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The White Camellia 2

A few days ago, copies of my book arrived from my publishers, Honno Press.

It’s beautiful. I tore open the packet and lifted out the top one, and sat down and stared. I couldn’t quite believe it was real. Of course, I’ve been looking at the White Camellia 1cover of ‘The White Camellia’ over the past months, and I’ve been working on story for over two years, and this is not my first book – but it still has that punch-to-the-stomach astonishment that it’s there at all.

Holding it lovingly in my hands is a reminder that the creation of a book is such a long, intricate, and at times agonizing process. I love that first moment when an idea hits, like an explosion in the brain, sometimes apparently out of nowhere, and you just know it’s going to work. Then comes the long, hard slog of getting that story down, revising, and revising, and revising until it works. I always find the first rush of enthusiasm inevitably turns to despair at some point, as the whole thing begins to feel like a seriously bad idea, and it just becomes a slog to get to the end, because I’m stubborn like that.

seeds

Then, just as you get it to where you think it’s right, its time for the first outside view. In my case, it’s my editor, the wonderful and totally perceptive Janet Thomas, and the whole process starts all over again. I’ve said before how much I love the editing process. With each book, I’ve also found that each time is different. Each time, I’ve learnt a little more, but also I’m stretching myself, trying something new, and so with something new again to learn. I might pretend to myself that I don’t, but I usually find that the bits that are picked up are the ones that were niggling at me, along with the bits I haven’t thought of at all, and Cadnantwhich are usually down to me still living in the story, and forgetting my reader. Which is where an editor comes in, as a mediator between writer and reader, so that story gets out there just as you want it to be.

I get such a buzz from the to and fro of refining the story, ironing out the glitches and the bits that don’t make sense, and being pushed and pulled and prodded into going places (particularly emotional depth kind of places, where your very soul is ripped apart and hung out to dry) I never thought I’d dare. Then finally, after the line edits and the copy edits, at the point where you loath the story and wish you’d never started this writing lark in the first place, this miracle appears. A real, beautiful, book.

The White Camellia 3

It’s quite strange, glancing every now and again at the copy of my book propped up on my Welsh dresser to be adored as I pass. At the moment it’s in limbo, waiting for publication day. Very few people have seen it, even fewer have read the story. It hasn’t met its readers yet, so it stands there, in a curious kind of existence, both exquisitely real and not yet quite real at all.

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When I saw my first book, ‘Eden’s Garden’, I couldn’t believe it was so small. After all that blood, sweat and tears, it felt it would be at least size of a building. It still felt a bit the same with my second, ‘We That are Left’. With ‘The White Camellia’ it just felt beautiful. It wasn’t any less hard work, but it wasn’t such a totally overwhelming experience. I’ve grown in my writing journey.

 

Juliet in Cadnant

So, while I wrestle with the soggy middle of the next book, and wonder why I ever though this was a good idea in the first place, while making notes for the one after that, which is in the totally pure inspirational state (as in, I haven’t started writing it yet), I’m getting ready to send my latest baby out into the world. I’m enjoying having ‘The White Camellia’ all to myself for a couple of weeks, before she sets out to find her own way in the world, in her rightful place among her readers, and doesn’t really belong to me any more.

Because, in the end, it’s readers who make each book really live – and that, I’ve realised, is the whole point of the editing process, after all.

I can’t wait until September 15th – publication day for The White Camellia’, when Sybil and Bea, and all my beloved characters (even the ones that make your skin crawl) finally become real.

Going home 1

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Today is the official publication day for We That are Left 

we that are left draft 6aug13 smI set out this morning for the usual dog walk, telling myself that this was just another day, and I had plenty of work to do, and there would be time to party later, and anyhow Amazon had jumped the gun and has been selling the paperback for nearly a week, so it was really no big deal.

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Well, that didn’t last very long.

It was a bitterly cold morning, with bright sunshine over Anglesey on one side, and dark clouds over the mountains on the other. We met up with dog walking friends and walked and chatted, and removed Harri the Labrador from An Incident with the remains of pizza in a bin, watched by next year’s prize rams-in-waiting in one field (the ones Phoebe tried to round up under the nose of the shepherd when he left the gate open while serving their hot breakfast, but thankfully came back while he could still remark that she was just being playful, gulp) and the first lambs having a mad race around in another.

P1010404At the point where I would usually go back to my computer, I found I just couldn’t. It might not be the first time I’ve launched a baby out into the world, but it’s still as exciting. Maybe even more so. And I’m still amazed that it has happened. I didn’t quite dare look inside my author’s copies until today, just in case it was a mistake and I hadn’t written it at all. But it’s okay. It’s there. It’s the same book that appeared in my manuscript, so it must be mine!

This morning  I wandered off in a wonderfully aimless way, popping in on friends for coffee and even a celebratory bit of cake.

So this wasn’t the industrious day that I had planned, or the deep and meaningful post I’d been intending to write. But it was a lovely day, all the same. Like most writers, I spend most of my time plotting or writing or social networking or heading off to the day job. Today I didn’t do any of that. I even sat down during daylight hours with a book that had nothing to do with research and just took pleasure in reading.

Now the sun is back, the frogs are sitting in my pond, and I’m throwing caution to the winds and heading off for a glass of something bubbly with a friend this evening.  The parties will come later. Today might have been a very sedate kind of publication day – but for me it was perfect!

Tomorrow I’ll be rolling up my sleeves for the excitement to begin …… 🙂

Juliet With We That are Left

One proud author, who can’t stop smiling!

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Thank you to Lucinda Rose of  Rose Reads  for nominating me for this beautiful blog award. Lucinda nominated me a few months ago – I’ve finally got there!

The RULES for this award ares:

Thank the person nominating your for the award: THANK YOU LUCINDA, and for being bright and beautiful and sunny each time, come rain or shine. You can read all about Lucinda here

Then:

List ten things about yourself

And

Nominate SIX blogs you think deserve the Kreativ Blogger Award.

So here goes! The ten things about me are:

1. My favourite place to visit is Portmeirion

2. My best holiday was a week in Venice with a pass for all the boats, sailing the canals and visiting the islands.

3. My cats are brother and sister and called Mitzi and Maxwell. They kind of get along. In a sibling sort of a way.

4. I love autumn, for its richness and touch of fragility

5. I learnt to swim in a mountain stream. Very cold.

6. When the mountain rescue helicopter comes over my cottage it could be Prince William at the controls!

7. I have two wildlife ponds in my garden. One was supposed to have fish, but the frogs got there first.

8. I hate housework

9. I love gardening and all gardens, large or small

10. I studied photography at Hounslow College. A long time ago. We had chemicals then.

And my six nominees for their stunningly creative, inspirational, colourful and beautiful blogs are:

Claire McAlpine ‘Word by Word’ http://clairemca.wordpress.com/

Susan Jones  http://susanjanejones.wordpress.com/

Cosy mystery author Nancy Jill Thames  http://nancy-jill.blogspot.co.uk/

Carol Hedges author of ‘Jigsaw Pieces’ http://carolhedges.blogspot.co.uk/

Kat Ward http://keepingsane.com/

Brynne http://www.presenceofmagic.blogspot.co.uk/

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I’m really excited to be part of my publisher’s summer special offers for Kindle – and I’m in brilliant company, too! Honno Press are offering four of their books as a good summer read.

‘Eden’s Garden’ is being offered alongside popular crime fiction author Lindsay Ashford’s gripping take on the dynamics of Jane Austen’s family life and her untimely death in ‘The Mysterious Death of Miss Austen’. Based on her own research at Chawton House, once the home of Jane Austen’s brother, this is a must for Jane Austen fans and lovers of crime fiction!

‘Wooing Mr Wickham’ is an anthology of short stories inspired by Jane Austen’s heroes and villains. The anthology is edited by one of my all-time favourite writers, Michele Roberts, and the stories are winning entries in Chawton House Library’s Jane Austen Short Story Award.

Last, but definitely not least, is the short story anthology ‘All Shall Be Well’ – a selection of short stories from Honno’s anthologies published to celebrate Honno’s twenty-fifth birthday. You’ll laugh, cry, and have your eyebrows raised. A great picture of women’s lives and the way they have changed over the past quarter of a century.

Click on the books to download them. Then find a patch of elusive sun, and enjoy!

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This week I went to the Hay Festival. I’ve been to Hay-on-Wye before, but never to the festival itself. Even better, I was going to join in the celebrations for 25 years of my publisher, the amazing Honno Press.

Hay Castle

After weeks of glorious sunshine, it was a cold, blustery day when I arrived with fellow Honno author Hilary Shepherd at the rather muddy parking field next to the festival site. It was soon clear why most people were decked out in coats and wellies. But luckily the rain held off, the flags waved cheerfully in the breeze and the flowers were blooming.

Rain? What rain?

There was so much to see! I had a lovely relaxing day wandering around the festival, soaking up the atmosphere and meeting up with friends for coffee and a leisurely chat.

In the afternoon it warmed up a bit and the sun began to appear, just in time for the Honno party. There was champagne and a beautiful cake made in the shape of three of Honno’s books stacked one on top of the other. And balloons, of course.

Best of all, it was an opportunity to meet some of the founder members of Honno, part of that determined group of women who met around a kitchen table in Cardiff a quarter of a century ago, with a mission to bring Welsh women’s literature to a wider public. Plus meeting fellow Honno authors and friends I’d knew so well via the internet but had never met face to face before.

Penny Thomas, Honno’s Editor, welcoming us all to the party

Afterwards, there was a lively and thought-provoking discussion about the need for Honno in the 80s, when the literary establishment was most definitely male. The discussion clearly affirmed the continued relevance of a press that nurtures women’s voices in all their diversity and puts women’s experiences and life-journeys firmly centre stage.

The discussion in progress

I had a wonderful time in Hay. I shall be most definitely going again, this time to take in more of the talks and the events.

My only disappointment when I went into the Hay Festival bookshop was the total lack of any sign of ‘Eden’s Garden’. Hey ho. Philosophical won out. Honno is a small press, and this is Hay. It would have been nice, but ….

Then when we arrived at the Honno party, there were our books – all ready to be signed! And when – being book addicts to a woman – we all gravitated back into the bookstore after the discussion, there were our books on the ‘Signed Books’ table. That was one hit of a buzz I will never forget! In all my long years of working towards being published, I never even dreamed I would one day be fearlessly manoeuvring my signed book to a prominent position on the signed books table at Hay. Strictly for the purposes of taking the photograph, you understand.


HURRAH!

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Yesterday evening I went to Ty Newydd Writers’ Centre, a beautiful house near Criccieth on the Welsh coast, which was once home to David Lloyd George.

I’d always wanted to go there, and it was wonderful to arrive on a calm and sunny evening for such a happy occasion: the launch of  ‘All Shall Be Well’, an anthology of short stories published Honno over the past twenty-five years.

Accompanied, of course, by a spectacular cake to celebrate Honno’s twenty-fifth birthday, cut by my editor, Janet Thomas.

It was an inspiring evening, filled with warmth and sunshine. And the odd glass of wine. I enjoyed meeting so many people from Honno, many of whom I had worked with during the time ‘Eden’s Garden’ was taking shape, and now I can put a face to the name.

So HAPPY TWENTY-FIFTH BIRTHDAY to Honno. I came home clutching my copy of ‘All Shall Be Well’, eager to start reading and feeling  incredibly privileged to be part of such a nurturing publishing house.

Here’s to the next twenty-five years!

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A Winner is Announced!

Thank you to everyone who entered the competition to win a signed copy of Eden’s Garden.

There were so many entries we had to have a draw to find the final winner. Not from a bonnet – mine had gone missing somehow – but from my lovely old jewellery box. It is an heirloom, although not exactly mine, having been found and pounced upon in a local charity shop, along with the gorgeous necklace.

AND SO THE WINNER IS ….

(drumroll, please)

SUSAN JONES OF WARWICKSHIRE!

Congratulations Susan! A signed copy of Eden’s Garden will be shortly winging its way towards you.

And to demonstrate the actual signing, here is me signing at Waterstones last week. You can read more about it on my website, here

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