Thursday, 21 December 2017


Wishing you all a festive season filled with peace, love, friendship and joy . . .

 . . . and a year of high hopes and fulfilled dreams in 2018.

 Melissa x

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Where I'm At . . .

Well, blogging again, obviously, after several months away for various reasons. And writing again, albeit slowly, after several months away for various reasons.  Sometimes it is necessary to step away from your dream and rethink how much you really want that dream - or even if you still want it at all.  And sometimes the only way you can find out is to not follow that dream for a while and see what answer comes up.

So that's what I've been doing - taking time out to rethink. And doing some reading in my chosen genre too in an attempt to enjoy  reading romance again and to remember why I started writing it in the first place.   And I've been reading some truly amazing books by truly amazing and inspiring authors.

Sara Craven, who has just sadly passed away, began writing for Mills and Boon back in 1975. She's an author whose books I've picked up now again over the years, but reading some of her early and more recent work during my 'time out' has reconfirmed just what a brilliant writer she was, with some wonderful page turning books like Comparative Strangers back in 1988 and more recently Seduction Never Lies in 2014.  A truly gifted writer who will be much missed.

I've also thoroughly enjoyed Kate Walker's latest novel A Proposal to Secure his Vengeance, which I literally couldn't put down until I'd finished it - and that wasn't just because of the sexy hero, although I must confess to drooling a bit over that cover - and who wouldn't!

 Like Sara Craven, Kate Walker has also been writing romance for several decades now and what really struck me in reading both these authors is how their books have continuously moved with the times yet they as writers have remained true to their own unique styles and voices, and have written the stories they want to tell, which of course is why readers keep buying and reading their books year after year.

And that is something that every aspiring writer dreams of, isn't it?

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Daring to write!

I've just submitted my first chapter and synopsis to the Mills and Boon Dare Blitz.  This is a new line Harlequin are launching in February next year and they are looking for UK based authors - so if you like writing hot, sexy and explicit modern romance check out their blog. The call for submissions is open from 10th until 18th July, with feedback from the editors in mid August.

I'm also getting geared up for the annual RNA conference this coming weekend, held this year at Harper Adams Agricultural University right in the heart of the lovely Shropshire countryside.

This was the venue for my very first conference four years ago, which seems a lot longer than that now, having attended others in London and in Lancaster.  As always, there will be a wide range of talks and workshops and the opportunity to meet with publishers, editors and agents. And best of all, of course, the change to catch up with my wonderful writing friends and share some quality time with them over a bottle of Prosecco or two :)

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Self Belief is Everything!

Being a big cricket fan, I've spent today listening to the Champion's Trophy final between India and Pakistan. Against all the odds and everyone's expectations, Pakistan won, and by a huge margin, beating probably the best one-day team in the world.  Often the  underdogs, Pakistan can't even play international games at home because foreign teams won't visit, still nervous after the attack on the Sri Lankan national team in Lahore in March 2009.  Seven Sri Lankan cricketers were injured in the attack by armed militants, and six security officials and two civilians were killed during the gun battle that ensued.  Sadly, terrorism is everywhere these days, and the UK is more than aware of that fact after the recent atrocities in Manchester and London. But the Pakistan cricket team, by sheer persistence, passion and hard work, are an example that if  one has the heart and the determination, nothing is impossible and even the greatest odds can be overcome.

What has cricket got to do with writing, you may wonder?  The belief that enabled Pakistan to win today applies to pretty much everything else in life too.  In the pursuit of a publishing contract and a writing career, persistence, passion and hard work are essential. But it is that extra added ingredient - self belief - that can make the difference between winning or losing, success or failure.  It isn't always easy to have belief in one's work, when the writing isn't flowing, when you've lost the plot, or your characters just aren't coming to life. And especially so when your manuscript comes back with a rejection label attached!  Submitting again becomes harder every time and confidence in your work can diminish so that sometimes it's easy to think 'why bother?'

And that's when that magic element of self belief comes in. Because without it, we lose not just our purpose but our passion too. But with it, anything is possible.  Self belief enables us to bounce back, stronger than ever, and keep going forward in pursuit of our goals, no matter how many times we fail.  Because success might come when we least expect it. The way Pakistan won today is surely proof of that and the BBC commentary team seem to agree with me!

Monday, 22 May 2017

A new job

May has always been a month of change for me. Perhaps it's the gentle turning of late spring into early summer, and the weather recently has certainly felt like it.  As I said in my last post, I've decided to return to part-time work in order to devote more time to writing and, as of the 5th of next month, I'll be working three days and writing the rest of the week. And that isn't all!  I've been lucky enough to get a position as visitor experience manager in one of Wales's most beautiful and historic places, Lake Vyrnwy - Llyn Efyrnwy in Welsh - in the heart of Powys.

The lake, owned and run by Severn Trent Water, was formed in the 1880s by the creation of the first stone-built dam of its kind in the world, and it's still pretty impressive today. You get a real shiver down the spine driving across the top of it to the visitor centre and RSPB reserve.  Surrounded by dramatic hills and farmland, it is remote but totally idyllic, and a great day out. There is a lot to do at Vyrnwy, not just bird watching from the hides, but also walking the trails, exploring the sculpture park, cycling around the 12 miles of the lake - or even boating on it - or just browsing the craft centre and enjoying a cup of coffee in the sun and soaking up the tranquility of the place.

The RSPB runs a large organic farm at Vyrnwy and is in the process of re-establishing the ancient heath and blanket bogs up above the lake to provide habitat for declining birds like black grouse and curlews.   The reserve is also home to endangered raptors like hen harriers, merlins and peregrine falcons and in the oak woodlands can be heard pied flycatchers, redstarts and wood warblers. Right outside the shop, on the feeders, there are a host of more familiar birds such as sparrows, chaffinches, siskins and even a rather magnificent male pheasant.

I'm still hanging on to my dream of one day giving up the day job altogether and becoming a full-time writer, but in the meantime there are worse places to work. And I'm really looking forward both to my new job and to getting back to doing some consistent writing as opposed to the 'start-stop-start all over again' kind!

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

The Practical Challenges of Being a Writer

I often think of this quote from Virginia Woolf as, like many other aspiring authors, I try and juggle life and writing every day.  Because no matter how committed one is to one's dream, a living has to be made all the same.  I've been lucky enough for the last ten years to be able to combine part time jobs, occasionally two or three at a time, with my writing, and being an early morning writer, that has usually worked well.  Luck ran out at the end of last year, however, and I had to take on a full time job.  The impact this has had both on the quantity of time I can devote to my writing and to the quality of my work has been huge.  My writing hours have dwindled and my energy and enthusiasm levels have dropped dramatically. There is very little opportunity for walking, which is an activity I try and do every day as it helps clear the creative blocks and gets me doing some exercise as well.

So, while a room of my own is no problem, money is something that is factoring very large in my life right now as I take the decision to change my current full-time job for a part time one again.  I guess it all comes down to where my priorities lie and, for the moment - even though publication feels as far away now as it has at any point over the last decade - I am still committing myself to my goal and putting that goal before anything else.  Now I just need to rekindle my passion, get some energy going, find more balance in my life, and meet the writing deadlines I've set myself for the rest of the year.  Simple? Yes. Easy? No.  Doable? Absolutely!

How do you juggle life, work and your dreams??

Wednesday, 15 March 2017


Although spring doesn't officially start until 21st March, it really felt like it had arrived early and in all its glory today in north west Wales.  The sun shone warmly and the sky was clear blue so, lucky enough to have the day off work, I went for a long walk up in the hills. The beauty of nature at this time of year is truly amazing.  Hedgerows and trees were showing blossom, daffodils were everywhere and other springtime flowers were making an appearance too.

The trees were alive with birds, all of them flitting around looking for mates or, having already paired up, busily gathering material for their nests.  I got a good look at a couple of male Bullfinches showing off before a female, who seemed to be playing hard to get!  Seeing these lovely colourful birds is a real treat as, sadly, they are not as common as they once were in the UK.  Bees too were in abundance and I even saw a butterfly, the first I've seen this year.  So, it may be raining tomorrow but today was definitely one to be out and about and enjoying the lovely world we live in.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Stalking in Fishguard

February is Fishguard Month and last weekend, as per every year, I headed south down the Welsh coast for another of Kate Walker's fabulous writing courses, organized as always by the incredibly hard working Anne and Gerry Hobbs at Writers' Holiday.  As all the attendees had been several times before, and indeed are now famously known as Walker's Stalkers, Kate tailored the course to our own needs as a group and as individuals, with one-to-one feedback on work we'd submitted beforehand.

The approach to the course this year was a little different and we looked in detail at one of Kate's own books, Indebted to Moreno, published in 2016. We'd all read this prior to arrival and in the sessions looked at key scenes which highlighted the things that every good Harlequin Presents romance novel should have - a sexy Alpha hero, a spirited heroine, a page-turning couple-centred story, and sky high emotional intensity throughout.  Needless to say, the book had all that in spades!

It was really useful for me as an aspiring author to get to dissect, analyse and discuss the book in this way, and to think about technique and story-telling in general, e.g. how the story opens, chapter hooks, POV, characterization, setting and - of course - conflict.  It was very generous of Kate to share her work and let us go 'behind the scenes' as it were, and, certainly for me, it set off some light-bulbs and also highlighted some gaping holes in my current WIP - so thank you Kate !

As always, it was wonderful to meet up with writing friends and to share time with them both inside and outside of the classroom. And as always, the weekend went far too quickly and in the blink of an eye it was Sunday afternoon and time to leave.  I did manage to get in a walk along the coastal path before leaving Fishguard but I resisted - just - the urge to go back to the hotel for afternoon tea!

Saturday, 14 January 2017

A New Year and A New Book

Although, to be truthful, this one has been hanging about in the wings since at least the end of November!  Sometimes, like a new seedling, a story needs to take root, to sprout and begin to grow, and that requires a lot of patience on the part of a writer who likes to get going and set a deadline for submission.  As such, this book promises to be a bit of a learning curve but hopefully it will be a period of new growth for me too as a writer.  Perhaps it's because this particular book comes on the back of a fast and furious series of rejections over the last year, some of which were very hard to swallow.  Exploring a different and unfamiliar process, letting the story write itself and set its own pace, means the characters don't do quite what I want them to do sometimes.  But, for now, I'm going with the flow and enjoying a sense of freedom in my writing that I haven't felt for a long time.  I have set a deadline, however, although I have a sneaky suspicion that it may be a constantly moving one!