In a scary couple of weeks that has seen me and both of my adult children become ill with Coronavirus symptoms, I thought I would try to draw some positives out of the current situation.
While I appreciate that the position in the world right now is dire, I always find that positive thinking helps me to fight off anxiety and depression when I’m going through bad times. With concerns over mental health issues during the lockdown, I’m hoping that this post will also help other people to think of their own positives.
- Although there is a good chance that me and my two children may have had Coronavirus (due to the fact that my son has been in contact with Coronavirus patients) the good news is that we all displayed mild symptoms and we have all fully recovered.
- As a home worker I can still work and don’t have to face the additional worry of financial hardship.
- We are going to have one hell of a party when this is all over.
- If a similar situation should ever arise again in the future, hopefully the world will be more prepared and we may have such things in place as vaccines, testing and protective equipment.
- Even though I’m still working, I have a bit more time on my hands. It’s a refreshing change not to be constantly rushing around.
- The time spent on lockdown will give us all time to reflect on how we live our lives so that we can hopefully make changes for better in the future.
- Humanity is a wonderful thing. I believe that current events have brought out the human side in so many people and it’s great to hear tales of people offering support to one another.
- I have had the same bit of cash in my purse for about three weeks and not had to rush to the cashpoint.
- I’ve not had to fill the car with petrol either.
- Many people staying at home are reading more, which is a good thing for authors.
- We can all watch holiday programmes and plan for the wonderful trips we will make when everything is back to normal.
- I’ve not had to do any ironing because who sees (or even cares) what I look like at the moment.
- I am currently focusing on diet and exercise to build myself up in case I haven’t had the virus and also to look after my general wellbeing. I am not eating out, having takeaways or boozy nights out. The upshot of this, I hope, is weight loss.
- I’ve found some online software that enables me to have a virtual party with my friends – maybe I should put the weight loss on hold for the time being.
I know that not everybody can draw the same positives and that some people are suffering real heartache and hardship because of the Coronavirus. However, I’m hoping that many people are able to draw some positives out of the current situation and I hope this post helps.
Watching recent news and social media posts, it’s easy to get swallowed up by all the mass hysteria surrounding the Coronavirus. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not playing down its effects but it’s sometimes best to stop, take a breather and try to take a more positive approach to what is happening.
I must admit that I succumbed to a bit of self-pity this morning. In recent weeks I lost my father and added to that is the fact that my children might not be able to make it home for Mother’s day because of the virus. As part of my coping mechanism when my father died I decided to get out and keep busy as much as I could knowing that I couldn’t afford to revisit the chronic depression I suffered when I lost my mother.
But, recent news announcements suggest that I would be irresponsible to go out any more than necessary and I don’t want to do anything that will place either me or other people at risk. I therefore thought that as a homeworker and asthmatic that lives predominantly alone I might be faced with weeks on end stuck at home feeling bored and depressed.
I think that when something catastrophic like this happens we all look at how it will affect us as individuals and how it will affect our loved ones. Most of us are innately self-interested but I think it pays to look outside of that sometimes. That is what I did this morning and I found that I can draw some positives out of my own situation, and I’m hoping that other people will be able to do so too. These are just my immediate thoughts about my own situation but I’m sure others will come to me:
- As a homeworker I don’t have to worry about not being able to work unlike a lot of bar, restaurant and other workers who will be faced with weeks of no pay or even redundancy. My heart goes out to them – it must be a really worrying time.
- With today’s technology it is easier than ever to keep in touch with people, not only by messaging but also by video link using the various apps available. I usually only do video calls with my children and partner but I’m considering extending this to other friends and family.
- I can do as many exercise classes as I want via You Tube on my TV – Step, Zumba, Tai Chi, the possibilities are endless. And exercise is a great way to lift mood because of those endorphins. I can even extend this to as many friends as I can fit in my lounge while keeping a safe distance and, because we’re all friends together, we could take whatever measures we wanted to protect ourselves without feeling self-conscious. (I’ve got a mental image of us wearing masks and latex gloves, carrying our own bottled water and disinfecting the door handles.) We might even have a laugh while we’re doing it.
- The weather is picking up so it’s a good time to get out in the garden – working or relaxing. There are so many things you can do including giving it a facelift by painting fences etc.
- It’s also good to go out for a walk or a bike ride if you have an outdoor area that isn’t too populated, for example, if you live near the countryside.
- I’m also looking at my diet, trying to eat healthily and take my vitamins to build up my immunity. As part of this I’m trying to cook more healthy meals that I can stock in my freezer.
These ideas have led me to think about other people and steps they could take to help themselves. If you’re facing reduced hours or redundancy then it might be an opportunity to focus on a skill that might prove lucrative in the future. I know the situation is grave at the moment but some good might come out of it in the long run. My own writing career started after I spent a period as a stay at home mum and decided on a complete career change. I can honestly say I’ve never looked back as I wasn’t very happy in my previous career.
There are also opportunities to make money online. You could sell hand-crafted items on Etsy on unwanted items on Ebay, Amazon or Facebook marketplace. You might even have a skill that could make you money online via sites like Upwork, Guru and PPH or even by shouting about it on social media.
I have also been inspired by a couple of news items such as the one regarding the family of a Coronavirus victim in Manchester who have asked for no flowers at his funeral, just acts of kindness. Then there are the two ladies in Altrincham who are making sure that elderly and vulnerable people in their area are not left isolated or in need of shopping etc. This kind of community spirit is needed at a time like this.
Most of us can also draw comfort from the fact that the vast majority of people survive Coronavirus. Currently the mortality rate in the UK is just over 2%. Although it will be difficult for those affected, many of us can look forwards to a time when the virus is behind us and we have survived it.
I’m a bit late with this post but, aside from it having been a busy few weeks with holidays as well as work, I’ve been waiting for some exciting news. I therefore thought I’d combine my news with some details of my plans for the forthcoming year. So, here is my announcement:
I’m delighted to have just been signed by Aria at Head of Zeus for a further two books in The Working Girls series. That means there’ll be five books in total. Here’s a reminder of the three existing books:
The Mark and Ruby have already been published and Crystal will follow in the summer but you can already pre-order it at: http://viewbook.at/Crystal.
I have just started work on book four, Amber, which should be available early next year. Book five is called Sapphire and it will be the final book in the series.
Aside from that, Vendetta, the third book in my Manchester Trilogy is to be published in paperback in May. It will be stocked in bookshops from 7th May but can be pre-ordered online from Amazon, Waterstones, Blackwells and W H Smiths. Later, it will be stocked by The Works.
All five books in The Working Girls series involve prostitution and I carried out a lot of secondary research for the first three novels. A character in the forthcoming two books spends a period of her life as a homeless person and I have therefore been carrying out research on the plight of Manchester’s homeless.
Recently, I visited Lifeshare, a Manchester based charity for young homeless people and for a couple of days after that I found it hard to concentrate on writing book four as it has affected me so much. I think a lot of us have preconceptions about the homeless and, like a lot of people, I carry on walking if I pass a homeless person. This is mainly because I feel at threat as a lot of them are unpredictable due to drug and alcohol abuse.
It is true that a lot of the homeless are hooked on drugs and alcohol but this doesn’t apply in all cases. Many young people have just had a bad start in life; whether from a broken home or brought up in care. There are also instances where young girls are encouraged by an older boyfriend to take drugs until they reach the point of dependency and are subsequently thrown out of home by their parents.
Hearing stories of some young people and the trials and tribulations they face on a daily basis has made me view things in a different light. Everybody deserves a chance in life but unfortunately some people never get that chance. There are a wide range of circumstances that lead to homelessness and/or drug addiction and not all of them are down to personal choice. Certain factors can have a knock on effect so that one thing leads to another, for example, a young person brought up in care might have been encouraged to take drugs by an older child and without parental influence that child might become more susceptible to peer pressure.
Although I still wouldn’t approach a homeless person directly, I do want to help in other ways. Homeless charities carry out important work and are a lifeline to many unfortunate people. As well as donating, I will be publicising the work of homeless charities through my books. If you would like to make a small donation to Lifeshare, here is the link: https://www.lifeshare.org.uk/donate/.
Apart from giving me invaluable information, Lifeshare have put me in touch with other organisations involved both in homelessness and prostitution so I’ll be carrying out further research to help with books four and five. This will begin with a visit to the MASH (Manchester Action on Street Health) centre early next month. This is another important charity that provides help and support to female sex workers in Manchester. You can find out more about them or make a donation at: http://www.mash.org.uk/get-involved/.
More Author Talks
I am currently in talks (pardon the pun) with a couple of groups regarding author talks and I intend to organise some others in the future. Although nerve-racking, I am starting to enjoy the experience. It’s a good way to spread the word about my books on a local level, and I always enjoy the opportunity to chat to readers.
So, all in all, I think I have a busy year ahead but I count my blessings to be earning a living doing something I enjoy so much.
I am pleased to announce that Blood Ties, book two in my Manchester Trilogy, will be available in book shops from today, and will be stocked at Blackwell’s, The Works and others. This follows on from the print launch of book one, Born Bad, in April and there are plans to launch a print version of book three, Vendetta, later next year.
We celebrated the launch with a party, which started off at Blackwell’s book store in Manchester and continued on to the bar a few doors down. It was a fantastic night and was a pleasure to share it with some of my wonderful readers, fellow authors, publishers, and family and friends. Here are some photographs of the event:
The print launch of Blood Ties will be followed by Vendetta, book three in the trilogy, which will hit the book shops later next year.
It’s launch day for Ruby, book two of my Working Girls series and I’m so excited. I loved creating the character of Ruby as she is so feisty and formidable. She’s also completely different to Maddy, featured in book one, The Mark, as she was vulnerable and prone to errors of judgement.
Here are all the links to digital suppliers if you still haven’t bought your copy:
- Amazon all territories: http://viewbook.at/Ruby
- Kobo: http://bit.ly/2Sgd6sg
- Google Play: http://bit.ly/2T65ahm
To remind you of what the book is about, here’s the book blurb together with the cover image:
THE STRONGER SEX.
Ruby has always been strong. Growing up with a feeble mother and an absent father, she is forced to fight the battles of her younger siblings. And when a childhood experience leaves her traumatised, her distrust of men turns to hatred.
ON THE STREETS.
With no safe place to call home, Ruby is desperate to fit in with the tough crowd. She spends her teenage years sleeping around and drinking in the park, and by the time she is sixteen, prostitution has become a way of life. But Ruby has ambitions, and she soon moves up the ladder to become the madam of her own brothel.
But being in charge of a brothel has its down sides, Ruby faces her worst nightmare when an enemy from the past comes back into her life, and gang intimidation threatens to ruin everything. Can she find a way to beat her tormentors? And will she be strong enough to see it through?
I do hope you enjoy reading Ruby.
Following on from my previous post in which I said I would write more posts that fellow authors and aspiring authors might find useful, I decided to share my tips for keeping a Schedule of Events. Below is a sample of my Schedule of Events for the first few chapters of The Mark. For me this document is just as important as the manuscript itself as it helps me to quickly pinpoint exactly where I am up to in a novel without having to wade through pages and pages of text.
The ability to do this is particularly valuable if you have to spend long periods away from your work in progress (WIP), for example, if you go away on holiday or if you have other commitments which mean that you can’t always spend as much time on your WIP as you would like. For me, I can be writing one novel when my publishers come back with edits for the one that is currently in production. That means I might have to put my WIP to one side for a few weeks while I action the developmental edits so it’s useful to have a Schedule of Events when I eventually pick it up again.
|Maddy is interviewing prostitutes in the Rose and Crown who are Crystal and some others. When the prostitutes become nervous of someone standing at the bar, Maddy packs up her things and goes.
Gilly the pimp is standing at the bar and he comes over to talk to Crystal, his girlfriend who is on the game. He spots Maddy walking away and asks Crystal what is going on. He starts to become curious about Maddy.
Finished with Rob 2 months prev
|Maddy makes it home just in time before her ex-husband Andy brings her daughter Rebecca back. Maddy’s friend, Clare, rings and invites her to a night out. We find out a little about Maddy including her most recent eight month relationship with Rob.|
|Crystal meets Gilly in the Rose and Crown and gives him her earnings. We see how badly he treats her. He tells her to go ahead with the meeting with the journalist.|
|Crystal’s 2nd meeting with Maddy, told from Crystal’s pov.
Gilly’s POV as he watches the meeting between Crystal and Maddy through the mirror at the back of the bar. He is becoming increasingly intrigued by Maddy. When she leaves the pub he follows behind her.
|Gilly follows Maddy home and then goes back to his seedy bedsit. We see the contrast and see him chasing the dragon.|
|A week later
Night after prev scene
|Maddy goes on her night out with Clare. She meets a man called Aaron who is good looking, tall, slim and blonde.
Maddy gets a message from Aaron the following night asking her out and she texts him back saying she’d like to see him.
My Schedule of Events isn’t just useful for keeping track of where the plot is heading; it also serves several other purposes. You will notice that there is a Week column and a Day/Time column, and these help me to figure out my timeline for the novel. I’ve mentioned in a previous blog that timeline is something I often struggle with so these days I keep a note of anything time related as I’m writing the novel.
I also keep a note of anything that might affect the timescale and these are shown in red italics, for example, the fact that she was wearing a jacket rather than a coat in the first scene of chapter one, indicating that it is unlikely to be mid-winter. By keeping a note of all these time-related details it has made it easier for me to work out the timeline for my novel although I must admit that I still find it the most challenging aspect of writing a novel. That’s probably also down to the fact that all of the books I have recently written form part of a trilogy or a series of books, which complicates matters more than if I was writing a standalone novel.
In the Event column I have detailed what happens in each chapter with a separate paragraph for each scene in the chapter. You will also notice under the Chapter column that I keep a note of how many pages constitute each chapter. This makes it easier when I’m producing a second draft or doing the edits as I might want to extend some scenes, shorten others and maybe switch some scenes around. By keeping a note of the page numbers I can make sure that the whole thing balances overall and that there isn’t too much different between chapter lengths unless this is deliberate, for example, if I want to add a particularly short but impactful chapter.
I hope these tips help you in organising your own WIP. You might think of a few items to add to the Schedule of Events. If so, I’d love to hear your ideas as they might help me too.
Taking a look at my recent blog posts, I have noticed that most of them relate to my own books. It’s been such a busy time that I’ve neglected to produce the type of blog posts that I used to write. I therefore decided to write a post that other authors and aspiring authors will hopefully find useful. However, if you would like to receive an update regarding my books, you are welcome to subscribe to my mailing list at: http://eepurl.com/CP6YP and I will send you a copy of my latest newsletter giving details of all my forthcoming new releases in digital and print as well as a price reduction on one of my existing books.
I’ve mentioned the Writers Bureau a few times previously, and I would certainly recommend their course to anybody thinking about writing as a career or as a way to earn extra income. But what if you want to become a writer without committing to a lengthy writing course? That’s when books aimed at writers can be useful. As well as studying with the Writers Bureau I have read several books for writers, which I still refer to either as ongoing reference books or to brush up on techniques. Here are a few I have found useful:
How to Write your First Novel by Sophie King
Sophie King has produced an excellent book here and, although it’s aimed at someone writing their first novel, it’s a good guide for any author. I re-read it to recap on a lot of the techniques I learnt on my writing course. Some of the topics it covers include: finding ideas, voice, plotting, creating characters, viewpoint dialogue, setting, show don’t tell etc. etc.
Writing a Novel and Getting Published by Nigel Watts
This is another good guide covering many of the topics in the previous book. However, the writing style is not as straightforward as that in the Sophie King book. I also found that not all of the chapters appealed to me, especially the one about the Eight-Point Arc as I find this type of novel writing too formulaic. It includes a useful chapter on marketing at the end of the book.
Creating Suspense in Fiction by John Paxton Sheriff
This is a really useful book, which takes you through the various ways in which you can create suspense in your novel including creating atmosphere, building suspense through the prologue and first chapter, foreshadowing, hooks, cliff-hangers, time-limits and much more. I’ve actually begun reading this for a second time, hence the bookmark. When you are immersed in a novel, it can be easy to forget about creating suspense so it’s always useful to have a recap.
Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran
I read a Kindle version of this book at the start of my independent publishing journey and found it invaluable. It is relatively straightforward to publish online these days and this book provides a starting point to get your book out there. The author has also followed it up with two further books about how to market your book once you have published. It was through reading one of David Gaughran’s books that I learnt how to run a successful promotion on Amazon which, in turn, led to me being spotting by my publisher.
I remember being told by my English lit teacher back in my sixth form days that Roget’s Thesaurus was the best thesaurus available and a must for anyone studying A level English lit. I therefore invested in a copy and have had one ever since.
This thesaurus should be read in a particular way i.e. by looking up the word in the back and then following the numbered alternative, which best matches the word. For example, ‘enchanted’ is listed with four alternatives, all of which are adjectives: pleased, enamoured, bewitched and magical. If you are using the word to mean enamoured, for example, then you will find number 887 next to the word ‘enamoured’. In the front part of the book you would then go to the number 887 rather than page 887. There you will find a huge list of words that relate to the word ‘enamoured’.
I don’t use Roget’s all the time as I often want just a quick fix alternative word which I can find by either using MS Word or my other thesaurus by Collins. However, there are times when only Roget’s will do and it will often throw up ideas that you haven’t even considered. For anyone who loves words and their use and meanings, I would strongly recommend a copy of Roget’s Thesaurus.
Fowler’s Modern English Usage
I often use Fowler’s when I’m writing and want to check my grammar. It’s an excellent quick reference guide to grammar and invaluable to any writer.
I am sure that there are many more useful books on the market for aspiring or existing novelists but the above are just a few that I have personally found helpful.
After writing two trilogies it has been so exciting to work on a new series of novels and develop a whole new set of characters. The Mark was recently published and, although this book is the first in my new Working Girls series, it can also be read as a standalone. The same applies to all of the books in the series as each novel tells a separate story which, with the exception of The Mark, concentrates on a particular working girl. However, each book in my Working Girls series will have links to the other books in the series and some character overlap.
It is now a few weeks since The Mark was published and books two and three, Ruby and Crystal are already available for pre-order on Amazon. As I am progressing well with books two and three I thought it would be a good time to introduce you to some of the main characters in The Working Girls series.
On the surface Maddy has it all – a good job, nice home and lovely daughter. She’s also intelligent, classy and attractive, and has a way with people. But Maddy has a weakness for the opposite sex, and has several failed relationships behind her. In the aftermath of her divorce she still feels vulnerable and tries to bolster her ego by dating men much younger than her. Unfortunately this leads to problems in her life that ultimately threaten to destroy her.
Young, good looking and a successful businessman, Aaron seems too good to be true. He uses his charms to woo Maddy and soon starts to dominate her life. But Aaron isn’t all he seems and, as The Mark progresses he reveals more of his sinister side.
The ruthless pimp that develops an obsession with Maddy, Gilly is bad through and through. He is skinny and scruffy looking, and is a drug addict who uses his income from prostitution to squander on drugs and alcohol. Gilly is abusive to his partner, Crystal, and refuses to acknowledge the child they have together. People are wary of Gilly because of his nasty streak. As his obsession with Maddy develops we are left wondering what the outcome will be.
She is my favourite character since Rita in The Riverhill Trilogy. Standing at almost six foot and with a slim but muscular physique, Ruby is a formidable woman. She is feisty and fierce and won’t stand any nonsense from anybody. She also has a profound mistrust of men due to childhood experiences. But, despite her feisty side, Ruby has a good heart. She is a loyal and caring friend and is always willing to help out when needed.
Crystal is a complex character. Although she is basically good at heart, she is driven to desperate acts because of her compulsion for drugs, her love of Gilly and her need to take care of her daughter, Candice. Despite some of the things she does, Crystal has a conscience and tries to only hurt the people who she feels deserve it. She has been through a lot in her life, which has toughened her up even though by nature she is actually quite a sensitive person. When she goes on a revenge mission she targets the men who have treated her badly during her time as a prostitute, and we see her change from submissive to vengeful.
And there’s more:
This post features the main characters in the books that are now available through Amazon. However, although I am currently only contracted for these three books, I have a further two books in mind. I’m not revealing the characters in those books yet because I’m not sure whether I’ll be writing those next or something different. Also, the idea for the fifth book is a bit sketchy at the moment and needs more research in order for me to flesh out the outline a bit more. I’ll keep you up to date as things develop.
A while back I was invited to do an author talk at a Manchester based writing group and, although the thought of it made me break out in a cold sweat, I agreed. This sort of thing is well out of my comfort zone and I think the last time I did any public speaking was over 25 years ago. However, I realise that, these days in particular, authors need to become more visible and interact with their readers so it was something I was determined to do.
I decided the best way to start would be with friends and family so I asked my children for some tips as they’re both university students who are used to doing this sort of thing. I was pleased to find that they were really helpful and understood my qualms.
Next I decided to get in some practice on family and friends then extend it to larger groups of friends of friends. It was great to get their feedback and I found that each time I gave a talk I was feeling increasingly more confident. As I tend to over breathe when I’m nervous, one of my friends recommended meditation to practice steadying my breathing, and I have found it a great help.
My friends and family have been such a tremendous support as usual in helping me to overcome my fear of public speaking. I would like to thank each and every one of them as I benefited greatly from their input. What also surprised me was that I wasn’t just relieved after my first practice session but I also felt a tremendous buzz knowing that I was well on the way to conquering my fear. Having said that, I conducted the practice sessions from my own home (bribing friends with snacks and alcohol) so I still needed to conduct the talk in a strange environment.
After several practice sessions I went along to the writing group that had requested the talk. It was daunting walking into a room full of strange faces knowing that I would soon be standing in front of them for the next hour giving my talk then answering questions. However, I tried to keep calm by telling myself that I had already conducted the talk several times before so it was essentially the same talk but to a few more people. Plus, whenever I start getting nervous and out of breath I pause, take a deep breath and continue. It was also good being able to take along my brother and his partner who helped with some of the practicalities as well as giving me moral support.
I’m thrilled to say that it went well. It took till about halfway through the talk before my nerves settled but I’ve watched a video recording and am pleased to say that the nerves don’t show. The video recordings extend to over an hour altogether with roughly half an hour for the talk and another half an hour for questions as well as a short reading afterwards. Unfortunately I’m a bit lacking in the technical department so I’ve not figured out how to upload a video recording of the event on WordPress. Therefore I’m afraid I’ve only got pictures to share. However I managed to upload a short clip to my Facebook page if you want to check that out at: https://www.facebook.com/HeatherBurnsideAuthor.
I think that so often in life we are held back by our own negative thinking as we convince ourselves that we can’t do the things that feel scary or alien to us. But I’ve just proved to myself that I can do this so I’m determined to continue giving talks in the future. I am really pleased to have already received some positive feedback from the writing group and I have already been invited to speak some more.