365 Day Blog challenge Day 175 Freedom #365daychallenge

That’s it. My final university assignment has been sent off No more studying until it all starts again in October. That one is a entry level filler as I had a 15 credit gap after re-starting my degree so I don’t expect much stress or struggle. Then the final module and graduation. it’s all come together so well after the stress of trying to get everything restarted last August.

I’ve enjoyed the year I deliberately stayed away from any FB or Open University forums to avoid politics and back biting. These things seem to be a constant no matter what the subject matter. Once a forum or FB page is in place someone will start an argument. Choosing this year to not sign up for them did wonders for my mental health.

And for me more importantly I survived my first Level 3 (final year in a brick university) module. Taking the break was one of the best decisions to make even if it means from start to finish my degree will have taken 9 years! But I’ll have one.
I started my degree to prove to myself I could finish something and to help regain my confidence after the 2010 breakdown. I’ve gained the confidence and in 2 years I’ll have my completion. It’s so close now. I’m really looking forward to the next course.

Roll on October

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365 Day Blog challenge Day 142 An Interview with Kirsty Ferry #365daychallenge

A change of pace today as I get to chat to my good friend Kirsty Ferry after the release of her latest book: Watch for me by Candlelight via Choc Lit.

I first met Kirsty Ferry when we were both studying English Lit (with Creative Writing) through Open University and we bonded very quickly over our shared love of Tom Hardy in Wuthering Heights and of course that shirt/lake scene in Pride & Prejudice. Five years on and while I  am still working on my creative writing Kirsty has progressed to self publishing before signing with publishers Choc Lit. We had a good chat about her current work, her writing style and another favourite topic: cake 🙂

(Details of how to purchase her books are at the end of the blog)

Watch for me by Candlelight & Choc Lit

Can you tell us a little bit about the new book?

It’s the second in the Hartsford Mysteries Series, which is a series located in a fictional village in Suffolk called Hartsford. The books can also be read as stand-alones, and are ghostly time slips where the historical timeline and the contemporary timeline often blur for the characters! Watch for me by Candlelight is centred on Kate, who runs the Hartsford Folk Museum, and the premise is that second chances can come along, even if you have to wait several lifetimes to meet your soul mate again…

We all need a hero! Tell us about your protagonist(s)? Was there a real-life inspiration behind him or her?

No, Theo was completely out of my imagination. I wanted someone who was in some ways completely opposite to Kate – a bit of a risk taker, someone who was adventurous and outdoorsy, and had a few things hidden in his past he didn’t want to reveal until he knew what he was going to do. Kate was more open and up front with people, although she did have a habit of truly clinging onto the past, even if it meant initially she was clinging onto a relationship that had run its course. I think Theo and Kate made the perfect ‘whole’ to be honest. They filled in each other’s gaps. Theo also had to be the modern day equivalent of Will the Blacksmith, my historical hero, and so I made him a farrier. I adored Will and Theo, and I’ve had some lovely comments about them from readers, saying how lovely they are and how they want a real-life version for themselves.

Who is the character you most identify with in your books/this book? And why?

I think you have to identify with all your characters really – it’s the only way you get to know them inside out. That’s not to say I’m like my characters – they can often say and do things I’d shy away from in real life! I did particularly love Daisy in The Girl in the Painting. It’s not every day you get to walk in the button boots of a Victorian laudanum addict with her head in the clouds and a complete obsession with an artists’ model! She was a lot of fun to write.

What differences have there been between self publishing of your earlier books and working with Choc Lit?

A massive one has been the benefit of working with a company who know exactly what the readers want and how to shape your work to fit that market. You also get the benefit of the marketing expertise and the exposure to the existing fans. Choc Lit are a really lovely publishers to work with and I can’t see myself jumping ship any time soon! There’s no pressure to produce manuscripts, they work with you 100% and the team is great. Self -publishing was (and is) great though, as the things I have self-published, like my Gothic book, have been so niche that a traditional publisher just wouldn’t take them on. I realised that after I had a lot of close-calls with Memory of Snow – all the feedback was extremely positive but there was no commercial, mass-market appeal for it. It still sells very well though, and also sells at Vindolanda Museum. It does its own thing and keeps having little resurgences whereby I’ll be invited to do a talk or an event about it. But it was hard work in the beginning trying to get the interest and marketing done for it.

Can you tell us a little about your future project(s)/ what’s coming up next?

There’s another Hartsford novel ready to be published. This time it’s Cassie’s story – Cassie is Kate’s friend, and the sister of Alex, my hero in Watch for me by Moonlight. The new book, Watch for me at Twilight, is unusual in the fact that it runs concurrently with Watch for me by Candlelight, as it’s how Cassie manages to pull of the Country House Party Weekend – so we see events from her side and experience her love story. The historical aspect is based in WW2, and has a poet-turned-RAF pilot as the hero. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever written, to be honest. It was originally a contemporary novella, and it trebled in size in edits to incorporate Rob and Stella’s story through the late 1930s to the mid 1940s. I never intended to go in-depth with that era so it was a challenge! I have also submitted two Christmas novellas – one in the Hartsford series and one in the Schubert the Cat series (Every Witch Way is the first one in that series), have another Schubert book with the Choc Lit Tasting Panel, and will soon start edits on the first of a new series of novellas, which is a contemporary trilogy about three sisters. But ghosts may yet appear! I’ve got very basic ideas for two other Schubert books and have started another full length time slip which will probably not survive in its current format as it just isn’t working!

Writing

Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? If so, would you try a different genre?

I have done! I self-published a very niche Gothic-fantasy style book called Upon the Solstice under the name of Cathryn Ramsay. I don’t advertise it that much; as it’s a completely different style to my usual novels, but it was something I wanted to do so I did it. It’s a marmite book – people either seem to love it or loathe it. There’s no middle ground. I knew a traditional publisher wouldn’t touch it, but I wanted it out there so did it myself.

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

I’m friends with all the Choc Lit authors – we are an endless support to one another as we all feel the pain of a 1-star review and can commiserate with one another. We shore each other up in moments of doubt, and are there for one another on a personal level as well. I’ve also met other authors through my fabulous ‘book club’ on Facebook (check it out – “Historical and Time slip Novels”) and I am lucky enough to count them as friends too. I have other, ‘real-life’ friends who are authors too – we feature, say, in the same anthology, or know each other on a personal level and all of my author friends, without exception, would be there at the end of an email or message to help you out and give you some perspective on writing or anything to do with it.

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

I read them all – I feel elated and thankful for the good ones, and feel like I want to stop writing all together with the bad ones! It’s surprising how hurtful someone’s comments can be, and there are a couple I still haven’t read properly as a skim through was enough to send me hightailing it to the chocolate stash. The one thing that you really need to develop if you’re going to put your work out there is a rhinoceros skin. You have to try not to take the criticism personally – which is difficult as some do end up as personal attacks. Luckily, most people agree this is more a reflection on the reviewer than the author. One that sticks in my mind is one that deemed me an ‘insult to the genre’. Me – personally. Not my book! But there is nothing nicer to lift your mood than to hear someone say they’ve loved the book. And thankfully most of my reviews fall into that category. One very lovely lady said the worst thing about my book was finishing it and knowing she had to wait until the next one came out. People like that are absolutely what makes writing worthwhile.

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?

Not the first story (but there was one about a kitten in a basket of wool I illustrated and ‘bound’ for the younger classes at school when I was about 9 – my teacher gave the original back to me when I was about 17. I thought it was so sweet she’d kept it for so long), but I can remember the first poem I wrote. I was 5. It was called The Circus Elephant. It went something like ‘The Circus Elephant is big and fat, he wears a funny little hat…’ I can’t remember the rest of it, but again I illustrated it!

When you develop characters do you already know who they are before you begin writing or do you let them develop as you go? 

I have an idea – a concept, I suppose. But they are always full of surprises and do things I don’t expect. It’s when they start keeping me awake at night and the story suddenly goes in the direction they dictate, that I know I’ve finally ‘got’ them.

Tell us about your writing process and the way you brainstorm story ideas.

I don’t plan anything, which makes many writers cringe in horror. Instead, I start with a concept a bit like I do with my characters. Sometimes I’ll do a mind map in my notebook and try to work out bits and bobs, but the story tends to evolve as I write. I know a beginning and an end, but the journey is the bit that writes itself as I go. More often than not it works for me, but I’ve just spent a few weeks struggling on with something I now have 12,000 words for and my finger is hovering over ‘delete’. It’s just not working! I have it down to a fine art though. I do a first draft, my second one picks up the plot holes and I make changes and edits and the third one is the glossy polish. Then I get rid of it! You can meddle far too much in my opinion.

Where is your favourite place to write?

Again, a tough one. My most productive place is my little corner of the dining room, when I’m on my own and everyone else is at work or school. I also quite like my local Costa at St Mary’s Place in Newcastle – I did most of my MA there! In the summer, I like to work in my garden – I get a tan at the same time. Win win!

Just for Fun

Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?

When I was younger I read loads of the classic children’s’ books – the Anne of Green Gables series, What Katy Did, Little Women, Enid Blyton, the Pippi Longstocking books, the Elizabeth Enright Melendy children series, Stig of the Dump…I could go on. But the one that had the greatest impact was Green Smoke by Rosemary Manning. I borrowed it from the school library and wouldn’t return it. So I guess that was the moment my book-hoarding habit began!

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Just not to stress about it. When my son was little, I couldn’t do any writing as I worked full time and naturally all my free time revolved around him. He’s now 17 and I’ve realised how fast those years went and I am so pleased I spent that time with him. I’d tell my younger self that writing will always be there – just enjoy the moment “now” and you can always pick writing up later.

What’s your favourite novel from another author?

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. I love it. There are so many layers to it, and so many amazing speeches by Heathcliff and Cathy…it’s the book, probably more than any other, that made me want to be a ‘proper’ writer.

Who are your favourite authors?

Ohhhh – tough one. Current favourites include Susanna Kearsley, Mary Balogh and Mary Stewart. I also like Barbara Erskine, Kate Morton and (my guilty pleasure) JR Ward.

What is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, here on Goodreads, etc.) and link(s)?

Not Goodreads – I tend not to go in there too much as the bad reviews often seem more horrific on that site! I am very happy for people to contact me through my website, Facebook, Twitter or blog – and even through the publishers if need be.

www.rosethornpress.co.uk

@kirsty_ferry

www.rosethornramblings.wordpress.com

https://www.facebook.com/kirsty.ferry.author/

And finally the most important question…

We both love cake. How important is it in the writing process?

Massively important – you KNOW what I’m like for my cake! It’s something to nibble on as you ponder a plot point, distract you when it’s not going the way it should be, and a celebration of a completed section. I didn’t realise how much cake ended up in my work until one of my MA teachers said in my feedback, ‘why do you feel the need to identify all your heroines with cake?’ My response would have been: ‘why not?’

You can find Kirsty’s books available here at Choc Lit or here on Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

365 Day Blog challenge Day 96 – Technology #365daychallenge

Yesterday our boss sent us a link to a video about how we now live in a digital world where everything is online. Just before he did that I was looking at a meme t about living on a desert island with no technology access. I was thinking yes I could live on the island and it would be wonderful and how I’d be on the side of the rebellion wanting less technology.
Then I took a pause. I was sat on the bus at the time and prior to seeing both of these I had my kindle open (Although I do prefer books I have about 1500 books downloaded on the kindle) before deciding I was going to listen to Spotify on my phone (digital music on there and ITunes replaced my CDs which replaced my vinyl). My bus ticket is a barcode on my phone and if it runs out I can use contactless payments with the wifi on my bank card. I was on my way home to eat a take away my son had ordered online and to watch a TV programme I’d taped months ago.
And all the while my watch was counting my footsteps and calories burned.
When you pick it apart like that I’m not so sure why I was outraged when I saw the video. I actually think now I’ve had a few hours that we don’t realise how much we actually rely on digital products. I remember as a young teenager how excited people were to get a 4th TV channel, now we have thousands of programmes at our fingertips. I also remember rushing home with my best friend to test a CD as my step-dad was the only person we knew who had a CD player and marvelling at the sound quality (before we learnt how easy they were to scratch)
The video was sent via Whatsapp. Again who ever thought that we could watch a video on our phones then send it to a group of people in one go. Then my colleague added in she’d met her husband online. Remember the days when you had to leave the house to meet someone?
And all that is just off the top of my head. There’s probably more technology we rely on if we really sit and think about it. So could I really give it all up and sit on a desert island for 6 months? I’m comfortable with my own company and quiet. It would be harder to pack up my paper books rather  than grab  my kindle (and how would I charge it?). The only music would be from the birds and other animals. And I hate cooking so how would I eat? Maybe I’d be eating a lot of fruit! I still think I’d like to give it a try. When trying to push yourself out of your comfort zone I don’t think we need a Bear Grylls mission in the jungle wilds but rather just hand over the technology for a week or try and live without any social media. That’s probably just as hard. I might try it – the social media anyway. It’s probably good to get away from something that’s so negative at the minute. I think I’m going to try something over the weekend.
What technology could you give up/not be able to give up?

365 Day Blog challenge Day 83 – Study Blues #365daychallenge

It’s that time of year again when I’m half way through a university course and I’m wishing it were over. There are differences though between pre-break and post-break modules and that’s lack of anxiety.
Before I took a break from studying I’d be a jibbering wreck at this point; obsession over scores, comparing myself with others especially anyone with a higher mark. I’d have convinced myself that I was an idiot to have even attempted to study.

Post-break I’m just simply bored. I went back into this with the sole purpose of completion. I have written (last week) that I would like to teach adult education and I do but I want to complete this degree and pass. After all once done it will have taken me 8 years! It’s a long time to be hitting the books.

There’s no anxiety though. Before I applied I accepted that my grades would be what ever they turn out to be. If it’s a low score I can be sad for a short while then move on. I stay away from forums and Facebook pages so I can’t compare and that in itself has made a massive difference. I no longer get annoyed at people asking questions that could be answered by simply logging onto their student account and having a look.

But yeah I’m bored. I picked the advanced creative writing course because I’d already read the PDF version of the course book and so could start some of the work early. Once I got the course materials I blasted through the assignments so I didn’t have the panic of completing them on time. They just need tweaking before submitting at the correct time. I may have organised myself into boredom because what do I do now?

The coursebook is quite bland. It’s designed to churn out identikit writers. There doesn’t feel like there’s any room for experimentation and I like to play. I like out-there ideas. But never mind it’ll soon be over.

I have a shorter level 1 course to fill in a credits gap then the big finish which will tax me. I should count my blessings that I have a ‘relaxing’ couple of years before the final year.

 

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” 
– Henry Ford

“Try not to have a good time…this is supposed to be educational.” 
― Charles M. Schulz

“Real learning comes about when the competitive spirit has ceased.” 
― Jiddu Krishnamurti

365 Day Blog challenge Day 64 – Review #365daychallenge

It’s assignment time again and this time I have to write a 1000 word critique of someone else’s piece of work. I’m fairly confident that this one will go ok as I’ve been reviewing in some form for the last 3 years.

I’m a member of netgalley where you can request to download books (some are out already, most are due out) for free in return for an honest review. I started this around 2014 and reviewed a small number of books before picking this up in earnest about 18 months ago. I love doing this. I think it’s made me a better writer within myself as looking at what I’m liking in people’s work and what I’m not looking informs how I write. I get a weird thrill when I see books that I read before release and reviewed showing up on a book shop shelf. It feels a bit like one of ‘mine’ especially when I gave it plenty of stars.

The other reviews I’m involved with are for unpublished books. With these I have a set criteria to look at and feedback to the publisher. Again though, this helps me. I have an idea for a story where based on the 6 months I’ve read these books and used the criteria questions I’ve already decided when I start writing it will have a different ending to the one originally imagined. It may even now have multiple points of view.

There is a lot of back and forth on twitter regarding reviewers and my friend specifically stays away from Goodreads. This isn’t because writers don’t like criticism but more that some people choose to attack. This is constructive, it’s personal and downright nasty but keyboard warriors are a topic for another time. I don’t understand the mindset though. There are plenty of books I’ve downloaded and not liked. There are one or two that I have been unable to finish but I would never attack an author because of this. I try my best to say why I didn’t like. For example I couldn’t finish a health book earlier this year simply because there was far too much science jargon within the book and I felt it was way above my level of understanding. So with that the author can either say tough and keep future work at the same level or they can look at their wording and see if there is anything that can be learnt from it.

Books are authors babies. They spend many many hours writing, editing and writing again. If you don’t like a book say why but without a personal attack. A good reviewer will do this.

This new piece of work for my latest assignment takes a lot of these elements. As well as critiquing the work you have to link back to how it informs your own writing. It’s an interesting experience and one that takes what I’m used to into another level again. I’ve found it easier to write so far. Let’s hope the grade reflects this.

365 Day Blog challenge Day 62 – Same story different grade #365daychallenge

I got my latest open university grade back yesterday with an increase of 20% (it’s marked out of 100 so a 20 mark jump). The funny thing is it’s the same story as used in the first assignment.

For the first assignment we had to write a short story then for the second one we had to adapt it to either a radio, film or stage script. I went with stage. It’s interesting trying to adapt your story and working out the best format. I’d originally had a woman sat on a bench talking. My tutor wanted more from the piece with a more defined ending so for the script I killed her off!

The bench became a waiting are before she went to heaven. But how do you make a monologue interesting. I’m a very visual person so I would find it difficult to sit and watch one person just chatting away on stage. To counter act that I had a Greek chorus of teenagers and lots of dancing! Sounds bonkers but I obviously wrote it well enough for the boost in marks.

I think though trying to write things in different styles is good for you as a burgeoning writer, trying different styles as you never know what will stick. What will be that moment when you find your style. I hated doing it at the time but in teh end it’s been worth it

365 Day Blog challenge Day 58 – Volunteering #365daychallenge

I’ve been thinking a bit about volunteering lately as it’s something I want to do this year. It has to be for a cause that means something to you as otherwise you’ll just not stick with it.

When my son was small I volunteered as a Cubs and Scouts helper. I really enjoyed it and loved seeing the young people blossom. Once he grew out of it I tried with girl Guides and it didn’t have the same effect. The girls seemed less engaged and the leaders were very disorganised. One of my co-workers is a Brownie leader so I know that this was a one off but I left as soon as I could

I’ve been thinking about some environment based volunteering. Another work colleague has recently been involved in cleaning her local beach of plastic that has been littered by people. In the UK we have a TV show called Blue Planet and the recent series showed the harm that littering plastics can do to animals. As much as this interests me I’m in between the East & West Coast, don’t drive and all the volunteering options I could find were for tiny village beaches I’d struggle to get to.

So I think for that I’d have to look and see what my options are closer to home.

Some volunteering I have been successful with is the Suffrage Centenary celebrations. It’s a 100 years this year that (some) women were allowed to vote. As a result the various government departments are having a relay across the UK and Ireland to celebrate. There’s a flag that will travel this route. Leeds, where I live, is a Suffrage City one of the original few cities where The Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) had a base. There are a bunch of us going to take part, organise events for a week in October and no doubt you will see the results in a blog closer to the time

I’ve always had a keen interest in politics and social policy building so this is something that i feel I really can get behind and support. I’m looking forward to what happens next