Writing a novel is the easy part: After you write ‘The End’ the hard work really begins #writing #amwriting #editing #books

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

In three recent posts I’ve written about where I get the ideas for the characters and plots in my novels, HERE, how I come up with and (to a certain extent) invent and adapt settings, HERE, and topics that I’ve had to research, HERE

If I get all that right I can then – she says modestly – come up with a pretty good 80 thousand word story. Job done.

Except it’s not. Oh no, writing that first draft is the easy part. And when I write ‘THE END’ it’s really only the end of the beginning – or the beginning of the end perhaps??

Whatever! There’s a lot that still needs to be done to get the story ready for readers.

Check and take note

First off, I have to go back to the beginning and read over the whole manuscript. And, all the time I’m reading, I’m also checking. I’m checking for errors – errors such as factual mistakes, inconsistencies in the plot, poor wording, sloppy phrasing, irrelevancies, boring bits, punctuation missing or wrongly applied, grammar crimes … and that’s not a comprehensive list.

Rewrite, rewrite and rewrite

Then, based on my notes from the above read through, I redraft and rewrite the manuscript. I’ll do this as many times as it takes for me to be satisfied that all is now well.

Off to the Editor

Once I’m sure it’s perfect, I send my story to my editor, confident he’ll find absolutely nothing wrong. I never learn! Of course he finds plenty. He’s an amazingly clever and astute alchemist of prose and much as I’d love to disagree with his constructive suggestions and recommendations as to what needs to be changed, I find myself going, ‘you know what, he’s right.’

Rewrite some more

So, after the editorial feedback is received, it’s time to rewrite some more and make even more changes to what is now draft number 526 (okay, slight exaggeration there).

But even after that I’m still not done. Oh no.

An irresistible backcover blurb

While all the editing is going on, I have to come up with the back cover blurb which will make the book irresistible to prospective readers who pick it off the shelf in their local bookshop, or who’re browsing that big online site that sells stuff. And, as if that wasn’t hard enough, I also have to produce a six (or so) word strapline for the front cover. This must be just as convincing as the back cover text that my novel is an unputdownable must-read. Writing both these reader-capture items is SO hard. I’d rather write another whole novel than condense my current one down to a paragraph – or worse still half a dozen words.

A beguiling cover

And while I’m agonising over the cover words, I’m also in discussion with the cover designer trying to come up with an awesome, attention-grabbing cover image. For someone as artistically challenged as I am this isn’t easy. But luckily as with my editor, I’m also very fortunate to have a fantastically talented and easy to work with designer.

After all the final edits are applied and the cover text and cover images are nailed and agreed upon, you’d think that would be it, wouldn’t you? You’d be wrong.

Proofread and check again

While I’m agonising over and finalising the cover, my proof-reader, aka the husband, is reading the ‘final’ manuscript to check for any errors not spotted by me or the editor, such as a missing apostrophe, a misspelling or anything that seems unclear or just plain wrong. And you know what, he’s incredibly good at his job and will always spot something that has previously gone undetected.

All set up

Then, at last, the now pristine manuscript is ready to be formatted for both print and e-book versions of the novel. And, you guessed it, after that’s done it has to be checked over yet again – just in case anything has gone awry during the conversion process.

Okay, you still with me? If so, well done. If not, waken up at the back there!

Early readers

Yes, I’m almost there now. All that remains, after all of the above is complete, is to ask, beg, plead with members of my early-reading team to read at least part, if not all of my soon-to-be-published masterpiece and to let me know what they think, or better still to write a review, or maybe even a cover quote.

And publish!

Then, finally, publication date can be confirmed.

And, at last, I really can write THE END.

All that remains after this point is the launch and marketing plan. But that’s a post for another day. In fact I’m going to be spending most of March preparing for the publication of Fulfilment –  doing the final edits and checks and making that launch and marketing plan – and so I’ll be taking a short break from the blog.

Back soon.

February’s Book of the Month: Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Vampire Menace by Olga Wojtas @OlgaWojtas @SarabandBooks #books #reading #literaryfiction

I’ve read five books this month and there was one I didn’t finish (as life’s too short to waste time on something you’re not enjoying). As usual I stuck with either crime or romantic fiction for four of them, but I also read one book that was a bit different from my usual reading fare. It was a fantasy thriller novel with vampires and time travel. So, yes a bit out of my comfort zone.

However, I wasn’t actually being all that brave and ‘out there’ by including this novel in my February reading, as I’d read Olga Wojtas’s previous novel Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Golden Samovar and absolutely loved it. I reviewed it HERE.

And yes, I loved her latest one too. Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Vampire Menace is every bit as witty, funny, entertaining and captivating as its predecessor. The originality is refreshing and awesome and make the book quite unique.

Therefore even although I thoroughly enjoyed all five books that I did finish, it was fairly easy to decide on February’s book of the month just because of its sheer originality.

From the back cover:

Fifty-something librarian Shona is a proud former pupil of the Marcia Blaine School for Girls, but has a deep loathing for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, which she thinks gives her alma mater a bad name.

Impeccably educated and an accomplished martial artist, linguist and musician, Shona is personally selected by Marcia Blaine herself to travel back in time for an important mission in fin-de-siècle France.

But Shona finds this mission very confusing. Why, for example, have so many people been torn to death by wild animals, what are Maman and the mayor up to, and is the reclusive aristocrat really suffering from toothache?

It’s a race against time to solve the mystery. It is also a very tall order but as Shona is wont to remind herself: Never underestimate a librarian!

 

Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Vampire Menace is available as an ebook and as a paperback and is published by Saraband.

What book has impressed you most this month? Feel free to share in the comments below.

Fiction isn’t all made up: researching the facts and knowing how to use them #writing #amwriting #fiction #books

Photo by David Travis on Unsplash

Research is vital – even when making stuff up

In my post a couple of weeks ago I shared where I get my ideas for my novels from and how my characters and their stories come to me. Then last week I wrote about how tricky it can be to come up with a fictional location even when the book is contemporary and set in the real world. In today’s post I’m sharing some of the research I’ve had to when writing my novels.

Not all down to imagination

Yes, fiction is, by definition, made up. The characters aren’t real people, the story is invented, and the settings maybe don’t actually exist. But writing a made-up story isn’t solely imaginative.

In order to flesh out the characters – their lives and the places they live – lots of credible details have to be included. Details such as jobs, workplaces, hobbies, lifestyles, health issues and politics – to name only a few. And that’s where research is essential.

Life experience isn’t enough

As an author, I can, of course, draw on my own life experience and fictionalise events etc. But this can only get me so far. It would all get rather dull rather quickly if everything was just a variation on the theme of me.  So I have to research all sorts of stuff to give my novels credibility and interest.

Below are just some of the areas I’ve had to explore. And some of it probably makes for an ‘interesting’ internet research history …

Things I needed to research

For my first novel Change of Life, although I shared the profession of primary school teacher with Rosie and had, like her, had a cancer diagnosis, I knew nothing about the profession of her husband Tom. So I had to a fair bit of research on the work of a heart surgeon. Other areas I had to investigate for that first story included adoption, drug addiction and the life of a photo-journalist.

When I wrote my (to date) only children’s novel The Silver Locket, I had, amongst other things, to check up on the historical details of the story of Bonnie Prince Charlie.

But the amount of research requiring to be done ramped up significantly when I was writing my Skye series.

For Displacement, although, like my main characters, I lived in crofting township on the Scottish island of Skye, I wasn’t working on a croft (in case you don’t know, a croft is a small subsistence farm common in parts of the Scottish Highlands and Islands). So I had to research various types of animal husbandry and how crofting works. I also had to research the organisation and ways of working of Police Scotland, the job of a children’s book illustrator, possible complications of pregnancy and the current political situation in the Middle East.

When I was writing Settlement, the second book in the series, I had to look into organised crime, gunshot wounds and how to treat them, as well as the likelihood of surviving a bullet in the chest. The finer points of producing watercolour and oil paintings was another area I had to investigate. And I also had to update my knowledge of both Police Scotland and the work of those on all sides who are working for peace and justice in Israel-Palestine.

Then for my latest book, Fulfilment – the third and final part of the Skye series, to be published next month – there was yet more research to be done. This time it included the use of polytunnels to grow fruit and vegetables, the use of quad bikes on hill farms, the adaptation of quad bikes to hand controls only, how to photograph the night sky, advanced sheep care, PTSD – its nature and treatment, the health implications for those who use a prosthetic leg following amputation, and the work of various social enterprises and charities.

And, as I say, the above list of topics contains just some of the stuff I’ve had to research in the course of my writing.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing

But all this investigation of a wide range of topics doesn’t make me an expert in any of them. I hope I’ve done enough to add to the interest, credibility and level of entertainment that I hope my books contain. However, I can’t perform heart surgery, provide mental health therapy, deliver a lamb or treat a sick sheep. Neither can I paint beautiful pictures or photograph the Milky Way. I don’t need to do any of those things, I just have to know enough to convince my readers that my characters can do them.

The perils of research for an author

The downside of doing lots of research as an author is the temptation to justify the time spent doing it by including way too much of it in the story. So it’s a bit of a balancing act when deciding what to include and what to leave out. I know I have to be ruthless and only include what enhances the story or risk boring my readers with a load of irrelevant detail.

Disclaimer

I apologise now if I’ve made any factual errors in spite of my research and constant fact-checking. Any mistakes are most definitely mine and not those of the real experts I asked – or indeed of Mr Google. So don’t treat any of my novels as manuals 😊

I don’t profess to be an expert in everything included in my novels. But I do hope my research has been good enough. Thank you to everyone who has personally and patiently shared their true expertise with me. Respect to you all. I hope I’ve used my research appropriately and understood and interpreted correctly.

But, most of all, I do believe that the time I’ve devoted to my research has been well spent – and that my stories are better for it.

World Building When Writing Fiction #writing #writerscraft, #fiction #books #reading

The nitty-gritty of writing – it’s not all glamorous

In my previous post I talked about how when I’m writing a book it begins with a character – a character that comes to me out of the blue usually when I’m busy doing something completely unrelated to writing. And it’s in getting to know that character that the plot begins to develop, as does the idea of where it should be set.

The devil is in the detail – timelines, events & maps

But whereas I don’t do much in the way of detailed planning for the development of the story itself, preferring to see where my characters take me, I’ve learned the hard way that I absolutely must have a detailed record of the timescales involved, of the factual biographies of the characters, and of the locations where the action will take place. This is particularly important when writing a series as there’s only so much detail I can hold in my memory.

Timing is crucial

Therefore I’ll have a time frame for the duration of the action – be that over a year, a month, a week – whatever. And even if I don’t say it’s all taking place in, for example, 2017, I’ll make sure I have a definite year or period in mind, so that the continuity of the action works.

Character biographies

Linked to that I’ll also have the birth dates and ages of all the main characters decided on and noted – again no matter whether those details are mentioned in the novel. But as well as dates of birth, I also make sure to note all the relevant background details of the characters that might influence their actions and reactions in the novel – yes, regardless of whether these details are directly mentioned in the telling of the story. For example what their parents did for a living and what their names were, where the character grew up, their siblings if any, perhaps their health history or educational record. And most importantly I make a note of their physical characteristics – again – you guessed it – whether or not they’re directly referred to in the telling of the tale. This all helps bring the characters fully to life in my head and, as with the timeline, helps me check continuity.

Made-up places

And, although I use real world settings in my novels I do also apply some fictionalising to those real places. That way I get the best of both worlds and my already hard-working imagination doesn’t get overstretched.

So, for example in my Skye-set novels – the Scottish island is of course real. The main town of Portree, the famous mountains and other scenic sites are all places that exist, but the township of Halladale where my main character Rachel loves is entirely fictional – as are its hills and the local mountain, Ben Halla.

I made up Halladale because I wanted the freedom to include whatever houses, landscape and other features that I needed for my story to work. As for the houses where Jack, Rachel and other characters live – whether on Skye, or in the other locations the story takes them – they, too are all made up. However, although some are completely made-up, some are based on real places. Halladale is based on the place where I lived in north Skye. Rachel’s house is loosely based on my own Skye house. And the Jerusalem flat where Rachel’s brother lives is based on the apartment where a friend of mine lived when she was growing up there and which I visited.

Using made up or fictionalised places means that I draw out floorplans of the houses and note what direction they face and what can be seen from various windows and so on. I also draw maps – for example I drew a map of Halladale and noted how far it was (in my mind) from the real main town of Portree and where on the island’s northern peninsula I have placed it. That way I can have them leave their driveways and head in the right direction every time, and I can have them gaze out of their front room window at the same view of the loch as they had in a previous chapter.

All of these background details are essential. Shared with my readers or not, they help ensure consistency and credibility in my storytelling and having them written down saves me so much time as I edit, proofread and check my manuscript before publication.

Not all about channelling the muse

So, this writer’s life is not just a case of sitting down and having the inspired and wonderful prose flow effortlessly from brain to computer screen. A lot of effort goes into producing a novel – oh yes, it does – and there’s a lot goes on in the background that the reader never gets to see but is a nevertheless necessary part of the writer’s craft.

Which brings me to research – another essential item in the build-a-novel toolkit. But that’s a post for another day.

 

It Started with a Character: the magical process of writing #writing #reading #RomanceReaders

The Unexpected Seed of an Idea

I can’t quite believe I’ve typed the magic words ‘The End’ – not only on the manuscript of my latest novel but on the third and final part of a series of three.

My first novel, Change of Life, which recently celebrated its tenth birthday, was written as a standalone. I didn’t even consider writing a series. And the same was true when I started my second one, Displacement.

When I began my first book I had a fairly good idea of the story I wanted to tell, where it would be set, and who the cast list of characters would be. This was probably because I’d first written versions of parts of the novel as various short stories, never really believing I’d actually write a whole book someday.

But Displacement began as a tiny seed. I was in the process of writing my (so far) only children’s novel and wasn’t consciously thinking about a new book for adult readers. But my sub-conscious author brain didn’t give two hoots what I was trying to focus on when, out of the blue, it presented me with a character.

I was at my (then) home on the Scottish island of Skye and I was hanging out the washing in my garden and had paused to take in the breath-taking view over the loch to the mountains. Then this woman appeared in my head.

She wouldn’t go away. I just knew she had a story to tell. Gradually I interviewed, interrogated and thought about her. Slowly she took on a life of her own. Rachel had arrived.

Rachel a fifty-something, divorced mother. Rachel who lived and worked on Skye, combining running a croft (a Scottish form of smallholding or subsistence farming) with being a children’s writer and book illustrator. Rachel who was lost and lonely – until she met Jack.

And the rest is a big part of my fiction writing history.

One becomes Three

As I said, when I began to write Displacement it was only ever meant to be a single, standalone. But I’d no sooner finished it when I realised there was more to be said, more to tell about Rachel and Jack and the rest of the cast. So, Settlement came next.

Then yes, as I also mentioned, the need to write a third in this series took hold of me and Fulfilment will be published in March.

While each of the three books in the Skye series can be read as standalones, I would of course recommend reading all three in order.

However, I do believe it’s now time to let Rachel and Jack and their friends and families get on with their lives in peace. I already miss them terribly, but they’ve had quite enough of my meddling.

I can’t wait to see Fulfilment sitting on my bookshelf with its two siblings. That will give me my own sense of fulfilment – see what I did there? From a tiny acorn of an idea came not just one oak, but three. I know! I’m a writer! Allow me some poetic metaphors.

AND now, it’s very exciting to be contemplating a whole new fertile field and wondering what sort of seedlings might begin to grow …

Okay I’ll stop now – all metaphored out.

But please do watch this space for Fulfilment‘s release date. It’s coming soon 😊

(The buy links for all my books are in the sidebar of this post , or at the foot if you’re reading this on a phone).

And, as always, questions for you –

Writers – how and where do you get your inspiration and ideas?

Readers – do you prefer to read standalones or series? And if you like series, do you prefer the same lead characters in each installment – or do you like new leads for each book, but to catch up with previous stars as part of the follow on stories?

Responses are welcome in the comments below.

 

 

 

January’s Recommended Read: The Life She Chooses by Maggie Christensen @MaggieChriste33 #books #reading #romanticfiction

New Feature on the Blog

I’ve always included book reviews amongst my posts, but regular readers may have noticed I do fewer now than I used to. It’s not that I’m reading fewer books, it’s simply a matter of time management. This isn’t a book blog as such and I wouldn’t claim to be book blogger but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to do some reviewing and sharing in amongst all the other writing related things I blog about. So I’ve decided to try posting a monthly recommended read (or reads) throughout 2020.

I’ll only share my best reads – those that score 95% plus on the Anne Scale of Good Reads 😊 in terms of plot, character, setting and all round reading satisfaction.

And I’ll post the reviews on the last Monday of each month.

So let’s get this new feature kicked off –

Anne’s January Recommended Read

The Life She Chooses by Maggie Christensen

From the back cover:

Two families. Two troubled pasts. Can they find a future together?

Following the loss of her husband and the devastating accusations surrounding his death, Kay Jackson has experienced the icy chill of alienation from the close-knit town of Granite Springs. Thrust into the position of personal assistant to a professor at the local university, Kay, who prefers to stay in the background away from the town gossips, is unsure how she will cope.

When Nick Kerr’s wife leaves him for a younger man, the professor is left nursing a broken heart while struggling to adapt to life as a single parent of two teens. Reeling from the indignity of his wife’s actions, Nick has no intention of putting himself in such a vulnerable position again.

However, as Kay and Nick’s professional relationship develops, they find themselves drawn to each other. As their friendship begins to morph into something more, Kay’s daughter arrives in town intent on controlling her mother’s life. The combined actions of Kay’s daughter and Nick’s children reinforces the many doubts the couple have on embarking on a new relationship.

Is there a future for Kay and Nick or will their families destroy any chance of happiness?

The Life She Chooses is the second book in the Granite Springs series set in a small Australian country town.

My Review:

This is another most enjoyable and satisfying second-chance romance from Maggie Christensen. It tells the story of Kay and Nick – and it’s wonderful (as in all this author’s books) to read about characters who, although they’re a bit older, still want to live life to the full – including being in involved a romantic relationship.

Kay is a character who featured in this author’s earlier novel The Life She Deserves and it’s great that she now gets her own story in this book. Kay is a widow, having lost her husband to suicide – and as if that wasn’t bad enough there was a bit of a scandal surrounding her late husband too. However, Kay is doing her best to recover from all the trauma and to get on with her life.

Nick is divorced, his wife having left him for a younger man.

And when the two of them meet it seems at first there could be a chance of a relationship and some future happiness for them both.

However, there are obstacles – obstacles which seem insurmountable – as both have family issues which could prevent them being together.

There’s a real sense of conflict for both Kay and Nick – with family duty on the one hand and, on the other, the desire to live the lives they want for themselves.

The Life She Chooses is an emotional, warm and eventful story – and a most romantic read.

The book is available as a paperback and as an ebook and you can buy it here.

 

Long Live Bookshops @mainstreethare @The_PBS @openbookwigtown @PortyBooks @ToppingsEdin #bookshops #books #amreading

I not only love writing my own books, I also love reading those written by others. I’m an avid, compulsive, obsessive reader. I’m never without a reading-in-progress book –  and I have a to-be-read pile of tower block proportions. I’ve loved reading since before I could actually read – when I just made up a story to go with the pictures on the page. Over the years books have informed, comforted and inspired me. I can’t imagine a life without them – and I don’t want to imagine a life without bookshops.

Full disclosure: I own and use an e-reader and therefore I buy some books online. There’s a convenience, especially when travelling, to having a well-stocked e-reader in my bag. BUT nothing beats the real thing – being able to hold, feel and turn the pages of an actual book. Therefore I continue to be a regular, real world, bookshop customer.

Indeed, I like bookshops so much that I once worked in and lived above my ‘very own’ one. Okay, it was only for a fortnight and I didn’t actually own it, but I got to pretend – and it was a wonderful experience. Along with my husband, I’d applied to do a fortnight stint at the Open Book second-hand bookshop in Wigtown – otherwise known as Scotland’s Book Town. And the Wigtown Festival Company, the organisers of this amazing ‘run your own bookshop’ opportunity, offered us a slot in February 2015. You can read more about this project here and you can read any and all of my blog posts about my time there – starting with the first one here. But, in short, this scheme began as a way to keep the shop going when it was threatened with closure and years later it’s still going strong.

I was reminded of my time in Wigtown a few days ago when I read about the experience of Petersfield Bookshop another bookshop that also sells second-hand books. The owner had tweeted from the Hampshire UK shop: ‘we haven’t sold a single book today’. The tweet went viral and quickly led to over a thousand new followers for the shop on Twitter and £1000 worth of book orders. Not only that, other bookshops all around the country which had been feeling rather unloved also started to tweet/report that they too were seeing an upsurge in footfall and purchases as a direct knock on effect.

With bookshops, as with real world shops in general, it’s a case of use it or lose it. Online booksellers and e-readers have had a significant impact on bricks and mortar retailers of paper books. And, yes some bookshops – both independent and national chains have struggled/failed to survive.

But the news isn’t all bad. E-books haven’t killed off paper ones and new bookshops are opening up, while other long-established ones are thriving. In my nearest city, Edinburgh, I know of two book shops which have opened recently – there’s Toppings in the city centre, and there’s the Portobello Bookshop, situated near the city’s seashore. Both seem to be doing well.

And then there’s Main Street Trading, my local bookshop, here in the Scottish Borders – somewhere I can often be found browsing and buying. As well as the cosy and enticing book area, it has a café, gift shop and deli space. There’s an upstairs venue for book related events where authors from all over the country hold very well attended book launches. It’s in this shop that I not only buy books for myself, but it’s also where I buy books and book tokens as gifts for others, and it’s where I buy the books that I send to my two grandchildren in Australia – one book each, once a month, as part of Grandma’s Book Club. Browsing the shelves, discovering new authors, or being reunited with old favourites is just brilliant. And if I’m after a particular book but it’s not in stock, I know I can request it to be ordered in and it will be delivered within a couple of days.

Over the years, wherever I’ve lived, I’ve always made a point of seeking out and buying from the local bookshop. I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

So please, please remember Support Your Local Bookshop!

Are you fortunate enough to have a local bookshop? Do you use it? Feel free to share the love in the comments below.

 

 

2020 Vision #writing #reading #healthyliving

Photo by Denise Karis on Unsplash

The Clear View of a Fresh New Year

Happy New Year! I think I’m still allowed to say that – the year is still young.

I enjoyed my break away from the writing desk over the festive season. Christmas was quiet and relaxed and was spent with family. Then, just a few days after Christmas, I got a slightly late – but definitely the best – gift when my granddaughter was born and I became a grandma for the third time. I also read several good books during my time off and made the most of the short hours of daylight by getting out for lots of good walks. And before long yet another year had ended and a new one had begun.

Diary Already Filling Up – Lots to Look Forward To

Real Life

In my personal life, as well as spending lots of time with my new granddaughter, I’ll also get to spend precious time with my other two grandchildren in the summer – when they and their parents come home to the UK for a visit all the way from Australia. As well as that there’s a springtime wedding to enjoy, and a birthday party to attend. There are also a couple of concerts to go to and a holiday planned. And it’s still only January! Along with all this enjoying myself – and in order that I can keep enjoying  life, I also intend to keep up the healthy lifestyle mentality – daily walks, yoga practice and healthy eating – definitely worth it and all enjoyable in their own way too – honestly 🙂

Imaginary Life

But for now, it’s back to work and I have to say it’s good to be back. And, just as in my personal life, I’ve got lots of good stuff to look forward to in my professional writing life too.

New Book Due Out Soon

First up, of course, it’s the new book. Fulfilment is the third and final part of my contemporary romance series set mainly on the Scottish island of Skye – as well as having some of the action on the Scottish mainland and in the Middle East – and, after a year spent writing and rewriting and then rewriting it some more, it’s currently with my editor. And while I await the editor’s feedback and, no doubt, suggestions for yet more rewriting, I’m in the process of agreeing on the book’s cover with the cover designer. As an author, it’s always exciting to see the final cover of one of my books for the first time, but unfortunately the cover also incorporates the blurb. Yes, that irresistible paragraph of prose on a book’s back cover that will lure readers into the story inside is what I’m currently working on. And condensing a 70,000 word story into a succinct and tempting 250 words is hard. But I’m getting there.

As well as getting the book ready for publication, I’m also planning its launch. This involves planning social media posts, asking book bloggers to read and review it, and inviting readers of my previous books to do the same.

Writer Talks

I’ve also been invited to do a couple of writer talks on my local area – something I always enjoy doing -so I’ll be preparing for these.

Starting Again

And then, once Fulfilment is out in the world, I’ll be getting down to writing my next book. I have several ideas to explore. It will definitely be another contemporary romance with fresh new characters and a different setting from my previous books. But that’s all I’m saying about it – for now.

More Reading

And, like most writers, I’m also a keen reader and I plan to keep reading my favourite authors as well as discovering some new ones. My to-be-read pile is already a teetering tower. And I’ll report back here from time to time on some of the ones I particularly enjoy.

So, over to you:

What are your plans for 2020? Do you have any writing or reading goals for the year ahead? As always, please do leave your comments below.

 

 

Best Reads of 2019: My top 25 – and the winner is … #reading #books

Photo by Alice Hampson on Unsplash

My Top 25 Reads of 2019

Yes, it’s that time of year again. In common with many newspapers, magazines and book bloggers I’ve been looking back over the books I’ve read this year and trying to decide on my top 10, five-star reads. It quickly became my top 20 and in the end I forced myself to stop at 25! Otherwise we’d still be here this time next year. And most of the ones which didn’t make it were 4 or 4.5 star rated as opposed to 5.

I’ve read over 50 books this year and the best ones have kept me up reading way too late – always a good sign as to the enjoyment level – if not so good for being wide awake the following day.

My list is a personal one – there are few of the big literary names beloved by the newspaper reviewers. While many of these are media favourites are commendable and a couple do make it onto my list, they don’t really need further publicity from me. It’s also true that I’ve found most of these favourite books/authors via book bloggers and Facebook groups made up of readers who like similar books to me.

Several of the authors whose books are on this list took part in the Virtual Book Festival that I hosted here in July and August which without doubt was my personal blogging highlight of this year.

Not surprisingly for a writer of romances, the first 21 out of the 25 are in the romantic fiction genre, but the final four aren’t – 22 does have a compelling romantic element but this alternative history novel has so much more going on too, 23 and 24 are crime fiction and the last one is domestic noir.

So here it is – my top 25 books (in no particular order) of 2019:

Winter Beneath the Stars by Jo Thomas*

Brahminy Sunrise by Maggie Christensen *

The Summer of Chasing Dreams by Holly Martin

Summer at the Art Café by Sue McDonagh*

Happiness for Beginners by Carole Matthews

Crikey a Bodyguard by Kathryn Freeman*

Edie Browne’s Cottage by the Sea by Jane Linfoot

Poppy’s Recipe for Life by Heidi Swain

The Things I Know by Amanda Prowse

One Summer in Little Penhaven by Angela Britnell

The Little Pink Taxi by Marie Laval*

A Summer to Remember by Sue Moorcroft

All Summer with You by Beth Good

The Man I Fell in Love With by Kate Field

A Cornish Affair by Jo Lambert

The Beekeepers Cottage by Emma Davies

The Day We Meet Again by Miranda Dickinson

Tropic Storm by Stella Quinn

Autumn at Blaxland Falls by Eliza Bennets*

The Bistro at Watersmeet Bridge by Julie Stock

Pieces of You and Me by Rachel Burton

Inceptio by Alison Morton*

Time for the Dead by Lin Anderson

Wildfire by Ann Cleeves

In the Absence of Miracles by Michael J Malone

*indicates I’ve read other standalone or subsequent books in a series by this author in 2019 and can recommend them too.

Availability  

The books are all available on Amazon where you can find out more about them. Most are paperbacks as well as ebooks and can therefore also be purchased from bookshops and borrowed from libraries.

Why These 25 – in short

The romances all have depth, emotion aplenty and are deeply satisfying reads. Inceptio is the first in a fabulous, highly original series and has romantic, thriller and historical elements.  The two crime novels live up to Ann Cleeves and Lin Anderson’s usual amazing high standards. And Michael J Malone’s is ‘shocking, chilling and heartbreakingly emotive’ to quote from the book’s back cover.

Number One

 

And if I absolutely had to pick just one as my single top read – Oh, so hard, but it would have to be Inceptio by Alison Morton for sheer originality and for it being the first in a stunning series. I reviewed it here  earlier this year if you want to know more.

Over to you

What have been some of your favourite reads this year and if you had to pick one – what would it be?

See You in 2020

This will be my final post for this year. I’ll be back in January with more news of my new novel Fulfilment due out early in 2020.

In the meantime thank you to everyone who has visited, read and commented on this year’s posts. I appreciate all your support of me as a writer here on the blog and as readers of my books. You rock! Happy festive season, to all of you who celebrate it. And a Good New Year when it comes. See you on the other side.

 

 

Tenth Author, Blogger & Social Media Birthday #writing #amwriting #blogging #books

Photo by David Ballew on Unsplash

 

Ten Years A Writer

It’s official! I’ve now been a published writer for ten years. Yes, it was in early December of 2009 that my debut book, Change of Life was first published.

It was a surreal, exciting and utterly terrifying experience. I had no idea what to expect, no idea if my book would sell and no idea how to make potential readers aware of its existence.

I had no online experience other than using email, but I quickly discovered I’d have to up my game in that respect. If I wanted to get the word out there that my book existed, I was going to have to wise up and get acquainted with social media.

Ten Years A Blogger

So it’s also nearly ten years since I started this blog.

This was my first post:

A small miracle happened to me recently.  I held my book – the book that I’ve been working on for several years – in my hand for the first time. A long gestation, a sometimes painful labour and at last it was delivered.  It was an overwhelming feeling, looking at this thing I had created, to run my fingers over its cover, to flick through its pages, to read my words on those pages.  It was the realisation of my longest held and most fervent ambition.  My maternal grandmother, herself a writer, and heroine of my childhood set me on the writing path and it’s been a lifelong, life-saving occupation for me. But for so many years it had to take a back seat. It had to be fitted in around family and working life – and it often got squeezed out. That all changed at the end/beginning of the millennium, after I got the ultimate wake-up call – i.e. intimations of my mortality in the shape of a cancer diagnosis. It was brought home to me that tomorrow doesn’t always come and the procrastinating had to stop. I promised the fates that if I survived the cancer I’d get down to some serious writing.

I beat the ovarian cancer and so had to keep my side of the deal. Writing still had to fit around work and family – but it was no longer squeezed out – priorities were reordered and the hard work began.

And now it’s here – my wonderful, beautiful first novel is here. It’s fully formed and it has gone off into the world on its own. It will now have to jostle for readers, for its place on the bookshelf – and I can only watch and support at a distance. I love my book and I want others to love it too. I’m thrilled, exhilarated and absolutely bloody terrified. I’ve never felt so proud and I’ve never felt so vulnerable.

So there you have it. Of course there’s more to the journey, more to the story than that and I hope to share more bits of it with you as I blog. I’m at the beginning of a whole new adventure and it’ll be good to have you along for the ride.

 There was no accompanying picture of the book cover, no buying links, and no mention of the book title or its content.

But over time I did get better at the whole blog post thing. The blog has been through several changes and upgrades and is now part of my main website. It has over 600 followers in its own right, as well as many more via Twitter and Facebook – yes, I joined them too.

Ten Successful Years

It’s been an amazing decade. I took early retirement from my work as a primary school teacher and writing is now my full-time job. I’ve now published four books with a fifth one due out early next year.

As time’s gone on I love writing more and more. I love the storytelling and the characters I write about, and I can’t imagine ever retiring. You’ve been warned!

In the last decade I’ve learned so much more about the art and craft of writing. I’ve learned how to talk about and share my writing – both in the real world and the online one. And I’ve gathered such a lovely and loyal readership.

And I’d like to thank any you who are reading this and are also part of that lovely and loyal band. Thank you for your support, encouragement and most especially for those precious, priceless reviews you’ve taken the trouble to write and post – whether on an online bookselling site or on your book blog. Reviews really do help sales and I’m very grateful.

What’s Next?

So, as I say, no plans to stop writing. The new book, which is called Fulfilment and is the third and final part in the Jack & Rachel Skye series ( which consists so far of Displacement and Settlement) is due to be published in early 2020. Watch out for more information on this soon. And, after Fulfilment‘s safely out in the world, I have lots of ideas to explore for my next novels.

I’ll be sticking with contemporary romance. I’m not sure whether to write a standalone story or to begin a new series set in the south of Scotland. If I go for a series it would focus on a community and each book would tell the romantic story of a particular pair of characters from that community. I need to think some more about that. And, if you’re a reader of my books, I’d be interested to hear your preferences.

But whatever I decide, it’s an exciting prospect to be starting on something new as the next decade begins. Here’s to 2020 and beyond!

Thanks for being with me on my incredible journey.

PS: you can find out more about my books and where to buy them by clicking on the cover photos – either in the sidebar or at the foot of this post – depending on the type of device on which you’re reading this. Or simply go to the ‘My Books’ page here on the website. You see I have learned a thing or to about marketing 🙂