Now I’m no athlete, that’s for sure, but maintaining a degree of physical fitness is important to me. I’m fortunate and grateful to be in good health and of course I’d like to keep it that way. So taking time out of my working day at the writing desk for some daily exercise seems to me to be a no-brainer.
And my go-to form of exercise is definitely walking. I get out for a walk most days and usually walk for an hour or so. I’m lucky enough to live in a lovely Scottish village with woodland, riverside, hill and country track walks on my doorstep. So it’s no hardship to get out walking and I really don’t have to force myself to do it. In fact I miss it if other stuff gets in the way and I can’t get those vital steps done.
However, the walking thing isn’t only about getting my heart pumping and keeping those muscles and bones strong. It’s about my mental health and my creativity levels too.
For me, nothing beats a brisk walk for working off all those pesky stress hormones. Walking in the outdoors, hearing the birds sing, seeing the sky, the trees, and feeling the sun, wind, or even the rain (I’m in Scotland remember), all help to clear the head and lift the spirits.
But as well as the physical and mental benefits, I’ve found there’s a third benefit to be had. I’ve discovered that the creative part of my brain likes a walk too. I’ve lost count of the number of times when, while out for a walk, I’ve solved that pesky problem I’ve been having with the plot of the novel I’m working on at the time. Or I might have a light bulb moment about a character or a tricky piece of dialogue. And, I have to say, I’m rarely actively thinking about my writing when these breakthroughs and ideas pop into my head. It just happens.
So, yes, here’s to exercise and its multiple benefits.
And speaking of writing, I’m busy doing the final quarter of the current work-in-progress – and I’m loving how the story is unfolding. The working title is Happiness Cottage. It’s a contemporary romance – of course – and it’s set in a fictional village the Scottish Borders. I’m intending for it to be the first in a series of books all set in the same place with a different main couple in each. So although the books to come will all be able to be read as standalones, there will be a chance for series followers to catch up with characters they’ve met in previous books.
I’m enjoying the sparks that go off whenever grumpy farmer Aidan is with Australian visitor Lori and can’t wait to right the romantic ending.
However, setting up a series and inventing a whole community including a village and its neighbouring town is quite a challenge. But more about both these aspects in future posts.
Another great form of exercise in terms of our brains is, of course, reading. Along with the walking, and the writing it’s another thing I couldn’t do without and I always like to share the best of the books I’ve been reading here on the blog. And this month it’s a shout out for An Italian Island Summer by Sue Moorcroft, a favourite author of mine. Safe to say I loved it. I loved the Sicilian island setting, the two troubled main characters and the oh so romantic story. I can highly recommend this book as the perfect summer read.
From the back cover:
Will one summer in Sicily change her life for ever?
After her marriage falls apart, Ursula Quinn is offered the chance to spend the summer working at a hotel on a beautiful island off the coast of Sicily, Italy. Excited by a new adventure, she sets off at once.
At Residenza dei Tringali, Ursula receives a warm welcome from everyone except Alfio, son of the Tringali family. He gave up his life in Barcelona to help his mother Agata with the ailing business, and is frustrated with Ursula’s interference – and she in turn is less than impressed with his attitude. As they spend more time together, though, they begin to see each other in a different light.
But what with Ursula’s ex-husband on her tail, family secrets surfacing and an unexpected offer that makes Alfio question his whole life, there’s plenty to distract them from one another. Can she face her past and he his future, and together make the most of their Sicilian summer?
It’s available in paperback and ebook in bookshops and online.
So, yes, for me as writer and as a human being exercise in all its forms – whether it be for the body, mind or the imagination are all vital.
As always feel free to comment below with your thoughts on exercise or anything else you’d like to respond to from this post. And thank you for reading!
And don’t forget, if you want a more intimate and focussed round up of my current writing such as updates on the work-in-progress, sneak peeks at same, early notification of publication dates, giveaways and lots more, do sign up for my author newsletter. And when you do you’ll receive A FREE BOOK of some of my romantic short stories as a thank you. Just click HERE and fill in your email address.
MY LATEST BOOK
My latest novel is contemporary romance Baby Steps.
It’s available as an ebook and as a paperback and you can buy it HERE
If you’ve read it already please do consider leaving a review at the buy link above. Reviews no matter how brief are so helpful and I appreciate every one.
To find out more about all of my books just go to the BOOKS page HERE on the website.
Yes, publication day is here and I’m so happy to announce that Baby Steps is out today.
You can get it online as a paperback or as an ebook HERE.
I really hope that you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I’d also love it if you could leave a short review HERE
Keep on reading to find out more about Baby Steps and to read Chapter One.
WHAT’S THE STORY ABOUT?
Estranged from her mother, cheated on by her ex and grieving the loss of her brother, emotionally distraught Sophie Campbell decides she needs to focus on her career as a researcher for a TV and radio broadcaster. What she doesn’t need is a man in her life. And as for marriage and children – definitely not.
Honourably discharged from the British army following life-changing injuries sustained while serving in Afghanistan, Steven Jackson is rehabilitated and embracing life to the full. Working as the manager of a support centre for military veterans brings him a great sense of pride and achievement. But he wants more. He wants to meet the love of his life, and to one day be a husband and father.
When Sophie and Steven meet through work, there’s an undeniable chemistry between the two thirty-somethings. But will Steven’s open, caring and patient ways be enough to break down Sophie’s barriers and allow a relationship to develop between them?
Set in the Scottish city of Glasgow, Baby Steps is a contemporary romance which tells a story of love against the odds.
Baby Steps is a spin-off novel from Anne Stormont’s Skye Series of novels. Sophie is the daughter of Rachel one of the main characters in that series and features as a character in the supporting cast, as does Steven. However, Baby Steps can be read as a standalone.
Sophie Campbell groaned when the alarm on her phone beeped. It was a Monday morning in early October and she felt like she’d only just fallen asleep. It had been another bad night, lying awake, tossing and turning, desperate for the morning to come but dreading it too.
After a few minutes of listening to the rain pattering on the bedroom window of her Glasgow flat, she forced herself out of bed. At least work would provide a much-needed distraction. She grimaced at her reflection in the mirror as she made her way to the bathroom. Her hair was a tangled mess and her pale face and strained expression made her look older than her thirty-three years.
Once in the shower she let her tears fall. The pressure of her grief had been relentless – with her every day for the past year – but its intensity had been easing slightly. Recently she’d had days and even weeks when she didn’t cry. But now, with the first anniversary of her brother, Finlay’s, death having just passed, it was back and it was full-on.
As she dried her hair and got dressed she wondered again what had possessed her to take on this latest assignment when her boss, George Brodie, the head of documentary research at BBC Scotland, had offered it to her at short notice on Friday morning. It wasn’t even as if it was in her normal subject areas. She mainly worked on the research for nature and science based programmes. And although she did have a bit of experience on social and cultural ones, she felt she was far from an expert in those fields.
She couldn’t help smiling when she recalled how George’s pitch had gone. He was at his persuasive best.
Usually when she was summoned to his office, the conversation was brief and to the point. The summoning itself had been normal with George suddenly appearing at her workstation and simply saying, “My office.” The offer of coffee and a pastry when she arrived was the first sign that George was going all in.
“Just a coffee, please,” Sophie replied, intrigued as to why George was making such an effort.
“Just over ten years now, isn’t it?” George said after he’d served up their coffees and they were sitting facing each other across his desk. “Since you joined us here in Research.”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“You’ve done well, worked hard, learned a lot and displayed a lot of skill. You’re a real asset to the unit.”
“Thank you. That’s––”
“You keen to move on, get promotion?”
“Well, yes, yes I think I am,” Sophie said now even more curious. “If the right post were to—”
“Senior researcher job at BBC’s Natural History Unit in Bristol, could be coming up in six months or so. Someone like you with your Natural Science degree and all your experience in helping put together outdoor and nature programmes as well as your wider general experience, you’d be ideal. Happy to recommend you for it if you’re interested.”
Of course she was interested. And George knew it, but all he said was, “No need to respond just now. You can think about it. Let me know.”
“Right,” Sophie said, certain this wasn’t the real reason she was there, but she was interested, nevertheless.
“Good. Now the reason I needed to see you today is I want you to leave what you’re working on at the moment and take over another more urgent project.”
Sophie was in the middle of researching a feature on the growing popularity of allotments in Scotland’s cities for a long-running gardening series. She didn’t want to abandon it and besides that she had a deadline to meet.
But before she could respond, George added, “Don’t worry about the allotment project. It’s well on its way. And your trainee co-worker is proving more than competent, largely thanks to your excellent training and support, so she can take over.” George smiled knowingly at her.
Oh, he was good at getting what he wanted, she’d give him that. Flattery, the possibility of promotion, she knew she was being manipulated but she was also intrigued as to what exactly he was asking of her. So Sophie smiled back at him, in what she hoped was also a knowing way, letting him know she knew what he was up to.
George gave an almost imperceptible nod before going on to say, “So, this favour I need,” he leaned his forearms on the desk, clasped his hands and leant towards her, “we recently commissioned a documentary television series. It’s going to be broadcast UK wide. Obviously all the preliminary research work at a general level has been done. But now, of course, it’s down to specifics.” George paused to take a sip of his coffee.
“Of course,” Sophie said, wishing he’d just get on with it.
“Each programme will tell the stories of injured British military veterans making the return to civilian life. The first programme in the series is to be about a Glasgow-based veterans charity called Revive and some of the people who use its services.
“Unfortunately your colleague, Liz Maitland, who was originally tasked with series research has been signed off on sick leave. She should hopefully be back to work on the subsequent episodes but we need someone to step in immediately to do the research for this first one.”
“Right,” said Sophie. “And that someone––”
“That someone needs to be you,” said George. “You have the experience, efficiency and sensitivity to do this. It’ll look good on your CV.”
“Okay,” Sophie said. But she wasn’t sure it was okay.
Her boss then went on to show some uncharacteristic empathy when he said, “I acknowledge that the military subject matter could be tough for you. I haven’t forgotten that your brother died on active service in Afghanistan, so although I would like you to accept the work, I won’t think any less of you if you decline.”
“I … I appreciate that,” Sophie said before swallowing hard and then clearing her throat. She hadn’t expected that. Blunt, insensitive George was definitely easier to handle than this kinder version.
Though, she didn’t have to wait for the former version to reappear as he got to his feet, indicating the meeting was over. “Take an hour to think it over,” he said, “and then let me know what you decide.”
In the end, Sophie didn’t need the hour. She was nothing if not professional. This was work. It was nothing to do with her personal life. Besides, as George had said, it would be a good one for her CV especially as the intention was to base and transmit the series across the whole of the UK.
She was also tempted by the Bristol job and so she asked to be informed of any developments on that front. Maybe a fresh start in a new city hundreds of miles away was just what she needed – both professionally and personally.
Her boss, of course, had been delighted to hand over the military veteran’s programme brief to her, along with the research carried out so far, and she spent the rest of Friday and much of the weekend getting up to speed. As she did so, she admitted to herself that it hadn’t been an entirely head over heart decision to take on this particular job. It had occurred to her that it might make her feel a bit closer to Finlay.
But on that Monday morning as she applied her makeup, she felt a niggle of doubt as to whether that would really be a good thing.
She couldn’t face breakfast and settled for a glass of water instead. After she’d rinsed out the glass she glanced around the open plan kitchen and living room. At least with Rick no longer living there the flat was tidy, though there was still a load of his stuff in the spare bedroom. She should really give him a deadline for collecting it all, tell him she’d bin the lot if he didn’t.
She’d kicked him out a couple of months earlier, having come home early from work and found him in their bed with a woman she not only knew, but had up until then liked. She’d been shocked, hurt and furious when she found out exactly what her lying, cheating boyfriend had been up to. The boyfriend who she’d financially supported when he couldn’t make a proper living as a musician, who’d lived with her rent free for two years, who’d said he loved her. The boyfriend who it turned out couldn’t cope with her being distracted by grief. The boyfriend who, as he put it, ‘needed to distract and comfort himself’ because ‘she’d been so wrapped up in herself over the last year and had nothing left to give him’. The boyfriend who’d been having a months-long affair with Lisa, the talented and pretty singer from his band.
It still hurt but at least she could now concede she was definitely better off without him.
In fact, she reminded herself, as she slipped on her jacket, she was better off without any man. After the way things had ended with Rick, someone she’d truly believed she’d loved and who she had thought loved her, she was unwilling to entrust her damaged heart to anyone else ever again.
She was obviously a hopeless judge of character. Indeed, she’d recently decided the whole love, marriage and having children thing wasn’t for her. These things would only leave her vulnerable to yet more heartbreak and she was so done with all of that. She only had to look at her parents to know this was the right choice for her. No, from now on, she’d be keeping any sexual interactions casual and for fun only.
After all, she also reminded herself, in every other way her life was as good as it could be. She had her flat, a job she loved and good and loyal female friends – friends who she knew would always be on her side.
She took in a deep breath, rolled her shoulders and straightened her back. She was independent and she was strong. She’d proved she could take what life threw at her – including her useless ex, her estrangement from her mother, and even the loss of her darling brother. She was proud that she was still standing in spite of it all.
‘I’ve got this,’ she said to herself as she walked out the door.
With the rain having stopped and the sky clearing, Sophie would have preferred to walk from her flat in Glasgow’s Kelvinside area to the city’s Hyndland district where the Revive charity had its premises. But she would need to go into the office after her interview with the charity’s manager so she took the car for what was only a five-minute drive.
Hyndland was a pleasant, mainly residential area of the city, but even so, for reasons of cost if nothing else, she’d been expecting a charitable organisation like Revive to be housed in a utilitarian concrete box perhaps surrounded by other similar buildings and a gravel car park. But the single-storey, stone-built structure with its pitched and slated roof was much more attractive than that – and the grass and flower beds which surrounded it, along with the tree-lined perimeter, said parkland rather than business park.
As Sophie left her car in the small car park at the side of the building and walked up to the entrance, she realised that her earlier reservations had gone and she was keen to find out more. This was what she did and no matter how tricky the subject matter, this was work. It wasn’t personal and it wasn’t about her.
She was about to press the buzzer at the front entrance when the door opened and she was confronted by one extremely good-looking guy. He looked like he was in his early thirties, around the same age as she was, and he was the epitome of tall, fair and handsome and oh my what a lovely smile he had. “Miss Campbell, I presume,” he said extending his hand.
If you not already done so, you can sign up HERE to subscribe to my newsletter where I chat about my writing, share sneak previews, ask for your opinions on covers etc and offer the occasional giveaway.
Hello to all my blog followers. And thank you to you all for visiting, reading and commenting on yet another year of posts here. I do appreciate it.
Yes, folks, it’s that time of year again! Time to pause and reflect on 2021 and time to look ahead to a brand new year.
Thank Goodness for Books
I’m sure I’m not alone in finding that that the last twelve months have been a bit of a roller coaster – what with one thing and another. Yes pandemic, I’m looking at you. However, I’ve found lots to enjoy and be grateful for too. And along with time spent outdoors, and time with family and friends, it’s been books – reading them and writing them that have provided a lot of comfort and joy.
At the beginning of the year I was busy writing a novel but as spring arrived, I was finding it harder and harder to focus on it. Long story short (yes, I know, that’s hard for a writer to do 😊) Covid related anxiety and depression were causing a bit of brain fogging and concentration was proving difficult. But with the appropriate help I got better.
Writing Therapy Leads to New and Unexpected Novel
However, I still didn’t feel ready to get back to the novel. So instead I decided to have a go at some short stories. For the first one, I picked a couple of minor characters from my Skye series of novels – Sophie (daughter of Rachel, one of the main characters) and Steven. And I began to tell the story of how these two thirty-somethings they met and fell in love. But then, before I knew it, it had gone way beyond a short story and was fast becoming a novella, and then I found I had a whole novel on my hands. It’s now with my editor and I’m hoping for a February publishing date. Watch this space.
Readers Club Newsletter
Meanwhile I’m back writing short stories – and yes, they will remain short – and the plan for them is to give them away as a free collection to people who sign up to subscribe to my Readers’ Club newsletter. That’s another thing I’ve been working on – it’s been a steep learning curve – and it’s been something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time. So again, watch this space.
The Other New Novel
Looking ahead to the new year, I’ll be getting back to writing the temporarily abandoned novel and I actually can’t wait. I’m more than ready to get back at it and I’m raring to go. It has the working title of Happiness Cottage and it’s the first of my planned brand new series of contemporary romances which will all be set in the Scottish Borders. Just as in my unexpected/unplanned novel above, the main characters are thirty-somethings – rather than my usual forty and fifty somethings. And you know what, I’ve rather enjoyed going a bit younger with my lead couple, but the series will also include romantic leads who are older too. I do like a bit of variety.
And yes, you guessed it – watch this space for updates on progress.
During 2021 I’ve read a lot of books. They have included some non-fiction, historical fiction, and crime fiction but, of course, it’s been mostly contemporary romance. No surprises there. There have been a few which I didn’t especially enjoy but I’ve loved the vast majority of the books that have come my way. So picking out my books of the month each month and now also choosing my book of the year has been really difficult. But I’ve applied myself and I’ve done it.
So what books are they?
Christmas Books of the Months November and December
As this will be my last post for this year I’m combining my November/December books of the month choices. All three are lovely Christmas romances.
Underneath the Christmas Tree by Heidi Swain
From the back cover:
Wynter’s Trees is the home of Christmas. For the people of Wynmouth it’s where they get their family Christmas tree, and where Christmas truly comes to life.
But for Liza Wynter, it’s a millstone around her neck. It was her father’s pride and joy but now he’s gone, she can’t have anything to do with it. Until her father’s business partner decides to retire and she must go back to handle the transition to his son Ned.
When Liza arrives, she discovers a much-loved business that’s flourishing under Ned’s stewardship. And she’s happy to stay and help for the Christmas season, but then she has other plans. But will the place where she grew up make her change her mind? And can it weave its Christmas cheer around her heart…?
Under the Mistletoe by Sue Moorcroft
From the back cover:
Christmas. A time for family, friends – and rekindling old flames…
When Laurel returns to the village of Middledip, she’s looking for a quiet life. Adjusting to her recent divorce, she’s ready to spend some time getting back on her feet amidst the glorious snow-dusted countryside.
Yet, life in Middledip is far from straightforward. Coming to the aid of her sister, Rea, as she navigates her own troubles, Laurel barely has a moment to think about where her own life is going.
However, time stands still when she sees her old flame, Grady Cassidy – and it’s soon as if they’ve never been apart. But through her happiness, Laurel remembers why she left the village all those years ago, as she recalls a dark night and Grady’s once-wayward brother, Mac…
Can Laurel learn to forgive and forget? Or will her chances of Christmas under the mistletoe with Grady remain a dream?
Every Day in December by Kitty Wilson
From the back cover:
Two people. One month to fall in love.
‘The perfect Christmas story, full of heart and hope’ Sandy Barker
Belle Wilde loves December. Yes, she’s just lost her job and Christmas is not a good time to find yourself ‘financially challenged’. And yes, her parents are still going on about the fact that she really should have it all together by now. But Belle believes that in December, magic can happen.
Rory Walters hates December. Whilst it looks like his life is together, he’s still reeling from a winter’s night five years ago when his life changed forever. Now back at home, he’s certain that this will be yet another Christmas to endure rather than enjoy.
But as midnight on December 31st draws closer, Belle and Rory’s time together is coming to an end. With a little help from a Christmas miracle could Belle find the one thing she really wants underneath the mistletoe?
Book of the Year 2021
Shock, horror it’s not a romance! It’s actually a crime thriller, and it is:
Double Identity by Alison Morton
From the back cover:
Deeply in love, a chic Parisian lifestyle before her. Now she’s facing prison for murder. It’s three days since dual-national 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?
This was a gripping, unputdownable read. The lead characters of Mel and Jeff are magnificent. The plot is expertly crafted. The settings and the details make it all feel so real. I especially loved the well-judged pacing and oh, feisty Mel, was amazing – her fight scenes just awesome. Be prepared to put everything else on hold when you start reading this – it will quickly have you gripped.
That’s All Folks!
So all that remains is to wish you all a peaceful and joyful festive season spent doing whatever is meaningful and fun for you. And a happy, healthy, and book-filled new year to you all.
As always, feel free to leave your comments below and/or to share your favourite reads of 2021.