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A BRIT UNEXPECTED is out in the world!

Brenda St John Brown

You guys! A BRIT UNEXPECTED is out in the world. Truthfully it's been out in the world for a week now, but a new book is kind of like a new baby -- you want to keep showing it off, if only because you can't believe you actually did it. 

I'm so excited to share Claire and Greyson's story with you and even more thrilled that people seem to be connecting with the humor in the book. Writing romantic comedy is tricky because, well, what if it's not funny? I'm easily amused IRL, but what if that doesn't translate on the page? As I wrote Claire's character, her inner voice was funny and a little sarcastic, so I took to Facebook to ask my British friends for help to make it authentic. They definitely delivered! You know that FB videos that come up at the end of the year -- Your Year in Review or something like that? I'm pretty sure that post will top my 2016 video and it will be the best thing ever.

The other thing I'm thrilled people are connecting with is the low angst in the story. The Castle Calder series is unapologetically light and fun. I started writing A BRIT ON THE SIDE after abandoning a manuscript I'd been fighting with for YEARS. Every time I sat down to write that book, my heart felt heavy and I was filled with a sense of dread. Every word felt like it was being wrung out of me. Not exactly ideal working conditions, right? I started Bea and Jasper's story as a way to get out of that head space. Maybe I'd finish it, maybe I wouldn't.

Obviously I did and the idea of a series of companion novels was born. Claire is a secondary character in A BRIT ON THE SIDE, but readers really wanted her story, so viola! A BRIT UNEXPECTED was plotted -- complete with a happy ending for Claire.

Scarlett's book is next and I can't wait for The Boy to go back to school next week so I can dive into it in earnest. I even thought of a tentative title last night while I was brushing my teeth. And even more amazing, I remembered it this morning! I'm going to keep that to myself for a bit longer b/c my lists of working titles are usually long, but look for more info coming soon.

That's all from me today, but I'll leave you with a teaser or two in case you've missed them on Facebook. Happy reading, everyone!

ABU_Typorama teaser.jpg

A BRIT ON THE SIDE -- a glance behind the scenes

Brenda St John Brown

A BRIT ON THE SIDE is out in the world! I keep saying I loved writing this book and, hopefully, if you're reading/have read it you can tell. It's lower on the angst than my previous books, although I did have one reader tell me she cried at the end. But I'm pretty sure they were happy tears. I mean, with this as my real-life inspiration for Castle Calder, angst was pretty low on the agenda:

Augill Castle

Augill Castle

And Jasper. I've always wanted to write a "hot nerd" type of hero, although my original inspiration for him might have been a bit far on the nerd side. This was one of the original ideas I tossed around for a cover, but feedback was along the lines of, "You know a hot nerd actually has to be hot, right?" 

Jasper. Ish.

I still say he has a certain appeal, but I can understand why he didn't make the cut. Sigh. 

And Bea! Bea isn't a skinny size two. She's a UK 16, which is a US size 12. In other words, she's normal, but she has body-image issues. (Also normal, sadly.) This was a SUPER important part of Bea's character for me and one lots of readers can relate to, I think. Hell, it's one I can relate to. Looking at you, thighs. Do you think I could find a stock photo for Bea? Yes, but only if I search for plus-size models (which makes me all kinds of crazy). I ended up channelling Ashley Graham, but without the body confidence. 

Ashley Graham

Speaking of Ashley Graham, if you haven't read this article in the Huffington Post, it's pretty fab. Also, here's the link to the original Lenny Letter, Graham's letter re body shaming in Lena Dunham's newsletter. Everything I could say on the topic, she says. Better. 

This was the first book I've written set in the UK, even though I've lived here for almost 9 years. I had lots of conversations with friends that started with, "Would you say this?" Hopefully I got it right! I did make sure to include lots of tea. Because, well, I'm not sure you can live in this country and not drink tea.

Last but not least...British summer. According to friends and family, much of the US is sweltering. Not so much here. This is the actual forecast for my little corner of the world for the next week. A high of 64. In August. The hoodie Bea's always wearing -- necessary!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go and enjoy the balmy day we're having. :) 

Today's compelling thought (with a perfunctory apology for language)

Brenda St John Brown

Today's compelling thought -- don't be a dick.

I haven't written a blog post in awhile, but today I am COMPELLED. I'm obviously also compelled to use questionable language, but sometimes no other word will do. I woke up this morning to a comment that hit me in all the wrong places. Kind of like baby vomit down your shirt. Doesn't matter that the baby didn't mean it, it's done and the only thing that will make it better is handing the baby to someone else and having a long, hot shower.

The comment was about "how nice it must be to be a non-working mom." Made by a working dad to a group of mom's with flexible working arrangements. Myself included. This dad doesn't know said mom's have flexible working arrangements, of course, because he's working in an office and doesn't have flexibility. This is often the nature of office work. I've worked in an office and my workdays were filled with too many meetings, too little coffee and a strict expectation of the hours you'd be there.

This comment was directed at non-working mothers, specifically, because it was mostly mothers in this group chat, although, for many kids, the mother is the default parent. (For anyone unfamiliar with the concept, this Huffington Post article is tongue-in-cheek yet scarily accurate.) Obviously, fathers may also be the default parent and they may even hold jobs that are incredibly inflexible. This isn't about that.

This is about two things. First -- valuing others. Because when I think about it, it's not even the sexism of the aforementioned comment that I object to (although I do. Let me assure you. I do.), It's that in 2016 there is still a notion that being the default parent is not "work." Even if this guy is the only person on the planet who still believes this, he's one person too many. I could go on and list all of the ways that default parents work regardless of their pay scale, but that goes down the old "Mommy Wars" track, and I frankly thought we were past that. And it takes away from my second point which is about valuing others' contributions.

In this particular instance, these "non-working moms" help out with school clubs, events, and field trips. They give up their own time to do this and because their work arrangements are flexible, often end up making up the time later. I went on a school trip last week and spent the next two nights working until midnight to try to catch up. The other mom who went along has her own business and rescheduled clients so she could go. The school and the kids were super appreciative and it was a fun day, although I didn't love the working until midnight part. But I went because the school didn't have enough parent helpers for the trip to go ahead otherwise and, well, I have the flexibility to go. Do I expect this father (whose kid went on the trip) to thank me for going? No. But I don't expect disdain either.

Which gets back to the core point of this post -- besides being semi-therapeutic for me to write -- take two seconds, ten seconds, however many seconds you need before you speak and decide if your comment is kind and/or necessary. If it's not, don't say it. If it dismisses or denigrates an entire race, gender, or class of people, don't say it. If it's ill-informed or judgmental, don't say it. If your mother never taught you the old adage, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all," well, I'm a mother. Let me be the one to spell it out for you. Don't be a dick. The end.

 

The Joy of Letting Go

Brenda St John Brown

I have a manuscript I wrote after SWIMMING TO TOKYO that I've been trying to edit and rewrite and generally turn into something publishable since before Christmas. In a way, it's the book of my heart and, because of that, wow, how I've TRIED with this book. My former agent read it and liked it, but admitted she didn't think she could sell it. I signed a publishing contract for it, myself, only to have the publisher pretty much implode. Then I thought, "Well, I could publish it, myself. In fact, I should publish it, myself."

But then there's the matter of editing and rewriting and turning it into something publishable -- all of which are normally my favorite parts of the whole writing process. I'm a TERRIBLE first drafter. Editing is so much more satisfying for me. Except with this book. With this book, I open Word (figuratively) kicking and screaming. If I open it at all. Last night I had hours free to write and caught up on Jane the Virgin, instead. Today, I opened the document and promptly started playing with the puppy.

At which point I decided to take the dogs to the hills and have a think with myself while the wind blew away the cobwebs (and nearly turned the puppy into a kite, but that's another story). Once I decided to be honest with myself, it was easy. I don't want to rewrite or revise this book. Not because it's hard, but because I wrote that book nearly four years ago and I don't want to live in that world again. That dread I feel every time I open that manuscript? That's not how I want to approach my work day, plain and simple.

I had a fleeting thought at the top of a hill that deciding to file this manuscript could be construed as giving up. But then the wind blew that thought away and replaced it with this: Just because I've published a book doesn't mean I must write with that aim. Some things, I can write for the simple sake of it. This is one of those things. I may go back to it one day. Or I may not. And either way is okay.

It's no surprise that since I've decided this, I feel lighter in a way I haven't in weeks. I have a mammoth task of drafting a book, but the fact I'm excited about it is, on this random windy Wednesday, the best feeling in the world.

Measuring success

Brenda St John Brown

I've had a weird week, full of self-doubt even as I log some good progress on my current novel. Maybe it was the $0.59 royalty statement I got. Maybe it was seeing my books plummet in the Amazon rankings because I'd stopped advertising. Likely, it was a combination of the two and the realization that my traditional measure of success means I'm not only struggling, but failing.

See, I've always measured success by financial reward. My experience in the corporate world was always pretty straightforward -- work hard, get promoted, get a raise and sometimes, even, a bonus. I realize lots of factors come into play here -- not least of which is that I had a boss who made those decisions and deemed me "worthy." But, I also worked my ass off; compensation was the trade off.

Cue current day. Do I work my ass off? Truthfully, my work is more erratic than it was when I was logging hours in an office, but since marketing, making ads, participating in discussions and research count towards the overall end product, I'm not always writing words, but I log a lot of hours in this job. A lot. For a $0.59 royalty statement. You can see where the disenchantment might start.

And I thought to myself, "Is it worth it?" I asked my writer friends, "Is it worth it?" I asked my husband, running friends, dogs, "Is it worth it?" Everyone said variations on the same, "Only you can answer that." (The dogs were fairly enthusiastic in their response, but it may have been because I was making lunch at the time.)

So, I had a long hard think with myself. And I came out of with the realization that if I continue measuring success by sales and financial reward, I'd continue having these quarterly meltdowns, and that's not good for anyone. I said in a post just a month ago, I was going to focus on building a readership this year and, wow, how easy did I lose sight of that? Gone like a bag of Doritos.

But I'm recommitting to it here. I've got LIES WE LIVE available for free right now for newsletter subscribers. (E.g., if you haven't read it yet, now's a great time. And don't worry about the newsletter thing. I promise not to spam you.) And I'm working on a new book, which is back in the New Adult genre, a la SWIMMING TO TOKYO. It's a writing/editing endeavor, and I should have an update on timing by the end of the month. 

If you've stuck with this post this far, thank you! It's a weird old thing being a writer and even 3 books in, I'm obviously still trying to figure it out. Thanks for sticking with me!

How Brenda got her groove back

Brenda St John Brown

How did she??? I don't know, I don't know, I don't know! 

It's January 8 and I'm here all like, "Words? How do I do this again?" Even though, I swear, I AM ready to be back in a routine. I've been running a few times and even though it's been a slog, it feels good to move semi-quickly again. I've stopped eating for England, so that's another check in the plus column. I'm back to going to bed the same day I woke up in and my house has long been de-Christmas'd. There's no reason I should be struggling.

But excuses? I've got 'em. The new puppy is adorable, but much more high maintenance than our chilled 6-year-old lab. Every walk turns into an hour. My husband came down with the flu at New Year and, even though he's much better, he's still working from home. This helps with the puppy but not so much with the distractions, because even though I'm in the next room with the door closed, I can still hear the TV. And then there's the whole wavering between two manuscripts thing.

I'm a one-book-at-a-time type of person. I can't read more than one book at a time and I definitely can't write one, but I keep thinking I can so I don't have to decide which one to put aside. My goal this weekend is to decide. Write blurbs for both and then dive in. That sounds like a plan, right? Right??? I may even post both and go with popular opinion, so stay tuned. :)

Success, Goals and an Invitation

Brenda St John Brown

The Boy is officially on school holiday for the next two-and-a-half weeks, which means lazy mornings and lots of 10-year-old wisdom. This morning as I was pouring my first cup of coffee at 9am (Let's actually pause there -- 9am!!! Bliss, as long as I don't remember those long-ago days when 9am meant getting up "early". ), I said something about needing to get a little work done today. And then I said something about school being his job, just like writing was mine. Then he said, "And just like school, sometimes you have to write for years before you're really successful and on the front page at Amazon."

I laughed, but then I came and sat down at my computer and his words are still rattling around my head. Sometimes you have to write for years. True, that.

And in those years, your definition of success changes. Sure, being on the front page at Amazon would be pretty cool. On my author wish list is definitely hitting a list -- The New York Times, USA Today, the Manchester Evening News. :) (I'm easy that way.) But, wishes, like unicorns, are ephemeral, and one thing I've learned on this journey is to focus on things I can control. My author to-do list, as it were.

Which is: to publish two books per year, minimum. I know lots of people pub a lot more, and maybe I can grow this number. But, I also know I'm SLOOOWWW and this is a reasonable number for me to aim for without killing myself. I'm hoping to have a book for you next spring, so look for the first details in early 2016.

And, related to that -- and more importantly -- I want to grow a group of dedicated readers. (If you've read this far, you're pretty dedicated.) And if you've read my books and want to read my future ones for free, maybe you want to join my launch team? I'd love to have you, so have a click over to the link and see what you think. In the meantime, happy first day of the holidays! If you've got to hang in until Friday, chocolate helps. So does wine.

Pregnancy and loss -- the the story behind the story

Brenda St John Brown

So yesterday I was over on Facebook with Our So-Called Group and they asked what inspired me to write The Truth Series. One of those questions that make you go hmmm because, well, it’s actually a weirdly personal story and one I had second thoughts about sharing. But then I had a third thought and realized my misgivings weren’t about sharing, but about public discussion of a topic usually only talked about in hushed whispers, and that made me think sharing it was okay.

After I had my son, I had a series of miscarriages. After number five, I realized I was never going to have another kid and I had to find a way to make peace with that, but I always felt like the miscarriages were my fault somehow. There’s this overwhelming sense of loss – and guilt – when you miscarry that people don’t talk about much. It’s an incredibly painful emotional experience, but it’s the self-blame, I think, that keeps many women from being open about it. Through all of my own experiences, my husband was super supportive. But I started thinking, “What if he wasn’t? What if I was with someone who blamed me as much as I blamed myself?” I could easily see how that kind of thing could destroy a relationship, especially if it was fragile to begin with. Then my imagination took over and Eric was born – a man who took Ella to court for negligence over her role in the still birth of their child. I actually had Eric’s character very clearly in mind before I had Ella’s, but once I started thinking about her, I knew I wanted her to be difficult and emotionally distant with plenty of room for growth.

I'm not sharing my own story to garner sympathy, although I'm sorry it happened. It's been a lot of years now and I can talk about it matter-of-factly. When I was going through this, though, I couldn't. I didn't even want to tell my then-employer what was happening. I hadn't even told them I was pregnant and I was calling in sick because suddenly I wasn't anymore and that made me feel worse. I had friends having kids at the time and I was thrilled for them, but sad, too, because in the back of my mind was that little voice saying, "what if?" And, worse, "not me."

I was never very open about this at the time -- family knew, of course, and a few close friends. But as I started being able to talk about it, I was astonished at how incredibly common miscarriage actually is. It seemed everyone I talked to either had one, themselves, or knew someone who had. Which is the point of my sharing this at all -- if you're going through this, you're not alone. There are groups who can help, including the Miscarriage Association in the UK and a group of organizations worldwide listed here.  I found a lot of support on the message boards at Baby Center. Sharing, even virtually, helps. And it does get better. As someone who's come out the other side of this, I swear. It gets better. 

Release Day -- Truths We Tell

Brenda St John Brown

TWT_available now 2.png

TRUTHS WE TELL is out in the world! To celebrate, I'm running a release week giveaway for a $50 AND a £50 Amazon Gift Card and you should go and enter. All details here. 

If you just want the buy links because you're dying to know how it all ends, here you go:

Amazon: http://hyperurl.co/twt-amz

Nook: http://smarturl.it/TWT-Nook

iBooks: http://smarturl.it/iBooks_TWT

Kobo: http://smarturl.it/Kobo-TWT

Thank you so much to everyone for your support of my books and this series! I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Tomorrow! Tomorrow!

Brenda St John Brown

I love you, tomorrow. You're always a day away.

I have that song in my head now. You? I remember seeing Annie on Broadway when I was in 6th grade. It was my first proper show and my first Broadway play, and I loved it so much I haven't seen it since because it's such a perfect memory in my head.

But I digress. TRUTHS WE TELL is out tomorrow. It's got a few early reviews on Goodreads if you want to check them out. It's still up for $1.99/£1.99 pre-order everywhere. And tomorrow, I'm starting a release-week promo, so stay tuned!