Writing to Someone you Have Lost…

There are a great deal of posts on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, and podcasts etc., all about loss and grief. It is spoken of more often today than in the past. Especially over the last couple of years it seems. We are encouraged by social media to talk about our losses and share our feelings..

Last Friday, the 14th January, was the eleventh anniversary of the loss of my lovely son Thomas Hartley. Last year I wrote a book about him and for him, for the tenth anniversary. This book is called, Dear Tosh. This year, I didn’t write another book, but The Man and I went to Dartmouth and visited Dittisham where I used to holiday with my children when they were all younger. It was a trip down memory lane. 😊

I try to write in my journal every day. Here I can write what I like and not worry about anyone reading it. . . not until I’m dead anyway. In my journal I can be honest, say what I really think but even then I hold back a little bit, just in case I leave it somewhere and another pair of eyes read it. I don’t like to, pour out my grief on social media, but sometimes I just write a paragraph or two hoping people will understand what it’s like to lose a child, even when that child is 27. Writing about it does help. At least, I think it does. I wrote my book as a tribute to Tosh, I didn’t publish expecting it to become a bestseller. Dear Tosh is slowly finding its way around the world and I’m happy to report that readers have reached out to me, often saying the the book has helped them with their own loss, or they finished it and gave it to someone else they knew who had lost a child.

This year I have found the anniversary of his death harder. Many people would say that’s not right, and that by now I should be okay. I should be ‘moving on’ and forgetting about the past. But I just don’t think that’s possible. My daughter and I exchanged text messages yesterday (the 15th January). She was feeling upset about things and I told her this: I feel low too. . .almost worse than yesterday. . .It’s like I don’t want the anniversary to be over. . .it just means I’m even further away from Tosh. 🙁 She replied: Yes I totally relate to the further away thing. It’s weird isn’t it?

I wonder if other bereaved parents and siblings feel the same way? It’s as though you cannot or don’t want to let go. Clinging on by your finger tips to stop them slipping away.

I miss writing to Tosh, that’s the format of my book, twenty seven letters written to him. I have missed writing him those letters, and I think I’m going to write a few more. I did scribble a note to him while we were away for his anniversary. I used the hotel’s headed note paper and told him what we were doing and how things were for me. I folded it up and put it in my journal and I felt better.

I firmly believe that writing ‘stuff’ down is good for mental health. One can write in a notebook, on a computer or even a scrap of paper. It doesn’t matter if you’re a writer or not. It can be so therapeutic; getting things out of your head and onto the page. But. . . I have an idea for my blog readers. Why not try writing a letter to someone you have lost. A mother, a father, a child. . . anyone whose loss has affected you. Write them a letter or two, or more. Tell them what has happened since they died. Tell them things you wish you had said to them when they were alive. Ask them questions — you may find the answers to those questions just by writing them down — speak to them, tell them your thoughts. I’m sure it will make you feel better.

I’m going to write to my father who died well over fifty years ago. Who will you write to?

My Interview On the ‘Meet The Authors’ Website…

Yesterday I was featured on the blog post of Meet The Authors. Of course now I’ve read it through I can think of lots more I could have said but too late now. Isn’t that always the way?

It’s a good interview (I think) and I’m posting the link below so that you can pop on over and have a look. Please leave a comment if you can — it makes a big difference.

MEET THE AUTHORS: NINETTE HARTLEY

Counting, counting, counting…

It is 31 steps from the sofa in the sitting room to the bathroom upstairs in our cottage. It’s 82 steps from my desk, down the stairs and out to the shed and back to my desk — we have a small garden. How do I know this? Because I have treated myself to a band I wear on my wrist which logs every single step I take. I am trying not to be obsessed but…

The fact is that being a writer necessitates sitting at my desk for a good part of everyday. I do get out for a walk with the dog but I’m apt to cut it short when I’m stuck into a WIP which at the moment is a novel I have been working on for several years and which I am determined to finish editing (for the tenth time) by Christmas.

I am in danger of becoming obsessed with the grey band and black face that sits on my wrist. My 10,000 steps a day goal eats away at me. Whereas before I could tell myself I’d done enough walking for the day, I now find myself running up and downstairs in the evening just to get the steps up to the point where the dear little gadget vibrates in order to congratulate me for reaching the desired walking distance for the day. It flashes at me, and I smile. Happy. It is almost — but not quite — the same feeling as writing The End.

I know it’s doing me good and I’m hoping that the novelty doesn’t wear off too soon because I must confess to being one of those people who can be enthusiastic in phases, but this time I’m going to try and keep it up. I want to lose some weight and ‘walk’ through my seventies with ease. The dog of course, is delighted with the new gadget as I am less likely to cut her walks short to get back to my WIP. Walking in the country lanes and across the fields is much more pleasant than running up and down the stairs in the evenings — at least it is for the moment. I might not feel the same when the weather is less clement.

Now, I’d better get on with that editing if I’m to hit the deadline of completing that novel. Scrivener tells me I’m at 11,022 words edited so far, only another 68,978 to go! I do have the 80,000 words written, I’m just bringing them over from another manuscript and massively editing as I do.

You can just read the title of the book in the screenshot…look out for it in 2022…

That’s if I can hit my targets…😊

The Ups and Downs of Self-Publishing (or as I prefer to say Independent Author)

The last few months have been interesting. Since the publication and launch of Dear Tosh on the 20th May 2021 there have been great surges of interest and then troughs of nothing. Social media is a fickle friend and I get the distinct feeling that followers on Instagram and Facebook get fed up with too many posts on one particular subject and that Twitter is a complete waste of time. Even though I now have nearly a thousand followers on Twitter — only a small faithful percentage of them fluff up their feathers, open their beaks and speak up about, or for me. A tweet flies in and out in seconds. It’s very difficult to be noticed however much seed you scatter and I take my hat off to those independent authors who succeed.

I am not famous, I don’t have an agent or a book deal with a traditional publisher and the stigma of self-publishing is still very much in evidence in the literary world. I am at a loss as to see why every other industry encourages ‘independence’ as a brave and wonderful thing to do, but when it comes to publishing a book, one is generally passed over or ignored. As it happens, I’m not that concerned about selling loads of copies of Dear Tosh , I wrote it as a tribute to my lovely son and sent it out into the world, so I have achieved my goal. The reviews have been amazing and the sales —whilst not reaching the Sunday Times Best Seller list — have been slow and steady. I just wish I could garner more interest with say the BBC or even local newspapers. Even those who have promised they will give me a corner in a magazine or a spot on a podcast, have yet to seal the deal. Nobody wants to give you a big window display in their bookshop even though you are prepared to lob several free copies their way.

But it’s not all gloom and doom. BBC Radio Devon gave me an interview with Pippa Quelch and the feedback from those who listened was wonderful. The Compassionate Friends printed and article in their magazine Compassion (page 10)and my local magazine The Marshwood (page 56) also gave me a page in their July issue and I am very grateful for that exposure.

I’m going to try and go the traditional route next time, I am sure more doors would open for me and more opportunities arise, simply because — if I succeed in getting a deal— I will no longer be painted with the ‘self-published’ brush. But, on the other hand, being in control of everything from the type setting, the cover, the price etc., is very satisfying. Also, do I want to have a ‘two-book-deal’ which would mean having to finish another book by a given deadline? Perhaps the traditional route is not for me — we’ll see.

Conclusion: it’s bloody hard to keep going with promotion and keep up the enthusiasm. But, I’m a pretty stalwart person, so giving up is not an option. Maybe one day, I’ll get that elusive interview on a breakfast TV show or lunchtime gig — at least I won’t stop trying. Perhaps I have to think of a really outrageous publicity stunt. . . any ideas?

Things Have Changed. . .

There’s been a few changes to the WordPress website. It’s grown and is no longer just a blog…The domain name has changed but hopefully it won’t make any difference to blog followers. Just keep a lookout for NinetteHartley rather than Ninette90. Any problems then use the contact form here to send me a message.

The blog will continue in just the same way so please keep following or if you’re not signed up yet then please do.

Today is just a quick update but look out for another post later in the week.

Ninette x

Book Promotions for Indie Authors

Being a self-published author is difficult. As someone wrote this week, ‘Remember writing the book really is the easy part – publishing is simple – but marketing is expensive, time-consuming, and complex.’ How right they are! Still, gotta keep plodding on.

Today I had a wonderful video chat with fellow memoirist Helen Bouchami  — I can highly recommend her book Am I Still A Mother ?  She and I discussed the highs and lows of being indie authors. We know that there is still a bit of a stigma attached to self-publishing. This may stem from the existence of ‘vanity publishers’ who offer contracts to authors expecting them to stump up a great deal of money themselves and then the company produce a rather shoddy copy of their book. There’s an interesting article from Writers and Artists you can check out here.

We think that we have produced excellent books, both in content and quality. The covers are as good as any traditionally published book — if not better— and although the road to publication was difficult with many bumps, twists and turns, we got there. We are not young and we’re in a hurry to get our ‘stuff’ out there. Finding an agent, who then finds and editor, before pitching to publishers, takes a long time, often years and even when you do land a contract, there’s no guarantee of success. Most authors still have to do a great deal of promotion themselves even when they have taken the traditional route.

Helen and I made a few plans to promote our books which I’m not going to share here yet. . . 

However I am going to begin writing a monthly newsletter full of good things and letting everyone know what’s happening in the world of Dear Tosh as well as including lots of interesting news about books I’ve read, films I’ve watched etc.  If you would like to sign up to receive my newsletter please click  here

A Call for Reviews. . .Please . . .

First of all I would like to thank those people who have put a review on Waterstones, Amazon and Goodreads. I have been reluctant to ask people to review Dear Tosh and I’m not really sure why. I think it’s because of the content of the book and I don’t want to be saying, ‘buy my book’ all the time. The truth is, I really want people to read it and that isn’t going to happen without me pushing a little bit.

Many people have written to me via text messages, my website www.ninettehartley.com or to my email address, ninette@ninettehartley.com and on Facebook and Instagram. Everyone has given me the most wonderful feedback, some of which I have shared on social media.

If you have read Dear Tosh  and feel that you could put a review on Amazon, Goodreads or Waterstones I would be so grateful.

I think Dear Tosh is a book that can be read by anyone, not just bereaved parents. I hope that reading it will encourage discussions about many aspects of grief and loss and how much friends and relatives can do to help those who have been affected.

I would be happy to send a few books out to book clubs too — if anyone can point me in the right direction.

It’s not about selling but about sharing (though selling is a bonus!).

Thank you all in advance!

Ninette xx

Independent Bookshop Week …

Independent Bookshop Week …

This week is Independent Bookshop Week so get buying down at your local.

I am a massive supporter of independent bookshops. When I published Dear Tosh I was determined to get it into the local shops or at least get the book into a situation where it could be ordered from a local bookshop.

As a self-published author it’s been difficult. I’m not famous, haven’t published anything before so have no sales records. The bookshops are unlikely to order copies on spec, but via social media, I have encouraged as many people as possible to get down to the high street and visit their wonderful bookshops.

Here’s Dear Tosh in the  Bookshop in Bridport 

You can also find it in LIttle Toller Books in Beaminster, Bookbag Exeter and order it from any local store.

New Roof Old Photos…

New Roof Old Photos…

An odd title for this post but apt. A new roof has replaced the broken leaky one on our cottage, and at last the builders have finished. The final job was for them to clean the attic. I was impressed because they brought their own vacuum. Over the years, many of mine have been ruined by builders – can you relate to that?  After they left, I popped up to check out their work. I was pleasantly surprised to see that apart from a little dust, it was okay.

Looking around, my eyes strayed to a box of old photographs and some albums. It was probably a mistake to delve into them but I couldn’t resist. I found an album from 1985, our trip to Canada, which I write about in my memoir Dear Tosh. Such wonderful memories. If you’ve read the book you’ll like these photographs I think.

Two of my favourite photographs…(I do have many favourites though) 

‘Ginger’ the pony and Jo (nanny) – we took the boys out for a picnic…happy days…

I’m going to have another root around in the attic for more photos now… Just the thing to do on a Sunday.

By the way…I’ve changed the name of the blog so that it just says Ninette90. I completed the ninety notes but I’m going to continue with the blog.

It’s Done…It’s Out There…

It’s Done…It’s Out There…

 

Dear Tosh is now out in the big wide world for everyone to see. The agony of wondering and waiting to hear what people make of it is quite something. But, I have had some amazing feedback already. I haven’t posted any names but they are genuine comments. Here are a few snippets:

“I loved the way you talked to Tosh in the letters and it was so honest and natural and beautiful. I’m so sad that he’s gone, and even though I never met him, it feels like you’ve brought him to life for us all to meet.” 

“Your story told your way has bravery, unshakeable love, loyalty, devotion and gratitude for Tosh’s life…”

“It’s a beautiful book Ninette, arrived in the post today and I cannot put it down.”

“It’s absolutely beautiful Ninette…” 

I hope many people read it and that it makes them want to write about their life experiences too. I’m not looking to be a best selling author. I hope that one book travels through many hands. You can hear me talk about it here with my son Matthew Rickard on his Youtube Channel 1095. At the end of the recording I read the poem ‘A Day in The Life’ which is a Beatles medley for Tosh. You can see it below.

I really love this poem and it comes almost at the end of the book. There are six poems dotted throughout the memoir and I love them all.

Dear Tosh is available to buy from independent bookshops or online from the bookshop.org  and many other sites.