Friday, 17 February 2017

The View from the Shepherd's Hut...

Last weekend the Engineer and I took a few days off and went to stay in a shepherd's hut for a few days.

The Hut in the Sheep Wash

It was amazing - the hut was in a small field in the middle of nowhere. There was a river running at the bottom of the field and the whole setting was just so lovely and peaceful. When we arrived, the woodburner was already on and the owner had very kindly left us some homemade scones to enjoy (which we did, with a cup of tea, looking out over the river). There was no signal and no wifi and, in all honesty, it was bliss. No one could get in touch with us and given the way I've been feeling the last few weeks about social media/internet 'noise' I was happy.

Greeted by a crackling woodburner

Small but cosy

Finishing touches

We explored a little bit of the area and went on a few walks, but because we didn't have internet or a TV, I could sit down and write while the Engineer did his art. The scenery and the location was truly a source of inspiration for us both, and the fact that there were no distractions at all made it even better. We woke up each day to the sound of the river rushing by and birdsong, and one night, the sky was so clear, we sat outside in the cold to simply stargaze for a while. It was perfect.

Morning tea overlooking the river

Well, almost perfect. My anxiety decided to rear it's ugly head throughout the whole holiday, due to a combination of stress at work and finally getting some time to relax. My poor husband was worried, he confessed to me later, he thought I was going to divorce him or something! But the fact is, when my anxiety hits like that, yes I do become more introverted, yes it is harder to talk to me or for me to talk to others  - but that's only because there's such a storm going on inside my head, it takes all of my concentration not to cave in and become a nervous wreck.

Scenic views from the hut, overlooking the field

But apart from that, it was amazing. If you're planning on visiting the Lake District any time soon, I would highly recommend The Hut in the Sheep Wash. It's located in the south lakes and it's a perfect base to explore Coniston, Windermere and Kendal, as well as being only an hour away from the north lakes (where I live! Come and visit me and I'll supply you with tea and cake! And no, that's not bribery for you to be my friend at all *cough cough*...).

So if you're looking for a writing retreat, or even just a few days to get away from in all, The Hut in the Sheep Wash is the place to go!

Have a lovely weekend everyone!

The hut as dusk falls

Have you ever stayed in a shepherd's hut? Would you ever want to? What are your plans for the weekend?

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Walking up fells...

Happy New Year, everyone!

It's still January, so I feel like I can still wish everyone a Happy new Year. I hope you all had a lovely Christmas break - it feels like forever ago now.

This post is long overdue, but it's just going to be a short one today. I did say I would be taking a break from social media, but I never meant to include my blog in that too - it feels like lately my life has been sucked up by work, but now that the mornings are starting to get (slightly) lighter, I've decided to make more of an effort to pick up my life outside of work again. I've noticed for the past few years that January/February are the worst months for me - I crave the sunlight and lighter mornings/nights, and I can't seem to work up the motivation to do anything. But I decided to start small and write this blog post, and then hopefully do some writing later on in the week.

However, this post isn't just about metaphorical fells in my mind - it's about real fells too! (For those of you not from the north of England, a fell is essentially a small mountain :)).

I have some exciting news - the Engineer and I have decided to set up our own YouTube channel! We have our own art company ( and this is kind of a branch out from that. At the moment, we're documenting our weight loss, but we have some very exciting ideas about what to film next in the pipeline, so stay tuned!

You can watch the first episode on our YouTube channel below:

Don't forget to visit our channel page to like, comment and subscribe :)!

Have a lovely day, folks!

What did you think of our video? Do you have a YouTube channel? How's your writing been going lately?

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?