Monday, 27 April 2015

Retreat and Advance

We arrived in Whitstable on Saturday afternoon in glorious sunshine, four writers away for a week with the aim of leaving distractions behind and getting on with it. Entering into the spirit of the thing did we begin working immediately? Of course not. Instead we walked along the front and drank in the atmosphere, going out in the evening for a first class meal at the Samphire prior to starting work in earnest on Sunday morning…and start we did.

This isn’t the first retreat I’ve been on and I’m well aware of the benefits of dedicating time to a particular project, and we all have one of those. With a study, lounge, conservatory and large kitchen accommodating a large table, all inter-connected, we sat, each of us, in a different part of the house and all that could be heard was the clicking of keys as Elaine Everest, Francesca Capaldi Burgess, Elaine Roberts and I lost ourselves in our own little world. A new novel was begun, the first three chapters of another finely tuned and a third, at something over ten thousand words in, expanded upon. My own work in progress is a first draft and I am hoping to use the time to develop my characters, maybe to introduce a new sub-plot and generally to complete the first edit, though I have no expectation of finishing it in the time available. That said, it’s amazing how much can be achieved in a morning when the phone isn’t ringing or, with one designated coffee break, one isn’t jumping up to make a drink or feed the cat or, well, anything other than writing.

I looked up at one point to see the other three in rapt concentration and I realised that I had no idea what they were seeing or where they were. In this country? In Australia or the US? Our stories would all be different, the only similarity being that they would all have an element of romance. We are, after all, romantic fiction writers.

I know crabs walk sideways
but this is ridiculous
Whitstable is a quaint seaside town, one we’ve all visited before.
Having satisfied ourselves that we’d used the morning wisely we set out to explore the High Street, not populated by chains but with individual shops carrying individual wares. We indulged in a little window shopping. Back at our holiday home (holiday?) we resumed our positions and that is where I am now, writing this ready to post tomorrow morning so that the rest of the week can be dedicated to what I came here to do – to work. Tonight though we will of course be watching the final episode of Poldark!

Let no-one underestimate the potential of taking this time out to get away from it all. From past experience I know that by the end of the week we will have achieved far more than had we been at home. We will have worked together, eaten some fine meals together, drunk a glass or two of wine and, by next weekend, will I am sure have formed the intention of doing the same again at the earliest opportunity. If you have the opportunity try it. I can’t recommend the experience too highly. 

Friday, 17 April 2015

You Wait for a Bus and Two Come Along at Once

You may have wondered if you follow my blog what happened to Monday’s post. I have been waiting until today so I could share my wonderful news with you.

One of the dictionary definitions of kaleidoscope is a continually changing pattern of shapes and colours - and that's just what my life feels like at the moment, but in the best possible way. It's customary, I know, to start at the beginning but in this case there isn't one, not really. Actually I'm wrong, there is. Or at least a platform from which to bounce.

It all began with me joining the Romantic Novelists Association's (RNA) New Writers' Scheme (NWS) and graduating in my first year with my debut novel, Safe Harbour. In spite of having had several short stories published, there was nothing like the thrill of seeing my book and name in print for the first time; to see the product of my labour of love sitting in pride of place on the bookshelf. 

This morning the RNA announced the shortlist for the Joan Hessayon Award for 2015, a prestigious and coveted recognition given by the lovely Dr David Hessayon in memory of his wife to the graduates of the NWS. You can see the announcement here. To be named as one of the contenders is a huge thrill and you will see from the link that I am in wonderful company. There are fifteen of us in contention this year - what a tribute to today's romantic novelists and to the RNA for running the New Writers' Scheme and giving so much opportunity to its members. For those of you who would like to read it and haven't yet done so, here is the link to Safe Harbour. 

A writer is never idle. If we aren't actually putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard we are busily turning plots around in our heads. My apologies to anyone who sees me staring off into the middle distance when I am supposed to be taking part in a conversation. Now you know the reason. So I am just as thrilled to announce the publication today of my second book, Honey Bun. You can find it here. It's more a novella than a novel but I think it has a genuine 'feel good' air about it - well, it does for me. I hope you enjoy it as well. 

I shall be in and out of Facebook and Twitter today where some lovely messages have been posted to me and my fellow contenders. The writing community is one I am happy and grateful to be a part of. Oh, and with my third manuscript in the hands of my agent, Lisa Eveleigh, I am now in the process of writing my fourth book.

Watch this space! 

Monday, 6 April 2015

Jean Fullerton - Carry On Nurse

How better to celebrate Easter than with the lovely Jean Fullerton telling us about her new novella, Easter with Nurse Millie

I have to say Student Queen’s Nurse Daphne Villiers has done the rounds a bit. She first appeared in Call Nurse Millie as a nurse on the ward when Millie visits her mother – she’s still on Truman Ward if you want to see her in an earlier manifestation- then when the wordage count went over the 145,000 mark she had to be pulled.

I tried to tell her and Father Christopher’s story again in All Change for Nurse Millie but this time it wouldn’t fit. The plot line of Millie’s heart-breaking personal life meant she wouldn’t have been in a position to supervise Daphne so I had to remove her again. I even tried to slot her into Fetch Nurse Connie, out on 4th June, but again Connie wouldn’t have been able oversee both her and Student Josie Baxter who I’d already developed a sub-plot around so poor old Daphne had to sit it out again.

I was just musing over whether I could finally tell her story in Connie’s second book – as yet untitled – when my publisher approached me to write a Spring novella. Finally, I thought, Daphne would have her day! However, when I came to review the half dozen scenes I had already written I could see quite clearly that while Father Christopher would survive the transplant Daphne, as I’d originally written her, would not. The original Daphne was prim and proper and Millie is a bit tongue in cheek, sometimes inviting the reader to share the joke. This is quite all right for a secondary character with just a walk-on part but it wouldn’t have readers warm to Daphne or cheer her on so there was nothing for it but to re-write.   
Unlike my last novella Christmas With Nurse Millie, which is set between the end of Call Nurse Millie and the start of All Change for Nurse Millie, with reference to both I decided to write Easter with Nurse Millie as a stand-alone story. 

I’m in the process of pulling together a blog tour for Fetch Nurse Connie’s release and I’ve just written a piece for my chum Alison Morton’s blog about how authors both build and then inhabit the worlds they create in their minds. How even when we are not using them or writing about them our characters continue to live so if we decide to add to their story the world we created moves forward with them. With this in mind, instead of setting Daphne in the pre-NHS world of 1945-48 that I’d explored in my previous books, I decided to shift my East London nursing world forward six years to 1954. Millie has been married for five years now and the old Nursing Association’s Munroe House has been swept away in the 1950s slum clearances and has been replaced by a modern NHS building called Munroe Clinic with the nurses’ home, Robina House, behind.   

Also instead of a generic spring novella I decided to set Daphne and Fr Christopher’s story during Holy Week 1954 and make Father Christopher the curate at Stepney parish church the hero.

I think it’s a nice twist and I hope, if you feel inclined to read Easter with Nurse Millie you will agree.

Easter with Nurse Millie.

Spring is in the air for the nurses of Munroe House and as Easter approaches Nurse Millie is playing matchmaker. Daphne Villiers, a student nurse, is still suffering from the heartbreak of losing her fiancĂ© two years earlier. A new arrival to the East End has the potential to brighten her spirits and turn her life around, but will she be able to let herself love again? With the help of her friends, Daphne might find that Easter really is the time for new beginnings.                                             
Orion Fiction 99p
‘A delightful, well researched story that depicts nursing and the living conditions in the East End at the end of the war’ (Lesley Pearse)
‘...The writing shines off the page and begs for a sequel’ (Historical Novel Society)
‘…you will ride emotional highs and lows with each new birth and death. Beautifully written with some sharp dialogue.’ (THE LADY)
Facebook: Twitter: @JeanFullerton__

It seems I have a lot of catching up to do, Jean. I am at present in the middle of (and thoroughly enjoying) Call Nurse Millie. I may be some time.