Reading, Writing & Blogging in 2021 PLUS January’s Books of the Month from @alison_morton @Beathhigh @PeterAlanRoss @CarrieElks #writing #reading #crimefiction #romanticfiction #nonfiction #motivation

Staying motivated in spite of everything

Welcome back to the blog and to my first post of 2021 – and I’d like to start by wishing all my readers A Happy and Healthy New Year.

So new year, new plans. But if 2020 taught us anything it’s probably that plans are just that. They are dreams, aims and intentions we set for the future. But they do not come with any form of guarantee of fulfilment.

However, that doesn’t mean we should stop dreaming, hoping and planning. After all, we humans are nothing if not adaptable. The last year has certainly taught us that. It has also shown that we can be amazingly resilient, self-reliant and compassionate. So, let’s keep all of that in mind as we set off into our still rather uncertain futures.

And most of all let’s try and remember that that compassion we know we’re capable of is extended first and foremost to ourselves. It’s like the oxygen mask principle – you have to ensure your own wellbeing before you can help others or indeed yourself.

So when making plans cut your self some slack. If life gets in the way of renovating the house, taking that course, seeking that promotion, losing that weight, – em, writing that novel 😊 – DO NOT BEAT YOURSELF UP! Adapt the aims, change the timescale, reset the focus and set off again.

Now, full disclosure, all of the above advice is something I’m not very good at taking on board. If beating yourself up was an Olympic sport I’d have a gold medal in it. But my takeaway from all of the past year’s challenges is I need to let go of the tablet of stone approach and embrace the sheet of paper that can be torn up and thrown away. Do you like that metaphor by the way? Can you guess I’m a writer? 😊

Yes, there was slippage in my writing schedule last year. I did get my fifth novel out but as far as getting down to the next one, my concentration was pathetic for several months. In the end I had to allow myself to step away from it all for a bit and to go back when I was ready. And that’s what I’ve done.

And now I’ve found a new and much more productive way of approaching my work. I’ve set myself publication targets that are completely flexible, with lots of possible timeout built in, and I’m prepared to re-set them if necessary. Instead of a daily word count I’ve set aside a time target – anything from three hours to half an hour. If it goes on beyond the time set, great, but if not I’ll still have achieved something – even if it was only turning up. This doesn’t mean I do nothing else the rest of the time. I might be planning a chapter or taking care of the business side of writing and publishing, or indeed writing a blog post.

And you know what? It’s working. Not only am I cracking on with the novel, I’m also writing a novellla, and in time away from the desk I’m getting my daily walk (ice and snow permitting), keeping in virtual touch with friends and family , and doing some childcare looking after one of my grandchildren while her parents work.

So, so far so good for 2021.

Another element of the ‘new writing me’ is that I’ve decided to reduce my blogging frequency to once a month rather than once a week – in order to free up some time for my other projects. So from now on I’ll post on the last Monday of every month and the post will include my favourite reads of that month.

January’s Books of the Month

I’ve set an intention to read more widely this year, to get out of my romantic comfort zone more often and read more thrillers, crime novels and non-fiction. I’m also hoping to reread some old faithfuls.

I think I’ve got of to a good start and January has included a variety of reading genres. Here are my favourites for this month:

THRILLER

West Wind by Ian Rankin

It always starts with a small lie. That’s how you stop noticing the bigger ones.

After his friend suspects something strange going on at the launch facility where they both work – and then goes missing – Martin Hepton doesn’t believe the official line of “long-term sick leave”…

Refusing to stop asking questions, he leaves his old life behind, aware that someone is shadowing his every move.

The only hope he has is his ex-girlfriend Jill Watson – the only journalist who will believe his story.

But neither of them can believe the puzzle they’re piecing together – or just how shocking the secret is that everybody wants to stay hidden…

A gripping, page-turning suspense masterclass – available in print for the first time in nearly thirty years.

NON-FICTION

A Tomb With a View by Peter Ross

Enter a grave new world of fascination and delight as award-winning writer Peter Ross uncovers the stories and glories of graveyards. Who are London’s outcast dead and why is David Bowie their guardian angel? What is the remarkable truth about Phoebe Hessel, who disguised herself as a man to fight alongside her sweetheart, and went on to live in the reigns of five monarchs? Why is a Bristol cemetery the perfect wedding venue for goths?

All of these sorrowful mysteries – and many more – are answered in A Tomb With A View, a book for anyone who has ever wandered through a field of crooked headstones and wondered about the lives and deaths of those who lie beneath.

So push open the rusting gate, push back the ivy, and take a look inside…

CRIME

Double Identity by Alison Morton

Deeply in love, a chic Parisian lifestyle before her. Now she’s facing prison for murder.

It’s three days since Mel des Pittones threw in her job as an intelligence analyst with the French special forces to marry financial trader Gérard Rohlbert. But her dream turns to nightmare when she wakes to find him dead in bed beside her.

Her horror deepens when she’s accused of his murder. Met Police detective Jeff McCracken wants to pin Gérard’s death on her. Mel must track down the real killer, even if that means being forced to work with the obnoxious McCracken.

But as she unpicks her fiancé’s past, she discovers his shocking secret life. To get to the truth, she has to go undercover—and finds almost everybody around her is hiding a second self.

Mel can trust nobody. Can she uncover the real killer before they stop her?

ROMANCE

Baby I’m Yours by Carrie Elks

Two tiny lines will change everything…

Doctor James Tanner is gorgeous, successful and decisively single.
He’s also a widower with a broken heart.
So when he meets a beautiful woman on a fateful night out, their chemistry shocks him to the core.

Harper Hayes is irresistible.
With her pink-tipped hair and tantalizing smile, she makes him forget all his pain.

One night together won’t hurt, will it?
One night to get her out of his system.
Then he’ll leave in the morning without a backward glance.

But actions have consequences, and this one will change both their lives forever.
And when Harper sees those two little lines she knows exactly what that means.
Now she just needs to find the man who left her alone in bed after their one night together.

What a shame she doesn’t even know his name…

And that’s it for January. What have been your favourite reads this month? How are you finding 2021 so far? Have you made any plans? If so what? Are you managing to stay motivated?

Please do share any comments/responses below.

Till next time, stay safe, stay sane and stay in touch.

Books of the Year 2020 #books #reading #writing #contemporaryfiction #fiction

Books are my thing – writing them and reading them but this year, more than any other, books have provided some much-needed solace and escapism.

Writing my own books

During the initial Covid lockdown and the various tweaked versions/restrictions that followed her in Scotland, I was so glad to have my writing. I did find my concentration was a bit compromised at first but since I got my mojo back it’s been so good to have an imaginary Covid-free world to escape to – a world where I’m in control.

It was a real morale booster when the final part of my Isle of Skye trilogy, Fulfilment,was published. It was lovely to have brought Jack and Rachel’s story to a satisfying conclusion – although I must admit I do miss them. And it’s also been lovely to have so much wonderful feedback from readers. Thank you all of you who messaged, emailed and posted reviews – it means a lot.

And now I have new characters to spend time with as I’ve begun writing the first novel in what I hope will become a new series – this time set in the Scottish Borders. The working title is Happiness Cottage and tells the romantic story of Scottish farmer, Aidan, and Australian conservationist, Lori.

14 Best Reads 2020

But enough about creating my own books 😊 What about the ones I’ve read this year? And which ones out of my Books of the Month featured throughout 2020 here on the blog I have picked as the absolute best?

I’ve read over 100 books since the beginning of the year. There were a few I didn’t finish – based on the ‘life’s too short to spend it doing something you don’t enjoy’ principle but they were a tiny minority. I’ve read some enjoyable non-fiction, some crime, and some thrillers but by far the largest category has been contemporary romance. It’s always my favourite genre – but again with all the difficulties, challenges and sadness that 2020 has wrought, the escapism and happy-ever-after of the romance genre has beckoned even more than usual.

So it shouldn’t surprise you to know that I’ve picked twelve contemporary romances as my favourite books for 2020 and I’ve also added the three specifically Christmas romances that I’ve recently enjoyed and are also amongst my best books read in the last twelve months.

The Top Books List –12  best books of 2020

So here they are – in the order that I read them. No reviews but I’d give them all 5 stars. All are available as ebooks and paperbacks – online and in book shops.

If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane

If faking love is this easy… how do you know when it’s real?

Laurie and Jamie have the perfect office romance
(They set the rules via email)

Everyone can see they’re head over heels
(They staged the photos)

This must be true love
(They’re faking it)

When Laurie is dumped by her partner of eighteen years, she’s blindsided. Not only does she feel humiliated, they still have to work together.

So when she gets stuck in the lift with handsome colleague Jamie, they hatch a plan to stage the perfect romance. Revenge will be sweet…

But this fauxmance is about to get complicated. You can’t break your heart in a fake relationship – can you?

A Dozen Second Chances by Kate Field

What are the chances that twelve little tokens could change a life?

Seventeen years ago, Eve Roberts had the wonderful life she’d always dreamed of: a degree in archaeology, a gorgeous boyfriend, and exciting plans to travel the world with him, working on digs. But when her sister Faye died, the life Eve knew ended too. Faye’s daughter Caitlyn came to live with Eve, her boyfriend left, and she quickly gave up on her dreams.

Now approaching her fortieth birthday, Eve faces the prospect of an empty nest as Caitlyn is leaving home. Caitlyn gives Eve a set of twelve ‘Be Kind to Yourself’ vouchers, telling her that she has to start living for herself again, and that she should fill one in every time she does something to treat herself.

With her very first voucher, Eve’s life will change its course. But with eleven more vouchers to go, can Eve learn to put herself first and follow the dreams she’s kept secret for so long? Because life is for living – and as she well knows, it’s too short to waste even a moment…

The Life She Wants by Maggie Christensen

She’s a strait-laced, inhibited career woman. He’s an aging hippie who acts without thinking. What could they possibly have in common?

Fran Reilly has hidden a secret sorrow for the past thirty years. But turning fifty and losing her mother forces her to re-evaluate her future. Returning to her home in Granite Springs, she’s determined to make changes to her well-ordered life. However there are more changes in store than she could ever have imagined.

When Owen Larsen applies for the position as Head of the new School of Music and Drama at the university in Granite Springs, his only concern is to leave the rat race of Sydney and find a more peaceful existence in the country.

Owen is the exact opposite of everything in Fran’s well-ordered world and reminds her of a past she has been at pains to forget. And Owen’s country idyll isn’t proving to be as peaceful as he imagined.

Can these two opposites find common ground and is there a future for them in Granite Springs?

The Life She Wants is the third book in the Granite Springs series set in a small Australian country town

The New Guy by Kathryn Freeman

Sam Huxton doesn’t do one-night stands, especially not with men she’s just met! But the hot guy at the bar was hard to resist and one night is all they share – no names, no numbers, just some much needed fun…

Until the same guy walks into Sam’s life the next day as her new employee.  Sam never mixes business with pleasure and makes it clear an office fling with Ryan is off-limits.  But after-hours…one thing can lead to another. Can Sam trust her heart and her business with the new guy?

A Summer to Remember in Herring Bay by Angela Britnell

Essy Havers is good at finding things. Her company specialises in helping clients track down anything, from missing china pieces to rare vintage clothing. But now Essy has something more important to find: herself.
Essy has always been curious about her mother’s secret past and her Cornish roots. So, when the opportunity arises, she hops on a plane in Tennessee and ends up in Herring Bay in Cornwall; the village where her mother grew up.
But once there, she’s mystified by the reactions of the villagers when they realise who she is. Was Essy’s decision to visit Cornwall a mistake, or will it lead to a summer she’ll never forget?

One Winter Morning by Isabelle Broom

Genie isn’t feeling very festive this December.

The frosty mornings and twinkling fairy lights only remind her it’s been a whole year since she lost her adoptive mother, who took her in as a baby and raised her as her own.
She’s never felt more alone – until she discovers her birth mother’s identity.
And where to find her – New Zealand, half the world away.
Travelling there could be her one chance to meet the woman who gave her up . . .
But will she find the answers she has been looking for? Or something she could never have expected?

Summer at the Little Cottage on the Hill by Emma Davies

Take an endless stroll through wild meadows and breathe in the sweet aroma of flowers in full bloom. The first ever guest at the little cottage on the hill is looking for an escape, but her past is not far behind her…

Thirty-two-year-old ‘ice queen’ Isobel slams the cottage door and pulls the curtains shut. She has just six weeks to practise for a secret project that could save her career and no one must know she is here.

When Tom, the local thatcher with eyes as blue and deep as the ocean, hears the sound of her violin on the breeze he feels a tug at his heart-strings that reminds him of happier times. Who is this mysterious new lodger, and why does she look so familiar?

Desperate to find out more, Tom is devastated when Isobel refuses to enjoy everything the farm has to offer. He won’t give in, but just when it looks like Isobel is coming out of her shell, someone recognises her and the troubles from her past threaten to take away everything she has been working towards. 

Will the lessons Isobel learned at the little cottage help her to stand up and face the music? Will Tom ever find a way to unlock the emotion she needs to move on?

Shadows on the Water by Jo Lambert

After the tragic death of her fiancé, Ava Warren is slowly rebuilding her life. She has a supportive family, great friends and a job she loves, managing holiday letting company Estuary Escapes in her home town of Kingswater. Another relationship is the last thing she wants or needs. Until one evening she meets Alex Penhaligon.

Alex has just returned home from California where he has been working for the past five years. A case of mistaken identity gets them off to a bad start. But discovering his error, Alex is anxious to make amends and soon persuades Ava that he’s not quite as arrogant as she thinks he is. As their friendship begins to turn into something much deeper, Ava wonders whether she can at last put the past behind her and make a new future with Alex.

But someone is watching. A man who not only thinks Ava should be his but also holds a long term grudge against Alex. And he’s determined to get his own way irrespective of the lengths he has to go to or who gets hurt in the process.

Set on the south coast of Cornwall, Shadows on the Water is a story of family ties, lost love and tangled loyalties.

The Saturday Morning Park Run by Jules Wake

Full of romance and humour, this is a book about fresh starts, friendship and the unexpected places we find happiness.

This is the story of two women.
One old, one young.
One looking for new adventures. One looking for a purpose.
Both needing a friend.

And this is how, along with two little girls in need of a family, a gorgeous stranger, and a scruffy dog, they bring the whole community together every Saturday morning for love, laughter and a little bit of running…(well, power walking).

Some people come into your life when you need them the most.

The Winter Garden by Heidi Swain

Freya Fuller is estranged from her parents and has been following her childhood dream of becoming a gardener ever since. When an opportunity to design a winter garden opens up at a Victorian property in Nightingale Square, Freya jumps at the chance to make a fresh start. But while the majority of the residents are welcoming, local artist Finn seems determined to shut her out, and when Freya’s family make a surprise appearance, it seems that her new life is about to come crashing down . . .

Endless Skies by Jane Cable

If you want to move forward, you have to deal with the past…

After yet another disastrous love affair – this time with her married boss – Rachel Ward has been forced to leave her long-term position in Southampton for a temporary role as an Archaeology Lecturer at Lincoln University.

Rachel has sworn off men and is determined to spend her time away clearing her head and sorting her life out.

But when one of her students begins flirting with her, it seems she could be about to make the same mistakes again…

She distracts herself by taking on some freelance work for local property developer, Jonathan Daubney.

He introduces her to an old Second World War RAF base. And from her very first visit something about it gives Rachel chills…

As Rachel makes new friends and delves into local history, she is also forced to confront her own troubled past.

Why is she unable to get into a healthy relationship? What’s stopping her from finding Mr Right?

And what are the echoes of the past trying to tell her…?

Harper’s Highland Fling by Lizzie Lamb

After a gruelling academic year, head teacher Harper MacDonald is looking forward to a summer holiday trekking in Nepal.

However, her plans are scuppered when wayward niece, Ariel, leaves a note announcing that she’s running away with a boy called Pen. The only clue to their whereabouts is a footnote: I’ll be in Scotland.

Cue a case of mistaken identity when Harper confronts the boy’s father – Rocco Penhaligon, and accuses him of cradle snatching her niece and ruining her future. At loggerheads, Harper and Rocco set off in hot pursuit of the teenagers, but the canny youngsters are always one step ahead. And, in a neat twist, it is the adults who end up in trouble, not the savvy teenagers.

Fasten your seatbelt for the road trip of your life! It’s going to be a bumpy ride!

And Three Top Christmas Novels

Christmas Wishes by Sue Moorcroft

Hannah and Nico are meant to be together.

But fate is keeping them apart…

As soon as Hannah bumps into her brother Rob’s best friend Nico in Stockholm, the two rekindle a fast friendship. But Hannah has a boyfriend – and Nico has two children to look after.

When Hannah loses her beloved shop in Stockholm, though, she is forced to move back to the little village of Middledip – only to find Nico has just moved in too. Under the same snowy sky, can the childhood friends make a romance work – or are there too many obstacles standing in their way?

A Little Christmas Hope by Kathryn Freeman

Newly promoted head teacher Anna Dalton needs a Christmas miracle – and fast! After years of sitting through excruciatingly dull Christmas productions, complete with crying children and sleeping parents, she’s determined Riddlescomb Primary School will put on a Nativity to remember. 

Enter bad boy actor Dan Ramsey, recently axed from the lead role in a TV drama and in desperate need of cleaning up his image or he’ll never work again.  
 
Dan can flash those heart-stopping dimples all he likes, Anna tells herself she isn’t going to fall for them. She knows why he’s decided to volunteer at the school, and it’s for the good of his bank balance…not his soul. 

But as Anna and Dan are forced to work together for the sake of a truly magical Christmas for the children, sparks fly and they can’t help but wonder what will happen once the festive season is over…

Together by Christmas by Karen Swan

When Lee first came to Amsterdam, it was with a newborn baby and a secret. Five years later, her life is approaching normal: her career as a celebrity photographer is flourishing, her son Jasper is growing up, and they are enjoying the run-up to Christmas with their tight circle of close friends.

But all this changes one morning when Lee finds a book in the basket of her bicycle – and scrawled inside it, a desperate message. Who left it for her, and why? Lee feels compelled to help and tracks down the book’s author, Sam. With an instant, undeniable connection it seems they might have a shot at a real future together.

Until her past comes calling. As the snow falls and ice thickens on the city’s canals, the secret Lee has never told resurfaces. Suddenly everything she holds dear hangs in the balance. Christmas is a time for being together – but what if the truth means she ends up alone?

That’s all folks!

And that’s it – my favourite books for 2020 list is complete. Have you read/enjoyed any of them. What are your top reads for the year? Have you found that you’ve read more or less than usual this year? If so is that down to Covid/ As always please do feel free to comment below.

And that’s also it for 2020 here on the blog. Thanks to all of you who stop by here to read, comment and share your views. You make doing this so worthwhile and rewarding. I wish every one of you a happy festive season and a safe, sane and happy 2021. See you back here in January.

A Life in a Day of a Writer: Author Maggie Christensen @MaggieChriste33 shares a typical writing day #writing #books #reading #romanticfiction

Today it’s the turn of romantic fiction writer Maggie Christensen to give us a glimpse into the sort of days that make up her life as a writer.

Maggie’s latest book is A Granite Springs Christmas – this is the sixth book in the Granite Springs series – but it can easily be read as a standalone – and I recently read and very much enjoyed it. You can find out more about the book below. But first over to Maggie.

Maggie Christensen’s Writing Life in a Day

When Anne asked me to take part in this, I wished I could be like a famous Australian author I once heard speak. She told how she dresses, puts on full make up and works for four hours each morning, takes a lunch break, then works for another four hours. But that isn’t my day. I do write every day, but my days vary.

Since most of the time, I’m writing one book, editing another and marketing yet another, I tend to juggle my time between them. Do I get confused? Yes.

I always start the day by checking email and my ads. Then, after breakfast and an early morning walk with my husband, I get down to work. While this may be working on my current manuscript, it may also be writing a newsletter for my readers, sending out advance reader copies of my next release, or choosing images for my next cover on Shutterstock – I can get lost there for hours at a time.

If I have returned edits from my editor, I do that before beginning my day’s writing.

Once I sit down to writing for the day, I start by re-reading what I’ve written the day before to get back into the story and reconnect with my characters – despite them having been in my head all the time. Then I start to write. I aim to write 1000 words before taking a break when I enjoy a snack with a cup of tea and the opportunity to catch up on my reading.

My goal is to write 2000 words each day. Some days, if I have arranged to meet friends for coffee, it may be less, while others, if I’m on a roll, it may be more.

When I started to write, my goal was to publish two books each year. But after doing that for a few years, and I decided to become more productive and now aim to publish four books each year and actually plan ahead. I have already written the book which will be published in January and am I the midst of what will probably be the last in my current series and be published March or April. Then there will be a new series which will have at least two books released in 2021, one of which may be another Christmas story.

It may sound a lot of work, but I find it difficult to settle to anything when I don’t have a book on the go. I never stop thinking about my current work in progress and can get some good plot ideas when I’m ironing, driving, reading – or falling asleep!

My most recent book is book six in my Granite Springs series and my first Christmas story. Magda is a character who appears in the earlier books in my Granite Springs series – a feisty seventy-something widow who lives on an acreage with the three former racehorses she saved from the knacker’s yard, and two rescue greyhounds. A masseuse and a touch otherworldly, I decided Magda deserved her own happy ever after.

I love writing this series about older characters living in a fictional Australian country town where it’s never too late to fall in love and everyone deserves a second chance.

Anne: Wow, Maggie! I think we can let you off for not being perfectly made up and sticking to a rigid writing schedule 🙂 Your work ethic and productivity rate are awesome. And I know I’m not alone in loving your later life, second chance romances. Thank you so much for taking part in this feature.

And now as promised, here’s more about Maggie’s latest book:

From the back cover:

A RETURN TO GRANITE SPRINGS. A FAMILY CHRISTMAS. A TIME FOR LOVE AND JOY…OR IS IT?

A year after a devastating bushfire destroyed Magda Duncan’s home, she returns to Granite Springs determined to resume her life and organise a wonderful family Christmas. But the elation of her homecoming quickly turns to disappointment as she discovers not everyone is in tune with her plans.

George Turnbull was Magda’s late husband’s best friend. A bachelor, he has always carried a torch for Magda and remained close to her and her sons. When he finally musters the courage to reveal his true feelings, a life changing surprise from his past threatens to ruin any chance at happiness.

Emotions are high as Christmas Day approaches. Will this be the most wonderful Christmas ever? Or will the hopes and fears of the past come home to haunt them? A poignant story of a Christmas friends of Granite Springs will never forget.

You can connect with Maggie online at the links below:

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads

Instagram

November 2020: Books of the Month #books #reading #romanticfiction @Jane Cable @SueMoorcroft @KathrynFreeman1

I have three best reads to share with you this month. Two of them are set at Christmas – and I must admit in a normal year I wouldn’t be mentioning the festive season before the first of December – but this has been a far from normal year and I’m heading into the comforts of Christmas early.

And don’t tell anybody – but I’m planning on putting up my Christmas tree this weekend! I know – me – who usually waits until a few days before the big day – and scoffs at the early embracers 😊

But reading remains something to be enjoyed all year round, and for me, never more so than this year. So here are my three recommendations from the 11 books I’ve read during the last 30 days. All 3 are contemporary romances.

Best November Reads

Endless Skies by Jane Cable

This was a fabulous book. It tells the moving love story of land developer, Jonathan, and archaeologist, Rachel. Both are damaged souls who are drawn together through their work. There’s a bit of a ghost story in the background too – which is lovely and so well done. And the supporting cast is full of excellently drawn characters.

From the back cover:

If you want to move forward, you have to deal with the past…

After yet another disastrous love affair – this time with her married boss – Rachel Ward has been forced to leave her long-term position in Southampton for a temporary role as an Archaeology Lecturer at Lincoln University.

Rachel has sworn off men and is determined to spend her time away clearing her head and sorting her life out.

But when one of her students begins flirting with her, it seems she could be about to make the same mistakes again…

She distracts herself by taking on some freelance work for local property developer, Jonathan Daubney.

He introduces her to an old Second World War RAF base. And from her very first visit something about it gives Rachel chills…

As Rachel makes new friends and delves into local history, she is also forced to confront her own troubled past.

Why is she unable to get into a healthy relationship? What’s stopping her from finding Mr Right?

And what are the echoes of the past trying to tell her…?

Christmas Wishes by Sue Moorcroft

Set in both England and Sweden, this is the lovely story of shopkeeper Hannah and single dad, Nico. The descriptions of a wintry Sweden are superb and really add to the telling of the story. And as for little Maria and her use of the name ‘mydad’ for Nico – I challenge you not to cry over that. A very romantic, snuggle up read.

From the back cover:

Hannah and Nico are meant to be together.

But fate is keeping them apart…

As soon as Hannah bumps into her brother Rob’s best friend Nico in Stockholm, the two rekindle a fast friendship. But Hannah has a boyfriend – and Nico has two children to look after.

When Hannah loses her beloved shop in Stockholm, though, she is forced to move back to the little village of Middledip – only to find Nico has just moved in too. Under the same snowy sky, can the childhood friends make a romance work – or are there too many obstacles standing in their way?

A Little Christmas Hope by Kathryn Freeman

I loved this story and I miss it now I’ve got to the end – always a good sign. The story of headteacher Anna and out of work actor Dan is truly magical. There’s a great supporting cast – including the children. It was good to catch up with some of the characters from this author’s previous Christmas books but it won’t affect your enjoyment of this book if you haven’t read these earlier ones.

From the back cover:

Newly promoted head teacher Anna Dalton needs a Christmas miracle – and fast! After years of sitting through excruciatingly dull Christmas productions, complete with crying children and sleeping parents, she’s determined Riddlescomb Primary School will put on a Nativity to remember. 

Enter bad boy actor Dan Ramsey, recently axed from the lead role in a TV drama and in desperate need of cleaning up his image or he’ll never work again.  
 
Dan can flash those heart-stopping dimples all he likes, Anna tells herself she isn’t going to fall for them. She knows why he’s decided to volunteer at the school, and it’s for the good of his bank balance…not his soul. 

But as Anna and Dan are forced to work together for the sake of a truly magical Christmas for the children, sparks fly and they can’t help but wonder what will happen once the festive season is over…

Here’s to more reading

And that’s it for this month’s reading. I can’t wait to get started on December’s books. I hope you are finding good reads to offer a bit of escapism and solace too. Feel free to share any that have stood out for you recently in the comments below. And happy reading to you all as we enter the final month of this very strange year.

A Life in a Day of a Writer: Author Kate Blackadder @k_blackadder shares a typical writing day #writing #books #reading

Kate Blackadder’s writing desk

Today it’s the turn of romantic fiction writer Kate Blackadder to give us a glimpse into the sort of days that make up her life as a writer.

Kate’s Novel Stella’s Christmas Wish is a lovely story at any time – but especially so at this time of year– more about that later – along with information about Kate’s many short stories, magazine serials (for UK magazines The People’s Friend and Woman’s Weekly) and boxset. But now over to Kate.

Kate Blackadder’s Writing Life in a Day

When you asked me back in June, Anne, to take part in this series I did hope that things would be more normal come November but alas our lives are still restricted by Covid-19.

So, furloughed from my part-time job and with an almost non-existent social life for seven months, have I done lots of writing? Yes and no.

When lockdown looked likely in the middle of March I started to keep a diary. Sadly, things that seemed so extraordinary back then don’t seem so now. Fights over toilet rolls. Bars closed in Dublin on St Patrick’s Day. Holidaying friends unable to fly home. One day I may mine the diary for story ideas but not now.

I found physical activity excellent distraction (no one more surprised than myself about that). Newly acquired exercise bike, Joe Wicks workouts, walking the permitted hour a day. Even, belatedly in my life, gardening. Those invasive grape hyacinths didn’t know what hit them. The glorious weather added to the unreality of the whole situation.

Indoors, I did various writingy things without actually writing. Mostly I write short stories and serials for women’s magazines – so I made a fourth collection of previously published stories and put it on Kindle. I published three magazine serials, all set in rural Scotland, as a Kindle boxset (see below).

I dusted down a couple of more literary stories and entered them for competitions. I typed up seven holiday diaries and had copies printed.

My thoughts did turn eventually to new writing but I don’t have a typical day. Sometimes the more time you have the less you do. To give myself a push I set the kitchen timer for twenty minutes and attempt to write without stopping. My inner editor has a hissy fit but I try to ignore her.

Picking up either of two embryonic novels would require concentration I didn’t have. So I wrote a short story from a young lad’s viewpoint – he was aggrieved at his mother roping him into gardening for an elderly neighbour. Inspired in part by my own newfound interest – all is grist to the writing mill. Done. Sent to The People’s Friend.

The People’s Friend has a special, larger edition every three weeks and in every second Special there’s a long cosy crime story (9500 words), new territory for me. I’d had an idea for ages but couldn’t see my way into it, eg who the viewpoint characters would be. However, once I got going I loved writing it. Gardening also featured … my green-fingered sister was enlisted to fact-check. Sent.

Another story – this time set on Hogmanay, 1963, one of the worst UK winters on record. (No gardening in this one… ) Sent to The People’s Friend.

I’ve always been fascinated by names and I thought it would be fun to write a story where the characters have the same names as those recently given to storms. Sent to The People’s Friend.

No acceptances or rejections received to date for these four – for completely understandable reasons. The People’s Friend fiction staff work from home too now. Plus, they get an increasingly enormous number of submissions. They’ve always had an open-door policy for new writers – and now are one of the few remaining markets for short stories as so many magazines have stopped publishing them or have folded altogether, including two since March who between them published 350 stories annually.

Shopping habits have changed recently, concentrating on food essentials. A subscription to your favourite magazine whatever it might be could help it survive.

Not all doom and gloom though! My fellow Capital Writers and I published a collection of Dark Stories https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08LTGH358

in time for Hallowe’en.

And I got an acceptance surprisingly quickly from Woman’s Weekly for a short story so that was a boost, and a proposal for a new PF serial, my fifth, got the go-ahead two weeks later. It’s great to have something to focus on. Each instalment is 5000 words, divided into five ‘chapters’. Because you have to wait for instalment approval you can’t really write ahead and you can’t go back and change previous instalments. I do have trajectories for each of my main characters though so I work towards those. It’s a different way of writing but I find it exhilarating.

Anne: Yes, writing a serial for a magazine certainly sounds like an exciting way of working! Thank you so much Kate for sharing what your writing life is like – and how writing shorter fiction has helped you push on through during these difficult times.

About Kate Blackadder:

Katewas born in Inverness but now lives in Edinburgh. She has had over sixty short stories and four magazine serials published, and a novel, Stella’s Christmas Wish, published by Black and White Publishing.

In 2008 she won the Muriel Spark Short Story Prize judged by Maggie O’ Farrell. Four collections of her short stories and the four serials are now on Kindle, three of them – The Family at Farrshore, The Ferryboat, and A Time to Reap – are also available in large-print library editions.

She is a member of Edinburgh Writers’ Club, the Scottish Association of Writers, the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Society of Authors and, with three others, is part of Capital Writers. When she’s not writing or reading she likes films, baking and crying over repeats of Long Lost Family.

Kate Online:

Find out more: http://katewritesandreads.blogspot.co.uk/p/my-books.html

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KateBlackadderAuthor

Twitter: @k_blackadder

https://capitalwriterscouk.wordpress.com/

Kate’s Books and Boxset:

Stella’s Christmas Wish available from: HERE

Six days before Christmas, Stella must rush home to Scotland when her grandmother is taken to hospital. As she reconnects with her past, old flames are rekindled, and as Christmas fast approaches, Stella begins to wonder if her most heartfelt wish can come true?

Uprooted from her life in London and back in her childhood home of the Scottish borders, Stella is soon faced with relationships which have lain dormant for years. New opportunities present themselves, but will Stella dare to take them…

Family stories boxset  (information below) available from: HERE

Three family stories first published as serials in The People’s Friend. Available as e-books singly, or in this three-for-the-price-of-two collection:

The Ferryboat: Judy and Tom Jeffrey move north after buying a hotel in the West Highlands of Scotland, with their daughter and her chef husband – but have they made a terrible mistake?

The Family at Farrshore: Spending the summer working on Scotland’s north coast, archaeologist Cathryn is drawn into the local community – and to Magnus who is visiting the area for reasons of his own.

A Time to Reap: It’s 1963 on a Scottish Highlands estate. Farm manager Elizabeth Duncan has the unpleasant factor to contend with, and is unsettled by the arrival of an American visitor.

Staying Safe and Staying Sane – the 2020 Way: Walk, Write, Read, Repeat #health #writing #reading #Covid

Look away now if you don’t want to read a post with the ‘c’ word in it – and by ‘c’ word I mean Covid-19.

Staying Safe

It’s probably safe to stay, wherever you are in the world, that life during much of 2020 has been difficult, with us all having to get used to a new sort of normal due to the Covid pandemic. But I should say right at the start that I’m grateful that I – and my nearest and dearest – have remained healthy throughout. And I’m doing my bit to keep it that way – for everyone I encounter as well as myself – by washing my hands, wearing a mask and doing the social-distancing thing. It’s really not that hard.

Staying Sane

But with all the restrictions on social life and travel – I’ve certainly found staying sane by looking after my mental and emotional health to be harder than staying physically well and virus free.  Not being able to see my grandchildren has been one of the hardest things, but I’ve also missed the lack of simple day-to-day variety. And just as with grief, there have been stages along the way – denial and disbelief at first, followed by anger, followed by a grudging sort of acceptance.

However, I’m aware I’m not alone in struggling with being stuck inside my own head. I’ve made a conscious effort to keep in touch with friends and family throughout lockdown, lockdown easing and back to lockdown.

And, just as it’s become customary to sign off emails, texts and phone calls by telling the person you’re communicating with to ‘stay safe’, I now add the just as important phrase ‘stay sane’.

What Works for Me

Walking the Walk

Going out for a daily 60-90 minute walk was something I did before Covid struck, but it has become even more important during the restrictions on just about everything else. Quite apart from the physical benefits of exercise, moving around outdoors is beneficial in all sorts of ways. Seeing aspects of nature – the trees, the hills and the river – that I’m blessed to have nearby – along with the associated wildlife such as squirrels, herons and otters really does do wonders for raising my spirits. But so does seeing and greeting other folks also out and about – whether they’re also out for exercise, or walking their dogs, or simply getting a bit of local shopping.

It’s also a chance for my mind to go off on a wander of its own. And this can mean that the brain fog lifts and some clear and productive thinking can take place – thereby soothing anxieties or solving problems. And there’s the added bonus for me as a writer that walking gives my imagination space to also go for a stroll – and it’s often while I’m out and about that inspiration strikes.

Getting Creative

The second vital aspect required for me staying sane is to have a purpose – to have a creative, enjoyable and satisfying job to do. This, like walking, was important to me BC (Before Covid) but it’s even more so now. And for me creative, enjoyable and satisfying means writing. Now, more than ever, escaping into my own imaginary world where I’m in charge and there’s no pandemic in sight is bliss. Hours can pass when I’m at my desk, steeped in my made up stories, and no viral thoughts occur.

Escaping into a Book

When the walk has been taken and the day’s writing wordcount has been accomplished – what then to keep the anxiety, gloom and boredom at bay? Yes, a bit of TV is good – especially now that Strictly Come Dancing is back on UK screens. But even better is escaping into someone else’s imaginary world – i.e. by reading. And, yes – as with the walking and the writing – reading was always a favourite pastime of mine but, oh boy, in these last few months it has been essential. I’ve read far more books than I would normally and, as with the other two sanity savers, reading has been an enormous source of comfort and an aid to my overall wellbeing.

And there you have it – three solitary activities that have saved me on a daily basis in 2020.

Over to you

I hope all of you are keeping well physically and mentally too during our trying times. If so, please do share what has worked for you in the comments below.

And stay safe – and sane – everyone!

PS – Related Question I mentioned last week about contemporary fiction that includes the Covid pandemic in the storyline and asked for your opinions. Thank you so much to those who replied. I’d still love to hear what others think about both writing and reading such fiction. Should the virus be included or ignored? Is it too soon to have it feature in a story? Would ignoring it in a novel set in 2020 be like ignoring World War Two in a story set in the 1940s? Or would you prefer to get around the issue as a writer or reader by not having the year specified in the story?

Books of the Month: October 2020 #reading #books #romanticfiction @MaggieChriste33 @Heidi_Swain

Photo by Alice Hampson on Unsplash

As this most unsettling of years has gone on I’ve become more and more grateful for books – both writing and reading them.

When I’m writing I’m in my own (Covid free) imaginary world and I’m in control of what happens in that world.

And when I’m reading I can escape into someone else’s (Covid free) imagined world.

Now, I know there’s some debate in the writing and reading communities about whether authors of contemporary fiction ought to/want to/ don’t want to/ write fiction that includes ‘the virus’ in the story line and whether readers want/don’t want/ to read such books – but that is a discussion for another day.

Safe to say, for now, I want to steer clear of Covid in both my writing and my reading.

So here are my favourite 2 reads for the month of October and there was no need for sanitiser, social-distancing or masks while reading them 😊

Both are contemporary romances and both provided a wonderful escape

Books of the Month October 2020

First up is The Winter Garden by Heidi Swain

From the back cover:

Will love bloom this winter?
 
Freya Fuller is living her dream, working as a live-in gardener on a beautiful Suffolk estate. But when the owner dies, Freya finds herself forced out of her job and her home with nowhere to go. However, with luck on her side, she’s soon moving to Nightingale Square and helping to create a beautiful winter garden that will be open to the public in time for Christmas.
 
There’s a warm welcome from all in Nightingale Square, except from local artist Finn. No matter how hard the pair try, they just can’t get along, and working together to bring the winter garden to life quickly becomes a struggle for them both.
 
Will Freya and Finn be able to put their differences aside in time for Christmas? Or will the arrival of a face from Freya’s past send them all spiralling?

The Winter Garden is the perfect read this Christmas, promising snowfall, warm fires and breath-taking seasonal romance. 

My thoughts:

Regular reads of the blog will most likely recognise this book and its author from last week’s post HERE where author Heidi shared her Life in a Day of an Author with us. And in that post I mentioned how much I’d enjoyed this book. As I said then, it’s a perfect autumn/winter read and I thoroughly enjoyed this satisfying and so romantic story. The main characters Freya and Finn are perfectly flawed and so likeable and I loved all the garden details too.

And my other book of the month is A Granite Springs Christmas by Maggie Christensen

From the back cover:

A return to Granite Springs. A family Christmas. A time for love and joy…or is it?

A year after a devastating bushfire destroyed Magda Duncan’s home, she returns to Granite Springs determined to resume her life and organise a wonderful family Christmas. But the elation of her homecoming quickly turns to disappointment as she discovers not everyone is in tune with her plans.

George Turnbull was Magda’s late husband’s best friend. A bachelor, he has always carried a torch for Magda and remained close to her and her sons. When he finally musters the courage to reveal his true feelings, a life changing surprise from his past threatens to ruin any chance at happiness.

Emotions are high as Christmas Day approaches. Will this be the most wonderful Christmas ever? Or will the hopes and fears of the past come home to haunt them?

A poignant story of a Christmas friends of Granite Springs will never forget.

If you enjoy heartwarming second chance romance in a rural setting with a Christmas flavour, you’ll love this book. 

My thoughts:

Okay, I have to admit I’m cheating slightly here as this book doesn’t come out until 28th October but I was given an advance copy by the author and so I got to read it early.

This is book number 6 in the Australian set Granite Springs series – I’ve read and enjoyed all the others – and this time it’s the lovely story of Magda and George. The pair, who have appeared earlier in the series, and who are in their 70s, have been friends for years but as the story unfolds it becomes clear now might be the time for them to take their relationship further and to become romantically involved.

Yes, this magical, heart-warming and hopeful story would have been fine with younger protagonists, but it’s especially lovely that they are that bit older.

This book is another warm and engaging read from this author. I loved it. And I loved the message that it’s never too late to fall in love.

And while it was good to catch up with characters from earlier stories, this book could easily be read as a standalone.

I heartly recommend it.

Over to you:

What are your favourite reads for October 2020?

Would you read/not read fiction that has Covid as one of its themes/storylines?

How do you feel about romantic stories where the couple are middle-aged or older?

Please feel free to comment on this post below.

A Life in a Day of a Writer: Author Heidi Swain @Heidi_Swain shares a typical writing day #writing #books #reading

Heidi Swain – author

Today it’s the turn of feel good romantic fiction writer Heidi Swain to give us a glimpse into the sort of days that make up her life as a writer.

Heidi’s latest book is The Winter Garden which I recently read and absolutely loved – more about that later. But now over to Heidi.

Heidi’s writing space

Heidi Swain’s Writing Life in a Day

How my writing day is organised depends on which part of the process I happen to be working on. Planning and plotting days are fairly free and easy, reading page proof days have lots of breaks littered throughout to keep the mind (allegedly) fresh, but writing the first draft and editing is much more structured and it is one of those days which I’m going to describe for you today.

I write Monday to Friday and the day is broken into well-defined chunks. I have tried a variety of schedules, but find this the most productive. In a good week, working like this and with no domestic dramas and minimal interruptions, I can manage to write just shy of 20,000 words over the five days.

The day starts at between 5.30 and 5.45. Between getting up and sitting down at the laptop – which is on a desk in my bedroom – at 7am, I’ll either take a walk around the village or do a few laps in the garden, then sort any laundry, open curtains and windows, make tea and mentally prepare myself by thinking through or reading over the notes I will have written at the end of the last writing session the day before.

Between 7am and 9am I’ll write. Sometimes I spend a while working through the last chapter, otherwise I’ll crack straight on with the next, often making notes on things to add, change or amend on scrap paper as I go.

9am to 10am is time for breakfast, cat cuddles and writing reflection.

10am to 12 is a repeat of the first writing session of the day, although this is probably when the most words go down and I’m properly ‘in the zone’. By this point the scene is firmly set in my head and I’m eager to get it typed.

12 – 1pm is lunch, washing dishes and more reflection. Quite often at this point I’m feeling a little dazed!

1pm – 3pm is another session at the laptop. However, if I feel the writing is coming to a natural close – such as when I reach the end of a chapter – I will finish early. This afternoon spot always ends with me writing up a precis of what I’ve just written in the notebook assigned for that novel, and then I’ll make notes in another book about what comes next.

I find this note taking invaluable and will often also write the opening paragraph of the next chapter on screen ready for the next day. By writing down what happens next, I have a clear idea of what I’m going to write and throughout the rest of the day I can visualise it, often writing more notes covering the finer details along with scraps of dialogue.

Having a well-defined idea of what comes next ensures I don’t sit down and stare at a blank screen. The scene is already there, in my head and I can translate it straight to the screen without wasting time or getting in a flap – which I undoubtedly would!

At the end of the day comes the admin – catching up with emails, posting on social media and any other business. This all happens right up until bedtime. Weekends are when I write guest posts like this, update my blog, spend a bit longer on social media and generally collapse in a befuddled heap for a while.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I tend not to finish before 3pm as I have morning Pilates classes via Zoom – invaluable to counter all of those hours hunched over the keyboard – so they have to be factored into the schedule.

And that’s it. A typical day in my writing – a first draft – life!

I know it probably all comes across as pretty prescriptive, but it’s a routine that works for me and with two books being published a year, I need to stick to it in order to hit my deadlines. A strict routine like this wouldn’t work for everyone of course and at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how you’re getting the words down. As long as the word count is rising, you can do it how you like, when you like and where you like. Not everyone thrives on the same set up but I feel comfortable and safe in my well-structured day. It took me a while to figure it out, but now I’ve found it, I’m sticking to it!

Anne: Thank you to Heidi for this informative and entertaining insight into her writing life.

You can read more about Heidi and about her latest book below. It’s called The Winter Garden and, as I said above, I thoroughly enjoyed this satisfying and so romantic story and the main characters, Freya and Finn are perfectly flawed and so likeable. It’s a perfect autumn/winter read.

From the back cover:

Freya Fuller is estranged from her parents and has been following her dream of becoming a gardener ever since. When an opportunity to design a winter garden opens up at a Victorian property in Nightingale Square, Freya jumps at the chance to make a fresh start.

But while the majority of the residents are welcoming, local artist Finn seems determined to shut her out, and when Freya’s family make a surprise appearance, it seems that her new life is about to come crashing down . . .

Buy Link:

You can buy The Winter Garden HERE

More about Heidi:

Although passionate about writing from an early age, Heidi Swain gained a degree in Literature, flirted briefly with a newspaper career, married and had two children before she plucked up the courage to join a creative writing class and take her literary ambitions seriously.

A lover of vintage paraphernalia and the odd bottle of fizz, she now writes feel good fiction with heart for Simon and Schuster.

Her debut novel, The Cherry Tree Café was published in July 2015 and since then she has had a further nine books published, becoming a Sunday Times Bestseller in 2017. She is currently looking forward to the release of her 2020 Christmas title, The Winter Garden.

Heidi is represented by Amanda Preston and lives in Norfolk with her family and a mischievous cat called Storm.

Heidi ONLINE:

You can connect with Heidi at the links below:

Website: HERE

Twitter: @Heidi_Swain

Facebook: Writer Heidi Jo Swain

Amazon: HERE

Publisher: https://www.simonandschuster.co.uk/

http://booksandthecity.co.uk/

A Life in a Day of a Writer: Author JJ Marsh @JJMarsh1 shares a typical writing day #writing #books #reading

Today it’s the turn of crime writer JJ Marsh to give us a glimpse into the sort of days that make up her life as a writer.

Jill’s latest book is The Woman in the Frame and it’s the 11th book in the utterly fabulous Beatrice Stubbs series – more about that below. But now over to Jill.

JJ Marsh’s Writing Life in a Day

Jill’s Writing Desk

Such a thing as a pure writing day always felt like a fantasy. Even though I only worked part time as an English teacher, I was also spending several days a week marketing, profile-raising, reviewing and writing articles for magazines on top of trying to write novels. Two years ago, my husband and I came to a decision. We both gave up our jobs to focus on making a success of my books. He took over the marketing, I backed out of all commitments other than my own work and threw all my energy into writing.

This gave me the gift of time. Few things are more precious and the onus was on me to use it wisely. As I type, I’m about to begin my sixteenth book, a figure I can scarcely believe myself. A quick check of my shelves verifies that assertion. By the end of 2020, I will have written and published four novels in one year. The first in the series took three years to write.

What changed? A few things.

Discipline: Without it, I could happily while away my days arguing with people on Twitter and drinking gin in the garden. That’s why I get up early, walk the pug, plan strategy with my husband over breakfast, do my daily exercise, spend an hour learning languages, then go upstairs to my study and start work. Seven days a week.

Experience: The characters in my series are so familiar; it feels like my job is stage manager. I prepare the set, arrange the props, let them out of their box and watch what happens. That means I spend mornings doing research or plotting or filling in an Excel sheet of character development. Mmm, those oh-so-sexy spreadsheets.

Focus. My writing has to support two people. That scary prospect showed me what I’m capable of when not being a lazy mare faffing about on Facebook. Afternoons are for writing, nothing else. I aim for 2-3k words per day. First I re-read yesterday’s work, edit out the ‘all’s* and write the next chapter.

Well, I say write …

Dictation: Old age, as my Nan used to say, don’t come alone. Hours at the keyboard gave me RSI in my shoulder and bursitis in my elbow. Dragon Dictation has made a huge difference to my productivity. Plus I can paint my nails at the same time which makes me feel ever so Barbara Cartland. The only downside is that the pug sleeps under my desk, which is why my manuscript is peppered with at least one extraneous ‘all’ (*pug snore) per sentence.

Narrative: As an ex-actor, director and ravenous reader, the structure of storytelling is hard-wired into my system. That said, I’ve still got a lot to learn. In the evenings, after I’ve shouted at the TV news, I read or listen to an audiobook, study a masterclass or watch a film. I’m obsessed with how people tell stories.

Anne: Thank you to Jill for this fascinating insight into her writing life. I must say I admire her work ethic and commitment. And I also must say if you haven’t read any of Jill’s books, you really should – because they’re just brilliant. The Beatrice Stubbs detective series is original, entertaining and always gripping.

You can read more about Jill and about the latest book in the Beatrice Stubbs series below. And isn’t that cover gorgeous?

Note from Jill: My most recent publication is The Woman in the Frame, book 11 in The Beatrice Stubbs Series. Each novel is a stand-alone read and this particular one was a long time coming. The story has been fermenting for years but I was always nervous of fictionalising certain people’s secrets. Still, they’re all dead now.

The Woman in the Frame

Crystalline Mediterranean waters lap the rocky northern coast of Mallorca, blessing the town of Deià with blood-orange sunsets, balmy night skies and the legacy of a poet. This former artists’ colony now attracts the rich and famous, looking to party in privacy. It’s the perfect place for a honeymoon until your morning coffee is interrupted by a dead body.

Who would want to murder the muse of a world-famous artist? Why would anyone slash his artworks, but only those depicting her unearthly beauty? Suspects are in abundance and the police want a quick solution.  Enter Beatrice Stubbs, private investigator, who never rejects a job if it involves good food and fine wine.

Meanwhile, Beatrice’s old friends Adrian and Will are babysitting. Adrian doesn’t mind because he quite likes this kid. Plus the dull practicalities of parenting might act as a reality check on Will’s fatherhood fantasies. Unless, of course, it has the opposite effect.

Beatrice and her assistant Theo must sift through the secrets of a small town with a big reputation. Someone – an esoteric church leader, a wild-eyed ex-muse, the woman who forgets nothing, the artist’s agent or that covetous neighbour – knows what really happened and why. But when locals and incomers point the finger at one another, how can Beatrice distinguish between lies, truth and artistic licence?

A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

“Sun, sand, sea … and cold-blooded murder. Addictive and emotive, this book will shake all your senses.” – Gillian E. Hamer, author of The Gold Detective Series

About JJ Marsh

Jill grew up in Wales, Africa and the Middle East, where her curiosity for culture took root and triggered an urge to write. After graduating in English Literature and Theatre Studies, she worked as an actor, teacher, writer, director, editor, journalist and cultural trainer all over Europe.

Now in Switzerland, she writes crime and literary fiction to entertain readers with enthralling stories and endearing characters.

Her Beatrice Stubbs crime series topped the Amazon best sellers in “International Mystery & Crime” in Australia, Canada, the UK and the US.

You can connect with Jill online at the links below:

Website: www.jjmarshauthor.com

Twitter: @JJMarsh1

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jjmarshauthor

BUY LINK:

You can buy Jill’s book HERE

A Life in a Day of a Writer: Author Jan Brigden @JanBrigden @TheRomaniacs shares a typical writing day #writing #books #reading

Today it’s the turn of contemporary romance author Jan Brigden to give us a glimpse into the sort of days that make up her life as a writer.

Her latest book is If I Ever Doubt You and you can find out more about it below.

Jan Brigden’s Writing Life in a Day

When I first started writing full time from home, I set myself various daily targets in the hope of mirroring the last office job I’d held.

Hope being the operative word.

So … At my desk by 8.30 in the morning. Write until 10.30. Half hour break to stretch my legs and catch up with emails/phone messages, etc. Resume writing until lunchtime, say 1pm. Lunch. Write from 2 until 4 with suitably-spaced leg-stretch breaks. 4-5pm catch up with social media. Finish at 5, ready to prepare dinner and enjoy the rest of the evening with husband Dave who usually comes in from work between 5 and 6pm or spend a few hours with friends/family depending on what I had planned.

It started well enough but I soon realised that I couldn’t write to order and was putting far too much pressure on myself to reach these daily self-imposed targets. I’d get frustrated if the muse didn’t strike and end up staring at a blank screen for ages trying to force the words to come. I’d then feel guilty if I hadn’t produced much and it would feel like a day wasted.

With time and experience and lots of advice and support from my fellow writers, some of whom to varying degrees had faced exactly the same thing, I totally changed my outlook and routine. Instead of sitting down regimentally each day, I’d go for a nice walk which I immediately found provided me with inspiration and clarity for whichever scene or chapter I was planning to write next. Instead of feeling sheepish that I was out walking or dancing in front of the TV in the lounge to one of my exercise DVDs, I realised this valuable time fired up my creativity and passion for my book. I also found that some days I’d fit more writing into a shorter space of time which would free me up for other pleasures such as reading other author’s books or indulging in anything mindfulness-related, be it books, audio or videos.

I no longer feel guilty if I’m not writing all day every day as taking time out benefits me. It was about trusting myself to let go and be more flexible. I’ve never been the quickest writer nor the most disciplined. It seems to come in fits and starts for me. I can become quite obsessive about it at times and leave it alone for days at other times.  I do have other personal family commitments, more so now, which I love and which aren’t an excuse, I’ve just accepted that as much as I love writing, it isn’t the most important thing in my life.  It’s one of them.

Anne: Thank you to Jan for this fascinating insight into her writing life. I must say I like the idea of trusting herself and being flexible in her approach to writing – seems like excellent advice to me.  You can read more about her and her latest book below.

Jan’s latest book 

 

 

From the back cover:

She might have scored a celebrity footballer, but the game isn’t over yet …

Rebecca Dunning should be blissfully happy – after a whirlwind weekend, she and top footballer Alex Heath are still going strong. But as the murkier side of the celebrity lifestyle reveals itself, so does the creeping doubt.

Rebecca finds herself isolated in the fake, flashy world of toxic WAG cliques and ruthless reporters, and when a mysterious online admirer follows Alex’s every move, she struggles to cope. Can she keep playing the media game for the man she loves, or will she have to admit defeat?

If I Ever Doubt You  is the stand-alone sequel to As Weekends Go

Buy link for e-book

Amazon

Buy link for audiobook

Amazon Audio

About Jan:

Jan lives in South East London with her husband and motley crew of cuddly toys. Jan’s written for pleasure from a young age; short stories for classmates, odes for workmates, fun quizzes for family and friends, progressing to the contemporary uplifting dramas she writes today.

The idea for her debut novel, As Weekends Go, sprang from a script she composed as part of a creative writing course assignment via The Writers Bureau. The novel went on to be published by award winning UK independent publishers Choc Lit after winning their Search for a Star competition.

Jan’s latest novel, If I Ever Doubt You, also published by Choc Lit, is the sequel to her debut.

An avid reader, reviewer and all round book devotee, Jan is also one eighth of online writing group The Romaniacs (www.theromaniacs.co.uk) who successfully self-published an anthology of short stories and flash fiction entitled ‘Romaniac Shorts: Fashionably Brief’.

Connect with Jan:

Twitter: @JanBrigden or @TheRomaniacs
Facebook: Jan Brigden – Writer
Blog:  https://janbrigden.wordpress.com/