- Always keep a notepad at the side of your bed. Wake up in the middle of the night with the best idea ever and write this down. Next morning puzzle over the blankness of your pristine notepad and the intelligible scrawl on your bedside coaster.
- Spend hours researching very minor points on the Internet. N.B. Always include an animal character in your stories so that watching puppies and kittens on YouTube can be classed as valid research.
- Don’t worry that a single light bulb moment can have you spending the next two months building this up into a story in your mind. N.B. to the outside world it may appear that you are doing nothing.
- Buy a large supply of custard creams and bulk purchase fish fingers so that the family don’t starve while you are chasing a deadline and writing in your pyjamas.
- Write detailed character profiles so you can understand these people and their motivations. Spend too long deciding on which celebrities they most resemble so that you can add a picture to said profile. N.B. Remember to do a character profile for the cat/dog/guinea pig so that you can enjoy more guilt free YouTube video watching.
- Buy lots of post-it notes in all available colours and sizes. You CAN NOT have too many of these. They are mainly used for plotting out the story threads and timeline but also come in handy for writing down general reminders when you are ‘in the zone’. Reminder notes may include: Feed cat/Dismantle giant cobweb/Check if child has been to school recently.
- Start writing. Be in awe of amazing word count. At this rate you’ll have all 100k words done by a week next Tuesday.
- Get distracted by shiny new story idea and forget about novel you are meant to be writing. Realise shiny new idea is not Booker prizewinner and reluctantly go back to the other story.
- Hate your crappy characters and stupid novel so much that you want to dig a large hole in the garden to bury your computer in (and possibly yourself depending on degrees of crapness.)
- Force yourself to finish the utter pile of poo that is your novel. Have a cursory read through before you plan to ceremoniously burn it and discover to your delight that it’s not entirely poo, in fact some parts of it are actually quite good.
- Edit, edit, edit and re-edit until you are back to believing it is definitely poo.
- Give it to your partner to read and stand over them to check they laugh in the right places.
- Send to your editor, pour yourself a large glass of gin and state firmly that next time it will be different.
- Return to first bullet point.
(This is not an approach I would recommend.)
I'm a big fan of animals and always feature them in my books. In fact I feel I go a step further than just having them in it because I like to think they are very much part of the story. As you most likely know I am a huge planner so I like to get to know my characters before I start writing. This involves doing character sheets or bios of them which include physical attributes, quirks, goals and backstory. I do character sheets for the animals, just as I do my main characters, and try to discover their personalities. Sometimes there are elements of pets I have known but often they are entirely from my imagination and therefore, completely new to me.
I was a big fan of author Zoe Barnes who included all manner of creatures in her books and did it very well. As it was something I particularly enjoyed, and she is sadly no longer with us, I felt it was something I would like to build into my stories. I often get comments from readers about the animals in my novels so I thought I would add a page to my website. You can check that out here. It gives you information about each of the key ones from my recent books.
As pets have always featured in my life it seemed natural that they would feature in the lives of my characters. I like how my human characters learn about themselves by interacting with the animals. Sometimes they are arch enemies like Tim and Horse in It Started At Sunset Cottage or a comfort and a distraction from the harsh realities of life like Wriggly in A Family Holiday but whatever part they play I feel they bring a little something extra to the story that wouldn't otherwise be there.
Animals give us a different perspective on things. They don't get emotional unless it involves food or territory and then you'll see the fur fly but all the tiny things that us humans get caught up on never cause our pets a problem - how we look, what others think of us or where we're heading in life are replaced by them simply enjoying the moment or cleaning their genitals in public (I didn't say they were perfect). Their biggest plus is that they love us unconditionally and there is a lot we could learn from them in that respect.
As gin features in my latest novel Coming Home to Ottercombe Bay I needed to do some research into the subject whilst writing the book. Quite a lot of research as it turned out!
I found that I quaffed a variety of gins, all in the name of research obviously and that is probably the first point, that there are now so many different gins on offer.
I also learned a number of interesting facts. (Feel free to liberally scatter these into polite conversation to make yourself look clever and informed rather than just a gin soak.)
My first proper research was at a local pub where they were holding a gin night. Harry Yates from Burleigh Gin Distillery came to give a talk and while everyone else was sipping the different gins and munching the posh crisps I was scribbling down notes.
The history of gin is a little sketchy, most likely due in no small part to its consumption, but here’s what I learned:
I went to a gin festival held in the stunning surroundings of the old Coventry Cathedral. Possibly an odd choice for such an event but quite lovely. Here there was an unbelievable array of gins to try which was quite overwhelming. The large number of people in attendance shows just how popular it has become. I got to chat to a number of the companies with displays at the event and learned more interesting facts:
It is this last fact that has led to the recent upsurge in small distillery gin production in the UK which has heralded the boom in the industry and oodles of choice for us the consumer. Flavoured gins are particularly popular ranging from rhubarb to tomato. Gin is a key ingredient in many cocktails but I still think you can’t beat a good old gin and tonic. So grab yourself your drink of choice, curl up and see how my research informed my latest novel Coming Home to Ottercombe Bay.
It’s been a while since I did a blog post but as I started to accumulate a number of wonderfully Christmassy books I thought it might be something to share.
Christmas books seem so much more prevalent now than they used to be and as it’s a time of year that I love then the more books the better! And who doesn’t like to snuggle up with a roaring fire and a good book?
So here is a list of the Christmas books that I am looking forward to reading over the next 10 weeks as we countdown to Christmas! (If you like the look of any of them then just click and it will take you to Amazon for more information.)
Christmas at the Cornish Café – Phillipa Ashley
Berties Gift – Hannah Coates
Comfort & Joy – Cathy Bramley
The Christmas Promise – Sue Moorcroft
The Holiday Swap – Zara Stoneley
Christmas at the Little Wedding Shop – Jane Linfoot
Christmas at the Comfort Food Café – Debbie Johnson
Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky – Holly Martin
One Christmas in Paris – Mandy Baggot
A Christmas Day at the Office – Matt Dunn
Let’s get started – could someone please fetch me a mince pie and some mulled wine?
What are you looking forward to reading this festive season?
The heroine in my latest novel ‘A Family Holiday’ is Charlie French who is an unconventional nanny to four quirky children. Charlie had an unsettled childhood and as a result had anger issues but being resourceful she came up with her own method for managing them effectively – The Kipper List.
The Kipper List was a long list of people that Charlie would like to beat around the head with a wet kipper as an alternative to losing her temper with them.
So in reverse order here is my current Kipper List:
7. The woman that jumped the queue at the self-checkout in my local supermarket and despite realising what she’d done and saying sorry she still carried on and put her shopping through! Rude!
6. My chest of drawers – Yes, of course you can have inanimate objects on the list! My chest of drawers is so full that when I open the top drawer all the others come with it and the bottom one bashes me in the ankle.
5. Donald Trump – I don’t think this one needs any explanation and a wet kipper to the head could only improve that hair.
4. A Blackbird (I don’t have its name) – the one that thinks it’s a good idea to make a noise like an irate alarm clock outside my bedroom window at silly o’clock most mornings.
3. Father Christmas – What? I’m still waiting for those roller boots.
2. Kylo Ren – I will never get over the loss of Han Solo.
1. Lorraine Bowen – Lorraine rose to fame when she sung The Crumble Song on Britain’s Got Talent and received the Golden Buzzer from David Walliams. Twelve months on this song is still being sung repeatedly by my child and it’s driving me potty! Grrr!
Who would be on your Kipper List?
Oh my word it's been an exciting week and it's only Wednesday!
On Monday the Joan Hessayon Award contenders were announced and I was thrilled that It Started At Sunset Cottage is on the list. The Romantic Novelists' Association is amazingly supportive and this award is just another way that it showcases new authors that have come through its New Writer's Scheme. Yet again the list of contenders is chock full of first class reads.The full shortlist for 2016 is:
The winner will be announced at the RNA Summer Party in four weeks time which is always a lovely evening, so I can't wait!
As if that weren't enough excitement for one week, yesterday Harper Impulse did a cover reveal for my second book 'A Family Holiday' which is due out on 16th June. It is such a summery cover and it displays a terrific quote from the lovely Katie Fforde who has been so supportive.
And today it is full on sunshine in the UK. I think I need to go for a lie down in the sun with a cool drink and a custard cream!
I think every published author must have said it so now it's my turn - 'Seeing your book on a shelf is the best feeling ever!'
It is so exciting to see it sat on a shelf like a proper book! It makes me smile every time. I was always thrilled to see the books of writers I had met and especially friends but nothing beats seeing your own one.
I almost spontaneously combusted when I saw it on the shelf in WHSmith as I didn't know they had ordered any! I did wonder for a moment if it was my husband playing a practical joke and he'd brought one with him from home! Thankfully it wasn't!
It is amazing to think that the seed of an idea I had could actually get this far. I am a very logical person and the odds of getting published were very much stacked against me but being a stubborn sort I thought I'd carry on anyway.
It has now topped the KOBO Romance chart and featured in the Booksellers Heat seekers chart reaching No4. All quite amazing for something I made up! Of course it's not just me that made this happen and that's something you realise as you get pulled into the publishing world. The writer is just one part of a very long process, it takes a lot of time and effort from a wide group of professionals to ensure it makes it into the hands of readers so I am eternally grateful to everyone involved.
It just goes to show you that it can be done and if I can do it then you definitely can!
We love our cat. We chose her from a local rescue centre and she came home August 2014. She has slotted into our little family perfectly; she likes cuddling up with my husband on the bed when he reads, she loves to play fetch with the child (she may be part dog.. the cat, not the child) and she enjoys a cuddle with me. Sadly she also likes to catch mice.
I don't mind mice, they are small and furry with big eyes so they're quite cute really, apart from when they are under your sofa at ten thirty at night and you want to go to bed. Cat was very excited and thoroughly enjoyed the game of 'try to catch the mouse'. The mouse may have been of Australian origin as it had a hefty and impressive jump on it! This made it virtually impossible to catch.
I had a bright idea (they do occur occasionally) and opened the pantry cupboard to get a tea towel at which point the mouse was inside lightning quick and disappeared amongst the shoe rack. It was finally encouraged out and it ran towards my kneeling husband. The only refuge near him was the kitchen bin and the cat scratching post, so the cat and I got in position and prepared to grab the mouse when husband moved the bin but surprisingly there was no sign of the mouse. My honed powers of deduction told me that there was only one place it could be (behind the cat scratching post - please try and keep up). So in an elaborate Ta Dah moment my husband lifted the post with a flourish to reveal absolutely nothing. What?!
We walked round the kitchen and puzzled over where the mouse could have disappeared to. Was it the Dynamo of the mouse world?
Then I said, "I definitely say run towards your legs when you were kneeling down and then it disappeared."
At this point my husband's face suddenly displayed a facial expression I have never seen before but to give you an idea it was something like the face you would pull if watching a scary movie whilst sitting on a wasp.
"It's up my trouser leg!" He shouted and removed his trousers at lightning speed (I have never seen him remove them that fast before, not even on our wedding night!)
And low and behold, he was right. The little furry creature appeared to be heading for what it may have thought was a sanctuary for furry creatures in his underwear and was only a couple of centimetres away from its goal when the trousers disappeared. It clung to his upper thigh for a moment before alighting to the floor where I grabbed it in a tea towel and released it back into the wild (or more accurately next door's garden).
What does this have to do about writing you ask? Not a lot (actually nothing at all) except to say that I'm still laughing about this incident (because who knew that mice will actually go up your trouser leg?) and it is moments like these - where you laugh so hard you think you may have ruptured something - that remind you what life is all about.
Here we are Thursday 12th February with Christmas a distant memory and Valentine's Day almost upon us. Just another ordinary day but for me it is a significant milestone (no not a big birthday - how rude!) it is publication day for my debut novel - It Started at Sunset Cottage.
It is the day that so many writers dream of and strive for. So it may seem odd when I say that when I set out to finish my first full-length novel I had no intention of getting it published. I simply never dreamed that would ever be a possibility for someone like me. My aim was purely to see if I could finish the task of writing a full-length novel. I was fearful when friends and family wanted to read it and even more so when a published author encouraged me to submit it to publishers and agents. My main worry? Well, people like me don't write books, it was never mentioned by my careers advisor as being a possibility (she was also the Netball coach so I'm not convinced my school were taking the whole thing that seriously). It just wasn't an option, hence my assumption that us ordinary folk don't become writers - but you see, sometimes we do!
So my story is out there for everyone to buy which means people I don't know are reading it and that is very scary. I just hope that whoever reads it enjoys it. A big thank you from me to everyone that has helped me get here and especially to all you lovely people who are reading it.
I have a million things going on right now (Ok, slight exaggeration maybe it's only 999,999) but I love a challenge. So when I saw that Lori Connelly was looking for someone to step in and complete the next part of a 'round robin' story I thought it sounded like fun. I was right but it was also very scary as I basically had no idea what I was getting myself into - but that's half the fun, right?
The first six parts of the story have been written by a mix of other authors including some from Harper Impulse and they have all done a brilliant job and now it's my turn (gulps).
You can find the first six parts of the story here:
Part One - Lori Connolly
Part Two - Elsa Winckler
Part Three - Aileen Harkwood
Part Four - Elise Forier Edie
Part Five - Patricia Sands
Part Six - Eve Devon
Part Seven - by me is below
Part Eight - Kari Lemor will be available on 6th January 2015
Part 7 – I Looked Away
“Then who is he?” asked Garrett his voice harsh and his hand paused on his radio ready to call in the details.
Madeline licked her dry lips and blinked hard, she couldn’t make sense of the face on the paper. “It’s Donnan MacCallion he’s…” but Garrett wasn’t listening anymore.
"Suspect is Donnan MacCallion,” he paused. ‘How the hell do you spell that?”
"D-O-N-N-A-N it’s Scottish, he’s… someone I used to know…”
“Um, twenty five, twenty six maybe?”
Garrett threw the tent open and stepped outside again. Madeline finally pulled her eyes away from the drawing and took in the puzzled looks of the teenagers.
“So it’s all OK then?” asked the boy in the gray sweater his voice more than a little tentative. “This guy’s a friend?”
“Yes… No, not exactly.”
Garrett burst into the tent making everyone jump. “There’s been a sighting down by the river. Madeline come with me.”
There was no time for thank you before Madeline found herself running through the forest with Garrett. She felt her feet slide about as they struggled to grip the wet ground in her unsuitable footwear. Somehow she managed to stay upright. As if night turned to day they emerged out of the dark of the tree canopy and onto a wide track where a ranger jeep was roughly parked. It wasn’t until he let go that she realized he had been gripping her hand, leading her through the dismal mass of trees. They got inside the jeep and its wheels spun frantically as they accelerated away. Madeline’s heart was beating fast from the fear and the exertion. Her thoughts were wild and muddled. What was Donnan doing here? Did he know who Megan was? Why had he taken her? Where had she left Megan’s coat? Why the hell hadn’t they gone to Disneyland instead?
The radio crackled into life and Judy’s voice came through strong. “We’ve lost sight of the boat, last seen heading up river. Over.”
"You’ve done great, Judy. The helicopter should be on the scene any minute. Over.”
“He’s in a boat? Where’s he taking her?”
Garrett’s eyes darted away from the road for a second. “I’ve got a hunch,” he said. “Hold on tight it’s going to get bumpy.” He gripped the steering wheel a fraction tighter and swung the jeep off the road and onto a dirt trail.
Madeline lost track of time as the vehicle bumped and wheeled across the uneven surface, a particularly harsh dip had the tires spinning in the mud and Madeline sent up a silent prayer. Eventually the wheels gripped and the jeep lurched forward.
“Who is MacCallion?” asked Garrett as he wrestled with the steering wheel.
“Someone I knew at college.”
“Boyfriend?” asked Garrett his tone somehow making the word sound pathetic.
“Yes, for a while. Look, I’ve not seen him for years. Back then he was captain of the soccer team and destined for a brilliant career in medicine.” She paused and tried to think of the person she’d once known. “He was a good man.”
Garrett snorted a derisory laugh. “Yeah and people change.”
The branches of a large fir tree smacked at the passenger side of the jeep and Madeline took a sharp intake of breath. What the hell was going on?
Author - BELLA
When I grow up I want to be a writer...