Monday, 18 September 2017

My Favourite Writing Place

I’ve always loved the beach. There’s nothing like the feel of the sand between my toes and my hair blowing in the sea breeze. I have fond memories of my childhood summer holidays when we packed Dads tiny Peugeot 205 full of camping gear and headed to the seaside. The drive always seemed to take forever to get there and the tent felt too small with my whole family crammed in, but it was all worth it to spend long days building sandcastles and swimming in the sea.

My love of the beach hasn’t dismissed through the years, though my standard of accommodation has certainly changed. These days I prefer somewhere with indoor plumbing, a comfortable bed and a solid roof (instead of tents that leak or blow away in the middle of the night during a storm…)

Having just returned from the Barceló Fuerteventura Thalasso Spa Hotel I can safely say whilst I am never going back to camping again, I would love to return to the lovely Barceló. It was a truly wonderful holiday. The hotel was exceptionally clean, the poolside was lovely, spacious and with plenty of sun loungers for everyone.

I would like to say thank you to the wonderful, helpful, friendly staff who helped to make my holiday so enjoyable, particularly Binta, Carlos and Daniel. Thank you for making me smile (and for the lovely chocolates).

The Barceló was a perfect haven for me to edit my latest novel; a character led thriller. However, sitting on my sun lounger beside the pool basking in the sunshine, okay shade (I burn easily), seems a strange place to write something so dark. Then again, based on the looks I got as I sat scribbling in my notebook each day, I think the general consensus is it was a strange place to write anything at all. A few people asked if I was doing course work, but mostly they just stared. Who knew I was so interesting?

I guess whilst reading a novel by the pool is the norm, writing one isn’t. That said however, it might not be as unheard of as I first thought… Over the last couple of years I’ve met a lot of authors at conferences, events, and through social media, I had however never met one at a pool side before. It was lovely to meet K S Stanley and his wife, who ironically were sitting beside me. Author of The Holmbury County Seat War K S Stanley was also busy working on the edits for his latest novel.
Obviously there is something appealing about that particular corner of the pool area for writers. Or more specifically western writers with a keen interest for writing music and lyrics. It’s just goes to show the old adage about it being a small world is true. Or as K S Stanley put it; at all the pool sides in all the hotels in all the world…

Friday, 4 August 2017

Book Review: Everything But The Truth by Gillian McAllister

Everything But The Truth was recommended to me on the basis that Gillian McAllister writes gripping stories with strong emotional character threads running through them. I wasn’t disappointed. Gillian has created rich, layered characters, who I couldn’t wait to read more about as I delved further into their world.

It was fascinating to follow Rachel as one email in the middle of the night causes her to question everything she knows about the man she loves. And love him she does. Through Gillian’s elegant writing style, Rachel’s voice was clear and her emotions were cleverly portrayed throughout in her explicit yet simple descriptions of what she liked and loved, as though Rachel was confiding in the reader as a friend.

Everything But The Truth is an excellent example of how even the smallest of lies can spiral out of control. This novel made me realise that the desire to protect the image that someone else holds of us, can lead to deceit. But one little lie or one simple omission can quickly grow into something more. One lie is never enough, and more and more lies grow around it to protect the original secret, until one tiny question pulls at the threads of even the strongest of relationships, and it all unravels.

It was absorbing to watch Rachel and the lengths she was prepared to go to in order to uncover the truth as she uncovers more and more lies. Throughout the novel, hints about Rachel’s own past helps the reader to understand her motivations and yet at the same time question whether her reactions might also be slightly hypocritical. The mystery isn’t just about what secrets Jack is keeping, but also what Rachel is hiding as well.

Seeing Rachel battle with memories from her past, desperate to escape from the work she loved, and yet unable to find herself without it, gave me an eye opening window into the world of medicine, albeit safety shielded behind an thick layer of double glazing. I knew doctors had it tough, I was aware of the long hours and the tough decisions, of course I was. But until I read this I never really knew. Of course, reading a book is nothing like experiencing it as a reality every day, but it gave me a new appreciation for what they do. I know I couldn't do it, and I'm in awe of those who do.

Overall, this was an exceptional debut. A gripping page turner, full of suspense, intrigue and characters who compel you to want to know more about them.

Monday, 24 July 2017

The Diminishing Word Count

Inspired by last week’s RNA conference, I returned home eager to finish the draft of my novel ready for submission to the NWS for critiquing. One week later, I have a newly written synopsis, a clearer sense of my characters, a revised structure, oh yes, and a novel that’s about 30,000 words less than I started with.

The latter is not quite what I was intending to achieve.

However, all is not lost. The cut sections are now patiently residing in a new file marked ‘book 2’. There’s just one small snag… A book 2 requires a book 1 to precede it.

Just over one month to go till the NWS deadline and 30,000 words to write. I can totally do this, right?

Monday, 17 July 2017

Book Review: Girl in Red Velvet by Margaret James


Book Summary:

Girl in Red Velvet is a novel about friendship and impossible choices. When Lily Denham met two boys on her first day at Oxford University, she never imagined that she would fall in love with both of them, or that one day she would have to choose between them.


Beautifully written, Girl in Red Velvet had me hooked from the start as I wondered who Lily would choose. Harry and Max are both intriguing, well rounded characters who are complete opposites, but equally appealing in their own individual ways. I found myself sharing Lily’s dilemma as I wondered who I would choose myself: safe and dependable Harry, or exciting and adventurous Max.

At the start of the novel, Lily is a strong willed, independent woman with her own distinctive style. She doesn’t care what other people think or whisper about her behind her back. How I would love to be that bold!

However, Lily discovers that as hard as making a decision can be, living with that choice can be even harder. Lily’s choice leads her to a life so different from the one she had imagined, and in the process her distinctiveness fades into conformity. To me, this novel was a reminder of how easy it is to let the choices we make cause us to loose ourselves, and how difficult but essential it is to find the courage to turn our lives around again.

A wonderful, inspirational novel that reminded me it’s never too late to follow your dreams.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Rediscovering the Theatre

As a child I loved going to the theatre. It was something that my parents and I could enjoy together. The same however can't be said for the pop concerts my poor mother drew the short straw of having to take me to. I don't think she'll ever forgive me for the Jason Donovan concert. Not because of a lack of appreciation for the music, but more from a distinct aversion to being surrounded by hordes of screaming kids. Who can blame her?

The theatre however was much more refined and dignified. Which, to be honest, was half of the appeal for them and I. It seemed such a grown up thing to do sitting on those posh red velour seats, before a huge stage with elaborate sets and costumes. The stories came to life in a way that watching a film on TV never did. It was like being part of something special.

My childhood was filled with shows like; Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat, Annie get your gun and the Buddy Holly Story (ok that one was Dad's choice). And then I grew up. I went to college, and University and the theatre was forgotten.

Then last Christmas I went to see the Nutcracker and it was like rediscovering an old friend. Despite my years of absence, it was still just as wonderful as I remembered. Though I have made a few small adjustments... There's something indulgent about a trip to the theatre, and it seems only fitting to turn it into a day long event. A morning spent shopping, a leisurely lunch and then an afternoon matinee. It all helps to enhance the experience, honest.

Last week I went to see Billy Elliot at the Birmingham Hippodrome. Utterly brilliant. The sets and costumes were incredible, the cast was fabulous and the choreography amazing. The dancing clothes still make me smile whenever I think of them.

Next week I'm taking my parents to see Dreamboats and Petticoats. I figured it was about time I let Dad choose one again...

The trouble is every time I leave the theatre, still chattering and laughing about the show I've just seen, beneath the excitement is a wistful daydream. If only I'd carried on with my dance lessons...

Monday, 10 April 2017

Who Do You Think You Are?

Last week I went to the Who Do You Think You Are? exhibition at the NEC in Birmingham. Having never been to this kind of event before I wasn't sure what to expect, other than a lot of walking and a crowd of people. I wasn't disappointed.

Researching our family history has become a family affair. Turns out learning where you come from is a contagious pastime. Mum's cousin started on it a couple of years ago when she started compiling names and creating our family tree on Then her daughter joined in and their family holidays started including visits to view parish records. Another cousin sparked our curiosity by asking who these people really were. Where did they live? What did they do? Suddenly we were all scouring the genealogy websites searching for answers. The more information we found, the more it inspired us to dig deeper. Which is how I ended up at what is pitched as 'the worlds largest family history show'. It's big. My feet can attest to that.

As well as the big ancestry websites and magazines, there were stands representing different regions, various workshops to attend and even experts on hand to answer questions where I'd got stuck with my research. Sadly there simply wasn't time to do everything that I would have liked, but three hours later I had a bag of leaflets, a couple of books to help me with my research and a notebook full of scribbled web addresses and people to contact.

All of this research has a dual purpose, as it's inspired a new novel. It seems writing has a way of creeping into every aspect of my life. Even the past.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

The Reluctant Gardener: Lingering Effects of Storm Doris

This has been the view from my kitchen window ever since storm Doris uprooted a tree. Yes, I know that was over a month ago. Yes, I know that was too long to neglect the tree lying across my lawn. Have you noted the title of this blog series? Reluctant is putting it mildly when it comes to my gardening abilities. I will do almost anything to avoid even the simplest of task such as mowing the lawn, so when it comes to anything that involves actually getting my hands dirty and digging, my ability to procrastinate is truly impressive. Although, I have had a good excuse recently – did you see my post about my two jobs? See, I have been busy. Very busy. Far too busy to venture out into my garden with a spade…

To be fair I’d known for a while that the tree was a little wobbly and needed to be replanted much deeper, but it’s one of those things I hadn’t quite got around to. After all, it was still standing. It may have swayed frantically even in the slightest of breezes, but it was fine really.

In a way storm Doris was just doing me a favour by saving me the hassle of digging the tree out myself. Not that I particularly saw it that way when I looked out of my window to find a tree sprawled across my garden. Nor have I seen it that way as I’ve clambered over said tree on the rare occasion that I’ve had to venture down the garden path. Call me ungrateful, but I would have preferred it if the tree had been left standing, swaying gently (uh hum) in the breeze. Instead, it’s forced me (eventually) to take action and deal with something that I had been very successfully avoiding until its interference.

So yesterday I grudgingly headed outside, dusted the cobwebs of my scarcely used spade and dug a hole, before battling with a tree that is a lot heavier than it looks. If my neighbours find my attempts at mowing the lawn entertaining, goodness knows what they thought of the crazy women holding a conversation with a tree, issuing instructions and directions to guide it into its new home, which for the most part it chose to completely ignore.

As I stood in my kitchen last night nursing my aching back, thinking how much larger my garden looks without a tree occupying half of the lawn, I gazed contentedly at my now upright tree only to discover it still sways. A lot.