Hello! So, it’s been a while…
I tried looking at some of my old blog posts to jog my memory about exactly how long it’s been. For some weird reason all my most recent posts (and possibly all my posts full stop) are dated December 2021. Why that’s happened I’ve no idea! The joys of technology, eh?
Apparently, my last blog post was to celebrate the publication day of How the Other Half Lives: Part One: At Home. That was back in August I think. Crikey, that feels like months ago. Oh, wait…
Well, I’m here now, and with full apologies for my absence. There’s been a lot going on, so let me give you a quick recap.
September and October
September saw the publication of How the Other Half Lives: Part Two: On Holiday, and the trilogy concluded in October with How the Other Half Lives: Part Three: At Christmas. Despite being my first attempt at a story told in parts, each book ended up being full-length, which wasn’t the original intention! Anyway, it was well received and I’m extremely grateful to those of you who bought or downloaded it, and to those of you who left me reviews.
In December I had a jolly trip with some of my Write Romantics friends, Jessica Redland, Jo Bartlett, Helen Phifer, Helen J Rolfe, and Jackie Ladbury to Stratford upon Avon. I’ve never been before, but it’s somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit, and it didn’t disappoint. It’s a really pretty town, and Shakespeare is everywhere! I loved it, and I’m hoping to go back there before too long for a longer stay.
December also, of course, brought Christmas, which wasn’t the merry one I’d hoped for. Since Christmas Eve I’d been feeling weepy, tired, and thoroughly depressed. And as that’s my favourite day of the year, it was a bit worrying. On Christmas Day I felt worse, and on Boxing Day I had a headache, sore throat, cough… A couple of days later The Husband started with the same symptoms.
It Got Us!
Yes, you’ve guessed it. we ended the year with Covid. I said to The Husband, at least it’s a more unusual gift than socks. He said he’d have preferred socks, which shows a distinct lack of imagination if you ask me. Anyway, we were pretty much flat out for a fortnight, with headaches, a cough that seemed to tear every muscle in our chests and abdomens, and an exhaustion we couldn’t shake off.
The annoying thing was I lost all sense of taste and smell for over a week, just at the time when our house was full of Christmas goodies. If that’s not typical! But we know we were very lucky. We’d had our booster vaccinations in November, so we were triple-jabbed and as protected as it’s possible to be, and it could have been so much worse.
What I wasn’t prepared for was how the tiredness would drag on, and on, and on. I’m only just starting to feel better. I still fall asleep after tea, and I could easily have a nap in the afternoon if I let myself. But I’m more alert than I was a couple of weeks ago when I could barely keep my eyes open.
Trouble is, I wasn’t expecting to feel so exhausted, and I’d made plans. You know, like do some work and stuff like that. Silly me. I had two books planned for the first quarter of the year and I honestly thought I’d get them both written, but look, here we are, practically in March, and I haven’t finished either of them. I have one month to write half of one novel and most of the other. Somehow, I don’t think it’s going to happen, do you? But I’ll definitely finish the first one. I’m determined about that.
A New Year
So January arrived, and with it a whole new set of problems. I’ll be honest. I’ve struggled with writing this year. In fact, at one point, as I stared at the blank screen in horror, it seriously crossed my mind to give up. Maybe, I thought, I’ve said all I’ve got to say. It got so bad that I’d just cry when I thought about writing. I started avoiding going into my office at all, making excuse after excuse not to go in there. My confidence was so shattered that I spent most of the month reading “how to write” books – convinced that I’d forgotten what to do.
I burned out.
Look, I know some of you will be thinking that writing isn’t stressful compared with the jobs so many other people do for a living. I used to work in a medical centre, and that was stressful. And that was pre-pandemic. So I know – I really do know – how lucky I am. I know I’m blessed to do something I (usually) love for a living. I know how fortunate I am that I don’t even have to commute. Heck, I don’t even have to change out of my pyjamas to go to the office!
Honestly, I’m aware of all that, but it didn’t help. No matter how much I lectured myself, I still reached the point where I didn’t think writing was for me any longer. Even if I could think of something to say, I didn’t believe I would know how to say it.
It was scary!
Discoveries and Decisions
Early in February, I found some videos on YouTube, presented by a fabulous woman called Becca Symes, all about Writer’s Burnout. Yes, it really is a thing! And she explained what causes it, how it feels, what to do about it, and what happens next. You can find Becca’s series on this issue here and her QuitBooks are available here.
My main takeaways from the series were:
a) It’s all right to feel like this, and it’s actually more common than I realised.
b) You can’t force it or you’ll just end up worse off than you were before.
c) I need to refill my creative well and do things I enjoy doing, rather than spend all day, every day, trying to force words that just won’t come.
d) I need to focus on the things that really matter most, and drop the stuff that doesn’t matter as much. And by that, I mean things that take a great deal of time and effort but do little to further my writing career.
Becca said that if there’s just one thing I should change it’s to ignore my mobile phone and social media until later in the day. Apparently, getting sucked into that world is one of the biggest problems for writers. I believe her.
Once I realised what was happening, I had tough choices to make. Being an indie author is hard! Being an author is hard anyway, but when it’s just you, and you’re responsible for everything that has to happen to produce a book and market it, then it can feel impossible at times.
I seem to have spent hundreds of hours lately formatting paperbacks, commissioning new covers, editing, studying textbooks and courses, attending webinars, creating marketing posts, watching self publishing videos…
It didn’t leave an awful lot of time for actual writing!
A Reluctant Farewell
So, having realised something had to give, I knew social media was one of the main areas I had to cut down on, and eventually, with reluctance, I made the tough decision to archive my Facebook readers’ group.
I was really sad to do that. I’ve loved my little group, and I’ve made so many new friends in there, and looked forward to chatting with them every morning. But posting four or five times a day in that group was a lot more time-consuming than I’d expected. I felt responsible for all the members, and wanted them to enjoy the group, but that meant spending a huge amount of time looking for suitable posts, finding memes and photos, and thinking up stuff to talk about!
It also meant I had to keep popping onto Facebook to check for comments, so I could reply. I didn’t want anyone to think I was ignoring them, but that meant I never had a day off social media, and eventually I realised I couldn’t keep up with it all.
I’ve cut back on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook a lot. My number one priority is writing books. Number two is my newsletter and website. If I have time after that, I’ll pop onto social media. However, it’s not going to be anywhere near as frequently as it used to be. I’m trying to stay off it completely until late afternoon.
I took a break from writing for a week or two, unable to force any words onto the page. When I told my support system, the Write Romantics, how I was feeling, they all agreed I should step back for a while. Surprisingly, I learned I wasn’t the only one feeling burned out. A couple of them are also sadly feeling the strain.
Refilling the Creative Well
On Friday we took a trip to Whitby and Thornton-le-Dale, as part of the “refilling the creative well” process. I’m very much inspired by scenery and settings. Not going anywhere much for the last few months has meant my inspiration was in danger of abandoning me all together.
Being out in such a beautiful location did the trick. Just looking out of the car window as we drove along the moors was enough. By the time I’d reached Whitby, I had titles for the last three Witches books, and a cliffhanger planned for Book Five that even surprised me!
I finally figured out the problem I was having with my Tuppenny Bridge book. I’m now about to go back to the beginning and change that, so I can move forward to the end without something nagging away at me, stopping my progression. And on the subject of Tuppenny Bridge, look at the collection of buildings I’ve got so far. They’ve been made for me by Stu at The Indigo Cottage Company, and you can find him on Etsy here. He’s currently making me a pub and a vicarage, and I can’t wait to add them to my collection!
As you can see, so far I have a fish and chip shop, Pennyfeather’s Wool Shop, Tuppenny Bridge Surgery, The Corner Cottage Bookshop, Lavender House Museum, Mrs Herron’s Teashop, the Cutting it Fine hairdressing salon, and All Hallows Church. They’ll all feature in my new series, along with several other cottages and businesses. I can feel my writing mojo coming back at the thought of it!
On top of everything else, I’ve also recently come up with an idea for a new series in a new genre!
Some of you will know how much I love my murder mysteries. Well, an idea for a cosy mystery protagonist and setting popped into my head unexpectedly the other day. I’ve planned to write a cosy mystery book for years, but didn’t have the time to think about who would “star” in them before now. I’m really excited about working on those!
Of course, having never attempted to write one before it could be that I’m not capable of doing it. Still, I’ll never know unless I try, will I? And there’s usually some sort of mystery running through my other books – especially my Castle Clair ones – so I think I can do it. Finding the right setting and protagonist is half the battle, and I’ve been collecting “How to Write Cosy Mysteries” text books for years!
However, I’m well aware that I have both my contemporary romance Tuppenny Bridge series, and my paranormal romance The Witches of Castle Clair series (and its spin-off) to write, too. As you can see, I’m going to be very busy. That’s why I had to archive my readers’ group – although hopefully it will be au revoir not goodbye.
I’ve been planning a new look for the The Witches of Castle Clair for some time, and working with a new cover designer just for my paranormal books. The first three books are all getting light edits and epilogues too. In fact the first two have already had them. The title of the first book will be changed to Belle, Book and Candle. I’m dropping the “Christmas” part, as some readers refuse to look at anything with a Christmas theme until December. As the book’s not actually about Christmas it seems the sensible thing to do.
I revealed the cover of Belle to my newsletter readers last month, and there were lots of positive comments, so I’ll reveal it here now. Please bear in mind, this isn’t the final high resolution cover that you’ll get on your Kindle.
BELLE, BOOK AND CANDLE
Isn’t it gorgeous? I’ve just approved the new look for My Favourite Witch, and I’ll be sharing that with my newsletter subscribers on Tuesday. If you haven’t signed up yet, now’s your chance. You can do that here. (You’ll also get a free novella, so what have you got to lose?)
Before I Go…
For any of you writers out there who might be interested in writing books set in coastal or country settings, you might want to sign up for a course run by Jessica Redland. She’s running it through the Romantic Novelists’ Association, and I can guarantee it will be brilliant! But you WILL have to hurry, because the deadline for signing up is tomorrow (February 28th). You can find out more here.
Fingers crossed, I feel I’m finally come out of the slump I’ve been in since December. I really hope that March will be fruitful and I’ll get my first novel (actually Book 24!) completed. Hopefully, I’ll also make good progress with the second.
I know it’s been a terrible start to the year for everyone, and the world’s a scary place right now. I can’t pretend there aren’t bad things happening, and who knows what lies ahead. All I can do is the same as most of us – keep on keeping on. Getting on with our lives and trying to make our day to day experiences as positive as we possibly can. That’s why I’ll be doing my best to keep producing books that, for just a little while, take us away from what can sometimes be a very grim reality. There are no dictators or pandemics in Tuppenny Bridge, I can promise you that. And there’ll always be a happy ending in my books, guaranteed.
Have a lovely week!