Little Writer…

Valid points made here – we don’t need to rush.

Through The Gateway

It’s been a while since I actually got over to this blog to write anything. Christmas break with several children to entertain kept me from having very much (if any) time to myself. Then the New Year hit and the temperature dropped to a level so low that my brain was forced into hibernation. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself.

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Advice for Writers for 2018

I bet you’re expecting this post to be full of fantastic ideas as to how you can improve your writing, or create a cover, or market your book?

You’d be wrong.

So if that’s what you’re after, stop reading now because it’s the antithesis of that.

Put your hand up if you’re sick of reading other people’s advice.

Every time I open any form of social media I am confronted with ‘helpful’ ideas as to how to do all the things I cite above; i.e. writing, producing the perfect cover, constructing the perfect ad, learning how to market your work, etc., etc., and at the end of all the waffle to hook you in, I get to the crux of the post and read: ‘I can help you do this for the very low price of…’ (or a variant thereof).

The bit that comes next is aimed mostly at new writers, so if that’s you, read it carefully and try to remember that this is just my opinion: I’m a member of several writing groups on social media, and I’ve seen posts by more new writers than I can count asking how they should do all of the above things before they’ve ever picked up a pen (or switched on a laptop and opened whichever writing program they have chosen) and actually written anything. I’ve seen them post pictures of the cover they’ve chosen, seen them angst over whether or not to have their own author website or whether they should be paying for this course or that.

Look, there are people out there who will take advantage of you. Probably not intentionally, but if you run a business (for example) creating beautiful book covers and someone approaches you, wouldn’t you try to sell them something? So what if the cover they buy doesn’t actually end up relevant to the book they eventually write – it’s not their problem, right?

If you haven’t even begun to write, that fantastic, all singing, all dancing, marketing course you signed up for won’t be relevant by the time you need to use it. Social media rules regarding advertising change all the time! What works now (and saturates the market) probably won’t be working by the time you need it to. As an example, FB changes its rules with regularity and is making life difficult for authors at the moment by only delivering their posts to a fraction of the people who follow them unless they pay for that visibility; it’s also banning certain ads that it regards as spam, and actually, that’s fair enough, they’re running a business and they’re entitled to run it as they see fit. The point I am trying to make is that by the time you’ve actually written your book, the rules will have changed again – probably several times. So why throw money at something that will be redundant by the time you need to use it?

Some of the people running these courses (caveat: please note I said some – they’re not all the same and some are worth their weight in gold – when you take them at the right time) must be laughing in their sleep. They don’t count sheep to drop off – they count dollars, or pounds, or whatever the currency is where they come from. And you know what? I don’t blame them! If people are silly enough to chuck money at them in the hope of becoming rich and famous before they’ve even put pen to paper, I’d be rubbing my hands together in glee, too.

Make 2018 the year you actually write something – and make it the best writing you have in you. Celebrate it! And let me know when you’ve written it because it will call for a toast to you!

Wishing you all an amazingly happy New Year – may all your dreams come true!

Jill

Interview with Rachel Davidson, author of ‘The Point of Me’.

rdf headshopt july 2017 cropped

Hi guys!

Today I’m chatting with the lovely Rachel Davidson, the author of a wonderfully uplifting spiritual book. Read on to see what she had to say:

Me: Firstly, welcome Rachel, it’s lovely to have you featured here and I have several questions for you, the first being how long have you been writing and what made you decide to write this particular book?

Rachel: In truth I have been writing my whole life, but I have only been taking it ‘seriously’ – by which I mean pursuing particular story-ideas and crafting them into novel-sized adventures – since September 2014. I am the typical cliché of a newbie author! Hearing that well-worn phrase of ‘everyone has at least one book in them’ and thinking ‘oh yes that is me!’ but not actually settling down to write it and test that postulation. I guess I just got diverted by everyday life, like many people do. The lure of a ‘safer’ life working in business was strong and none of the careers officers at school were promoting author as an option.

But like I say, that changed in September 2014. I know the exact point at which I made the decision to get on with it and indeed why I wrote this particular book ‘The Point of Me’.

I know this because I was having a Soul-Purpose Reading – and during the meditations that this involved, I was told that I would write a story about a unicorn. Well I was rather irked about that. I didn’t want to write about rainbows and fairy sparkle unicorns! But my husband challenged me to think about what my unicorn would look and feel like. Five minutes later I had sketched out the story of the book that was published last summer. It took me 3 years to write and it felt like a return to home.

Perhaps it would be useful at this point to explain a little about what the book is about. The main character in ‘The Point of Me’, James, is a young man who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. As well as facing his own mortality, he also has to cope with his family, who are falling apart under the strain. When James meets Marcham, a mystical beast who takes him on a series of powerful spiritual journeys, he begins to understand the meaning of life, death and family.

So, on the face of it, the book is about a teenager coming to terms with death. But don’t let that put you off! It is actually a very uplifting story! The point of it is not the fact that death is inevitable, but that the manner in which we choose to live our lives, and especially so when the prospect of death looms closer (and in James’ case abnormally early on in his young life) is the most important point of being alive.

The book is heavily influenced and inspired by the worlds of Shamanism and Spiritual Healing. I’ve tried to weave elements of these belief structures into what I hope is a compelling message of how a life full of empathy, love and acceptance will be a good life and provide a meaningful death. The story also features some fantastically magical trips into wonderful spiritual planes – I promise it is not a depressing story!

I wanted it to be full of both light and shade. I wanted to explore how in the midst of the most terrible, darkest moments of a person’s life they might find the greatest light and peace, together with an acceptance of why, as spiritual splinters of the creator’s light we are sent to experience a human existence upon a giant rock spinning through the cosmos!

Me: I think you managed to send that message beautifully.  How long did it take to write ‘The Point of Me’, were there any setbacks or did it flow?

Rachel: It took me 3 years, practically to the day, to go from the first word being written to being published and available to buy. But the vast majority of the writing took place in the last 9 months or so (the symbolism of that particular last phase being equal to a pregnancy was not lost on me! Writing a book is a bit similar to giving birth!).

In the beginning I wrote the story in a relatively piecemeal fashion – having got the preface and chapter one written first I didn’t necessarily follow the chronological timeline that the final book has. I wrote passages and chapters as and when ideas grabbed me, when I felt able to explore particular emotions and themes. I suppose it came together like a quilt does – each piece of writing being stitched together with the next to form the overall. I feel I suffered very few setbacks and ‘dry’ periods because I took exactly this approach. I followed my instincts, went with the flow and trusted that the detail of the story would arrive and that in the end, the full pathway of the tale would be clear and obvious. I always knew the big picture of the story’s emotional arc and everything was guided and controlled by that – like a sailor navigating by the north-star I suppose, I always had that as my reference point from which every writing ‘journey’ would lead from and back to.

Me: As you’ve already said, and I concur, this is a rather wonderful and spiritual tale – did you set out to write it this way, or did it evolve as you wrote?

Rachel: Thank you for the compliment. I’m thrilled that you liked it.

Well, as I mentioned previously, the start of the book began with the spiritual activity of a Soul-Purpose reading and contains many themes and tokens of shamanic and spiritual healing practices. So, I cannot deny that the whole piece has the general theme of spirituality woven through it. Although I don’t remember consciously thinking “I will write a spiritual fantasy story”, I am really interested in this area and exploring the human condition.

In my writing, and through my writing, I want to explore the big issues and questions. I want to investigate my own emotions and purposes – I try to face my own fears. Actually, I think potentially all writers are exploring their inner-workings in this manner to a greater or lesser degree.

If I look into the face of my own fears and terrors and find responses to them through the trials and adversities that I make my characters live through, then I have a good chance of writing an interesting story that will hopefully resonate with other people.

Me: What was your inspiration?

Rachel: Inspiration for my writing comes from lots of places. My husband Steve is a particularly good ‘resource’ as he is a powerful Spiritual Healer and Shaman. His work with Spirit and energy is particularly inspiring. But I also gain a lot of inspiration from the natural world (animals, plants, weather) and by generally observing the human-condition and wondering about people’s hidden, internal dialogues.

For this particular story, knowing that I absolutely did not want to write about a ‘typical’ rainbow and sparkle unicorn was also a good inspiration point. I felt sure that unicorns are much darker, earthier and deeply elemental creatures, and it is true to say that my version is very different to the more usual depiction of these magical beasts.

Ideas or feelings about things such as this arrive in my mind, the trick is to hear them, definitely before they head off to find somebody else who might hear them quicker than you! Ideas are given to you. I believe that is ‘inspiration’ – being ‘in spirit’. To be inspired you simply need to be looking and listening.

Me: How has it been received?

Rachel: Firstly, I want to just acknowledge what a massive leap of faith it is for any artist to put their creativity out into the world. It is a big thing to have strangers reading and reviewing something that one has poured one’s heart into. It’s scary and risky. But the thought of writing the story and then putting it into a dusty drawer to eventually forget about it was definitely the much more horrifying prospect.

My gamble seems to have paid off, in that I have had some very lovely comments and compliments. The book has been described by one reviewer as a “tender fantasy about learning to love yourself despite the tragedy surrounding you”. Another reviewer said that I had painted “… an iridescent portrait filled with sorrow and hope, … [detailing] one boy’s struggles in learning to live in a life of cruelties”. A third review described me as a “talented, exceptional writer who knows how to make her reader feel a host of different emotions, her words are eloquent and beautifully descriptive” – a comment that I still have to pinch myself about when I read it!

A couple of other readers’ comments have focused upon the shamanic and spiritual-healing aspects that have inspired much of the story’s basis and how the characters’ various afflictions are carried energetically before manifesting physically (a lesson to us all, perhaps). Others have remarked upon the powerful messages about the purpose of life – the book is called ‘The Point of Me’ because the main character is searching for the answer to that question. Happily, despite the potentially weighty subject of the book, most readers have observed that they felt peaceful and uplifted by the end of it! And all the Amazon reviews so far have been 5-star. Phew!

Me: That’s fantastic! Most people don’t realise just how much work is involved in marketing your work once it’s completed. Writing a book is hard in and of itself – how have you got on with the marketing side of things? Do you have any tips for others?

Rachel: I couldn’t agree with you more! The writing is definitely the fun bit! It doesn’t feel a jot like hard work, despite it taking a lot of time and thought and struggle. The marketing of the book afterwards is most definitely a mission! But if you want your book to be read then you absolutely have to work at making it visible.

As a self-published author, I’m responsible for all the publishing, distribution, marketing and promotion of the book. I am just one voice in a massive market of thousands, nay millions, of other authors and stories. It is a daunting prospect, to be honest. My main ‘tip’ is to do some promotional work every day, hunting down every opportunity to talk about the book and to make contact with as many potential readers as possible. It’s why I’m very grateful for this opportunity Jill.

I think I read about a marketing theory that goes something along the lines of purchasers needing to be made aware of a ‘product’ at least seven times, on average, before they will finally make the purchase. I try to bear this idea in mind when I am working on promotional content. People need to get intrigued and also comfortable with the idea of what your book is and who you, as the author, are.

Finally, I would just like to say that in the face of this problem I reassure myself with my belief and faith that if I remain authentic to the truth of the story I feel called to write, then the readership will find it no matter what. It might take a long time of course, but ultimately the story will find its own way (me working like a mad whirling dervish in the background also helps!)

Me: Are you writing anything else at present?

Rachel: I am indeed! I am beginning to write a new story – one that I hope will take a number of characters featured in ‘The Point of Me’ forward so that I can explore how they react to the outcome of the first book. A few readers of the book asked me such interesting questions about these characters and what I thought their lives would be like after the conclusion of ‘The Point of Me’, frankly it got me feeling curious about them too.

So, if ‘The Point of Me’ was mainly about exploring how someone may face death, I plan to make the next book an exploration of how someone may face life. I hope it is going to be another tale full of magical experiences and spiritual symbolism – I have been researching the magical meaning of crows for instance!

Q8: Ooh, now that’s piqued my interest! When do you envisage publication of this?

Rachel: Well I hope that it isn’t going to take me another 3 years to write the next book. If I could have it published by this time next year then I would be very, very pleased with myself. I have to juggle full-time work and family life around my writing so there can be many pressures on my time! It is a case of me being very disciplined and sitting down every day to write something. If I can achieve that, then I hope the next book will be ‘birthed’ much quicker than the first!

Me: Lastly, what words of advice do you have for new writers? Is there anything you wish you’d known at the start of the process that would have helped you?

I was lucky to be introduced to you Jill, and you had some great tips and pointers (such as using the online graphic design package Canva to assist in cover design). So that would be my first advice – connect with other authors and writers and pick their brains. My second tip would be to find a great proof-reader (that’s where you come into the picture again Jill, as your work on my manuscript was invaluable to me).

The first thing about the writing process is that you do need to write! Well, the solution to this is firstly about having the discipline to sit my butt down on the chair daily and write! There’s a quote by Louis L’ Amour which goes, “Start writing no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on”. So, I get my writing environment set up (inspirational music on, comfy seat, my little dog snuggled next to me if she’s in the mood and the incense burning) and I simply write. I don’t worry too much about crafting the ‘perfect’ sentence or do too much self-editing or reading back over what I’m doing as I type along. I try to just concentrate on the emotion that I’m taking the character(s) through and keep pushing towards that emotion. There’s another quote (this one by the great and esteemed Ernest Hemingway) which is “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” That’s what I try to aim for – finding the detail of the emotion’s ‘truth’ and writing in as much ‘colour’ and light as I can to illuminate it.

Oh, and lastly; never, ever worry about the ‘reader’ as you’re writing your story. Write it for yourself. Once you are very happy with it and feel you can improve it no further, publish it and then, and only then, start to worry about the ‘reader’. It sounds counterintuitive to most of the business advice of working out who your target market is for products first. But writing is art, and art isn’t about writing for a demographic! Writing is about putting a truth into words. And that truth can only be the one that is in your, the writer’s, heart. Write that 😊

Me: Thank you so much for agreeing to be featured on here, and I hope that my followers have enjoyed learning about you and your book. It was a pleasure to proofread it for you, by the way. 

If you’d like to find out more about ‘The Point of Me’ or Rachel’s writing then please register your email on her website www.racheldavidsonauthor.com, follow her on Twitter @Rachel_Author, or like and follow her Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/RachelDavidsonAuthor

‘The Point of Me’ is for sale on Amazon in both e-book and paperback formats: tinyurl.com/thepointofme 

Her Amazon Author Profile is: tinyurl.com/RachelDavidsonAuthor.

The book is also available on Smashwords (tinyurl.com/y7zrjqgu) and with Apple iBooks. 

 

A Watched Pot Never Boils

This proverb strikes a chord with me and, no doubt, with many of you, too (even if it is a slightly daft saying – I mean, come on, unless you forget to switch on the heat beneath it, if you watch it long enough it will boil).

How many of you have had an idea for writing a book, or starting a small business? Did you worry it around in your mind, plan, scrap that plan and re-think, plan again, and finally, finally, try dipping a toe in foreign waters?

Was the result what you imagined?

Did fame and/or fortune come knocking at your door?

Were you an instant runaway success?

Me neither!

 

I guess the meaning is that to build up anything worthwhile takes time and you can’t sit and wait for it to magically happen.

*Sigh*

*Where’s my magic wand?*

Lumps, bumps, and Trouble at Christmas

Hi all!

This last month has been – well, let’s just say that different is a good descriptive word (that actually doesn’t really cover anything, much).

So what’s been going on? New Puppy (‘NP’) has started asking to use the great outdoors (aka our garden) as a toilet, unless, of course, we’re busy and not paying him attention wherein he’ll bypass the asking and simply carefully avoid all the pads and paper put down to catch his little ‘accidents’ and pee in the six square inches left uncovered, the defiant little sod!

He’s actually really bright – sits on command, lays down on command, plays fetch (and is learning to let go of whatever we’ve thrown for him so we can throw it again), comes to us when called (if we have something he wants… otherwise he’s great at cocking a deaf’un – think toddlers, pre-schoolers, school-age – hell, just about any age of kid in reality – or husband…).

He’s learned that if he pushes it in a certain way, his water bowl comes loose and when it’s empty he dislodges it and chucks it at our feet wearing a look of utter disdain that says, ‘See what you’ve made me do? Water me, now!’ He’s obviously seen me laughing at  ‘Simon’s Cat’.

All plants in the house are now raised from the floor – NP’s developed a penchant for digging out the mud and chucking it all over the floor which, despite him thinking differently, is not in the least amusing.

The cat’s slightly more tolerant of him. Now she sits at a height he can’t quite reach watching him with contempt as he goes nuts trying to get her to play with him (front paws down, bum in the air, wagging tail) – her tail twitches in annoyance and he reads it that she’s telling him he’s now her new best friend – until she’s had enough of his gentle persuasion and hisses at him like a demon and swipes out. (Claws retracted – she’s not evil.) Funnily enough, her growl is way louder and more dog-like than his – who knew? Yet, when both are hungry, she’ll wind around his legs while he licks her and they both delight in tripping us up while we rush to attend to their needs. I swear they share a look and snicker – every, damn time.

A few years ago we bought musical dogs as Christmas decorations (we inherited one, if truth be told, and bought the second because – well, just because). They look remarkably like NP and he finds them a bit freaky – possibly because one sings Slade and the other sings Wizzard. After the initial ‘What the hell?’ moment, he carefully ignored them until I went into the kitchen a day or so after we’d put them out and came back in to find him dragging one around by its Christmas hat. Slade now sounds like they’ve hit the bottle. Hard.

Health wise? Hmmn – I was punched by a student (not the best of days), and like many others, the sickness bug is currently visiting our house. Nuff said on that score.

Finally, my latest book for children has been released – it’s called ‘Trouble at Christmas’ and you can get a copy for your own ankle-biters kiddliwinks here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B077XN1GCV (if you’re in the UK), or here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B077XN1GCV (if you’re over the pond).

Make an author happy and read it with your kids in the build-up to the big day – they’ll thank you for it. And if you really want to make an author happy, please leave a review of the book.

‘Til next time, take care!

Jill