Where did the year go?

My debut novel, Beauty and the Recluse, was published a year ago today. In some ways it seems only yesterday and in other ways, such a long time ago. All those years of hoping and dreaming that, one day, I would be a published author. And those dreams came true last February. I’m not sure what I thought would suddenly happen or change once I could truly say I was published, but in reality, it certainly wasn’t anything really dramatic.img_1742

This last year has been exciting, scary, exhausting, eye-opening, confidence building, confidence draining… all those things and more. I think maybe I had seen being published as an end point, rather than what it actually is, which is just the beginning. I had worked so hard, focussed so hard on getting published, I hadn’t really thought about what came next. I certainly didn’t think it would mean instant success, huge advances, film rights, giving up the day job… that kind of thing. And it’s a good job too, because none of those things have happened.

What has happened is that I now have two books published with Tirgearr Publishing – who continue to believe in my work and who have a wonderfully supportive group of authors we call Team Tirgearrean. My books have met with some lovely lovely reviews from people who have read them books and been touched by the characters in some way. And along the way, I have been supported by a fabulous writing community, a community I didn’t know existed.

I have two books published now, and I’m still learning; learning with each book about the craft of writing, about marketing and publicising not just my books but myself as an author. And I’m also learning about me. I’m learning that it is still early days, that I need to be kind to myself, to give myself time and space; it’s not all going to come together and happen at once. I have a day job, I have a large family (with all the emotional ups and downs that come with that), I have other pulls on my time, other new ventures that I’m tentatively dipping my toe into. I’m no different to anyone else; there are so many of us writers who are coping with the same issues, juggling those same balls and trying to keep them in the air. So, it’s nice to be a part of that community; to know that, while being an author is a solitary business, we are not really alone.

I had a rare ‘date night’ last night as a bit of a belated birthday present. My fiancé (it still feels weird saying that; being a woman of a certain age!) and we went to a country music concert. The weather was foul – a stormy, rainy evening, and one which we felt the full force of as we walked along the sea front to the venue at Bridlington Spa.  As I walked into the headwind, pulling my hood close around my face, blinking away the stinging rain, I felt safe and warm and able to consider the storm with a detached perspective. The sea was angrily lashing at the defences and harbour wall, kicking up spray into the night and I spray-959013_640watched in fascination as it roiled and boiled with an obvious power and I pitied anyone who might be out in that sea tonight. As we dashed for cover and made it into the spa, I settled back to enjoy the show. It was a tribute show but the singers were fantastic, the songs were well-known crowd pleasers and I enjoyed singing along with the familiar songs that took me back to my childhood when my parents would listen to country music on the radio. Perhaps that was the reason I suddenly found tears pouring from my eyes as I listened to the song, ‘He Stopped Loving her Today’. It took me completely by surprise and I didn’t hear a single word of the next song as I was still trying to pull myself together. I think it reminded me of my dad, who never doubted I would get published one day, but who died before my dream became a reality. He would have been so proud of me, and I miss him every day. And yet, that emotion, stirred by those lyrics and the heartfelt way in which they were sung, reminded me yet again of the power of words.

I’m a writer; I write and words are my tools. When I take that time for myself to do the thing I love, the thing I want to do for the rest of my life, I sit down in front of the laptop and make sure I use those tools to the best of my ability in order to stir that same emotion in my readers.

My debut novel, Beauty and the Recluse, was published a year ago today. I’m still at the beginning of what I am sure will be a long and winding road, but I’m so very excited to see where the rest of this journey takes me.

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Ellie x

A Fantastical Event for Romance

This month saw me hosting my first ever author stand at a literary event. Well, to be fair, it was a mini literary event set within a rather large fantasy convention. This year’s FantastiCon event, a sci-fi and fantasy convention, was held in the city of Hull, just a stone’s throw away from me. Within the convention was also a LitFest, for authors of all genres to attend and promote their work.

This was a first for me but, fresh from an author reading last month at East Riding Theatre and which seemed to go down pretty well, I thought, why not? The author package included a full day’s pass to the FantastiCon event, an author table and a video trailer for your book. You can see my trailer for Love on the Nile here.

Now, the first15078708_1337564859600990_623166289974909370_n sticking point for me was how best to promote by two novels at an author stand when my books are actually ebooks. I did a lot of internet research trying to find various ideas but the majority of information and advice I came across was focussed on digital marketing of books, rather than practical advice about how to promote my book face to face at an event.  In the end, I gathered together my usual promotional material – bookmarks, business cards, postcards and keyrings, and used these, along with acrylic info stands introducing myself as an author and highlighting the award I had won for Beauty and the Recluse. I thought these stands would add height and interest to an otherwise rather flat display.

I had also read on another author’s blog once that she had given away promotional lip balm as this was something that people were likely to keep in their handbags and serve as a reminder. I quite liked this idea, so I bought a lip balm kit, made from natural materials, quite cheaply at a craft shop and made my own lip balms – so easy to make – and printed off some labels for the top with ‘Ellie Gray, Contemporary Romance’ on the

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Lip balms seem to go down well!

top, and a list of the ingredients for the bottom. I scattered these around my author table and they seemed to go down really well.

I felt somewhat out of my comfort zone at first among some rather full-on fantasy and sci-fi fans – getting into character was very much order of the day, with Daleks, Stormtroopers and various other fantastical characters walking around – but everyone was very welcoming and happy to chat. I am always amazed by the support from the literary community and met some lovely authors who were also taking part in the LitFest.

Highlight of the day was meeting and chatting to Royd Tolkein, grand-nephew of the great man himself, who gave a very moving and emotional talk about how he spent the last two years caring for his brother who recently died from ALS, a form of motor neurone disease. His brother left him a bucket list of 50 challenges to complete and Royd is planning on writing a book and producing a film chronicling his journey as he attempts all 50 challenges – the list has not been shared with him yet so he has no idea what they are! You can find out more about this on Royd’s website – roydtolkein.me

Although I wasn’t expecting to sell many books, I saw it much more of an opportunity to build up contacts and networks, which I certainly managed to do, I have seen an increase in sales as a result, so I would definitely recommend it, even if like me your books are ebooks. I shall certainly be taking part in next year’s event.

Right now, I’m getting ready for my annual ‘writing get-away’ with my author friend – I can’t believe it’s been a year already!  Look forward to telling you all about it soon.

Ellie x

Inheritance Books: Ellie Gray

I’m over on the lovely Rhoda Baxter’s Inheritence Book blog today talking about how I inherited my love of books and history from my father.

Rhoda Baxter

This week on the Inheritance Books sofa, we have romance novelist and fellow East Riding lass, Ellie Gray. I have cake. I’ll go put the kettle on and locate the cake. While I’m doing that, why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself, Ellie.

Ellie Gray Profile PicI live in a small village just outside the beautiful market town of Beverley in the East Riding of Yorkshire. It’s only about ten miles away from where I grew up, living in a little cottage on the edge of woods where my father was the woodman and my mum a nurse. My two brothers and I spent a halcyon childhood exploring those woods, building dens and having adventures. Come to think of it, perhaps that’s why I loved Enid Blyton books so much – maybe I felt we were somehow living one of those adventure novels in some small way.

I’ve always loved reading and…

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Blowing Away the Cobwebs

Oh, the highs and lows of life!

After the high of submitting my dissertation and clearing my desk and study of any and every trace of academic material, the last two weeks have seen me sinking into a bit of a low. It’s not what I had anticipated. With two weeks off from the day job, I had imagined myself having a few days break before enthusiastically locking myself in the study and cracking on with editing and reviewing my work in progress. The reality was something quite different.

That first week, I spent a lovely but busy three days in my favourite city in the world, Edinburgh, with my daughter Abbie. The following week was spent alone, the children were away with their dad, and David was away in Northern Ireland. The weather was lovely, I was working on my novel and life was good.

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Westwood Pastures

But it never lasts, does it? I returned once more to the demanding day job, and inspiration and enthusiasm was dampened by a whole host of worries; family stuff, parent stuff, children stuff and, of course, the usual worries never far from the surface – those of just not being a good enough writer, of not being able to market and promote both myself and my work well enough. Added to this, the characters from not one but two previously written, but completely unedited, works bustled into my head and demanded that I bring their story to life. I felt like a rabbit caught in headlights, paralysed into inactivity.

Today started out with a continuation of that theme. It would have been so easy to continue to sit watching the Olympics (haven’t they been exciting, though?) instead of knuckling down and getting on with writing and editing. But David decided that we should get out of the house, go for a walk. Excellent – another excuse not to go into the study. We spent half an hour deciding where we should go before finally agreeing on the Westwood, just a couple of miles from home.

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Black Mill

Oh, and I am so thankful we did. It was a beautiful sunny, blustery day and the Westwood was full of families, dog walkers and lone walkers, all of whom were enjoying the beauty of their surroundings. And it is beautiful. I had forgotten, as we so often do about places on our doorstep, just how beautiful and wild it is. As we walked across the huge, open expanse of the Westwood pastures, with the sun beating down but kept within manageable temperatures by the strong, warm winds, I felt my worries being blown away on the wind and my mood lifting. The Westwood is a wonderful open space on the edge of the market town of Beverley we call home, with cattle roaming freely and the Westwood itself a mix of wide open grassland and wooded areas, full of hidden glades and overgrown copses.

Leaving behind the cows, the dog walkers and families flying kites, David and I hopped over the worn stile and into the woods, where the heavy trees and undergrowth immediately dampened down any sounds from outside the woods. It was peaceful and serene and just what I needed to regroup my thoughts and put everything into perspective. Worrying doesn’t achieve anything, except to stifle my inspiration and bring me down. Today, I was able to push that aside and remember everything that is good and positive in my life. And I have so much to be thankful for.

IMG_1667So, with energy renewed and enthusiasm, I gently told those impatient characters in my head that they will just have to wait their turn. Their stories will be told; just not yet. Right now, it is Chloe and Luke’s story that I’m working on and I’m looking forward to hopefully sharing it with you sometime soon.

Ellie x

TUESDAY TALK chats to writer Ellie Gray about inspiration,holiday destinations and some interesting dinner guests…

Really enjoyed my interview with the lovely, Jo Lambert.

Good morning Ellie and welcome. Can I start, as always, by asking you a little about yourself? Hi Jo, thanks for inviting me on to your Tuesday Talk Interview! So, a little bit about myself – I liv…

Source: TUESDAY TALK chats to writer Ellie Gray about inspiration,holiday destinations and some interesting dinner guests…