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!

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Blind Dates and Writing Mates

On Saturday I had the pleasure of attending a get-together in Birmingham for authors and bloggers. It usually takes place once a month, either there or in London and is a fantastic opportunity to meet online friends from the writing world. And my enjoyment of this weekend had ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the fact that I saw Peter Andre at Birmingham New Street station (but that’s another story…) 🙂

However it is not without some trepidation – excitement aside – that I board my train. Will I recognise everyone from their profile picture? Will their personality be as I expect, from the tweets and Facebook exchanges we have enjoyed? At its basest – will we get on? It is just like a blind date without the romance!

birmingham October better

 

Here I am with lovely Phillipa Ashley on the left, author of Christmas at the Cornish Cafe. We had known each other for years, but never met. I am glad to say she was just as friendly, sincere and funny as I expected and a walking oracle when it comes to Poldark. On the right is Tishylou, a fabulous book blogger. I had met her before and – again – her true, bubbly personality shone through in person, just like it does on the screen.

This, however, is not always the case. I have met writers I considered lighthearted, who turned out to be quite serious. And vice versa. No bad thing, it just comes as a surprise. Whilst you may feel you ‘know’ someone well online, it takes a face-to-face encounter to seal the deal. And it makes me wonder what other writerly folks think of me. Hmm. Perhaps I shouldn’t mull that over too closely…!

There have been humorous moments – humorous in retrospect that is. Some profile thumbnails, particularly on Facebook, are not very clear and I am ashamed to say that more than once I have spent a while talking to one author and eventually realised I have confused them with someone else. Try backing out of that one. And it’s an instant guilt-trip when someone greets me as an old friend and it takes me a few moments – panicking! – to fathom out their face. Perhaps it’s just as well that most of the parties provide nametags. That would have prevented me from muddling up an agent and editor like I did last year at an awards event. In my defence they were both young and blonde and… Okay. No excuses really. Especially as one was heavily pregnant. However the editor was lovely when I realised my mistake, and said I could call her anything I wanted 🙂

So yes. Blind dates with writerly mates. No romance but plenty of laughs and discussion. And it is interesting to talk about more than our love of books. As a full-time novelist, I forget sometimes that other writerly peeps also hold-down jobs unrelated directly to the profession. I met one author who is an accountant and a blogger who works in a library and as a teaching assistant.

Plus the networking is great. Members of the writing community are very generous and I feel, after real-life meets, are even more likely to retweet and support each other. Also I’ve yet to meet up with someone who has appeared nothing at all like I expected and after a meeting I’d say the online relationship does take on a different  – a deeper – dimension. Nothing beats giving someone a real-life hug instead of relying on typing emoticons.

 

Fifties Diner Fangirling with author Helen Cox!

Hello Helen, it’s great to have you visit my blog – especially as you are a fellow fan of fifties diners. As you know I adored your debut book Milkshakes and Heartbreaks at the Starlight Diner. It’s a 5* from me and at a great price of only 99p!

Helen

I wrote my novella How to Get Hitched in Ten Days after visiting Cornwall and am thrilled that today it goes FREE for a limited time today (readers take note!) Cornwall is home to so many roadside diners and I just couldn’t resist using one of them as inspiration. What inspired you to set you Starlight series in such a restaurant?

I was a waitress for a long time myself and although that was in a Yorkshire tea-room, rather than in a New York diner, I think the writer in me always felt an eatery would be a great place to set a story. These places are a community unto themselves brimming with regular customers, complete strangers and people who visit only every so often whenever they’re in town. They may be small in terms of physical size but their doors are open to the world and thus they present endless possibilities as a setting.

Moreover, unlike in your wonderful novella where you start from a point of relationship crisis, I was keen to write the opening to a reluctant romance and I thought a waitress would be an ideal candidate for a protagonist on that score. As a waitress, you have to speak to every customer so it was quite a lot of fun putting my central character in a position where she was avoiding relationships but was obliged to speak to the hot actor who was paying her more than an average amount of attention. I’m kind to my characters like that.

Helen pic

A community – yes, I think that sums up exactly how I feel about fifties diners. And as for their menu…My favourite diner food has to be pie and ice cream. I’m not a massive fan of burgers or hotdogs as the only meat I eat is chicken – although some places do amazing veggie burgers nowadays. What is your all-time favourite diner food?

Wow, you’re asking me all of the hard questions today, haha. To be honest if I’ve got a plate of buttermilk pancakes in front of me, complete with maple syrup, I am a happy woman. I hadn’t even tried them before I first visited New York about a decade ago but as soon as I took my first bite I was hooked.

fifties diner milkshake

If you could run your own diner, what would you call it?

I’d simply call it Zinone’s after Stephanie Zinone – Michelle Pfeiffer’s character in Grease 2. Take away what you will about me based on this decision.

Ha, that’s a great name! In my novella, the restaurant is called The Polka Dot Diner and a lovely warm guy called Mikey runs it, whereas in your book the owner, Bernie, is quite the grump! I feel there is more to his story – will we learn more about him in the sequel, Secrets and Fries at the Starlight Diner? I see from the blurb that he offers the new main character, Bonnie, a job and is described as “kindly” . Do we see him mellow?

Haha. Yes, poor Bernie. Esther doesn’t have a lot of time for his attitude does she? In her defence – he’s no Mikey!

Bernie is probably one of the most special characters in the series to me. Although he’s really only on the periphery of the full-length stories, there’s an overarching journey for him that ties all the books, and their respective messages, together. I wrote a free short story called Hot and Cold at the Starlight Diner in which Bernie features more heavily. It tells the tale of how and why the Starlight Diner opened and readers wanting to know more about the man behind Bernie’s disgruntled persona should definitely check that out.

Ooh – will Bernie mellow?

Well, let’s just say my new protagonist, Bonnie is perhaps more interested in palling up to Bernie than Esther and Mona ever have been.

Out of all the characters in your book, whom would you invite to dinner?

That’s a very good question and there are lots of different reasons I could choose other characters but I think I’d have to go with Walt. I have no grandparents left alive now and I miss them very much. I think there’s a lot of my paternal grandfather in Walt – he’s unafraid to make cheeky comments whenever the mood takes him.

Yes, I love how older people seem to reach a stage where they just speak their mind. Um, I think I might have hit that phase rather early!

Now I ADORE the movie Grease, having seen it ten times as a child! Which character would you like to be out of that film? I secretly admired tough Rizzo but was more like reserved Sandy as a young woman (yes, things have changed!) .

Well, as most of my followers know I’m more of a Grease 2 kinda gal, and by that I mean I’ve watched it more 300 times in my life at the age of 34. But one character I do love from Grease, who also appears in Grease 2, is the school secretary Blanche. I know she’s only a secondary character but Blanche cracks me up in every single scene she’s in whether it’s the original or the sequel. She’s a bit scatty, a bit high-pitched but boy oh boy can she ever play that xylophone…

300 times?! Helen! Well your Starlight Diner doesn’t have a xylophone, but it is, of course, home to a fifties jukebox – does it play any favourite songs of yours from that era?

Oh very much so. I could listen to Dinah Washington’s voice on an endless loop with ‘Mad About the Boy’ being a personal favourite. I also like a song she sang called ‘Rockin’ Good Way.’ It was later covered by Shakin’ Stevens and Bonnie Tyler in 1984. I don’t normally admit this without being tortured first, so this is a Helen Cox exclusive, but I really like that version too.

Finally, are there any more books planned in this series after the sequel, Secrets and Fries at the Starlight Diner? What does Helen Cox writer hope to achieve in 2017?

There is a synopsis all written up for a third Starlight Diner book which includes just as many unexpected twists and turns as the first two books, especially for Bernie. Whether or not that book goes ahead will, like everything in publishing, be subject to all that sexy contract stuff that my agent understands far better than I do.

Most of my friends will tell you it’s very difficult to get me to look further than next week never mind next year but, amongst other fiction plans, I am working on a proposal for a narrative non-fiction book that has links with a certain famous nanny, known for flying across the London rooftops. This is all just in the schematic phase at present but, after the excitement of having two books published in 2016, who knows what’s in store for 2017?

Well thanks so much for joining me and I wish you continued success!
You’d be made to miss Helen’s delicious debut , folks, and it’s just One-Click away!
Helen Cox is a book-devouring, photo-taking, film-obsessed novelist. If forced to choose one, Helen’s Mastermind specialism would be Grease 2. To this day, she still adheres to the Pink Lady pledge and when somebody asks her if she is a god she says ‘yes.’ She currently lives in York and writes novels.

 

Imposter Syndrome – Ditch the Self-doubt

I’ve often heard writers say that – at times – they don’t feel justified in calling themselves an author. Self-doubt has set in. They feel as if they’re a fraud, playing down their accomplishments and just waiting for someone to tap them on the shoulder and get out the handcuffs to charge them with portraying themselves as someone they aren’t. And I totally get this. I’ve just finished a new project which is far more emotional than my previous books and I’ve had lots of wobbles – that inner voice asking me if I’m really up to the job. So here are my tips – what has worked for me –  on how to quash the critical inner soundtrack each of us has and prove that the title of writer is one you fully deserve.

Imposter

 

Firstly – no question about it – whether you are just starting out or writing your tenth novel, if you put words to paper on a regular basis, if you craft each sentence, read how-to books, devour other authors’ work to pick up tips, care passionately about your creativity… you ARE a writer. It can be hard to believe this if you are at the aspiring author stage, with no formal validation for your work. And it’s obvious but there is only one answer to this: start showing your work to other people who will give you honest feedback.

I’ll never forget the very first page of my very first book. No one knew I’d been writing. I shoved it under the bathroom door to my husband one day. It was the first time I’d ever shown my work to anyone. Impatiently I waited outside whilst he read. “Yeah – it’s not bad,” he said. He hadn’t laughed at me. That was all I needed to continue.

The next step was to join an online writing group and upload my work to a forum where other writers would critique my work. This was nerve-wracking as the criticisms came in – but I realised this process was making me a writer. I was mixing with my peers and – more importantly – learning. And still no one laughed at me. It felt good.

Next is to send your work out to an agent or publisher. Nerve-wracking again as the standard rejections or negative comments fly back. But it just took the odd positive comment to encourage me and silence the voices in my head suggesting that I would never, ever become a proper member of this profession.

Once published, of course, the self-doubt doesn’t magically disappear, the causes of it simply alter. Poor reviews and low rankings can feed the negativity. A trip into GoodReads or onto Amazon can be all it takes to burst your balloon of confidence about BEING AN AUTHOR. On those occasions, I suggest re-reading your good reviews. Or look up one of your favourite author’s books – read the bad comments about their stories which you will hotly disagree with, thus proving, as a writer, you can NEVER please everyone so you shouldn’t take the 1*s to heart.

Try to take a positive slant on the revisions that come in from your editor. They aren’t saying your book is lacking. Nor are they doubting your talent. Quite the opposite in fact – the message is, we trust in you to make this the book the very best it can be and here are our suggestions; we value you and your work enough – we are excited about this project enough –  to have spent our time going through and putting forward ideas to make it even stronger.

And don’t compare yourself to other authors – there will always be a writer with a higher ranking or better sales. It doesn’t devalue your work. There are lots of reasons why some books sell and others don’t – the publisher, the marketing, the title, the cover, a little bit of luck… My summer romance, Breakfast under a Cornish Sun is out in July and I am already telling myself not to be disappointed if it doesn’t end up as a Hollywood movie, with Chris Hemsworth playing one of the starring roles and accompanying me on the red carpet!

Finally, network and get yourself a band of writing buddies who will be there for you no matter what. I’ve declared a hundred times I am going to give up writing – because of rejections flocking in or the stress of a bad review. I wouldn’t still be putting finger to keyboard today – and believing in myself – if it wasn’t for those writerly friends who understand and have either told me to man up or offer a bucket-load of virtual chocolate.

 

My Do’s and Don’ts of being a Published Author

 

As an aspiring author, I used to dream of the day I would hold my book in my hands – and smell it (or is that just me?!) I fantasized of Hollywood movie deals, glittery crystal awards, appearances on the Graham Norton show… Ha ha, yes, really. Of course lots of little dreams have come true since signing my deal and in many ways, it has fulfilled lots of my desires. Yet there are challenges I never expected, whilst having six books published. So here are my own tips for any authors who haven’t yet seen their work in print. I’m no expert by any means, but these things would have certainly been useful for me to know before my hopes became a reality.

 

me sepia small

 

DO accept that nowadays, no publisher is going to be the sole promoter of your work. Prepare for that now. Set yourself up a Facebook author page and Twitter account (er, okay, guess you have done that if you are reading this!) A large part of getting word out there, about your books, is going to be down to you. Consider your “brand” and start posting and tweeting about it, for example politics, family issues, cookery, crime… For me it is an array of fun subjects, including romantic heroes, movies,  cats,  and food and TV series relating to some of my books , including Downton, Poldark and Game of Thrones. Fill your social platforms with appealing and useful content that relates to you as an author. And network, network – retweet others who might then retweet you. Get to know bloggers.

DON’T expect all your writerly problems to magically disappear. Agreed, you no longer have the stress of trying to get published, but you will be faced with a different set of issues. In my experience, the years of trying to get an agent were a rollercoaster with the down of rejections and ups of an encouraging word – with full manuscripts being requested and then rejected and with meetings that got me excited then came to nothing concrete.  There are still peaks and troughs when published, for example great and bad rankings or brilliant and poor reviews. Keep your expectations realistic. Getting published won’t wave a wand over your life and extinguish every stress or concern.

DO treat your writing job as the career it is. Get professional. Find out about declaring earnings for tax purposes, however small they may seem at the beginning. Meet deadlines. Engage with your readers – both fans and critics – in a professional manner. As authors we are emotionally tied to our work but try not to let that creep into your dealings with others in the trade. Don’t respond to an insulting review or tweet. Don’t ping off a discontented email when your editor sends revisions that you think are way too thorough. Keep a calm head, even though almost anything to do with our stories pulls at our hearts.

DON’T refuse to compromise. Presumably two of the reasons you want to become published are to reach an audience and earn from your writing – and that means making sales. Editors and agents have a vast experience and getting published is, in some ways, just the beginning of learning everything you can – from them – about your craft and career. Whilst initial suggestions to changing your story or title might sting, I have usually found (after a couple of days drinking wine, in a darkened room) that they are spot on. Try not to be too precious. For example the original title for my second book, From Paris with Love, was “On Abbey’s Secret Service” (it is a standalone sequel to my bestselling debut Doubting Abbey).  It was hard to let go of my idea, but now I’m glad I did. The new title was far more search-engine friendly and commercial.

Finally DO enjoy every minute. Yes it is tough being an author in these times, the market is incredibly competitive and the goalposts are ever-changing, due to the revolution of the ebook. Plus there is always another social platform springing up that we are expected to use.  In my opinion, every challenging moment is worth it when you get lovely feedback from a reader or praise from your editor. Or when you experience the excitement of a launch – something I’m looking forward to with my upcoming July novel, Breakfast under a Cornish Sun. And never stop dreaming. I’m still secretly holding out for Graham Norton to come knocking at my door. In fact– one last tip – try to overcome shyness. Be assertive and proactive. And on that note, does anyone happen to have Graham’s number…? 🙂

 

 

Foodie Questions with Cathy Bramley!

I have just finished reading the first installment of Cathy Bramley’s latest book, The Plumberry School of Comfort Food. Wow. What a deliciously comforting story. As anyone who has read my books will know, I love writing about food – scones, cupcakes, donuts, you name it! I mean, what goes better with romance than a satisfying sugar rush?

cathy plumberry

 

So, I thought it would be fun to ask Cathy Bramley some quick foodie questions about her scrumptious book and its tasty heroes.

Hello Cathy! So, first things first… what is your favourite comfort food?

Scones with blackcurrant jam and clotted cream.

Great answer! Or perhaps… plumberry jam? How did you think of the name Plumberry, I love it!

I wanted something which had a foodie ring to it but without actually being food. I thought I’d invented it but it appears in the Urban Dictionary and means awesome!

Appropriate as this books is pretty awesome! What is your fail-safe comfort food recipe?

My own cottage pie which includes red lentils and cinnamon for extra flavour.

Sounds yummy! So, your new book has two tasty leading men – would you prefer to go out to dinner with gorgeous young dad Gabe or dashing Irish chef Tom?

I agonised over this one! But I think I’d like to go with Gabe. He deserves a night out and diner with Tom might be stressful if he’s pedantic about food!

Finally, your main character, Verity, loves a fish finger sandwich – what is your go-to fast food?

If I’m making it myself I spread pesto, a little bit of grated cheese and a handful of spinach on a wrap, fold it in 4 and toast it in the panini grill – gorgeous!

Gosh, my mouth is watering now. I’d better go get some comfort food for myself! Thanks for popping in, Cathy.

 

So, if you fancy a comforting read, for fans of food and romance, go treat yourself to The Plumberry School of Comfort Food!

Here is the blurb:

Verity Bloom hasn’t been interested in cooking anything more complicated than the perfect fish finger sandwich, ever since she lost her best friend and baking companion two years ago.

But an opportunity to help a friend is about to land her right back in the heart of the kitchen! The Plumberry School of Comfort Food is due to open in a few weeks’ time and has rather gone off the boil. It needs the kind of great ideas that only Verity could cook up . . .

But as Verity tries to balance stirring up publicity, keeping their top chef sweet and soothing her aching heart, will her move to Plumberry prove to be a sheer delight . . . or a recipe for disaster?

 

 

 

 

Writing to live or living to write?

I have just come back from a two-week break, away from my writing life, after promoting my short story How to Get Hitched in Ten Days. Why? Because since I got published two and a half years ago, work has steadily taken over my life. The children are older teenagers so often busy doing their own thing at weekends… It hasn’t been unusual, for months, for me to work seven days a week.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE  my job, which is one of the reasons I’ve been writing, editing and promoting 24/7. But over the last few months I’ve felt increasingly drained. Stale. Tired. So I decided to take a couple of weeks off – very unusual for me.

What did I do? Ooh, let’s see… I bought a new coat.

 

 

me coat front

 

me coat back

 

I  baked – here are some cereal bars (dipped in chocolate of course!)

 

cereal bars 2

I read.

I detoxed and replaced my usual tipple with my  new obsession: Costa Coffee hot chocolate.

hot chocolate

 

I caught up with friends.

I kept on top of the ironing and cleaning for once.

I can’t believe it has only been two weeks as I feel like a completely new woman, up early, out on my bike, skin clearer, head not fuzzy and – most importantly – not worrying about so many small things that stressed me up when I was working all hours. Rejuvenated. Motivated. Fresh. Batteries recharged, I am determined not to overdo it again.

And I don’t believe this resolution will affect my writing output as I feel a renewed but newly focussed energy to push on with my  next project. I’ve already started my new plan to fill my weekends with activities not linked to the writing world – apart from an author/blogger meet in a couple of weeks, but that doesn’t count as work! I’m talking the cinema. Shopping. Going for walks. All those things that have become rare events instead of much-needed breaks. That’s the trouble with working for yourself, whatever you do. It’s difficult not to get sucked into slaving all hours as you know that every extra minute spent at the computer might contribute to any success or, at least the next pay cheque.

So if you are a writer – or, in fact, anyone who is self-employed – take a moment to step back. Living to write had taken its toll. Now I think I’ll be a better author for writing to live.