Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Are We Friends On Instagram?

I love using Instagram, whether I'm sharing photos of my dog, Luna (cute), my attempts at baking or crochet or other crafty stuff, or shouting about books (my own, but mostly other people's). And I love seeing other people's pictures and stories (especially if they contain books and/or dogs and/or cats).

Instagram is a lovely, friendly place to be (I have yet to see an Instagram spat) and it's probably* my favourite social media platform, so I'm always looking for more people to follow!

*it absolutely is my favourite

Friday, 24 July 2020

Free Romantic Comedy (Warning: May Give You Cravings For Cake)

I send out my newsletters 4-5 times a year, where subscribers receive free short stories, extra content, book recommendations and more. Plus, once you've subscribed, you'll receive a welcome email where you can claim a FREE ebook, Six Dates, which is exclusively available to my subscribers!

If you've read The Little Teashop of Broken Hearts, you'll recognise the setting of Six Dates - plus the delicious cakes and biscuits Natalie is treated to during her dates. And if you fancy having a go at baking them yourself, there are recipes included in the book. If you do get baking, I'd love to know how you get on - you can tag me on Twitter or Instagram, or share your pics on my Facebook page.

Speed dating has never been so sweet!

Natalie has been cajoled into attending a speed dating event with a difference - the difference being a delicious baked treat to enjoy with each date. But will her possible matches prove to be just as sweet?

Subscribe to my newsletter for free here to find out!

Friday, 17 July 2020

Home Schooling For Dummies*: We Did It!

*Me the parent, not the kid

We did it! We somehow got through lockdown home schooling and we can now breathe a massive sigh of relief - and give ourselves an enormous pat on the back. It's been a long 17 weeks (probably the longest term-and-a-bit in the history of schooling) but it's a time we won't forget. I'm going to keep all of Isobel's home schoolwork in a file, which will be something to look back on fondly with the grandkids one day.

For Isobel, it isn't only the end of home schooling - it's the end of primary school. When she started Year 6 back in September, I never imagined her leaving ceremony would be a socially-distanced one in the school playground ('social distance' wasn't even a thing back then. What a time that was!) but I'm glad she got to go back yesterday and say goodbye to her friends, her teachers, and the school she's attended since nursery. Before lockdown, she'd been walking to and from school by herself, but this was my last chance to do the school run, and I took it!

Tuesday, 7 July 2020


What is procrastination?

Procrastination is the act of delaying or postponing a task

Examples of procrastination:

Checking emails. And Twitter. And Facebook. And Instagram. And back to Twitter...

Housework (seriously, some people do this. Not me, obviously, but other less normal people)

Writing blog posts about procrastination instead of writing their book

Yes, I am writing a blog post about procrastination instead of working on Book 12 because, right now, this seems a lot easier. I'm in The Slump, where the words won't seem to come no matter how much I will them to. It's doubly frustrating because I've planned the book and know what should be happening on the page. In fact, it's triply frustrating because I've reached 60,000 words of the book. The End is tantalisingly close and yet the words are stuck.

The last 5,000 words of the 60,000 were hard won, but I got there. I celebrated with a post-it note progress marker and a doodled butterfly. And then... nothing. There were NO MORE WORDS to be had. Cleo's story had decided to grind to a half even though it isn't finished yet. And not only that, I started to pick holes in the part that was written. I don't edit as I write - I start at Chapter One and power through until The End and fix everything later. That's what second drafts are for, and it's always worked for me because I know if I start to tinker, I won't progress.

I don't like these nagging thoughts telling me how rubbish the book is, or telling me the bit I'm writing now should be several chapters back, or that there's so much work to do on the second draft and I haven't even finished the first yet. These thoughts really aren't helping the words to flow, and ignoring them and having a leisurely scroll through Twitter isn't going to get the words on the page either, so I'm doing something I don't usually do yet: I'm writing my notes for Draft Two while working on the first. I'm making a note of all those nagging thoughts, all the things I keep reminding myself need fixing, and ploughing on with the book. I've managed to add a thousand words to the book this morning, so fingers crossed it continues to work and I'll be celebrating 70,000 words with a post-it note soon!

Friday, 3 July 2020

Home Schooling For Dummies*: 2 Weeks To Go!

*Me the parent, not the kid

If you're still home-schooling, give yourself a massive pat on the back because the end is in sight. In just two weeks, our home school adventure/nightmare (delete as applicable) will be over!

I've just had a look at my original home school blog post, and it brought back how anxious I felt when the text message came through from Isobel's school telling us that her school had closed. I had no idea what I was doing, so I'm grateful for the help that was out there: the online classes from her teachers and the work they set, Twinkl for their resources and worksheets, BBC bite-size, and other parents on Twitter, especially those who admitted how stressful they were finding it too because they made me feel normal. We usually present our best lives on social media, so I can only imagine how much of a failure I'd have felt if everyone else was showing how wonderful it all was going (even if they were hiding the bad bits).

I was also feeling anxious about my writing, worrying how I was going to work with a house full of people while juggling home-schooling. Luckily, Isobel's at an age where she can mostly get on with the work set, so I take my hat off to those parents with younger children - you really do deserve the hugest pat on the back!

We quite quickly found a new normal, with three of us working in one room (my older daughter has been doing her college work upstairs, on her own. She's obviously the smartest of us all) and while it hasn't always been a pleasant experience, we've somehow muddled through. I usually struggle to write during the school holidays, but as I've written 60,000 words of a new book so far and released the paperback of Everything Changes But You during lockdown, it should be a breeze from now on. Right? I guess we'll find out in a couple of weeks...

Friday, 26 June 2020

Keep It Pinteresting

Reaching the 40,000 words milestone for Book 12 a couple of weeks ago was amazing as it meant I was around the halfway mark. But it also comes with a hint of trepidation; reaching the halfway point is a reminder that the book is no longer shiny and new, yet you've still got a huge chunk to write before you can type those glorious words: The End. 

This part of the writing process can have me feeling a bit bogged down with it all and in The Slump. Sometimes this is full-on writer's block, where the words simply won't come. Or sometimes there's an idea or two for new books floating around my head, jumping around and calling for my attention - and these ideas are shiny and new. I need to somehow keep myself in this book and one way I've found is to keep myself 'pinterested' in the story.

It's a really simple idea of highlighting the important plot points of your book in Pinterest by pinning relevant images. I did this for The 12 Christmases of You & Me, and it was fun picking out the images and seeing the story build up visually rather than just seeing a Word document. You can see my Pinterest board for the book here.

When I started to write Book 12, I set up a new Pinterest board and started to build the story up in images. It's only the first draft, so some of the pins may change or get removed later on, but I love seeing my book in a different medium. I'm writing a romantic comedy, but this would work for any genre, and it doesn't matter if you're writing your first novel or you're got a few books under your belt - we all need a bit of motivation and focus sometimes!

Friday, 19 June 2020

Home Schooling For Dummies*: Still Home Schooling

*Me the parent, not the kid

Some schools have started to take some of their pupils back in. My daughter's school decided to only take their Year 1 classes back in, but as we're in the North West and the R rate is still high here, they postponed this (though they may be in now, I'm not sure). Isobel's in Year 6 and they're looking at bringing them in from 29th June for the last three weeks - but only if the parents are happy to do this. As things stands, we're going to continue with the home schooling.

Our timetable has had another tweak over the past couple of weeks. Because some pupils were due to go back into the school, the online classes Isobel had about three times a week have stopped because the teachers are needed for the classroom 'bubbles' at school, and I've also decided we're having a little break from basketball in the garden after my washing line came down three times in one week.

As well as the schoolwork provided by school and the worksheets I downloaded from Twinkl, Isobel has been watching BBC Bitesize every day, which has been a godsend over these past few months. It's twenty blissful minutes where somebody else takes over. I'm not sure if they'll stop too now kids are starting to go back into school or if they'll carry on until the end of term, but I'm grateful for every episode that's been made!

There are four weeks of term left, so we're on the home stretch now. We can do this.

Friday, 12 June 2020

Cover Reveal: The 12 Christmases of You & Me

I'm so excited to be able to share the cover for The 12 Christmases of You & Me. I absolutely love it and I hope you do too!

What if you could go back in time and fix the biggest mistake of your life?

Two years ago, Maisie’s best friend walked out of her life and she hasn’t heard from him since. When she wakes up in 1994, she naturally assumes she’s dreaming. But when she finds herself in the past again the next night and her actions in the dream alter her present-day life, she begins to wonder if she’s somehow hopping back in time. And if she is time-travelling, can she save her friendship with Jonas?

When Maisie is forced to relive Christmases of the past, will she face up to her mistakes, or make them all over again?

The 12 Christmases of You & Me is a magical tale of friendship, first loves, and learning to live in the present.

The 12 Christmases of You & Me is out on 20th October, but is available to pre-order right now for just 99p/99c!

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Reaching The Halfway Point

I've been recording my writing milestones on post-it notes and sharing them on social media in a bid to keep myself motivated while writing Book 12, and last week I was able to share my 40,000 words post-it note.

That's a lot of words, but more than that, it represents the halfway point of the book as I'm aiming for 80,000 words. This is a massive morale boost, especially as I was worried about finding the time to write during lockdown. I'm home-schooling my youngest daughter so I was nervous about starting a new book during this time - would I be able to write and home-school? Would I be too stressed to concentrate (I definitely don't have the skills and patience to teach!) But I'm getting there, word by word, and each post-it note feels like an achievement.

I've loved writing the first half of Cleo's story, and I'm looking forward to the next half and seeing where she takes me!

Thursday, 4 June 2020

Want To Have YOUR Name Used In My Book?

I've been busy writing Book 12 over the past few weeks, but one of my characters doesn't have a name yet. With The Accidental Life Swap and The 12 Christmases of You & Me, I asked my newsletter subscribers if they would like their name used for a character and I thought I'd do the same with this book.

My next newsletter will be going out next week and I'll be asking for names to go in the hat. If you haven't subscribed and would like to, it's quick, easy and free. Plus, every subscriber receives a free ebook quick read, Six Dates, which is exclusive to my newsletter subscribers AND there'll be a sneaky peek at the cover for The Twelve Christmases of You & Me in the newsletter, which you'll get to see before anybody else!

Click here for more information or to subscribe.

Friday, 29 May 2020

Writing To Music

Music is an important part of my writing process, and I think this can filter through to my books, whether I'm 'borrowing' songs for titles (Everything Changes But You) or giving a character a passion for a type of music (A Beginner's Guide To Salad's Ruth and her love of cheesy pop, for example).

I always write with music in the background (or through headphones now the house is full because of lockdown). Sometimes it's music to set the mood (festive, summery, break-up songs) and other times it's simply music I love. With Book 12, the music I'm listening to while writing the book came about in a slightly different way.

I needed a song for a particular scene in the book, preferably one from the 70s, and after a little procrastinating search (my writing days are littered with these), I found the perfect song. The Buzzcocks' 'Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve?)' was added into the book and I popped it onto my spotify playlist for the book.

All my books have a playlist, sometimes made up of music mentioned in the book or sometimes music that follows a similar theme to the story (you can find the playlists by clicking the 'Book Extras' option under each book on the right-hand side of the blog). With Book 12, music plays an important part, so the playlist will be made up of music mentioned, including The Buzzcocks' offering.

I really liked the song and found myself playing it at the start of each writing session. I did this so many times, the song easily puts me into Cleo's world so I started a new playlist, imaginatively called the 'Writing Book 12' playlist. 'Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've)' is the first song and I've added others that set me in the right frame of mind for writing the book.

It's only a small playlist at the moment, but I'm adding to it all the time.

Friday, 22 May 2020

Home Schooling For Dummies*: The Shit Sandwich

*Me, the parent, not the kid

Confession: we've had a bit of a shit sandwich of home-schooling over the past couple of weeks.

The first slice of bread for the sandwich (good) was that SATs were due to be held last week. Usually, this would be BAD because I have a hate/hate relationship with SATs. But the tests have been scrapped this year, which means Isobel doesn't have to sit them. Hurrah!

But then we have the shitty sandwich filling - and it's a double helping. First, we have the government's insistence that schools should open on 1st June (too soon, in my opinion), and our local council agrees. Isobel is in Year 6, which are supposed to be going back and although we've agreed as a family that this won't be happening for her on 1st June, it adds even more anxiety to this whole thing.

And secondly, we've had a bit of a tough week. There's been frustration and shouting and the lowest point was the debate** whether a calculator can produce two different answers if the same information is put in. Isobel later said they're not allowed to use calculators in school. NOW I KNOW WHY.

** debate is stretching the truth. There was frustration and a major difference of opinion. Lots of it.

But now we get to enjoy the other slice of bread that makes up our shit sandwich - half term! I have never been more grateful for a school holiday.

Friday, 15 May 2020

Setting Goals and Marking Milestones

When I'm writing, I usually set myself writing goals, usually 2,000 words per day but reduced to 1,000 words for last couple of books (apart from during November last year when I took part in Nano). And I've reduced the daily word count even further for Book 12.

Life BC (before Coronavirus) meant I could write all day when the kids were at school, but now we're combining working and home-schooling the youngest, it isn't so easy. I knew I'd get stressed if I attempted to keep up the same pace as before, but I also know I'm lazy and that without some kind of goal in mind, I wouldn't get much - if anything - done.

I don't have a deadline for this book, but I've created one for myself, because I want to start a new book for this year's Nano in November. I'd like a bit of time to plan that book, so ideally I want the first draft of Book 12 finished in September. I worked out I could comfortably get this draft done in time by writing 4,000 words per week, which works out at 800 words a day, which doesn't seem so daunting.

Each time I reach my weekly target (sometimes before the end of the week - very exciting times), I mark it off in my diary (I'm a simple beast, who responds well to the smallest rewards) and it's a boost to see that I'm getting there, bit by bit. I've also started marking the bigger milestones with post-it notes (see? Simple beast, small reward) and I've posted these on my social media. Again, it's a visual reminder that even though my daily word count goal is quite low, I am building up the words and one day I'll have a full-length manuscript.

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Book News: Everything Changes But You Paperback

I'm chuffed to bits to be able to present the paperback of Everything Changes But You, which is available from Amazon now!

The book's cover had a makeover a little while and I love how it looks 'in the flesh' - I couldn't stop stroking it when my author copies arrived! I wrote Everything Changes But You back in 2014, but I still love Ally's story with its sprinkling of magic and I hope it'll find new readers in its additional format.

Be careful what you wish for...

Ally Richmond is dreading turning thirty and bidding farewell to her youth. And when her husband says he wants to start a family, she begins to panic.

Is this all that life has to offer from now on? Popping out babies and growing old gracefully? She wants a life crammed with glamour and spontaneous adventure, not one full of dirty nappies and night feeds.

When Ally makes a silly birthday wish for a new, exciting life, her wish is granted.

But when Ally is presented with the freedom and opportunities she craves, she soon realises this new life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and that there really is no place like home. But can she find her way back - or is she stuck in this new reality forever?

Monday, 11 May 2020

The Little Things In Lockdown

During lockdown, I've really appreciated the little things I would usually take for granted; sitting outside to read my book (I have a whole post dedicated to my little garden here), watching the plants in my garden and kitchen windowsill grow, sitting down to watch a film (or theatre these days) with the family.

Books and writing have always been important to me, but they've been even more of a comfort over the past few weeks, allowing me to step away from reality for a little while and escape into a world where Coronavirus doesn't exist (I wrote a piece for my local writing group's blog about Coronavirus and what it means for my own writing here) and books have kept me company during the dreaded car park shuffle outside the supermarket (if you're going to be standing around for ages, you may as well do it with a book in hand, right?)

TV and film has been a good way to escape reality too, and they've become a much bigger deal. We don't just sit down to watch a film anymore in this house - we make sure we have popcorn and sweets to enjoy them with, and it goes in my diary, so we have something to look forward to at the weekend. Seriously. All the little things now go in my diary now; I bought some scones and clotted cream so we could have a cream tea and in the diary it went, when a theatre put their panto of Cinderella on YouTube, it went in the diary, along with our rock-painting plans and other little activities that I normally wouldn't think twice about.

I've been downloading box sets from iPlayer and catching up with stuff on Netflix, and I've found some gems I would have otherwise missed. I didn't watch Last Tango in Halifax when it was on originally, but I devoured the whole lot and loved it. I have no idea why I didn't watch it first time round, but I'm glad I've caught up!

With everyone at home all the time, I've been trying to do something different at the weekends, whether it's panto at home or rock painting or baking etc. One great success was the lime loaf the kids and I baked a couple of weekends ago. 

I'd been craving a slice of lemon loaf from the coffee shop in town, but obviously that wasn't possible, so I decided we'd give baking our own a go. I eventually got my hands on some flour and eggs, but my local Asda didn't have any lemons. They did have their green cousins, so we thought we'd see how a lime loaf would turn out...

It turned out AMAZING! I'd never made any kind of loaf before, so I was really proud of our efforts. It was lovely, especially the lime icing.

I used this recipe, substituting the lemons for limes. For the icing, I mixed 100g of icing sugar with the juice from a half a lime (I'd make a bit more next time though!)

This of course went in the diary.

Other family 'events' have been the community-style games of Scrabble we've played, where you have one set of tiles and take your turn whenever you get the chance. It's a more relaxed version where you can take your time, but still competitive! We set our board up in the kitchen with a score sheet and each game lasts a few days.

Other 'little things' that have made me happy are my plants. The raspberry plant we planted last year has grown back and is shooting up, so we should have some fruit during the summer.

I've also sown dahlias for the first time (and sown seeds indoors for the first time - I usually throw them in the big pots outside and hope the best!) and they're growing nicely.

I've re-potted some of the bigger ones into their own pots. My local Asda didn't have pots (it's only a little store, bless it) so I've used anything pot-shaped (or anything that could be cut into a pot, like the bottom of plastic milk bottles) and poked/drilled holes in their bottoms. I like the idea of reusing stuff I'd normally throw away, and I'm going to keep doing this even when the lockdown has ended.

What little things have kept you going during lockdown? Have you discovered anything new?

Friday, 8 May 2020

Home Schooling For Dummies*: A New Normal

*Me, the parent, not the kid

When is a bank holiday not a bank holiday? When they've moved it from the Monday to Friday to coincide with VE Day. And guess who forgot about this until Sunday night, after Isobel had gone to bed under the assumption that she had a day off 'school' the next day? Yup, this numpty.

It seemed cruel to snatch her day off away from her in the morning, so I didn't. She had the day off schoolwork. AND she's had a day off today, on the real bank holiday.

My school, my rules.

I'm finally starting to feel a bit more relaxed about this home-school stuff. We have our new timetable that seems to be working, and it's starting to feel... normal. Or a new normal, at least. We're five weeks into homeschooling (with two weeks of Easter hols in between) and the thought of Isobel going off to school every morning seems a bit weird. That isn't to say I think it's a good idea for her to home-school for a long period - far from it. Supervising is very different to teaching, which I discovered last week when Isobel needed help with her maths.

Do you remember when we were at school and we scoffed at maths, and questioned when we'd ever need to know these things? Well, that came back to bite me on the arse when I couldn't explain how to work out how many non-red cars were originally in a car park if some left and 60% of those remaining were red. NOW IS THE TIME I NEED TO KNOW THAT STUFF, and I failed.

My brain was frazzled, but luckily BBC bite-size came to the rescue when we found a clip with the formula you need to follow (confession: I still don't understand it).

If lockdown has taught me anything over these past few weeks, it's that I shouldn't give up the day job and go into teaching.

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

Kindle Unlimited - Read My Books For Free!

If you're a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, you can currently read five of my romantic comedies for free (though this can change over time, so please do check).

The books are:

One summer can change everything…

Mae has no time for men in her life! Local vet Alfie might be totally gorgeous but she’s far too busy looking after her young daughter and running her little bed & breakfast by the sea.

Willow is in the middle of building her dream home with her husband, Ethan, when disaster strikes. And with every month that passes she secretly worries that her happy ever after will never come true…

Melody only intended to stay in the bustling seaside town for a few days. But when she meets Hugo – the charming man in the ice cream van – she decides to stay a little longer.

It seems the little bed & breakfast is full of surprises!

Ruth loves nothing more than curling up in front of the telly with a family-sized bar of chocolate. She doesn’t do diets and she certainly doesn’t do exercise. But all that changes when she’s invited to her school reunion.

Bullied at school for being overweight, Ruth’s first reaction is to rip the invitation into a million pieces. But then Ruth hatches a plan. She’ll lose the weight and arrive at the reunion looking gorgeous and glamorous, leaving her old classmates in awe. Especially her former crush, Zack O’Connell.

With the help of her friends and a new, unbelievably hot colleague, Ruth begins her transformation. With six months until the reunion, losing weight will be a piece of cake, right?

Three women. Three weddings. But who will say I do – and who will say I don’t?

Ruth can’t quite believe she’s managed to snag The One but when he proposes, she can finally accept that she’s found her happily ever after. But when Ruth finds herself booking her dream church for just six weeks away, she starts to panic. You can’t plan a whole wedding at such short notice. Can you?

Trina has only just walked down the aisle, but she’s already starting to question whether they can make their marriage work. Will they survive the honeymoon period, or have they just made a very big – and very expensive – mistake?

Erin has somehow found herself agreeing to be a bridesmaid for the tackiest wedding known to man. With drunk hens, ridiculous outfits and a terrifying wedding planner, just what has Erin signed up for?

Will you…date me?

Delilah James, singleton and smoothie-addict, has six months to find a date for her oldest friend’s wedding. Oh, and to prove to her ex, best man Ben, that she has totally moved on since he dumped her out-of-the-blue nine months, eight days and seventeen hours ago…

So, with her two BFFs playing Cupid, Delilah launches herself into the high-tech, fast-paced and frankly terrifying world of dating. Luckily there’s the hot new guy at work, Adam Sinclair, to practice her flirting on – even if, as a colleague, he’s strictly off-limits!

Yet time’s running out and date after disastrous date forces Delilah to tell a little white lie – and invent a fake boyfriend! But will her secret crush on Adam ruin everything? Does she even care about Ben anymore? And is it too late to untangle her web of lies and take a real date to the wedding…?

Be careful what you wish for...

Ally Richmond is dreading turning thirty and bidding farewell to her youth. And when her husband says he wants to start a family, she begins to panic.

Is this all that life has to offer from now on? Popping out babies and growing old gracefully? She wants a life crammed with glamour and spontaneous adventure, not one full of dirty nappies and night feeds.

When Ally makes a silly birthday wish for a new, exciting life, her wish is granted.

But when Ally is presented with the freedom and opportunities she craves, she soon realises this new life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and that there really is no place like home. But can she find her way back - or is she stuck in this new reality forever?

Happy Reading! :)