Music – the soundtrack to my life

P1010066I wonder what songs or pieces of music you would choose to represent the soundtrack to your life? When I wrote my blog on “If music be the food of love …” I was thinking of the music and musicians in my books. I confess I have a ‘thing’ about men’s hands playing the piano, and that comes into Drumbeats, Walking in the Rain, Finding Jess and the new novel A Shape on the Air. In fact, Walking has a song title for each chapter which fits the plot but is also a kind of soundtrack to my own life. It was fun to look back at decades which were significant to me – my teenage years, my student years, first boyfriend and first serious relationship,  getting married, having children. etc, etc. OK, what would my ultimate list be?

First boyfriend: I Wanna Hold Your Hand

Teenage years: Cryin’ (over you)

First serious relationship:: Dedicated (to the One I Love)

Student years: A Whiter Shade of Pale

Getting Married: The Things we do for Love

Breaking up: Everything I Own

Getting over it: I can see clearly now

Second family life: You lift me up

What are yours?

My friend Elaina James has a lovely blog in Mslexia about which she, in her own words, says:

“My blog series has focused on chasing your writing dreams, told from the perspective of a lyricist with stage fright. The final blog focuses on the unexpected chance to turn my words into an actual song with music.”

It’s a great blog series and I do recommend it for a good read. It’s at

http://www.mslexia.co.uk/author/elainajames

and Elaina’s website is

http://www.elainajames.co.uk

Do check them out.

 

 

 

“If music be the food of love, play on …”(Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night)

 

My homage to the Bard on the 400th anniversary (last weekend!) of his death, is a quotation which often comes to mind and is very meaningful to me. Just as certain music is the soundtrack to my life (another post on that to come soon!) also music is the sound track to my writing and often works its way into my novels.

In my children’s book, S.C.A.R.S, it’s rap. In Drumbeats it’s (apart from Ghanaian village drums and 1960s pop) the piano pieces which my hero Jim plays for Jess, for example Fauree’s Cantique do Jean Racine and Mozart’s Requiem. And also the LP records he plays her of Mozart’s clarinet concerto in A and of Bach. In my latest, A Shape on the Air, it’s Nella Fantasia, probably made famous by El Divo but played in the novel by mandolins.

Maybe music is the food of love, because my heroines have a habit of falling in love with the men who play this music to them. In Drumbeats, Jess loves to watch Jim’s hands and fingers as he plays the piano and it touches her heart. There is something about a man’s hands playing the keys sensitively that stirs her (and me!). In A Shape on the Air, Viv plays the music on her ipod and the Rev Rory has the same on his voicemail.

As I write, I always listen to music, usually classical but sometimes the songs I’m learning for Rock Choir. If I’m writing music into my words I always listen to those tracks to inspire and set the scene for me – get me in the mood.

Recently, I’ve been interested to read my lovely friend, Elaina James’s blog in Mslexia  about which she, in her own words, says:

“My blog series has focused on chasing your writing dreams, told from the perspective of a lyricist with stage fright. The final blog focuses on the unexpected chance to turn my words into an actual song with music.”

It’s a great blog series and I do recommend it for a good read. It’s at

http://www.mslexia.co.uk/author/elainajames

and Elaina’s website is

http://www.elainajames.co.uk

Do check them out.

A NaNoWriMo winner!

 

P1010589deopgard

Having spent the whole month of November ensconced with my laptop writing the draft of my novel A Shape on the Air, I managed to win the NaNoWriMo challenge on the final day. Phew. What a great motivator NaNo is every year. It helps me to get ahead before the Christmas season when all goes haywire. I wrote my 50,000 words and will now edit and revise until it’s a book ready to go to my publishers. It’s a time-slip present day to early medieval times (Dark Ages) romance and I’m having great fun writing it.

Somehow I’ve also managed to have a few days in London at the RNA winter party and the Society of Authors AGM, panel discussion and party. I got to the golf club dinner dance and the Warwickshire county golf annual dinner, two RNA chapter lunches, had weekend visitors, supervised two doctoral vivas and a mini-viva, and helped my daughter with her Masters dissertation which is about to be submitted! Phew times 100.

So November has probably been the busiest month of 2015. Now to prepare for Christmas and all the pre-season busy-ness! I wonder what you are all doing! Happy December! x

NaNoWriMo begins

deopgard A Shape on the Air, a fantasy time-slip story of two women separated by 1500 years. Can they help each other to survive?

Goodness, I can’t believe it’s a year since the last NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month each November when authors are in hibernation furiously tapping out manuscripts on their laptops in solitary confinement. This year I decided to be organised and to have everything planned out beforehand so that I can – hopefully – make the most of the drive to word count targets. So, I registered my novel title and elevator pitch. most importantly, I got  my writing buddies up there ready.

Most of October was supposed to be spent in prep. But, don’t you just know it, my schedule for preparation ie my planning, my timelines, my character profiles, etc, etc, kind of became academic when I sprained and broke my ankle. Yes, coming out of my gym! OK, I know – gyms are dangerous places. I was trying to get fit for all this writing.

Undeterred, I rigged up my laptop on my lap … not easy … but isn’t that what they’re supposed to be for? Prep was going very slowly until this week. The last week in October, just before NaNo starts, and I’m panicking. But d’ you know what? My ankle well and truly ibuprofen-gelled and strapped up, now I can sit for short stretches at my computer and write, in between sitting on the sofa, foot propped up, planning with the old-fashioned pen and paper.

So, I’m more or less there. Ready to complete my masterpiece – or at least my manuscript in four weeks. Wish me luck … I’ll let you know how I get on.

My Lovely Blog Hop

I’ve been invited by the wonderful Berni Stevens at http://bernistevens.blogspot.co.uk  to join in the Lovely Blog Hop. Berni is my talented cover designer at http://ww.BerniStevensDesign.com. She’s also a writer of fantasy romance. The blog hop is intended to let you in on a few of the lesser-known things about my life that have helped make me who I am. You’ll find some links to other blogs and writers I like. The writers have all agreed to take part hopping and blogging and being lovely!

First Memory

Sitting in the branches of my favourite tree in our garden, reading, of course. I spent a great deal of my childhood reading and writing (and climbing trees and building treehouses! I was a bit of a tomboy!). I had real friends but many of my best friends were the characters in books: feisty girl heroines who had the adventures I wanted, too.

Books

My first books that I remember clearly are the Anne of Green Gables series. My mother used to read them to me, I think from way before I really understood any of them! I loved them. Gilbert Blythe was my first fantasy romance. And Anne was my role model: feisty and brave. You see a theme here? I think I subsequently read every LM Montgomery available! I collect old books: leather bound, gold tooling, silk bound, hide bound – you name it. I have a wonderful 17th century family bible and an early copy of Pilgrim’s Progress. I love the feel of them in my hands. I have a tatty early copy of Winnie the Pooh which  my daughters loved – here it is, all fixed together with cellotape! Books are to be used not kept in a cupboard! P1000783

I never thought I’d get used to kindle reading, and I resisted for a long time, but I travel so much and for fairly long periods of time, and being an avid reader, I simply can’t pack all my reading in my suitcase, so my kindle was actually a blessing! There I have hundreds at my fingertips. I spend a fortune on Amazon; I think I single-handedly keep them in business!

Currently I’m reading Sophia’s Secret by Susanna Kearsley (also published as The Winter Sea), which was recommended to me by Amanda Grange who also set the seeds in my mind of the book I am now writing for the RNA NWS. Thanks to Mandy!

Libraries/Bookshops

My life! My husband has to drag me out before I borrow/buy the whole stock. I spent a lot of my childhood in libraries; there were just too many books I wanted to read for me to afford to buy them. I was (and still am) a voracious reader. And I love those bookshops with coffee and relaxation areas. There’s a wonderful one near us, in the cathedral quarter, called the The Bookshop Café that serves lunches too.

One of my biggest memories of my daughters’ childhood was going to the local library for the story telling sessions and we all sat on huge bean bags drinking orange juice and coffee.

I love having a pile of books waiting to be read and having the joy of thinking – which one next? It’s not quite the same with a kindle, but … hey ho …! Here’s my first book The Old Rectory on special display at one of my favourite bookshops, The Bookshop at Kibworth: Bookshops April May 2014

What’s Your Passion?  

I have quite a few! Apart from reading and writing, I love walking in the countryside and cooking for family and friends. There’s nothing like a great chat and a laugh over a good meal and a glass or three of wine! Family and friends are very important to me and the joy of my life.

Choral singing has given me a great deal of joy over the years, especially in a local choir where the range encompasses classical, modern, gospel, rock and pop. They also say it’s very good for you (I have long term asthma) so there are health benefits from singing too. The utter joy of reaching the soprano highs in Mozart’s Requiem in the Albert Hall last year was fabulous. It sent shudders down my spine – an inspiring, ethereal moment to share with the others. Here’s me ready for it! P1010060

I also love swimming; I’m not a strong swimmer but I find it relaxing and it makes me feel fit, especially when it’s somewhere hot in an outdoor pool!

One of my greatest passions has to be travelling and exploring new places. We aim to go away overseas at least four or five times each year: I love Italy, France, Spain, Portugal. I’ve travelled quite a bit in the USA, Australia, and West Africa, although there’s far more to investigate! We have an apartment in Madeira where we go and chill out every summer.
P1000847 I would really love to explore India and China. And I’ve never been to the Caribbean which I’d love to do; we’re planning a cruise … I’d love to visit the island where Death in Paradise is filmed! A cosy crime romance novel coming up??P1000860

A recent passion: meeting and chatting to the very supportive folks in the Romantic Novelists’ Association, both online and in the flesh. They are such a lovely, generous, giving crowd and I love them all. So important for the isolated writer, sitting over a hot keyboard! Writing is essentially a lonely profession, by definition, so you need those contacts, the ready support and encouragement, and time out with like-minded folks.

 Learning

I always loved English: literature and language, but also I was intrigued by the way people behaved and interacted, and I ended up at university studying English, Psychology and Sociology. It turned out fortuitous because I did my PhD in socio-linguistics. Getting my doctorate was a real highlight of my life: a “mature” student and on my second marriage. I truly believe that it’s never too late to do what you want.

I hated Maths at school because I hated the teacher: she was an Amazonian woman, very severe and impatient, fair hair stretched back in a bun, large winged glasses on her nose. She scared me to death. When O levels came along I was determined to get a good grade in Maths (which we needed for university entrance in those days, along with Latin, which I loved) – simply because I couldn’t bear to retake and have Mrs Schneider for another year! I remember taking all the Maths text books home and systematically ploughing through them. And suddenly the whole thing clicked! A eureka moment! I got an A, the same as for English. Sheer determination. And strangely enough it stood me in good stead when I had to do statistics and economics as part of my Sociology!

I’m convinced that motivation is a prime factor in learning. And a good sympathetic teacher who can inspire that motivation. Later I became a school teacher and latterly a university lecturer and researcher. I love helping pupils/students to research and learn.

I can’t get enough of researching; I love that part of writing – I’m constantly investigating on Wikipedia and finding papers and books on the time, country or subject. I find learning new things very exciting. I drive my family mad calling “Hey, did you know that …?”

Writing

I’m literally just about to publish the second in the Drumbeats trilogy called Walking in the Rain. It follows Jess from Drumbeats, back from Ghana and about to go to university. She marries the man she truly believes is the love of her life, but then discovers that he is not the man she thought he was. There’s tragedy and danger again for Jess. How does she cope?

Drumbeats Berni    WALKING IN THE RAIN_300dpi

and the last in the trilogy, due out early 2016 …

I’ve always written – I mean literally ever since I could hold a pencil in my tiny hand. But you need support and encouragement and I lacked that (“writing isn’t a proper job!”) and ended up following the conventional route through school, university, teaching … etc etc!
I wrote many academic papers and contributed to multi-authored books in my subject, but creative writing (preferably novels) proved elusive, mainly because I didn’t have the time: marriage, two children, divorce, fulltime sole bread-winner, remarriage, two step-children…

Then I started writing again, egged on by friends, and eventually published a memoir/recipe book (The Old Rectory: escape to a country kitchen) about our acquisition and renovation of a Victorian rectory in the heart of the English moorlands, along with recipes from my country kitchen.

After that, there was no stopping me … I made wonderful writer friends, joined groups for support, and the rest is history! As well as adult novels, I like to write for children, the 9-14 age range, and my first published book for this group came out last autumn – S.C.A.R.S, which is about a troubled boy who slips through a tear in the fabric of the universe, to find himself on a quest in a fantasy medieval land. I think I might just write more in that vein!

Currently I’m working on my novel for the RNA New Writers’ Scheme (brilliant scheme!) which is a romance with a time shift element where the heroine finds herself slipping into a parallel universe of the early middle ages.

HOT NEWS UPDATE: Just 3 days ago I received a new publishing contract, so watch this space! All my books are available on Amazon in both paperback and ebook editions, at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Julia-Ibbotson/e/B0095XG11U/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1377188346&sr=1-2-ent

and a book trailer to enjoy, for Walking in the Rain https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3pUErb8cZc

and for its prequel, Drumbeats https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2OYlEXhHvsc&list=UUP3hKZjeUBuTMoyvZmBXbow

I nominate the following friends to take up the baton in the lovely blog hop:

Pauline Barclay at http://www.paulinebarclay.co.uk/

Lizzie Lamb at http://lizzielamb.co.uk and at http://newromanticspress.com

Rachel Brimble at http://www.rachelbrimble.com/

Gwyneth Williams at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Gwyneth-Williams-Author/1518528911735022?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

And some more to come, hopefully, which I’ll add!

New book soon out: Walking in the Rain, sequel to Drumbeats

WALKING IN THE RAIN_300dpi

The second in the Drumbeats trilogy: Walking in the Rain due out very shortly, in time for Easter! It continues Jess’s story from Drumbeats when she returns from Ghana to the UK, and sees her through her marriage to someone she believes is the love of her life. But what happens when she realises that he is not the man she thought he was?

Tragedy and danger stalks Jess’s life. How will she cope?