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…).

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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.

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

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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…).

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NEXT WEEK – more book news!

 

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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.

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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.

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What I learnt this week: 20th July 2017

Little brown boxes…

There used to be a time when a parcel in the post was met with a squeal of excitement. It would be a birthday present, perhaps. Or that special item you’d ordered from a shop that wasn’t on the high street, and had been waiting weeks for.

Then came the arrival of Amazon Prime.

Now, the little brown boxes arrive with alarming frequency (I blame my husband – I swear he’s addicted to ordering things on-line). Sometimes as often as once a day. Do I squeal with excitement? No I flipping don’t. I’m more likely to curse, because when I open the door to find a little brown Amazon box sitting on the doorstep – the delivery guy has already scarpered – I’ve climbed down two flights of stairs and halted the flow of my latest literary masterpiece. Umm, so that’s why I’m not on those bestselling charts. It’s the arrival of too many damn Amazon boxes.

But what about what’s in the boxes, I hear you ask. Surely the contents must be interesting? Here’s what was in the last 3 Amazon boxes I answered the door to:

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Exactly.

But then yesterday a miracle happened. The doorbell rang (as usual). I sighed (as usual), stopped what I was writing (as usual) and scurried down the stairs (because you never know, it might not be an Amazon delivery. It could be a proper visitor). Yet again there was a box left on the doorstep. But this time, it was addressed to me. And this time, I did squeal, because this is what I found when I opened it.

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It’s my fourth paperback, but seeing it for the first time, touching it, smelling it (come on, the smell of a new book – they should bottle it). It all feels as exciting as the first.

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And finally, because no post that features Before You should end without a mention of the inspiration behind it, I leave you with me and JB, sharing a special moment in my study…

Me and BY close up study

 

 

 

What I learnt this week: 6th July 2017

It’s harder to write less than more

Several weeks ago I sent in my comments on the final proof stage of my latest ebook, Too Damn Nice. It’s around 80,000 words; shorter than some of my books (Before You was 96,000) but longer than others (A Second Christmas Wish was 65,000).

So the words are done. As I mentioned last week, the cover is nearly there, and I hope to share it with you in the next week or so.

That means the only part of the book left to be worked on ready for publication on 1st August is the ‘blurb.’ I always thought that was a made up word, or the name of a rock band, but the dictionary definition is:

A short description of a book, film, or other product written for promotional purposes

The key word here being short.

For example, here’s how the blurb for Before You will look when it comes out in paperback (1st August – you see, there’s a common theme here. I’m hoping repetition of message will work).

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The idea of the blurb is to attract you, dear reader, into buying the book. It needs to reflect the sense, the atmosphere of the book without going into pages of detail about it. Sounds easy? It should be, because let’s face it, between writing it and editing it, I’ve spent over half a year on this book. If anyone knows how to sell my beloved masterpiece to the reader, it must surely be me, huh?

Wrong! In my experience, it’s a damn sight harder to write 150 words that convey the essence of the book, than it is to write the 80,000 words of the book. I think it’s because I know the book too well (either that or I’m useless, a sentiment I can’t possibly ascribe to). When people read the back of the book, funnily enough they don’t want to read a three page synopsis of the book – and trust me, condensing 80,000 words into 3,000 words is hard enough. They also don’t give a toss about all the little details  e.g. is the Beverley Wiltshire a good place for a sex blackmail video to be made (umm, I’ve gone with yes?). When is London Fashion Week? Sadly, because I’ve painstakingly pondered over these, that’s what’s on the forefront of my mind when I think of the book.

No, potential readers only want the bare bones. Enough to give a flavour of who (it’s about) what (is the main conflict) and where (it all happens). Written in a persuasive enough manner, and without giving away anything important, that they’ll immediately click the buy box. Or take it to the till if you’re doing things the old fashioned way, though you won’t be able to do that for Too Damn Nice as it’s coming out first as an ebook. You will be able to take Before You to the till. After 1st August…!

Thankfully I’m not in this blurb quagmire alone. My publisher is working on it, too. Between us, we’ll get there. And hopefully what we come up with entice you enough to give it a try. If not, there’s always that mention of what happened in the Beverley Wiltshire.

 

What I learnt this week: Thursday 29th June

A new book – the same old excitement

There is definitely something very special about seeing your name on a book cover for the very first time. Just like a first love is hard to forget, so is a first book cover. Mine was this one:

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But the anticipation of the next cover, the thrill of seeing your name on a new design, with a new title – that’s very special, too. Last week I was sent some cover options for my next book, Too Damn Nice (out 1st August). And still my heart jumped into my throat when I saw the images. You see it’s only when I see my name on that cover, that I start to believe this is really going to happen. I’m going to have another book out. I know I’ve spent months editing it, but that’s all on a word document so it never looks like a book. Until the moment I see the cover.

So what can I tell you about it? Well…the final one hasn’t been chosen yet, but I’m excited to have a new look. It’s illustrative this time – very different to any of the covers I’ve had before. Oh and I think the title might be in pink, which is a real plus for this girl. It means I can design some pretty pink social media banners to go with it. I can see it now…

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Maybe even this fella.

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Okay, it is only my name in pink, so I might be getting a little carried away here. Especially as I’m not sure my creative talents are up to blending flamingoes with…no, no, I’m not going to say. But the majority of the book is set in the English countryside. Not a zoo.

So, watch this space. I hope to post the cover for Too Damn Nice on this blog over the next two weeks.

I think it’s fair to say I’m tickled pink to have a new book out soon (no groaning, please. You know I’ve made worse jokes than that).

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What I learnt this week: title reveal

What’s in a title?

I have four books coming out between August and November (boy are you going to be sick of me banging on about them ). Two new ebooks and the paperback publications of Before You and A Second Christmas Wish. All of them have different titles to the ones I submitted. You could ask what does that say about my title creation skills, but I’m going to ignore you. Instead, how about, what were the titles I submitted and why were they changed? Well, funny you asked…

Before You

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This started off as Over the Line, as I was trying to match the title to the racing theme of the story. Stupid idea. The main theme of the story is love – my target audience those who enjoy romance. My hero just happens to be a racing car driver. So the title was changed to one that fitted with the romance, not the sport.

Before Aiden met Mel, racing was his life. He was obsessed with the need to prove he was as good as his father. Before Mel met Aiden, she was was burying the feminine side of her. She didn’t want to open up to being hurt again.

A Second Christmas Wish

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This started off as A Second Wish – yes, a title I didn’t get far wrong. My publisher added the word Christmas because, funnily enough, that is a key word for a book you’re targeting for the Christmas market…

Too Damn Nice

This is the story of supermodel Lizzie Donavue and quiet, reserved accountant Nick Templeton. I mentioned on a previous blog (13th April) that when I wrote it many years ago (before I was published) it was originally called Coming Home. I changed it to Too Nice after I had it professionally critiqued because one of the criticisms was that the hero, Nick Templeton, was too nice. Ha, I thought, I’ll show them. I’ve since thoroughly re-worked it (okay, okay, all the criticisms were justified) and Choc Lit will be publishing it on 1st August. They felt Too Nice was a bit wishy washy – hence the addition of Damn. I love it. Definitely appeals to my writing style.

A Little Christmas Faith

My Christmas book has a proper title! Provisionally I’d called it The Christmas Hotel but Choc Lit have taken a look at it and, noting the name of the heroine of the story, have changed it to A Little Christmas Faith (yes, they’re far cleverer than me). You see Faith is the owner of a new boutique hotel in the Lake District. After months of building delays she’s excited to be opening it two weeks before Christmas. What a way to celebrate the season. Her first guest is Adam Hunter. He’s come to the hotel to escape Christmas…

So there you have it. Thinking up two or three words to sit on the cover of a book – not as easy as it sounds. Even if you’ve written the 90,000 words inside it.

 

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).

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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

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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).

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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.

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