#1stdraftdiary – Week 1 (0-14,000)

IMG_5818

Mood lighting 🙂

This is an easier week than usual, because I’ve taken a week’s leave from freelancing. I have a chest infection that’s slowing me down a little, and it’s just two weeks since I delivered the proofs of The Book of Shadows – Nine Lives Trilogy 2. Also, I’m just back from Listowel Writers’ Week, as well as my Caramel Hearts launch in Dublin, so my energy is low – but time doesn’t stand still and it’s time to get cracking on The Book of Revenge – Nine Lives Trilogy 3! It’s due to publishers on October 31st & I’ll need it to be on at least draft 3 or 4 by then. Here goes…

#1stdraftdiary Day 1: Some words are stolen from deleted scenes from Book 2 (approx 300). Today was a real slog – it was difficult to switch off from the publication & (double) launch of Caramel Hearts, so it felt like I was connecting back with the characters and little more than that. Probably the hardest day of writing yet – and this is my fourth book so I didn’t expect that! Instead of feeling pleased that I’ve started, the day ended feeling rather glum. Word count: 2012

#1stdraftdiary Day 2: I decamp to a friend’s house for a change of scenery as a pick me up. She’s an artist and works with music on somewhere else in the house and I make an important discovery – I can work with music on if it’s not in the same room! This isn’t particularly relevant for me on a day-to-day basis because I live in a mobile home, so everything sounds like it’s in the same room! But it’s a discovery all the same. The change of walls, desk, light works and I manage to get a great word count down. I know that these are all the wrong words and usually I don’t care – but this time, I’m unsettled. As I close my computer down, I realise where I should have started and know I have to start again. I don’t usually do this, but the book is due September 30th & there isn’t much room for mistakes so I delete a whole chapter. Word count: 4521

#1stdraftdiary Day 3: And start again! But the day is warm and muggy and promising sun, and it’s calling to me. I walk the dog six miles instead of the usual three before it gets too hot. An essay I want to write keeps bugging me, so I decide to think about this when I’m walking, and then concentrate on my first draft when I am stationary. It works! The essay begins to form and then I sit at the water’s edge half way through the walk, writing more of my book using notebook and pen, moving now and again to avoid a pair of territorial swans. When I return home, I write up my thoughts on the essay, then type up the book. Because I started again (something I don’t usually do), I’ve gone backwards – this puts me 1500 words behind schedule. Word count: 3500

FullSizeRender (62)

7,200 words!!!

#1stdraftdiary Day 4: I finally connect with my old way of working. Thanks to a brief conversation with Celine Kiernan on twitter, I realise that the start has been slow because I know the characters (this is book 3 after all!!) so I’m automatically editing and criticizing, when usually I let these things go and write freely, without the little nagging voice. And so, I force that voice to switch off and gallop on, feeling much happier with the actual writing part! End of day, I’ve caught up a bit; still 800 words behind schedule but it’s early days and certainly nothing to worry about – plenty of time to catch up. Word count: 7200 

 

#1stdraftdiary Day 5: Woke up in a mild panic. The garden had to take priority, meaning a trip to Bantry to buy plants, then weeding the beds and planting before any work can get started. By 4.30, I still have 30 minutes of garden watering to do and no writing. Beating myself up severely about this for several hours of the day, but when I finally get to sit down, the words flow quite happily and I realise what a pain I’ve been to myself all day. Feeling rather joyous when I shut the computer down. Word count: 9100

FullSizeRender (63)

#1stdraftdiary Day 6: A great day in terms of word count: I catch up and get ahead of myself. However, I had to cancel a street party with a friend, and also abandon the dog to my husband for the day to make it. I’m finding that #1stdraftdiary is revealing plenty to me about the way I work and also, all the ups and downs. I hadn’t actually realised what a daily rollercoaster it is! I’m also receiving messages from other writers saying the project is inspiring them to get started / making them feel better about their own process / interesting to read. That makes it even more worthwhile. However, I may have overdone it as my mood plummets once the writing stops and that inner voice I’ve been silencing comes out in full force… (You didn’t walk, you lazy so and so. You didn’t give the dog enough attention. Did you do anything nice for anyone else today? Why haven’t you joined this, done that – who are you trying to kid? Etc etc until I distract myself with Western films). Word count: 12,700

#1stdraftdiary Day 7: The promise of an afternoon walk with my husband and dog in one of my favourite spots, Glengarriff woods, gets me up and at it early today, with my word count achieved by 12.30pm. And that’s it on until tomorrow – just a couple of interviews to finish and this blog post, and I’m done for this week! Word count: 14,100

Other achievements this week (like I say, it’s a quiet week):

  • 3 miles walk daily (except Day 5)
  • Newspaper pitches x2 – both accepted
  • Essay notes: 8 pages A4 (happy about this – wasn’t expecting it to sneak in!)
  • Updated invoices, chased unpaid invoices, updated expenses (phew! Relief!)
  • One online interview completed and sent
  • Hay bales brought in (251 in total)
  • Planted fennel, lettuce, kale, carrots, parsnips, beetroot, spinach, mint, sage, rosemary – almost cleared a wild patch but saw bees feeding on the buttercups and felt I should leave it until winter.
  • Travel for Belfast organised (this consists of a walk, a bus, and two trains each way – takes a bit of thought)
  • #1stdraftdiary project started
  • 2 blog posts written/posted
  • Social media for writing.ie

Summary: word count on track, enjoyment of writing process back up to speed, that feeling of being a fraud still niggling but being ignored – looking forward to a new week that includes four nights & three/four events (schools, bookshop & fun day marquee) at Belfast Book Festival.

Advertisements

Summer, New Neighbours & May 19th Caramel Hearts Party (online)!

FullSizeRender (51)

Shiny, shiny books!

Summer is here. The swallows have returned and the cuckoos are calling – it’s a beautiful time of year. I have lettuces and cabbages thriving in the garden, the tomato plants are starting to flower in the tunnel, and I have an array of seeds – hairy basil, kale, sprouts, chillies and peppers – starting to poke their heads through.

And even better, copies of my second book, Caramel Hearts, have arrived. Actual. Physical. Copies. It feels really fast but very exciting, and I’m still convincing myself that it’s real. That this is all actually happening.

However, before I sound like I’m on top of everything, please note: I have completely lost the art of conversation. I’m way behind the usual vegetable planting and I’m struggling to find some time to catch up. I haven’t seen most of my friends in a long, long, time (sorry everyone). And our grass has got so out of control, we’ve had to move some cows in to fix it for us. They’re very gentle neighbours, and as well as fantastic gardeners (the vegetables are protected), they double as great alarm clocks!

FullSizeRender (50)

My favourite thing about this time of year is that the days are long. It’s light until almost 10pm, and dawn breaks before 6am. When you live somewhere with no streetlights for miles, this means freedom! Lots of extra daylight hours for walking, gardening – and maybe, dare I say it, finally catching up with friends? – as well as all the usual writing and freelancing time. This morning, I even edited outside, in the sun, and then had a paddle in the bracing Atlantic. What more could I ask for?

FullSizeRender (49)

Happy tomatoes 🙂

When you do these things during the day in winter, you lose most of your best working hours – I’m a person who thrives on light and finds it difficult to write when it’s dark – but if you don’t, you go stir crazy! And yet, despite the long winter, and my aversion to writing in the dark, I’ve managed to get this far.

This far meaning Caramel Hearts is completed and *almost* here (publication date May 19th) and The Book of Shadows – Nine Lives II is also completed; I’m just finishing up the proofs. My busiest months for festivals and events have passed (there are many more though, with Wexford next – check out my events page) and I’m about to start the final book in the Nine Lives Trilogy. Phew!

But first: I’m going to celebrate Caramel Hearts. I’m going to enjoy releasing it into the world (even though it’s a little bit terrifying)!

Publication day is a strange entity. It means that your books are officially ‘out there’ but other than that, it’s a bit of a damp squib. The buzz is all around the launch, which comes later. However, I’ve decided that I’m going to follow the advice of the lovely Mariam Kobras and make publication day more of a ‘thing’. It’s easy to get caught up in deadlines and forget to celebrate, but you only release your book once and so I’ve decided to ‘cop on’ as they say in these parts and enjoy it.

So, on May 19th I’m having an all day long virtual ‘publication day party’ on twitter, facebook and this blog – and you’re invited! It’ll start around 8am and I’d love you to stop by and join in. It’s a bit of fun, a way to get some conversation about the book started, and a chance to win some goodies!

Hope to see you there 🙂 

FullSizeRender (52)

Pictures & Feedback from Readers :)

One of the best things about being an author is meeting readers. I love talking about books and writing, and I love to hear what readers think. My events are about books in general, not just my own, but I do love seeing how The Book of Learning has inspired people to create something else; a piece of art or work of their own.

Here’s a slideshow of some of the great work by St Patrick’s National School via Drumcondra library:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And some more feedback I’d like to share, this time from Jamie, Realtín, Juli, Jack and Jamie…

  • Today was a good day. Thank you very much.
  • Elizabeth Murray’s talk was very good. We learned a lot.
  • We listened to a chapter from the Book of Learning.
  • We thought it was interesting but a little scary!
  • We then made up a story about a lady called Matilda.
  • Elizabeth told us that she keeps  a notebook for her writing. We think
    that this is a great idea. We met the author Rod Smith last week and he
    keeps a notebook too.
  • We asked Elizabeth lots of questions and she answered them all.
  • We thought she was very interesting and funny.
  • She told us that she takes off her shoes and socks when she writes!
  • We liked her blue hair!

Thank you so much to everyone for your comments and great work! Happy reading! 

It’s not all writing, writing, writing

I have chosen to live in a beautiful, countryside village so that I can enjoy the wonderful natural surroundings and the warm sense of community. I love cities, but I love country life too, and after years of city living, I’ve happily adjusted to my life in rural Ireland.

Although writing is part of my everyday life, so is enjoying the beauty around me. I make sure that I take walks every day; I watch the patterns as seasons change, the habits of birds, the cloud formations. And I also try to make use of the space and resources the best I can to stay balanced and grounded in a world that’s full of technology and social media.

Since signing a book deal, watching the physical book take shape and the sending it out into the world, a lot of my posts have focused on my writing. So, seeing a sI think balance is so important, here’s a brief escape from words and a return to the natrural world.

country garden ireland

Plenty of seed dug up, ready for next year

gardening ireland

Outdoor lettuce looking healthy enough, along with rhubarb (& weeds!)

making apple cider

Lots of sweet apples, windfall & picked, for making cider. Currently fermenting…

gardening in ireland

The onions did well again this year – we have a whole wall to last through the winter

greenhouse growing

Lack of sun meant that the chillies and peppers are way behind. Just starting to fruit now! I’ll be amazed if we get any but I’ll keep trying 🙂

autumn leaves

Autumn is definitely here.

irish calf

Spring in the Irish countryside

One of the spring lambs

One of the spring lambs

Spring is here and this means lambs, calves, daffodils – and lots of ground to dig up in preparation for planting our vegetables. This is a wonderful time of year in the Irish countryside if you don’t mind a bit of hard work and gardening in the rain (or the hailstone, as I discovered last week).

My husband and I have tried planting as much as half an acre of vegetables in the past, all grown organically and managed by hand, but the amount of work involved was incredible and the crops return very little. With so much to look after, it’s really difficult to keep on top of the slugs, rooks, and rabbits, and so this year, we’re sticking with a few drills of potatoes and several raised beds – some in a field and one in the front garden – along with the tunnel.

rural irish garden

Shallots for planting

It’s still early, but so far we’ve got two decent drills of early potatoes sat, and this weekend we planted a bed of shallots. Next week, I’ll be able to plant some of the hardier seeds in the tunnel; lettuce, chillis, and purple beans to start, as well as various pak choi seeds I bought in Thailand.

I’ll wait a little longer for the herbs as they need lots of sun and I’m not convinced there’s enough just yet for them to grow properly. Our greenhouse (‘tunnel’) is built against a shed, so it doesn’t have 100% light – and this, we’ve discovered, means we have to amend the usual planting times for better results.

It’s such a lovely feeling having stuff planted – I love everything about it; the digging, manuring, watching things grow, planting out, weeding – and of course, eating! It’s a great way to get away from the computer, and let your head unwind. And every year, you learn something new.

Growing your own food is just wonderful and I can’t recommend it highly enough. You don’t even need to have a big space available – I’ve helped quite a few people grow their own veg in tiny spaces, including window boxes – so if it’s something you’re interested in but don’t know where to start, just shout!

You can also feel the stretch in the evenings now, which is a real treat when there are no streetlights nearby. This week, we’ve seen flowers burst open, a few pheasants, wild ducks and the first few ladybirds; the sun has been shining and the sea has been the most stunning turquoise imaginable. It all feels loaded with so much promise, it makes you glad to be alive.

Who else has that Spring feeling?

What does Spring mean to you?

irish calf

A young calf, just days old

 

Brain splurge & a burning question…

It’s been quiet on the blogging front because it’s been hectic – so apologies to all.

Schull, West Cork

View from near my home

It ended up easier than I expected to adjust to the cold weather in Ireland after my Cambodia trip; partly because my husband is a great hunter gatherer and has us stockpiled with fuel for this winter and next, but also because – despite the constant hail stone – there have been plenty of blue skies. And everything feels easier when there’s a blue sky.

So, what have I been up to? Actually, quite a bit. In the last two weeks, I’ve completed and delivered the final edits of The Book of Learning (Nine Lives Trilogy Book 1), so next time I see it, it’ll be a proof copy (which means it’s almost a real book).

There’s been plenty of excitement while my cover was being designed – and bang! Now I have a cover! I absolutely love everything about it, and I’ll let you see it as soon as I can, I promise.

I’ve also been accepted on a three-week writers retreat in France later in the year, invited to participate in an exciting new Cork publication (more details to follow) and invited to speak on a panel in Cork on April 25th (again, more info later).

And, breathe…

When it comes to writing books, there’s no rest for the wicked. When you get signed up for a trilogy, there’s lots of work involved in kicking the first book into shape and then…you have to write Book 2! Aargh! Well, I’m happy to report, the day after Book 1 was delivered, I had a rest, then I glued my butt to the chair and started on Book 2.

Three days in and 8000 words have magically appeared on the page – and I’m delighted, because I was starting to get a little scared.

I always write my first drafts completely free form (I think Niamh Boyce uses this approach too, amongst others). Any planning kills the excitement for me and anyway, it’s the only time you get to play before the editing begins. I enjoy editing, but I like the freedom of the first draft. It’s exhilarating and I look forward to the exploration, watching the ideas form a story.

As everyone knows, writing doesn’t pay the bills, so the work front – I don’t include writing as work – has been hectic too. As well as my usual freelancing gigs, I’ve taken on more Reader Reports for the Inkwell Group, as well as Blogging and Beyond courses. I love both of these roles.

Editing or commenting on someone else’s work is useful for your own; it helps you to focus as you write, naturally avoiding mistakes you would make earlier in your career. And as we all need the support of other writers as we stumble our way along, it’s great to know you’re also helping by providing some support in return.

It’s also rewarding to watch people pick up on social media learn to love it, and then make it work for them. Blogging has opened many doors for me, and I hope it does the same for my students.

green fingered writer

The obligatory dog photo

But you’ll be pleased to know, it hasn’t all been work. We’ve managed to get our potatoes in the ground now – the ridges were waiting for ages but it was too wet – and I’ve been clearing other vegetable beds. In the hailstone. Which was pretty refreshing, actually.

There have been endless dog walks and library visits, and I’ve been watching a plethora of westerns (I love westerns) as well as enjoying some fantastic reads/rereads…

I was completely surprised by The Miniaturist and I’ve loved reconnecting with The General in the Piers Torday trilogy. And if, like me (and Barbara Scully, it seems) you’re obsessed with Antarctica, I’d highly recommend Empire Antarctica: Ice, Silence & Emperor Penguins by Gavin Francis.

The online world has been lots of fun lately too, with an incredible buzz and energy around the #YAie & MiddleGradeStrikeBack chats on twitter. There’s a thriving community of writers for children and Young Adults here, and it feels like there’s change – and plenty of excitement – in the air. I feel so pleased to be a part of it, and can’t wait to see how things develop. The World Book Day TeenFest tonight looks interesting – see you there?

And so, now I’ve finally managed to get the blog updated with a brain splurge of drivel that won’t matter to anyone but me, I’d better get back to it.

But I’ll leave you with my burning question…

Hands up, who loves westerns? 🙂

St John’s Eve

Although this is not about writing, it is about one of the things that is (almost) as dear to me and certainly takes up an (almost) equal amount of time during the summer months…

irish traditional farming

And so the fire was lit…

Yesterday was St John’s Eve, the evening before the feast day of St John and an important night in the calendar of any Irish gardener who has planted spuds!

It’s the Irish bonfire night, when fires are lit to bless the crops. The ritual is traditionally performed at sundown – only we weren’t available that late so we lit the fires a bit early. And then for the best bit; we dug up our first stalk of potatoes in 2014.

Despite our hastiness, I’m pleased to report there was no negative impact on the flavour. However, I’m sorry to report that there aren’t any photos of the cooked product as they mysteriously disappeared before the camera arrived! (*Cough*).

Apparently, summer bathing used to commence after this ritual, and it was believed that taking part in the fire burning eliminated all risk of drowning. You can read more about the custom here.

I used to live in Andalucia and – after several years of completing this Irish ritual – I have only just realised that this rural tradition coincides with the wonderful Noche de San Juan Batista.

A celebration held on the beach, Noche de San Juan Batista also centres around bonfires; in this instance, to cleanse and purify, with people leaping over fires to burn their troubles away then running into the sea for good luck. I loved this night, when smoke would permeate the air and hundreds of bonfires would line the nighttime horizon.

I wonder – did any of you observe either of these old rituals last night? I’d love to think we were all lighting fires, keeping tradition alive.

Irish traditions

The pike was then used to unearth the first stalk, breath held.

traditional farming, west cork

Time to carry the loot from the earth to the pot (in your T-Shirt, of course)!