What I learnt this fortnight:

From summer to Christmas in two weeks

It’s been a busy few weeks in the Freeman household. After gleefully pressing send on the second round of edits for A Little Christmas Charm, the family set off to northern Italy, where Christmas couldn’t have felt further away.

From the elegance of Milan, to the excitement of Monza, the first five days went in a flash. No Jenson, no Aiden Foster – my racing car hero from Before You – but what a race Monza put on for us. And thank you Lewis Hamilton not only for winning, but for using the corner we sat on for your final thrilling overtake (photo is of the first corner – I was too gripped by the race to photograph the last).

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The males in my family successfully ensured I didn’t step in a single shop in Milan, though actually they didn’t need to shepherd me away quite so rigorously – even window shopping felt too expensive. But the cathedral, and the views from it, and the roof terrace bar – wow.

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After Milan, we wound our way up to the Italian Lakes.

There was Maggiore’s Stresa, with its elegant promenade (and me trying to look elegant on it) and the jewels of the Borromean Islands.

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Following that was the utter elegance of Lake Como, where I’m sure I saw Mr Clooney sitting at one of the lakeside restaurants, an Aperol spritz in his hand and a sexy smile on his lips as his deep brown eyes came to rest on me…okay, okay, a girl can dream. And trust me, it was hard not to think romantic thoughts in Bellagio or Varenna (photos of Como, Varenna and Bellagio).

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Even exercise was a pleasure (though I had to do a lot of these to work off all that pizza).

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All too soon it was over, and a day after I’d left the sunshine of Italy, I was proof reading A Little Christmas Charm. I’m looking forward to introducing you to Owen Cooper and Gabby Sanderson. I’m also wondering how I can weave the Italian lakes into my next book…

What I learnt this week: 23rd August 2018

Christmas is just round the corner

Now, now, don’t snap my head off. I know many of you will find it really annoying to hear people talk about Christmas already. We’re still enjoying the end of summer, I hear you cry. My garden furniture is still outside, the barbecue waiting hopefully for another sunny day. And even when we have to give up on summer and admit autumn has arrived, there’s Halloween, and then Bonfire night. It’s months before we should be thinking of Christmas.

Of course it is.

Unless you’re in retail, in which case you thought of Christmas around Easter time. Or unless you’re a writer, and getting exciting about the publication of your third Christmas book.

Yesterday we revealed the cover:

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Hard not to get a teeny bit excited after seeing that.

And here’s the blurb:

Would you swap sea and sunshine for tinsel and turkey?
Gabby Sanderson is used to being let down – even at Christmas. Which is why she’s happy to skip the festive season completely in favour of a plane ticket and sunnier climes.

But this Christmas could be different, because this time she might not be spending it alone. Can Owen Cooper charm Gabby into loving Christmas in the same way he’s charmed his way into her life, or is he just another person who’ll end up disappointing her?

If you like the sound of it, and the price (currently 99p) you can pre-order a copy here.

The second round of edits for it have just landed in my inbox, so as it’s out on the 16th October I’d better get cracking on them. On the plus side, that does mean I won’t be banging on about Christmas for a while :-)

 

What I learnt this week: 9th August 2018

Pine trees and willow

My last post was about writing in the heat. This one is about editing a Christmas book in August.

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My next book, A Little Christmas Charm is due out sometime in October and already I’ve had the structural edits in. These are the ‘big’ edits. The ones where we sort out the story, and yes, dear reader, I have quite a bit to sort out. The first two chapters need rewriting, for a start. Gulp. Then there’s my timelines which, when the book is effectively a countdown to Christmas, are apparently quite important. It worked in my head, but no longer works now I have chapter headings of Seven days before Christmas….and the following chapter, set two days later, Eight days before Christmas. At least it would be, according to the events I have going on.

Lesson learnt; my head is no substitute for a proper diary.

The other major edit I need to incorporate is, in the words of my editor, make it more Christmassy.

Hence I now live in the surreal world where, in between going to watch my sons play cricket, I am knee deep in tinsel and fairy lights.

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And if I’m ever going to have this book ready for Christmas, and it would be shame not to, considering home much Christmas I’m now trying to pack into it, then I’m afraid I will have to leave you here.

Don’t worry, I’ll be back. I just hope it will still be summer when I finally emerge.

What I learnt this week: 26th July 2018

Writing in a heatwave. 

Okay, so we’ve established it’s hot. Here, in the South East, the temperature has regularly hovered around 30 degrees for what seems like forever. Now I’m normally reptilian when it comes to the sun; I like to bask, like a lizard, letting those warm rays seep through my skin. On a normal sunny summer day I enjoy eating my lunch in the sun, relaxing for a blissful half  hour (maybe longer, but keep that to yourselves. I don’t want everyone thinking I’m a shirker).

But 30 degrees? Forget it. One minute out there and I’m a sweaty mess. I’m done. So since May I’ve taken to hiding away inside, where it’s still too hot, but at least I’m not melting.

I am, however, trying to write, up in my study, in the loft conversion. And I can confirm that hot air definitely rises.

My coping mechanisms?

First, the essential glass of water replaces the usual mug of hot tea. It’s not as comforting, not as inspiring, but even just looking at the ice helps take my mind off how flipping hot I’m feeling.

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Of course I have the blind partly down and the window open, though on some days it feels like all that’s doing is letting more hot air in. It also invites the insects in, including a bumble bee who seemed to have taking a liking to me. He’d fly in, I’d gently coax him out (using my Romance Matters magazine). A minute later, he’d be back again. I think he saw all his friends on the window sill….or maybe like me, he loves Jenson :-)

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Finally, as a last resort, I stick my feet in a bowl of cold water.

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Oh yes, dear friends, writing is a glamorous life …

What I learnt while writing my latest book (2)

In my post last week, I mentioned what I’d learnt about the biscuit market while writing Oh Crumbs.

It wasn’t only biscuits that I had to research for the book, though. The hero in Oh Crumbs, Doug Faulkner, is quietly spoken with an air of calm and control – on the outside. Inside he’s a much more turbulent character. He keeps his anger in check by channelling it through sport. But which sport? I considered boxing, but I wasn’t sure that would work, so I turned to one of my previous work colleagues, who practices martial arts, for advice.

‘Which sport should Doug take up that wouldn’t hurt his pretty features but would look sexy when he was fighting thugs?’

After he laughed, quite a lot, my friend suggested Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ). Now I’d heard of Brazilian nuts, Brazilian blow drys, Brazilian…other things…but never jiu-jitsu. So I popped the search term into my other trusted friend, Google, and found out the following. BJJ is a type of judo where you fight on the floor; they call it grappling. Fighting on the ground takes away a lot of the advantage of size and strength, so you win by being cleverer and having a better technique instead of having more muscle.

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It so happens that my friend is captain of the GB sport jujitsu squad, and thus the perfect person to answer all my dumb questions, which included:

  • I want Doug to be keen and good, but not world beating good – what colour belt should he be? (answer: brown is pretty good, purple is mid-rank)
  • Is there a competition Doug could fight in a final; where might it be held and do people watch? (answer: yes there are competitions, the Surrey open is one and yes people can watch, the venues are usually sports halls)
  • What do they wear? (answer: judo style gi)

So there you have it, when I set about writing a love story based in a biscuit company, I didn’t realise I’d end up learning about Brazilian jiu-jitsu. That’s part of the fun of writing. I start out with a broad plan, and with characters that feel real in my head, but I never quite know how the story will unfurl until I begin to write it.

My next book also took me on a surprising turn…expect to learn something about budgies when my Christmas story comes out. I did :-)

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What I learnt while writing my latest book

What did I learn while writing Oh Crumbs?

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One of the unexpected pleasures of writing a book is the research. In my other life as a medical writer, I’m used to trawling the internet for information on the diseases or medicines I’m working on, so research itself isn’t new for me. Research on biscuits though, that’s far more interesting.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. When I started writing Oh Crumbs, I knew I wanted my hero, Doug, to be a managing director of a company and my heroine, Abby, to be his PA (well, at least in the beginning, though things change…). What type of company, though? I considered a variety of options: clothes, watches, electrical goods, sportswear, furniture. Did I really want to research TV sets and dining room tables? I mulled it over as I went to make myself a mug of tea (essential writing tool) and grabbed a biscuit.

Bingo!

So what did I learn about the biscuit market?

I was intrigued to discover that the younger generation (16-24 year olds) prefer the traditional biscuits over the fancy new ones; custard creams, bourbons, malted milk. That this high tech, modern generation preferred the old fashioned when it came to their biscuits tickled me so much, it had to appear in the book. When it comes to dunking biscuits though, it seems the youngsters aren’t that keen, so it’s up to people of my generation (the over 45s – and no, I’m not being economical with the truth here, that was the age group in the research, honest) to keep that fabulous tradition alive. Rest assured, I’m doing my bit.

Happy dunking!

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PS It wasn’t only biscuits I had to research. Next week I’ll be talking about BJJ….a sport I’d never heard of until I started writing Oh Crumbs.

 

What I learnt this week: 14th June 2018

A greedy second celebration 

Last week I celebrated paperback publication of Too Damn Nice.

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This week I celebrated the publication of my latest ebook, Oh Crumbs.

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As it’s set in the Crumbs biscuit company, there seemed to be no better way to mark the occasion than having a biscuit…or two. Followed, of course, by a drink…or two.

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I think that’s me done for the publication celebrations for a while. However I am excited to say I’ve signed a contract for my next book…A Little Christmas Charm, which will hopefully come out in October. It’s the one I’ve been blogging about (and perhaps banging on about) earlier in the year, only then it was called An Unexpected Christmas. As we see a cameo appearance from some of the stars of my previous Christmas book, A Little Christmas Faith (they insisted, how could I say no?) my publisher made the very clever decision to change my clumsy title into something far more appealing.

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Actually, thinking about it, I think this might be cause for another celebration…

Cheers!

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What I learnt this week: 7th June 2018

Publication day fame

Before I became a published author, I think I imagined publication days to be a day when the author sat on a velvet sofa, surrounded by flowers and guzzling champagne while friends and family flocked to the house and the world media camped on his/her doorstep.

Perhaps it is that way for some authors.

For me, not so much.  In fact the conversation in my house on the morning of the 5th June went something like this.

Me: ‘It’s my publication day.’

Husband (throwing cushions off the sofa): ‘Which book?’

Me: ‘Too Damn Nice in paperback.’

Husband: ‘Have you seen my keys?’

On line though, I find a totally different world. I’m bombarded with messages of congratulation, with virtual cakes, flowers and bottles of champagne. I feel like a celebrity. That feeling is cemented when Choc Lit’s fabulous PR lady tells me the piece I wrote for the on-line magazine Female First has been published (here if you want to see what I used to get up to). Oh and I’m in the Windsor Observer:

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For several hours I’m on a high, dizzy from all the congratulations, my ego expanding like a helium filled balloon. I feel like an author.

Then my family come home, and the balloon rapidly deflates. I make the tea while my son tells me of his exam experience (let’s just say they can only get better) and my husband recounts the story of his tedious commute home, thanks to roadworks.

We sit down to eat and I put a bottle of fizz on the table. My husband looks up in surprise.

Me: ‘It’s my publication day.’

Husband: ‘Fantastic. I’ll drink to that.’

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What I learnt this week: 31st May 2018

Paperback dilemma

A few days ago I was thrilled to receive an advance copy of my next paperback, Too Damn Nice. It’s hard to explain how amazing it feels to see an actual book with your name on it, rather than a virtual book (which is a joy in itself). Somehow it makes the writing I do seem real. ‘Proper.’ I can’t actually read the words inside it, though. Like hearing myself talk, or seeing photos of myself, it feels weirdly embarrassing. And of course there’s always the fear I’ll see a typo.

But I can enjoy putting my hands on the book. Feeling it. Running my hands over the surface; the smooth cover and the embossed edges of my name, and the name of the book. All this brings me to my dilemma. How best to photograph my gorgeous book, to show it in its true light?

I tried just holding it, but all I could focus on was my thumb. I know, I thought, I’ll pop it on my favourite cushion (the one my family keep trying to hide, because apparently it’s too pink). But no, it looked, well, like a book plonked on a cushion. I was on a roll with the pink theme now though (there is some sense to this, as the title is in pink). Wouldn’t pink flowers would be a good backdrop? Inspired, I placed the book carefully next to my blooming azalea. Alas, it looks like a book that’s fallen into a flower pot.

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How about putting it next to other paperbacks. Yes, that worked…but I have a sneaking feeling if your name isn’t Kathryn Freeman, this won’t look quite so remarkable.

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Finally, I went for the classic, and photographed it next to the bottle of fizz I’m saving to celebrate publication day with. It looks good … I meant the book, though obviously the wine has its own appeal.

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But to really see how pretty the book is, you might have to order yourself a copy :-)

 

What I learnt this week: 24th May 2018

 

Not that wedding … part 2

As you might know from last week’s blog, the world was in Windsor at the weekend but I was in Blackpool, attending a rather less royal wedding, though one still packed with glamour.

The bride dazzled, the groom waited for her even though she was late (she was half way to the church and realised she’d forgotten her bouquet!), the sun shone, the canapés rocked. And I did wear those shoes (and that hat).

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I wonder if the celebrities back in Windsor felt as I did, though, and secretly wished they were in their jeans and flip flops? (Does Posh own any flip flops?). I couldn’t see much thanks to the feathers on the hat (now I have an idea how a chicken feels) and the shoes were changed in the reception car park for a pair less glamorous but massively more comfortable. Still, for an hour I felt the part. And thankfully in this wedding, I wasn’t forced to sit on an uncomfortable folding chair in the church. Not was the vicar quite so … verbose as the wonderful Reverend Michael Curry.

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