is a wonderful coping mechanism and I’m pretty sure I’m not dying. In the past I have beaten some usually fatal conditions, so not expecting to lose this battle either if it turns out that I do have it.

The good news is my temperature is normal and I feel fine…

 

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#Jaye’s Journal… Enjoying a happy moment!

 

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I have been escaping to the garden more and more lately. The weather has been slowly improving, so I should be able to start working on that very long list of jobs that need to be done.

The need to escape, even to the garden, has been gradually building as the news of this evil virus gets worse.

Everyone is getting edgy, wondering how bad it might get. I have always been an optimist, but I can feel it straining to assert itself.

The shops are empty, and the worry swings between getting sick or starving to death. Some choice, eh?

But… (changing the subject, as I’d rather not dwell on things I can’t do much about)

My bonsai are waking up and this never fails to cheer me up, although this year it seems to be just a little subdued.

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My Acer says hello…

I have been busy making sure I have everything I need for the repotting marathon, and the wood for the new shelving should be delivered soon.

The rain-sodden grass has been trying to dry out and although I didn’t feel like cutting it, I thought I had better get to it. Just as well I did, for it poured with rain the following day.

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The rest of the garden is waking up too and did my heart good to see my favourites have survived for another year.

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My favourite Camelia

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Not sure what this is called, but I love it!

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Forsythia, everyone’s favourite

Back indoors I try to come to terms with the virus situation. I can forget everything when I’m in the garden, but it waits for me the minute I come back in.

So many things are likely to change and to be honest, I’m terrified. The situation gets worse every day, yet no one seems to know how bad it will get.

Every time I wash my hands, I think about the people who have already died and pray there won’t be many more.

That a miracle will arrive and save us all…

 

©Jaye Marie 2020

 

I Tried Something New… #Poetry

 

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Image by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay

 

                                      I Tried Something New…

                                           One day I will make it to the top

                                           Who is there to tell me no? He

                                            Knows where I hide

                                            My past I do not want spoken

                                            Secrets that may take my life

                                            Can I run, find shelter, stay hidden?

                                           Tell no one about my dark side

                                            My life has been so wrong

                                           Stories have been whispered, made up…

                                                               ©anitadawes 2020

Damage Control…

 

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Still looking for some magic…

 

The internet excelled itself today…

What with all the constant buffering…

Then Word, WordPress and Grammarly ganged up on me, and everything I had just spent the entire morning doing simply vanished.

Could this be a ploy to get me to switch to the new WP editor, Gutenberg?

Before I knew what was happening, the sneezing arrived!

Everyone in the family has had this cold and I was hoping it would miss me, but this wasn’t to be. Should have been a golden opportunity to crawl away and die quietly but I just couldn’t do it. It would feel too much like giving in and I can’t remember the last time I did that!

Although I have been dragging my heels for long enough, feeling ill was the very last straw. I decided it was time for the confusion and procrastination to stop, even if my nose dripped all over everything!

The problem began last year when I spent every writing hour trying to finish my detective thriller Silent PayBack. Daydreams and routine went out the window and coaxing them back in again has been difficult, to say the least.

We wanted to try something new this year, something that might make a difference, like having a landing page with either Mailchimp or book promotion with BookFunnel.

I have been re-reading some of those marketing books, looking for helpful hints. Trouble is, most of them contradict each other, leaving me more confused than ever.

But despite all of this, we do have a plan!

(despite the weather, the sneezing and the confusion)

 

  • Our books must be the best we can make them, even if it means spending some money. (you have no idea how hard that was to say!)
  • Check all the covers, editing, back matter and blurbs.
  • Update promo material and create more
  • Possibly switch to Gutenberg editor. (I must be mad to even suggest this)
  • Create new book trailers.
  • Write more character interviews
  • Get more reviews
  • Finish both of our WIP’s

And…

Drumroll please

I have a great new idea for my next book!

 

©JayeMarie 2020

 

 

Ghosts of the Past…

 

 

I was looking back through some old posts and found this one, written at the end of 2012. This was when the madness began…

 

2012: My New Year Resolution!

Next year I have decided (this is Jaye, by the way. Anita is busy writing!) that I will become more adept with all this technology. I have been stumbling along, picking up bits of information here there and everywhere and have come to glorious conclusion that my efforts are not quite good enough. Close, but no cigar, to quote Anita.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I think I have learnt a massive amount of stuff in my stumbling’s but if we want to be successful in any way at all, I have to learn more. This will not be easy, for at my age (69) my brain cells are dying faster than I can count! I have never liked computers, I think they were invented by the devil to drive us all insane. But the reason I persist (apart from the fact that I am one of the most stubborn people you will ever meet) is that my mind cannot accept the fact that the devil is possibly cleverer than I am at using a computer.

It’s only a machine, I tell myself.

It’s do-able, so do it.

Other people do it and do it well. So can I.

Really?

Who am I kidding?

Myself unfortunately. But I digress. I can do anything I set my mind to, always have. Might take me forever, or might have to modify what I wanted in the first place, but I usually get there. (Once I have driven everyone bonkers in the mean time!)

Now for some back patting…

In 2012, I learnt how to upload Anita’s books onto Amazon. (And you don’t want to know how long that took!)

After that, I uploaded them all to Smashwords. (Difficult, but worth it, amazing people!)

I even managed to create a paperback copy of one of our books with Createspace. (Don’t ask!)
I had a go at designing our own covers, but need to improve a hell of a lot!

Created this blog site, but still not sure I am doing it right (or even if I am happy with it!)
But as I said earlier, it’s all out there in 2013 and all I have to do is find it and make it work.
How hard can it be

 

I was looking for inspiration and usually manage to find small nuggets of the stuff in our old files and posts. I needed to find a substantial amount of it, as my mind was a less than delightful blank! My only excuse is that our house is fighting the flu bug, and intelligent thought was the first casualty!

I wanted to sum up the past year, wax lyrical about how much better 2019 was going to be, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t think of anything worth writing about. 2018 was a disappointing year, a wall-to-wall struggle if I am honest. We were out of our depth for most of it, playing catch-up and pretending everything was fine but we were nowhere as productive as we wanted to be. So if the New Year was going to be more of the same, I don’t think we had the heart to soldier on.

Reading that old post and feeling the excitement of our beginning, made me sit up and wonder where all that excitement has gone. Where was my determination to crack the code that would open the door to our success?

I was sure it couldn’t have gone completely and was probably lurking around somewhere, but I had searched for it and come up empty, leaving me feeling sad and frustrated. I mean, I had a book to finish, a very long to-do list and a pile of fascinating and helpful articles and information to wade through. There was also that list of dreams ideas for trailers, posters and promotions.

Full of germs and feeling terrible, I wasn’t really in the mood to try and put our world back to rights, but I knew I wanted to, needed to if I was honest. There was no way we were going to stop, so I have three days to pull myself together, ready to step into 2019.

Not much has changed since then but surely something must have?

Do you ever look back to see how far you have come?

©Jaye Marie 2020

 

 

 

 

Best Day of the Week!

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Image by Kerstin Riemer from Pixabay

 

The sun was shining one day last week, and an air of springtime was everywhere I looked, so I found myself wandering around the garden, ending up in my potting shed, checking how much potting compost I will need once I start the marathon repotting of my bonsai in the next few weeks.

It was good to be out of doors so I made the most of it, trying not to wince at the extent of the work that desperately needs doing.

Last year I wasn’t a very good gardener, as editing my WIP and getting it ready to launch took up every waking hour, and many jobs were neglected. This year I intend to be on top of things, well, as much as I am able anyway. There are some jobs that might defeat me, but time will tell.

Most of these jobs involve some serious pruning, as my garden resembles a jungle, something that doubtless will become worse once the growing season gets underway.

Cutting the soaking wet, overgrown and matted grass may well kill me once I get to it, but there is no one else. I really would like a low maintenance garden, but dreaming won’t get one, so must cope somehow.

I have also booked a ride to the garden centre to order the wooden slats to replace my bonsai display shelves. I am also determined to repaint the walls in my yard as they are worse than grubby. Everything grows like crazy around here, including the weeds and the mould!

Just being outside in the fresh air was wonderful, filling me up with so many good intentions and the joy of looking forward to doing something creative, and muddy…

 

©Jaye Marie 2020

 

From the archives… Not One of the Best Weeks!

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I have been trying to get my head around the miserable time we have been having lately, and stumbled across this old post. Kinda puts things into perspective, don’t you think?

 

Sunday

Of all the days for the cooker to decide to die, it had to pick a Sunday. There I was, doing my ‘master chef’ impersonation and everything on the hob was cooking nicely. Then I opened the oven door to check on the roast potatoes. The oven light and fan were working, but the potatoes were cold and raw.

Not to be deterred, for I try never to panic in the kitchen, I sliced and sautéed them and we ended up with a reasonable rendition of Sunday lunch.

Monday started just as brilliantly with bad news.  The cooker cannot be fixed until next week. Apparently, if you can believe it, every repairman in Hampshire is on holiday at the moment.  So great fun will be had by all, as we try to come up with alternative meals that do not involve the oven while praying the hob doesn’t decide to die too!

Tuesday  

This is not turning out to be my week at all. Climbed out of the shower, turning it off as I passed the taps, and nothing happened. Well, I say nothing happened, but the water did stop. The shower pump did not, however, and sounded as though it would blow up any minute.

There followed what could be a scene from a Monty Python film. Me, almost wrapped in an inadequate towel, tearing about the house, looking for something that looked like a fuse switch, or anything that would shut it off.

I couldn’t find one, but after a frantic telephone call, someone turned up who knew what to do and I could stop panicking.

Makes me wonder what tomorrow will bring…

Wednesday

Just as I thought, today brought more of the same when I tried to renew my driving licence. Anita’s was easy, so I thought mine would be too. Wrong! I have to be certified as fit, and only for 3 years at a time. Well, I wasn’t about to go down that route. I only wanted it for identification purposes anyway. Maybe it would be easier to renew my passport?

This turned out it to be very easy, so I could be jetting off to somewhere interesting any day now.

Thursday

I was so determined that nothing would go wrong today, I played safe and concentrated on routine tasks and things that could not possibly go pear-shaped. Pretty boring really, and by the afternoon I was more than ready for something a little more interesting, but the only thing I could think of was organising my image folders. It needed doing, but didn’t make for a fun afternoon!

Friday

Thought I would try to come up with some ideas for a short story competition. All I need is 4.000 interesting words in the form of a story. Anita has already entered, so I thought I would too. There is a risk, I suppose, that our writing partnership could turn into quite a competition of its own, but that can only be food for our ambition, don’t you think?

I hope no one ever has a week like this! 

As for my current state, a ray of hope in the form of a hint of inspiration showed up yesterday. The elephant in the room took one look and fled!

©JayeMarie 2020

Cruise Control…

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Image by AnnaD15n3y from Pixabay

Do you, like me, have an uneasy feeling about 2020?

After nearly three weeks of struggling to get going and constantly meeting all kinds of resistance, I am on the verge of deciding to swap the big dream for a series of smaller ones.

I already knew this year would be full of changes, most of which won’t be pleasant. In order to cope with these changes, I must regroup somehow and simplify my writing/blogging and life in general in order to cope with the chaos. Cruise control if you will, so I can somehow manage to survive.

You can’t keep on fighting if you’re getting nowhere, especially in times of stress, so it’s time to find the path of least resistance which in my case, means reverting to baby steps.

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I had wondered how long it would take for the old demon to infect my new PC, but it’s back! Endless buffering, broken links, missing images, you name it and it ruins my blogging day. The worst part of it all, is I’m not altogether sure what the problem is.

Apart from ruining my mood, I can soon lose concentration when things refuse to work properly. I mean, what is the point of it all?

I thought that by admitting to myself that I wasn’t coping, this would resolve the problem, but this wasn’t good enough apparently.

The baby elephant in the room is insisting I do something!

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There are some problems you can track down and find a reason for and hopefully fix, so I have been busy double checking everything.

I discovered I needed to verify my Microsoft account. This surprised me, for surely, I did all this when I first uploaded the new pc, just a few months ago?

You need a mobile phone to obtain the code, but I don’t have one, so enlisted help from the family. Job done, and pc seems to be working better, so hopefully peace will reign for a while!

As for the situations I can do nothing about, I have decided to alter my attitude towards them and adopt more positivity.

No point arguing or getting upset. Changes will have their way and we will live to see the dust begin to settle again…

 

©JayeMarie 2020