What I learnt this week: 26th April 2018

The writing essential

No, I’m not going to talk about computers, though without it I’d be stuck. I find it so much easier to type my thoughts directly onto a word document than via pen and paper. Possibly because I change my mind a fair bit, which is easy to manage on a computer, but on paper leaves me with a scrawled mess of illegible hieroglyphics. Here’s an example of a page I wrote in the garden at the weekend (what can I say, the sun came out, I wanted to sit in it and my computer is a desk top that doesn’t budge from the study).

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Plus the computer is there for the essential research that always comes into every book. For my latest book, Oh Crumbs (did I mention it’s now available for pre-order?!) I had to research the biscuit industry. Now I’m not going to be getting a job as marketing director in McVities anytime soon, but I did find some useful information that hopefully gives the book authenticity. For example, research suggests youngsters are turning to traditional biscuits like custard creams and bourbons, though the UK’s favourite biscuit is the chocolate digestive. If I had to choose only one biscuit for the rest of my life, that would be my choice, too.

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But I like the variety; a biscuit to suit my mood. If I’m feeling extravagant, I go for the Belgian white chocolate chip cookie. Indulgence at its best. For everyday, I opt for the dark chocolate digestive. If I’m feeling virtuous (it does happen), I reach for the lower calorie Rich Tea. To me it’s the champion of dunkers, though surveys have put it in second place behind the ginger nut. I only ate those when I was pregnant. Some say chocolate digestive’s are fabulous dunkers, but to me that would contaminate what I consider to be THE writing essential (you knew I’d come back to that at some point, didn’t you?) – the mug of tea.

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Because it doesn’t really matter which biscuit I choose – hey, sometimes I don’t even need to choose one at all –  what I can’t write without, is my mug of tea.

Perhaps I should set my next book in a tea company…

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What I learnt this week: 19th April 2018

A change is as a good as a rest

For many years we went away during the Easter school holidays. Sometimes in search of sun (we didn’t always find it) but always for a break where we could be a family for a days away from home distractions (okay, away from the Playstation….). For the last 4 years though, the Easter holidays have been a time of stress, grumpiness and misery. Yes, GCSE’s and A Levels have really put a damper on them. This year exams still loom – A Levels for my youngest, 2nd year university for my eldest – but I made a unilateral decision (amazing what you can do when you’re home alone). I booked a week in Cornwall. A change of scenery, I thought. Revision within four different walls, with the prospect of escape at the end of the day.

The family moaned most of the way there – for the parts when they weren’t asleep. ‘Bloody long way to go to see four different walls,’ was the general consensus. ‘Bloody expensive way to see four different walls,’ was my husband’s view.

But then we arrived at our beautiful rental house, overlooking a small lake. And from that point on, nobody complained.

During the day we all worked, though admittedly my work, writing, didn’t feel like work as I typed away on our balcony, overlooking the lake. In the sun. Yes, a miracle occurred and the sun did shine on us now and again.

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And later, when brains were at full capacity (umm, so they said) we set off to explore. We made it to Newquay, where I even paddled (no, that isn’t a smile. I’m gritting my teeth as it’s so cold), to Padstow (where the grey clouds were more like we were expecting) and to Charlestown where I’m reliably informed dock scenes from Poldark are filmed. I looked for him, but he’d clearly heard I was on my way and fled the scene as fast as his tight breeches would allow.

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One evening we even bombed down to Lands End, making it just as the sun was setting, after tea in St Ives (of course it was fish and chips).

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So is their a point to this post, other than an excuse to share my holiday snaps? Well yes, just a tiny one. I think there’s something in that old adage, a change is as good as a rest. Only time will tell if the revision done in Cornwall will lead to exam success, or if the words I wrote will lead to a best seller (I hope the two don’t have equal odds, or my sons are in trouble). What I can say is that we all felt we had a holiday, even though we all worked.

I can also say that the fish and chips I had were the best I’ve ever tasted. They, alone, were worth the trip.

 

Oh Crumbs – my next book is nearly here

Oh Crumbs…it’s now available for pre-order 

I’m delighted to be able to share with you the cover and blurb for my next book. Oh Crumbs will be published on June 12th but if you can’t wait till then (!) it is available for pre-order now.

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To help whet your appetite, I suggest a mug of tea and a packet of whatever biscuits take your fancy. Oh and a peek at the blurb:

Sometimes life just takes the biscuit …
Abby Spencer knows she can come across as an airhead – she talks too much and is a bit of a klutz – but there’s more to her than that. Though she sacrificed her career to help raise her sisters, a job interview at biscuit company Crumbs could finally be her chance to shine. That’s until she hurries in late wearing a shirt covered in rusk crumbs, courtesy of her baby nephew, and trips over her handbag.

Managing director Douglas Faulkner isn’t sure what to make of Abby Spencer with her Bambi eyes, tousled hair and ability to say more in the half-hour interview than he manages in a day. All he knows is she’s a breath of fresh air and could bring a new lease of life to the stale corporate world of Crumbs. To his life too, if he’d let her.

But Doug’s harbouring a secret. He’s not the man she thinks he is.

**Warning. Over the next few months I’m sure I’ll be dropping many corny biscuit jokes into my blog posts. So if you think you’ll find that hard to digest(ive) then maybe you’d better (jammie) dodge this page for a while…

 

 

 

 

What I learnt this week: 29th March 2018

Oh crumbs, second round of edits

Yes, it’s head down time, as the second round of edits for my next book, Oh Crumbs, landed in my inbox this week. The first round is all about the story, making changes that give Abby and Doug’s journey more punch. For example for this book I removed a character (no, not my hero, though Doug probably wouldn’t have complained. Just tensed his jaw and walked quietly away). I also added a chapter to give the reader more insight into Abby’s crazy family life (she’s been big sister and mum to her three sisters since she was 12).

But in this second round of edits it’s more about checking the sentence flow and picking up those words I use far too much. I don’t seem to have a favourite that runs through all the books. Instead I get fixated on a different word for each of my books. The first book I wrote, Too Charming, was all about the eyebrows. Far too many were being raised, quirked or twitched.

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A Little Christmas Faith I remember picking up on an awful lot of slumping. Whether it was onto the bed, a sofa or a chair, all of my characters were a chiropractors worse nightmare.

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For Oh Crumbs, the word of the manuscript seems to be clutching. She clutches her handbag, her stomach, his arm. Well, she did. Now she’s going to do something else. Perhaps simply hold onto one of them from time to time.

Finally, this round of edits is about spotting the mistakes. Spell check is great, but when you write moth and mean mouth, it sadly isn’t clever enough to pick up the rather vital difference. At least it’s vital when he’s trying to kiss it.

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What I learnt this week: 15th March 2018

What’s in a title?

For some authors (for me it’s Nora Roberts, Jilly Cooper, Suzanne Brockmann and more recently Samantha Young and Christina Lauren), I don’t care about the title, the cover or the blurb. The author name alone will have me buying the book.  But I can read far more books than they can write, plus I love to find new authors – how else can I add to my favourites list if I don’t try them? When I’m choosing a book I’m like the kid in the candy store. All those sweets, I don’t know which to pick first. Much like the lemon bon bon, or the pear drop (am I showing my age?!), it’s the name, or when it comes to books the title, that first catches my eye – and my imagination. It doesn’t decide whether I want to buy the book or not, but it does make me stick my hand in the candy jar and take a look at what’s there. If the cover appeals, then I then read the blurb. If I’m hooked by that, I’m a click away from having the book on my Kindle.

And my hand is very expert at making that click.

Of course back in the day I’d have to go to a shop, put my hand in my purse and hand over hard cash to buy a book. Now I can buy one while I’m supposed to be working (shh, don’t tell on me). And as it’s not real money (come on, I’m only clicking a button) I can buy a lot of them very easily (shh, don’t tell the husband).

All this brings me to the actual point of this post – yes, I know, I should come to it sooner, but I’m a writer. I can’t blurt the ending out up front. I need to lead you through thousands of words, first.

Sorry, we were talking about the point of the post. The title of my next book, set in a biscuit company and to be published as an ebook around end of May/early June, is going to be:

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As to whether the cover will feature any crumbs, or indeed any biscuits….well, luckily the creative people at Choc Lit will be designing it, not me.

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What I learnt this week: 1st March 201

Writing through the Beast from the East 

It was forecast – and it arrived.

First there was the cold, then the snow flurries (view from my study window).

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But mainly, where I live, the cold. You don’t realise how drafty your house is, until it’s minus degrees outside. Now I know why people buy those long sausage shaped draft excluders. I ordered several yesterday, but until they arrive (no doubt when the temperature is back up) all those cushions I insist on buying and my family hate? They don’t think they’re such a bad idea any more. Ditto the throws…

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Still, perfect weather for writing a Christmas book, so I’m cracking on with it. Up to 52,000 words now and it’s Christmas Eve. Clarissa the budgie has been causing havoc, a tree has been decorated, and Gabby and Owen – oh no, I’m not falling into that trap. Suffice to say I’m really enjoying writing their story.

Of course writing is a sedentary process, and sitting for hours on end when it’s freezing outside and your house is old can get very cold. Which is why these are a great investment. That long worm like hottie? Absolutely brilliant for keeping the whole back warm and toastie. The penguin hottie? Pretty useless – too small so only lasts a short time – but looking at it makes me smile.

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Finally, after a day of writing, this is the way we keep warm in our draft filled house at the moment.

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And yes, those are Christmas lights but I decided they looked so pretty they were going to stay. Ditto the thing that looks like an illuminated juice extractor…

Finally, because I wanted to photograph it like this all December and failed, here is my Christmas paperback, in the snow :-)

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But now I have the photograph, the Beast from the East is welcome to disappear. And the Heat from the South make an appearance.

What I learnt this week: 22nd February 2018

How to annoy/embarrass your kids 

Much has already been written on this topic of course, so perhaps I should have titled this How I annoy my kids, because that’s what the following originate from – my personal observations. And frankly, my sons are 18 and 20 so no longer children. So actually the title should be How I annoy the young adults I’m mother to, but that would be very ungainly and a rather poor advert for my writing. So how about:

How I annoy/embarrass my 18 and 20 year old sons

1) Call them cutie pie, or sweetie

Now in my defence, I only do this in texts, but I’m sure they roll their eyes every time they see it.

2) Ask them every time they leave the house – have you got your keys/wallet/phone

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I forgot to remind my eldest of this the last time he left the house. There I was, merrily driving him to the tube station so he could get back to the flat he shares with his university friends in London. Twenty minutes later, we arrive at the tube. ‘Have you got your wallet, your keys, your phone?’ I ask belatedly. He rolls his eyes (of course), pats his pocket. Pats his pocket again. And off we trundle back home, to pick up the phone he’d left by the side of his bed, then to head back to the tube again. Not my ideal choice for Sunday evening entertainment.

3) Tell them to drive safely every time they get in the car

‘How else do you think I’m going to drive?’

I can’t help it. I watched these boys crash go-karts. I worry.

4) Remark on the weird length of footballers socks during a Champions League game.

Or indeed any game. Apparently they don’t care. Strange. Though not as strange as the sight of men with white football socks pulled up over their knees, as observed in the Man Utd match last night.

5) Remind them not to drink too much every time they go out with their friends

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Sadly the eldest is at university so out of my control. I like to think he has a pint, then turns to lemonade.

6) Remind them not to take drugs every time they go out with their friends

I usually combine this with reminder number 5, and if they’re going to a club, I tag on reminder 7, too

7) Watch your drink at all times. Bad people can spike it.

8) Ask them to remove the rubbish that’s strewn over their bedroom floor

Apparently that’s carefully filed schoolwork/university notes.

9) Tell them they need to wear a coat

They’re old enough to decide if they want a coat, thank you.

10) Ask them to put their shoes away when they come in and dump them just inside the hall, in a perfect position to trip up over as you go up or down the stairs.

‘But I’m putting them on again tomorrow.’

Finally, last, but by no means least.

Write romantic fiction….!

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What I learnt this week: 15th February 2018

Immersed in Christmas again

Last week I finished the first round of edits for Crumbs, my next book. The first round is always the most challenging, as it requires the major revisions. Cutting out characters, swopping chunks around, adding a chapter. The next time I see it, as long as I haven’t made any major clangers in the first round, I’ll be onto the line edits; are the sentences as tight, as good, as they can be?

With Crumbs submitted, my focus has turned again to Christmas. It’s taken a few days to get back into the characters again, but now I’m off, and up to 34,000 words. So far I’ve researched characteristics of Victorian houses, and keeping budgies. Did you know that a budgie is a bit like a dog (stay with me on this) - when it wags its tail it usually means it’s happy to see you. It can also mean it’s about to poo though, so be careful how you approach it. A budgie with its head cocked to one side is curious. One who bows its head towards you, wants a scratch on the back of its neck where it can’t reach with its beak.

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What on earth does all that have to do with Christmas? Ha – you’ll have to wait an see :-)

In other news, as is traditional in February, my husband again asked me if he needed to buy me a Valentine card. Of course it’s commercial, as he points out, but I write romantic fiction. Celebrating romance, even if its just by the purchase of a card, is important. Celebrating it with roses, pink champagne and a candle lit meal would be even better, but as I say in my biography:

‘…the romance in my life is all in my head. Then again, my husband’s unstinting support of my career change goes to prove that love isn’t always about hearts and flowers – and heroes can come in many guises.’  

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What I learnt this week: 1st February 2018

An introduction to my next book, edits and the sea

Currently I’m deeply immersed in edits for my next book, Crumbs.

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It’s the story of Abby Spencer, who knows she can come across as a blonde airhead – she likes to talk and is a bit of klutz – but that’s not her. She’s helped to raise her sisters and gained a business degree. Now she’s ready to start her career, so she applies for a job at Crumbs, the local biscuit manufacturer owned by Lord Charles Faulkner and run by his son, Douglas Faulkner.

Doug Faulkner – what can I say about him? He’s got wild Irish looks currently restrained in a stuffy managing director suit. He hates his job and hates working for his father even more. When he interviews Abby for the role of his personal assistant, she says more words in half an hour than he manages in a day. So he decides to hire her, just for the hell of it. She might add some spark to his miserable life.

If these crumbs of information have whetted your appetite and left you hungry for more (too corny?!) the book will hopefully be published in a few months time – dependent on how well the editing process goes. So far I’ve deleted a thousand superfluous words, then added another chapter (2,000 words). I’ve thanked my editor for kindly correcting Abby’s age (she’s 24, and it appears I can’t count) and for pointing out that my solicitor appeared to go by two names. As per usual with me, I’ve totally forgotten that some readers do actually like a bit of description. My poor editor felt compelled to point out that she had no idea where they all lived, or over what time frame it all happened. I hope one day I will learn to add such detail without being told, but it appears four years of writing and editing books isn’t long enough for such a miracle.

At the weekend we popped down to the coast (Stokes Bay in Hampshire, for those of you who like the detail…!). There is something about the sea that lifts the spirit, and clears the cobwebs from the mind. It can also be pretty damn deceptive. This is how it looked from the car, when we decided how lovely it would be to take a walk along the prom.

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This is what it was actually like.

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Never mind hold onto your hats, I had to take the thing off my head and clutch it in my hand. Trust me, we deserved the big fry up we had when we made it to the cafe at the end.

Walking back was a breeze, mind :-)

 

What I learnt this week: 18th January 2018

A cool birthday 

It’s become a tradition (if you can call 3 years on the trot) for me to celebrate my birthday in London. Keen to continue it (and reinforce the ‘tradition’ part, so I have an excuse to go again next year) we went to London at the weekend to raise a glass to my advancing years. Because I’d manage to persuade the boys to come too, I wanted to do something ‘cool’. Something an eighteen and twenty year old would find more interesting than just going out for a meal with their doddery old parents. So I arranged to go for cocktails afterwards. In a bar made of ice.

It’s called the IceBar (genius)

We were invited to arrive twenty minutes before our 11pm ‘slot’, primarily, it became clear, to persuade us to buy another cocktail at the cosy warm bar, before we entered the freezer. Being tight, we spent the twenty minutes deciding on the cocktail we’d have in the ice bar i.e. the one included in the entry price. At £16 each to get in, it was a flipping expensive cocktail. Just before 11pm we queued up to get our capes – with handy attached gloves. No point dressing up to go to this cocktail bar. Anything you wear gets covered with an inelegant blue thermal cape.

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Finally we were allowed in the -5 degree bar. Was the experience worth it?

Experience is the right word. It’s the only time I’ve had a cocktail where the ice was on the outside (cocktails are literally served in an ice glass).

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And yes, it was fun to see a bar made of ice, and to stand in a freezer for a while. I certainly won’t forget my birthday, and it did make for some pretty cool photos.

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The verdict from my kids ‘okay but I wouldn’t go again.’ The verdict from me and my husband ‘okay but I wouldn’t go again. And a flipping expensive cocktail.’ (I think you can guess who paid).

Writing update

The Christmas story I’ve started now has a title (The Unexpected Christmas, though of course this may change) and is up to 20,000 words (i.e. about a quarter way through). Progress will be halted for a while now though because I’ve just received the edits for my next book, provisionally entitled Crumbs. I last saw this in 2016, so I’m really looking forward to diving back into the lives of Abby Spencer and Doug Faulkner, who meet in a biscuit factory. It may not sound romantic, but hopefully it sounds sweet ?!