Thursday, 24 December 2015

It's Christmas !

I'm really looking forward to Christmas this year.  That might be because I've got a whole ten days off work, or it might have more to do with finishing the edits on my current work in progress a few days before my self-imposed deadline of December 25th :)  Typically, having struggled through a period of  disenchantment,  now I'm full of enthusiasm again and itching to go back to it and tweak.  Isn't that the curse of being a writer?!  I will be disciplined, however, and leave it alone to settle, with just a final read through after the New Year, and then away it goes to the editors.

But I'm not going to deprive myself of romance completely over the holidays - albeit in a purely fictional sense.  I've lined up a few of Georgette Heyer's historical romances to keep me happy.  Her characters are so full of life that they leap off the page and I love her spirited blend of romance, adventure and suspense.  Add in some wine, chocolates, mince pies and candles, and you have  . . . . sheer Festive bliss!


Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year xx

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Latest Arrivals at the Birdfeeders !

I just couldn't resist sharing the latest news from my balcony, namely the arrival of a noisy little flock of Long Tailed Tits!

I've been seeing them in the trees while out walking recently, busily gobbling up the late-autumn seeds, but didn't expect them to venture onto my balcony, as they are a flighty species to say the least. So it was a delightful surprise earlier this week to see them come out of the blue - and how!

They swooped in en mass, twittering nineteen to the dozen, took over the fat ball feeder completely, tails pointing in all directions, then just as suddenly, swooped off again. The poor Blue Tits looked like they'd been mugged !!  

But how sweet is this chatty, marshmallow-coloured little bird?  Their tails are longer than their bodies and, in rural areas in former times, they used to be called 'Bum Barrels' due to the tiny, barrel shaped nest they build.

Hope they are here to stay for the winter at least :)

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Winter Mornings

I've been getting up mega early these last few weeks, obviously to do some writing before heading off for the day job, but also for another, rather lovely, reason.  Winter is fast approaching and that means Bird Feeding Time! Actually, we should feed the birds at other times of the year too, especially in late spring and early summer when they are raising their young, and songbirds have two or three broods of chicks to feed, which sometimes means mum and dad go without.  

(c) RSPB

This year I've made more of my balcony, planting out wildflowers like poppies and cornflowers, bluebells and honeysuckle, and hanging up a few feeders.  I wasn't sure if the birds would come, as I live on a modern housing estate with no gardens to speak of, although backed by woods and farmland.   Well, I needn't have worried! First on the scene were a family of House Sparrows who were roosting in the eves of the house opposite and their young were just leaving the nest.

(c) RSPB

No sooner had I put the fat balls out (Super Suet Balls from the RSPB online shop, only the best!) but the parents were taking turns to fly across for 'takeaways' for their hungry fledglings.  A couple of weeks later, the Blue and Great Tits arrived and - while things were a bit quiet during September and October when there are lots of seeds and berries around - now the feeders are full all day every day.

(c) RSPB

Sometimes a dozen or so are flitting around the balcony and when the Sparrows pile in as well, it can get rather heated as they squabble over the best bits!  A couple of Chaffinches also turn up for the seeds on the floor (Sunflower hearts and wild bird mix) and occasionally Nuthatches and Coal Tits, and once or twice even a Greater Spotted Woodpecker.  And, of course, the nation's favourite, the Robin, who hops around under the fat balls hoovering up the bits that fall out. I've even seen  him trying to cling on to the feeder - without much success sadly!

So, not only am I getting more writing done on these dark, wet and windy mornings, but I have the wonderful pleasure of being serenaded with bird song too.  What better way to start the day?

Blue Tits on the Fat Ball Feeder

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Back on Track - Part II

What's harder than editing?  Editing a book you haven't looked at for six months!  In one sense, fresh eyes are a godsend; in another sense, however, getting yourself back into a story - and into the minds/hearts of characters - you've been away from for so long is a difficult thing to do. As such, deadlines are essential. So, with that in mind, I've set myself a Christmas Day deadline!  And if I don't meet it, I can hardly complain when Santa doesn't leave any presents under my tree :(

For me, self-imposed deadlines are an important factor in keeping my writing not only on track but always positive and always going forward.  How do you keep your work going in the direction you want it go?

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Back on Track

Last weekend I attended another of Kate Walker's fabulous writing retreats, organized by Malaga Workshops.  The Hayes in Swanwick was a venue I'd not been to before and, although not far from Derby, it is set in lovely grounds and surrounded by farmland.  I went with the aim of not actually doing much writing as I wanted to do a lot of thinking instead. And, thanks to Kate's critique of my manuscript and her generous comments and encouragement, I was able to reassess very  carefully and positively my current work in progress. As such, from arriving feeling a little jaded, I came away with a much clearer idea of where the book is going and with renewed energy to do the editing necessary for submission after Christmas.

As always, meeting up with writing friends - aka the legendary Walker's Stalkers - was great and a fun and productive weekend flew by far too quickly.  There were a couple of new faces there too and the group really worked well, with everyone getting lots of writing done in between the feedback sessions. And when creativity proved elusive, there were the tranquil gardens to explore, which really helped clear one's head and recharge the batteries.   We even kept calm when our 'honesty' bar mysteriously disappeared on the last night.  Happily, the course organizer Lois Maddox tracked it down with her usual and admirable tenacity!

Friday, 18 September 2015

A Dedication!

Rachael Thomas's September HMB release From One Night To Wife is dedicated to me!  What a lovely honour, Rachael, thank you so much. It was a pleasure and a privilege to be there with you when you got the call nearly two years ago.  Many congratulations on this, your fifth book to date, and I am so enjoying your continued and well deserved success. 

I hope to return the honour and dedicate a book to you one day soon :)

You can read more about Rachael and her writing on her website:

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Being Responsive !

Finally got my website fully responsive yesterday, thanks to the excellent and very patient help of my web designer, Technoleg Taliesin.  It didn't help my being so pedantic and knowing exactly what I wanted, down to the last nth. But, as a writer - like any other 'business' - my website reflects both my work and my persona, so for me it was very important to get it perfect, even for the tiniest mobile device.  I think it is absolutely fabulous - what you do think?

Apart from tweaking my website - check it out at - I've been busy getting to grips with my new and rewarding job in nature and wildlife conservation. I've also been re-editing a book I started a long time ago, which has proved an interesting process and one that has made me question the wisdom of revisiting something that was written several years ago.   Whether it's because I've 'grown' as a writer since then or whether my characters belong in that particular story and no other, I don't know.  Either way, it's been a challenging journey but at last The End is in sight - or will be by this time next week !

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Romantic Novelists' Association Conference 2015

Last weekend I travelled to London for this year's RNA conference, held at St Mary's University, located alongside a canal that came complete with ducks and rats!  Weather-wise it was glorious and at times too hot but it was lovely to be in the Big City and to meet up with writing friends, old and new.


The sessions were as informative and useful as ever, especially Julie Cohen's  'Art of the Rewrite' - as that's something I always seem to be doing - and the HM&B Series workshop on 'Writing Success: The Essentials' - which was not only essential - naturally - but also dynamic and fun.

Getting some positive and encouraging feedback about my work was on a par with hearing that several writing friends also received good vibes on their work too.   Way to go, girls :)

Lovely canal-side shots apart, my ancient camera wasn't up to it this year and almost all the ones I took came out blurred :(  Cue yesterday's purchase of my first Smartphone, but in the meantime, if you have any photos, I'd love to get copies !

Monday, 29 June 2015

The value of deadlines

In writing, like anything else, deadlines are part of the job.  For unpublished writers, perhaps they don't seem so important and, as such, are easy to move or ignore altogether! But, in many ways, self-imposed deadlines are every bit as important as those an editor or publisher sets you.  They may even be crucial because they are often the only thing that is keeping your writing on track. This has certainly been my experience with my current book, which I finished this morning, right on target :)  For some reason, this story has been the most difficult one I've written, even though it shouldn't have been, and stuck on Chapter 5 not so long back - and stuck not once but twice - I wondered if I'd ever get to The End!  There is still a bit of layering and some editing to do -  though hopefully not too much as I tend to edit along the way - but the satisfaction of finishing Book Number Five is a great feeling and makes starting Number Six even more of an incentive!

En la escritura, como cualquier otra cosa, los plazos son partes del trabajo. Para los escritores no publicados, tal vez los plazos no parecen tan importante y fáciles de mover o ignorar por completo! Pero los plazos autoimpuestos son tan importantes como los que establecido por un editor. Incluso pueden ser mas importante, para mantener la escritura en la pista. Sin duda, eso ha sido mi experiencia con mi libro actual, que terminé esta mañana, justo en el blanco :)  Por alguna razón, esta historia fue la más difícil que he escrito, a pesar de que no debería haber sido, y me preguntaba si iba a llegar a la Final! Todavía hay un poco de edición para hacer - aunque espero no demasiado, ya que tiendo a editar en el camino - pero la satisfacción de terminar Libro Numero Cinco es una gran sensación, que hace a comenzar del Libro Número Seis incluso más de un incentivo!

Monday, 15 June 2015

Out and about yet again!

XH558   (c) NAC
June is turning out to be a busy month - a new job, a writing deadline and lots of interesting things going on.  This weekend I went to the Welshpool Air Show and, as usual, it was a fabulous day.  Just small enough to feel intimate but big enough to feel there's really something going on, and the day just flew (how could I resist that pun!) The weather held, the air displays were breath-taking and the skill and enthusiasm of the pilots, both civil and military, was justly appreciated by the 10,000 or so crowd. 

The amazing aircraft  included the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, with Spitfire, Hurricane and Dakota, the Eurofighter Typhoon (my ears are still buzzing) and - the highlight of course - the Avro Vulcan XH558, in what is probably her last flying year :(  Awesome is such an overused word but seeing this graceful and iconic aeroplane overhead was truly awesome . . . and then some!

Then today, as part of the Gregynog Festival, I went to visit Plas Llandinam, former home of industrialist David Davies and now a country house hotel.  It is set in beautiful surroundings, between Newtown and Llanidloes and even though it's just off the main road, you forget all about the outside world when you turn into the tree-lined driveway and go up the hill to the house.

It's not a huge nor an ostentatious house, but rather grand with a quiet and unassuming dignity, and far reaching views over the Welsh hills. It has a small museum too, telling the history of the family, and the personal articles dotted all around made me feel that not only was I inside a family home, but that they were all still there!

Price of the visit also included afternoon tea on the lawn which, surrounded by stunning gardens, was serenity itself.

Back to reality now and gearing up for an early start on the book tomorrow morning.  Five thousand words away from the HEA, I plan to finish it well before the RNA  conference in July, held this year in London, and looking forward to getting an editor's critique in the one-to-one sessions on what has been a difficult book. But no pain, no gain, as they say . . . !   

Saturday, 16 May 2015

The Merry Month

In my view, May is the loveliest month in the calendar, full of bluebells and birdsong and bursting with the heady scents of late spring.  As the sunny days lengthen and summer draws closer, and bold blue skies look down on vibrant green fields, everything around me seems to take on a new energy.  May, for me, has always been a period of the year that has brought changes in my life and, sure enough, it's all change once again, as I'm busy looking for a new job.


It's hard to sit indoors filling in application forms, however, when a walk through the woods beckons me outside. One of the joys of my current job working from home is being able to down tools for an hour or so in the middle of the afternoon and take a stroll.


Walking alone is a good way to clear the mind and blow some of the cobwebs away. Not that one is really alone in the countryside.  The fields are full of sheep and cows and horses and the trees alive with birds, their music turning the air into a rich symphonic celebration of life.



Getting some exercise for the body is also good for the brain and walking leisurely along the lanes, surrounded by nature, is a great way to mull over my current story at the same time. Inspiration comes in many forms but for me, being out in the open air, away from it all for a few hours, is one of the most productive. After all, what writer could fail to be uplifted by beautiful surroundings like these?

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Rural Idyll and Productive Writing

They say a change is as good as a rest so I spent a relaxing and rejuvenating few days away last week with writing friend Rachael Thomas.  We rented a lovely little cottage just outside Llanwrtyd Wells in mid Wales and it was truly idyllic.  Surrounded by hills, farmland and forestry, complete with a fourteenth century church, there were plenty of mind-clearing walks to enjoy in between our writing sessions and (on the whole!) healthy meals, and the combination worked beautifully for me.

As I'd said in my previous post, I was stuck on Chapter Five of my current WIP and had been for a frustrating few weeks but a couple of days away from it all really unblocked my creative channels.  Working at home, which I am lucky enough to be able to do, is fine up to a point but sometimes a change of scenery, as well as having an inspiring fellow writer to bounce ideas around with, really makes a difference.

Not only did I manage to get past the sticking point but got another two chapters done in draft and am on the home run at last.  I know exactly where the story is going now and also the bits that need editing or changing.  I also know my characters better too and, best of all, I finally fell in love with my hero - and it wasn't just because he got his kit off :) 

Thanks to Rachael for the fabulous photos.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Grrrr . . . grrr . . . grinding to a halt !!

Otherwise known, in my case anyway, as the Chapter Five Crunch.  Why Chapter Five?  It always seems to happen at this point, in every single book.  Creating two characters, bringing them together, getting to know them, giving them  'a believable and sustainable conflict' and then . . . bang, the brick wall.

Why???  Partly, I think, because around Chapter Five is the 'getting to know you' time, and for two characters with deep internal (and a couple of external) conflicts, getting to know each other means talking, spending time together, opening up, beginning to trust, letting emotions out.   It's hard and often painful for them, and it's even more painful for the author!  Usually, I can keep going, push through writer's block, but with this particular Chapter Five - nope, nada, no way !

I read a great tip on somebody's blog a while back - unfortunately I can't remember whose - but the author's advice was to do something for your writing every day.  During those times when you just can't write, do something to keep your work alive during the slump -  re-read what you've written already, check out other writing blogs, write your own blog, or simply mull things over, anything, just so long as it is about and for your work in progress. Hence this particular (frustrated!)  blog today.

Sometimes, however, the only solution is to step away for a day or so, or for as long as it takes (as long as it's not too long!) to see the way through the woods again. So that's what I'm doing this week - Taking Five!!  Back soon - I hope!

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Another Weekend Away

Marie Francis and Sarah Snowdon
On a writing retreat, of course, what else?  I joined up with several regular writing writing friends at Weetwood Hall in Leeds last weekend for another Malaga workshop.  Unlike my February course at Fishguard, this was largely time spent on our own, writing and focussing on feedback given by the course tutor, Kate Walker, on work submitted beforehand.

As per usual, there were several 'lightbulb' moments and it was wonderful to be able to share the process with others, bounce ideas around, and benefit from the excitement and enthusiasm.  

One of the most helpful things for me this time round was a character questionnaire shared with the group by Claire.  It really was like a door opening, as getting to know my characters is always a sticking point for me.

Sally-Ann, Claire and Kate Walker
Claire had done a lot of character work by putting her current hero and heroine through an interview with a society interviewer who asked them the sort of questions they didn't want to be asked, questions that made them uncomfortable, and questions that had both the fictional interviewer and us really seeing deep inside the character.

I gave it a go with my hero and, yes you've guessed it, another lightbulb went on! Thanks so much for sharing that, Claire.

I do have to confess, however, that after the lightbulb moment, I spent a couple of hours soaking in a bath with a glass of wine - who said writing retreats were all about writing anyway?

Actually, the weekend was very intense, with lots of discussion in between the writing bouts, and sometimes a little bit of  time out is not a bad thing.   As you can see from the photos, there were many coffee breaks too but even those were full of talk about writing - and a bit of web surfing looking for the perfect hero - or in this case a combination of several different heroes!


Put him down, woman!  
Nerys and Kim doing  spot of oggling.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Fishguard and Friendship

Fishguard Bay Hotel (c) Writers' Holiday

A couple of weekends ago, I went on the Advanced Romance Writers' course at the Fishguard Bay Hotel, run by the lovely Anne and Gerry Hobbs of  Writers' Holiday.  This was my fourth year of attending and it really keeps getting better every time, as I remarked to the course tutor, Kate Walker.  The group, a mix of old and new members,  was incredibly dynamic and this was especially true of the critique session. We discussed each others work in an intelligent and constructive way and it was brilliant to see a lot of very good writing had been done over the past year. As always, I got a huge amount out of this fabulous course and I'm sure everyone else who attended did too. And, as always, I've already booked my place for next year :)
A few days after getting back from Fishguard, I met up with another writing friend who couldn't make the course this year, Sarah Snowdon.  We had a lovely lunch in Porthmadog, which is about halfway between our respective homes, and two hours of talking 'shop' simply flew by.  Sarah's just completed her third book and, like me, is awaiting feedback on a full submission to Mills and Boon Modern.  Needless to say, I'm keeping my fingers crossed for us both!

Friendship among writers is such a vital and reinforcing part of an occupation that of necessity is a very solo one most of the time,  especially if one lives in rural bliss!  So for me, getting together with fellow writers, either on courses or for the occasional coffee, is a blessing, and the support and generosity of the friends I've made over the last few years is just one more wonderful reason to be a Romance Writer!!

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Is it really almost the end of January ??

Isn't this supposed to be the longest, darkest, coldest month of the year? The beginning of that little hiatus in mood before Spring arrives in March . . or April . . or even May?   Long winter evenings are perfect for catching up on some reading, of course.  I've just finished Pamela Hartshorne's amazing novel, The Memory of Midnight, a vivid, haunting and, at times, harrowing story of two women, separated by the span of four centuries but linked supernaturally by their entrapment in sadistic marriages. The narrative is so rich and the characters so skillfully drawn that I was pulled right into the book, and I'm not exaggerating when I say I felt every bone-crunching blow dealt to Nell by the evil and perverted Ralph and held my breath as I listened to the menacing silence at the end of Tess's phone - we both knew it was Martin all along!
The tension builds with each chapter and, as I neared a climax that I knew would be difficult, I almost didn't go back!  But I'd gotten to know these two women so well, and I cared about them so much, that I had to be with them at the end of their journeys. Ultimately, although there is cruelty, suffering, grief and fear, there are also many moments of joy and love and courage, and an inextinguishable  desire for life and for living.  And it is these things that the reader takes away with them.   It is an incredibly uplifting novel, one that reaffirms the ability of the human spirit to survive and conquer even the worst of fates.  A highly recommended read.

The novel, not surprisingly, got me thinking about the process of creating characters of flesh and blood, hearts and souls, that come alive for the reader and takes her on a journey, whatever it happens to be.  And I've found myself digging deeper into the hearts of my own characters this week, as I'm reworking my last year's NWS manuscript for submission to an editor.

Maybe the gap of several months while I got on with this year's submission was a good settling time? Or maybe, just maybe, I've actually grown as an author in the intervening months! It's hard to gauge one's own progress but one thing I do know;  writing, like a story, is a journey too and, despite the ups and downs and the frustration of rejection, every word should be enjoyed to the max!!

And for a truly wonderful writing journey, check out Rachael Thomas's  blog last week :)