After the euphoria of my astounding
win of Choc Lit Publishing's Search for a Star competition with my novel 'Who
is Harry Dixon?', I started to feel a little strange. It finally struck me that
my goalposts have moved!
I have spent a few years learning
as much as I can about the craft of writing by attending courses, reading and
writing numerous short stories and novel drafts. Each month I'd trawl through
the competition pages of the writing magazines and decide which ones I wanted
to enter and also work out any pitches I wanted to make to publishers or agents.
After my win, it feels as if I’m
walking along, but the path has moved. I now need to enter a new phase of my
writing life. Besides handling edits and getting more novels completed, I need
to think about marketing my first book when it is e-published later in the
This is both exciting and daunting.
I've begun planning for a new website and blog, author pages on Facebook,
Goodreads, Amazon, etc. I need to decide how to describe myself and my work. If
any of you have any advice from your own journey, then please share it
I turn my thoughts to people I'd
like to thank for help so far.
I began the writing journey with my
best friend, Susan Wood. We had such fun in the early days, laughing in cafes
as we shared our writing. She has since headed off in a poetry direction,
although I still hope she'll finish her novel set on a caravan site one day. We
still meet in cafes and there are lots of laughs.
Then there are the tutors of all
the writing courses I've attended over the years. In particular, Sue Johnson,
whose weekly term time course I have been attending for years. When I attended
the RoNAs awards in London recently, the top award went to Iona Grey and I
remembered that her course on heroes and heroines, was a turning point for my
writing in the romance genres. Add to this Sue Moorcroft - I've appeared in her
classes many times. Alison May's course de-mystified editing for me.
The Romantic Novelists' Association
and in particular the New Writers’' Scheme, my readers, particularly the one
for Harry Dixon and the members of the RNA Birmingham Chapter.
Thanks must go to those who listen
to my doubts, moans and give advice - Alison May, Janice Preston, Margaret
Ruess-Newland, Georgia Hill, Heather King, Elizabeth Hanbury, Lisa Hill, Wendy
Jones, Lynn Forth, Bella Osborne, Bernadette ODwyer.
My family for supporting and
putting up with me disappearing into my study.
I'm sure there are many others too.
A special thanks has to go to Julie
King and her photography http://juliekingphotography.co.uk/ I hate having my
picture taken, but she always manages to make me laugh and I can thoroughly
recommend her services. I had to have some shots taken for publicity and, of
course, I will use them for my marketing. Which picture do you like best -
blue, orange or green?
I’ll be back soon to tell you about
some more milestones on this journey. I’ve been having fun with Susan Wood
thinking up hashtags for Harry Dixon.
There are a few moments in your life when you think - I did it!
When I found out that I had won Choc Lit Publishing’s Search for a Star novel competition, I couldn’t believe it. Especially as my competitors on the shortlist, including one of my friends, Lynn Forth, write to such a high standard.
At first I felt stunned, it wasn’t until I told my mother on the phone and she burst into tears, that I had an emotional reaction. Since then, social media has gone mad and I’m overwhelmed by the positive support and best wishes.
Who is Harry Dixon?, my winning novel, began as a grain of an idea. I know exactly when it came to me. We were on holiday in Northumberland in July 2014 and my husband thought there was something wrong as I went so quiet in the car. The silence, after I had reassured hubbie I was okay, was followed by a frantic scribbling on the back of an envelope I found discarded in the door pocket of the car. Harry Dixon and my heroine, Ellie Golden were born!
I would never have dreamed back then that huge pictures of me would be on Facebook and the announcement of my win for Choc Lit would be listed amongst the most popular stories on Book2book Book Trade information.
So, dreams do come true. I know there is a lot of work ahead when I get my editorial report, but I’m finally on my way to being published. Yippee.
On Monday, I headed down to London for the Romantic Novelists' Association Annual Awards, the RoNAs. I didn't know what to expect, as I hadn't attended before.
Bella Osborne and Morton Gray
By chance, although getting on at different stations, my friend Bella Osborne was on the same train. We travelled together to the hotel near Embankment tube station right by the River Thames. We were pleasantly surprised to find the hotel we had booked into was right next to the venue for the evening at One Whitehall Place. We later discovered there was a very welcome connecting door, so we didn't even need coats!
I had decided to attend the awards as several of my friends, Bella Osborne, Janice Preston and Alison May, were nominated for awards, as well as others I know and admire from the RNA.
The evening began with a champagne reception in a beautiful room overlooking the Thames. It almost felt as if the buildings and the London Eye on the opposite bank had been lit just for us. Noise levels, as at most RNA events, were heightened as friends greeted each other and new friendships were made.
View from the window
We were ushered through into the Gladstone Library, where our seating was pre-allocated at glittering tables loaded with canapes, silver chocolate hearts and pink champagne. I was sitting opposite to Sue Moorcroft and next to June Tate.
Fern Britton was presenting the awards, along with the RNA's own Jane Wenham-Jones. My friends unfortunately didn't pick up any prizes, but it was a great achievement to be shortlisted anyway.
The winners were:-
Melanie Hudson, The Wedding Cake Tree, Choc Lit
Winner Contemporary Category Romantic Novel of the Year
(for mainstream romantic novels set post-1960, and can include chick lit, paranormal and romantic suspense)
Emma Hannigan, The Secrets We Share, Headline Review
Winner Epic Category Romantic Novel of the Year
(for novels containing serious issues or themes, including gritty, multi-generational stories)
Iona Grey, Letters to the Lost, Simon & Schuster
Winner Historical Category Romantic Novel of the Year
(for novels set in a period before 1960)
Milly Johnson, Afternoon Tea at the Sunflower Café, Simon & Schuster
Winner Romantic Comedy Category Romantic Novel of the Year
(for consistently humorous or amusing novels)
Annie O'Neil, Doctor... To Duchess?, Mills & Boon Medical Romance
Winner RoNA Rose Award
(for category/series and shorter romance)
Lucy Inglis, Crow Mountain, Chicken House
Winner Young Adult Category Romantic Novel of the Year
(featuring protagonists who are teenagers or young adults)
Outstanding Achievement Awards Anita Burgh is the author of twenty-three novels, all published after she reached 50.
Claire Lorrimer, who has written more than 100 novels, is the daughter of the RNA’s first President, best-selling novelist Denise Robins.
Both Anita and Claire were presented with outstanding achievement awards for their continued championing of the RNA and romantic fiction.
Iona Grey triumphed over fellow competing authors to win the Romantic Novelists' Association's highest accolade, The Goldsboro Books Romantic Novel of the Year, with Letter to the Lost, published by Simon & Schuster. Fern Britton presented Iona with her trophies and a cheque for £5000.
I have a particular soft spot for Iona Grey, as I once attended one of her courses about heroes and heroines in Cheshire and she has taken an interest in my writing ever since.
The Gladstone Library Iona Grey receives her award
What a wonderful event. I want to book for next year already.
I've been on the ceiling with excitement most of the weekend after finding out that my novel 'Who is Harry Dixon' shortlisted in Choc Lit Publishing's Search for a Star competition.
The announcement set off a flurry of social media posts on Facebook and Twitter. I was amazed at the response from both people I know and those I only know in cyber space.
I've shortlisted before in novel competitions, but usually the sort where you send a chapter or a couple of chapters to be judged. This competition was for a complete novel and I sent the book I wrote during the Nanowrimo writing challenge in October 2014. The initial draft was editied and worried over and sent to my RNA New Writers' Scheme for critique. After that, it was revised again to take into account my reader's comments before being submitted to Choc Lit's competition.
Thank you to my NWS reader (the scheme is anonymous). Also thanks to Kim Taylor, who inspired the story, Margaret Ruess-Newland, who read and commented on my chapters during Nano and Janice Preston, who read and gave great advice too.
I wish everyone on the shortlist well, especially my good friend Lynn Forth (also in RNA NWS). We have to wait until 14 March to find out who has won.
Lynn Forth and Morton Gray
So, I have a little longer to dance on the ceiling and enjoy the validation of the shortlisting. What news are you waiting for? Please comment below.
believe it has taken me until today (25 January 2016) to open my 2015 Happiness
Jar. My post at the beginning of 2015 in which I analysed my 2014 jar, was one
of my most popular ever blog posts.
you start with an empty jar and put into it a note of anything that makes you
happy or grateful during the year. In 2015 I had 67 happiness notes in the jar,
compared to 53 in 2014.
notes related to family events and experiences. Many talk about the new member
of our family, our first ever dog. She has definitely bought a new dimension
and many firsts to our lives. The rest mention successful outcomes to events
and, of course, the achievements of both of my sons. However, the most
pertinent happiness notes relate to simple times spent with my husband, sons
and dog at meals, walks and at home together.
notes relate to friends. These notes detail times with writing friends at RNA
events and accompanying other friends on courses or walks. One recorded an afternoon
listening to my mother and my best friend’s mother reciting by heart poetry
they could remember learning in their youth.
notes detail my gratitude for successful health outcomes – clear mammogram,
clear smear test, a mole declared harmless. These are particularly pertinent as
a number of my friends have had serious health issues this year.
notes speak of trips, talks and courses. My London trip (Blog post 1/12/2015), tea with Katie Fforde (Blog post 23/9/2015),
a spiritual writing course (Blog post 27/9/2015), local history talks and a quilted picture course
and nine of achievements, mainly writing - shortlisting in two competitions,
finishing my NWS manuscript and successfully completing Nanowrimo, together
with various submissions of my work.
All told the
jar gives a record of a successful 2015.
found the process of keeping and analysing a happiness jar, very uplifting. This
year, however, I’m trying something slightly different. I am writing a
gratitude and experience log book. I’m also using the last page of this book to
record the names of anyone needing help, for health or other issues. By making
this list, I can direct positive thoughts to those who need them throughout the
you know how I get on with this new format.