What I learnt this week: 9th August 2019

A little bit of me

I suspect a part of me is in all the heroines I write. Just like I suspect a teeny bit of my husband is in my heroes, too (for goodness sake don’t tell him, but there’s probably a reason my male leads, from the bodyguard through to the racing car driver, barrister, doctor, accountant and, in my latest book out next month, a professional singer, all have a dry sense of humour).

The joy in writing is dreaming up new characters and getting into their skin, yet at the end of the day no matter how alive they feel to me, I am the one sitting at my desk, writing them. So perhaps, inevitably, some of my thoughts, my experiences, will find their way into them.

Take Tess from Search for a Truth. She’s tall with killer legs and long red silky hair – yep, only in my dreams. She ended up working (and falling in love) in a pharmaceutical company though. Just like me. Meghan in Too Charming is a feisty detective – I’m more your coward end of the spectrum. Yet she has a relationship with her parents very similar to the one I had with mine.

The closest to me of all my heroines though, is Jessie in my next book, Reach for a Star. Jessie is a pharmacist with curly hair and two sons who likes to talk. She spends a lot of her time fantasising about a celebrity – in her case a famous singer (who she gets to meet in a singing competition). I was a pharmacist, I have curly hair which I desperately try to straighten, I have two sons and I love a good chat. Regular readers of my blog will know all about my celebrity crush on Jenson Button…alas the only time I saw him in real life he was zooming past me in a Formula One car.

So why, out of all my heroines, did Jessie come out the most like me? Well you see, although it’s the twelfth book to be published, Reach for a Star is actually the first book I ever wrote (though it’s undergone a complete overhaul in the intervening years).

Back in those early days of writing it was much easier to write about what I knew, so Jessie did a job I could relate to, had boys who, at the time (10 years ago!), were the same age as mine. Her personality isn’t too dissimilar to mine, either. She’s devoted to her family but in between the washing, ironing and ferrying children around, she dreams of finding that grand passion. Of course I found mine (just in case the husband reads this) and as if that doesn’t make me lucky enough, I also now spend my days reliving that grand passion through each of my heroines 🙂

 

 

 

What I learnt this week: 26th July 2019

Reach for a Star

I now have a name for my next book – the formerly titled The Week of Your Life now has the (much more eloquent) title of Reach for a Star.

I’d originally titled it The Week of Your Life because that’s the name of the TV show that Jessie is signed up to by her sons in the hope that it will teach her how to sing. And also that it will give her the chance to meet her idol, Michael Tennant.

In The Week of Your Life,  professional singers are assigned a partner and given a week to teach them how to sing a duet. At the end of the week, the winner is picked by the audience at home and in the studio based on who’s made the most progress. Now imagine you get to spend a week with your celebrity crush (I’m getting all fluttery at the thought) – will he or she live up to your dreams? Or will they be a crushing disappointment? That’s what Jessie is about to find out.

As for Michael, he can’t believe his agent put him forward for The Week of Your Life. It’s so far out of his comfort zone he figures he might as well enter The X Factor, too, and totally blow his career. When performing, he’s confident. Outside that … let’s just say he’s dreading spending a week with someone he doesn’t know.

So, that’s the background, here are the important parts.

The cover:

The blurb:

What if your dreams were so close you could reach out and touch them?
How could anyone resist Michael Tennant, with his hypnotic blue eyes and voice like molten chocolate? Jessie Simmons certainly can’t. But Jessie’s a single mum who can’t sing to save her life – there’s no way she’ll ever cross paths with the star tenor.

At least that’s what she thinks until she’s unexpectedly invited to take part in a new reality TV show. The premise? Professional singers teach hopeless amateurs how to sing. The surprise? Jessie’s partner is none other than Michael Tennant!

As she becomes better acquainted with the man behind the voice, will Jessie find out the hard way that you should never meet your idols? Or will she get more than she bargained for?

The pre-order link:

Just in case I’ve done a marvellous job of convincing you this is a book you want to read, here is the Amazon pre-order link 🙂 (out on 24th September).

What I learnt this week: 11th July 2019

Editing my very first book

To me, books are like my children (and yes, my sons will love being compared to romance novels, but stick with me). I love them, nurture them (thankfully usually not over eighteen years) and then watch in a mixture of pride, joy and trepidation as they are released into the big brave world. I don’t have a favourite, because they’re all my favourites.

That’s not to say that some of them don’t hold special memories.

Do Opposites Attract was my first paperback, and the first time I saw my name on a cover. Too Charming was the first book I had published. Before You always makes me think of Jenson Button. Search for the Truth was set it in an industry I worked in for twenty years so I didn’t have to do any research. Oh Crumbs was the first time I hit the Amazon top 100 (it reached 99!). Crikey A Bodyguard was my first venture into romantic suspense.

I could go on (though I can see you’re hoping I don’t).

The Week of Your Life (title subject to change) also holds a very special place in my heart because it is the very first book I wrote, way back in 2009. It had been my New Year resolution to write a book and contrary to all predictions (including my own), I stuck with it, producing what I believed to be a best seller. Oh yes, I was that naive.

Other ideas came and different stories were written, my writing finally improving enough to gain a publishing contract, but I never forgot my first. It was another eight years before I picked it up again though, and I nearly died with embarrassment. I’d seriously sent that off to publishers?

Yet I still had a soft spot for the premise of the story – divorced mum of two boys meets and falls in love with her singing idol through a TV competition. As their relationship develops, she finds herself increasingly torn between the thrill and romance of meeting up with her sexy lover in exciting locations during his world tour, and the reality of being a mum to two young boys who need her at home.

That’s why I decided to re-write it.

And now, ten years after I’d first written The End, I’ve just completed the first round of edits.

On September 23rd, when it will be published, the pride, joy and trepidation will all be there, though perhaps in this case they’ll be magnified as it’s my first born that’s finally leaving the nest.

I can only hope it manages to fly. And I don’t find it slinking back a few weeks later with a bag of dirty washing.

What I learnt this week: 20th June 2019

A day at the races

I was lucky enough to attend Royal Ascot yesterday – and wow, just wow. The weather tried to put a dampner on the day, and I lost far more money than I won, but what a privilege it was to be at such a special occasion. It was, at times, like one big wedding; the hats, the stunning outfits, the flowers. It was elegant and people were happy, friendly and merry in that way of those who’ve had one too many glasses of the bubbly stuff.

Speaking of weddings, I knew I had outfits (with hats) from two recentish weddings, so I’d been relaxed about what I was going to wear, until the night before, when I’d looked at the forecast. Not a warm sunny day then. Rain, temperature hovering around 18 degrees. That put a different spin on things. Now I wasn’t looking just at the dress, but at the jacket, too. And now nothing worked. In the end I went for a wrap, and heels that were far too high for me to navigate the tricky 10 minute up hill walk to the racecourse from the station. Flat sandals that fit into handbags are a Godsend. Photo on the left, carrying the shoes. Photo on the right, wearing them! The man standing next to me isn’t just someone I grabbed for the photo – it’s my husband. And yes, that is our umbrella, which did rather clash with my outfit…

We looked like we were going to a wedding then, and the tables were set like they would be at a wedding.

We were also drinking champagne at 11 o’clock in the morning… which might have a lot to do with why I lost a lot more money than I won. That’s where the resemblance to the wedding ended though. Yesterday I got to view beautiful thoroughbred horses as they were paraded around the paddock area before the race.

I watched the same horses then charge along the final straight, although sometimes the view was obscured by the rain. And the horses I’d pre-selected weren’t always/often…okay, only once was one in the front.

Yesterday I also saw the Queen. It was drizzling, but the umbrellas were put away the moment the carriage arrived in the paddock, much to our delight, and our utter respect.

Sensibly though, she got to watch the race from this curved glass box.

For the final race, my husband decided to put all our cash ‘winnings’ (the credit card had taken a hit earlier with our bets) onto the horse Frankie Dettori was riding. He’d already had two winners and a second place, so perhaps not such a rash bet. Until we went to the paddock. The horse and Frankie didn’t seem to be getting on, with the horse shuffling him off as soon as he’d tried to mount.

I don’t know where the horse ended up, but I can tell you this much. We didn’t drink any further champagne.

Still, our gambling losses were a small price to pay for a fabulous day out 🙂

What I learnt this week: 24th May 2019

Birthday celebrations – go high

Last weekend my lovely mum celebrated her … now, she reads this blog, so she might not want you to know. Then again, she looks amazing for her age, so I’m going to tell you anyway. She celebrated her 85th birthday. We wanted to take her to lunch, but where? So many options.

Then I remembered she hasn’t been to London for a while.

And that her eldest grandson is at university in London and might be able to join us. Lunch with her daughter and son-in-law, nice. Lunch with one of her grandchildren, too – suddenly it’s a much more thrilling prospect.

So we planned the day. Train to Waterloo, boat from the London Eye down to the Tower of London. Gentle walk from the Tower, over Tower Bridge, past the London Mayor’s office and HMS Belfast and on to the Shard. A walk that dazzled everywhere we looked. That took in the majestically old and the shiny new; so much diversity in such a short distance. London never, ever, disappoints. Even on a day where the sun struggled to shine.

We chose the Hutong restaurant at the Shard, partly because we’d not been there before, partly because I knew my hungry student son would turn his nose up at the small finger sandwiches that were an option for afternoon tea. And party because I knew it had been a long time since Mum had sampled Chinese. The food was amazing, even down to the mango mousse ‘birthday cake’. (Mum being Mum, she couldn’t see the last two pieces of breaded sea bass go to waste, so we ended up with a doggy bag…!)

And the views were spectacular.

 

It is also the only place I’ve ever felt the need to take a photo from the ladies….

Mum’s birthday celebrations aren’t over yet. For her present she’s going to Twickenham to watch England play Ireland in the summer. With all her grandchildren. Oh and me and my brother too, but I don’t imagine we’ll be the ones she’ll want to sit next to…

 

 

 

What I learnt this week: 9th May 2019

Excitement in the Freeman house

Well, perhaps I should say in the Freeman study, because the only one getting excited on Tuesday, was me. For my husband it was another work day, for my sons – away at university – the day slipped by unnoticed. Publication of my first paperback book, Do Opposites Attract, they were all vaguely interested in. Publication of the 8th? Tumbleweed.

It didn’t matter though, because in my study, there was a celebration going on. Well, it felt like one, with all the good wishes being sent my way through social media. I gorged virtual cakes, swigged back bottles of virtual champagne and partied my way through the day.

And this was the reason – publication of Oh Crumbs in paperback, and in audio CD’s (available here and to order from all good book stores 😊).

And because it was my party, and I could do what I wanted, I stacked all my paperbacks together and took a proud photo.

It seems like only yesterday when, heart pounding wildly, I clutched a copy of the first, Do Opposites Attract. Eight books on, the heart does more of a quiet jig, but the joy, and the pride, is the same.

As is the desire to add to the pile 😊

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I learnt this week: 25th April 2019

Crikey – my latest book has been published

Tuesday was St Georges day. It was also, quite aptly, publication day for Crikey A Bodyguard. After all, St George is known for his strength and courage, though whether he did actually fight a dragon is debatable. Unless of course he lived in Westeros (if you’re not watching Game of Thrones, you’ll now be wondering what on earth I’m talking about it). Ben Jacobs, the hero of my latest book, also has strength and courage. He’s a bit of a wisecracker, too, which really helps scientist Kelly Bridge when they find themselves dodging bullets and kidnappers.

Ben was one of my favourite heroes to write, though I have to admit I’m very attached to them all. Over the years I’ve fallen a teeny bit in love with a carpenter, barrister, doctor, pharmaceutical industry director, racing car driver, ex tennis professional, accountant, architect, biscuit company heir and a marketing director.

Thankfully my husband is very understanding.

Now I can celebrate adding bodyguard to that list. So here’s to romantic heroes, who come in many guises. Please take a glass. Before I drink the lot 🙂

 

 

What I learnt this week: 18th April 2018

Who needs the beach?

Last week we went on holiday. Had it just been my husband and me, we’d have gone somewhere warm, sunny and with a beach. Not his choice, but I always book the holidays :-). However our two sons (now 19 and 21) decided they’d like to come with us – though only after I told them they could choose where.

So instead of watching the turquoise blue sea gently lap against the powder white sand, I watched this.

The first photo is from TD Garden in Boston, as we prepared to watch the Celtics, and the second is from Maidson Square Garden in New York, as we watched the Knicks. If you’re interested, the first was an excellent game because the Celtics are very good (apparently). The second was watched mainly by tourists, as the Knicks are rubbish and New Yorkers are, no doubt, fed up with them. None of which I knew before I went, but my basketball loving sons have enlightened me. If you’d asked me if I ever wanted to watch basketball live, I’d have said no thanks. But boy did I enjoy it. There is something about live sport, and the atmosphere it creates, that is really compelling – the two glasses of wine I drank while watching the Knicks no doubt helped my appreciation.

Aside from the basketball in Boston, we also had an (apparently compulsory) visit to the home of baseball, Fenway Park. Sadly the Red Sox season hadn’t started yet. That’s something for the next visit.

We did get out and about and visit the other delights of Boston, and though I didn’t get my beach, I did get sun and blue skies. Shame it was only about 12 degrees. We found ourselves trying to hide our British accent at the Boston Tea Party museum…

From Boston we took the train (4 hours; easier, and considerably cheaper, than the plane) to New York where we were immediately hit by the change of pace. Dirtier, noisier, busier but, once you’d got used to that, also more spectacular. We last visited New York during Superstorm Sandy – not the best timing, but it did give us a unique perspective – below is from the Top of the Rock, and you can see the lack of lights in Wall Street where the power failure lasted for days.

Though many sights were the same this time – like the craziness of Times Square – it was fabulous to see so many new (to us) sights. For example, we found the High Line – a 1.45-mile-long elevated walkway created from the former New York Central Railroad. Amazing to walk up high over the streets of New York and not have to keep stopping every block to wait to cross the road! We were also really impressed by the 9/11 memorial. At our last visit that area was still being built. Now there is an eye-catching new World Trade Centre, an absorbing (and at times harrowing) museum and two poignant memorials that represent the footprints of the original towers.

There is also the Oculus – this amazing dinosaur skeleton like structure that encompasses a shopping mall. It looks truly, as the Americans like to say, awesome, both above and below ground.

Finally, we managed to see her. After the storm, the harbour was closed and we missed out on one of the iconic sights of New York. This time we got to see The Statue of Liberty up close and personal.

A blog on New York wouldn’t be complete without a photo of a typical American breakfast. Yes, I ate it all. But only after my son had persuaded us that we should take a taxi to the top of Central Park and then run all the way through it (plus the extra mile back to our apartment). Five and a bit miles later, I can tell you, I deserved every calorie 🙂

 

 

 

What I learnt this week: 21st March 2019

Crikey the edits are finished

It’s always a satisfying, yet also apprehensive moment, when I press send on the email to my editor with the final edits on a book. Satisfying because wow, the book I’ve been working on for what seems like forever, is finally finished. I won’t get to make any more changes. or dither any more about whether that scene is realistic, or whether that part of the plot really works….and trust me, on this one, I’ve done a lot of dithering.

Which brings me to the apprehensive part, because, well, I won’t get to make any more changes. Now I just have to hope that between me and my editor, we’ve made the book as good as it can be.

I have to confess, Crikey A Bodyguard has been the hardest book I’ve written to date. Don’t get me wrong, Ben and Kelly were a joy to write. Pitting the brilliant scientific mind of Kelly against that of wise cracking, tough guy Ben was one heck of a lot of fun.

Well, until I had to add the plot.

And then the science.

I started asking myself why on earth I’d made Kelly a world renowned vaccine expert, working to develop a way to beat weaponsied smallpox. I’d clearly blithely assumed my previous life in the pharmaceutical industry would make it easy.

It wasn’t.

And then there was Ben, who was an ex soldier. I wanted him to sound authentic, but I know even less about the army than I know about vaccines.

Thankfully in both cases, I had friends, and friends of friends, who were able to help with the language. I particularly loved the list of military slang terms I was given, though I’m sorry to report that slop jockey and gonk bag didn’t make it into the book. Though they have made it into the photos below 🙂

What I learnt this week: 7th March 2019

I didn’t win, but I felt like a winner

Monday night was the Romantic Novelists’ Association Awards 2019 evening. And, for the first time in my writing career, I was among the shortlisted authors. What an incredible group to be rubbing shoulders with.

The event was held at the Gladstone Library in the Royal Horseguards hotel in London. A very fitting – and rather sumptuous, setting. The shortlisted authors were asked to go along early to have our photographs taken. And yes, for the first time in my life, for that hour I felt like a minor celebrity. Not only having my photograph taken, but talking to other authors whose names I’ve seen on books covers I’ve read and enjoyed (including the marvellous Jules Wake, aka Julie Caplin, and Fantasy Novel Award winner Jane Lovering). I was over the moon to meet Jill Mansell, whose books I was devouring long before I decided to try and write one, and who is one of the authors who inspired me. Of course I was far too giddily excited (meeting Jill, plus a glass of champagne) to get a photo of the moment, but here is me with the other nominees in my category: the shorter Romantic Novel Award. Jane Godman, standing next to me, won our category, so while I didn’t win, I did literally rub shoulders with the winner.

Following the photo session we went into the library itself, where there were canapés, more fizz (it would have been rude not to drink it) and tables set out with magnificent candelabras. The awards followed, presented by historical novelist, Alison Weir, alongside author and broadcaster, Jane Wenham-Jones.

If you’d like to find out who won each category, they can be seen on the RNA website. The photo above is of Isabelle Broom collecting her award for the best Contemporary Romantic Novel (One thousand stars and you).

At the end of the evening, when I stepped outside I was greeted by the glare of a hundred flashes as I had to squeeze my way through a crowd of autograph hunters and photographers to climb into my waiting limousine.

Okay, okay. At the end of the evening I headed back to the tube. But for years to come I will dine out on the memory that I Was There.