Book Review: Write Smart, Write Happy by Cheryl St. John

I love creating worlds, developing characters and plotting their stories but I struggle with the art of writing and getting the images in my mind written in a coherent, enjoyable way. Part of this is the crippling self-doubt which I have talked about lots on here and some of it is the fact I haven’t got a clue what I am doing. To combat this I am reading around the subject. Thank you to F+W Media and NetGalley for giving me the copy in exchange to an honest review.

Title: Write Smart, Write Happy – how to become a more productive, resilient and successful writer

Author: Cheryl St. John

Publisher: F+W Media, Writer’s Digest Books

Blurb

Vanquish Your Writing Doubts & Obstacles

Writing is a vulnerable occupation; it is both personal and intimate. The act of writing, cycles of revision, and the confusing publishing industry can shatter a writer’s confidence, leaving you feeling like an imposter, overcome with rejection. Survival–and success–requires commitment, honesty, courage, resilience, sacrifice, and miles and miles of heart.

You have everything you need as a writer–it lies within, in the form of consistency and self-confidence. With Write Smart, Write Happy, best-selling author Cheryl St. John will help you unlock your skills, guiding you to overcome every hesitation, obstacle,  form of writer’s block, and procrastination habit you have. Within these pages, you’ll learn to:

Organize your writing life by using a planner, scheduling your yearly goals, and acknowledging career plans.Sharpen your saw by recharging your creativity, developing positive motivation, and creating healthy writing habits.Affirm your beliefs by overcoming self-doubt, learning to use affirmations, and altering your thinking.Conquer remaining fears by releasing tendencies towards perfectionism and establishing strategies for habitual success.Written with a no-nonsense attitude, St. John’s “advice from the trenches” will help you take an introspective look at your own writing habits and life. Through examples and inspiration from writers who struggled with–and overcame–rejection and reservations, discover the path towards writing smarter and happier today.

My Thoughts

This is an encouraging book which helps put writing worries in perspective with advice that can be used in all aspects of life. Cheryl St. John has written over 40 books for Harlequin and Silhouette so has a wealth of information to share including organising your time and work. She is an advocate for planners and gives detailed examples of her own schedule. This is helpful but for someone as disorganised as me it was overwhelming and left me feeling daunted at the challenge ahead, despite her empathising everyone works differently. I nearly stopped reading but am glad I continued because the advice on self-doubt and the chapters beyond came into their own when I hit a writing slump. It is full of quotes to remind you about the realities of writing, positivity, affirmation, tips to help you deal with disappointment, failure, social media and pressures of being a writer. The focus is on traditional publishing so it discusses dealing with editors and deadlines. She backs up all her advice with her own experiences. One of the main messages, like many of these books, is just sit down and write.

Would I recommend?

 If you are struggling with the stress of all aspects of writing, editing and publishing or crippling self-doubt this may be the book to read. It has tips I use regularly and is aimed at writers at all stages of their career.

 

Happy reading and writing

 

Food Glorious Food and Books

I don’t know about you but when I am reading my brain makes connections between characters and objects that are impossible to break. For example, bumble bee tights will always be associated with Louisa Clarke, red shoes are Dorothy’s unless they are ballet slippers and then they belong to Hans Christian Andersen’s ballerina. Sometime it is places, the Yorkshire Moors will always conjure up images from The Bronte sisters but most of all it is food.

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Food plays a large part of my bookworm life. Not only are there cookery sections on shelves to tempt me, fiction is littered with references to it. It is a dieter’s nightmare. No one writes about being ecstatic over a carrot  except Eric Carles in The Hungry Caterpillar but he was excited to eat everything. While reading, my taste buds tingle, my mouth salivates and my stomach grumbles along with the characters until my will power shatters. I have been known to eat cheese on toast, bacon butties and cake at midnight purely because of a book I was reading. I am glad I live in a tiny village with no open takeaways otherwise I will be eating chips too. It adds a whole new dimension to the eating and reading experience. To feel the velvety texture and warmth as chocolate melts in your mouth at the same time as your current heroine is divine. Or to rip into a freshly baked loaf while indulging into the adventures of Polly Waterford in the Little beach Street Bakery . Some authors are more responsible for my unhealthy eating habits than others and have perfected the art of food descriptions to a tee. Eating is a multi-sensory experience and talented authors capture that so turn the pages into a scene from Nigella Lawson cookery programme. They make me taste, feel and smell the food. No wonder I find my diet impossible to stick to.

Sometimes it makes me more adventurous,  to try something new.  I remember as a teenager fantasizing about Twinkies (I tried them last year and sorry they weren’t as nice as I imagined) and being fascinated by fried chicken, cornbread and potato salad that would always be taken to barbeques on 4th July, especially in Nora Roberts books. While I can leave the chicken and cornbread potato salad has become one of my must-haves in the summer now. Every Autumn I buy a pumpkin insistent this will be the year I find a pumpkin pie recipe that lives up to the mind-blowing experience described in many books.

Fried breakfasts in cafes always remind me of Diana in The Discovery of Witches where she is served mounds of it after a rowing session. Pouring loose leaf tea from a pot reminds me of Marthe in the same series. Jelly Tots will be forever linked to Lily from Sunflowers in February and although hot chocolate is a favourite of many,  it will always associated with Taryn Leigh’s description in Perfect Imperfections. The way she makes it is heaven. Baking occurs in many books for its relaxing properties and business opportunities and I am always grateful to kind authors who supply recipes in the final pages. I have not made many but there is a sense of comfort knowing if I want to I can indulge, just like character x on page 45.

 

The Joy of Baking

 

Authors and books that tingle the taste buds

  • Flavours of Love by Dorothy Koomson
  • Chocolat by Joanne Harris
  • The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
  • Jenny Colgan – all of her books. Visits to the traditional sweet shop visits will always be connected to Rosie’s Hopkins’ Sweet Shop of Dreams.
  • Isabella May tempted me with cake in Oh What a Pavlova and now she is delving into the world of cocktails with The Cocktail Bar which is out this month. I need to stock up on the Blue Curacao.
  • Valley of Secrets by Charmian Hussey for its tempting Cornish apple turnovers
  • Lost for Words by Stephanie Butland – chips at Whitby are bliss.
  • Roald Dahl – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Definitely not The Twits nor George’s Marvellous Medicine.

When I think of my own WIP, food connections are lacking unless you count the warm spicy Parkin baked for Amber’s dragon hunting adventures or Mrs M’s cookies left on the side as a treat. No one would suddenly crave rabbit stew or fried Ellfaenian grubs so maybe in my next project,  food should play a central part. Researching woud be fun.

What food do you connect with characters? Does the mention of food enhance your experience of the book?

Happy reading!

 

 

Writing Slumps and a Little Gem of a Book

Yesterday was a bad day.  My intentions of having a productive day fell apart rapidly. After reading my previous attempts at writing the beginning of my current WIP my confidence shattered. I have been struggling with where to start the novel for ages so I have focussed on other scenes but the beginning needed to be tackled.  I could not translate the visions in my mind on to the page, the writing did not flow, and I struggled to find the best place to start so the reader is hooked. I closed the tab and reread some blog posts I had written the night before. They also did not work. Self-analysis kicked in, comparing myself with the productivity and talent of others and self-doubt took hold. I began to question

  • The wisdom of self-hosting my new blog instead of remaining in the free away from WordPress platform. I miss the interaction with others and the sense of community. My followers plummeted since the move.
  • My writing ability
  • Productivity – I am so slow compared to others
  • My ability to balance writing, ambition and family life

 

I was ready to click the delete button.

But then I logged on to my favourite facebook writers group and blurted out my feelings. It was not long before I received support, commiserations, and advice. This helped so much. Never underestimate the power of the support in online groups and friends. They get you through bad days.  After a good old fashioned cry, door slamming and consuming vast amounts of Jelly Tots and Yorkshire tea I began to feel better.

I also opened a book I had wished for on NetGalley, Old English Medical Remedy by Sinead Spearing. Thank you, Pen and Sword for granting my wish.  It was different to what I was expecting but it is a perfect gem of a book which would make the old witches of Ellfaen clap their hands in glee. It is full of information, remedies, and beliefs of 9th Century and it gave me my spark back.

Today I am back on my PC  in my writing space that I had to vacate over  Christmas for visitors and back to writing.

 

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Thank you to all my online friends and fellow writers!

 

Thank you very much to Mai Taylor,  Viola Bleu, Kiltie Jackson and others I don’t know your blogs – yet!

How do you get over writing slumps?

Happy writing!

 

Book review: I Should be Writing: A Writer’s Workshop by Murs Lafferty

The first book review of the year is Murs Lafferty’s book I Should be Writing: A Writer’s Workshop I first read this book when I received a digital ARC from NetGalley but I loved it so much a physical copy appeared under the Christmas tree. Sometimes only a real book will do.

One of the main reasons I enjoy this book is its straightforward and concise nature.  I may have heard some of the advice before by browsing the web and reading other writing books but the waffle is stripped away, leaving a book that is like a personal cheerleader on my desk, encouraging me to stop procrastinating and write.

Her language, delivery of the information and the inclusion of the conversations between a fictional muse and bully fit my way of thinking. After all, I have my own muse, Elsie. The chapters are short (handy for a brain which has a tendency to get distracted) and covers all aspects of writing including

  • writer’s doubts and fears
  • tools you need
  • myths
  • writing your first and second draft
  • editing
  • self-publishing
  • traditional publishing

At the back, there are several exercises to complete to help you on your writing journey after all writing is a journey and not just a destination. Now I need to catch up on her podcasts and the others she recommends.

Have you listened to any podcasts on writing and what books on writing would you recommend trying?

Happy writing!

Blue Monday, Domestic Abuse and Free Book – Isolation Junction

Christmas is over and bills are hitting the door mat in anticipation for Blue Monday. It can be a hard time for everyone but it also causes the risk of domestic abuse to escalate. Domestic abuse happens behind closed doors but the statistics are eye opening. In 2015/2016 affected 1.2 million women and 651,000 males*. It can happen to anyone. It is not dependent on age, class, race or gender.  Author Jennifer Gilmour has popped over to talk about  why she is offering her debut, Isolation Junction, free for 5 days at this time of year and how it came about.

Jennifer Gilmour speaks about why she is giving her novel away for FREE

Author Jennifer Gilmore

My name is Jennifer Gilmour and I am a survivor of domestic abuse, I have published two books both with a focus on raising awareness about domestic abuse at their core. Whilst both aim to raise this awareness one is written as a work of fiction whilst the other is a compilation of survivor stories and therefore non-fiction. Both work in different ways to educate and raise awareness of this insidious and unacceptable behaviour.

Over Christmas, incidents of domestic abuse reported to the police rise. Assault and domestic murders increase 25% during the festive period with a third of them been on Christmas Day itself. Bombarded with images of the perfect nuclear family gathered around the gold baubles of a Christmas tree, it can be easy to forget that Christmas is a time of coercion, punishment and violence for many women** and men.

Now I know it isn’t Christmas anymore but January can be just as bad be-cause all those credit card bills come in alongside your usual direct debits. There is even a day in January called Blue Monday and this year its on the 15th. The date is generally reported as falling on the third Monday in January, but also on the second or fourth Monday, or the Monday of the last full week of January.
The formula uses many factors, including: weather conditions, debt level (the difference between debt accumulated and our ability to pay), time since Christmas, time since failing our new year’s resolutions, low motivational levels and feeling of a need to take action.
Can you imagine this formula and applying it to an abusive relationship?

For 5 days my debut novel, Isolation Junction is going to be FREE on Amazon Kindle, this is the first time ever to happen. It’s the week before Blue Monday, I wonder if those reading will be inspired to take action?

I ask you all to share the link and break the silence surrounding domestic abuse.

 

UK link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01LX4HLT0

US link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01LX4HLT0

 

Synopsis of Isolation Junction

Rose is the mother of two young children, and finds herself living a robotic life with an abusive and controlling husband. While she struggles to maintain a calm front for the sake of her children, inside Rose is dying and trapped in ‘Isolation Junction’.

She runs an online business from home, because Darren won’t let her work outside the house. Through this, she meets other mums and finds courage to attend networking events, while Darren is at work, to promote her business.

It’s at one of these events that Rose meets Tim, a sympathetic, dark-haired stranger who unwittingly becomes an important part of her survival.

After years of emotional abuse, of doubting her future and losing all self-confidence, Rose takes a stand. Finding herself distraught, alone and helpless, Rose wonders how she’ll ever escape with her sanity and her children. With 100 reasons to leave and 1,000 reasons she can’t, will she be able to do it?

Will Tim help her? Will Rose find peace and the happiness she deserves? Can Rose break free from this spiralling life she so desperately wants to change?

 

If you need support you can contact National Domestic Violence helpline on 0808 2000 247 or check out Jennifer’s page http://jennifergilmour.com/support/

** https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/welfare/2015/12/it-s-hardest-time-year-why-domestic-violence-spikes-over-christmas