Reading my own books

When you are writing a series over many years, there comes a time when you need to re-read the first few books before you launch into a later book. And by ‘re-read’, I mean ‘read for the first time as an actual reader’.

Because by the time my books go to print, I’ve already read them a dozen times, each through a different lens – there’s all the editing and tweaking that occurs before I send them off to early readers, including my agent, then addressing feedback and final style edits and proofreads. Then they go to the publisher – I receive structural editorial requests and make those. I receive copy edits and address those. I even sign off on the proofread. By the time it hits a reader’s hands, I know each book inside and out, but not as a reader.

So, for the past few weeks I have been reading my first three books as a reader. This is necessitated because I’ve written 3 books outside the series since 2019 and I really want to immerse myself in the Holiday Romance series world. I want to remind myself of the character nuances that make those books special, to tease out little nuggets (Easter eggs for readers) that I can put into Book 5. And it is tricky to do that well without going back to the beginning.

I started writing the Holiday Romance series in 2015 with the book that was first self-published as You Might Meet Someone and then became One Summer in Santorini (published in mid-2019 by One More Chapter, an imprint of HarperCollins UK). After self-publishing Book 1, I moved swiftly onto I Think I Met Someone , the sequel to Book 1, then Someone Unexpected, which was in the same series but about a supporting character from Books 1 & 2, Cat. By the end of 2018 (my year on sabbatical) I had written three books in the series, was about to self-publish the third, and was querying madly.

Then a miracle happened!

I got a publication deal!!! And as a result …

You Might Meet Someone became One Summer in Santorini (still Book 1)

Someone Unexpected (never self-published) became That Night in Paris (becoming Book 2)

and I Think I Met Someone became A Sunset in Sydney (becoming Book 3)

Did you follow all that?

Early 2020, right after I finished writing The Christmas Swap, my 4th book and a standalone (not in the series), I started writing Under Bali Skies, the 4th book in the series. Bali is about Jaelee, one of the supporting characters from That Night in Paris and I re-read Paris before I started writing it. I wanted to ensure that I had the right cadence and style for the series and to refresh my understanding of Jaelee’s character.

Well now, a year after finishing Bali, I am starting Book 5, A Wedding in Tuscany. This book will bring together all the fave characters from Books 1-4 so I needed to get reacquainted with Sarah, Cat, and the gang before I whisk them all off to Tuscany!

And how has it been reading my books as a reader, one who reads voraciously in the Romance genre?

Santorini was a little tricky for me. It was my first ever book (obvs) so I was a little green as an author and I have found dozens of tweaks I’d like to make if I ever get the chance. Paris was fun – and I’d read it most recently, so it was a quick read. But Sydney was the most fun. Even though it was the second book I ever wrote, by the time I was tasked with editing it, I was a lot more confident in my authorial voice and in it there are so many passages that make me laugh out loud – or cry.

Actually, all my books still make me cry. Ben found me the other day, forlorn with a tear-stained face. I confessed that one of my heroines was ‘so awful’ and ‘had really hurt him’ and ‘why did she do that?????’ He hugged me, somehow understanding that these characters are real to me, that they have their own thoughts and feelings and desires and fears – that it is not me who creates them, but it’s them who let me tell their stories.

So, on the whole, reading my first three books has been … well … just lovely, really.

Next up in the world of Sandy Barker books is The Single Girl’s Guide to Hunting (in August! Huzzah!). It’s a stand-alone and I consider it my funniest ever book. Bali comes out early next year followed by Tuscany.

The ‘Someone’ series cover art by the very talented Jane Dunnet (Jane on Insta)

The ‘Holiday Romance’ series cover art by the (also) very talented Lucy Bennett (Lucy on Insta)

Publication Day for A Sunset in Sydney

Updated ASIS

It’s publication day for my third novel, A Sunset in Sydney, the direct sequel to my first novel, One Summer in Santorini. To mark the occasion, I wanted to share an excerpt from the Acknowledgements:

I wrote this book while living in Bali. It was Spring 2018, and I was on a year-long sabbatical with my partner and love, Ben. Often I wrote poolside or perched on a sun lounger―yes, really. I also wrote at the beach, in our outdoor workspace, and at my favourite cafe.

The sabbatical was Ben’s idea. And after some cajoling and reassurance from him that it would be amazing, I put on my big-girl knickers and we quit our jobs, gave away a lot of our stuff, packed the rest into a storage cage, and bought a one-way ticket to the rest of the world, first stop Bali.

If it wasn’t for Ben’s bravery, support, and intrepid spirit I would not have gone on sabbatical and I wouldn’t have written this book or That Night in Paris. You see, while on sabbatical I gave myself “permission” to be an author, to throw myself into writing, editing, and querying, and to seek out writing as a career.

So, as my third book is published, and I have just sent across structural edits for my fourth book and am finishing the draft of my fifth, a huge thank you to Ben.

I hope you enjoy this latest instalment of The Holiday Romance series and the conclusion to Sarah’s story.

What other authors have to say about A Sunset in Sydney.

“Guaranteed to have you holding your breath to the very last page.” Julie Houston

“I’m such a fan of this series.” Ella Allbright

Lose yourself in this perfect, escapist read.” Samantha Tonge

“Sandy Barker blends romance and travel to make the perfect summer read.” Lynne Shelby

Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon US

Also available on all other ebook platforms. Print books available from September 17.

Catching up with Author Samantha Tonge

The wonderful Samantha Tonge warmly welcomed me to the writing community when I was a debut author and it is a pleasure to welcome her to my blog for a catch up.

Her latest book The Summer Island Swap is a wonderful way to vicariously travel to a far off destination from the comfort of home. So, let’s find out more.

Tell us what inspired you to write The Summer Island Swap.

My son returned from a conservation volunteering trip in the rainforest and I was fascinated by his stories of the work they did there and the rescued animals. And then I saw a photo of him with a monkey virtually wrapped around his head! I knew, in that instant, that I wanted to write a story about rescue animals and the kind of people who saved their lives.

Although I have to admit, I did also listen to tales of tarantulas and basic showers with horror and thought what fun it would be to drop a character into that environment who was expecting a rather more luxurious type of holiday – cue Sarah!

When did you start writing seriously?

When my youngest started school in 2005. Life had been a bit full-on until then although – corny as it sounds – I always knew that, one day, I would write. I was in my late 30s and it took a while, but I finally got my first publishing deal in 2013.

What do you love most about being an author?

Feedback from readers means EVERYTHING. To know that my work might have cheered someone up means the world. And sometimes my books have inspired people to follow their dreams and move abroad, or get help for a health condition, and finding those things out is extremely special.

What are you working on now?

My Christmas 2020 novel. I’m super-excited about it, even though it’s been extremely challenging to concentrate and write during lockdown. The male protagonist – funnily enough, Sandy! – is from Sydney and I hope readers find him as mesmerising as Jess, the female lead, does.

What do you hope readers will take away from The Summer Island Swap?

It’s a story about following your dreams and letting go of the past and I hope readers perhaps get inspired, in some small way, to do that. I faced 8 years of rejection to get published and it was difficult – and Sarah, the main character of this book, has faced hard times too to fulfil her dream which is to be independent and have her own home and a job she loves. So if readers took something from that, it would be brilliant. But more than that, I learnt a great deal about conservation whilst writing this book and doing so increased my love, even more, of the natural world. I hope readers find that interesting as well. However, having said all of that, what matters most to me is that readers simply enjoy the story and manage to escape from the difficult circumstances we are all facing at the moment.

The Blurb

Sometimes the best holidays are the ones you least expect…

After a long and turbulent year, Sarah is dreaming of the five-star getaway her sister has booked them on. White sands, cocktails, massages, the Caribbean is calling to them.

But the sisters turn up to tatty beaches, basic wooden shacks, a compost toilet and outdoor cold water showers. It turns out that at the last minute Amy decided a conservation project would be much more fun than a luxury resort.

So now Sarah’s battling mosquitoes, trying to stomach fish soup and praying for a swift escape. Life on a desert island though isn’t all doom and gloom. They’re at one with nature, learning about each other and making new friends. And Sarah is distracted by the dishy, yet incredibly moody, island leader she’s sure is hiding a secret.

Buy Links

Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon US | Kobo

Follow Samantha

Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

NoNo NaNo, WhyNo FOMO?

NSW Oct 2019

Next month is National Novel Writing Month, or as it’s called in the (writing) biz, NaNoWriMo, or NaNo for short. Yes, I know it sounds like something Mork would chant right after he called Orson, but NaNo is serious.

The goal is to write (at least) 50,000 words of your WIP (work-in-progress) in the month of November, an average of 1666.66 words a day, give or take a decimal point.

I did my first (and only) NaNo in 2018 while we lived in Porto during our sabbatical. I had written 30,000 words of my (then) WIP, and I set myself the goal of finishing the manuscript during NaNo. As we were on sabbatical and I didn’t have any contract work in November, I could dedicate myself to full-time writing. I smashed it. 75,000 words in three weeks.

I had an online support group — NaNo encourages community — and a group of young Portuguese writers who I got together with once.

Only once, because the in-person group weren’t really working towards getting published. One of the gals I met was doing her 12th NaNo. She looked so young , I jokingly asked her if she’d done her first one when she was ten years old. No, she’d been eleven. She’d written eleven manuscripts eleven years and none had seen the light of day since. The others in the group were the same — for them, NaNo was about the community, putting pen to paper, or fingers to keys, and letting the stream of consciousness flow.

For me, NaNo was about writing a novel I could get published. (The novel I finished last November, That Night in Paris, is being published in March by One More Chapter, an imprint of HarperCollins. Watch this space — literally.) I gave these young writers online support for the rest of the month, but as we had very different goals, they weren’t really my writing tribe.

Flash forward to July this year. July is ‘Camp NaNo’ with the more achievable goal of 30,000 words in 31 days. I had an idea for a Christmas book and got 35 000 words in. The biggest difference between NaNo 2018 and Camp NaNo 2019 was that this year, I have a full-time job. I was happy with my Camp NaNo word count, and the manuscript — another ‘watch this space’ for Christmas 2020.

The intensive NaNo approach seems to work for me, so surely I am doing NaNo 2019?

No. NoNo NaNo for me this year.

And, as soon as I made that decision, I felt like I could breathe again.

Because, I’ve got enough to get on with in the next few months. Finalising edits for That Night in Paris, then handing over structural edits for the third book in my travel romcom series, then finishing my Christmas book.

I am already at capacity, and I already have the motivation I need to get the work done.

So this year, I will be championing my writer friends from the sidelines. You got this. You’re amazing. Practice self-care. And write, write, write.

A Grand Adventure: Sabbatical Life

Those of you who followed our sabbatical journey will know that we spent most of 2018 living (and often working) abroad. I blogged throughout the year, with posts specifically about the sabbatical at the half-way mark, and then again on the home stretch.

We’ve been back in Australia about six weeks now, and have just moved into our new home in Docklands. As I interview for fulltime work, as I’m about to sign a publishing contract for my first book, and as I unpack and find new homes for our belongings, it’s a good time to reflect on our year of sabbatical life.

The days are long and the weeks go by fast

A dear friend we made in Bali, where we lived for two months, reflected that when she looked back, the weeks seemed to be flying by, but that each day felt full and long.

I can honestly say that this is how I felt for most of the year.

When I am present, when I live the breadth and depth of each day, they seem longer, fuller. I want to carry that feeling with me, to bottle that secret sauce, because it makes life feel more purposeful and I’m more content.

A sense of accomplishment

As well as consulting for clients (writing, editing, and review educational materials), I wrote and edited two books. TWO WHOLE BOOKS, each 100,000 words. I wrote 200,000 words – funny, heartfelt narratives set in beautiful locations. I made up people, their lives and their adventures. I created from nothing the things they said and did – well, I borrowed some anecdotes from loved ones, but for the most part, those fictional people came to life in my head.

I worked on building my author platform, engaging with readers and authors from around the world, learning from them, supporting them, befriending them. I’ve made some wonderful literary friends over the past year – people I can contact with questions and requests, people who can rely on me for support and help if they need it. I will champion them and their writing, and they will do the same for me.

I also queried publishers and agents, honing my messaging about me and my books. I am proud and excited to say that I recently got a big fat YES from a UK-based publisher, which I will announce officially once I’ve signed the contract. Because of this sabbatical, my first book is being traditionally published and I will get to hold my book in my hands. The others will hopefully follow (squee!).

Feeding my soul

We lived in and visited some beautiful, exciting, and vibrant places. Bali, Portugal, Scotland, Ireland, rural Minnesota, London, the British Midlands, Amsterdam, Seattle, LA, Wales, New Zealand and my home state of Western Australia. Natural beauty, architectural wonders, history, and wildlife in copious doses. Our everyday life was a wonderful cacophony of sights, sounds, smells and tastes that we happily steeped ourselves in.

Walking the streets of Ubud, the sun beating down, the humidity hanging heavy in the air, the heady scent of tropical flowers mixing with petrol fumes and Indonesian spices – this became my idea of heaven.

Spending time with loved ones also fed my soul. Catching up with family and friends in WA, LA, Seattle, Minnesota, the UK, Ireland, and Amsterdam was a highlight. Living with Ben’s family and mine for extended periods of time was something special. Cooking a mid-week meal for people I love is – and has long been – a great pleasure for me. Chatting over that meal, as we recount our days, our mini-triumphs and challenges, heightens that joy.

‘Quality time’ it’s called. We all need that type of time with our loved ones. Even though I’ve lived my adult life ‘away’ from most of my family, I long for those times when I can look across the dinner table and meet the eyes of someone I love dearly but don’t see in person very often. The thing about being a traveller, someone who lives ‘away’ – you always miss someone. It’s the curse of the ex-pat. I had a year of topping up my soul with quality loved-ones time.

And, wonderfully, we made some very dear new friends from across the world.

 
The things you miss

Things are just things, really. We attach meaning to them. As I unpack boxes and find places for our things in our new home, I know (deep down) they’re just things, but they make me feel at home. Books I’ve loved, souvenirs and artefacts from our travels, family photos, my good knives, my cannisters (yes, really) – these things ‘spark joy’ as Marie Kondo would say. It’s nice to rediscover these things. Do I need them? No, I don’t. I spent the year with my clothes, toiletries and a stack of rectangles (laptop, iPad, Kindle, phone). I can live without things. For now, though, I will especially enjoy them.

I did really missed drawers, though. Like, really, totally, absolutely, completely missed putting my clothes into drawers. Even when we stayed somewhere for weeks or months, we kept our clothes in our packing cubes. Drawers are luxurious. Next time you take an article of clothing out of a drawer, just savour that feeling.

The things you get used to

In Bali, we slathered ourselves in sunscreen and showered several times a day. It was hot and humid and 80% of our time was spent outdoors. My hair looked like wool. And even so, Bali was my favourite place we lived in. I’d live there again in a heartbeat.

I am a creative home cook. In Bali, I cooked with tempeh for the first time and it became a staple. At the lake cabin in Minnesota, I had an electric frying pan and a microwave – that’s it – and I cooked a variety of dishes. In Portugal, it was difficult to get good fresh food – produce, dairy and proteins – but I adapted. In the UK (before and after Portugal), I was cooking for five instead of two, and three of the adults were eating Keto. Spoiled for fresh produce, because you are in the UK, I made giant pots of Keto-friendly stews, red sauces and soups.

I can write anywhere – and did. A sunlounger, a beach, a cafe (many cafes), the kitchen table (in many different kitchens), on planes and trains, and even on a boat. The world was my writing room. I loved it.

My big takeaways

I love Australia. It’s home – Melbourne especially. It’s a terrific city and we have loved ones here. I was happy to come back and I am excited to start the next chapter here.

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Our new view

I would do a sabbatical year again – or create a life where we live abroad for several months every year. There was a time when that thought terrified me – now I think it will become essential to us.

Ben is an incredibly brave, wonderful, supportive, imaginative person. “Why don’t we trade a year of retirement for now,” he said a couple of years ago. I am so grateful he did, but even more so that he gently nudged me to make the commitment. He is my bestie, my partner-in-crime, my travel buddy, my champion, my love. Thank you, Ben, for being all those things and more.

The home stretch of sabbatical life

In 1979 and 1980, my dad and his then-partner embarked on long-term travel. Their trip included a 3-month drive from Cape Town to Cairo on a giant pink truck with a handful of other travellers, working on a Kibbutz in Israel, and buying a camper van and travelling in the UK and Europe while they picked up intermittent teaching work.

Essentially, they took a sabbatical, only when I think about what they did and when they did it, theirs was quite a bit more bad-ass than ours. Just quietly, my dad is one of my heroes. This is him.

We are ten months into a year-long sabbatical, and I recently posted on Facebook that I was having a ‘travel weary’ day, that I knew the funk wouldn’t last, but at that moment, I just wanted to go home.

One friend asked, “Where’s that?” and it was a good question. I have talked a lot this year about home being wherever lay my head (and where Ben is). I replied, “Just Australia.”

My dad’s comment on the post drew on his own long-term travel. “Once you sense the finish line, you just want to go. Hang in there.”

A friend, who last year completed a year’s sabbatical with her husband, posted, “Been there. Sending love.”

I don’t post this to complain.

This year has been brilliant. When Ben and I look back on the last ten months and all we’ve seen, the people we have met and reconnected with, the places we’ve been to, and all we’ve done and accomplished, it brings us a lot of happiness – even some pride.

But there are two months left, and I do not want to fritter those away by wallowing in homesickness. Ben and I are united in the belief that we are privileged and brave and must make the absolute most of every day for the next two months.

So, with that in mind, we will continue to get out and see Porto and enjoy the beauty and wonder it has to offer us. We will have a brilliant time with our family in the UK over Christmas and New Year. We will add a side trip or two – Wales looks likely, as does a return to London. We will plan out something spectacular for January (our swan song). And I will finish my third novel.

So again, I do not write this to complain, but to share the reality of sabbatical life. Sometimes, you just want to be home.

 

Could be anywhere…

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When you’re living and working around the world – rather than holidaying for a year –  the highlight of some days is having a decent cup of coffee.

This is how yesterday, a Saturday in Edinburgh, went:

  • got up – tea and porridge for breakfast
  • checked social media, Amazon and Goodreads (unpaid author work) – more tea
  • started on an editorial project for my client (paid work) – more tea
  • realised most of the the morning had disappeared and we hadn’t left the house yet (Airbnb accommodation)
  • moved to a coffee shop where we had decent coffee
  • worked on the editorial project
  • had lunch at the cafe – while working
  • realised we’d been there for two hours and our butts hurt from the chairs
  • went to the supermarket and got fruit, TP, and stuff for dinner
  • at home, finished the editorial project
  • put on a couple of loads of laundry
  • realised it was five o’clock and opened a bottle of wine and watched Netflix
  • cooked and ate dinner – had more wine – watched more Netflix
  • went to bed

A normal day…

We could have been anywhere in the world…

We’re in one of the most beautiful cities in the world and yesterday we saw no more than our local neighbourhood, the inside of a Sainsbury’s and a busy cafe. But I don’t consider days like this a waste. They are a part of being nomads – and once in a while, we just need a day of normal.

And today? We’re off to climb Arthur’s Seat and to explore more of Old Town!

Lake Life

They call Minnesota Land of 10,000 lakes, and Ben and I are spending most of the summer at one of them – well, technically, we’re on a chain of 14 lakes called the Whitefish chain.

With so many lakes, many families in Minnesota have a lake cabin – some of them in the family for generations, like the one Ben and I are staying at – and some of these ‘cabins’ are luxury homes only used a few weeks a year.

‘Our cabin’, on a small lagoon on Rush Lake, is not a luxury home, but it’s luxurious to us, because this is our view from the deck:

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Simply, it is beautiful here.

The cabin was built nearly a hundred years ago and was bought into Ben’s family in the 1950s. They’ve been coming here every Summer ever since and Ben spent a lot of his childhood here.

On the inside, it looks like this:

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Yes, that’s a charming hodge podge of furniture, housewares and artifacts that span decades, including a fairly strong representation from the 80s (like the collection of VHS movies) – check out that carpet!

Lake life itself means being on the water. At least once a day, we head out on either the jetski (Ben’s) or the pontoon (the family’s). We may be going somewhere specific – all of the restaurants in the area and the nearest town, Crosslake, are accessible by water and have docks where we ‘park’ – or we may just cruise around exploring. The other day we rode the perimeter of Rush Lake and found some lagoons Ben has never seen before – even after coming up here for 30+ years. Oh, and that’s Ben going to the store on the jetski to pick up a few things.

Lake like is also about a slower pace and savouring the little moments, liking making S’Mores over the firepit:

And stopping for coffee at the local coffee shop:

And exploring Crosslake:

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butterfly chair

And lounging on the water:

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lounging

And exploring the surrounding forests:

And having fun with visiting friends:

 

And the wildlife! On the property are red and grey squirrels, chipmunks, and green frogs, who keep Ben up at night with their raspy ribbits. The lagoon is frequently visited by two families of geese – one with young cygnets and one with teenagers – a family of ducks, a stunning blue heron who flies arcs over us, and a woodpecker! There’s a muskrat that lives under the bridge who’s also busy collecting reeds, and we’ve seen painted turtles, bald eagles (one being chased by a starling), and a multitude of fish. And my favourite this summer has got to be the state bird, the beautiful loon. They are are a large water bird who have a distinctive call, and I just love them.

Perhaps most surprising has been the skies. Many mornings are a moody grey which melts away to a brilliant cerulean dotted with white puffs. We’ve had nighttime lightening storms which have gone on for hours, a surreal strobe-light effect that always looks fake in films, but is surprisingly real. But most of all, the sunsets take my breath away.

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taken by me, edited by Ben

 

And these stunners by Ben:

Of course, we’re both still working – Ben for his client in Australia and the publication date of my second novel is only 5 days away (!) so I am madly editing – but we take time each day to enjoy where we are and the easy pace of lake life. So far, it’s been a brilliant summer.

When in ROAM…

We’ve spent the last two months living in Ubud, Bali at ROAM. And while we have explored Bali during our stay and done some short side trips, the majority of our time has been living and working in a co-living space that’s perfect for the digital nomad lifestyle.

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The ‘hood

We’ve enjoyed getting to know our neighbourhood of Penestanan, with it’s winding, busy roads and its pathways between the rice fields. We found our local coffee houses, A.R.A.K. (close to ROAM) and Dharma (close to Bintang), our spot for Happy Hour, Element (2 for 1 cocktails and they’re ridiculously tasty!), and some cheap and cheerful places to eat, such as Bayu’s kitchen, Ibu Putu’s Warung, Sri Ratih, Cafe Vespa, and Bamboo Spirit.

We found the ‘back way’ to Bintang supermarket via the pathways, as well as the ATMs that give out 2.5M rupiah (some max out at 1M or 1.5M). We’ve enjoyed some nicer meals at Pacha Mama, Bridges, Elephant, and Roots. We’ve frequently popped across the street to a little convenience store for snacks, Cokes, and cold Bintang. There is a yoga place 5 min away and a gym 15 min away, which is small but affordable and has enough equipment to get the job done. There is also a fantastic running trail, the Campuhan Ridge – the start of the trail is closer to Ubud, but it’s still part of our ‘hood.

The people

ROAM is about people. Since we’ve been here quite a while, we’ve met and said goodbye to many people who have become dear friends – people from all over the world – Greece, Austria, The Netherlands, Ireland, the US, Australia, the UK, Germany, Russia, Canada…and many more places around the world.

We’ve broken bread – both here at ROAM and at various restaurants around Ubud – we’ve taken day trips, sat by the beach, held workshops, done yoga together, hung out, shared drinks and stories, played Cards Against Humanity, and helped each other professionally and personally. We’ve been a family – and just like any family there are those you love, those that you find intriguing, those you learn from, and those who get on your last nerve. 😉 Think of a group of colleagues who work and live together. That’s the ROAMILY.

There also is an incredible team of locals who literally keep ROAM running, including a Community Manager who brings us together, handles any issues, and creates community events.

And last, but definitely not least, there is Lu (Princess Lu, LuLu, Miss Lu), our dog.

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She is not technically people, but please don’t tell her that. Unfortunately, there are those that want her gone. This is maddening and upsetting to many of us, as she is as much a part of this family as we are, but there is a plan to re-home her in California with a former ROAMIE. If you’re so inclined, you can donate to help get her there.

The work

While we’ve been here, Ben’s been building an app for a client – which just launched on iOS (Congrats!) and is soon to launch on Android, and I have been both writing and doing some contracted editing work. The writing is going extremely well and I have added nearly 70,000 words to my manuscript, which is the sequel to the book I published last year. It will be ready for a July publication!

There’s a shared work-space on the upper deck, a conference room for quiet and air conditioning, and it’s been fun to work from our little deck or poolside. I’ve also popped out to the coffee house for a few hours at a time for a change of scene. And, we have often taken our work with us when we’ve had day trips, which is a really lovely way to work.

The day-to-day

Certain domestic concerns have been taken off our hands here at ROAM. We don’t wash our towels and sheets, we don’t take out the rubbish and nor do we clean our rooms, which are serviced weekly. The pool, the grounds, the common areas and the plants are all taken care of. Alleviating these tasks frees up an enormous amount of time – at least for me.

We do wash our clothes, shop for and cook our own meals (if we want to eat in) and we clean up after ourselves in the kitchen. ROAM supplies bottled water, but the water in the rooms and kitchen is filtered, so we can brush our teeth with it and wash our fruit and veggies with it.

We share all the common areas – not just the work spaces – so try to be respectful of other people. Laundry is only done on a 20-min cycle, for instance. We each have our own shelves in the fridge and in the pantry, and we share some community food, such as fresh eggs daily, milk and fruit.

There are also weekly events organised by the Community Manager to ensure the community meets new arrivals, gets to see Ubud and other parts of Bali, and gets to experience the community feel that makes ROAM unique.

Would I come again?

In a heartbeat.

Sunset from ROAM

With thanks to Ben Reierson for additional photos, including ‘Sunset from ROAM’ above.

 

How to write a sequel

Maker:L,Date:2017-9-28,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E-Y

I originally posted this while writing the follow up to One Summer in Santorini. It is 14 months on, and I have edited this post accordingly.

I begin this post by planting my tongue firmly in my cheek. I would love to say that I’ve unlocked the secret, that I’ve discovered the Holy Grail of writing, that I’ve figured it out! In truth, I have discovered a kind of secret sauce for myself. Other writers may benefit from my ‘process’, so if anything I say resonates, have it – it’s yours.

Reflect on book one

I wrote book one, One Summer in Santorini, for several reasons:

  • My previous agent told me that the book I was writing at the time was my 5th book, not my 1st – too many characters and a multi-narrative. “You’re not Liane Moriarty,” he said. “Yet,” he added. He then challenged me to write a simple, linear narrative. Which I did.
  • It was a love letter to my partner, Ben. We met in Greece and I borrowed (rather heavily) from our story for the book  – the first half anyway. When I introduced a love triangle I was well into the realm of fiction.
  • It was a love letter to Greece. Greece is a place where you go to fall back in love with yourself – and with being alive. It challenges you to participate in your own life. If you haven’t been, go.
  • I had some demons to exorcise. I was single for half my twenties and most of my thirties. And by ‘single’ I mean I dated awful men who I changed or hid myself to be with. I wanted to write about a woman who calls an end to that, who won’t compromise herself again to be with someone.

Make time

I wrote book one on weekends and on evenings after working at a full-time job where I spent the bulk of my time writing. It was often hard to come home (usually post gym or errands) and sit down and write for myself. I did it, but it took a couple of years.

For the sequel, I had time. In 2018, we were on a year-long sabbatical. I had contract work, but I could dedicate significant chunks of time to writing. I started writing the sequel in February while we were still in Australia and I hit 10,000 words. I was reasonably happy with that progress, but my goal in Bali was to up the pace. After 8 weeks there, I finished the book at about 95000 words.

Celebrate the milestones

Every writer gets to decide what each milestone is. I celebrated when I got through an emotional part (if the writing left me sobbing or laughing out loud – milestone!), or I finished a chapter. The sequel is written in parts – and finishing each one was a milestone. Celebrating, by the way, included sharing on social media, pedicures, cocktails, massages, and congratulatory hugs from Ben.

The secret sauce

With book one, I had to knuckle down. I had to carve out time, and often had to force myself to sit down and write or edit or proofread. I had to self-impose deadlines and get others to hold me to account.

Being in Bali, with the luxury of time, the portability of a laptop, and being inspired by my surroundings, I had an absolute ball writing the sequel. And I worked faster, which meant there was continuity in the writing – the style, the voice, the narrative, character development. I had to work laboriously at that in the editing process of One Summer in Santorini, because I wrote it over such a long period of time. With the sequel, I’ve made the editing process easier on myself, just by writing over such a concentrated amount of time.

Most importantly, though, I let the story come to me.

This is the hardest part to explain, and is still my process. I start with only a rough outline, and I have no idea how many chapters it will take to tell the story. For the sequel, I didn’t even know how it ended when I started writing it.

When I got stuck, or I didn’t know what would come, I stepped away – sometimes for a few hours, sometimes days, and when I was doing something else – running, cooking, dodging scooters on the road – it came, the next part of the story. Then I would sit and write.

I’m so grateful that we made this decision to pack up our lives, sell up our stuff, leave our jobs and to live around the world. It was my special not-so-secret-anymore sauce.

While on sabbatical, I also wrote another follow up to One Summer in Santorini about Sarah’s sister, Cat. This book will be out early next year with the sequel to follow.