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!

 

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.

 

Five Scariest Moments of being a Published Author

I was talking on my Facebook page recently about scary things that had happened since becoming published – and how I had learnt to face my fears. And it made me realise how important it is to grab opportunities, even if you think you are not up to the job. A bit like dating a guy you consider to be out of your league. I’m still a coward when it comes to certain things – I’ve avoided going on a radio show and have yet to organise a real-life book launch, just in case nobody turns up! But here are five things I am proud of pushing myself to do even though, at the time, my stomach was in knots!

To start with, the first time I met up with my publisher, in  London. I’d spent the previous sixteen years as a stay-at-home mum so was completely out of my comfort zone in this new business environment. It makes me chuckle now that I managed to wangle sandwiches in the offices instead of being taken out to lunch – I was like a nervous schoolgirl on a first date! After the formal part we did, in the end, go out for coffee and the day turned out to be fabulous. I surprised myself with an inner confidence. Now I really look forward to my trips down to the Big Smoke.

coffee and chocolate

 

The second scariest thing… reading reviews. The first review for my debut book, Doubting Abbey, went up on GoodReads the night before launch. It was 3* which whilst not a bad rating, didn’t meet my perfectionist hopes. Tears were shed. I convinced myself that the book would flop and that I’d let everyone down. As it was, the book went on to be a bestseller and lots of readers loved the characters and plot. But for a while, I looked at each new review with trepidation. These days, my skin is much thicker and I realise that not everyone will like my work. And accepting that is part of my job.

Thirdly… ooh…. going to my first Romantic Novelists Association party. I imagined, in my head, that the chat would be all about literature and I was going to be outed as the least well-read person in the room. As it was, I couldn’t have been more wrong! Think Prosecco on tap, lots of laughs, a little gossip, and just banter and empathy about being a writer and books. I now adore meeting up with my writerly friends, who are some of the most generous, supportive people in the world.

rna 1

Fourthly… managing expectations has been hard and thinking too much about them is scary – something I try not to do just before the launch of a book, like at the moment with Breakfast under a Cornish Sun coming out in July. I try to control those questions in my head like is my writing good enough? Will I let down my agent? How many copies does my publisher expect to sell? Will my readers love this story as much as the last? I’ve learnt just to take my career one book at a time and to try to be satisfied if a good number of readers end up being moved in some way by the story, regardless of rank or sales or income. I recently received a lovely message from a reader who couldn’t wait to get home to finish Game of Scones  and I couldn’t hope or expect for more than that.

Lastly…I guess, ironically, the scariest thing is finally achieving your dream. Is it really everything you thought it would be? For the most part, the last three years have been a whirlwind of excitement and thrills, with books selling well and an award won. Of course there have been difficult moments, as with any career, when I have thought of that phrase “be careful what you wish for”. Yet finally I feel like I have “come home” and am doing what I should be with people who “get” what I am about. So really, that’s turned out to be not scary at all.

 

 

Five Top Tips for Dating a Writer!

I attended a workshop for writing for women’s magazines once and an editor said you are all sensitive people  – that’s why you write. She wasn’t wrong. On the plus side it means we can easily empathise with our partner’s problems – we are good at getting into the heads of other people. We need to be – to do our job. On the downside you might find us blubbing over the end of a book or going into a darkened room if a rejection comes through the post. Strap yourselves in tight and prepare for an emotional rollercoaster if you date a writer – on the plus side you’ll be going out with someone in touch with their passionate side.

Secondly… Cats. Youtube videos. Funny memes. All of those things, on Facebook and Twitter might not look like work to you, but scrolling down those pages are an essential part of any author’s day! Honestly. Writing is exhausting intellectually and authors need to constantly break from their work-in-progress to recharge with some trivial stuff. So don’t roll your eyes at your partner’s social media obsession – it could lead to a speedy end to your relationship!

Photo0071

 

Thirdly… Come over rock-like because they are going to need your support. When a rejection comes in, to a writer it can feel like the end of the world. They need their nearest and dearest to reassure them that this is just a blip and that they must carry on – even if you don’t one hundred percent have faith in their latest project, a romance between an astronaut and a three- breasted alien. You see us writers have enough self-doubt without any negative vibes from elsewhere, so practice that bright smile and those reassuring words. You’ll be glad you did when they become a bestseller.

Fourthly – enjoy the fact that present-giving will be easy. Us writers love, love notebooks. And writing snacks are very important.  Or if you’re flash with the cash, a writer’s retreat holiday would be perfect!

notebook

Finally… dating a writer is not for the shy. You see, ahem, parts of YOUR life may end up in their work, being read by the public. For example, a couple of years ago, my family and I had a rather lovely holiday in Cornwall and that provided much material for my new book, Breakfast under a Cornish Sun. On a more intimate note, if you are considering hanging out with an erotic writer, consider which parts of your life might be incorporated into a novel! On the plus side, it means your partner might be fascinated by your job. My husband has just started working for a fashion company and my creative juices are already flowing. Just watch how much you confide – any family secrets might end up in print. Equally, don’t panic if you see your partner’s computer search history. Just because they’ve been Googling how long it would take a pen of pigs to eat a human corpse, doesn’t mean they still hate you after that latest argument 🙂

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.

My Writing Year 2015

Wow. What a year it has been. My summer novel, Game of Scones, was a top ten Kindle bestseller and then won the Love Stories Best Romantic Ebook 2015 award, at a fancy cocktail bar in London.

 

me and victoria

 

I couldn’t ask for more and so appreciate everyone who bought and read the book. Above is a photo of me, on the night, with my lovely HarperCollins editor. I still think I’ve got that smile on my face!

 

Game_of_Scones

 

One of the best things, about 2015, however, had been to meet so many lovely writers and bloggers. I’ve attended events organised by the wonderful Romantic Novelists Association and it’s been lovely to put some faces to names from the internet. Here I am with the fab Cathy Bramley, Trevor Williams, Karen Aldous and Holly Martin.

rna 1

It’s also been a year for meeting things/people that have inspired me – this included a trip to Highclere Castle, as the series Downton Abbey inspired my 2013 debut Doubting Abbey…

downton house

 

… plus a night out in Manchester with the Dutch KLM flight attendant who inspired the character of Henrik in Game of Scones and its Christmas sequel.

me and Frank

 

… and a trip to… Ooh. Mustn’t give too much away! But here is a clue to my spring story, out soon!

american diner

 

Writing-wise – ie the craft itself – 2015 has been an exciting and challenging year. Game of  Scones took my writing in a more romantic direction and I wasn’t sure it was going to work. Plus I’ve had a few dark moments, on receiving revisions from my editor, wondering if I am up to the job. I’ve been challenged and feel/hope my writing has moved forward, otherwise what is the point?

I recalled recently, how my New Year’s resolution always used to be “to get published this year”, back in the old days when I was new to the business and a little naive. I mean, getting published isn’t as simple as that. So many factors out of your control are involved, plus you need a little luck. But of one thing I have no doubt – if you are determined and persevere, you will get there eventually. Your path might just be longer than others. But don’t give up.

Of course, finally getting published, doesn’t mean that all problems and disappointments stop there and whilst 2015 has been a wonderful year for me, I am well aware that you are only as good as your next book – and I have no idea what challenges 2016 will throw my way. Having said that, I already have several pieces of great news that I should be able to share in January, so watch this space 🙂 And thanks, with all my heart, to all the people who have supported me and my writing this year. I’m eternally grateful. Here, have a cocktail on me!

cocktails manchester