Friday, August 12, 2016

Summer Days




How the months fly by when you're having fun. Or when you're busy. I've been writing A LOT over the past few months - some exciting news may be on the way, she says cryptically - and in between have managed to squeeze in a summery visit from my mother, with associated days out; one at a grand manor house with beautiful gardens, as my mum doesn't have one of her own and loves photographing flowers.

I've also become a volunteer dog-walker at our local rescue centre, which is rewarding - though on my first walk with a patient and dogged (see what I did there?) little fellow called Hovis (from Romania) I managed to get lost, my sense of direction no better than it's ever been, resulting in a far longer walk than either of us had anticipated. I had visions of him sleeping soundly for the rest of the week, and hiding if he ever sees me again. Though he's hopefully found a new home now.


I was delighted to have a 'spine-tingling' short story published in The People's Friend this week, but the short stories are more or less on hold for the time being as I've a novel draft to write. And I've a visit to Devon with friends next week, then a short trip to Jersey with Lovely Husband in September. We've never been there, and are looking forward to exploring the island.

I hope you're all enjoying your summer, which seems to have started late in terms of the weather, but it's so beautifully sunny today I may slip my cardigan off ...


Thursday, December 24, 2015

Happy Christmas from Renee and me



So, the last time I updated my blog, one book had been published, and I'd just finished co-writing a psychological suspense novel with my lovely friend, Amanda Brittany.

Back then, the sun was shining, summer was underway, and there was still a good six months to Christmas. So how in the name of Peter Rabbit is Christmas here, just a few days later?? It makes no sense at all.

Yet, things have happened in the meantime ...

We sadly lost our beloved Mollydog in July, just shy of her 13th birthday. We're still getting used to not having her around and miss her a lot. We'll probably get another, but it doesn't feel quite right yet.

Then I finally finished the first draft of my standalone novel, which is awaiting another going over before I send it to my agent for approval (or disapproval. Hopefully, the former.)

The co-written novel has been out with publishers for a while now, and we're still waiting with bated breath to hear some news. Preferably good news. Although all that bated breath is taking its toll; we're red in the face and light-headed now.

Another joint novel is underway, and there'll be more of that in the New Year, all being well. (I always add 'all being well' to avoid 'tempting Fate'. A habit I can't seem to break.)

I've read lots and lots of books, more than ever, thanks to under-the-duvet Kindle reading before sleeping at night and sometimes first thing in the morning. I like to think reading good books helps me hone my writing skills, but mostly I just like reading good books.

A rather bizarre highlight of recent months was the actress, Renee Zellweger, rocking up at the house opposite ours ...
 

with around twenty film trucks, multiple extras, actors Jim Broadbent and Celia Imrie - among others - to film scenes for the new Bridget Jones movie.  Embarrassingly, Renee spotted my daughter and me, standing on my bed to get a photo, and waved. Which was nice. I doubt we'll make it into the movie though.

And on that bombshell it just remains for me to say, as I have for the past eight (yes EIGHT) years, thank you for reading, supporting, and being generally lovely all year.

Have a wonderful Christmas, and a happy, healthy and peaceful New Year.

See you in 2016 (all being well.)

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Wishing



My third novel PUT A SPELL ON YOU is out today, and availiable to download from Amazon.

The story imagines what might happen if someone was granted several wishes but they all went wrong. (Just the kind of thing that would happen to me - them going wrong, that is.)

Here's a little taster from Chapter One to whet your appetite ...




Things I would wish for right now if I could wave a magic wand:

1) My boyfriend Will to stop being a born-again hippy and propose before I’m shrivelled to the point where no other man will look at me.
2) To find the perfect location to film Sibling Rivalry before I get fired. (Preferably one that doesn’t involve the owner changing his mind at the last minute and chasing me off his property, brandishing a shotgun).
3) Lara’s baby to stop bawling 24/7 so she can get some sleep and go back to being my lovable best friend instead of a slitty-eyed wreck in ill-fitting clothes.
4) Mum’s boyfriend, Del – a pervy, tattooed trucker from Letchworth – to disappear.
5) Glossy, flame-red hair instead of my cowpat-brown frizz. And to be a cup size bigger. With dainty fingers. And a smaller bum. (And to be less shallow.)

My twenty-seventh birthday started much like any other day, except that I was cross with Will.
‘You didn’t even buy me a card!’
‘I made you one, Josie. It’s more meaningful. Anyone can go to a shop and buy one.’
He spoke softly and without reproach, because that’s how Will speaks these days.
He did look hurt though – his hazel eyes sort of bruised – but I was so disappointed I pretended not to notice. ‘You stuck some dried bits of pasta to a piece of card cut from a Bran Flakes box.’ I waggled it at him. ‘I made a better fist of this sort of thing when I was six.’
‘I’ve spelt out your name in a love heart,’ he pointed out, reasonably. ‘You’ve got to admit that’s romantic.’
‘But some of the bits have dropped off. It says “Joie”.’
‘That’s because you keep waving it about.’
I wondered whether to mention I’d been secretly hoping for an iPad and possibly a trip to Venice, but decided against it.
‘I’ve made you a commitment bracelet,’ he said, clearly deciding not to acknowledge his blunder. He pushed back his wavy brown hair, hoicked up his boxers, and loped across to the dressing table with puppyish eagerness.
Will never used to lope or have floppy hair, or be puppyish. Before he was coaxed into a trip to the Shambalaya – a spiritual retreat in Kent – by his brother Ben (or Moonfox as he insisted on being called) he’d worked in advertising and was being tipped for big things.

He wouldn’t have been seen dead in tie-dye T-shirts and frayed jeans, but the retreat had forced him to ‘reassess his priorities’ – along with his dress sense, presumably . . .

If you were granted one wish, what would it be? I'm still trying to think of one that encompasses world peace, toned thighs, wealth, and good health forever, without coming across as incredibly greedy.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Two Heads



So, another few months have flown by since my last post, but I haven't been idling around. Oh no. Well, maybe a little bit, but only when absolutely necessary, and if cake was involved.

In fact, I've been deeply involved in co-writing a novel with my lovely writer and 'real-life' friend Amanda Brittany and it's been a more enjoyable and motivating experience than I could ever have imagined.

We first had the idea last year, during one of our meet-ups in London, and got so carried away we decided to give it a go after thinking of a suitable story, writing a chapter each as separate characters.

It could have gone totally pear-shaped, and led to the mother of all fallouts, but I think we knew each other well enough before starting to know we'd work well together - that there'd be no clash of egos, or stomping off and sulking, or tearing apart each other's ideas in a cruel and unnecessary fashion.

We agreed to be kind but honest with our feedback, and to take each other's thoughts on board, but not at the expense of the story. If we really felt something wasn't working we had to say so, and likewise if one of us strongly believed an idea would strengthen the plot.

We each brought different strengths to the writing process, which created a good balance, and it was great to be able to brainstorm with someone when the plot got a bit tricky, instead of banging my head against a wall. (Not that I would do that, of course, unless the wall was padded.)

We've now finished the third draft, and it's ready to go off for a critical and impartial read-through by my lovely agent, which feels both scary and exciting. We're both rather bereft now it's finished. Well, finished for now.

So I need to get back to the one I started writing before this one, and to write some short stories. It's the first time I've been so involved in a project I've let weeks go by without writing one, which is possibly a good sign.

Only time will tell ...

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Flying Start




It's often hard to feel motivated at this time of year - the bleak mid-winter and all that, plus it was my *%th birthday in January - but writing-wise things have got off to a flying start, with several short story sales, and a trip to meet my editor at their lovely Little, Brown offices in London.

Once there, I had to stop myself stroking all the shiny new books arranged temptingly on shelves and tables, and from staring around, wide-eyed like a girl in a story, visiting New York for the first time (or doing something equally awe-inspiring and dream-come-trueish).

I'm sure if my lovely agent hadn't been with me, keeping the conversation on track, and asking relevant questions, they'd have assumed I'd wandered in off the street, and arranged to have me escorted out of the building.

As it was, there are plans afoot to publicise my third novel before it's release in June, so we brainstormed a few ideas and I came away feeling enthused and raring to go.

So here I am, gazing out of the window, snow blizzarding (is that a word?) down, and I'm suddenly in the mood for writing a Christmas story, even though it's too late for that. Or too early.

Still, I've found that when inspiration strikes, in any form, it's best not to ignore her. Inspiration is a her, I'm sure. I can smell her perfume.*


*Clearly my meeting in London has made me more mad fanciful than usual.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Book Launch Day




Abby Archer, a smart and savvy woman who refuses to be taken in by celebrity culture, becomes fascinated with it-girl and media darling Brooke Simmons after she falls into a coma following a car crash. Her loyal security-guard-turned-lover, Nick Lawson, is implicated in the accident, someone Abby met just days before. One day Abby begins to feel unwell, and is shocked to see the face looking back at her in the mirror is no longer her own, but that of Brooke Simmons . . .

I'm thrilled to announce that my second novel BEING BROOKE SIMMONS is available to download from today *emits a girly squeal* (not very becoming at my age). If you like your romantic comedy with a pinch of paranormal silliness, feel free to purchase. If you don't - maybe you know someone who does :o)

The lovely people at Little, Brown/Corsair are also releasing a revised edition of MY FUTURE HUSBAND with a pretty new cover. If you like your romantic comedy with with a pinch of time-travel (and haven't already read it) feel free to download. If you don't ... you get the picture!

It's exciting and nerve-wracking to think of other people reading the words wot I've written, and I do hope you enjoy reading my book as much as I loved writing it. I would very much appreciate your feedback. As long as it doesn't involve swear words. (Or not too many.)

My third novel will be released in June 2015, so if you enjoy this one, there won't be too long to wait. If you don't, I won't hold it against you. But I'm getting ahead of myself ...

Time has passed in the blink of an eye since starting this writing journey, and I'd like to thank all those who have supported me along the way. You know who you are. 

Now I'm off to celebrate with an extra-large cup of tea.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

I AM a Writer



Well, I've now left the library, a job I've held for a record twelve years, and - mostly - thoroughly enjoyed.

There have been a lot of changes over the past year. A new self-service system, that's not very user-friendly and drives staff and customers crackers. Then, cutbacks at management level, that filtered down to changes within our branch. I was working more hours, and starting to get rather grumpy. Or grumpier than usual, anyway.

There was a lot of tutting, mumbling, eye-rolling, and cardigan flouncing, and in the end I decided it was probably best to do the decent thing and hand in my badge. Actually, I really DID have to hand in my badge, and although my last day was sad, it was a relief too - to be free to focus on doing what I love most.

Not eating cake, thought that's definitely up there, but WRITING. More stories, more novels.

So, now there's nowhere to hide. When people ask me what I do for a living, and they do - especially at the hairdresser's; I never go to the same one, I'm fickle like that - I can no longer say 'library assistant', I'm going to have to say, 'I'm a Writer, hear me roar.' (Or something like that).

And when they utter the inevitable 'ooh, are you the next JK Rowling?' I shall try not to tut, or mumble and roll my eyes, or cardigan-flounce. Because, actually, that IS what I am.

And I have two brand new novels being released next month to prove it. Oh yes.

More of that coming soon . . .

Sunday, June 15, 2014

'Love is All You Need'



Sherri Turner is a prize winning writer and her short story FUNNY FACE is featured in a new anthology Love is All You Need - 10 Tales of Love from the Sophie King Prize.

Sherri has been published many times in women's magazines in the UK and abroad under her pen name, Bernadette James, and is well-placed to offer advice, so I've lured her to my blog and insisted she gives us some writing tips.

Being a lovely person (I've met her and know what I'm talking about) she's kindly agreed so take it away, Sherri...


5 tips for writing short stories

These are 5 of the things that I try to do with all of my stories. I won’t claim that they are all my own original thoughts or that you won’t have seen them elsewhere in the hundreds of writing books available. I certainly won’t call them rules or even say that they are my top 5, as I’ll probably think of another one tomorrow that I like better. However, I do believe that when I do use them, my stories become better. I hope there is something that you find useful too.

i) Write what you like to read and write from the heart. If you don’t like your story, why should anyone else?

ii) ‘Cliché’ doesn’t only apply to common phrases. Sentence structures and favourite words can become clichés for you if you use them too often and the reader will get bored and/or irritated. Mix it up. Be aware of your own favourite words and check how often they appear in your story. Then get rid of most of them.

iii) Once your story is written, leave it alone for as long as you can before returning to it.* Try not to look at it until you’ve written something else so that you get some distance from it and from the words you’ve used. Then read it out loud. Does it make sense? Does it sound as good as you thought it did when you wrote it? Reading out loud also helps you to spot typos, missing words and other silly errors.

* I am very bad at this. When something is written I want it finished, gone, sent off right away. Sometimes I let myself do that. Then when it comes flying back from an editor or disappears without trace in a competition I read it back and wonder what on earth I was thinking sending it out like that. Not always – but often enough. Please try to do this one!

iv) Try reading your story without the first paragraph. Or the first two or three paragraphs. Does the reader need/want these or are they just there to get you, the writer, into the story? If the latter then delete it/them. If there is any essential information missing now
that the reader does need you can slip it in later where it is not holding up the story. (I have just deleted the first paragraph of this blog post. You didn’t need it.)

v) If you get stuck part way through a story and you don’t know where to take it or how, or you just think it isn’t very good, don’t abandon it completely. Print it out, write notes of any ideas you had or what is causing you the problem at the bottom. Put it in your pile. (You do have a pile, don’t you? Is that just me?) Come back to it a week/month/year later when you are looking for ideas. Your brain may have worked on it in the background or you may have read something else or had an experience that now helps you to finish the story. It’s that distance thing again. Some of my best stories have been written over months (years in a couple of cases) with huge gaps in between.

I do have piles, Sherri.  Ahem.  Brilliant advice, especially the bit about reading aloud to spot typos and missing words. Many thanks for dropping by.

Love is All You Need (paperback version will be available in August)
Enjoy these 10 great stories with heart - the winning tales of love from The Sophie King Prize 2014, chosen by bestselling author Sophie King.

"I picked those that surprised me and also left a lovely warm feeling. A bit like a love affair, really …" Sophie King

Meet 10 women, from different places, backgrounds and times, and each with a different experience of men and romance.

Their stories in turn hold the promise of romance, reflect on finding love, or show the lengths we'll go to for the special person in our lives.

An anthology of stories which are funny, thought-provoking, and thrilling, with characters you'll empathise with as they discover that ... Love is All You Need.

Stories by Alyson Hilbourne, Yvonne Eve Walus, Johanna Grassick, Pauline Watson, Melanie Whipman, Linda Triegel, Laurel Osterkamp, Helen Yendall, Mary Lally, Sherri Turner.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Spring has Sprung



Where in the name of sweet Moses is the time going?!  No sooner have I finished my Christmas dinner than it's almost Spring.  If Spring can be categorised by howling gales, pelting rain, and ice on the car windscreen of a morning.  It can in this country. There were two days of warmish sunshine over the weekend, but it was back to thermal underwear and stodgy food today.  Wearing the former and eating the latter, obviously.

What has been occurring in the writing world? I hear you cry.  Well, maybe there's a disinterested whisper at the back of the class. (What the hell are you talking about?- Ed)  On the short story front, I've had a pretty good run and sold a fair few so far this year. In fact I'm on a bit of a roll, with ideas flying in thick and fast - to the point where I'm not really focusing on my new novel at the moment.

I think it's partly because I'm waiting to meet my new editor at Constable & Robinson, and am hoping to have a word with her, as advised by my lovely agent, about which direction to take - fantasy, or non-fantasy twist.  I've had an idea for both possibilities and have started both, and I know I'll enjoy writing either, but feel like I need a nudge in one direction or t'other.

Having said that I'm panicking a little now, and am determined to get on with, well, one or t'other this very week.

In the meantime I've had a peek on the Constable & Robinson website and am excited to see that PUT A SPELL ON YOU is due to be released on July 3rd along with a revised edition of MY FUTURE HUSBAND.

Elsewhere, we've been getting used to the new self-service system at the library where I work, and let's just say it's been a lot more tiring than I would ever have imagined - and I don't even work there full-time.  It's not that user-friendly, everything takes twice as long, a lot of the older customers don't like it and *whisper* neither do I, and it'll ultimately lead to staff losing their jobs, but it's apparently progress, and there's nothing we can do about it. Still, at least it means the future of our library is safe... for now.

In the meantime, I'm hoping to post again sometime before next Christmas.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Blog-chain



The lovely Amanda Brittany has kindly included me as one of the links in a writing-themed chain and asked me some writerly questions.  Which I don't mind answering at all, as it'll distract me from getting on with what I'm supposed to be doing (writing, obviously.)

What am I currently working on?
After a rather long pause over Christmas, I'm currently writing a full synopsis of MY FUTURE HUSBAND with a view to it being submitted for film and TV possibilities. No need to get excited, this is apparently perfectly normal.  Lots of novels get optioned for films, but few of them ever get made.  Still - no harm in dreaming.
How
How does my work differ from others in its genre?
My novels differ from other chick-lit in that they have a 'twist'.  Time travel in the first, magic in the second and, er, possession in the third.  As with my short stories, I do like a good twist!

Why do I write what I do?
Because it gives me pleasure, and I hope that rubs off on the people who read it.

How does my writing process work?
In fits and starts.  I can be very unmotivated and I procrastinate A LOT, then I'll suddenly start and find I can't - or don't want to - stop.  Deadlines work very well for me, preferably external ones.  If I set them myself, I start to rebel.  Madness, I know...

***
The next link in the chain is Jill Steeples who will post on January 13th. 

Jill's excellent debut novel Desperately Seeking Heaven was published by Carina last year, and her new one Let's Call the Whole Thing Off is out this week.