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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What I learnt this week: 17th May 2018

Not that wedding

I spend a lot of my life writing about love, so it won’t come as a huge surprise to know I absolutely adore a wedding. To me, it’s the closest we get to being in a fairy tale. It’s a day of joy, of people dressing up and looking their best. And yes, even on my own wedding, my hubby and I looked as close as we’re ever going to get to a prince and princess…

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Of course this weekend a real prince will get married, and in my home town, too. I won’t be going to wave at them, not because I can’t be bothered fighting my way through the crowds. I did that to see William and Kate in London, so I’d definitely be game to do that in Windsor. No, I won’t be going because I’ve been invited to a wedding. And I can’t wait. The bride and groom may not be royal, the fizz may not be champagne and the guests may not be celebrities (though they have an author going clearly….!). I suspect though, the essence of the day will be the same. We will all put on our best frocks, our hats and sparkly shoes …

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Umm, okay, that might just be me, but I do love dressing up. When I bought these shoes I thought wow, so pretty and such a bargain (obviously) – they’ll be perfect for the wedding. Now I’m thinking – ouch, can I really walk in these all day? Flip-flops will be snuck into my handbag.

Where was I? Oh yes, the similarities between the wedding of Harry and Megan, and that of my cousin’s daughter and her fiancé. Both weddings will have a beautiful bride and a handsome groom. Both will have guests who’ll smile until their faces ache because they’re there to make this a very special day, for a very special couple. Both weddings will be remembered by the couple for the rest of their lives. Both weddings will be filled with love and laughter. And both weddings will, I trust, have a happy every after.

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What I learnt this week: 3rd May 2018

The question you’re dying to ask…

Perhaps a slight exaggeration. More likely, a total lie, but if I’d used my previous title, writing update, I doubt you’d have made it this far.

So yes, in this post I’m going to answer the question that, in my imagination, is poised on your lips, ready to be asked if only you weren’t so shy (see, imagination again. I’m a writer, I’m quite good at imagining things).

Regular visitors to my blog (umm, imagination again?) will be aware that my next book, Oh Crumbs is now available for pre-order. And yes, it is set in a biscuit company, hence my numerous mentions of cookies and terrible jokes (what did the biscuit say when it saw two friends knocked down? Crumbs ).

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But I do have other book news that has nothing to do with biscuits.

Too Damn Nice, currently out as an ebook, will be available in paperback on 5thJune.

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Ebooks are so convenient, but paperbacks still hold my heart. Especially as a writer. So I’m also delighted to report that A Little Christmas Faith will be out in paperback, too, early in October. How wonderful is that? Little did those rascals Nip and Tuck realise they were going to end up immortalised in a real book.

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On the subject of Christmas – hey, Easter is over, so it’ll be Christmas before you know it – I’ve now written The End on the book I started last Christmas (provisionally titled An Unexpected Christmas) and submitted it to my publisher. I’m really hoping their tasting panel will approve it, because I loved writing this one even more than the last two. Perhaps because I started it at the right time of year. Or perhaps because Nip and Tuck, along with Faith, Adam and the Old Mill Hotel, make a cameo appearance. It’s the first time I’ve actually managed to tie two books together.

Who said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

What I learnt this week: 26th April 2018

The writing essential

No, I’m not going to talk about computers, though without it I’d be stuck. I find it so much easier to type my thoughts directly onto a word document than via pen and paper. Possibly because I change my mind a fair bit, which is easy to manage on a computer, but on paper leaves me with a scrawled mess of illegible hieroglyphics. Here’s an example of a page I wrote in the garden at the weekend (what can I say, the sun came out, I wanted to sit in it and my computer is a desk top that doesn’t budge from the study).

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Plus the computer is there for the essential research that always comes into every book. For my latest book, Oh Crumbs (did I mention it’s now available for pre-order?!) I had to research the biscuit industry. Now I’m not going to be getting a job as marketing director in McVities anytime soon, but I did find some useful information that hopefully gives the book authenticity. For example, research suggests youngsters are turning to traditional biscuits like custard creams and bourbons, though the UK’s favourite biscuit is the chocolate digestive. If I had to choose only one biscuit for the rest of my life, that would be my choice, too.

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But I like the variety; a biscuit to suit my mood. If I’m feeling extravagant, I go for the Belgian white chocolate chip cookie. Indulgence at its best. For everyday, I opt for the dark chocolate digestive. If I’m feeling virtuous (it does happen), I reach for the lower calorie Rich Tea. To me it’s the champion of dunkers, though surveys have put it in second place behind the ginger nut. I only ate those when I was pregnant. Some say chocolate digestive’s are fabulous dunkers, but to me that would contaminate what I consider to be THE writing essential (you knew I’d come back to that at some point, didn’t you?) – the mug of tea.

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Because it doesn’t really matter which biscuit I choose – hey, sometimes I don’t even need to choose one at all –  what I can’t write without, is my mug of tea.

Perhaps I should set my next book in a tea company…

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What I learnt this week: 19th April 2018

A change is as a good as a rest

For many years we went away during the Easter school holidays. Sometimes in search of sun (we didn’t always find it) but always for a break where we could be a family for a days away from home distractions (okay, away from the Playstation….). For the last 4 years though, the Easter holidays have been a time of stress, grumpiness and misery. Yes, GCSE’s and A Levels have really put a damper on them. This year exams still loom – A Levels for my youngest, 2nd year university for my eldest – but I made a unilateral decision (amazing what you can do when you’re home alone). I booked a week in Cornwall. A change of scenery, I thought. Revision within four different walls, with the prospect of escape at the end of the day.

The family moaned most of the way there – for the parts when they weren’t asleep. ‘Bloody long way to go to see four different walls,’ was the general consensus. ‘Bloody expensive way to see four different walls,’ was my husband’s view.

But then we arrived at our beautiful rental house, overlooking a small lake. And from that point on, nobody complained.

During the day we all worked, though admittedly my work, writing, didn’t feel like work as I typed away on our balcony, overlooking the lake. In the sun. Yes, a miracle occurred and the sun did shine on us now and again.

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And later, when brains were at full capacity (umm, so they said) we set off to explore. We made it to Newquay, where I even paddled (no, that isn’t a smile. I’m gritting my teeth as it’s so cold), to Padstow (where the grey clouds were more like we were expecting) and to Charlestown where I’m reliably informed dock scenes from Poldark are filmed. I looked for him, but he’d clearly heard I was on my way and fled the scene as fast as his tight breeches would allow.

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One evening we even bombed down to Lands End, making it just as the sun was setting, after tea in St Ives (of course it was fish and chips).

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So is their a point to this post, other than an excuse to share my holiday snaps? Well yes, just a tiny one. I think there’s something in that old adage, a change is as good as a rest. Only time will tell if the revision done in Cornwall will lead to exam success, or if the words I wrote will lead to a best seller (I hope the two don’t have equal odds, or my sons are in trouble). What I can say is that we all felt we had a holiday, even though we all worked.

I can also say that the fish and chips I had were the best I’ve ever tasted. They, alone, were worth the trip.