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…

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

 

 

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

When Shadows Fade…

 

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Image by Pixabay.com

 

When morning shadows fade, I shrink back into darkness

Forgotten until daylight when I can once again search

For the one who stole my lifeforce while I was dreaming me.

Yet, he has no face, not fully formed

I must be quick before he takes more from the shadows

To become the one I am meant to be, leaving me in darkness

Never to step into the light to find my own form

To live outside my own form, my own shadow

The faceless one will not give back with ease

The fight will be fierce, I must protect the little I have

I am forced to hide in darker shadows, wait to find help there

from those who wait to live outside.

Not an easy thing to ask, each life force is a precious jewel

To find one that is jaded is my hope

One who has lost desire for the outside.

To borrow from this being is dangerous,

as I might forget my own desire

A risk I must take if I am to live outside my shadow

For there is one there I dearly wish to beside

I have watched her from the shadows

Planned our wedding, seen the birth of our children

I have yet to make it so,

to breathe the same air, I must find the jaded one

plead my case, steal his life force if I must

She is worth the evil I would carry to the outside

A sin on my new-born soul.

It can carry many more, not that I intend to

I will escape the evil voice that haunts my shadow life

Lay down all previous sin as I take form from the jaded one

As I do so, he will fade into eternity

There he will live again, in a better form of self

There is no way back, still, I will send him

His sins may be as fleas on a dog’s back, too many to count

I care not, my need is greater

I see him now, crouched in the darkness, a lone wolf

Waiting his own demise

I am here to help him on his way, I will ask first,

if his answer is unfavourable, I will steal from him

Gather more from those who hide with him

They have given up, I shall not

 I will find what was stolen from me

I will live again, outside my shadow…

©anitadawes

Has the New Year started well for you?

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I have never once thought that blogging could be detrimental to your health, but just lately, I have come to think that it could be.

Surely not, I hear you say, and I will admit it doesn’t seem likely, not on the surface, anyway.

I was nervous when I first started writing/blogging. Could I get to grips with the technology involved? Would I be any good at it? Would anyone ever talk to me?

I had a million questions, which are all very natural when you embark on a new adventure, and although at times it has been a frustrating and difficult journey, overall I have enjoyed every single minute of it.

So what on earth am I on about?

Just lately, a strange feeling has been creeping in, insidiously, like wisps of smoke. The internet is like a mirror, reflecting everything we bloggers do.  As a good proportion of bloggers are writers, you get to see what their lives and careers are like and it can be very reassuring if they are struggling just like you, facing the same problems and difficulties, but the more successful ones are an inspiration, showing you what you can accomplish if you work hard enough.

We have been blogging for nearly eight years now, and have met some amazing people.  Helpful, considerate people, generous with their advice and friendship. You gradually become part of their world, a world where anything is possible and you can afford the luxury of dreaming.

I can hear some of you tapping your fingernails, wondering where all of this is going, so I will try to explain.

Everyone says that with patience and hard work you can achieve your goals. But I have been patient and worked as hard as I can, but no nearer to anything even remotely like my goals.

And this was my epiphany… maybe my goals are wrong?

Something must be wrong with me, for on a bad day my enthusiasm wanes. All that wonderful optimism seems to leave the building.

I have been thinking about this year and it is clear that I must come up with some resolutions that work before the men in white coats come to take me away!

Not that this year can be the same as before for so many things are different now, starting with trying to get my head around it being 2020!

Then there was my number one symbol of the New Year, Big Ben. Seeing him up to his ears in scaffolding was a little upsetting on New Years Eve…

Big Ben has always been a very special symbol in my life. I grew up in London hearing the deep resonant sound of the bell. The imposing majesty of the building is one of my most enduring memories of my time there.

London has many such landmarks and I love them all, but that tall clock tower on the river Thames embankment is by far my favourite. By rights, my favourite should be the river itself, feeling as I do about water, but no. Very close though.

‘Big Ben’ is really just a nickname for the great bell itself, inside the famous clock tower at the north end of the Palace of Westminster in London. Built in 1858 and 96 metres high, it is the largest four-faced chiming clock in the world. But the bell itself is not the biggest. St Pauls Cathedral has a slightly bigger one, weighing in at 17 tonnes.

Scarily, the tower leans slightly to the North West, apparently caused by the tunnelling for the Jubilee Line Underground train.

I came across this picture of Big Ben a few weeks ago, and I was instantly transported me back to another New Year’s Eve so many years ago.

That particular year, my friends and I had decided to celebrate the coming of the New Year in style. We would attempt some kind of pub crawl, visiting as many bars and public houses that we could manage, in spite of the volume of people all doing the same thing; ending up at the embankment for the fireworks and Big Ben’s majestic chimes.

We had such fun that night even though I knew I would not contemplate doing it again, as the number of people all seriously intent on having as much fun as possible, created more madness and chaos than I ever thought possible and a lot of the time I was scared to death.

You see all the crowds on television, but could you imagine being there?

Of course, there could have been so much more trouble than there actually was. That many people, most of them hysterical with excitement and booze could have deteriorated into a riot. But it never seems to. No matter how squashed, drunk or freezing cold you happened to be, there is some kind of reverence going on, as if it would be a sin to ruin that night in any way.

Our journey around London that night was exciting, but I was glad when we found ourselves by the river just before midnight. We had left most of the throng behind and it was almost eerily quiet by the water. The fireworks were further up river and we seemed to have Big Ben all to ourselves.

It was very cold that night, but at least it wasn’t raining. I was one of the few people in our group that didn’t have a partner, something I knew I wanted to change in the New Year. I had no idea of the direction my life would be taking, no plans and not many dreams either, for I had already learned that dreaming was futile.

So that evening ended on quite a solemn note, and as the hands of the clock above us moved closer to the 12, the tears were not far away.

I had never been that close to Big Ben before and was not prepared for how loud the chimes would be. First came the melody and the vibrations seemed to travel up my legs until my whole body seemed to be humming. When the big bell started to chime the hour, the vibrations became longer and deeper and it felt as though my heart would break.

More than fifty years later, the sound of that bell has the same effect, instantly transforming me back to that lonely young woman who had already taught herself not to believe in dreams.

I obviously knew a thing or two back then, for my life has not been full of the stuff that dreams are made of, rather the opposite. But I am still here, not quite ready to give up. So is Big Ben, although undergoing major refurbishment along with the Houses of Parliament. Seeing all that scaffolding around the tower was worrying. If anything went wrong, we could lose Big Ben forever…

©Jaye Marie 2020

 

 

 

Is There an Elephant in Your Room?

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Image by Dmitry Abramov from Pixabay 

 

The New Year has begun and already I’m running late!

Week two and I haven’t written my first journal entry yet.

Actually, I haven’t done much of anything this year and I hope this isn’t an indication of the rest of the new year, but I have the feeling it might be. The elephant in my office is rather small, but his presence is disturbing.

Probably time to remove the constriction of the week numbers, so I can just write when the muse dictates, no regular Journal.

A lot of writers/bloggers have been waxing lyrical about all their plans for2020, but the more I read, the more I realise I cannot be like that anymore.

Something has been changing inside my head and it is time to sort out the rather sweet animal that lurks in the corner of my office!

Towards the end of 2019, I was getting more and more depressed about my stress levels and the lack of activity in my brain. Wondering if I really was getting too old for all this blogging/writing malarkey. So much so, I was beginning to wonder if it was even possible to be a blogger and a writer, or does one always suffer from the competition of the other?

Maybe it should be more about quality, not quantity, shouldn’t it?

This sounds hopeful but exactly what does it mean and how can I apply it to my already complicated life?

The little grey elephant is shaking his head, so no help there…

A lot of people have been looking at their stats, so I staggered over to WP and looked at ours, looking for inspiration or confirmation I suppose.

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Our progress since we began blogging has been slow and steady. Pretty impressive for an ageing technophobe, I thought. But maybe not exactly reassuring now that my brain is seriously out to lunch these days.

There is a lot we want to do this year, that’s if I can find out where my get up and go is hiding!  I refuse to believe that this could be the year that the elephant wins, even if he is only a little one…

 

Jobs Outstanding:

 

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Finish editing Anita’s brilliant new book, Running Moon…

 

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Finish creating the book of Anita’s poetry

 

 

 

 

 

And possibly start to write the new story that my character DI Snow has been nagging me about!

And finally, introduce more automation to our website, to give the elephant a few days off…

 

©Jaye Marie 2020

I’d love to hear from you, so leave me some comments?