Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Last minute messages and a very Merry Christmas to everyone!

Thank you to everyone for your lovely Happy Birthday messages - I had a fantastic weekend celebrating both with my husband and my family. On Saturday, me and the Engineer went out for a festive afternoon tea, using a voucher we got for our wedding, and it was amazing!

Needless to say, we didn't eat for the rest of the day!

Birthday cake...mmm...

Then on Sunday, I invited round the whole family (e.g. my aunt and uncle + my parents, sister and my sister's boyfriend) and the Engineer and I cooked a roast dinner for everyone. Originally, the plan was to go out for a meal, but after thinking about it, I realised there was no point in spending extra cash when we're trying so hard to save. So I cancelled that, and invited everyone over instead. I meant to take a photo of us all at the table, but I was so frazzled from cooking (and hungry), I forgot. But it was a lovely meal and it was nice to catch up with everyone - plus, it was a practice run for Christmas Day, because guess who's on cooking duty this weekend too! (In all fairness, I did volunteer for the part...not too sure why now though...)

My birthday book haul - my family know me so well

Anyway, this is going to be my last blog post of 2016. I'm off work for a week next week, but with going to see family and wanting to relax over the Christmas break, I've decided not to blog again until next year.

It's funny - last year, I had this really strong sense that 2016 was going to be my year. I don't know why I felt this way - perhaps subconsciously I already knew it was going to be an action-packed year because we were getting married. But this year we also moved up back up to Cumbria, got new jobs and generally started thinking about the future. I feel like a lot of good things have happened, and I'm so incredibly grateful to everyone who made this year so great. Looking ahead to 2017 though...I don't have the same strong urge that next year will be good, like I did this time last year. That's not to say it won't be - instead, I have this feeling that I'm just going to have to wait and see what happens. I guess I'm just curious to see how it will turn out - who knows what's around the corner? But in all honesty, I'm super excited to see what the future holds.

My last announcement of the day is a bit of a surprise one - I am taking a break from Twitter until the end of March 2017.

I've been thinking for a while that something isn't quite right with my social media. It hasn't been bringing me the satisfaction it once did - I still can't quite put my finger on it, but I think I'm getting closer to figuring out what's bothering me. Once I figure it out, I'll let you know. As for the reason why I'm taking a break until March? I don't know - that date just popped into my head. And if there's one thing I'm swiftly learning as I grow older, it's to trust my instincts. So that's exactly what I'm going to do.

I will still be blogging, but I'm also thinking about taking my blog in a slightly new direction for the new year. So although you may not see me as often on Twitter, I will still be here, writing and taking part in IWSG, and commenting on other blogs etc. I won't have fallen off the face of the earth completely (for now).

That's it from me! Off to stuff my face with all the chocolates and sausage rolls that are filling the office now.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! See you in 2017!

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Writer's Academy Webinar

I don't think I've ever been so low on Christmas cheer as I am this year. Am I the only one who's just not feeling it? I think personal circumstances, being sick, coupled with an argument with my parents over my birthday (which will be on Monday) means I'd rather not be forced to be happy and cheerful right now.

Anyway, a few updates since I've been AWOL for a while:

First things first - I didn't 'win' NaNoWriMo. But I did write 30,000 words, and to me, that's a win in itself - there's no way I would've written that much in a normal month, so I'm happy. And although my book is still all over the place, I do have more of an idea of where I'm going with it. So that's a plus.

I also attended a Higher Education marketing conference last week - I enjoyed my journey down to Manchester, and although I wish the conference had been writing related (the joys of my day job!), it was actually very useful, and I learnt a couple of things that I think might be applicable to how writers can market themselves as well. I'll try and write a post next week on it in more detail.

But for now, my most recent news is that I attended a webinar run by The Writers' Academy on Monday night. It was called 'Behind the Bestseller' and it featured Jocasta Hamilton, Publishing Director at Hutchinson. There were some really good questions begin asked - and two of mine got chosen! I'm going to share them both with you below, as I found her tips really helpful and they inspired me to start writing again.

The first question I asked was, 'is it essential for authors to have their own website/social media pages before they have been published?'

A: Not really. Think about how you're trying to represent yourself and your book online, and the angle you are going for. If you enjoy it, or you have some kind of experience related to your book and it could be useful to market your work, such as you've been travelling and you're a travel writer, then yes, it could give your publicist something to say/give them them an angle to work with. But it's not essential. If it comes naturally to you and you can, do it, but if not, it doesn't matter.

My second question (and the one they saved for last!) was, 'what advice would you give to a writer who's been writing for years but keeps getting rejected?'

A: It depends on the feedback you're getting. Listen to the feedback you're receiving and keep going. Do it because you get something out of it. Are you sending it to the right people? Check your first pages are really great, and make sure your book is telling a story. Can you sum it up in one line? Can you sum it up in four? Publishing is a matchmaking game, and eventually, you'll find the perfect fit for your work. So if you love it, keep doing it, and remember to listen to the feedback you're getting.

I really enjoyed attending the webinar, and it was so useful to hear an editor saying what they're looking for in a book/author. Plus, I feel less guilty now about not updating my blog/Twitter as often as I should!

Anyway, that's it from me for now - I might try and write one more post before Christmas, but with birthday celebrations happening this weekend, I might not, we'll see!

Did anyone else attend the webinar? Would you attend a similar webinar in future?

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

My book is a beast

I have a confession to make. My book is a beast.

There, I said it.

My book: destroying everything in it's path...

It's this huge, lumbering, unwieldy thing with bright blue fur, three heads, six inch talons, fangs, four wings, a long spiky tail and ten eyes. It won't do what I tell it to do. It won't listen to me - it's own creator! How rude - it just keeps lumbering along, occasionally gaining momentum but then slowing down to a halt to graze on green leaves and possibly the souls of small children (just joking - or am I...?) before running away from me again. I'm constantly running after it, panting and shouting at it to stop, but it simply takes no notice. It makes no sense - it shouldn't exist and it goes against everything I've ever believed as a writer, and yet - I love it.

I love it despite the fact it has a fat middle, a non-coherent beginning and a fairly decent, if somewhat abrupt, ending (well, the last scene anyway - let's not talk about the chapters before it). I love the fact that by writing absolute nonsense, I'm learning more and more about my main character every day - some days I love him, other days I wonder why on earth I ever bothered to write him in the first place and sometimes, just sometimes, he terrifies me and takes my breath away. I love learning more about my supporting characters and where they fit and why. I love writing scenes, knowing they will never make it into the final book, or they will have to be so heavily edited they won't be recognisable anymore; but it's only through writing what I don't want in the book, that I can start to discover what I do want in it. I especially love discovering more about the world they all inhabit, and how I can bring that world to life on the page.

I chose to do NaNoWriMo because I wanted to challenge myself as a writer. I wanted to try something new, something completely different to what I've done before. And I'm so glad I took the plunge.

Come December, I'll hopefully have 80,000+ words to work with on this WIP. It's a daunting task, but you know what? I'm so looking forward to taming this beast. I'm looking forward to wrestling with it, shaving off all that fur, clipping back the talons and untangling all those knots, to see what beauty lies beneath. Maybe there won't be any. Maybe I'll do all that work and discover it wasn't the book I thought it was, or the book I wanted it to be. But that's ok. This is what writers do - we write, we rewrite and, if we have to, we scrap it and start the whole process over again.

A few months ago, the thought of ditching a project, or coming to the end of a book and discovering it might not be publishable didn't make any sense to me. Why go through all that frustration and pain and heartbreak? But now, I'm slowly starting to realise that no matter how long it takes, or how many times you have to start over, some things are worth fighting for. I firmly believe that this book is worth fighting for - I will do whatever it takes, however long it takes - until it's done. It might take me a couple of months - most likely it will take me years. But that's ok. I'm going to keep chipping away at the beast, word by word, chapter by chapter, until one day, I can stand back and be proud of what I've achieved.

My book is a beast - but I wouldn't have it any other way.

Calcifier: a much more manageable demon

Is your book a beast? How do you 'tame' your novel? How's your NaNoWriMo going? What's your favourite Studio Ghibli film?

Monday, 14 November 2016

NaNoWriMo and Second Breakfasts...

I didn't want to go to my day job today. Not because I don't enjoy it, but because I had Friday off and. It. Was. Amazing.

I mentioned last week that I booked some time off in November to do some writing specifically for NaNoWriMo, and Friday was one of those days.

I was so happy when I woke up on Friday morning to a clear sunrise - I don't know why, but if it's sunny outside, I feel like anything is possible. Sunshine definitely has a positive effect on my mood.

My first stop of the day was my local Starbucks - I'm aware this isn't exactly supporting small businesses but it had free parking and I knew it would (probably) have decent wifi. I ordered a hot drink and a chocolate swirl to 'keep me going' (I have a confession to make - this was actually my second breakfast of the day, but I felt like I had to order something so I wouldn't feel guilty about being there!)

The breakfast of champions writers! Don't ask what's happening with the cream

I stayed there all morning, before deciding to find somewhere new to have lunch and start my afternoon writing session - not that there was anything wrong with Starbucks, but personally I think it can be quite expensive and I wasn't prepared to pay through the nose just for a sandwich. So I went to the cafe I worked at for a couple of weeks earlier this summer, before I got my marketing job. It was lovely to see everyone again, and the upside of going somewhere I've worked before meant that I knew exactly where the radiators and plug sockets were.

Chicken burger and chips for lunch - fuel for the afternoon!

The only downside was that the wifi didn't appear to be working properly. It wasn't a huge issue, as I was only using it to listen to music and I had music on my phone - but I'm finding more and more that I can only get into a really good writing groove if I plug my headphones in and shut the world out. After a few hours though, it was becoming obvious to me that I wasn't get as much work done. Music plays a huge part in my writing and I felt that because I didn't have the right songs on, I was getting restless and not really concentrating. So I went home early, put the fire on, made cup of tea and finished my writing session at home.

Fell views on the way home - winter is definitely coming

In total, I wrote 10,000 words on Friday. That's a huge achievement considering I hadn't written anything for about a week. I was planning on writing 5,000 words each on Saturday and Sunday too, but on Saturday I had to help out on the family farm for most of the day and Sunday just seemed to pass in a blur. I wrote another 4,000 words altogether, which is still pretty good - I'm well below the official NaNoWriMo word count for this time of the month, but I'm happy. So long as I keep writing every day, I'll get there in the end.

I have another two days booked off right at the end of November and I'm already counting down the days - I had such a good time just being a writer and doing what I love to do, that I can't wait for next time! Next time though, I know to stay somewhere with decent wifi and not switch workspaces halfway through the day - it breaks my concentration too much!

Have you ever taken time off work specifically to write? Do you like to write in cafes or at home? Do you listen to music while you write?

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Busy weekends and NaNoWriMo updates...

I have a confession to make - I haven't written a word for NaNoWriMo since about this time last week.

There are a couple of reasons for this - we went to see our friends in Cheltenham last weekend (my lovely friend Jess is also a blogger - check out her amazing food blog here! Be warned though - it will make you very hungry) and I had such a good time - we saw a firework show at Cheltenham racecourse, went to an organic farm shop and made chocolate apples (mmm....)

The only thing is, we were also away the weekend before that too, which meant I've had two weeks with basically no breaks - I'm not complaining because I've had such a good time catching up with people, but I've definitely noticed a difference in my mood this week. I've been so exhausted when I get back from work that I barely have the energy to make supper. It's been a struggle not to just fall asleep where I am on the sofa every night.

But I have some good news - I'm off work tomorrow! At the start of November, I booked a few days off with the specific aim of getting a load of writing done - and I'm planning on spending the whole day in a small coffee shop somewhere scribbling down my words for NaNoWriMo. I can't tell you how much I've been looking forward to this - not just because it's a well-needed break from my day job, but also because it'll be the first time in years (since uni in fact) that I'll be able to a) dedicate the whole day to writing and b) get out of the house to do my writing. I'm so excited!

So even though I'm down on my word count, I'm still happy. Am I going to give up because I've fallen behind? Nope. I'm going to keep writing, and see what happens - maybe I'll complete NaNaWriMo, but if I don't, well, I'll still be several thousand words ahead than I was in October. And that's all that counts.

I have all my notes, I have my notepad, and I have my laptop. Let's order in the coffee (and maybe a cake or three) and let's get writing! We can do this!

Happy NaNoWriMo, everyone! Keep going - you're all amazing xx

P.S. To keep you going, here's a photo of me meeting Batman in my workplace this week. Not gonna lie - it was awesome...

How is your writing going? Are you taking part in NaNoWriMo? What are your plans for the weekend?

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

IWSG November: My favourite part of being a writer is...

I feel like I’ve been so wrapped up in life lately, I completely forgot it was IWSG until I happened to check my blog this morning and see everyone else’s posts. I was originally going to post today on some other stuff but I think I’ll save that for December, after the craziness of NaNoWriMo has passed.

This month's IWSG question is:

What is your favorite aspect of being a writer?

I instantly knew what my answer to this question would be – world building. I adore getting lost in a book where the world building is so complete and intricate that you could believe that that world actually existed. I’ve read books where the world building has been so good, it’s taken me a few moments to readjust back to reality once I’ve stopped reading, or I’ve felt gutted when a book/series has finished and I know I have to leave that world behind forever.

I love good world building – I’m not just talking about descriptions of places, I’m also talking about the history of the world, its rules and regulations, its political system, its currency, different races and religions, gender and their roles in society…it’s all these things that really bring a book to life. As a reader, I think it can be obvious when an author doesn’t put as much thought or time into their world building as they should – but if they do put in the effort, it makes the whole book flow and reading it a joy.

In terms of being a writer, this is my favourite part of writing because although it can be a challenge to bring a world to life on a page, I love exploring the possibilities of new worlds and coming up with the little details that all add to the overall picture. In the fantasy novel that I’m currently working on, I’m taking the time to explore the backstory of my fantasy world and I’m absolutely loving it – whenever I don’t feel like writing a proper scene, I’ll write some folklore or dream up a new location in my world, and write about that for a while instead. It’s actually a surprisingly good way to get myself into the writing mindset – and I’m planning on using this technique to up my word count during NaNoWriMo if I get desperate!

What about you – what’s your favourite aspect of being a writer? Have you read any books lately with brilliant world building? What brings a book to life for you? If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, don’t forget to add me at: REPattinson1!

Monday, 24 October 2016

It's time for NaNoWriMo!

In just over a week, aspiring (and established) authors from all around the world will unite and attempt to complete the daunting task of writing 50,000 words in one month. No, we haven't all been taking crazy pills (hmm...debatable), it's that time of year again - it's NaNoWriMo!

For those of you who may not know, NaNoWriMo is a "fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000 word novel by 11.59pm on November 30."

I've attempted to complete NaNoWriMo twice before; the first year, (in 2012) I only wrote about 100 words, the second year (2013) I wrote a grand total of 39,000 words - although I didn't realise you could add on words from different projects, so really, the finish total was more like 45,000.

I kinda forgot about NaNoWriMo for most of this year - with the wedding, moving house, starting a new job etc, I just didn't consider it. But now that things are kind of calming down (LOL), I thought, 'why not?' I've already thrown out the rulebook with my current WIP - why not try and move it on a bit by writing 50,000 more words? I have no plan for this WIP, just the background notes and random scene ideas I've already written, but as I'm attempting to write the first draft of this novel without a plan, I'm not too worried (yet).

So there you go - from November 1st, I will be participating in the craziness that is NaNoWriMo. The Engineer has been informed, I'm booking the days off work today (not the whole month, unfortunately, but a few days here and there), and I'm actually super excited to have an uninterrupted excuse to work on my novel. Let the writing begin!

Oh, and if you need a buddy to rant/cry/commiserate/bounce idea off of - my username is REPattinson1. See you there!

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? If so, have you got a plan, or are you a 'pantser'? If you're not participating, what are you planning on doing in November?

Monday, 17 October 2016

Anxiety: A Conversation

The following is a conversation I imagine my anxiety would have with me, if it happened to be a real person. For background reference, I've been going through a pretty stressful time at work lately (organising your first event that also involves local TV and press will do that to you) and it just made me aware of how much my anxiety has been cranked up over the past few weeks. So, to help me destress, I came up with the following short story on the spur of the moment. Please, if you suffer from anxiety or know someone who is, by all means share this post and have a good laugh over it - after all, laughter is the best medicine (no matter what my anxiety tries to convince me otherwise), and we all know how hard it can be to raise a simple smile when you're suffering from anxiety.


"Ah, good morning Rachel, how are you today? Pretty good? Well, let's see if we can do something about that. You say you've been sleeping better lately? Not as many disturbing thoughts? Hmm, that's not quite right - I see here that back in university you were given our Anxiety 101 package deal for beginners, which included; panic attacks, a metallic taste in your mouth (to be taken daily) heart palpitations, a persistent feeling of 'unreality' and a nice healthy dose of fatigue? Ah! I see here that you also managed to take advantage of our exclusive offer of 'Disturbing Thoughts To Keep You Awake At Night And Obsess Over For Years To Come' - and how have you been finding that? Does it work? Good.

Hmm...looking at your notes, I can actually see that your stock of disturbing and obsessive thoughts have been dwindling somewhat lately, is that true? You've been feeling happier and calmer in your every day life? Well, I can offer you an anxiety upgrade to fix that if you like? How about our new, 'Rehash Old Thoughts And Make You Obsess Over Them In A New Light' package? Why don't you try our free trial for the next couple of weeks and see how you get on? And while you're here, could I also interest you in a brand new deal, put together just for you? Now, I know you tend to have migraines after a stressful period, so I think I have just the ticket - why not try our 'All-day Stress Headache That Will Also Wake You Up At Night With A Pounding Headache And Disturb Your Sleep So Your Anxious Thoughts Return' package? Does that sound like something you'd be interested in? No? Well, why don't you try it for a couple of weeks and just see how you get on.

Now, your brain told me you've got a very important event coming up - how exciting! Our new package will be just the thing! The All-Day Headache is a new concept that we're trialling just for you - you seemed to have coped rather well with everything else we've thrown at you, so we thought it was high time we gave you a different anxiety symptom to try - and since you're a long term customer, I'll also throw in our tie-in 'Wake Up Early In The Morning, Paralysed By Anxious Thoughts' deal for free too - I know how much you've missed those!

What's that? You don't want to try our new headache deal? But Rachel, how will your brain know you're throughly prepared for your big event, if you don't obsess over it over the weekend and wake up sweating in the night?! Why, it would almost be like you're completely calm and in control, and we can't have that! What on earth would your primeval brain do with itself?! Are you 100% completely sure you don't want to take advantage of this fantastic offer? Think about it carefully - would you rather wake up well-rested and happy, or grumpy and irritable because your sleep has been disturbed so much, BUT you'll have made mental notes on every single tiny thing that you have to do, even though you already wrote it down earlier in the day?

Since you're so exhausted at the moment, Rachel, I think I'm going to go ahead and order this brand new offer for you anyway, since you're clearly too tired to make rational decisions right now. We'll meet again in a few days time and see how you're getting on. Enjoy the headaches! And please, do fill out this questionnaire on your way out rating me on a scale of 1-10 of how much I disturb your life. See you soon, Rachel! Bye bye!"


Writing about my anxiety has been strangely therapeutic - I've never really done it before, but you know what? I've really had enough this week. Enough of my anxiety, enough of the constant headaches and enough of keeping silent about something I should've spoken up about a long time ago. So there you have it - there's my anxiety laid out it's all it's ugly glory. I really hope someone out there - whether you've been suffering from anxiety for years like me, or you've just started - finds this useful to know that you are not alone. Anxiety can take many different forms, and what might manifest itself in one person, might not show up in another, but that doesn't make it any less real or any less scary.

So, to sign off before I start a mega-rant about anxiety and how much it sucks, I just want you all to know - no matter what your anxiety tries to tell you, or how much it tries to drag you down, you are fucking awesome and you can do this. I totally, 100%, believe in you.

Peace x

What are your own experiences of anxiety? Do you stress out more over big events, or does it tend to show up all-year round? What helps you to deal with your anxiety?

Monday, 3 October 2016

Inspirational weekend words...

Where on earth does the time go? One minute you're relaxing in front of the new season of Luke Cage on Netflix on a Saturday night, and the next you're staring blearily at your computer screen, gulping down your coffee and wondering how Monday rolled around so fast.

But I have some inspirational words to share with you today to help you through the Monday blues!

First up, I saw this thread on Twitter over the weekend:

This is my favourite thing I've read in a long time. It made me smile so much, and I just had to share it with you all. It's so so true - there are bloggers that I've known since I first started my blog, and recently, I've seen a few of them winning awards, being shortlisted and getting published, and you know what? I'm so so proud of each and every one of them. They might not know it, but to me, they are all rising stars, and I hope they all know how much I look up to them, and how much I'm cheering for them. Seriously - if you ever feel like throwing in the towel, just read the above and know that to someone, somewhere, you are their star.

Secondly, I also found this article from The Guardian on Sunday morning:

If you have a minute, or if you're looking for something to read at work at lunchtime, make sure you read the whole thing. The Girl on the Train was Hawkins' fourth novel - she wrote it when she was short of cash and wanted to write something different from her normal romcoms. And look what happened - it just goes to show what might happen if you don't give up on you dreams. I'm not saying everyone will become the next Hawkins (as nice as that would be!) but if you write what you want to write, you never know what might come along. 

The other reason I love this article is because Hawkins didn't give up when things were going badly - she rebooted herself, got rid of her pseudonym, wrote under her real name and wrote what she wanted to write. Even if you think you don't have another chance, even if you think you've 'blown your only chance of getting published' somehow or that you're writing the wrong things - don't give up. It's never the end of the journey - so long as you're alive and you can still write, your writing career can be whatever you want it to be.

Although I didn't get to work on my WIP over the weekend (it was finally time to write out our wedding thank you cards), these two things really cheered me up, and resolved my determination to keep writing no matter what. I hope they've inspired you, as much as they inspired me, but just in case you need some more writing inspiration, here's some photos from our Sunday morning walk:

And here's some from the sunrise this morning - it was worth getting up at 6.30am on a Monday morning just to see this:

Have a great week! See you all on Wednesday for IWSG!

What do you think of the tweets/article? Have you come across any articles or tweets that have ever inspired you to write, or not give up on your dreams? How was your weekend?

Monday, 26 September 2016

Three writing updates

Hey everyone, hope you all had a lovely weekend! It's Monday, it's cold, it's rainy and so I thought I'd just share a couple of updates with my writing that happened over the weekend:

  • I'm still working on my social media content posts. I've managed to write about half of my notes up for work, but once I'm done, I'm going to have then decide how to present them on my blog. I think there's a better way than me just randomly writing down what happened during the day, but I need a bit of time to figure all that out. So although I was planning on having my first post out wither tomorrow or Wednesday, it might actually be closer to the end of the week (if not next week).
  • Over the weekend I managed to write 1,600 words of my current WIP. It's not the sequel to Synthetica unfortunately - it's my 'throw-all-the-rules-out-of-the-window' WIP. I can't tell you how much I'm enjoying writing this book. Having no rules when it comes to writing is actually incredibly liberating!
  • I didn't get quite as much writing done as I would've liked over the weekend, as me and the Engineer ended up having a long hard look on Sunday at what we want out of life. He wants to start his own business and I want to make a career as an author (so essentially, we both want to work for ourselves). On Sunday we started to put our ideas into practice by, not only making a plan of what we want to achieve over the next few years, but by actually starting the process of implementing what was in our plan. It was incredibly exciting, and enthusiasm for our ideas is essentially what got me through work today. So although I didn't end up working on my WIP on Sunday, I did get to create and write content for the Engineer's business, which is still writing at the end of the day, and that's what I adore doing (and will still look good on a portfolio!).

So that's it for now - hopefully I'll be back later on in the week with the first of my social media content posts, but as I'm also trying to dedicate more time to my writing, don't be surprised if it ends up being next week instead.

Have a great week!

What did you get up to this weekend? How is your writing going? Have you ever sat down and written a plan to achieve your goals in life?

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Creating social media content

I went to work this morning with my hair still wet. Mainly because I wanted to see what it looks like if a hairdryer doesn't touch it, but also because I was super excited to write this blog post and I had to write it before work because I won't have time tonight.

On Tuesday, I got to attend a 'Creating social media content' course for work. I wanted to go, not just because it would be useful for my day job, but also because I was secretly hoping it would be useful for my author life as well. And wow, am I glad I went!

Some of the stuff the woman was talking about I had kinda already figured out, or had a sneaking suspicion I should be doing but wasn't, but it was so helpful to have someone consolidate all this information and tell me in straight terms what social media is all about.

I went home, excited to get cracking and start creating my own social media content calendar. I immediately put some of the stuff she taught us into practice, and I think it's making a difference, but obviously I'm going to have to wait a while before I draw any definite conclusions.

Today, I'll be writing up my notes from the course for work so I can share it with my team, but I'm also going to be writing it up and posting it on my blog as a series to share with all of you. Hopefully you'll all find it useful too - I'd love to share the knowledge I gained and help out as people as I can. You might find it helpful, you might not, but we'll give it a go and see what happens. If there's anything in particular you'd like to know about, drop me a line in the comments below and I'll see if I have any information on it.

Have a great day!

Have you ever attended a social media course? Did you find it useful? Do you think you're using social media effectively?

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Shooting for the stars...

I heard something that struck a chord with me at work today.

A student had gone to an advisor for help about finding work/advice about where to go in life. Now, I didn't hear the whole conversation, I only heard one sentence of what the advisor said before I walked out of the door, but she said:

"All those people out there are shooting for the stars straight away..."

I'm going to assume (which I know is a very bad thing to do, but bear with me) that she was trying to tell the student to work her way up to whatever she wants to be.

It's a running theme throughout our college - we always try to convey to students that college is a stepping stone to wherever they want to go. We can't immediately get to where it is we want to be - we have to work our way up to it.

 I don't know why, but I've been thinking about that one sentence all day. Lately, I've been putting off doing things; telling myself I don't have enough time, or enough energy, or I have to focus on something else first. But really, it's all excuses.

How can I expect to get to where I want to be, if I don't start putting the effort in? How am I any different to the students around me, who want the world on a plate and expect to get something for nothing, if I somehow just expect success to come to me? (Note: not all students are like that - with some of them, I can't believe how much they achieve in one day!)

I'm trying not to be negative when I see people's successes on social media - I don't want to be that person anymore - but lately, I have caught the green-eyed monster rearing it's ugly head once again. But the thing is, the people's whose posts I'm seeing (going on amazing holidays, have their articles featured in magazines, getting promotions etc) - they've all put the hard work in first. They haven't sat around wishing for something in their life to change, and dreaming of the day they could do X,Y Z - they've actually gone out there and done something about it.

It's time to stop expecting my life to happen, while not consciously doing anything about it. It's time to stop dreaming and to start living the life I want to lead.

Everyone has the potential to be whatever they want to be - we just have to take that first step, and then keep going. We might not land among the stars first time, but we'll be a damn sight closer to them.

Do you think hard work leads to success? Do you have any stories of your road to success, or the steps you've taken to start your own journey?

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

IWSG September: Finding time to write and introducing the IWSG Anthology Contest 2016!

Hello everyone! It's been a long time since we last spoke - there are several reasons for this, the main one being that I've been to four weddings in the space of two months (including my own, and one I was bridesmaid for at the weekend). However, I'm back now, well rested (kinda) and ready to write once more!

I have the huge privilege of being one of the co-hosts for this month's IWSG - I'm so excited! What better way to reacquaint myself with you all than getting to visit lots of fantastic blogs?? Your other awesome co-hosts for this month are:

C. Lee McKenzie, Rachel Pattison, Elizabeth Seckman, Stephanie Faris, Lori L MacLaughlin, and Elsie Amata!

First things first - this month's IWSG burning question is: How do you find the time to write in your busy day?

I have a confession to make: I haven't written anything since about June, apart from a brief writing session sitting in the airport on my way back from my honeymoon. Wedding fever and juggling a new job have essentially taken over my life for the past few months, but now that my wedding season is over for this year, I'm determined to pick it back up again. So I've decided to make a pledge to you all to ease me back into the writing game - while I can't promise to write every day, I'm going to write 500 words at least a week. I know this may not sound like much, but I think it'll be a good way to get back into the swing of things for now. And these 500 words don't have to be on my novel - I'm including blog posts in that word count too, so my blog doesn't get neglected either!

And now, onto the exciting news of the day!!

Announcing the 2016 IWSG Anthology Contest!

Last year’s contest was science fiction – parallel world/alternate history, and the result was Parallels: Felix Was Here. This year, we have a new theme and invite all members to submit.

Eligibility: Any member of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group is encouraged to enter – blogging or Facebook member. The story must be previously unpublished. Entry is free.

Word count: 5000-6000

Genre: Fantasy

Theme: Hero Lost. It could be about a hero turned villain, a villain's redemption, a hero's lack of confidence, a hero's lack of smarts, etc. It can be about any kind of hero including superheroes, mythological heroes, unexpected or unlikely heroes, or a whole new kind of hero. This theme has plenty of scope and we’re open to pretty much anything along these lines. No erotica, R-rated language, or graphic violence.

Deadline: November 1st 2016

How to enter: Send your polished, formatted, previously unpublished story to admin @ before the deadline passes. Please include your contact details and if you are part of the Blogging or Facebook IWSG group.

Judging: The IWSG admins will create a shortlist of the best stories. The shortlist will then be sent to our official judges.

Prizes: The winning stories will be edited and published by Freedom Fox Press next year in the IWSG anthology. Authors will receive royalties on books sold, both print and eBook. The top story will have the honor of giving the anthology its title.

We’re excited to see the creativity and enthusiasm that’s such a part of this group put into action. So don your creative caps and start writing. And spread the word!

Our amazing judges this year:

Elizabeth S. Craig
Richard Harland
Laura Maisano
Russell C. Connor
Dawn Frederick
Michelle L. Johnson
Ion Newcombe
Lynn Tincher

Best of luck to every who enters! I can't wait to read the results!

How do you find the time to write in your busy day? Do you have a set writing plan, or do you just see what happens? Will you be entering the IWSG Anthology Contest this year?

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

IWSG August: This is a recorded message...

Hello my lovelies!

If you're reading this, then you're reading a pre-recorded blog post. Right now as you read this (not at time of writing - at time of writing, I'm sitting in my office drinking tea...), I will be in sunny Italy on my honeymoon because (providing everything went to plan)....I got married on Sunday!!

So my apologies for not being able to visit anyone this month and for ignoring my blog for the past few weeks - but to be honest, I'm not sorry enough to stop drinking cocktails by the sea to check my blog and emails. 

I'll be away for two weeks - two weeks of eating pizza, pasta and gelato and drinking all the cocktails I can handle. I can't tell you how excited I am - after months of (let's be frank here) tantrums, tears and feeling generally frazzled, I'm so looking forward to having some quality time with my other half and just enjoy being newly-weds.

Hope you all have a lovely August, and I'll see you all when I get back!

Have you ever been to Italy? Where did you go on your honeymoon? What's your favourite Italian food?

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Wednesday, 6 July 2016

IWSG July: Wedding Panic

Hello everyone! It's time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group post - once a month, writers from around the internet get together to encourage and cheer each other on. This fantastic group was set up by Alex J. Cavanaugh - if you'd like to find out more or sign up, check out the official IWSG website.

I have a confession to make: I haven't done any writing since my last blog post. In all honesty, trying to learn a new job and organising a wedding has been taking up all of my time lately - I've barely had the time to stop and breathe, let alone write. Which although makes me a tiny bit sad, at the same time, I don't really mind because I know after my wedding/honeymoon I'll once again be free to write as much as I like at nights. And I. Can't. Wait.

I've already had several breakdowns over the wedding - if you think it's all made up about how a bride bursts into tears because some tiny insignificant detail isn't right, or she threw a hissy fit because the shoe shop where she ordered her shoes from didn't get them in the right size - trust me, it's all real. But it's probably not because the poor girl is a bridezilla - she's probably just extra stressed because of all of the extra demands being laid on her, and she doesn't know what she's doing but everyone is expecting her to be in control, and her mum won't stop talking about the wedding even though there are 1000 other things on her mind too. And don't even get me started on the cost of a wedding - despite trying to keep to a budget, somehow costs just keep spiralling (guys if you're wondering what job to do next, I seriously recommend starting up some kind of wedding company...).

But I digress - the main point of this point is to a) reassure everyone that I'm still alive, b) apologise to those of you who have been in touch lately but I haven't replied - I'm not ignoring you, I'm just trying to do 100 things at once and c) to let you guys know that although this post isn't about writing (again), I'm going to just be visiting blogs this week and trying to spread the writerly love/cheer. I seriously can't wait for this month to be over so I can get back to some kind of normality. On the plus side, I'm still thinking/dreaming about my characters amongst all the mayhem, so when August rolls around, I'll be able to dive straight back into writing once again.

Have you ever majorly stressed about your wedding? Or your writing? What are your writing insecurities this month?

Monday, 20 June 2016

Celebrating some good news...

So, you might remember that interview for a Marketing Assistant job I went for a couple of weeks ago. Well, I'm happy to announce that I got the job!!

I was so so thrilled to get the call, I genuinely wasn't getting my hopes up just in case, but I was so happy when they rang. Last week they still had to check my references, so I didn't tell anyone just in case it all went wrong – but they rang me up again on Friday to formally offer me the job, and to ask if I could start on Tuesday (i.e. tomorrow). So I said yes! I'm so so excited! I'm so looking forward to tomorrow and throwing myself into a new role – it's been a long time coming, but I finally feel like I'm exactly where I should be :).

The past few days have passed in a tired blur – I've been working in the cafe five days straight and let me tell you, if you've never been a waitress or a waiter, it's hard work running around all day. I have nothing but respect for waiters and waitresses and chefs everywhere. Today I woke up and the only thing that got me out of bed was the thought that it was my last shift today. I've loved working in the cafe for the past month – everyone has been so friendly, and I will genuinely miss the people I worked with (although I'll obviously still visit for ice-cream every weekend).

I also feel like I've been unusually sociable the past few days; going out for bridesmaids dress fittings, seeing old friends etc. Last night I went to the Full Moon Cinema again (if you haven't already, you can read about ourcommunity run cinema here) – this month's showing was 'Birdman' and, as promised, I took my stash of specially bought chocolate and my parents with me this time. My parents hated the film – I wasn't sure if they'd like it or not, but no, they told me afterwards in great detail how much they disliked it. But on the plus side, they had a good chat with the other people there during the intermission and after the film. And I met another writer! Imagine that - two writers in the same village! This guy is younger than me, and wants to get into writing, so I offered to help him out if he ever needed it – it was so nice to find a real life writer in, well, in real life. Plus, on my day off last week, I finally managed to get some writing done! It was mainly backstory and stuff that I would never keep in an actual novel, but it felt so good to be writing again. I definitely need to make it more of a priority in the evenings.

So that's it! That's all my news! Hope you're all having a lovely week :)

Have you had any good news this week? Have you ever seen the film 'Birdman'? What did you think of it?

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

To dream, or not to dream, that is the question...

I'm coming to the end of reading The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater, and I genuinely don't know what I'm going to do with my life once I finish this series. It's by far the best series I've read in years. If you haven't read it yet and you're into paranormal/fantasy books, I strongly recommend it.

So to stave off the inevitable moment when I have to leave Gansey, Blue and the rest of the Raven Boys behind forever, I thought I'd write this blog post instead. Part of the reason I love this series so much is because it revolves around the idea of different forms of magic; and one of these is the idea of being psychic.

I have always wanted to visit a psychic, but I'm too scared in case they tell me I'm going to die young, or I'm marrying the wrong person or something. True fact: my mum visited a psychic and the woman told her that there were two men in her life, but she'd be married by the end of the year. She was going out with one guy at the time, but she knew my dad through mutual friends - not that she thought anything of what the woman said. But she ended up splitting up with her boyfriend and, in November that year, after a whirlwind romance (kinda) she married my dad.

Given that I raised on that story (and many others involving my godmother and her psychic ways), I've always had a soft spot for the idea of being psychic and predicting future events. So today, I'm going to share with you my brush with being 'psychic' - let me know what you think in the comments below - do you think I'm reading too much into things, or have you had any experiences like my own?

I guess it started out when I was young, but it seems to have gotten stronger over the years. Just simple things at first, that I never gave any thought to - thinking about a song for no reason, then turning on the radio and that exact song would be playing; thinking about a particular Simpsons episode, and then that night, that would be the episode on TV; thinking about a particular person and then that person would text/call me moments later. Just last night, I was scrolling through Facebook, when Coldplay's 'Fix You' came into my head - the very next post I saw when I scrolled down the screen was a video for Coldplay playing 'Fix You' live at a recent concert - bearing in mind not one of my friends went to that concert, or had mentioned the band to me at all beforehand, nor had I heard a Coldplay song in days (I don't particularly like them so I never listen to them). On Sunday at work, I randomly thought about a couple that had come in a few weeks ago and I hadn't seen since...twenty minutes later they were the very next people to walk through the door.

In August 2014 I visited Copenhagen for a long weekend with my friend. I had a good time, but I returned thinking that now I'd seen the city, I had no urge to return. But in February 2015, I woke up one day with the strongest urge to revisit Copenhagen. I couldn't explain it - it was all I could think about. I've never before woken up with such a strong urge to visit a particular city before. For the next three days, I woke up with the same feeling - all I could about was travelling back to Copenhagen. On the third day, the horrific shootings in Copenhagen occurred. My feelings about returning to Copenhagen ceased abruptly. I have never again experienced the urge to go back there.

But it's my dreams that really freak me out sometimes. I've been a lucid dreamer since I was a teenager (because who wants to be stuck in a nightmare, when you can change your dreams to suit you?) - I thought this was pretty normal, until I happened to tell a uni friend one day and she thought  that was the weirdest thing ever. Turns out not everyone can manipulate their dreams...

When I was 12 or 13, I dreamt about a girl at school that I wasn't friends with having highlights put into her hair. The next day at school, she showed up with highlights in her hair. Not a major coincidence perhaps, but still a little strange. But then last year I dreamt that my best friend was getting married - I texted her to tell her and we both laughed about it. The next week, I had the same dream again...three days later her boyfriend proposed to her. He hadn't told a soul he was going to propose, not even his parents or Emma's parents knew about it.

A few months ago, I dreamt about a child in the class I was teaching - let's call him Adam. In my dream, Adam fell over and scraped the left hand side of his face pretty badly. The next day at work, I watched as the other Adam in my class (there were two) fell over on the playground. When I ran over to help him, I received a shock; his face was injured exactly as I had seen it in my dream. The only difference was that I'd dreamed about the other Adam being injured.

The most recent of these dreams happened last week. I dreamt that a man needed an epi-pen because he was allergic to nuts. Even in my dream, I had a very strong feeling about this epi-pen - because the word 'epi-pen' has never popped up in my dreams before, and that's chiefly why I remembered this dream. The next day at work, a couple came in and ordered food but they asked me if I could leave the peas off their son's plate. I said sure, and the mum said, 'it's because my son is allergic to peas - he needs an epi-pen if he has them.' Again, something that could be a trivial thing, but still a very odd coincidence.

I know reading through all these events probably won't sound like much. Even when I read back over what I've written, I find myself questioning if all these things really meant something or not. But even so, I think it's an interesting story to tell. I've always loved dreaming - one of the main reasons I don't like to get drunk is because it affects my ability to dream - I hate not dreaming. To me, it's just normal to dream every night, and then remember them for days afterwards. I can still remember some of my dreams from childhood. It's just something I've trained myself to do. Also, I love trying to figure my dreams out - I find it fascinating when something that has happened to be that day pops up in my dreams. I guess it's a bit weird dreaming about something that hasn't happened yet, but I'm kinda getting used to it now.

Have you ever experienced anything similar? Have you ever had dreams that have come true, or experienced strong feelings about something/someone for no reason? Or do you think that people read more into it than necessary?

Friday, 10 June 2016

Switching off the negative light...

Guys, I just wanted to share a little bit of Friday love with you all today.

I've had a couple of comments saying that I sound happier in my recent blog posts, and the fact is, I feel happier in myself. I feel more at peace with myself than I have for years, and even though I hadn't picked up on it, that's coming out in my writing.

Of course, as you all know by now (I swear I'll stop going on about it soon), the main reason why I feel so much better in myself is because I've moved back up to Cumbria. Although I never would've admitted it in my younger, more rebellious, days, Cumbria is where my home is. Although I still want to travel and see the world, it no longer seems quite like the urgent mission it once was. Don't get me wrong, I still want to travel and explore and do new things...but I know now that Cumbria is the place I will always come back to in the end.

And it's amazing how much being at peace and happy with yourself changes your perception on life. I had an inkling when I lived in Norfolk that I was seeing the world in a negative light, but I never realised until I moved exactly how unhappy I was and how much it affected my day to day life. At times, I felt so isolated and lonely, even though I'm so happy with The Engineer and I enjoyed my day job. But I felt as though I couldn't make proper friends at my job no matter how hard I tried; and if I saw on social media that the group of people from work that I hung out with had met up without asking me, I would cry for days simply because I felt so isolated from everyone. Looking back, it's easy for me to admit that I wasn't in the best place.

Now though, I feel like I'm slowly re-gaining some of my self-confidence. I want to stop and talk to people in the village (on Monday night I spent and unexpected hour at a neighbour's house, just having a chat - this is why I love Cumbria), I've starting to look people in the eye more, and - most importantly - I feel like I can handle situations better. Before if I had a problem, I felt like it was the end of the world. Now if something goes wrong, I may feel a bit anxious, but then I think, 'okay, this is the problem, so let's find a solution'. At the time of writing this blog post, I hadn't heard back from my interview on Tuesday, but even hearing the outcome of that doesn't scare me as much as I thought it would - what will be will be, and I'll just have to face whatever happens when it happens.

And because I feel like I'm in a better place mentally, physically I feel like I'm holding myself better too. I'm standing up taller, I'm smiling more and I'm not ashamed of who I am. Last Saturday, I attended a friend's wedding - the sun was shining, I was in good company, and for the first time in a long long time, I felt good about myself (despite mother bear's insistence that my lipstick was far too red). And there's nothing wrong with that - people should embrace who they are, and celebrate themselves as much as possible. So that's why I've included some photos of the wedding below - because I'm proud of myself to be standing in the sun with my best friend and my family, smiling at the world.

Let's hope that that negative light stays switched off for good.

Have great weekend, folks!

The Engineer, Me and The Sister's Boyfriend

 Ditto :)

Me and The Engineer 

Me and The Sister

Me and The Engineer :)

Have you ever realised that your perception of life has changed because of a certain situation? How did you handle it? What are you up to this weekend?