My 2016

Every December, I write a reflective blog post about my year and what’s gone on. Time to look back at 2016!
uaBooks:

I finished writing Unrequited Alice – out in March 2017, yay! And I’m now working on Book 6 (six! how did that happen?!).

I also ready some fabulous books (inc Lindsey Kelk, Paige Toon and Giovanna Fletcher).

Adventures: I went to Kefalonia – so beautiful! Expect it to feature in a future book! I also went to some fab gigs: Coldplay, Take That, Robbie Williams… saw Rob Beckett and Romesh Ranganathan live (both so funny) and I adopted a puppy (follow me on Instagram for cute puppy pics).

doggys

My two dogs x

Perhaps most adventurous of all though, was quitting my full-time job to work for myself. It’s been the plan, all along, since I had my first book Amy & Zach published, and this year I finally did it. As well as writing books, I’m also offering freelance marketing and copywriting services which I really enjoy & I love my new lifestyle.

Vlogs: 2016 was also the year I started vlogging! I always plan to blog more often and don’t … and I now feel the same about vlogs but I have enjoyed talking directly to readers. If you missed my videos, you can subscribe to my YouTube channel and watch them here.

How was your 2016? What fun did you have? Have you set out any goals for next year yet?

I’d like to learn another language (French or German, perhaps), and I’ve already got three vacations booked! Looking forward to writing more and talking to you more in 2017!

Lastly- if you haven’t entered yet, sign up to my newsletter and you could win a £10 Amazon voucher + four signed paperbacks.

Have a fabulous Christmas and an amazing new year! 🙂

Special Guest: Joy Norstrom – author of Out of Play

About a month ago, I was asked by Joy Norstrom if I’d like to read her debut novel and provide an endorsement (if I enjoyed it) for the cover. How sweet is that, and how honoured was I?! And, my honest opinion was that ‘Out of Play’, about a married couple torn apart by LARP (live action role play), is a brilliant read. Very funny, but also emotional. I loved the narrative and felt like the main character, Gillian, became a friend.

out-of-playAs you can see, my comment is now on the cover (how cool is that?)

So, I thought I’d invite Joy to my blog for an interview, find out a bit more about her and her great book – which I highly recommend you go and buy right now.

Firstly – Joy, welcome to my blog. Do you want to tell us a bit about your new book in your own words?

Thanks for the warm welcome, Sarah!

Out of Play is about a marriage that has become disconnected over time. Gillian, our protagonist, believes the problem stems from her husband choosing a hobby (live-action roleplay or LARP) over spending time with her. Like many other people struggling in a relationship, Gillian enlists the help of a counsellor.

The counsellor challenges Gillian to move from judgment to openness; she encourages Gillian to try LARP with Ralph. Does Gillian follow-through? Well…she takes her own spin on the advice and secretly attends a larp event as a kitchen volunteer. Spying may not be the best choice for fostering a healthy marriage, but who says marriage always involves making the best choices?

The physical journey in Out of Play is interwoven with an emotional journey. Gillian must face the underlying issues that have left emotional scars in order to find connection and peace.

I’m sure many women can identify with their spouse’s hobbies taking them away from their marriage (be it larp, golf, the X-Box …) – what inspired you to write this story?

I’ve had several people ask if my husband plays larpJ. The answer is no, but I’m certainly not always on friendly terms with his hobby: beer-league hockey.

I believe that we, as women, live a great deal of our lives post falling in love. I wanted to explore a reality that might be faced later on in an intimate relationship.

How long have you been writing?

I have been writing for 6 years. When it was first suggested to me that I should write a book, I was dismissive of the idea. I didn’t see myself as a creative person, but the idea took root. The more I explored storytelling and character development, the more important it became for me to pursue.

Being at home with young children was both rewarding and challenging. I felt run down and as though I didn’t have space or time for myself. Writing became a way to engage my brain in learning something new and exploring my creativity.

I hope your next novel is in progress! What can you tell us?

I can tell you that it is messy, but so was Out of Play 🙂

My current work-in-progress is about a single parent trying to balance competing demands on a very restricted income. Sound fun? Definitely not! So of course I have injected some laughter as she moves forward in love, life and motherhood. I’m having fun with this new character because she has a whole load of past hurts, habits and hang-ups to explore.  I’ve also got a cast of eccentric older women who are looking to my main character for sex and dating advice.

joy-norstrom-authorFinally, tell us something about you, who is Joy (other than a fabulous author, of course)?

Thanks for the kind words, Sarah!

First off, I’m this person with what my husband calls ‘fire in the belly.’ I tend to be loud and opinionated and not easily swayed. I often say things from the heart without analysing the long term consequences. People either like this…or they don’t!

We share our home with two daughters, who are night and day to each other. They are our raison d’etre.

We’ve two of the gentlest old lady sheep dogs and a pair of breeding finches. I confess to buying the birds while my husband was in Nevada on a boy’s golf trip. It might have been a mistake on my part…but these things happen in even the best marriages!

Thanks so much to Joy for visiting my blog today… everyone else: go buy her book 😉

Buy on Amazon >

Find Joy online: www.joynorstrom.ca

T: @norstrom_joy

F: facebook.com/joy.norstromaut

Escaping the 9-5

About ten years ago, I said to one of my friends: “All I want to do is write books.” …She replied: “That’s just a dream, though.” I am not friends with her anymore, funnily enough.

However, unfortunately, contrary to popular belief, most novelists don’t make tonnes of money, so despite having four books published, I was, until recently, still working full time as well. And, for the most part, I was bored. Over the years, I’ve had some awesome colleagues, and I’ve had some OK jobs where I’ve managed to get some satisfaction now and then. But mostly, I was bored. I was dreaming of escaping the “9 to 5” office environment and breaking free on my own.

Now, that dream as come true.

I’m now self employed, working for myself writing books, writing marketing copy, proof-reading and offering marketing services to a number of clients. I do this half the time, and I write half the time.

It’s early days, but I love it. I love the freedom.

I love being able to decide to take a day off at a moment’s notice (so long as there is no deadline, of course). I love being able to work in the garden on a sunny day. I love being able to dodge the corporate bullshit that drains the enthusiasm out of many a hard worker. I love being to get up and think: ‘today I’m just going to work on my novel.’

I know so, so many people that really don’t like their jobs. They feel taken advantage of, stuck, bored, underpaid, overworked and stressed by their workloads. If this describes you, here is my advice (after years of the same, and a lot of personal resilience development):

  1. Find a job you enjoy. Don’t settle for anything less.
  2. Don’t stress about work! Unless you’re a nurse or doctor, it’s not life or death.
  3. Leave on time. Balance your life.
  4. Don’t let others ruin your day. You are in control. It’s your life. Don’t let the behaviour of others influence you in a negative way.
  5. If you’ve got a dream; chase it. Do what it takes. It might take time, but just get on with it. Start today.

That’s all for now. I have writing to do in the garden 🙂

How to write a novel

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 20.05.07 copyI wish I had £1 for every person who told me ‘I thought about writing a novel once,’ or ‘I’ve got an idea for a book.’

Sound familiar? Have you ever said that?

I used to say that. I used to start writing stories and never finish them. I’d get bored, distracted, forget what I was writing about, not know how to build a full length book… now I’ve written four and have a fifth in progress.

My novel writing tips:

  • Just write. And write, and write. And write some more. Regularly. If you start and stop and leave weeks or months between writing, you’ll never get anywhere and everything will be disjointed. Try and find a weekly or even daily routine, even if you can only spare 30 minutes a day. Just do it. Write, write, write.
  • Think about your characters. Who are they, where did they come from, what purpose to they serve in the story?  What are their dreams and fears? Whether it’s your protagonist or an ‘extra’, they need purpose, depth, and a reason for being in the book.
  • Do you want a sub-plot? Could one of your secondary characters have a great past or side-story to share? Bulk out the story with other interesting mini-stories that interweave.
  • Structure and plan, if possible. Think about what you want to happen, and plan the novel out. I didn’t do this for my first book, but have for all the others. It makes life easier.
  • Break it down. I always aim for around 80,000 words. I work out how many chapters I might need, and what might happen in each. Then I work out how long each chapter needs to be, roughly. So, for example 25 chapters would need to be approximately 3,200 words each. Writing 3,200 words is much less daunting than 80k, so I tackle one chapter at a time – but not always in chronological order.
  • Edit. Re-read. Edit some more. But then stop. It’s easy to keep editing forevermore, sometimes before you’ve even finished. Write the whole thing, then go back and edit. Proof read it thoroughly. Make little amendments. But know when you’re done, or you’ll never complete it.
  • Find a good beta-reader. Someone who enjoys your genre and style of writing, but is able to give you constructive criticism. Ask them to check for simple errors, but also feedback on the story, the tone of voice, whether they liked your characters. This is invaluable, if you find the right reader. Take their feedback on board, and edit one more time if you see fit.

Of course, then comes the hardest part – finding an agent and/or publisher, finding readers, promoting yourself – maybe I’ll blog about these things another time.

In the meantime: Happy writing 🙂

Find out more about my romantic comedy novels >

A random update including something about my third book…

It seems about time I wrote a blog about my writing (regular blog visitors will have noticed I’ve become a bit of a wannabe food critic!).

I’ve had a lot of questions from readers on Twitter about what’s taking so long and the truth of it is; I struggled a bit with the story I started writing after I finished Izzy’s Cold Feet and about half way through, I started all over again with a different plot. So this one has taken quite a bit longer to write but I’m back on track (I hope!) and it’s nearly done… hopefully it’ll be published later this year – watch this space!

In the meantime, I don’t have title yet, but the main character is called Jenny, and if you thought Izzy’s life was in a mess, just you wait until you meet her! 🙂

So… when I haven’t been eating out or writing, what have I been reading lately?

I’ve just recently finished The Accidental Life of Jessie Jefferson by Paige Toon, a YA book although it was written with the same skill and talent as Paige’s usual adult chick-lit, and I loved it – it was fast paced and engaging. Visit my ‘Books I Love‘ page to check out a list there for some more recommendations.

Right, well back to work – Jenny’s story is waiting to be told!

Happy Birthday to Amy & Zach!

Today marks the one year anniversary of my becoming a published author. What an interesting year it’s been; I finished my second novel, Izzy’s Cold Feet, I learned A LOT about writing, editing, & promotion… I was overwhelmed by the lovely comments and nice reviews from readers… and I made a bunch of great author friends.

amy-and-zachThank you to everyone who’s bought Amy & Zach or Izzy’s Cold Feet, written a good review, hosted me on their blog, shared or retweeted my posts and supported me throughout. I am very humble and grateful.

Lots of questions lately about the third novel; I’m working on it but progress has been much slower than my first two novels. I keep changing my mind about some of the central plot plans, but I’m getting there and hope to finish it soon.

In the meantime, to celebrate Amy & Zach’s birthday, it’s on sale on Amazon for just 77p/99¢ for this weekend only! Please share and spread the word… You can buy from Amazon UK or Amazon US.

Thanks again – and have a spectacular weekend!

PS: Also had a few questions about an Amy & Zach sequel. I’ve been thinking about it, I admit… watch this space…

A message for my readers…

I spent a long time thinking about what my blog entry would be about today, and finally realised that there’s something I want to say before the year is out:

Thank you!

… to all the readers of Amy & Zach and/or Izzy’s Cold Feet. YOU are the reason I continue to be a writer. YOU have made me smile over and over this year; every time someone leaves a good review or sends me a message to say they enjoyed reading, it really does make my day.

Thanks for your support and encouragement; I am very humbled by it all.

Happy New Year to you – may 2014 bring you good health and much happiness!

PS: While you’re here, please consider signing up to my newsletter, or leaving a review on Amazon if you haven’t already 🙂

Guest Post – Courtney Giardina: Minimizing distractions when writing

Today I have author Courtney Giardina’s guest blog about minimizing distractions – some great tips here for fellow authors! 🙂

Don’t miss the chance to enter to win a copy of her book at the end of the post.

Over to Courtney:0088-Edit

Reducing the “I didn’t have time” excuse

It’s hard to be a writer today. I’m not saying it wasn’t hard back in the day, but there are just so many distractions around us that give us excuses not to find the time to sit down and write. Excuses like: Johnny has soccer practice, your mom called, your friend Carol posted something crazy on Facebook or you just found out about a new video on YouTube that went viral. Sure, these are all important and I’m not saying we can’t do any of them, but writing is just as important, so us writer’s need to find ways to minimize those distractions. Here are a few suggestions I have to offer!

Write in a room with a closed door: This will reduce the amount of times kids and significant others and come in and out of the room. Let them know that when the doors closed it’s your writing time and only to disrupt if absolutely necessary.

Put your phone on silent: There have been so many times where I sit down to write and just as my hands are about to touch the keys, my phone rings and I end up being on a conversation for thirty minutes, sometimes longer. Then by the time I hang up, I’ve lost all motivation to get back to the keyboard. So put your phone on silent and out of reach. If it’s hard to do at first, set a time every twenty to thirty minutes and get up to check it.

Unplug the internet: How many times have you done this? Write a sentence, check Facebook, write another sentence then check your email. Me, I’m guilty as charged. My suggestion, if you really can’t stay off of the internet, turn it off.

Eat first: No one can function on an empty stomach, so make sure to grab a snack before you start. This way you won’t find yourself getting up from time to time to head to the kitchen. It will also eliminate any distractions you may run into on your way to or from the kitchen that will hinder your progress.

Don’t edit: I know this sounds silly, but a lot of times we as writers get stuck on what to write next so we go back to the beginning and begin to read. Before you know it, half of your writing was spent fixing errors and rewording other sentences. Wait until the end to re-read your work. For now, writing time is writing time, so just write. If you get stuck, just refer back to your outline or think about what you want to happen next and go from there.

About Courtney Giardina

Courtney was born and raised just outside of Rochester,NY where she jumped and tumbled her way through school as a gymnast and cheerleader. She credits cheering under the lights on Friday nights as the reason for her love of football.  Realizing that becoming a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader was probably not a realistic ambition, Courtney decided to take her creative talents down a different route. In May 2012 she traded cold, snowy winters for extremely humid summers in Charlotte, North Carolina and worked early mornings and late nights on top of a full-time job to create Tear Stained Beaches. When she’s not in the midst of writing songs, poems or debut novels, Courtney enjoys being in front of the camera as an actress, running 5Ks and singing loudly to country music in her Jeep. In her world, everywhere is a stage.

cover for web finalTear Stained Beaches

Haylie Julian wants nothing more than to put her crumbling marriage back together. Chase used to be a fun-loving, light hearted husband who had lately become an overworked attorney obsessed with climbing the corporate ladder.  It isn’t long before Haylie starts waking up next to a man she barely knows. His secretive phone calls and late nights at the office leave her feeling alone and afraid of what he might be hiding.  Ignoring his continuous pleas to just leave well enough alone, she continues to dig for answers and discovers a heartbreaking truth.

Struggling with what she has just learned, Haylie sets off to a quaint little North Carolina beach town to decide if her marriage can survive. It isn’t long after she arrives that her world is once again turned upside down as Chase’s secret stares her right in the face.

Tear Stained Beaches explores what happens when a marriage isn’t the happily-ever-after you thought it was. Can trust be rebuilt? Can a wife forgive the ultimate betrayal?

Give Back

Courtney believes that giving back should be an important part of our every day lives. Helping those who need it and supporting those around us make for a better tomorrow. As part of her mission to give back, Courtney has chosen to donate 10% of all purchases of Tear Stained Beaches that come from her website by October 23 to the organization Jodi’s Voice. Jodi’s Voice is a newly created organization working to raise awareness for a great cause of helping create stricter stalking laws.

Giveaway

Enter here for your chance to win a signed copy of Tear Stained Beaches!