Tuesday, 30 December 2014

New books and new year

To all my readers - thanks for your support and comments and best wishes for 2015!

And just a quick reminder that because of the recent EU VAT regulation changes, unfortunately the prices of my e-books are very likely to go up from 1st January 2015 - so if you want to get any of these titles at their current price, you need to buy before then.

On a positive note, four of my pony books currently only out in e-book format will be available in print very shortly - watch this space!

Let's hope 2015 will be a good year for everyone.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

I'm dreaming of........

When I was a horse-mad child, all I ever wanted was a pony.  I put it on my Christmas list every year and even though I knew deep down there was no way on earth my parents would ever afford to buy and keep a pony, I woke on Christmas morning hoping that a miracle would occur and my dream pony would be waiting for me in our tiny garden.

This was a dream that was never fulfilled.  As my dear late mum would say, it wasn't meant to be.
(And in the words of Joni Mitchell, "You don't know what you've got til its gone." I would give anything to have both my parents back, so I treasure every memory I have of a happy childhood).

So I started writing about pony-mad girls just like me - and in my stories, their wishes came true.

When I was a teenager, all I ever wanted was to be a full time writer.  In my head, it would be a glamorous lifestyle and I would be incredibly successful and probably famous. 

Half of my dream has come true - I am a full time writer, after 40 years of dreaming. 

Be careful what you wish for........

Related posts:

I have also read a simply wonderful post by from Mariellen Ward on her blog Breathe, Dream, Go reflecting on dreams and ambitions.  Read it here: http://breathedreamgo.com/2014/12/stumbling-road-dreams/

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Print copies of Beware of the Horse out now!

Beware of the Horse is now available in paperback!
  Just £4.99 - a lovely Xmas gift for horse lovers!

A lonely girl with a guilty secret. A troubled boy given a second chance. A dangerous horse everyone is scared of. Well, almost everyone….

Fifteen year old Jan Bryant is haunted by memories of a tragic riding accident. Consumed by guilt, she struggles to cope and becomes increasingly withdrawn, much to the concern of her Mum, Irene, a single parent trying to make a new life for both of them.

Disowned by his parents, eighteen year old Richard has been in trouble with the police, but is taken in by his older brother, Chris. Together, they run a livery stable and give riding lessons to pay the bills.

Both teenagers are trapped by a past that makes it difficult to move on. Like Cassius, the beautiful, damaged and dangerous bay horse that brings them together. On the terrible day when Jan’s world falls apart once more, boy, girl and horse become lost. Richard is injured after an impulsive act results in disaster. With their futures inextricably linked, can Jan save Richard? And who will save Cassius?

An exciting novella for readers who love horses.

The print edition also has some special bonus features, including previews of other stories.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

GEMMA PONY SERIES Book 1 - FREE until 13th December!

Gemma and the Pony Club Dance - the first instalment in my fun 4 book series - will be FREE to download from  9th -13th December! Grab it while you can! 

Girls, boyfriends and plenty of ponies! Fun, action-packed and full of drama, this series is for pony loving teens.

In the first story of the series, you’ll meet pony-mad teen Gemma Carlton and her feisty new pony Fireworks – along with Gemma’s long suffering boyfriend, Steve, her horse-loving friends Fizz and Kath and best mate Callie. They want to raise funds for the new horse rescue sanctuary by organising a Pony Club Dance at the community centre but then a gang of vandals cause trouble and put the horses in danger. Fireworks goes missing – and to make matters worse, Gemma soon suspects her best friend, Callie, is secretly going out with the ring leader of the gang!

Will Gemma find Fireworks? Will she lose her friendship with Callie? And after everything that happens, can life ever be the same again?

This exciting novella is a fast paced read for children and teenagers.

Other titles in the Gemma series:
Gemma and the Tattooed Horses
Gemma and the Black Colt
Gemma and the Disappearing Showjumpers 

Available from Amazon now!  Click here
(also Amazon.com and all other Amazon territories).   

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Being a Writer in the 21st Century - 10 week course

I'm teaching on a 10 week short course from January 2015 in Canterbury - details below if you want to join us!  I will share everything I've learned about my many years (almost 40!) as a published writer. Great venue, and great atmosphere!

Course description

Being a writer in the digital age offers a wealth of unprecedented opportunities for authors – but to benefit from this exciting entrepreneurial climate, a writer has to become a new creature - an authorpreneur. This course explores the realities and practicalities of writing in the 21 st century, arming writers with essential tools and knowledge to avoid the pitfalls.  A comprehensive range of topics will be covered, including marketing, selling and promotion, earning income from writing, the role of agents, publishers, using social media, understanding contracts and payments, methods of working practice and managing your time.

Days and times: Monday 12 January 1-3pm, for 10 weeks
Cost: £89.50
Venue: Canterbury Christ Church University, Kent, UK

What previous students have said about my day schools:

“Jane is very knowledgeable and has a wealth of experience.”
“Fabulously engaging tutor, enthusiastic about her subject, spoke with passion and authority.”
“It was more than I imagined.  Very informative and interesting.”
“Knowledgeable about the topic.  Excellent to listen to. Inspiring.”
“Obvious sound knowledge base and good clear delivery.”
“Useful hand-outs with links that can provide even more information after the course.”
“Inspiring and informative.  Lots of ideas to work with now!”
 “Jane is clearly very experienced.  She has a good relaxed style and is very enthusiastic.”
“Very useful and clearly put across.”
“Excellent content.  Covered more than I expected.”
“Very clear information.  Very generous with the information. Helpful.”
“Very good at answering questions, very clear targets and direction, well prepared.”
 “It was excellent – very informative, well organised, encouraged questions. Engaging.”


Thursday, 4 December 2014

Joyrider - FREE ebook for 3 days only!


Joyrider - FREE ebook from 4 December - for 3 days only!

Two girls.
A mysterious midnight rider.
And dark secrets, just waiting to be discovered.....

Fourteen year old Linzi has it all. Or so it seems. She’s bright, pretty, popular, lives in a glamorous clifftop apartment and has her own perfect horse – a stunning copper chestnut gelding called Ambrose. But appearances can be very deceptive….

On the other side of the sleepy seaside town, teenager Bex lives in a tiny flat with her widowed mum above the cafĂ© they both run. She’s prickly, moody, and a loner, trying to escape from her tragic past. She doesn’t want friends – especially not girls like Linzi.

After beating him to a place in the jumping team, Linzi suspects her rival, Sheldon, is the mystery joyrider – someone who takes other peoples horses at night and rides them – and she is furious when her beloved Ambrose is targeted. She determines to solve the mystery and discover the true identity - and motives - of the joyrider. But in the process she soon finds herself – and Bex – in terrible danger.

This exciting novella is a fast paced read for children, teenagers and adults. 

Available from Amazon now!  Click here
(also Amazon.com and all other Amazon territories).  

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Kittens to cats

I was flicking through some old pics recently and came across these of Sita and Steve when they were not much more than kittens.  How they have grown!  It reminded me why they were the inspiration for my book Coming Home.  Simply adorable!

kitten Steve

kitten Sita

Related post: http://janeayres.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/cat-in-box.html

Monday, 17 November 2014

Author now tweeting!

I have finally, after much nagging from lovely writing friends, been persuaded to join the Twittersphere.  I can't figure out how to add this to my blog yet, but if anyone wants to tweet to me, here is  my profile page.  Please do stop by and say hello!  


Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Music for Writers

There are some terrific Saturday Schools for Writers as part of the community and adult education programme at Canterbury Christ Church University throughout the Autumn, which offer amazing value and a range of fascinating topics.  

November 22 offers the second in an innovative series called Music for Writers: Emotion, Music and Moving Image.  This is intended for writers, music lovers and film lovers.  How can words, sound and image combine to create something unique? How is music used to express and convey emotion and atmosphere when combined with the medium of film? What is the relationship between sound and image? Using case studies that include films such as The Go-Between (Joseph Losey), Last Year in Marienbad (Alain Resnais) and Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca and Psycho, these issues will be explored and examined.

The tutor is an award winning composer and inspiring teacher, who wrote the music for my book trailer for Coming Homehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aweX0y3lvL4&feature=youtu.be

Barry Seaman's work has been performed in the UK and Europe, USA, Canada and Australia, with broadcasts on Radio 3.  His music for silent films Tsar Ivan Vasilyevitch Grozny (Alexander Ivanov-Gai 1915) and The Life of Richard Wagner (Carl Froelich 1913) was widely toured in the USA. Barry has a special interest in music as a healing process and is currently working on Mirabai, a large scale multimedia opera that explores the life of Mirabai, mystic poet and dancer from 16th century Rajasthan. A short film of the Krishna dance scene was directed by acclaimed film director, Tony Palmer.  
To hear Gabriel’s Greeting click
All Day Schools cost £29.50.  
To book please contact April Doyle via email to education.communityarts@canterbury.ac.uk or by phoning 01227 863451
See link for more info.  

Monday, 3 November 2014

Speed writing

I used to write 1000 words an hour.  These days, the words take longer to come. I've not managed in the past to complete the NANO challenge, and with November upon us again, I doubt I will this year.  

But to everyone who does, or for those who simply want to write faster, I came across this excellent blog post by Jennifer Ellis which is full of helpful information and advice. A highly recommended blog!  Definitely made me think I need to be rather more productive.....


Related post: http://janeayres.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/writing-for-success-writing-for-failure.html

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Cats Coming Home for Charity

I haven't posted for a while.  Lots happening.  In the meantime, here are some more pics of the totally adorable Sita and Steve, the Norwegian Forest cats who inspired my novel Coming Home, which has so far raised over £350 for Cats Protection, with 18 Five Star reviews.  I donate all my royalties to the charity, so please download a copy from Amazon - you will be helping cats in need.  Thanks.

eating biscuits together

Related posts (and some great cat pics!)





Thursday, 14 August 2014

FREE eBOOK Bonanza for horse lovers!

I'm going a bit crazy over the next few days.  I don't often give my books away for free, but I'm trying something new.  Between Thursday and Sunday, a selection of my e-books for children, teens and adults will be free to download.  

There will be different books free on different days and they will change.  Some are free for 3 days, some for 2.  You'll need to keep checking on Amazon.  A bit like a lucky dip!

Titles may include Beware of the Horse, Valentine Horse, Gemma and the Pony Club Dance and Joyrider.......

So, have fun, download some freebies and enjoy!

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Book promotion: is it working for you?

So how was it for you?  Promoting your last book? Marketing can be a bit of a mystery sometimes.  Especially when it comes to books.  As I may have mentioned before, one of my early titles outsells all the others several times over.  I've never promoted this book. If I knew why it sells more I could bottle the formula and use it again.  Unfortunately I've never figured it out, so I can't.

What works and what doesn't? Let's look at social media first.  Namely, Facebook. 

Likes and shares do not equal sales! 

Social Media is often hailed as a book selling tool, but it has its limitations.  One of my charity e-books, Coming Home, has lovely reviews, and every now and then, the Cats Protection, who I donate all my royalties to, give the book a shout on their Facebook page.  Each time they do, it always boosts sales and reviews, which is great, because that's more income for cats in need.  This month, their Facebook post about my book has so far garnered 1132 likes and 145 shares.  Fantastic!  Now, for anyone out there who thinks they can solely rely on Facebook to sell books, think again!  I've sold an extra 25 copies of Coming Home from this exposure.  Likes and shares do not equal sales!  Based on this example, there is roughly one sale per 6 shares, and around 2 sales per 100 likes.  It's worth doing the sums. 

"Old skool" techniques

In order to promote my other darlings, I've tried "old skool" (as I believe it may be called now - god, I'm getting old!) techniques, such as paid advertising space in an actual printed magazine.  Since I write books that are aimed at children and teens who love ponies, I chose the best selling UK magazine aimed at this market - PONY magazine.  It's perfect in so many ways, and in my excitement at trialling some promotion, I pre-booked not one, but 4 advertorials spanning from Easter 2014 to February 2015.  With such a targeted readership so closely aligned to my own target market, how could it fail?  

I've had 2 of my books featured so far.   I knew how many EXTRA books I would have to sell to cover the costs of the ad (a lot!)  So, how did it impact on sales? Disappointingly little.  Of course, the only way to be certain of the impact would be to know how many books would have sold without the ad and there's no way of doing this.  I can just go on what average sales were prior to the ad - although these can vary -  since at least with Amazon, you can track how effective any promo is on a daily basis, which is a really valuable tool.  I'm hoping the ads will be a long term investment to build my visibility with my target audience.  And that anyone who did buy the featured book as a result of the ad will then go on to buy my other titles.  But who knows.....?

Any one else out there using "old skool" methods?  And if so, how was it for you?
Oh, and if anyone has the magic formula for why some books sell better than others (or some foolproof marketing technique for authors), please share it with everyone!  Thanks. 

Related post: http://janeayres.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/the-further-mysteries-of-author.html

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Monday, 11 August 2014

The Writing Process Blog Tour

Thanks to the lovely Deborah Jay for inviting me to take part in the writing process blog tour, a blog relay in which each author discusses their individual writing process, and then passes the baton on. 

I first met Debby online via my blog, and recently, I had the pleasure of meeting Debby in person when she came to an entertainment evening I organised to raise funds for pancreatic cancer.  Busy Deborah is not only a successful author of fast-paced fantasy adventures featuring quirky characters and multi-layered plots but also a professional dressage rider/trainer/judge, so she is a mistress of time management! She also has non-fiction equestrian titles published under the name Debby Lush.

Her award winning novel The Prince’s Man, the first of a trilogy has been described as 'James Bond meets Lord of the Rings' - a sweeping tale of spies and deadly politics, inter-species mistrust and magic phobia, with an underlying thread of romance.

Find out more about Deborah at www.deborahjay.wordpress.com or follow Deborah on twitter @DeborahJay2 .

Read Debby's stop on the Writing Process Blog Tour here http://deborahjayauthor.com/2014/08/04/the-writing-process-blog-tour/

So here are my answers to the 4 questions:

1. What am I currently working on?
I’ve just published my latest title,  The Perfect Horse, a dramatic novel with a dark twist, and midway through the next new pony novel, which explores equestrian vaulting. I’ve finally started the sequel to Beware of the Horse, which is the most popular of all my horse books, and the sequel is called (wait for it!) Beware of the Horse 2: Angie’s Revenge.  It’s aimed at older teens and young adults, and explores the murkier depths of relationships, and the consequences of our actions. I’ve just finished a Christmas short story for Pony magazine and hope to work on a few more short stories.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
This is difficult to answer as every writer has their own unique approach.  Although most of my novels and novellas currently involve horses, I do also like to explore some darker themes, which sometimes include supernatural elements (The Perfect Horse even strays into science fiction territory), and I don’t shy away from death. I hope my characters and situations are realistic and authentic, and a lovely review of one of my books says that I write from the heart.  I try to.  My stories generally have a strong emotional component. 

3. Why do I write what I write?
I enjoy writing about horses and people and their relationships, and hope my readers like what I do.  I also donate all my author royalties from my Matty Horse and Pony Adventures to the charity Redwings Horse Sanctuary.  My only non-horse novel (although I did sneak a horse in!) is called Coming Home and is about two Norwegian Forest cats, and my royalties go to charity Cats Protection. If my writing can help support these animal charities, that is an added bonus.  

4. How does my individual writing process work?
Generally, I write a one page synopsis after drafting some ideas and basic structure.  Then I map out the chapters and what they are likely to include and finally I start the writing process, often in time blocks.  This is the hardest part for me, and I still struggle to get started.  Getting the ideas and playing with them is the fun part.  I do several (often many) meticulous edits before allowing the story to be published. I am definitely a planner and the idea of simply writing without knowing where it will go freaks me out!

I'm passing the baton on to short story writer Linda King, who has been published by Woman's Weekly (kudos to you, Linda.  I've been trying to get a story accepted by WW for over 20 years!) and also writes stories under another pen name which are published by Xcite Books. She is currently writing a novel.

Her blog is the wonderfully titled http://excusemewhileinotethatdown.blogspot.co.uk/  and she is taking part in the blog tour on 18th August. 

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

The Perfect Horse - a pony book with a twist!

My latest title, The Perfect Horse, is now LIVE on Amazon. Yee-ha!! Loving the fantastic cover by the amazing Klaus Hartleben. It's been 6 months since I published so I'm hoping readers will enjoy this latest story.

It's a dramatic, emotional adventure for horse lovers – with a twist! 

When teenage Krista encounters the magnificent grey stallion, Seahawk, while spending summer by the coast, she thinks she’s found the perfect horse. She’s right – Seahawk is exceptional – so special, in fact, that some folk will do anything to get their hands on him, putting Krista in terrible danger. 

But where does this perfect horse come from? And why is his past – and future – so shrouded in mystery? Reclusive artist, Mel, who lives on the isolated Mount, has some of the answers – but can she be trusted? Does Krista’s cousin, Shannon, know more than she lets on? The truth is more incredible, shocking - and sinister - than Krista could ever imagine. 

This is a fast-paced horse story with an unexpected kick. 

Suitable for older children, teens, young adults and adults. 

BUY HERE http://www.amazon.co.uk/Perfect-Horse-Jane-Ayres-ebook/dp/B00MFTBTRW

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Different chapter, same book: the power of memory

We are constructed from memories.  We are making new ones every second.  How, what and why do we remember some things and not others?  Memories are a treasure trove of data, sensory experiences, adventures and emotions that we can process, translate and re-invent to create new stories.  

When the present becomes the past, our perception of the experience changes, undergoing a mysterious transformation.  Often it is only in hindsight that we appreciate the value of what has gone before. Regeneration is about change and transformation, and we are all – like Dr Who! - regenerating constantly.

These issues are explored in the amazing Life after Life by Kate Atkinson, which I would recommend to everyone - especially if you are a writer.  In this story, the heroine is born, dies and is reborn many times, each life different, although sharing common threads.  (It reminded me of some of the ideas in the film Sliding Doors - the consequences of one action compared to another.  How the same story can have different endings, or different stories, the same conclusion). Is there such a thing as fate or is life simply a sequence of random events? 

You can check out my review of Life after Life and many others here.  It always fascinates how stories can be so differently perceived by different readers. It's one of the challenges - and magic - of being an author. 

Sci-fi visionary Philip. K Dick is another writer who shares my obsession with the nature and construct of memory, a topic he explores in so many of his stories. It was a theme that haunted and obsessed him.

Does memory re-visit the past or simply re-construct it?  Is memory life itself? Is life, memory?

These are questions I keep asking.  Can we ever know the answer? 

Related posts:

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Saturday Schools for Writers in Canterbury during Autumn 2014

There are some terrific Saturday Schools for Writers as part of the community and adult education programme at Canterbury Christ Church University throughout the Autumn, which offer amazing value and a range of fascinating topics.

On 11 October, writer April Doyle will be offering another of her very popular day schools on Starting a Novel. If you have a great idea for a novel or you’ve started to write one but you find yourself stuck in a rut, this day school will explore developing characters, plot, structure, theme, atmosphere and imagery, using examples from published authors. The focus is on generating ideas so that, by the end of the day, you’ll have lots of material to take away with you for your work in progress.  Book early for this!

25 October offers the first in an innovative series called Music for Writers 1: Love, War and Trains - poetry, verse drama and music. This Day School will be of interest to creative writers and music enthusiasts, and anyone intrigued by the way that words and music can be combined to create drama and emotion. The vivid and imaginative use of language is explored and discussed using a variety of dramatic works that include Samuel Beckett’s Words and Music, and atmospheric verse dramas for radio that include Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas and the extraordinary Love, War and Trains by celebrated author Ian McMillan. Ways that writers, poets and composers work together will be studied and celebrated.

Music for Writers 2: Emotion, Music and Moving Image follows on November 22.  How is music used to express and convey emotion and atmosphere when combined with the medium of film? What is the relationship between sound and image? Using case studies that include films such as The Go-Between (Joseph Losey), Last Year in Marienbad (Alain Resnais) and Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca and Psycho, these issues will be explored and examined.

And my next Canterbury Saturday School is The Business of Writing 1: Getting Published on November 1st, which offers tips and advice on both being traditionally published and going down the independent route of publishing e-books via Amazon. Marketing, selling, agents, publishers, blogging and social media are all discussed, as well as the future for writers and publishers in a digital age.

I love teaching and sharing what I've learned, and my last 2 day schools had great feedback so if you fancy joining us (or know someone who might) do share. Thanks  
See link for more info.  

All Day Schools cost £29.50.  
To book please contact April Doyle via email to education.communityarts@canterbury.ac.uk or by phoning 01227 863451

Thursday, 24 July 2014

The mystery of all things

I'm currently reading a wonderful book by Elizabeth Gilbert called The Signature of All Things.  It's brilliant on so many levels, and I am totally absorbed by the heroine, Alma Whitaker. Set in the nineteenth century, it is a 500 page exploration of science, faith, discovery, desire and fulfilment - and so much more.

I found it at the right time in my life, having recently studied the history of science during the period covered by the story, so it has an added resonance. I have reached the point in the story where the heroine goes in search of an answer to a deeply personal question that is currently a mystery, and this got me thinking about the compelling fascination of mystery fiction. (I've also been watching a lot of the TV series Murder, She Wrote!)

I think we love to solve puzzles and mysteries, and unlock the secrets that fiction writers present us with, because we are unable to do this in our own lives, the ending of which is always a mystery, that cannot be neatly discovered and resolved. Being able to solve a fictional mystery provides a satisfying reassurance that the fragility and unpredictability of our every day existence cannot.

Related posts: http://janeayres.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/writing-for-success-writing-for-failure.html

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Publishing, Planning and Procrastination

I started to write this blog post months ago so I thought it was about time I put it out there.  It's all about reflection - specifically reflecting on what I intended to do, and what I actually did. I looked at my aims for 2013, which did not only focus on writing, because I am something of a butterfly and easily distracted by projects that interest me. 

These were my aims a year ago:

Developing my writing business, including republishing my extensive backlist of novels for children and teenagers.
Getting there, but slowly.  I am well behind my schedule for this.

Being braver and accepting more speaking engagements.
Yes, I am actively promoting this aspect of my work. 

Performing as a classical singer again, especially contemporary repertoire.
Nope.  This may have to wait until 2015. 

Continuing to raise funds for and awareness of the importance of research into early detection and treatment for pancreatic cancer.
Yes, I am organising a (now sold out) ticketed event to raise funds for Pancreatic Cancer UK, and attended a meeting at the Houses of Parliament for the APPG Inquiry. 

In a September 2013 blog post I wrote, "I have 2 more horse titles I want to bring out before the end of September (more likely October now), plus a further title at the end of November (horse sci-fi!) and, hopefully, a completely new story end Dec/mid Jan."  

Ha! Well, I did eventually manage to publish both Joyrider and The Horse in my Heart in November 2013, and my 4 book Gemma series in December. I have not yet managed to put the equestrian sci-fi title onto Amazon - this is now imminent - and the completely new story has not yet been written.  

In my defence, I managed to put out a novella in February this year called Valentine Horse, which is aimed at slightly older readers.   

But I'm disappointed at my productivity, which is not what it should be.  I want to work on two new titles, which are both planned and mapped out, but I need to do the hard graft of actually writing the books.  

Procrastination and vacillation - right now, these two words describe my working practice perfectly!  This has to change.......so did you achieve your writing plans for 2013?  

Related posts: 

Monday, 30 June 2014

Writing from the heart

It is always lovely to get nice reviews, and to know that a reader has really enjoyed reading one of your stories.  So when I read a recent review on Amazon.com for my cat charity book, Coming Home, it made me feel quite emotional.  

This book, about two Norwegian Forest cats who are lost, and their owner's frantic search for them to be reunited, is a special book for me, so when the reader commented, 
The author writes from the heart and gives from the heart

I was both delighted and grateful, and very happy.  

Thank you, Barbara, for your lovely words.

You can read the full review here 

Friday, 13 June 2014

Kate Atkinson on South Bank Show: author interview

If you get a chance to see this, do watch author Kate Atkinson interviewed by Melvyn Bragg for the South Bank Show on Sky.  (Next on tomorrow!) Illuminating and inspiring - I immediately downloaded Life after Life onto my kindle!


Sunday, 8 June 2014

Reflections on being a writer: Judy Croome Guest Post

I'm delighted to welcome South African author Judy Croome to The Beautiful Room.  I recently met Judy "virtually" after reading her excellent article http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2014/05/judy-croome/, in which she shares her tips for reading aloud at writer events.  This really resonated with me, so I decided to visit Judy's website and contact her.  (This is one of the things I love about the internet - being able to connect with other writers anywhere in the world).  Happily, Judy very kindly agreed to be interviewed, providing some really thought-provoking and inspirational reflections on being a writer......

What is the best thing about being a writer?
Freedom, on all levels.
There’s the physical freedom of being able to work in my pyjamas on a cold winter’s morning or at a time of day that allows me to meet other commitments.

Then there’s emotional freedom. In today’s world many of us are so well-socialised or so intellectualised that we’ve lost touch with our feelings. Don’t cry, Johnny, boys don’t cry. Don’t shout, Alice, girls don’t get angry.  
No wonder we repress our deepest emotions. Whenever one writes, the possibility exists that we can, in a safe way, tap into those emotions buried so deeply and free them from where they’re nailed into our psyches. 

And, finally, when your writing pushes you into places you never thought you could go, there’s a spiritual freedom that comes from unexpectedly meeting an inner self that is truer than any other personality mask we wear.

What is the worst thing about being a writer?
Fear. The time between books is always a dangerous time for me, because it’s then that I’m most tempted to give up writing. I’m riddled with fear and doubt and anxiety about everything from the reviews of my last book to the ideas I have for future books. That’s why I procrastinate (a lot!) before diving in to the actual writing. When I do begin to write again, it takes an act of real self-discipline to keep myself writing as I travel into the dark places that the muse sometimes takes me.

Most writers complain about being easily distracted and the problems of procrastinating.  Is this something that affects you? 
I have a PhD in Procrastination. I’ve developed Procrastination into an art form more complex than anything I’ve ever written. I also have the attention span of a pea. So, yes, Procrastination is a serious issue for me. I think I’ll go and make a cup of tea now. I’ll be back in a minute to write the rest of this article!

Why do you think this especially seems to be an issue for writers? (rather than artists or composers?) 
Writing is a more intellectual process than the other creative arts. Each creative art has its own “intellectual” technique, that is, the learned part of the craft. But when it comes to the creative alchemy, words are more of the intellect than music or paintings. 

A writer needs a strong mind to keep the words dancing. While the power of the mind is a great asset in creating a logical story or character arc, or for the endless editing and revision stages that a story requires, that same mind can be a disadvantage at times.

It can deceive us into thinking we’re actually writing when we’re only perfecting our procrastination skills.  Social media, plotting our stories, seeking that perfect word to write that perfect sentence all feel like “real” writing, but they’re simply avoidance techniques.

What do writers want to avoid? All those scary emotions that writing forces to the surface in a way that the mind can’t control or repress. And so writers procrastinate more than artists or musicians who, to create, have to move into a space beyond the mind rather than (as writers do) work through the mind to create.  I sometimes think of my procrastination period as a pre-writing war: my emotional urge to create a story battling it out with my intellectual urge to keep the dark creative void at bay.

Do you have any tips for other writers to help in being focussed and maintaining that focus?
Only one. Write every day. Even if it’s only 100 words a day, write.  When I start a writing task, I use a modified version of the “Don’t Break the Chain” calendar based upon a motivation technique purportedly used by Jerry Seinfeld. It really works. Once you cross off the first block, it’s almost impossible to resist striving to keep the chain going. And don’t cheat yourself. If you don’t write on the work you’re trying to finish, you don’t get to cross off a block! Here’s the link for more information on that method: Jerry Seinfeld’s Don’t Break the Chain Method
Here’s another link to an excellent article on writer’s procrastination and how to overcome it

Can writers change the world? 
Indirectly, yes, I do believe that writers can change the world. As the great Mahatma Gandhi said, the way to change the world is to change oneself. Our words can reach out to people and change their inner landscape. Like water dripping from a tap, drop by drop, if enough people change themselves, then the world will eventually change too. I’ve included this philosophy in my biography on my website:

If you were not a writer, which other art form or profession would you pursue to express yourself?
I used to be an accountant. I still don’t know how I survived all those years in an office environment. If I could choose another career to creatively express myself in, I’d ask God to grant me the gift of being able to create beautiful music. Music, more than any other artistic form, has the ability to transcend language and difference, reminding us of our common humanity through the harmony of wordless sounds.
Judy Croome lives and writes in Johannesburg, South Africa. Shortlisted in the African Writing Flash Fiction 2011 competition, Judy’s short stories and poems have appeared in various magazines and anthologies, such as the Huffington Post and the University of the Witwatersrand’s Itch Magazine.
Judy loves her family, cats, exploring the meaning of life, chocolate, cats, rainy days, ancient churches with their ancient graveyards, cats, meditation and solitude. Oh, and cats. Judy loves cats (who already appear to have discovered the meaning of life.) 
Her books “The Weight of a Feather & Other Stories” (2013), “a Lamp at Midday” (2012) and “Dancing in the Shadows of Love” (2011) are available, and she is currently researching child murders for her next novel and you can visit Judy on www.judycroome.com , “Like” her Facebook Author page for updates or join her on Twitter @judy_croome.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Spinning a Yarn and Weaving Words

Detail from quilt made by my aunt, Brenda White (photo Jane Ayres)

The origin of words fascinates me.  And I discovered a new one recently - etymology - which is the study of the history of words, their origins, and how their form and meaning have changed over time.   We often use words without really thinking about the way we are doing so.  They can be rich in symbolism.  

A casual conversation got me thinking about the relationship between words that describe sewing, embroidery and the process of writing, so I did some exploring. Apparently, "text" derives from textile.

Latin textus "style or texture of a work," literally "thing woven," from past participle stem of texere "to weave, to join, fit together, braid, interweave, construct, fabricate, build *

*from http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=text

We talk of weaving words and spinning a tale (where the term "spin doctor" originates?); we refer to the fabric of a story, the strands and threads.  A story can be a yarn, a tapestry of words. 

Spinning a tale, a tapestry of words.  And of course, a tapestry tells a story that can be communicated without the need for a knowledge of reading and writing. 

Humans have a profound need to tell their stories, by whatever means. 

Related post: http://janeayres.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/life-stories.html

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Reflections on being a full-time writer

photo Jane Ayres

I wrote this last year. 

"I think there are arguments for doing a job in parallel with a writing career.  I've never been a full time writer and don't think I would want to, because I enjoy and am inspired by interactions with people and different experiences.  I've had a full time salaried job for most of my working life and when I did, I fantasised about giving it all up to be a writer.  This made me value my precious writing time and I probably worked harder as a result, because I was striving for success.  I had more self discipline too. When I went part time (first down to 4 days pw, then 3.5, then 3 days) my intention was to spend more time writing.  But weirdly I then found it even harder to write!  It was like the more time I had, the more I seemed to procrastinate.  Duh!  I wouldn't want a full time salaried job again, as I enjoy having more control over how I structure my time.  I envy writers who can be single minded and motivated enough to be a full time writer."

Hmmm.  I was made redundant last summer and became, by default, a full-time writer, which means I also teach writing and do voluntary freelance work for arts projects I am passionate about.  So, 9 months later, how do I feel about the pressure of solely relying on self-employment?  Scary.  Pressured.  I find myself looking for part time salaried work once more (after a panic during financial projections for the next few months).  Between blocks of frenetic writing activity, I lapse into periods of writing inactivity, which makes me feel guilty and useless.  I set myself targets for my next two novellas that I haven't even started yet.  

Struggling to see the wood from the trees right now....