The Seven Deadly Sins of Writers

Just seven? Seriously, this wasn’t a difficult post to write. I can think of many ways authors make life difficult for themselves. But they are complex creatures… yes, I can see their partners or family – or editors! – nodding vigorously in agreement. All of these are based on my own experience, and I’ve worked hard to cross some off my list. How many do you tick? Perhaps you’d like to comment below anonymously!

Before we start, this is how the dictionary defines a sin:
“An act regarded as a serious or regrettable fault, offence, or omission.”

One… the biggest ego in the world – which can so quickly swing to being the smallest. Whilst starting a first draft, I have what I call “X Factor Moments”. That is, flashes of thinking the book I am writing is so brilliant that any film director would be mad not to turn it into a movie. Then, usually, a third of the way through a manuscript, the total opposite happens and I suffer a massive crisis of confidence. It’s an exhausting rollercoaster and a regrettable fault, indeed, because it can shred a writer’s nerves.

Two… using writing as an excuse to justify overindulging in substances. Coffee, wine, chocolate, cake – be it a bad review or fantastic book launch, we’ll tell ourselves our poison of choice is the only way to commiserate or celebrate. This inevitably leads to writer’s bottom and is a huge offence against our health. Last year I took myself in hand and got cycling. I still enjoy my coffee and cake but try to aim for moderation.

Three… Comparison. With other authors – which, inevitably, leads to jealousy. I blogged about this here and can heartily recommend this post if you ever suffer  pangs of wishing you were J K Rowling. Remember, your own success could be just around the corner. Comparing yourself is fruitless as there is a lot more to an author’s career than just the quality of their work. Luck plays a part and it is pointless wasting energy fretting over something that you can never consciously acquire. Instead focus on learning, improving and becoming the best version of yourself.

Four… Use their job as a threat. I do this quite a lot. “Be nice (read that as ‘do a good job’), or I’ll write you, as a villain, into my next book.” I say it with a sweet smile and little tinkling laugh, but believe me, I mean every word. This phrase has come in handy with all sorts of people, including an optician, tiler and a gynaecologist!

Five… Selfies. I now take these regularly to promote my work. And yes, I admit the sin of vanity – I do sometimes use Instagram filters. Like the one below. It’s a coaster about coffee because my upcoming May release, The New Beginnings Coffee Club, features this marvellous drink a lot. Last week I visited my editor and we were talking about photographers who ask clients which is their “best” side. Most of us wouldn’t know but *shamed face* I do now. Although I can never remember which it is!

Six... An obsession with social media. Hands up. At all hours I feel compelled to check my notifications on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. I tell my family – and worse, myself – that this is purely for work. That funny gif of Brad Pitt? *Ahem*, um yes, it might inspire a character. And don’t get me started about checking the Amazon ranking of a newly released novel!

Seven… The blame game when things go wrong. The fact is, the publishing industry – the charts, readers, reviews – it’s all such a random, fickle, unpredictable business. Yes, sometimes causes can be pin-pointed, but prolonged negative thinking, resentments, bitterness – they are highly destructive and ultimately futile. If it’s impossible to focus on the positives – or they just aren’t there – then alter your situation, even if that means changing agent or publisher. I find meditation and mindfulness help. Plus a recent interest in Buddhism. Rubbish happens and will probably happen again. Usually it isn’t personal. For your own sake, try to move forwards.

Coffee Club Chat!

Yesterday I was thrilled to visit my publisher, HQDigital, at the News Building on London Bridge where HarperCollins is based. They had run a competition for bloggers to meet me for coffee and chat about my upcoming release, The New Beginnings Coffee Club. It was especially enjoyable for me to take part in a physical event to celebrate this novel’s release, as so much of my writing life is spent online. So I really appreciated the Coffee Club squad (as I now call them – bloggers and editors alike!) giving up their time.

Talking of coffee, that’s the first thing I thought of when I arrived at Stockport station to make the two hour train journey to Euston. And lesson learnt from my last, nauseous journey to London, I sat forward-facing and didn’t read too much! The weather was gorgeous and in no time at all, I found myself in one of the HarperCollins board rooms, lapping up the beautiful views of the capital’s skyline  – and more of the black stuff.

How wonderful to meet well-respected bloggers Rachel Gilbey (left) and Sharon Wilden. Their reputation precedes them and, along with my editor Victoria and editorial assistant Hannah, we spent three hours chatting, gossiping and belly-laughing about the publishing business, books and my new novel. On hand was an array of tiffin and biscuits, coffee and sparkling water, and we talked about industry trends and our favourite authors.The time whizzed by and it was really fascinating to hear the bloggers’ views on reading, writing and the industry – my editor and I fired off many questions! And I enjoyed explaining about the characters and themes in my  new book which is very close to my heart.

Also, I was super excited to see the fantastic book trailer for my new novel! My editor offered to show it to me before Rachel and Sharon arrived, but I managed to hold off for the premiere!

 

All in all it was such an exciting day. Thanks to Rachel and Sharon for their time and jokes! And remember, ladies, what happens at The News Building stays there!!

Seven Signs you’re a Coffee Addict!

My name’s Sam and I’m… a coffee addict. Got the T-shirt, literally! No two ways about it. The black stuff equates to my writing fuel… well, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it! And putting together this blog post wasn’t difficult, as all of these signs apply to me. How about you?

One…Your favourite barista knows exactly what you drink, you go in there so often. For me, it’s either a small, black Americano or a medium one with an extra shot of hot water. Or, occasionally a small hot chocolate. My local barista always seems to be able to read my mood and guess!

Two… You’ll make a detour to go to your favourite coffee shop. Often, when I need a couple of items from the supermarket, instead of walking to the nearest ten minutes away, I’ll march a whole half-an-hour into town just so that I can get my coffee shop fix!

Three… You rate places by the standard of their coffee. Museums, garden centres, airports, department stores… Their actual purpose as a building is secondary to your caffeine needs!

Four… You have a top table in your head of your favourite cafes for certain hot drinks. My current one – for hot chocolate? Marks & Spencer first, followed closely by Le Depart cafe in St Michel, Paris (I visited last week!), then Waitrose and finally Starbucks.

Five… You suffer the classic coffee-addict’s weekend migraine. Supping your Americanos or Lattes from seven am each day, when you are up and out to work, you body starts to suffer from withdrawal when you have a lie-in on a Saturday and deny it that first early caffeine hit.

Six… Even if you are staying in the coffee shop, you order your drink in a take-away cup because it stays hotter for longer and delays that sad moment when your caffeine is all gone.

Seven… You don’t one hundred per cent trust anyone who doesn’t drink coffee. Tea? That’s a bit namby pamby 🙂

And, just for me,  I think I ought to add on eight… You write a novel about your favourite drink! The New Beginnings Coffee Club is set in a lovely village cafe, run by a rather gorgeous, enigmatic barista called Noah.

It’s a must-read for caffeine fans!

 

 

 

 

Padlocked in Paris!

Last week I enjoyed a lovely trip to Paris. I worked there ooh, thirty years ago, and soon remembered how to navigate my way around the underground and ask for the most important thing, in French – a cafe and gateau! In fact, my romantic memories of the place inspired my 2014 novel From Paris with Love. And not much had changed. The underground still smelt musty! The Sacre Coeur still stole my heart. It was perfect April weather, with blue skies and lots of pink blossom. We enjoyed Tunisian tagines in St Michel, the bustle of the shoppers in the Champs Elysees and husband and I got a little carried away, kissing under the Eiffel Tower 🙂

However, there was one thing that was unexpected and different – padlocks, bearing sweethearts names, EVERYWHERE. Apparently they used to be fixed largely on one of the Parisian bridges, the Pont des Arts, but by 2015 there were almost one million. Structurally, the bridge was beginning to suffer with the weight, so the authorities cut them off.

However, undeterred, tourists now fix them in other places – for example in a statue’s hand…

Or on a pavement chain…

I really enjoyed reading the different messages engraved on the variety of coloured locks – although to others they could be seen as environmentally destructive or as eyesores. And whilst I appreciated them, would I follow this tradition myself? Apparently this symbolic gesture has been made for centuries across the world and padlocks can be seen in many capitals now. But what if you break up badly with your partner or spouse? Would you really want a permanent symbol of that relationship existing or even standing proud? Personally, no! Certainly not if it was in my locality. It wouldn’t be so bad if it was out of sight, in another continent.

Still, it inspired me, as a romance writer. My heart warms at the thought of  besotted couples wanting to express their love in such a public manner.

To me they simply add to the beauty of possibly the most charming city in the world.

 

Love in a cup – Writers and Coffee

T.S. Eliot once said “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons,” and I certainly feel like that about my writing career (although unlike Eliot, I see this as a positive thing!) This rich, chestnut-coloured liquid (I take mine straight) has fuelled bursts of inspiration and helped settled my nerves after a rejection. And it always accompanies a baked treat if there is cause for celebration. Like nothing else (okay, apart from my husband and kids) coffee has been a steadying influence along the rollercoaster journey of becoming a published author. It’s a big part of my writing life and inspired my next novel  out in May, The New Beginnings Coffee Club. Hands up, I’ve conducted something of a love affair with this drink, for many years now. As have many writers. Legend has it that Lee Child drinks 30 cups of the black stuff, every day!

So is it the caffeine that attracts me? No – purists brace yourselves, but I only drink decaff. Yet decaffeinated coffee has come a long way in the last five years, with restaurants and cafes going the extra mile and installing machines that will produce it, instead of offering only instant. I don’t get that chemical hit. So what’s the attraction? For me its the flavour, its richness, the warmth.  I always drink coffee with a biscuit or cake. So no doubt my hit is from that sugar. Nothing keeps me at my desk like an large Americano and slice of cake like the banana loaf below. Just the smoky, roasted aroma makes me feel settled and ready to put finger to keyboard. Perhaps this was why playwright John van Druten said “I think if I were a woman I’d wear coffee as a perfume.

Having said that, we’ve all, at some point, drunk a bad cup – yet still finish it,  even draining the dregs. And I think author Edward Abbey summed up how I feel, when he said “Our culture runs on coffee and gasoline, the first often tasting like the second.” It’s as if my authorly brain sends out messages to consume, regardless of flavour, because it knows that beautiful liquid is a necessary creative tool!

At least five times a week I go into a coffee shop ( and I did work out the maths of how much that means I am spending in a year, and needed a lie-down afterwards!) This breaks the routine of my stay-at-home author job. Sometimes I meet friends, writerly or not. Often though, I just go on my own and spend the time planning out the next chapter of a book. A change of surroundings can be hugely inspiring. And, as explained in the picture below, going out for a coffee means so much more than just going into a shop.

Novelist Gertrude Stein certainly agreed that there is something special about the experience of drinking coffee:
Coffee is a lot more than just a drink; it’s something happening. Not as in hip, but like an event, a place to be, but not like a location, but like somewhere within yourself. It gives you time, but not actual hours or minutes, but a chance to be, like be yourself, and have a second cup.”

I loved writing The New Beginnings Coffee Club, which is about a cafe, in a small village, that has a real community feel. Jenny Masters’ charmed existence comes crashing down around her ears. Can a little bit of caffeine really help her become the woman life always intended her to be?

This book features my most favourite character ever and if you love feel-good stories – and coffee – it’s up for preorder here.

 

 

Never Complain, Never Explain…

There come’s a time, in every author’s life, when they get a bad review. And the more successful your book is – the more reviews it garners – the higher the likelihood of those 1* and 2* ones coming in. Just take a look at your favourite author’s Amazon page and you’ll see what I mean. No one is immune. So, here are my top tips for coping with those harsh words…

Top Tips for Dealing with Bad Reviews

Firstly… accept the fact that it is UNREALISTIC to expect everyone to love your work. In life, not everyone will like us, and the same goes for our book babies. People have a perfect right to express their opinion and will freely do so, especially if they have forked out hard-earned pennies to buy  your novel. Try not to take their view personally.

Secondly… Learn to differentiate between the constructive reviews and insulting ones. I always read my bad reviews (not all authors do!) and you become used to spotting a personal or offensive tone. Fortunately, they are rarer. Most reviewers take the time to explain their point of view fairly, and I do take on board the comments that are constructive from those reviews. Really, it’s a gift, being given an insight into how someone else sees your work. “I really wanted to enjoy this book, but…” or “It just didn’t work for me because…” On occasion, some observations have made me reconsider my writing techniques, and question them next time I put finger to keyboard. I truly appreciate the time anyone takes to write a review and understand that if someone has felt disappointed, they need to express why. On the journey to publication I had to take a lot of criticism on board and I don’t see why this should stop, simply because I am now published.

Thirdly, in the words of Kate Moss… Never complain, never explain. DO NOT ENGAGE WITH WRITERS OF BAD REVIEWS. They are entitled to their view. Don’t moan about it. At the same time, do not feel the need to explain or justify yourself. Just let it be and move on.

Fourthly… be mountain-like. Lately I have developed an interest in meditation and one visualisation I do involves looking at a mountain and then becoming the mountain… let me explain: a mountain never changes. It stands solid. Whether it is spring, summer, autumn or winter. Whether it is day or night. Whether it is sunny, rainy, windy or snowing. Whether a visitor to the mountain calls it beautiful – or calls it plain… the mountain is not affected by any of these external changes. It remains strong within itself.
In other words, as long as you are being true to yourself with your writing- and, in my opinion, have an open-mind regarding your agent’s/editor’s advice and revisions – then nothing else matters. Stand firm amidst all the weather and be proud of your work.

Finally… try to keep a sense of humour and perspective. Be grateful! You’ve made it! Your work is actually out there and people are reading it. Okay, some may not like every page, but at least your novels are finally getting an audience which, presumably, is something you have worked very hard for.

And if you want a laugh, here are a few of the best – and worst! – quotes from reviews for one of the books I have written, that overall got a great rating but still picked up some unfavourable opinions:

I devoured this book in a day!

A little slice of paradise.

To say that I LOVED this book would be a huge understatement

Samantha is a funny, talented writer that makes the words jump off the page

 

Don’t waste your time, life is too short

Chewing gum for the mind

Tough going.

Will be avoiding this author in the future

Harsh comments do hurt – of course they do –  but don’t dwell on them. Eventually, you will be able to read them with a wry smile.  I am just bracing myself for the reaction to my eighth novel, released on 5th May, The New Beginnings Coffee Club. It has one of my most favourite characters ever in it  and I very much hope my loyal readers enjoy the story – along with any new readers who might be fans of coffee 🙂 But who knows. Let’s hope I don’t need too many strong americanos when reviews come in!New Beginnings final cover

 

 

The Great British Write-off!

When it comes to finding success, writing is much like baking. At the weekend I went to author Christie Barlow‘s publication party and was determined to take a cake to celebrate. However, my scales were broken, so I decided I was such a good baker, I could guess the ingredients’ weights. What a mistake. That cake ended up in the bin. The next cake’s icing was too runny but looked okay. So we strapped the cake onto the car’s back seat and off we set – not thinking that the backseat is set at angle, plus the heating was on. Needless to say, the icing melted and the top layer off sponge slid off. The result is below!

cake fail christie

I’ve always prided myself on my baking but learnt many lessons from this episode and, effectively, this failure will (hopefully) lead to success next time I attempt such a cake. And it is much the same for writing. I have failed time and time again over the years – still do – but those failures were/are essential, in order for me to learn to improve and hopefully succeed.

When I first started writing, hands up, I felt a teeny sense of entitlement – I’d written a novel. Not many people did that. Surely I deserved a publishing deal? Time and time again I’d be disappointed when rejections came back. But these continued failures eventually made me realise my expectations were not realistic. If I’d given up writing after the first book, I’d probably, still to this day, be thinking that that particular book deserved a contract. But by not giving up, and continuing to fail in this way, I eventually realised that to succeed, I needed to wake up and understand that writing a novel was just the beginning of a very long journey to finding a book deal. And I thank goodness now that my first manuscript never saw the light of day! I learned a lot from all the rejection letters, pictured below.

rejection letters

 

Also, at the beginning, I kept making the same two mistakes – I’d create a main character that came across as whiny (I thought she was simply sharing her angst) and I would also drop a lot of backstory into the first few chapters. Being told where I was going wrong, more than once, eventually made me work really hard at developing appealing protagonists and opening chapters that dived straight into the immediate action instead of giving away the plot of the whole book before I’d hardly started.

I wrote several books before I eventually signed my deal in 2013 – no, I’m not saying how many! And, I learnt so much from each “failure”. One, for example, was a totally high concept book preceded by nothing on the shelves. Agents and publishers had no idea where to place it. I’d written 100% what I wanted, without keeping an eye on the market. And I’m all for that, if you aren’t so concerned about publication or sales figures, but writing is my job, I have bills to pay, I can’t afford to take a risk at the moment. So I learnt that, whilst writing from the heart is paramount, to fulfil my own personal aspirations I must keep an eye on the current market and be prepared to make small compromises in order to make sure that any book I create will fit into a genre already out there.

In fact, that reminds me… the original idea for my bestselling 2015 novel, Game of Scones, was set in… heaven. Ahem, I can still remember my editor’s face when we discussed it. I’d failed to realise that I needed to keep within my brand. I learnt through this and came up with a different idea that I loved. It taught me to think more about readers and what they want/expect from me.

Rejections can be seen as failures. But they aren’t. They are simply the industry’s way of telling you there is more to learn. I can honestly say that every author I know, who has been determined and persevered over the years, humbly learning from their mistakes, has “made it”.

Nor should bad reviews be seen as failures. I’ve learnt a lot from the constructive ones and, hopefully, they have helped me improved my craft and inch nearer to success.

So, try to keep some perspective when you feel you have failed. You haven’t. Don’t ever think you are a write-off. No doubt Mary Berry suffered many soggy bottoms when she first started out! It is hard. I’ve shed tears. Proclaimed at the unfairness of it all. But we aren’t failing if we put our work out there. That takes guts. And the bravest part is being able to admit when we are wrong and start again.

As Colin Powell once said:

There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure.

 

Fabulous Fun with Mrs Gary Barlow!

Er okay. That’s a tiny white lie. I actually spent yesterday afternoon at author Christie Barlow’s publication party for her new book Evie’s Year of Taking Chances. She has a husband, not called Gary, who is clearly very tolerant of her obsession with said Take That singer and who shares the same surname! I wonder if he feels there are three in the marriage? (Well, I did spy a life-size cardboard cut-out of Gary in Christie’s writing room. And, ahem, okay, I gave it a quick hug :)) Needless to say, the entertainment was huge fun – a Gary tribute act. Here is an all-motion snap of Christie shaking her stuff…

christie dancing

I caught up with lovely authors, Bella Osborne and Tilly Tennant (catch their latest books by clicking on their names)…

me Bella Tilly

 

and super bloggers, Joanne Robertson and Annette Hannah

 

me and Annette

 

Christie provided plenty of drinks, plus a buffet and it was great to have  a day out with my husband who, along with the other men, shot bemused glances at the ladeez swooning over “Gary” !

If you fancy treating yourself to Christie’s latest book, you can buy it HERE.

Below is the blurb:

 

It’s Evie’s birthday and the start of a year she’ll never forget. An emotional story of love, friendship and grabbing life by the horns.

Evie’s job has always been her safe haven. As a librarian in the little town of Becton she loses herself in books – after all it’s far easier to read about other people’s problems than set about solving her own.

Then, one birthday, everything is turned upside down. A mysterious parcel containing a beautiful book with a poignant inscription arrives for Evie. It’s the beginning of a new chapter for Evie and she’s inspired to try and find her real mother.

Evie’s search leads her to meet handsome author Noah Jones. Charming and intelligent, Noah seems the perfect catch but what Evie doesn’t realise is that he is hiding something – a key to Evie’s past.

As Evie gets closer to Noah and discovering her mother, she must take a giant leap of faith. Can she embrace the new and make this her year of taking chances? And if she does, will she get her heart broken?

A romantic, funny and poignant story of living life to the full and finding love in the most unlikely of places. Fans of Debbie Johnson and Cathy Bramley will adore this book!

 

Top five reactions when people discover I’M AN AUTHOR.

Recently I’ve made a lot of new friends (in-the-flesh, for a change, and not just online!) and the way they react, on discovering my profession, usually falls into one of five categories, some of which  make me a bit wary of wearing my “I’m a writer” T-shirt.

1  They become starry-eyed. In awe. I blame JK Rowling for this 🙂 People imagine red carpet events and sales in the millions. They start inserting complex words into their conversation (that I don’t understand) and talk of the high-falutin’ literary works they read, as if intimidated. So I thank them, but if pressed further, make it clear I’m nothing special. I’m not curing cancer nor have I discovered a new planet. I’m simply lucky enough to be getting paid for an activity I adore.

2  Almost without exception, they declare that they have always thought of writing a novel. This irritates some authors, but not me – as I’ve said above, I’m not exceptional. If I can do it, why not anyone else? I’m a grafter – had to keep my nose to the grindstone during my four years at university, unlike some friends who could socialise as much as they pleased and just cram at the last minute. It’s been the same with writing – I wrote novel after novel at home, for eight years filled with tears and rejection, before landing my publishing deal. So when people react like this I say go for it! You might surprise yourself. Or, you  might discover it is a lot harder than you imagined.

me writer tshirt

3  Quite often, when people discover my genre – romantic comedy – their awe turns to disdain. And I annoy myself by going on the defensive. I laud Mills & Boon authors who earn more than your average writer could dream of. I explain what a diverse, popular genre it is. I did this recently and received the sneery reply “I’m sure it is”. I imagine, in some circles, actors find this if they tell people they perform in a soap and not on the Shakespearean stage. I’m working on not letting these people press my buttons. Huge skill is required in making prose sound chatty and light. The same prejudice is sometimes shown towards children’s authors. I just have to accept that his is just one small downside to a career I thoroughly enjoy.

4  People say what a difficult job it must be – don’t I ever run out of ideas? I explain my belief that the brain, like any muscle, performs better the more you use it. Before you know it, you automatically take on board inspiration. I used to particularly find this when selling short stories. At the beginning I struggled to write even one. But before my novel deal, I sold 50 in one year. My brain just seemed to adapt to searching out suitable material. What’s more, there are a lot more challenging jobs out there, like nursing or serving burgers and fries all day. So yes, you do require determination and stamina but your passion makes it an easy career to follow.

5  The final reaction – it must be the only job in the world where people feel they have a perfect right to ask how much you earn! Not that this bothers me too much. In fact (just between us) I take a certain pleasure in telling them that most writers never earn enough for it to be their only source of income, and watching their jaws drop! Again, I blame JK Rowling (sorry!) for their misconception that being an author automatically means riches beyond your heart’s desire. If you are lucky, with a decent back catalogue out there, then yes, one day you might earn enough to support a mortgage and family. But don’t count on it. It’s not a profession you enter to become a millionaire.

Mindfulness for Writers

One way or another, 2016 was a pretty stressful year for me. And for many, I guess.  Often I compared the world to a spinning top and wished that, just for ten minutes, I could get off. And I think I might have landed upon a way to do just that. Mindfulness. A form of meditation that encourages you to concentrate just on the present; to not worry about the future or dwell upon the past.

How often have you walked down street and suddenly reached your destination, without having observed the route – because your  mind is full of everyday concerns? Mindfulness helps push those worry-some thoughts to one side, for a while, by encouraging you to really focus on your surroundings. Either the noises – traffic, aeroplanes, birds, pedestrians chatting… or the sights, such as the detailed shape and colour of buildings. This enables us to get off the spinning top for a few minutes and relax!

mindfulness crystals

Yesterday I went on a mindfulness walk – I’m doing a course and this was a planned excursion. We studied the textures and colours of the woodland and river. We listened hard to the birds and ended with a super meditation. Below is a photo I took of a log’s perfect reflection.

mindfulness log 2

Here is a tree’s trunk, with contrasting colours and peeling bark. Mindfulness is about observing and appreciating the detail.

mindfulnes bark

So, how can this help my job as an author? Well, mindfulness requires you to connect with all your five senses on an intimate level – and the five senses are so important, in writing, for conveying settings, feelings – EVERYTHING –  to the reader. As a novelist, I do my best to write in the most sensory way possible, but mindfulness is training me how to really become aware of  the detail. That way the story becomes fuller and more relatable and realistic for the reader.

Eating a biscuit? Okay. Let’s be mindful about the five senses! Say with a fruit and oat cookie.

Sight – its surface is rough, with oat ridges and soft spots filled with succulent raisins and perhaps apple. The biscuit is baked to a warm, inviting brown colour. The round shape is not a perfect circle and it is too big to eat in one go. It is solid. Chunky. Thick. Looks filling and unbreakable.

Smell – a subtle sweetness, increased by the fruit but subdued by the oats. A similar aroma to apple crumble. It reminds you of baking sessions with your mother. A cosy kitchen with sweet treats in the oven. Buttery and comforting.

Hearing – as you bite in, there is a snapping noise as a bit breaks off. Then munching  sounds as you chew and break it into smaller parts. The whole process quietens down as saliva mixes with the biscuit and makes it almost liquid as it travels silently down your throat.

Touch – initially as solid as concrete when your teeth touch the outside. But after a little pressure, your teeth sink in and break off a part. Then that chunk moves to the side of your mouth and  becomes chewy as your molars go up and down on the raisin and apple bits. Eventually it crumbles across your tongue, spreading nicely to hit all those tastebuds. The whole experience is satisfying and makes you feel full. There is a sense of safety, well-being and happiness. You recall more memories of childhood baking and time spent with Mum or coffee and cake excursions with friends or a loved one.

Taste – solid oaty flavours dominate until you chew and then burst of sweetness dance on your tongue as the apple bits and raisins break apart. Apple crumble. Flapjack. Breakfast cereal. A satisfying taste that isn’t rich and sickly, and leaves you wanting more.

So, forgive me, if my novels become a little longer! A cup of tea and slice of cake could become a whole new adventure! But seriously, why not consider taking some time out to connect with the fundamentals? It will give you a whole new set of tools to deal with the complexities of modern life.