What I learnt this week: 8th June 2017

What do you do when you’ve pressed submit?

Last week I finished the Christmas story I’ve been writing. Had this been a film I’d have expected fireworks to explode, champagne bottles to pop. At the very least some rousing music. But it was real life, so I pressed submit on my publishers on-line form, breathed a sigh of relief. And went to make a cup of tea.

As I slurped (I’m alone in the house, I can drink how I like) the tea, I sat back in my chair and thought…what the hell do I do now?

What do you do when the thing you’ve been working on for the last four months. The thing that’s taken up all your time, your focus. That thing, is done.

The most obvious answer, is write another book. It’s the right answer, too. Each new book provides not just an opportunity for new sales from existing readers, but for new readers. And of course that film deal you’re secretly hoping for. Just as you’re also hoping to win the lottery. What is more certain, is that writing the next book will make you a better writer.

Before I start to work on the book that’s in my head though, I need to support the books already in my ‘pipeline’. Specifically those about to burst (I can always hope) from it and onto the market. August will see the paperback publication of Before You, Aiden Foster’s story (my racing car driver, inspired by you know who).

Before YouIMG_1274

Also in August will be the ebook publication of my latest book, Too Nice? (provisional title), featuring accountant Nick Templeton and the stunning supermodel Lizzie Donavue.

So my writing to-do list at the moment includes:

  • Short story for a magazine to support paperback publication of Before You (tick!).
  • 2 x short stories for my publisher that will go out on email around publication day to build awareness of the books.
  • Blog posts to promote Before You.
  • Blog posts to promote Too Nice.
  • Market positioning document for Too Nice, to help the development of the cover and the back-page blurb.
  • Write second part of round robin story (each part written by a different Choc Lit author) to celebrate publishers 8th birthday.

I tell you this not so you will feel sorry for me – I’m doing what I love, what I’ve always dreamt of doing, even I wouldn’t waste any sympathy on me. No, I’m telling you so you can see that writing books isn’t all about writing a book. If you get my drift.

But when I’ve gone through this list, I will write another book. Once I’ve had another cup of tea.





What I learnt this week: 25th May 2017

A real book

Are you a Kindle addict? Or do you believe a book isn’t a book unless it’s a paperback? Or are you like me, and lie somewhere in between.

In praise of the Kindle:

  • No more choosing between shoes or books, clothes or books when I go on holiday. I can take a hundred books with me and still stuff my case with all those shoes and clothes I absolutely can’t do without (but will end up not wearing).
  • Ebooks are cheaper. Some are free. So I can dabble with new authors without fear of breaking the bank.
  • When you pick it up again, you’re at the right page – no swearing over lost bookmarks or pages that fail to turn down.
  • My Kindle is back lit so when I wake in the middle of the night (as I do these days, thanks to age and hormones) I can read without disturbing my hubby. Mind you a thunderstorm doesn’t disturb him, either.
  • As my eyes get old (not the rest of me, you understand, just the eyes) I can increase the size of the font – no need to reach for the reading glasses.

In praise of the paperback:

  • There is something real, tangible about holding a book.
  • Choosing a book in a shop is a pleasure. Picking them up, scanning the back covers, moving on to the next one. It’s so much more rewarding than pouring over a computer screen. Just like on-line grocery shopping is convenient, yet not nearly as satisfying as seeing the food, touching it, smelling it, before you buy.
  • Books are pretty. They are pleasing on the eye and to the touch. They look good on a book shelf, giving a room a cosy, homely look…though the Fifty Shades of Grey may be better kept on the Kindle.
  • When I see my book on a Kindle, the words don’t look too dissimilar to those I’ve been reading on my computer. When I see them in a paperback, it looks like I’ve written a proper book.

So why am I rambling on about this today? Well, my publisher has just told me that I’ll have two paperbacks out this year; Before You (August) and A Second Christmas Wish (November).


So as much as I love my Kindle, I can’t wait to see my new paperbacks. Then I can slot them into my bookshelf, alongside books by my writing heroines (like Nora Roberts, Jilly Cooper, Erica James, Katie Fforde) – and feel like a proper author.


What I learnt this week: 11th May 2017

Writing The End is really only The Start

Those of you who read this blog on a regular basis (thank you Mum) will know that back in March I began to write my Christmas book – provisionally titled The Christmas Hotel. I even wrote a blog post trying to work out how long I thought it would take me to finish it. Yesterday I reached a major milestone.

Christmas book The End


Yes, 61,000 words later (as this is a Christmas novella, not a full length book), I wrote The End. And those are two of the most satisfying words to write in a book. The other two are Chapter One. The latter brings excitement, a sense of everything being possible. This could be IT, the book that propels me to mega stardom. By the time I’ve written The End, all thoughts of stardom have withered away. Not because I think the book isn’t great, you understand (heavens, I don’t want you, my potential reader, thinking that). No, it’s because somewhere after the first few thousand words I start to focus entirely on the characters, on the plot. I forget my reader, forget my publisher. Forget everything but the story. I have, on occasion, even forgotten to pick the kids up from school….and I certainly forget all those jobs my husband gives me because he thinks, as I’m at home, I’m not working.

Before you start thinking wow, she’s smashed her target (which was submission to my publisher by end of June), writing The End is really only The Start of the process. Before I submit it to Choc Lit I will have to go through the manuscript several more times, picking up the obvious flaws (her eyes went from brown to green. He had one arm round her waist, one cupping her face, and one holding her hand), smoothing out the writing. Hopefully not cringing too much at some of the things I’ve written.

I also have to try and persuade someone to read this raw manuscript to point out the gaping plot holes I’ve missed. Luckily my husband has volunteered for the task…okay, okay, of course he didn’t. But he will.

Now I just have to hope that when I read it through again, what seemed like a really great idea when I was writing it, doesn’t seem like a disaster of an idea when I’m reading it…



What I learnt this week: 4th May 2017

Fish protection duty

We have a pond. Originally at the bottom of our garden, last summer we moved it so it’s next to our patio. Well, the men in my family dug the hole and ferried the soil back and forth. I provided encouragement. Here it is – photographed from my upstairs study.


Why did we (okay, okay, they) move the pond? Because we hoped having it closer to the house wouldn’t just let us enjoy it even in the winter. It would deter the herons from using it as an eat-as-much-as-you-like buffet.

Has it worked?

After a fashion. Yes, we enjoy the fish more. We even splashed out (pun not intended but I wish it had been) on two large koi, Vardy and Mahrez, to join our smaller, more timid school. They provide more than just a flash of beautiful colour as they glide up and down. I refer you to my previous post (20th April) on their dolphinesque antics. These continue, though I still lack the photographic evidence. The orange dot on the right of the second photograph is my latest attempt to catch Vardy leaping. He was, honest.

Mahrez (on the left) and Vardy

Mahrez (on the left) and Vardy


As for the herons, they remain arrogantly undeterred by the presence of the pond nearer the house. Or by the double row of fencing now surrounding the pond. Or the two heron scarers that squirt water at anything that moves in front of them – including unsuspecting humans.

Yesterday I caught this fellow eyeing up our fish from various perches around the garden (peer closely – he is there).

IMG_1252IMG_1254 IMG_1253

I should have been focussed on writing. I shouldn’t have been looking out of my window. Nor should I have bounded down the stairs each time I saw him stalking near the pond. But I did, because there was beauty in the arrogant way he stared at me. And, as a mother instinctively protects her children, I instinctively wanted to protect my fish.

So now we’re locked in a battle that will take us through until the temperature cools, and the fish keep low in the water. He has his eyes on my fish. I have my eyes on him.


As for the Christmas book word count, it now stands at 48,100. So I have been doing something, in between the heron spotting.

What I learnt this week: 27th April 2017

Summer is coming – but the Christmas book isn’t finished

You can always tell the start of the cricket season – the wind picks up, the temperature drops. Last Sunday, the first match of the season for our village club, we were lucky. The sun came out and at times it was actually warm. Here’s my proof – team in short sleeves, not a jumper in sight.


There’s a few things I don’t like about this time of year:

- from now until September the weekends revolve around cricket

- from now until September the conversation at home revolves around cricket

- from now until September my whites wash loads will triple

- from now until September my house will be filled with cricket equipment


But there’s also a few things I really love about this time of year:

- from now until September the weather is (generally) getting warmer and the sun shines more often i.e. summer is coming

- from now until September I sneak in a lot more writing at the weekend. I can only watch so much cricket….

- from now until September I can justify sitting all day in the sun. I’m supporting my family, honest. It’s just a coincidence that each time you look at me I have my nose in a book/newspaper/am writing…

And speaking of writing, I’d better head back to The Christmas Book. Word count is 39,000 so still a way to go (aiming for around 50,000). Another month of cricket matches though and I might get there :-)

P.S. New to cricket? Here’s a post a wrote a couple of years ago that helps explain it, from a female perspective.


What I learnt this week: 20th April 2017

Writing update and leaping fish

When I last left you, I was buried in edits for my next book (provisionally titled Too Nice? and out in August). So what’s happened in the last week?

  • I finished the first round of edits and sent them gleefully back to my editor with a huge sigh of relief. The first round is the hardest, in my experience, with chunks being added, deleted, moved around. Next, if I’ve done my job properly, will be the line edits. If I’ve moved the wrong chunks into the wrong place, or done an Ernie Wise (the right chunks, just not necessarily in the right order…) it’ll be first round, take 2.
  • I’m back writing The Christmas Book (aka The Christmas Hotel). To date my word count stands at 28,000 and, according to my haphazard outline, I’m just over half way through the story. Some has been written outside on the patio. Sitting in the sunshine, writing about romance at Christmas – it’s a tough job, but I’m manning up to the task.

And the leaping fish?

We have eight Koi, six we’re enjoying watching grow and two (Mahrez and Vardy. No I didn’t name them. Yes, my husband is a Leicester City fan) we’re enjoying even more, watching the big buggers dashing round the pond.

Mahrez (on the left) and Vardy

Mahrez (on the left) and Vardy

Mahrez has recently taken to leaping out of the water in a dolphinesque manner, though with slightly less style. By the time I’ve grabbed my phone to record his antics, he’s had enough, so you’ll have to take me on trust. We were chuffed to think we had the only magical dancing Koi, until we looked it up on line. Apparently Koi start to leap out of the water during the mating season, when the males chase the females. So perhaps Mahrez is actually a girl, and there is a beautiful romance going on in our pond.

Or perhaps he’s keen to be a youtube sensation. We’re buying hoops next week. Watch this space.

What I learnt this week: 13th April 2017

A fortnight of edits (with a little break)

In the two weeks since I last updated this blog I’ve been mainly immersed in edits. The book I’m working on – temporary title Too Nice? – will hopefully find its way onto the ebook platforms in August. That’s if I keep to my editing schedule, and so far I’m on track.

Too Nice is a book I first wrote back in 2011. At the time it was called Coming Home, and I sent it to be professionally critiqued. Of the many (make that many, many) comments I received back, one was that the hero, Nick Templeton, was too nice. Feeling considerably bruised and battered by the critique (which in hindsight was excellent and worth every penny) I shoved the (pages and pages) of feedback into a drawer and got on with writing the next book. That turned out to be this one…

TC_NEW front 150dpi

It was two years (and a publishing contract with Choc Lit) later before I dived into the manuscript again, this time seeing the comments for what they were. Not a savage commentary on my writing skills but a thoughtful, carefully worded appraisal of how I could improve the book. I re-worked it, taking most of the ideas on board, renamed it Too Nice? and submitted to Choc Lit.

Nick Templeton is a nice man – I’ve not changed him too much, but given this quiet, reserved accountant a bit more backbone. He needs this to stand up to the woman he’s loved for most of his life. When he first fell for her she was simply his best friend’s younger sister. Now Lizzie Donavue is a stunning supermodel who seems to have it all. A glittering career, a glamorous lifestyle in LA and a parade of handsome boyfriends. But then it all goes horribly wrong…

I loved the idea of an accountant and a supermodel. I hope you will, too :-)

I did have a little break from the editing – an incredibly well timed trip to the Cotswolds last weekend, when it happened to be wall to wall sunshine. In my very biased opinion there is no finer place in the world than England, when the sun is out. When it’s raining, I’ll be happy to get on a plane to anywhere.

Morning view from our rental place

Morning view from our rental place

Before we went on a bike ride. After it, I wasn't smiling quite so much...

Before we went on a bike ride. After it, I wasn’t smiling quite so much…

Finally, a quick update on The Christmas Book (aka The Christmas Hotel). I did do a little bit of writing in the sunshine. It’s now up to 21,800 words. Hopefully I’ll have my edits finished by the end of this week, and back into the swing of mince pies and mistletoe next week. After a small break to eat a few Easter eggs…




What I learnt this week: 30th March 2017

A writing update

A short blog today (what do you mean, whoopee?), because I’m not just juggling my medical writing with writing The Christmas Book (aka The Christmas Hotel. Maybe). Yesterday the edits for my next book landed in my inbox.

It’s a always a drum roll moment for me when I open the attachment. I’m excited to see what changes are being suggested to improve the book, but also apprehensive over how many, how long it might take me, and most scary of all. Can I actually make the suggestions work? Adding new characters, changing dialogue, including new scenes, softening/deepening the current characters can all enhance a book. They’re not always easy to do. You spend months and months editing the book yourself, making sure it flows, the plot works, the timings work. And even if you do say so yourself, it’s pretty damn good.

Then an editor comes along and shows you it wasn’t perfect after all. And actually, it could be a lot better.

Now you have to cut into your hard work and hope when you put it back together again, it still works. It feels like being a book surgeon (umm, a penguin surgeon was the closest image I could find).

Surgeon penguin

Let me explain my thinking. The body (book) is an intricate thing, yet I’m delving into it with a knife, chopping bits out, moving other parts around. Perhaps stitching new parts in. When I sew the body (book) back up, it’s with the hope that I didn’t just do no harm. I actually made it better than it was before.

Well there you go. As a child I always wanted to be either a writer or a doctor. I ended up being a pharmacist, who worked in a pharmaceutical company, writing. Who then went part time to write fiction. Who’s now convinced herself she’s a surgeon…

For those interested, the Christmas book word count is currently at: 19,400 words.

Not bad progress from last week, but it will be put on hold while I get my scalpel out. Wearing the surgical gown is optional.



What I learnt this week: 23rd March 2017

Writing hiccups

So, a quick update on where I am with The Christmas Book…and yes, I hope it gets a better title than that, too. I’m working with The Christmas Hotel. I know, I know, two of the three words are the same, but with a bit of luck replacing that last one will haul the title up from dull to interesting. Thankfully my publisher will have their own view, one based on years of knowing what titles sell books. Not just my stab at making the title have something to do with the content.

Current word count: 12,600.

Of course it would be higher if I wasn’t sitting here writing this blog, but I couldn’t let you down. You were waiting for an update, weren’t you?!

By my reckoning this means I’ve written only 4,100 words during the last week. Have I been:

  • watching daytime television. No!
  • faffing around on twitter (umm, guilty, but writers need to get out there on social media, honest).
  • sitting at my desk twiddling my thumbs? No (though maybe I’ve gazed up at Jenson once or twice. And yes, you’ve guessed it, that does rather give me an excuse to slot in a photo of him).
Where I look for inspiration

Where I look for inspiration


What happened, was that work got in the way. Now I’m not going to complain, because my medical writing pays the money that helps us to eat. But it does rather stem the flow of the book writing. I’m used to this though, because I often find myself diving between the two types of writing. The trick I’ve found is to try and keep the book alive in my head even when I’m writing about cardiovascular events rather than beating hearts. So when I’m making a cup of tea, driving the car, doing my morning run or swim, I think about my characters. It often leads to me playing around with dialogue in my head which, I have to confess, at the time I think is rather brilliant. Sadly when I finally get a pen in my hand to note it down, the brilliance has often faded (or perhaps it was never there?).

I’ve finished my medical writing work for this week though, so I’m heading back into the book. I’ve left it in the middle of a chapter which is a great tip I was given as diving straight into some action or dialogue makes it much easier to pick up the story. Now I just have to translate the not quite brilliant scribbles I made after my run yesterday, and off I go.

I’ll update you in another week. Go on, you’re interested now. Aren’t you?

What I learnt this week: 16th March 2017

Beginning a new book

Those of you who read this blog (come on, admit it, that’s you, mum) will know two weeks ago I was about to start my next book – a short Christmas book, targeting around 50,000 words.

So how is it going?

Well, as you’ve been kind enough to show some interest, I’ll tell you.

I’ve started it (cue fireworks).

Fireworks NYE

It’s always a big relief to get those first words down. Not that I’m daunted by the blank page – in fact often I’m excited by it. To me it represents a world of possibilities; maybe this book will be the one that takes off, the one that lands me in Hollywood, helping the producers turn it into a film staring Chris Hemsworth (cue some photos so you’ll feel it was worth visiting my blog this week).

chris_hemsworth chris_hemsworth 2 chris_hemsworth 3

What this writer is daunted by is what I actually put on that first page. Once I’m into the book, it all falls into place (until an editor comes along and shuffles it round again) but I often struggle with those first few chapters.

I’m clear where the story is going…yes, okay, we all know it’s a romance based around Christmas, but there’s a bit more to it than that. Honest. I’m also clear on my main characters – in fact I even have biographies for them to help form my thinking. Over the years these biographies have developed from: tall, dark hair, brown eyes, to something more detailed. Now I don’t just know what they look like, I know their back story, their likes and dislikes, their personality. Their vulnerabilities.

What I struggle with is this; at what point do I delve into their story? And from whose point of view? Do I need a prologue to set it up?

I’ve learnt not to dwell too much. Better to get stuck in and get on with it, than to dither for ages trying to work out the best path to take. After all, the overall direction I’m heading in is clear. It’s just there’s more than one route I can take at the start, and knowing which is best isn’t always obvious until I’ve begun to walk down it. I use the same principle when I’m map reading, too. The difference is with writing, if I later find there was a better path (less muddy, more downhill. Perhaps going past a café and a pub. And a chip shop) it’s easy to go back and edit my words. With walking, it’s a long slog back up that hill to begin again. By which time you’re muddy, starving hungry and your family have threatened to never walk with you again.

So I’ve set off, 8,500 words in, and so far I’m walking at a decent pace. I’ll let you know how I get on over the next few months. I’m hoping that chip shop will come in view very soon.

chips no mayo