The Soundtrack To My Life

‘I don’t have my headphones on yet, but the music is always there. I have a constant walking soundtrack to my life, you see. There is a song for everything.’ (Danny, The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series)

I’m currently reading and enjoying my own books – the entire The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series – which may sound weird and vain, but it’s for multiple reasons. I’ll probably talk about them in another blog post but it just felt apt to begin this post with a quote from Danny and his ‘soundtrack to his life.’

I’m at that stage in my life where I have lived through enough decades to have soaked up many musical phases and fads, for various artists and bands to have had profound effects on me, and for my nostalgia to go into overdrive every time I hear a certain song. Every Saturday when I am cooking dinner, I make a G&T, put on very loud music and dance around my kitchen. Sometimes I go back to the 80’s, sometimes the 90’s, sometimes I play new music! Anything goes!

And while I am dancing and singing and enjoying my drink, I go back in time. I revisit my own life in songs and moments and it’s a glorious and emotional thing. So, for fun, I thought I would break it down. My life in music, in sections, in moments, in songs.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Birth – 10 Alas, at this tender age I had no control over what music affronted my ears and my dominant memory from childhood is being forced to listen to Cliff Richard in my mother’s car. Every car journey, ever. I suspect at one point I thought Living Doll was quite funny, but only because The Young Ones covered it! The rest meant nothing to me, but I bet you if I heard any Cliff Richards song now I would know all the words to it… Other music I was introduced to at this age were also my mother’s favourites, Bobby Darin, Billy Fury, The Everley Brothers, Neil Sedaka… Significant songs: All I have To Do Is Dream by The Everley Brothers and Oh! Carol by Neil Sedaka

10-12 Around this age I fell in love with my first boy band, and boy was I embarrassed about it just a few years later! New Kids On The Block, remember them? Me and my sister were obsessed! We bought all the albums, and any magazine they graced the covers of! We even got to see them live at Wembley Stadium! I don’t think I could stand hearing one of their songs now though. It’s too cringey. They were too awful and the songs meant nothing, but I suppose it was fun at the time and at least it got me into music! Significant songs: Step By Step, Hangin’ Tough by The New Kids On The Block

12-14 Once I realised how awful modern pop music was, I went back in time. In many ways I was a peculiar kid! I don’t know how I discovered Bob Dylan, but it wasn’t from my parents. I remember buying one of his greatest hits cassettes when on a shopping trip aged 12. I absolutely loved every song on that tape. From there, I grew interested in any music from the sixties. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys and so on. We had a little radio in our kitchen and I would keep it tuned to Classic FM or something like that while I sat at the table and wrote stories. I wasn’t interested in pop music in the slightest. Significant songs: Ruby Tuesday by The Rolling Stones, Positively 4th Street and Blowin’ In The Wind by Bob Dylan and Catch The Wind by Donovan

14-16 It was a school friend who introduced me to Guns ‘N’ Roses and I devoured them for a year or two. I bought the albums and used to lay on my floor with my head between the speakers to listen to them scream! As with Bob Dylan, I was intrigued by the lyrics and started jotting them down in notebooks or on scraps of paper I was writing stories on. What really blew my mind though was moving from them to Nirvana. I was totally in love and soon forgot all about Guns ‘N’ Roses (though when I played them in the kitchen the other day, it as uncanny how well I remembered the words!!) I was genuinely devastated when Kurt Cobain took his own life. I remember hearing it over the radio when I was sat in my garden drinking strawberry milk. I wrote a similar scene in The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series. Significant songs: Breakdown and Coma by Guns ‘N’ Roses, Lithium, Dumb and Something In The Way by Nirvana

16-24 The Britpop era. Oh, what a wonderful time to be a teenager! Looking back now, we were so lucky! With the arrival of The Stone Roses, Blur, Oasis and Pulp, not to mention Supergrass, Manic Street Preachers, Super Furry Animals, The Bluetones, the Happy Mondays…. the mid to late 90’s Britpop era was an exciting time to be into music. Around this age I had started going to pubs and clubs with my friends, I met my boyfriend (now my husband) and our first conversation was about the bands we were into. Getting ready for a night out meant putting Oasis on really loud! At this time I was buying music regularly and religiously. Tapes and CD’s of all the bands I have mentioned plus many, many more. We would read Select magazine and NME and watch TFI Friday on the TV, plus Top Of The Pops, of course. I was lucky enough to see some of these bands live and at Glastonbury. Brilliant, happy, carefree times that come back to me every time I hear these songs. Significant songs: Slight Return by The Bluetones, Live Forever and Spersonic by Oasis, Misfits and Disco 2000 by Pulp, Motorcycle Emptiness by Manic Street Preachers, If You Don’t Want Me To Destroy You by Super Furry Animals, Beetlebum, This Is A Low, Tender, by Blur. Too many to mention!

24-34 The lost years. There was some good music about in the early 2000’s, but as I had my first child at age 24, I had less time and energy to seek it out. Top Of The Pops had ended. Many music magazines had died out. We had our own place, our daughter and bills to pay, so music slipped away from us. Kasabian, The Thrills, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Black Keys and Kings Of Leon all took our fancy during this time, but I increasingly found myself turning to the past for my musical fixes. John Lennon and Bob Dylan were the first songs I played my baby daughter. Significant songs: Imagine by John Lennon, Forever Young by Bob Dylan, Clubfoot by Kasabian, Whatever Happened to my Rock and Roll? Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

24-43 Finding new music is hard! I think I’ve got fussier as I’ve got older. Maybe that happens to us all. I was always so open-minded about music, enjoying what was new while appreciating what came before, but now I really struggle to find anything new to get excited about. Perhaps that is inevitable as you get older. New bands and new music tends to be geared towards the young and most of it does nothing for me at all. I think most radio stations play utter bile and most music magazines seemed to have died out or moved online. There is no Top of The Pops or music programmes to introduce you to the next exciting thing. I am lucky though that my 18-year-old daughter is very into music and has very open-minded and eclectic tastes. If I have found anything new to admire in the last decade it is because of her. I particularly love the Canadian band Mother Mother. Between us we have all their albums and we are going to see them live in March! Very, very exciting. They seem to be on my level, whatever that is, and so many of their songs feel like they are speaking directly to me. Significant songs: I’m Alright, I’m Okay, Bit By Bit, The Sticks, Ghosting, Body, Forgotten Souls, I’ve Got Love. Actually, all of them!!

So, what about you? Does your life have a soundtrack? If so, what songs and what bands would be on it? What memories do they bring back for you? Please feel free to share and comment!

New Book Babies

It might sound a bit odd when authors compare their books to babies, but I think it sort of makes sense. You spend years putting the work into a book, moulding it, shaping it, nurturing it and encouraging it to grow and evolve at the right pace. And then at some point, when it’s ready, you let go of it and release it into the world. It’s similar to child-rearing in that way. Plus, authors are so connected to their books and often so in love with their own characters, that it just feels right to call them your babies.

Just lately I’ve been releasing a lot of babies that were cooking for a long time, so it felt right to blog about it. My blog posts for a while now have been taken up by wonderful guest posts. More on that and where it’s heading next another time! But for now, it’s really nice to climb back behind the driving seat of The Glorious Outsiders to update you all on my new babies.

Over a year ago I released the first in a YA trilogy, A Song For Bill Robinson. Here is a post I wrote at that time about where the idea for the book originally came from and how it later grew into a trilogy. https://chantelleatkins.com/2019/11/08/10-fun-facts-about-my-new-book/ After releasing the first book, I continued working on the second and third books, but I was also finishing up The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series – another mammoth amount of babies! And because Emily’s Baby finishes with a cliff-hanger, I decided I would hold back its release until the third book, The Search For Summer was also ready. I planned to release the final two books within a month of each other and that’s exactly what I’ve done.

If you are interested in a dramatic, gritty YA series about an unsolved murder, a neighbourhood feud and a self-destructive teenage singer, then A Song For Bill Robinson and Emily’s Baby are available now in ebook and paperback and on multiple platforms and The Search For Summer is available to pre-order and will be released on Friday 30th April.

It feels really good to have another series completed and released. Obviously writing a series of books is a huge challenge and extremely time-consuming and there is always a massive feeling of relief when the final one is out there!

At the same time, you feel a bit strange and a bit bereft. The characters have been with you for so long by this point that you feel lost without them. The good news is I am already in the middle of another series of books, plus I am co-writing a series with author Sim Sansford. So that is more than enough to keep me busy!

My new book babies are a YA post-apocalyptic series of which I have just finished book two. There will be four books in this series. And the series I am co-writing is a YA supernatural series and there will be three books.

After all of that I will be looking forward to writing a standalone book! And funnily enough, I already have one on the go. I’ve written some chapter outlines, character bios and some very rough chapters for a standalone which is actually a spin-off book from The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series. Two brothers are introduced as secondary characters in the final book of the series and I enjoyed writing them so much, I decided to give them their own book. I can’t wait to share news of that with you in good time.

But for now, it’s back to the massive book babies and getting another two series complete and released!

I hope I did my job the best I could and I hope they do well out there!

Indie Author Of The Month: Val Portelli

Hi everyone – it’s been a while since I highlighted an indie author on The Glorious Outsiders. I blame that on Netflix and not reading enough lately! I’ve also been attempting two reading challenges so often my reading choices have to try and fit with those. Anyway. I recently had the pleasure of beta reading a murder mystery novel by Val Portelli. Val has contributed two pieces to my blog since I started my lockdown themed features, so I jumped at the chance of being an early reader for her new novel Alderslay. I really enjoyed the book and will definitely read more of Val’s work in the future. I invited Val on to the blog to tell us all about the new novel and she has written this piece detailing the things that can go wrong while preparing a self-published book for launch day. If you would like to know more about Val and her work, her links are all at the end! Enjoy.

‘Alderslay’ and book gremlins.

I had my first book, a romantic novel called ‘Changes’ published several years ago. Shortly afterwards I wrote the first draft for a mystery novel called ‘Murder of Changes’ to tie in with the theme.

Fast forward and ‘M of C’ as it was affectionally known, sat on the back burner while I self-published other books, contributed to anthologies, wrote short stories, learnt about marketing, web sites, blogs, editing, formatting and how to defeat gremlins.

At one stage I was in contact with an editor who read the book and gave me valuable feedback which I incorporated into a revised draft. Entering a competition, I was delighted to win the opportunity to have a cover designed, so M of C was dragged off the back burner, submitted to beta readers, and became new and improved as I incorporated their suggestions.

A year passed and I was assured the cover design was in hand and would be available shortly. Numerous emails later, the MD of the design company eventually admitted the communication between himself and his employee, my designated contact, had proved lacking, and it was the first he had heard of it. My carefully composed details and suggestions had never been seen by the design team.

Was it jinxed? Should I forget it and move onto something else, perhaps a follow up for a series on one of one other books? Stubborn? Moi? Let’s just say a challenge is a challenge. I mentioned it to a friend and fellow author who had been instrumental in my other cover designs, and despite having other priorities she sent her dragons charging to the rescue. With all the to-ing and fro-ing, I’m not sure why she hasn’t blocked me, but the end result was a cover I loved. Thank you P.

I love writing but my marketing skills have to be seen to be believed- e.g. non-existent. Nevertheless, I endeavoured this time to try to do it properly, put the book on pre-order, diarised to set up the paperback to coincide with the eBook release, and bit my nails. Amazon nudged me with reminders of a countdown for when my final Kindle version should be uploaded, but I was happy the latest version was good to go.

A few hours before the cut-off time I received feed-back from a blogger who loved it, but pointed out in Chapter X I mentioned ‘A’ but in Chapter Y it’s ‘B.’ Aaagh. Reading for the umpteenth million time she was right. Dilemma. Should I try to change the minor discrepancy which most readers probably wouldn’t notice, or update a revised version which could result in throwing all the page set-up out of line. Being a perfectionist, I had to put it right, which was the signal for the world and his wife to interrupt with things that had been hanging around for months but needed a response NOW!

There was also the problem of the chicken and egg syndrome. Many readers these days use Kindles, but others only read paperbacks and wanted to know if/when this option would be available. Knowing Amazon suggest paperbacks can often take 72 hours to be approved, and hearing from other authors the virus had affected normal timescales, I set up a formula to include probability ratios, US versus UK time zones, and whether there was an R in the month.

With an eBook release date of the 3rd March, I waited until the early hours of the 1st March, UK time to press go for the paperback, before trying to catch up with some sleep. The following, or rather the same day, I opened my emails to discover the paperback was already live, having taken only 4 hours to approve and had beaten the eBook publication by two days. So much for trying to be a clever-clogs.

Beta readers had been advised of the approximate release date, in the hope they would leave a review. That’s when I realised they would they would be looking for the publication of ‘M of C.’

Just when I thought all was going to plan, a reader advised me there was a slight problem with the layout on one small area of the paperback which had already been released. Should I ignore it or try to correct it before more sales were made. No time like the present and again I burned the midnight oil. The amendment itself took two minutes, but then the long wait watching the wheel go round while Amazon went through the whole routine from scratch before I could access the revised preview.

Thankfully, it was again available within a few hours and I breathed a sigh of relief. A zoom meeting with a friend who lives abroad started with her asking what had happened to the paperback. She had tried to order in exactly that short timescale while it was awaiting the revision. Who said being an author only involved putting words on a page?

Despite all the problems, my first fantastic 5* review had me bouncing, and was quickly followed by others.

Is it worth all the stress and hassle if the actual income works out around a thousandth of the hourly minimum wage? Of course not, but the satisfaction of knowing someone actually read and enjoyed your book drives you on to write the next one. Sincere thanks to buyers, readers, bloggers, reviewers and supporters who have helped to keep me sane. A short break before the characters start calling, then here we go again!

Val’s Links

Amazon author page https://author.to/ValPortelli

YouTube ‘Val’s Tales’ http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsmbM57q4SzHbOcx3CPbr1Q/

Facebook ‘Val’s Tales’ http://www.facebook.com/ValsTales

Twitter

@vals_tales https://twitter.com/ValPortelli

Goodreads http://www.goodreads.com/wwwgoodreadscomVal_Portelli

Blog http://www.Voinks.wordpress.com

Web site http://www.quirkyunicornbooks.wordpress.com

Guest Post #4 Hello Home…

Welcome to another guest post for my ‘Hello Home…’ pandemic themed feature. It would seem all of us have experienced or are still experiencing a lockdown of some sort while the corona virus continues to blight our lives. Although we are all in the same situation, we experience it differently because our homes are all so different. Thinking about this inspired me to write a piece a few weeks ago dedicated to my house and what it has meant to me during these strange and unsettling times. Today please welcome author Susie Kearley who released her pandemic themed novel in January of this year. If you would like to know more about Susie and her writing, her links are at the end of the piece!

“Stay at Home” has been the clear message during lockdown in the UK. For me, it’s been easy. I work from home anyway, writing magazine articles, and when my husband joined me in March 2020, I appreciated the company.

Back in the autumn of 2019, I took two months off article writing to complete my novel – it’s a story about a fungal pandemic, which brings about the end of the world! At the start of 2020, I started looking for an agent, and then Covid struck, which I thought made my book really topical!

I had good feedback but no takers, so I finally decided to publish through Amazon in January 2021, because I felt I was missing an opportunity. There’s been a lot of interest in pandemic stories since Covid struck; Dean Koontz’s novel about a Wuhan Virus published in the 1980s saw sales peak. Peter May’s Lockdown, which was previously rejected because publishers said it was unrealistic… was published to great acclaim in 2020.

As the UK went back into lockdown in January 2021, it felt like the right time to publish.

So my time at home in recent times has been productive, despite considerable challenges. A lot of magazines stopped commissioning, preferring to use up stock, given the unpredictable nature of what might happen next. Article writing work was slow, so I spent more time in the garden, went for daily walks, and worked on my photography. We watched a lot of movies in the evenings under lockdown.

I’m grateful that we have a nice home, with guinea pigs, and a garden. It’s so important to like your home, when you’re having to spend a lot of time there. We’re now looking forward to the opportunities the future brings, as the vaccine is rolled out, and hoping that my pandemic book, ‘Pestilence’ will capture people’s imaginations and become the next best seller! Check it out here http://mybook.to/pestilencebook
www.susiekearley.co.uk

FB: www.facebook.com/susie.kearley.writer
TW: www.twitter.com/susiekearley

Many thanks again to Susie for writing this piece for my Hello Home…feature!

See you next week for another guest post!