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Read it or Hear it – An Exciting Announcement!

Do you read with your eyes or your ears?  Whether you like to hear your books, study them, (or even do both), this post is for you! 

I am delighted to announce that Living in the Mourning Light is now available as an audio book, in addition to the paperback and e-book versions. Check it out on Amazon Audible and iTunes!

Narrator Caroline Cook is an absolute delight to work with. Listeners will soon realise that she didn’t simply read the book; she felt the emotion within the words too. Her voice has a soothing yet expressive quality which sits well with the content.

***Please like and share this post***

I have a limited number of review copies available to download.  If you (or someone you know) would like one, please get in touch directly with me via PM and I will forward the Audible download code. First come, first served! 

https://books.apple.com/gb/audiobook/living-in-the-mourning-light-unabridged/id1558946081

On Sixteen Years of Loss

On Wednesday 28 July, it will be sixteen years since we lost James to a drowning accident in the river Thames at Kingston.  On Sunday 25 July, I will go to Kingston to leave flowers at James’s memorial plaque at the riverside.  It feels like rather strange timing that 25 July is also the World Health Organisation’s first International Drowning Prevention Day.  

There can be few more terrible things to bear in life than the loss of a much loved, beautiful soul who left a legacy of fun and laughter in his wake.  But in grieving, as in many life experiences we encounter, there are choices. Sixteen years on I can look back and know that I have used the ghastliest experience I have ever known to teach me some lessons: lessons I never anticipated having to learn.

There are numerous analogies for the progression of grief and its ever-changing shape.  Today I am using the ‘ball in the box’ analogy, which was shared by Canadian Twitter user Lauren Herschel.  It explains how grief changes over time and why it can still bubble up randomly. Her analogy — and the pictures she drew to explain it — have been retweeted many times since it was first shared in 2017. I have created my own version above.

Picture a square box with a ball inside.  On the left side of the box is a red button.  When grief is new, the ball takes up most of the box and any movement means it hits the button, which causes pain. The unrelenting pressure of grief at this time is huge, overwhelming and literally agonising.  When you are a mother who loses a child, I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that you experience a visceral reaction.  Something in you dies at the same time, and you cannot ever truly retrieve it. I remember the pain of early grief with many descriptors:  at times it was sharp, and barbed, or it could be a dull ache.  Some of the worst pain was on waking.   I would have a split second of being OK, then I’d remember what had happened to James and the pain literally slammed into me; body, mind and spirit. 

Thankfully, over time, the ball in the box shrinks.  But it develops the habit of hitting the button at random moments.  The triggers for this are varied; for example, they may include hearing a piece of music or seeing an image that reminds you of whom you have lost.  They can catch you out too, like the moments when a familiar song comes on the radio when you are driving and you suddenly realise that you are weeping. 

The ball never completely disappears and it continues to occasionally hit the button.  I think I experience this through what is termed ‘secondary grief’ – at events such as weddings, the birth of children, parties to celebrate birthdays … these times when you really feel the absence of the presence of that person who should be there celebrating with you.

Whilst I like the analogy of the ball in the box, and find it a useful descriptor for the evolution of grief, I prefer to think of my life being represented by the box growing in size around the ball, rather than the ball shrinking inside the box.  The grief I feel for my son is the same size now as it was 16 years ago, but my life has grown and expanded with hope and joy, optimism and resilience to face the future, through dint of many supportive resources along the way.

Unexpected events contribute to this, too.  Last month, I saw a post on Facebook by Gemma, one of James’s college friends, saying that she, partner David and her 7-year-old daughter Ruby were camping that weekend, just a few miles from where we live.  (Gemma kindly wrote a piece for Living in the Mourning Light and we follow each other on social media). 

Gemma and I exchanged messages and the family visited us for a cup of tea on the Sunday morning before they went out to lunch locally.  Such a lovely experience! and all the better for being unexpected.  It was so pleasant to chat with someone who knew James all that time ago. 

Gemma has very happy memories of James as a college student.

She said, “James will never be forgotten,” and those are words that I treasure. 

For anyone who is bereaved, fear of their loved ones being forgotten is a reality.  It is a key reason why I constantly reinforce the message that talking about James won’t upset me, rather it is comforting and pleasing.  Perhaps it isn’t the same for everyone but it is certainly true for me.

Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love says, ‘Deep grief is sometimes is almost like a specific location, a coordinate on a map of time. When you are standing in that forest of sorrow, you cannot imagine that you could ever find your way to a better place. But if someone can assure you that they themselves have stood in that same place, and now have moved on, sometimes this will bring hope’.

Today, I am in a place that allows me to bring that hope to others who may be at the beginning of the long challenge of grief.

Never give up hope that you will find, as I have, the mourning light. 

It is there always, even when it is the tiniest glimmer in the darkness.

None of what I have done since James died, and continue to do in his name, would have come about were it not for the love and support of my family and friends who continue to be the rocks upon whom I lean.  A huge thank you! to you all.

I will not flag in my efforts to keep the profile of drowning prevention and water safety high on my personal agenda, particularly since the recent heatwave has led to many more tragic losses.

James’s story, and our grief, loss and the absence of him are now 16 years old, but the message remains as new and valid today as it did in 2005. Please, everyone, take heed of all the advice, share it widely and always Respect the Water.

Living in the Mourning Light Review Request

Launching a new book just as we went into lockdown last year had a somewhat detrimental effect on my marketing plans.  It is not especially easy to promote a grief book; obviously the readership is limited to those with an interest in the process of loss and grieving, but the aim of my writing is always to put the most positive spin possible on the more negative aspects of life experience. 

I must confess to feeling disappointed at the lack of reviews of my new book, whether in paperback, Kindle, or the most recent audio version.  The main way I can know if I created a successful read is to have some feedback; this in turn helps others to decide whether the book appeals to them, or not.

I have added the text below into the e-book version and would truly appreciate it if you could consider writing a review for me.

If you don’t want to post a review on Amazon, or if you do not have an account, but are happy to share your views, please contact me directly via email at andrea.corrie@outlook.com

Thank you very much in advance!

“The best way to thank an author for writing a book that you have found helpful and informative, is to write an honest review. Such requests can feel like a big ask, but I would be really grateful if you could find your way towards the Amazon review page and pen a few lines about Living in the Mourning Light, for other potential readers to consider.

I have replicated the step-by-step instructions for anyone who is not familiar with the process.  You will need an active Amazon account to post a review.

1. Log in to your Amazon account.

2. Go to the specific product page for the book you want to review and then select the book format you used. Click here to access the review page.

3. Scroll down to the Customer Reviews section and then click on the “Write a customer review” button.

4. On the next screen you will see the title of the book you want to review and next to it, a row of five stars to choose your overall rating. Your selection will turn the stars gold.

5. An Add Headline option and a text box Add Written Review will appear below the stars. Please write or paste in the text of your review.  A couple of sentences is absolutely fine.

6. You will see a message from Amazon confirming successful submission of your review and you will then receive a follow up email when it is approved/shared.

7.  Congratulations! You have posted your first book review on Amazon; that was easy!”

A Call to Action in Drowning Prevention

Two years ago, on 21 May, I had the honour of meeting HRH the Duke of Cambridge, Prince William, at the launch of the Tidal Thames Water Safety Forum’s collaborative drowning prevention strategy under the umbrella of the National Water Safety Forum, a group set up to tackle the national issue of water-related deaths and accidents.

At the time I wrote from my personal perspective

“Raising awareness of the danger of any body of water, however innocuous it looks, remains key to the objectives of any present and future strategy.

Every life lost to water is a life too many. 

Every life lost to water affects an immeasurable number of people”. 

Sadly, the latest figures from the Water Incident Database (WAID), which is maintained by the NWSF, show that there were 254 deaths in UK waters from accidental drownings in 2020 across inland and coastal locations; this is an increase of 34 from the previous year.

These accidental drownings form part of the total water-related fatalities in the UK which stands at 631 for 2020, an increase of 10 on the previous year.

For the first time, over 50 organisations are coming together to spread nationally, the key messages of water safety advice, as part of the #RespectTheWater campaign.  Everyone is asked to support and promote the campaign, ahead of what is likely to be a very populous, post lockdown, staycation summer, around our coasts and inland waterways.

Ever since my initial involvement with the RNLI, Fire and Rescue and associated organisations, I have had an appreciation for the commitment of the individuals working so hard to tackle this issue. My heart goes out to all involved in the light of the reported increase, despite all the efforts made to raise awareness. 

May I please urge everyone to flag the matter to themselves, their families and friends to play a part in the desired reduction in water related deaths. 

The aim of the National Water Safety Forum is to halve accidental drownings in the UK by 2026 – that is a mere five years away; this simply cannot happen without the input of everyone involved.  That means all of us!  Please look out for the messages, campaigns and media publicity, and highlight wherever you can, how vital it is to exercise the greatest caution around any body of water, be it large or small, still or tidal.

For more information, please visit

https://www.nationalwatersafety.org.uk/

#RespectTheWater

#FloattoLive

#NWSF

All Aboard … For Some More Memories

All Aboard the Trigger Train!

… the memory trigger train, that is.  I love how small things can trigger a cascade of memories; I enjoy writing about them and I use some well-known creative writing devices.  Firstly, there is the who, what, when, where, why? trick beloved of story-tellers, and then there is always the option to consider writing about the five senses: sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch which combine to produce interesting observations.

The Devon lanes are full of primroses at the moment.  Round every bend and on each corner, these cheerful, resilient little yellow blooms shine in the sunlight.  Their presence triggers a strong recollection for me.  My late parents moved from Surrey to Cornwall on retirement and we often came down to visit.  One day, dad and I were in his car and he pointed to the kerbside “Look”, he said, “all those primroses!  The first of them bloom, just where the sun strikes!”  Dad’s love of the simple pleasures in the changing seasons is definitely part of his legacy to me.  I always think of him when I see the first primroses, and I look carefully to establish if they are indeed, ‘just where the sun strikes’.

This week, it is my brother Peter’s birthday, on 29 April. He would have been 69, having passed away in 2017.  It’s true to say my memories of him are mixed, as he was a complex character and there were long spells when we weren’t in touch.  But latterly, and particularly since Shaun and I moved to Devon, we were able to enjoy each other’s company.  It was the first time as adults that we had lived in the same county and could meet up easily, Peter living around an hour away in Torquay. Peter loved the sea and he often reminisced about Slapton Sands and Torcross in Devon, where we stayed as children.  I remember much about those times too; for instance, the time he and dad went mackerel fishing and we ate the catch for lunch, prepared by the owner of the B and B where we stayed.  We spent happy hours paddling and bathing in the chilly sea off the pebbly beach and I remember the slightly sandy crunch of our ham sandwiches.  Even now, if I make up a flask of coffee to take on an outing, the smell as I unscrew the lid instantly transports me back to mum’s picnics on the beach at Torcross, and in other places.  In those days, motorway services were few and far between and dad often used to park up near a field so we could gaze out over the countryside as we ate a packed lunch, on our travels to the west country. 

In recent times, Peter used to take himself to Torcross on his birthday, walking along the beach and enjoying fish and chips or a cream tea sitting in the sunshine, overlooking the sea.  Perhaps his strongest memory lure however, was far away in Israel.  In his final weeks, Peter became utterly determined that he would take his son, my nephew Ben, all the way to Israel; where he had lived on a Kibbutz when he himself was young.  Despite many difficulties of logistics and Peter’s rapidly failing health, Ben managed to get them both there, somehow.  I know that, traumatic though the trip was, Ben is glad that he fulfilled his dad’s dying wish to share with him some time in the place he loved.  Father and son made some new, albeit very poignant, memories.  Peter died just a few days after their return.

On a happier note, after a recent chat with Stella about memories of her dad, I have started to compile a document that represents my life, so far.  This is proving fun to do!  I started by writing down some key dates and as I began to write about my childhood, half forgotten experiences began to stand out in sharp relief and the more I remember, the more details emerge.  The wonders of Google allow me to revisit former addresses with relative ease and the visual prompts, along with old photographs, are populating the document.

I think that writing a personal history is incredibly important.  Now that my parents and brother are gone, plus other family members, there is no one I can ask to fill in some of the gaps in my history.  Everyone’s memories shape and round us out, and whether they are happy, sad, funny or tragic, they are always worth passing on to the next generation.

I cannot of course write about memories, without mentioning James.  My memories of him remain clear, bright and untarnished by the passage of time.  And of course I have written much about him and will continue to do so; but it still delights me when anyone who knew him, shares with me something he said or did, a photo or an anecdote. These nuggets of information are like little gifts from the past, to hold into our future.

The memory train travels from station to station throughout our whole lives.  Its passengers number our family, friends, colleagues, neighbours, and those whom we perhaps didn’t meet, but who impacted on our lives in some way. 

The pot pourri of emotions that comes with exploring our memories is full of spice, flavour and colour – and can be whatever we wish it to be. 

Climb aboard, ticket in hand!  Take a seat, close your eyes and let your mind take you along whatever tracks it wants to follow, on your own memory train journey.

A Reminder to Respect the Water

My memory was jogged into recollection of the Starfish Story last week, after I gave an MS Teams talk to the RNLI, at the request of Ross Macleod, the organisation’s Public Affairs Manager for Water Safety.  The message in the simple story (replicated at the end of this post) tells how individuals can make a difference for the future, in ways they may never have envisaged. 

The focus of this particular talk was less on water safety advocacy and more on how to support the bereaved. 

One of the attendees wrote afterwards, “Thank you Andrea.  The advice you’ve given on how to talk to people who are grieving is so helpful.  I will always remember you relating your drowning prevention and bereavement work to the Starfish Story, which will always remind me of James”.

How heart-warming it is for me to have these kind comments from a lady who never even met James!  The value of continuing to talk about what happened back in 2005 and make it relatable to today, is reaffirmed by such feedback.  Thank you very much, Vicki.

As time goes by, I guess I can say that my particular grief path has provided me with two new voices: one in writing and speaking about grief and loss, and the other in promulgating water safety messages. The two have become intertwined in inexplicable ways, and this legacy for James continues to uplift and support me as I live with loss.

As the restrictions lift and we gradually begin to revisit our coasts and waterways, I hope everyone will please remember that vital message; to Respect the Water.

https://www.respectthewater.com/

https://www.nationalwatersafety.org.uk/

#floattolive

The Starfish Story

Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.

One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so he walked faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.
He came closer still and called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”
“I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?”  asked the somewhat startled wise man.

To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, “But, young man, do you not realise that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, “It made a difference for that one.”  Loren Eiseley

A Faith-based Reflection for Mother’s Day

The late Maya Angelou said, “To describe my mother would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect power. Or the climbing, falling colours of a rainbow.”  What better tribute to motherhood can there be?  Today is Mothering Sunday, more commonly known as Mother’s Day.  I thought of dedicating this post to my lovely mum, but that wouldn’t be inclusive enough to recognise the special place that all mums occupy.  So it is for everyone – I salute mothers everywhere and wish us all a very happy Mother’s Day!

Below is the text of my reflection broadcast written for today, kindly shared on Breakfast on BBC Radio Devon just before 8am this morning.

‘Today is the fourth Sunday in Lent and we call it Mothering Sunday.

Centuries ago, it was considered important for people to return to their home or ‘mother’ church once a year. So, each year in the middle of Lent, everyone would visit the main church or cathedral of their area. It is likely that this led to the custom of children, particularly those working as domestic servants, being given the day off to visit their mother and family. As they walked along the country lanes, children picked wild flowers to take to church or give to their mother as a small gift; perhaps the beginning of today’s more commercial traditions.

Mothers take many forms. Whether or not we become biological parents, we teach and nurture, offering wisdom, example and practical experience.  We pick up our children when they fall and love them unconditionally.  I was very lucky to have my mum and nearly 20 years since she died, she is still greatly loved and missed.   But not everyone has a good relationship with their mother and today can be a difficult one for many reasons. There are those who desperately long to be given the beautiful privilege of motherhood, for whom today is also especially hard.

I was blessed with a son and a daughter, and although my son James died in his teens in 2005, I will always be the mother of two wonderful children. The bereavement organisation, the Compassionate Friends, offers peer support for bereaved parents, which is particularly valuable on days like today. 

For everyone, it is your mum who knew you in the womb, grew you and bore you out into the world.  That gives every single one of us, of whatever gender, the commonality and a God-given uniqueness that make us the wonderful human creatures that we are. 

In the Bible, the Book of Proverbs says of a mother:

She is clothed with strength and dignity;
    she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom,
    and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.

How well these words transport down the years to our strange times today, as so many mums breathe a huge sigh of relief that they no longer need to be home schooling.  They are all heroines in my eyes, including my daughter.  This is the second year that Covid has kept families apart on this day; let us hope and pray it will be the last. 

To all mothers, everywhere, I say: Happy Mothering Sunday’.

Living in the Moment

“How are you feeling today?” Shaun and I often asked each other this question in the early days after we lost James. We were, in a sense, checking in to each other’s emotions. It was a facile question, for at the beginning of the grieving process, we were cocooned by a dreadful kind of emotional numbness as we began to try to assimilate our shock and trauma. 

There was no roadmap for us in 2005 – we had to muddle through as best we could and learn as we went along.  If you think about it, is that really so different to the way we have had to confront the changes wrought by the pandemic?

I find one of the most prevalent ramifications of grief to be anxiety which ebbs and flows varying in its intensity. An effective technique that for me, offsets the irritating and worrisome feelings is a tool that is often used in creative writing and of which I have written before; it involves consideration of the five senses. 

It is no bad thing to have a spell of introspective examination from time to time.  It is nourishing, it settles your mind and it is a focus that takes you away from those awful “What if …” mind chatter questions which persistently swirl around in your head.

If you are not especially visually minded, studying a photograph can help, or listening to a piece of music.  For the purposes of this post I am using the image above, which is where we walked on Exmoor last weekend, not far from our home.

Sight: Sky, land, trees, hedgerows, fields, colours, patterns … beautiful countryside

Sound: We thought we heard the first song of a skylark.  We definitely heard the plaintive mew of the buzzard, and the distant bleating of sheep in the fields.  In between the swishing sound of the occasional passing vehicle, the silence was absolute

Smell: The moor has its own scents.  A light floral fragrance fills the air, periodically interspersed with an earthy animal aroma: it’s not unpleasant, but the oaty, warm smell I associate with ponies.  If I were creating a moorland perfume, I would say it has undertones of woodsmoke, notes of green grass and a top note of gorse vanilla

Taste: The air tastes fresh, clear and cool like a draught of spring water; refreshing and pure

Touch: Prickle of gorse, soft dampness of moss and the dry papery feel of lichen-covered tree branches. The trees have no leaves yet, just twiggy fingers pointing to the sky. The rough tree trunks are stooped into bent spine shapes by the wind; yet they feel alive, vibrant with the growth to come, you can sense it when you press your palm against them

To the usual senses, I will add a sixth, and that is the sense of emotion.  How are you actually feeling? Are you joyful, sad, tense, calm?  What is your gut saying to you? Listen to it, as it is never wrong.

As you figuratively journey through these impressions on your senses, your mind is likely to drift into a peaceful, meditative, prayerful state where you can effectively focus on accessing your innermost thoughts. 

Now is the time to offer up your worries and anxieties; let them drift into the ether, where they will do no harm, and enjoy the sensation of relief

Now you are free to enjoy a sense of gratitude for where you are, right in this moment. 

Now your feet are in contact with the ground.  Your face tilts to the sun and you are at peace. 

Now you and the space you occupy are in perfect harmony.  Examine not just your physical wellbeing, but measure your emotional barometer too, and then you will truly know, how you are feeling today. Happy drifting!

So you Want to Write a Book?

Today I realised that I have been writing this blog for nearly seven years!  The statistics tell me that this is post number 153.  Writing the blog acts as an electronic journal and certainly helps to chart my progress along the grief/life highway.

Writing is a large part of processing loss for me.  The act of committing thoughts and emotions to paper is a useful tool for anyone with a story to tell, and we all have one, don’t we?  I am often asked questions around the process of writing so here are my top ten tips for today:

  • Choose your writing media

Have a notebook or electronic device handy for jotting things down as they come to mind.  Sometimes I have an idea for a topic and need to consider how to frame it.  The physicality of committing something in writing acts as a trigger for me to work on a particular subject.  I often make handwritten notes which might take the form of lists, then I move to the pc to research, expand and polish a piece.  And don’t forget to read!  – as I have quoted before, prolific author Stephen King says, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.”

  • Organise your files

My system for writing both my books involved creating a number of folders on the pc.  The main folder was dated and called ‘A New Book’ and the sub folders each contained a single chapter.  There was an additional folder for references.  Trust me when I say there is nothing more tedious than getting to the end of a long publication and having to go back to the beginning to reference! – and you need to ask for permission if you are quoting, say, from a newspaper article. It is so much easier to do as you go along.  I had additional folders named for contributors, introduction and acknowledgement, as well as a folder into which I placed quotes which I might wish to use.  My blogs live in a folder imaginatively named Blog Posts …

  • Identify your Audience

Ask yourself, “Who am I writing for?”  There is a certain amount of egotism in authoring. It can be a useful exercise to count how many times you repeat the letter “I” in a piece.  Remember you are trying to create something that is interesting to your audience.  You are imparting your knowledge and expertise plus/minus problem solving.  The readers want to know how you can help them, not about how you can help you!  This is especially important in grief writing, which calls for balancing your experience with others’ expectations for the future. Looking at reviews for other books in your chosen genre is helpful in refining down your key topics.

  • Write about what you know

This seems obvious, but when you read a waffly article, you just know that it has been cobbled together through the author’s mastery of Google and/or Wikipedia. I could write at length about macro photography because it is something I have experienced, but I wouldn’t know where to start if I were asked to write about wedding photography.  Similarly, I can express the feelings of being the mother of a teenager who died accidentally, but I cannot, and would not, compare that with the emotions wrought by the loss of a toddler. 

  • Identify the Structure

Structuring a piece of writing is, I think, key to its impact.  Every story, whether it is truth or fiction, needs a framework on which to build; it is a skeleton to be fleshed out and clothed with words.  My second book contains a certain amount of personification in that I represent hope, faith, light, resilience and joy as characters in the story that is my own personal grief journey. Knowing when to stop writing is as important as writing the first line.  If a piece feels too long, it probably is!. Contributions from others offering different perspective are invaluable.

  • Pick your Title

It is vital to have a descriptive book title that gives some indication to the reader what to expect from your book.  This is particularly important when your potential readers will turn up a huge number of titles as they search the internet for key words.  I was happy that no one had used the title Into the Mourning Light in 2014 or Living in the Mourning Light in 2020.  Always check first! 

  • Knock out that Writer’s block

If you are a runner, you will know that some days you feel that you can run like a gazelle, but at other times your legs feel leaden.  So it is with writing. There are wonderful times when my fingers can barely type fast enough to keep up with my teeming thoughts and I bash the characters onto the screen, unedited, just as they flow.  The obverse side to this can be periods of stultifying dullness.   I find the best remedy for this is to step away from any kind of pressured writing (ie a book or blog) and write stuff that ‘doesn’t matter’; it is what I call my light and fluffy writing.  Creating fiction, poetry or descriptive writing often frees up other parts of the creative brain.  Belonging to a writing group helps, too. Even if you are not in the mood to write yourself, hearing others’ work stimulates your own creativity.

  • Edit, polish and proof *VITAL*

However particular you are, you will never be able to proof your own work to total accuracy.  Using a professional proof reader is essential to avoid not just typographical errors, but repetition, use of weak words and dodgy syntax, for example.  During the creation of my second book, I used two proof readers, because the book changed considerably between the time of the first draft and when it was nearing completion.  It can also be very useful to have a select few people read and give feedback on some, or all your chapters when they are in their raw state.   This is easily achievable through email or file transfer and this kind of pre-publication review allows you to polish your work. If a piece isn’t ‘hanging right’ I find that reading it out loud can tell me what I need to tweak.  Knowing when to stop editing is tricky, but you develop a feel for this with experience.  Share widely

Unless you are fortunate enough to be talent-spotted by a publisher or agent, you will have to do your own marketing.  There are numerous ways to get the word out there, easily found on the internet, and having a social media profile is key to promoting your writing.  It doesn’t come naturally to most of us to promote ourselves, but if you wish to sell your book you have to develop an authorial presence and this may mean putting yourself in the limelight more than is comfortable.  Once you get some positive feedback, this becomes more natural.

10        Check out the Competition but Never Compare

Finding a niche in a saturated book market is no easy task but if you have focussed on the foregoing points, you should be able to bring your conceptual idea to printed fruition.  It is easy to be disheartened by other writing and authors that you perceive as being better, but hold fast to your self belief!  When you reach the point of publishing, you have come a long way since the concept of your book first came to mind.  In many ways, publishing is a new beginning rather than a final stage. You have done all the hard work involved in writing and editing and you can feel a tremendous sense of achievement that your product is the best it can be.  Be proud, be very proud. Keep marketing, maintain your writing profile and encourage reviews (something I am not very good at, but anyone is welcome to review my books at any time).

 Happy writing, everyone!

Listen up …It’s Getting Closer!

Listen up! It’s Getting Closer …

I am pleased to share brilliant progress with preparation of the audio version of Living in the Mourning Light.  Now it’s time for me to introduce the lovely narrator who is doing such an excellent, professional job.  Caroline Cook is a freelance radio presenter and voice over artist.  Our meeting last year was facilitated by local friend Becky Haxell, who kindly introduced Caroline to the idea of interviewing me about the book’s publication, which we managed to do for BBC Radio Devon, fortuitously just before the first lockdown. 

Caroline and I kept in touch and I often hear her dulcet tones on the radio.  I am so glad she was keen on the idea of recording the book for me, I honestly couldn’t think of anyone better to take on the project with the sensitivity and empathy required by a book about grief and loss.

None of these processes happen on their own! I am grateful too to Elizabeth Bond for lending her ears to road test a couple of draft chapters for me. 

Today, Caroline has sent me what the Audio company refers to as a ‘retail clip’; a taster, if you like, for the book’s contents.  We think this section, which comes at the start of Chapter 8, stands as a good introduction to the general tone of the book and what it is about.  Do have a listen!

So, you may well wonder, when will the audible book be available?  Final tweaks and minor edits remain to be made to each chapter, but all eleven have now been recorded, so it shouldn’t be too much longer.  The whole recording will then have to be uploaded and approved before it goes public. Look out for the next update soon!

https://drive.google.com/file/d/18NEj_gM7ZKpy2fUgX-Bc712_Uv6k5aUC/view?usp=sharing

Caroline Cook, Presenter, Voiceover Artist, Narrator