What I learnt this week: 8th November 2018

Turning 21

I know, I know, that could easily be about me, right? No? Damn, my photo gave it away.

It was my eldest son who turned 21 recently, and I was amused to find he’d Googled what he could now do, that he couldn’t before. It wasn’t an exhaustive list:

  • adopt a child
  • supervise someone learning to drive (he’s held a full licence for three years)
  • hire a car
  • apply for a licence to fly a plane/drive a lorry or bus

Legalities aside though, turning 21 feels like a major milestone. At eighteen he was a teenager. At twenty-one, he’s all grown up – at least as far as the world is concerned. Clearly to me he’s still my baby.

So celebrating his coming of age seemed like the right thing to do. It also seemed like a fabulous excuse for a weekend in London.

I set about planning the occasion. A night at a gorgeous hotel overlooking Tower Bridge. Dinner at the Shard. My younger son would come home from university to join us.

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I was looking at a lunch venue – maybe the Sky Garden – when my husband asked the question. ‘Whose birthday is this?’

Guiltily I handed the daytime activities over to him to plan.

We ended up at a football match on the Saturday, and a driving range on the Sunday.

That’s the thing about having boys though, I end up doing things I wouldn’t have chosen…and often (secretly) enjoy them more. The match (West ham vs Burnley) proved to be a cracker, 4-2 to the Hammers. And I was thrilled to see the Olympic stadium for the first time.

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The driving range on Sunday had such spectacular views I happily forgot I couldn’t hit the ball further than 10 yards. My swing is about as smooth as a rusty weather vane, yet unlike the weather vane nothing about it points in the right direction. Who cares though, when you can sit down and look at the Greenwich peninsular in-between embarrassing yourself?

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I hope we gave my son a twenty first to remember in years to come. I’ll certainly remember it, even though I didn’t get to go to Sky Garden. Then again, my youngest son will turn 21 in two years …

What I learnt this week: 25th October 2018

Friends in the right places

For writers of Christmas books, the countdown to the festive season starts around Easter, when the books are written. There’s a break for a few weeks at the start of summer when the book has (hopefully) been submitted to the publisher,  but then comes the edits through July and August, and finally the promotion from September onwards. That’s my round about way of saying a) I have a new Christmas book out (here it is in case you missed it ):

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and b) I’m used to topsy turvy seasons.

It wasn’t too much of a surprise then to find myself paddling in the sea last Sunday. What a glorious weekend we chose to visit friends in Dorset (forget friends in high places, having friends in the right places is the way to go). Saturday we visited Shaftesbury and Gold Hill, famous for the boy on the bike Hovis advert which has been voted Britain’s best advert of all time. Apparently the actor returned last year, aged 58, to make an advert for electric bikes!

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Sunday we went to Durdle Door which is a natural limestone arch on the Jurassic coast, formed by the waves eroding the rock. It’s a beautiful sight on any day, but on a gorgeous sunny morning in the middle of October, it was stunning, as was the bay to the left of it (but on the right below, just to confuse you).

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Being a water baby, I couldn’t resist getting into that crystal clear blue sea for a paddle. I’d have swum, too, were it not for the fact that I didn’t have anything to swim in other than my underwear – these are good friends, but I didn’t want to risk not being invited back again.

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Next time I visit them though, I don’t care what time of the year it is, I’m bringing my cossie, just in case.

 

 

What I learnt this week: 11th October 2018

Shorts and Christmas

Last week saw the paperback publication of A Little Christmas Faith - my seventh paperback. Yes, when I counted them up, I was as surprised as you are. I still vividly remember the excitement of the first, Do Opposites Attract. Such an incredible moment when I got to touch (and smell!) a book with my name on the front. My words inside. And though the seventh doesn’t have quite the same giddiness to it, that sense of wonder, of satisfaction and yes, of pride, is still very much there.

Plus this one is sooooooo pretty.

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It’s also available as an audio book which is not only amazing news, it’s another fabulous excuse to show a picture :-)

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Next week my third Christmas book is out in ebook – A Little Christmas Charm (can be pre-ordered here).

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It might only be October but Christmas really is thundering towards me at the moment. Yet on Wednesday I was writing outside with my shorts on.

It’s a funny old life (umm, it was 23 degrees out there. I wasn’t just being a mad writer).

Though I might be drowning in Christmas on-line, rest assured, in my house, nothing has been done. It will be the usual burst of activity at the start of December, as if I’ve suddenly remembered Christmas is coming. And while I’m being buried alive in to-do lists, I’ll promise myself, yet again, that next year I’ll start earlier…

What I learnt this week 26th September

Empty nest eve

As I write this, I’ve not quite got an empty nest. My eldest is back to begin his third year in London but my youngest won’t be starting his course in Loughborough university until tomorrow. When we drop him off, we’ll come back to a childless house for the first time in twenty years. Already I’m feeling nostalgic for what has been. Doing the on-line grocery order for next week brought a tear to my eye (and no, this time it wasn’t because of technical glitches). No longer do I need the waffles my youngest loves, or the cookies, bottles of coke and chocolate muffins that make the eyes of my eldest light up when he dives into the bread and ‘naughty treats’ drawer.

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I’ve halved the amount of milk and juice. Halved the meat, the salad, the vegetables. Kept to the same number of wine bottles, though I had the urge to increase it, just in case.

But I’ve also booked two weekends away with my husband, have lined up all the romantic comedies I haven’t been able to watch because I’m always outvoted, and am looking forward to a whole five days of uninterrupted writing, with school runs no longer on my to-do list. Oh and if I’m halving things, then I must be halving the washing…a massive silver lining.

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I could also be halving the amount of mess I have to tidy up, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. I still have my husband at home :-)

 

 

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.