What I learnt this week: 16th November 2017

 A knees up in London

The Romantic Novelists Association hold two parties a year, a winter party and a summer one. As they are an excellent opportunity to meet the people I otherwise only ‘see’ on Twitter – or the front cover of books – I always aim to attend. The fact that drink and canapés are always involved, and lots of book chat, is of course only a minor consideration…

This year I nearly didn’t make it. In my usual style, I remembered to book my ticket two weeks before (quite organised, I thought) only to find they were sold out. But I was helpfully slotted onto a waiting list, and one member’s bad luck became my fortune. Out came the sparkly top (come on, when else am I going to get the chance to wear it?) and the heels. Not always a wise choice given there is a bit of walking to do to get to the venue, but at least I could cadge a lift to the station from my son. When I first started going to these events my sons didn’t drive. Now they’re becoming useful, the eldest has already sloped off to uni, this one plans to follow next year. Remind me again why I had children?

IMG_1717

I digress. Off I trooped to the library at One Birdcage Walk. A very apt venue for a party of writers.

Library

There I drank; wine, pink fizz. I ate; sausages on sticks, mini halloumi burgers, tuna…things, cream cheese…things (now you can see why my books aren’t filled with vivid descriptive text). I also talked to some lovely writers, some I’d met before, some I’d only met ‘virtually.’ Here I am with the amazing Berni Stevens who not only designs the Choc Lit covers but also writes, too (thanks to John Jackson for the photo). And also  drinking pink fizz with Helen Rolfe (who comes under the lovely writer category).

23592236_10156851899391632_4692457201307857438_oHelen and me

So it’s not all writing, writing, writing, being a writer. Sometimes it’s party, party party :-)

 

 

What I learnt this week: 9th November 2017

A publication day to remember

Tuesday was paperback publication day for A Second Christmas Wish. It was first released as an ebook last Christmas, but because it’s just come out in paperback I get to celebrate all over again. You won’t get any complaints from me. And actually it is a celebration, because though the release of a new book is exciting, there is something very special about seeing a book make it into paperback. Only ebooks that sell well are published in paperback, so there’s that. But also as an author you’re given a few paperbacks to use as promotion, so you get to see them, touch them, smell them. Photograph them next to baubles…and reindeer.

ASCW paperbacksASCW with reindeer

There is something much more real about seeing your name on a paperback.

So there I was, happily fiddling about on social media in the middle of morning, basking in the glory of my publication day (book bloggers, fellow authors and readers are very kind) when I saw an email from my publisher land into my in-box with the heading URGENT.

Heart in my mouth, I opened it up. BBC Radio Berkshire were happy to have a quick interview with me at 1.40pm. Could I make it.

Here’s the thing. While I love to talk (!) I’ve never been interviewed on the radio before. But I pulled on my big girl pants as they say (I believe JR Ward actually said panties, but she’s American. Brits don’t have panties, thank God). Where was I? Oh yes, pulling on my pants and agreeing to be interviewed live on radio. There was an added complication in that I had to pick my son up, who was dependant on the tube, and if all went well we’d only be back at 1.30pm. If all didn’t go well…but thankfully it did, and by 1.35 I was sat in my office, shitting bricks.

At 1.40 I received the call. There was about a minute left for the end of the song, and then Bill Buckley would be chatting to me.

Somehow I got through it. He was lovely, which certainly helped, and actually by the end I did almost think Bill and I were just having a chat. Maybe we were. Maybe nobody else was listening…

So there you have it. A publication day to remember. My first Christmas paperback. My first radio interview. Did I celebrate that evening with a large glass of wine?

You bet I did.

And then I fell asleep in front of the telly.

 

What I learnt this week: 2nd November 2017

I’m not tired of life…

Samuel Johnson famously wrote “When a man is tired of London he is tired of life.”

Well we popped into London last Saturday and I’m relieved to know, I’m a long way from that yet.

I’m lucky to live less than an hour from central London. Lucky too, that my eldest son chose to go to university in London. These things combined mean a) I get to go into the city regularly, and b) I get to see my son a lot, too. Much to his delight, obviously.

Last Saturday was his birthday. I can no longer say ‘my teenage sons’ because one of them isn’t anymore. Have I changed my biography? No. Because teenage sons is how I still think of them. I know they’re no longer babies, but I can’t quite fathom the idea of them being adults yet. They can both drive, vote and drink in a pub, but to me they’re still my children. And I guess until they actually buy me that drink in the pub, with money they’ve learnt themselves (I’m not holding my breath), they’ll remain that way.

Back to London. My son lives in West Kensington (student digs weren’t as palatial as that in my day) but we had a voucher to use, so headed off to Bloomsbury on the tube. After a lovely meal, my sons expected to get back on the tube.

I had different ideas. I wasn’t going to travel under the ground and miss all the sights London had to offer. Of course we’ve seen them before, but seeing them for the first time, or the one hundred and first, they still have the ability to lift my spirits. To stir my soul. To remind me of how fabulous our capital city is.

We walked to Trafalgar Square and down The Mall (apologies for poor photos – the sun behind Buckingham Palace didn’t help).

IMG_1690 IMG_1691 IMG_1693

Then through Green Park and Hyde Park (the sun now in a more helpful position).

IMG_1696 IMG_1697 IMG_1698

Finally we entered Knightsbridge

IMG_1699

Maybe it was the sight of the shops. Maybe just tired legs, but my family chose this moment to rebel, and we caught the tube the rest of the way. It didn’t matter. By then I’d had my fill; my love of London was cemented once again, and my scampi and chips were no longer sitting heavily in my stomach.

Now to plan my next visit. ‘Are you going to apply to any universities in London?’ I asked my younger son on the way home.

I think you can imagine his reply.

 

 

What I learnt this week: 27th October 2017

Publication day

Tuesday saw the publication of my second Christmas book – A Little Christmas Faith. For 99p you get a hotel in the Lake District, a couple of crazy dogs, mince pies, decoration overload. Oh and deliciously hunky guest who checks into Faith’s new hotel.

ALCF yellow cab mince pies

So did I celebrate my publication day doing something Christmassy? Going into the loft, shining up the baubles, preparing the Brussels sprouts?

Not exactly. I spent it in Blackpool. There was no snow, but plenty of rain and bracing sea air. No Santa’s grotto, but a Tower and a pier. No Father Christmas, but plenty of ho ho ho as I caught up with aunts, uncles and cousins.

IMG_1657 IMG_1653

Sadly no reindeer either, but I did find these beauties when we went for a walk in the Lake District.

IMG_1670

They weren’t the only wildlife we saw. Amazingly, we also caught sight of a goldfish in the pond of this cave.

IMG_1667

Sorry, I didn’t have the presence of mind to take a photo of the fish so you’ll have to trust me on this. Apparently a few years ago someone put a couple of goldfish in the water as a prank. The goldfish haven’t only survived, they’ve multiplied, even though there is no plant life, not much sun, and the water is less than appetising. Hardly little devils.

Not a Christmas miracle, but pretty miraculous none the less. As was the sight of the sun that day…

What I learnt this week: 12th October 2017

Getting my chat fix

When I left my ‘proper’ job to pursue this crazy dream of writing romance, the one thing I was concerned about (okay, there was also the little matter of a lack of regular income) was whether I’d feel lonely, working from my little home office all day. Only my family coming in at various points during the evening for company. Oh, and the random callers wanting to sell me  PPI.

You see, I love a good chat. But now, instead of a gossip around the coffee machine, I put the washing on. Instead of the chat at the start of a meeting, I fold the washing up and put it away. Instead of a conversation over lunch, I sit at my desk and have virtual conversations on social media.

Now before you start to feel sorry for me (what do you mean you weren’t?), let me stress that missing out on a good face to face chat is a price I’m very happy to pay for the joy of being able to do something I love. You see, the bit that happens in between the chatting, the actual work, doesn’t feel like work at all now. Except when I’m proof reading a manuscript I’ve read a gazillion times already, or when I’m struggling with a story line like I am now. But if it was too easy, it wouldn’t be worth doing. Apparently.

Still, now and again it’s good for this writer to get out and…well, have a chat. So that’s what I’m going to do today. I’m meeting up with a group of friends from my first antenatal class. Considering my little baby is now at university, you can see this is a special group of people. We used to meet up and discuss nappies and breast feeding and lack of sleep. Now we discuss student loans and teenage hormones. Oh and lack of sleep, thanks to our hormones. Where did those twenty years go? I think it was the kids who grew older, because in our minds we look and feel exactly the same. Only wiser (or so we tell the kids).

Bon appétit!

champagne-2264811_1920

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I learnt this week: 6th October 2017

Screwing my head on…

I’ve had to do a fair bit of juggling over the last two weeks. Now when I was young, this was easy. Somehow I managed to cope with a job, school runs, after school pick ups at various complicated times and the usual day-to-day stuff that comes with running a house full of males, all without dropping a ball. I’ve dropped two balls this week. Luckily the only cost has been to my pride, my time…and my bank balance.

juggle-1027147__340

What have I been juggling?

In my (rather shaky) defence, my job is no longer ‘a job’ but a variety of jobs. I’ve had medical writing to do, with tight deadlines. Then the edits came in for A Little Christmas Faith. And the proof readers comments for A Second Christmas Wish. Flowing through it all – no actually, in this case flowing is absolutely the wrong word. Stagnating through it all is the book I’m desperately trying to knock into shape so I can send it off to my publisher. It’s a bit different from my usual – more on the suspense side of the spectrum, featuring a body guard and a scientist. I love the idea. I’m just terribly unsure whether the whole plot is realistic enough.

So with my head part way in my book, part on when I need to pick my son up, and part on my writing deadlines, I dropped the first ball.

I filled my diesel car up with petrol.

gasoline-175122__340

Aghhhhhhh. Thankfully I realised half way through and didn’t drive the car, so saved myself the cost of a new engine and a whole tank of unleaded. I did have to pay for half a tank of petrol I didn’t want, wait an hour for the AA, wait a further half an hour while they drained it, and pay them £200 for the privilege. I also had to explain to a lot of motorists why there was no point them waiting behind my car at the pump…

The second ball I dropped was around a week later. My son needed to have a blood test (worry not, it’s just a baseline test, not anything serious :-)). It necessitated an early start so he could still get to school in time for his first lesson. Being a kind mum I brought him his breakfast, cajoled and encouraged him into the shower, then into the car. We were turning into the hospital car park when I realised…it was meant to be a fasting blood test. Agghhhhhh again.

So it’s time to screw my head on. Thankfully the book edits are done, and the next medical writing work is not for another week. Time to focus on this devil of a book that’s causing me so much angst. And if I can’t kick it into shape soon, the damn book is going to be the next thing I drop. I have plenty of other ideas clamouring through my brain.

Just hope they keep quiet while I’m filling up the car.

 

What I learnt this week: 28th September 2017

A Little Christmas Faith: My second round of edits have left the building!

Okay, technically they’re still on my computer, but I was going for dramatic effect. The question I can see you’re itching to ask, is what on earth am I doing when I tell my family ‘I’ve been editing today.’

Well, there’s a high chance I’ve been sorting the washing out, making the tea, arranging a car to be serviced/repaired (yes, it’s been happening a lot recently). Making myself the odd cup of tea.

IMG_0374

But that’s not what you’re interested in, is it? (and yes, you are interested in my editing. Just grit your teeth and read on).

First, a reminder of A Little Christmas Faith.

A LITTLE CHRISTMAS FAITH_FRONT_150dpi

It’s the story of Faith (see what we did there?!) the owner of a new boutique hotel in the Lake District, and her first guest, Adam Hunter. Faith, you might remember, is excited to be opening her hotel a few weeks before Christmas. Adam, on the other hand, has come to the hotel to escape Christmas…

Here are some examples of changes I had to make during the first round of editing:

  • Slow the romance down a bit. Not too much mind you, as Adam is only booked into Faith’s new hotel for 10 days. But this is fiction, so that’s plenty of time for ‘things’ to happen. Or not. (come on, I’m not going to give away too much here. I’m trying to pique your interest so you’ll buy the book).
  • Add a bit more background to Faith’s romantic past.
  • Provide a few flashbacks to help you, dear reader, understand why Adam has checked into The Old Mill Hotel to escape Christmas.
  • Stop Adam’s best friend and business partner, doing a disappearing act in the middle of the book. Oh and the same goes for Nip and Tuck (you’ll have to read the book to find out who they are!).

And here are some from the second round:

  • Address the issue of Faith having her rooms in the upstairs of the hotel, yet she has a backdoor into a garden (oops…!)
  • Modernise some of my language. In my head I might have become Faith, my twenty seven year old heroine, but alas in reality, I’m old and dated. As are some of the words I use…
  • Make sure some of my secondary characters don’t change their names half way through the book (oops again).
  • When Faith is wearing a dress, don’t let Adam later undo the buttons of her blouse (oops yet again).
  • Provide a realistic reason why one of my characters is in a certain place, at a certain time. And not just because it’s convenient for my storyline.
  • Generally tighten my writing up and make it ‘better’ (which sadly also involves making a lot of changes, reading them, then reverting back to the original because ‘better’ is very hard to judge).

One more round to go, when I hope to pick up all those pesky mistakes that I know are lurking in there somewhere, but they’re very hard to see when you’ve read the manuscript as many times as I have.

Worse, I know if my editor and I don’t find them, you will!

 

What I learnt this week: 21st September 2017

It’s starting to look a teeny weeny bit like Christmas…?!

I know, I know, it’s so annoying when people bang on about Christmas when it’s only September. Heavens, we’re only just putting the flip flops away and turning the heating on again. The thing is though, if you have a paperback book coming out, and a new ebook, and they both have a Christmas theme…well, you kind of want to bang on about Christmas in September.

Sorry.

If I promise to just let you know about them both now, and then keep quiet for a few weeks about the subject, will you forgive me? Thank you.

A Second Christmas Wish is going to be available in paperback on 28th November. I’ll just pop a photo of the cover up now, very quickly, to remind you which book I mean:

SECOND-CHRISTMAS-WISH_FRONT_150dpi

There, that wasn’t so bad, was it? And now I’m on a roll, my new Christmas ebook, A Little Christmas Faith, is going to be out on the 24th October. I’ll tell you more about it nearer the time, but it is available for pre-order for anyone who’s itching to get into the Christmas spirit!

A LITTLE CHRISTMAS FAITH_FRONT_150dpi

There, all done. But just to link back to last week’s post, when I talked about my summer holiday in Canada, here’s a photo of a couple of mementoes we brought back with us.

IMG_1620

You see, even on my summer holiday, I was anticipating Christmas, and decorating that tree. It’s become a habit of mine to bring back a Christmas decoration from our travels abroad. My family will say an annoying habit (another one?), as the last thing they want to shop for on holiday are Christmas decorations. Actually, the last thing my male dominated family want to do is shop, full stop. Still, reminiscing when I get the decorations out is one of the lovely things about getting ready for Christmas, so as the Freeman males invariably find something else to do when I ask for help, waiting while I browse through the Christmas shops is the least they can do. And trust me, the least is what they tend to aim for…! (it’s okay, none of them read my blog).

 

 

What I learnt…this month

Phew, so much has happened since I last ‘saw’ you.

At the beginning of the month, you may remember I celebrated the paperback publication of Before You, and the ebook publication of Too Damn Nice (yes, yes, that was just an excuse to remind you I’ve got these books out…).

IMG_1423TDN_FRONT_RGB150dpi

Well, after the excitement of all that, I needed a holiday. As luck would have it (or in this case extensive and exhaustive planning) I had one booked, so I headed off to Canada with my family. A destination I can thoroughly recommend. If the Canadians are having a dry summer though, avoid July and August if you don’t want to run the risk of having the fabulous scenery ruined by the smoke from forest fires. Thankfully it didn’t affect every day, it just depended on the way the wind was blowing. Never have we spent so much time researching wind patterns while on holiday.

Here’s an example of how much of a difference the smoke can make. The first photo is taken at the start of the day, on the road from Kamloops to Jasper national park in the Rockies. The second photo is taken several hours later, arriving in Jasper national park.

Smoke on roadMount Robson

And here we have the same scene, but on different days. The first is a view of the amazing Athabasca glacier from a hike. The second is the same glacier, viewed from across the road, two days later.

Athabasca glacier clear dayGlacier in smoke

What a difference a few days – or if you’re travelling, a few hours, can make!

But on those days when the wind sent the smoke away from us, wow. Just wow. The scenery was so stunning it even made a photographer out of me.

LakeTop of Sulphur rimLake Louise

And it wasn’t just the scenery that excelled. The wildlife was pretty amazing, too.

DSC05171 copyBig horn sheepChipmunk

Thankfully we only saw one of these guys behind a fence, in a sanctuary…

Grizzly

So there you have it. My excuse for not posting for a while is I’ve been on holiday. Unfortunately, having chosen a holiday in a country renowned for its mountains, the only actual rest I had was at the top of one! (in case you’re wondering, the man isn’t a stranger I picked up. It’s my husband…).

Blackboard

NEXT WEEK – more book news!

 

CAnada smoke

What I learnt this week: 3rd August 2017

I like to be greedy…

This week I’m having not one, but two publication celebrations.

Too Damn Nice

Yes, I can finally share the cover for my latest eBook, Too Damn Nice. A bit different from my other covers, but I hope you like it. Especially the pink! It’s available now from all ebook platforms, including Amazon.

TDN_FRONT_RGB150dpi

Banner from Choc Lit

And remember all that angst I had developing the blurb? No? Okay, I do realise you probably have a few other more important items circulating through your mind than my books, so I refer you to this post. Anyway, here is the blurb, which will hopefully entice you to buy, especially as it’s currently at the release price of 99p.

Do nice guys stand a chance? 
Lizzie Donavue went from being the sister of his best friend to the girl Nick Templeton most wants to kiss. On her birthday, he finally summons up the courage to make his move. But it looks like Nick’s missed his chance when he discovers that Lizzie has been offered a modelling contract, which will take her away to the glamorous fashion scenes of New York and Los Angeles.

Nick is forced to watch from the sidelines as the gawky teenager he knew is transformed into Elizabeth Donavue: top model and ultimate English rose pin-up, forever caught in a whirlwind of celebrity parties with the next up-and-coming Hollywood bad boy by her side.

But then Lizzie’s star-studded life comes crashing down around her, and a guy like Nick could be just what she needs. Will she take a chance on him? Or is he just too damn nice?

Before You

Aiden Foster, my Formula One racing driver inspired by….yes, yes, I realise you know that by now. But how can I not show a photo?? It is my blog, so I must be allowed some control over who goes in it…

Jenson at Silverstone

I digress. I wanted to tell you that Before You, featuring the gorgeous Aiden Foster, is now available as a paperback to order from all good bookshops. If you pop by a WHSmiths travel shop, you might even see it on the shelf.

So it’s double celebration time. Cheers. And cheers again.

IMG_1438