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message 1: by Jay (last edited Feb 27, 2012 02:57AM) (new)

Jay Howard (jay_howard) | 303 comments Greetings from Somerset :)
What an incredible rollercoaster of emotions and experiences it has been since publishing my first novel, Never Too Late, last November. It's a story about family interactions and community, and how the decisions we make influence those closest to us.

Now I find my characters and their lives have influenced me in ways I didn't expect. It's not been too late for me to learn how to prepare a book for publishing, or to learn to create a web page and a blog, or to find out about this forum. It's been frustrating and rewarding by turns as I've overcome each hurdle - my poor husband must have thought me manic depressive at times! It's also somewhat overwhelming to think of over 4,000 people around the world reading my work, and scary, too, knowing that so many people have an insight into how my mind works.

It's lovely to find a network of people who are so kind and supportive to each other. Thank you for inviting me to join you.

Patti (baconater) (goldengreene) | 61757 comments Lovely opening post, Jay!

We're glad to have you with us!

message 3: by Karen (new)

Karen Lowe | 2335 comments Hiya Jay, and welcome.
They're certainly a supportive crowd here, and fairly harmless.

Patti (baconater) (goldengreene) | 61757 comments Yes fairly harmless. Just be sure to keep certain groupites away from your curtains, Jay.

Gingerlily - The Full Wild | 36808 comments As in you Patti! You're shameless where parties and curtains are concerned.

message 6: by Philip (sarah) (new)

Philip (sarah) Willis | 5174 comments Just bought your book Jay,looking forward to reading it.

message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

Checking your link, I find that I downloaded this on 1st Feb - I'll bump it up my tbr list.

Welcome to this group Jay.


message 8: by Jay (last edited Feb 27, 2012 09:01AM) (new)

Jay Howard (jay_howard) | 303 comments Thank you all for the welcome:)

I'd love to get some constructive criticism from any of you if you do happen to read my book. I'm just too close to my work to know if it's any good, and it's so hard to know how I can improve when I'm isolated in my own little bubble here. Sorry about the typos that were in the 1st Feb edition, Karen - not many but enough that I revisited and corrected, so you should be OK Philip.

message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

Thanks for the warning Jay, all I need to do is contact amazon and they will replace the copy with the updated edition. I love that - you can't do that with paperbacks!


message 10: by Jay (new)

Jay Howard (jay_howard) | 303 comments Wow, I didn't know that! I'll have to put something on my website/blog/FB to tell other people who don't know - and just hope they do actually visit.

message 11: by Jay (new)

Jay Howard (jay_howard) | 303 comments 2 lovely emails this week. 1st one notified me that for the first time ever Amazon are going to pay me money. Nowhere near as much as I've paid them over the years but hey, £16 royalties for November and December is £16 more than I ever anticipated getting :)

The 2nd email was from Bridgwater Homestart, inviting me to their prize giving do in March as my short story Emily's Hat has made the shortlist!

Would any of you like to read one of my short stories? If so, where/how do I post it?

Gingerlily - The Full Wild | 36808 comments wow thats great news - you must be delighted!

message 13: by Jay (new)

Jay Howard (jay_howard) | 303 comments Absolutely! It's the first time an 'outside agency' has recognised my work in any way. OK it's only dear little Bridgwater but every journey starts with the first step (am I allowed to use quotes and cliches now? lol!). No, actually, it's not quite true - I did get a certificate of merit from Mere Literary Festival but I wasn't shortlisted. the memory is not too good in these days of it always being so easy to look up anything you need to know.

message 14: by Jay (last edited Mar 05, 2012 03:07AM) (new)

Jay Howard (jay_howard) | 303 comments I've just received the official invitation to the short story competition's presentation. I did better than I realised as there were 383 entries - not bad for a local competition - so I'm well pleased, and Home-Start must be too with that revenue to help their work. There'll be a buffet and I'll meet the author Patricia Ferguson, who is the judge, and the other finalists. Bridgwater Arts Centre organiser, Sinead Gillespie (a lovely woman who has given me a lot of encouragement) also has a book due out soon.

message 15: by Jay (last edited Mar 05, 2012 07:17AM) (new)

Jay Howard (jay_howard) | 303 comments As a celebration I've put my novel on FREE promo for tomorrow. If you read it I'd love to get some feedback from you - here on GR, review on Amazon, email me at or whatever. I need to know the best and the worst so that I can improve the sequel and my other writing. Thanks :)

Here are the Amazon links:

message 16: by Emma (new)

Emma (emzibah) | 4396 comments Hi Jay, is not showing up as free yet. Looks great though and will certainly give it a go! Have a huge TBR pile so may be a while but I'll review etc when I do x

message 17: by Jay (new)

Jay Howard (jay_howard) | 303 comments Doh! Got my dates wrong - it's on for 6th (tomorrow).
I hope it doesn't disappoint :)

message 18: by Jay (last edited Mar 05, 2012 07:33AM) (new)

Jay Howard (jay_howard) | 303 comments Just a thought, Emma - if you want to check out my style I put a short story (1700 words) on GR this morning. Can't tell you exactly where as I keep getting lost here lol! I think I'd gone into the Creative Writing link...
It's called Spirit Passing and is about being with someone as they die, saying goodbye.

Update: just found it -

message 19: by Emma (last edited Mar 05, 2012 07:35AM) (new)

Emma (emzibah) | 4396 comments Jay wrote: "Just a thought, Emma - if you want to check out my style I put a short story (1700 words) on GR this morning. Can't tell you exactly where as I keep getting lost here lol! I think I'd gone into the..."

Sounds interesting but am not sure I would cope with it at the moment. Battling some demons about my Aunt who passed away in June (I was with her and i am a Nurse) plus, my step-grandad passed way this morning so a bit raw to be honest. Sorry x

message 20: by Jay (new)

Jay Howard (jay_howard) | 303 comments Oh Emma - I'm so sorry for your losses. Please accept a big electronic hug. My thoughts are with you. xx

message 21: by Jay (new)

Jay Howard (jay_howard) | 303 comments Promo over and there were nearly a thousand downloads so I'm hopeful some kind soul will give me a review ;)

Whatever, I hope it brings some enjoyment. Merely knowing some people are reading my work validates the effort of writing it. Mind you, the story wouldn't give me any peace until it was completed so I didn't really have much choice in the matter!

Work on the sequel is going OK - about a quarter written now, so publication in the summer is looking like a definite maybe (!).

message 22: by Jay (new)

Jay Howard (jay_howard) | 303 comments I've just added the story that is currently shortlisted in Bridgwater Home-start short story competition. I'll find out on March 24th if I got any further. Patricia Ferguson is the judge.

message 23: by Jay (new)

Jay Howard (jay_howard) | 303 comments I've just published Never Too Late on Smashwords, along with the first of the short stories that I'll be adding for free download.

I didn't realise before GR pointed me in the direction of Smashwords that they make all formats available for every type of eReader I can think of. I'll see how my baby gets on there compared with the Amazon edition.

message 24: by Jay (new)

Jay Howard (jay_howard) | 303 comments I've just met with Sinead Gillespie at the Bridgwater Arts Centre. She has read my book and had some very valid feedback for me. There was a lot of encouragement for my first efforts, but also a recommendation of a slight reworking of the story. I think on balance it came down to a good story that with a bit of work could be a great story. So... more work ahead but worth it.

message 25: by Jay (last edited Mar 28, 2012 02:38PM) (new)

Jay Howard (jay_howard) | 303 comments I had a lovely lunchtime last Saturday at the presentation do for the Home-Start Short Story Competition 2012. I was nervous about going, but everyone was so welcoming. It was terrific having the chance to chat with other authors about writing, as well as learning more about the people who, on a mostly voluntary basis, do such worthwhile work helping families under pressure in my area. I didn't get further than the short list, but I was up against more competition than I thought. 3rd place was won by a man in the USA, 2nd place went to Newcastle, one of the other short listers had travelled from Oxford to join us, so no, it wasn't just my home town involved.

On the novel front I've been listening hard to advice from some very clever people and am using my newly garnered knowledge to continue the editing of my work.

message 26: by Philip (sarah) (new)

Philip (sarah) Willis | 5174 comments Jay you did really well to be shortlisted when the net had been cast so wide.
I tried to have a look at your book on Amazon but neither of the UK. links seems to be working (I don't do Smashwords)
I will pop back later to see if I have better luck.

message 27: by Jay (new)

Jay Howard (jay_howard) | 303 comments Hi Sarah
Thanks for that. I must admit to feeling chuffed :)
I've actually 'unpublished' the novel for a week or so while I work on it. I've been getting some very good constructive criticism from a few people. As I am at last able to take that extra step back and look at my work a bit more critically I find I agree with them. The story will be the same, but hopefully just 'tightened' up a little. I'll post again when I republish.

If you change your mind about Smashwords I have 3 short stories there for free download, including Emily's Hat (the short listed story). When I have more time they will be going on this site too - I can't remember offhand what I've already got here and what's still to go on to tell the truth. Life's a bit of a whirl right now! Thanks for your interest.

message 28: by Philip (sarah) (new)

Philip (sarah) Willis | 5174 comments Thanks for the reply Jay,I will come back next week for another look.Hope life calms down a bit and you get a chance to enjoy this lovely weather.

message 29: by Jay (new)

Jay Howard (jay_howard) | 303 comments Hiya - I got back to you eventually - phew! That was hard work. I'm so looking forward to getting a good night's sleep again. No going to work, and no intense writing, for 4 whole days. Yay! (as my Canadian friends say). I can actually get back to chatting with people :)

Thanks for the interest you have shown in my work and your patience. I hope the wait proves justified. I'm fairly confident it is now much better. You know how you get those niggling, subconscious doubts, but aren't quite sure where you've gone wrong? Well, I've been getting some really good advice from fellow authors, both online and in person, and have been burning the midnight oil to put it into practice. I've now republished (clicked the button at 1:10am last night!) and the 2nd edition is available for free download on Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th April.

I hope you enjoy my efforts when you get chance to read Never Too Late. And don't hesitate to tell me exactly what you think - it's the only way I'll learn how to improve, and feedback is very much appreciated. It's Never Too Late to learn lol!

Happy Easter!

message 30: by Jay (new)

Jay Howard (jay_howard) | 303 comments Hi everyone - sorry I've been away so long. Since that very busy time preparing and publishing the 2nd edition of Never too Late (many thanks to Kate, Sue and Lynne-W for reading and rating it) I faced the uphill task of trying to catch up with the work I hadn't done on the sequel, New Beginnings. This has been hindered by getting involved with YouWriteOn, but helped by those very same tasks there.

I've found my ability to critically review my own work has been improved immensely by the reviewing of other people's work on YWO. 7,000 words is manageable after work. A whole novel would defeat me at the moment.

The constructive reviews of my work help too :)
Anyway, I think I've just about got myself back to the point where I will be able to publish this summer. Fingers crossed!

Back to the keyboard now - bye!

Patti (baconater) (goldengreene) | 61757 comments Lovely to see you Jay!

Don't be a stranger, eh?

message 32: by Jay (new)

Jay Howard (jay_howard) | 303 comments thanks Patti :)
I do try and get a bit of balance in my life, but I'm such a novice at this writing game I get a bit carried away at times. When OH gets tetchy because I'm ignoring him I know it's time to back off a bit lol!

message 33: by Jay (last edited Jun 30, 2012 05:32AM) (new)

Jay Howard (jay_howard) | 303 comments My goodness - where have the last 2 months gone? Was it really in April I last posted here?

I've just been given a lovely boost towards finishing New Beginnings. I've been busy reading 'how to' manuals and realising more and more how, in my ignorance, I'd broken so many 'rules' of writing good fiction in Never Too Late. I was starting to wonder how come I'd ever sold a single copy.

Then I got 2 lovely reviews on Amazon - from BlueJay44 and Jackdaw, so thank you, whoever you are. It was reading those that gave me the confidence to get cracking on writing the rest of the sequel. My work may not meet the criteria of the experts, but if it is read with enjoyment it's worth doing.

Now, I'm not saying that I can't see the merits of what these experts are saying. I am still trying to improve my craft and I will bear in mind what they say. But the bottom line is that it must inform my writing, not let it stifle developing my own style.

message 34: by Jay (new)

Jay Howard (jay_howard) | 303 comments I've taken another look at Never Too Late and made some more edits (correcting a couple of grammatical points) and republished on Smashwords now that my KDP Select period is over.

The main thing I want to do today, though, is pass on a tip I stumbled on almost by accident. I got stuck half way through New Beginnings. It took me a couple of weeks to get a single chapter written and it wasn't getting any easier. So I thought to myself 'I know what the last chapter needs to be, so write that'. I did so, and immediately knew how the chapter before it should go. And the one before that, and then the one before that...

The writing's going really well again - in reverse. I'm just hoping that I will eventually meet the first half and not find I've written all the way to the beginning in a parallel universe.

message 35: by Jay (new)

Jay Howard (jay_howard) | 303 comments I'm getting quite excited now. I'm in the middle of the second edit of New Beginnings. It's looking good for publishing in a couple of weeks.

It really is amazing to me, that I've now written not one but two books. It took me 8 years to write the first one, 10 months for the second. I also think the 2nd one is better than the 1st, so perhaps I have learned a lot along the way. I've certainly made some lovely friends :)

Patti (baconater) (goldengreene) | 61757 comments Aw Jay. That's lovely. :)

message 37: by Jay (new)

Jay Howard (jay_howard) | 303 comments It's the truth, Patti. I'd be quite bereft if I couldn't pop in to see you all every day.

Patti (baconater) (goldengreene) | 61757 comments (((((((HUGZ)))))))))

message 39: by Jay (new)

Jay Howard (jay_howard) | 303 comments How come I can write two novels, but struggle so hard on a few words for a blurb? I've tried dozens of alternatives this morning and I'm still not sure. These are the best 2 so far (I think). Can anyone give me some feedback please? Does either of them have a chance of attracting a reader? Should I ditch both and start again?


Maggie’s dealt with Iain’s infidelity, so what secret does he have that could be worse than that? Christmas and New Year bring even more tests of Maggie’s courage and strength.

After a year of challenges for the family, Maggie and Iain have a much better relationship, and their son and his wife are following their dream on their market garden in Holmsford. But what of their daughter, Chloe? She’s still trying to start her own company, and wants to find her own special partner. Her methods aren’t always what Maggie would approve of, and the bombshell she drops in her mother’s lap nearly blows the family apart.

Life and relationships are never static in a small village. There are more secrets exposed, new loves, trials and tribulations for the residents, old and new.

ATTEMPT 2: (re-written after Marc gave same advice)

Life is busy in the small village of Holmsford as Christmas approaches. Residents old and new gear up for the celebrations, but not everything goes to plan. Secrets and sleigh rides, new love and heartache all get mixed in the festive pot.

Maggie and Iain have built a better relationship since his infidelities were exposed, but she’s sure there’s still something important he’s not telling her. Their son and his wife are living their dream on their market garden, but what of their daughter, Chloe? She’s still trying to start her own company, and wants to find her own special partner. Her methods aren’t always what Maggie would approve of, and the bombshell she drops in her mother’s lap nearly blows the family apart.

Patti (baconater) (goldengreene) | 61757 comments I like the second one best. :)

message 41: by Jay (new)

Jay Howard (jay_howard) | 303 comments Thanks, Patti - I agree the first one needs ditching. I've had another go as well (more suggestions from a friend in Dublin):

Life is busy in the small village of Holmsford as Christmas approaches. Residents old and new gear up for the celebrations, but not everything goes to plan. Secrets and sleigh rides, new love and heartache, all get mixed up in the festive pot.

In the MacTavish household, the yuletide peace and goodwill has the feel of calm before the storm.

Philandering husband Iain appears to have mended his ways, but Maggie feels certain he’s still hiding something. Troubled son James is now settled and making a success of his market garden with wife Keela. But what of their tempestuous daughter, Chloe?

In her disastrous attempts to find the love she craves and forge a new career, the bombshell she drops in her mother’s lap threatens to blow the family apart…

Patti (baconater) (goldengreene) | 61757 comments Erm. Tad long, but I'm really biased toward short, snappy blurbs. Grab my interest in the first two lines, I reckon.

message 43: by Jay (new)

Jay Howard (jay_howard) | 303 comments Patti (Migrating Coconut) wrote: "Erm. Tad long, but I'm really biased toward short, snappy blurbs. Grab my interest in the first two lines, I reckon."

Decisions, decisions... I was never any good at that lol!
Thanks for your input, Patti.

message 44: by Jay (new)

Jay Howard (jay_howard) | 303 comments Well, I've clicked the Publish button, thought I could relax, then remembered everything else that needs doing. So much to update...

I've spent 3 weeks of annual leave on finishing this book. Do you think my boss might give me a holiday now?

I have no idea why we put ourselves through all this, but I also know I'll be writing the next one soon. It's a bit like OCD.

Patti (baconater) (goldengreene) | 61757 comments Jay!


message 46: by Jay (new)

Jay Howard (jay_howard) | 303 comments Thanks, Patti. It's a joyful sadness.
I sit back and think, Oh no! That dreaded blank screen waiting for the first chapter of the first draft...

message 47: by Jay (new)

Jay Howard (jay_howard) | 303 comments Gosh - is it really so long ago I posted here? Never mind, there's good news to report now. I've just published this set of 8 short stories on behalf of Saluki Welfare Fund. 100% of royalties will go to help the volunteers rescue, care for and find loving new homes these gorgeous sighthounds when they fall on hard times.

As The Sun Goes Down by Jay Howard

Hopefully you'll find something there to amuse you or get you thinking about the people who inhabit my head (I know - that sounds kind of weird and rather disturbing!).

Thanks for your support :)

message 48: by Jay (new)

Jay Howard (jay_howard) | 303 comments woohoo! It's up to #80 in the anthologies on :)

I'm hoping there will be a steady flow of income for these beautiful sighthounds who have stolen my heart. A few dollars every week add up nicely over a year, so fingers crossed sales continue. It may not be a flood, but a steady drip can achieve amazing things - just think of stalactites and stalagmites.

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