Blog, Writing

September Was A Busy Month

September was a busy month for me. It was exciting, too. My first Pocket Novel, The Wishing Tree, went on sale. I’ve since discovered that it sold really well, so thank you to everyone who bought a copy. I loved writing Jake and Emma’s story. I hope you enjoyed reading it.

September was a busy month…

… for getting out and about. I went to Kaffe Fassett’s Timeless Themes exhibition in in Bath’s Victoria Art Gallery. Fassett is an artist who works in many different media, including patchwork and knitting. This exhibition was of a new series of quilts he has created. I saw my first Kaffe Fassett quilt exhibition several years ago. It was at The American Museum in Bath, which with its section on pioneer life was the perfect setting.

Kaffe Fassett's colourful quilt "Salad Days" picturing vegetables, fruit and flowers in September was a busy Month

The natural world had a big influence on all the work in this exhibition. There were so many lovely pieces on display that it was impossible for me to choose a favourite. The one above, called Salad Days, was definitely in my Top Three.

Something is Only 85 Days Away!

The weather has a real feel of autumn here in Gloucestershire but it’s far too early for talk of 25th December yet–unless you need to plan a Christmas event. September is when the Marcher Chapter of the Romantic Novelists’ Association holds one of its Writing Workshops at The Courtyard, in Hereford. That’s traditionally the time when the chapter makes plans for its Christmas meal at the same venue (seasonal jumpers obligatory). That’s another reason why September is a busy month!

News Of A Free Book…

I’ve been taking part in another Romance promotion during September. Along with many other authors I’ve been offering a free book–in my case, Royal Rivals– throughout the month. It’s a chance for readers to discover new authors by sampling their work. The promotion ends on 30th September, so if you’re reading this blogpost before that date you can find out more here.

Grid of promotional squares for Royal Passion. Seascapes, sand, text boxes for September is a busy month

…And An Ebook

I’ve been promoting Royal Passion during September, too. This romance is set on a beautiful sundrenched Greek Island where Leo has gone to escape from the pressures of being a king, and where Sara has been sent to relax. Neither of them are looking for romance, but both are in search of answers. Royal Passion goes on sale on 24th October, and you can pre-order it here.

You can find out more about me here, and see some of my books here.

Blog, Extract

Not Long Now…

It’s not long now until the release of Royal Passion, the first in my Royal Romances trilogy. Here’s an extract to get you in the mood. You can preorder it on your favourite platform right now by clicking here. Then you’ll get Royal Passion the second it goes live!

It’s not every day James Bond swims right underneath you.

The experience propelled Sara out of the water like a missile. It wasn’t 007 who met her on splashdown, but he was a water-slicked vision. His perfect teeth, bronzed skin and flashing dark eyes almost made up for getting the fright of her life.

With the sapphire Aegean Sea slapping at her, Sara didn’t have enough breath left for tact.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

“You screamed, so I dived in,” he said, his voice rich with a foreign accent Sara couldn’t recognise.

The stranger lifted his arm to point at the granite crag above them. Water gushed from the sleeve of his sodden white shirt. Dragging the cuff across his face, he blinked the last water droplets from his lashes.

His long, thick, black lashes…Sara noticed, then cursed herself silently. Surging hormones weren’t to be trusted. They had dragged her out of her depth before.

Her toes brushed sand. With a few frantic strokes toward the shore, she found her feet and waded up the beach.

“You mean you saw blood in the water and made like a shark,” she said.

He was following her. She winced as salty breakers licked the gash on her shin.


“Something bit me.”

She stopped, bending to check the wound. Her leg had no tooth marks, only an extended, jagged cut. She blushed, and the pink stain spread like her bruises. Fancy thinking she was being attacked by a man-eating shark in the privacy of a place like the Paradise Spa!  Relaxing with late-night TV had a lot to answer for.

“That’s unlikely. A rocky outcrop runs under the mouth of this cove. You probably scraped against it.” Her self-appointed rescuer studied her legs with interest. “You’ll live.”

Sara dug her toes into the sand. “Rock or shark bite, it’s still pretty painful.”

He gave her a calculating look. “The way you screamed, I suppose Jaws was on television again last night.”

She avoided his gaze by staring at her leg. It was as painfully red as her face. “I have no idea. There should be warning notices around here, telling people to take care.”

“They are all pinned up inside the summer house.”  He nodded toward a building at the head of the beach.

“Then there should be warning flags out here, too.”

“Why? This inlet is safe enough. There’s a good depth of water at high tide. You just got too close to the rocks, and the swell did the rest.”

He was standing on his dignity, which was difficult, with a wetly transparent shirt clinging to his muscles.

They are rock hard, Sara noticed, wondering about the other parts of his body. This guy could win a Mr Wet Tee-shirt competition, hands down.

Her thoughts revealed themselves in a smile. It got wider at the sight of his disapproval.

The points of Sara’s nipples pushed against the thin fabric of her bikini top.  She told herself it wasn’t a reaction to this gorgeous guy. It was simply the effect of a cooling breeze on her wet skin. She started doing some warm-down exercises as a distraction. Then she noticed her stretches were affecting him, too.

“I haven’t noticed Nick’s guests swimming out here before,” he said.

“Oh, come on! Everyone staying at the spa must love to swim in this beautiful bay.”  Sara straightened up, looking around at the cliffs. Rising from the specially imported, cleaned and sifted silver sand, they towered against a clear blue sky.

“Lounging on the beach or swimming in the sea would get the paparazzi circling. The people who come here are trying to get away from it all. Calling it a spa lets them pretend they are here on doctor’s orders.”

Sara groaned. “Tell me about it! Relaxing is for people with time to spare. Nothing I could do would persuade my doctor not to make me take this break.”

The stranger had been sizing her up appreciatively but stopped when she said that.

“You must have a heart of stone not to enjoy a place like this.”

“…and you aren’t the first person to say something like that. I’m not keen on enforced idleness. And far too many people seem to know what is best for me.”

“You didn’t look to be idling. You were swimming like there really was a shark after you. The only exercise most of the guests take here involves lifting cutlery and glassware. I’ve never seen anyone in the water before.”

“You saw me.”

“You’re pretty unmissable.”

His bitter-chocolate eyes were penetrating. Unsettled, Sara tried to laugh.

“Oh, please! I’m sure a charmer like you can do better than that, Sir Lancelot!”

She felt the intensity of his gaze soften as she spoke, but he didn’t smile. Not yet.

“My name is Leo, not Lancelot. Leo Gregoryan.”

“It was a joke, Leo Gregoryan.” Sara hesitated, but despite his words, he didn’t have the air of a man trying his luck. “I’m Sara Astley.” She planted her hands on her hips, waiting for him to say more.

He didn’t answer. With time to think, she wondered if his surname rang a bell. She put her head on one side and eyed him quizzically.

“Should I know you?”

“I hope not. Nick assured me that his spa is reserved for those keen to spend time away from the public eye. I want to make the most of my freedom while I can.”

His face was unforgettable, but that didn’t help Sara to place him. “Well, I’m sorry, Mr Gregoryan. My day job doesn’t give me time to watch TV. I’ve met a few celebrities, though, and I haven’t liked them.”

“Good for you.”

She looked at him more closely. “You have just dived fully clothed off a rock, and you’re saying it wasn’t a publicity stunt?”

“Correct. I’m not keen on celebrities either. There’s a world of difference between tellystocracy and true aristocracy.”

His charm was effortless. That made puncturing it irresistible to Sara. “I assumed you had done it on the flimsy excuse of creating an online splash.”

“No, I did it because I thought you were in trouble. I was watching you from the terrace. It was much more interesting than yet another champagne reception.”

“Ah,” Sara nodded, “then that explains your clothes. And I thought only bridegrooms wore monkey suits at eleven o’clock in the morning.”

 He grinned, flexing like a tiger anticipating a chase. “No woman makes a monkey out of me.”

“I’m glad to hear it. Champagne and chivalry – that’s an intoxicating combination.”

To order your copy of Royal Passion, click here.

white and blue butterflies illustration
Artificial Intelligence, Blog

The Artificial Intelligence Revolution—How Do You Feel About It?

I’ve been debating for a long time whether or not to take the plunge and start my PhD. I’ve sent for details several times. I bought new stationery last year, used it all on other projects… and now I’ve bought more stationery for this new academic year. Will 2023 be the year I begin my studies? Possibly. I have found a research subject close to my heart, so here goes. How do you feel about the Artificial Intelligence Revolution?

The Artificial Intelligence Revolution

We all use AI to some extent, if it’s only Google or Siri. Almost everybody has an opinion on the AI Revolution. Some say they will never use it. Others say it marks the end of writing, writers, and the writer’s life I’ve enjoyed for so long. Still more have yet to make up their minds. The big question is, if pressing a button will regurgitate enough text to support a computer-generated cover art and a 99 pence price tag, will human authors and the books they produce vanish beneath what Joanna Penn calls “a tsunami of crap”?

close up view of an old typewriter
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on

That’s what I’ll be researching when I start my PhD. Throughout human history there have been sudden, enormous changes in lifestyle. Wars, social and geographical mobility (think the adoption of the horse, bike, train, cars, or planes), revolutions industrial and agricultural…the list goes on. Humans have always adapted, and survived. AI will change writing, for sure, but keen readers will never stop reading. Everybody loves a well-crafted story. You don’t have to read more than a few pages to discover whether a book is worth reading on your personal scale of enjoyment. Who or what wrote a brilliant book is immaterial—unless you are a human writer trying to earn a living. That’s when things get tricky.

I’ve never used AI to write a book or article and I can’t imagine doing so, but I have employed it to help with the aspects of writing craft that I find tricky or time-consuming. Distilling a two-page synopsis into a snappy tag line of only a few words is something that keeps me awake at night. The media expect press releases to take a certain form and contain particular information. AI will produce that kind of technical, rather than imaginative, writing quickly and easily.

In these cases, I craft a prompt that will result in ChatGPT creating half a dozen examples of tag lines, or whatever text I need. Some will be rubbish, some will be quite good, but none (so far) have ever been perfect. They’ve all lacked something. For want of a better word, you could call heart. I choose the best line, then tweak it until it’s a perfect fit. As the famous writing instruction says, it’s far easier to edit something than to break a blank page. AI does that. It can blaze a trail. The quality of what you eventually produce from that starting point is up to you.

AI Assisted v. AI Generated

When human input exceeds the amount of machine-created work, Amazon and other players in the market call it AI-assisted. Broadly speaking, that’s a widely acceptable use of AI although (in my opinion anyway) you should probably ‘fess up. In contrast, if a computer was asked to produce a 50,000 contemporary romance in the style of Barbara Cartland with the intention of marketing it as such, that would be AI Generated. The actual percentage of human input needed before “generated” can fairly be categorised as only “assisted” is a point that will be debated by everyone, and will keep lawyers in business for years.

When creating ad copy distracts writers from real creative writing, that’s where AI can help. Feed the final draft of your two-page synopsis into ChatGpt, and ask it to create half a dozen tag-lines. It will respond in seconds. If you want a blurb for your book, AI can do that too. But of course, it’s not all good news.

Garbage In, Garbage Out

The most advanced AI system in the world can’t read your mind (yet). That means the resulting output can only reflect the quality of the prompts you gave the system. The Large Learning Models used to train AI systems are exactly what they sound like–vast quantities of data used to “teach” the AI system to recognise patterns in computer code, words, or symbols.

AI in the form writers use it at the moment can’t reason or think. Therefore, it can’t improve on your input, only suggest combinations of words and phrases most likely to agree with the prompts you gave it or the questions you asked. That proves the truth of an old computing motto: Garbage in, Garbage out.

Satisfaction (not entirely) Guaranteed?

There’s also the problem of possible plagiarism. Nobody should ever claim work as their own unless it has been throughly checked for plagiarism. Anything created by AI should be meticulously fact-checked, too. There have been cases where students have submitted beautiful assignments, complete with full footnotes, references, and citations. When checked, Artificial Intelligence has been rather too helpful. As well as doing a wonderful job of creating feasible original text, it has gone on to back up its arguments with made-up quotes attributed to fictional authorities and citations from non-existent textbooks.

If you want to read a real book by a real author (me!) while there is still time, my escapist romance Royal Passion is released on 19th October. To order your own copy from your favourite ebook supplier, click here.

You can find out more about me here, and see some of my books here.

crop woman writing down notes in diary
Blog, Writing

Better Than Writing Romance?

I love writing romance, but I enjoy much more about the subject than that. Reading Romance cheers me up when I’m feeling down. The research I do is a big part of my working life.

Better Than…

…writing Romance is discovering how many people enjoy reading it. Last week I wrote about the release of my first Pocket Novel, The Wishing Tree. Lots of people have written lovely things about my debut Pocket Novel, and I’ve been really touched.

I didn’t think things could get better than that. Then EsCeeGee responded to a request in my newsletter (you can sign up for that here). I asked for shelfie photos of my new book baby. They sent me this photo of an empty Pocket Novel hanger in W H Smith. Every copy of The Wishing Tree had been sold!

The story I originally wrote to cheer myself up has found a much bigger audience. Don’t worry, EsCeeGee, I’m sending you your very own copy of The Wishing Tree.

…Reading Romance?

When I was commissioned to write my first non-ficton book, Struggle and Suffrage in Bristol, I discovered the joy of research. I enjoyed diving deep into the archives of Bristol so much that I was disappointed when that research came to an end.

A visit to the University of Gloucestershire in 2018 took my mind off that. My son was considering a course in computing, and it was my turn to do the Uni Open Day Run with him.

Technology really isn’t my friend, so while he was busy at a computer keyboard, I got talking with a tutor from the Humanities department. I told him I’d always regretted leaving school at sixteen. He suggested I should become a mature student. You can read more about what happened after that on several of my blog posts, starting with this one.

The moral of that story, which ended with me achieving an MA (with Distinction!) in Creative and Critical Writing, is Say Yes to Every* Opportunity . Don’t give yourself a chance to have second thoughts. You never know what you can do until you try.

If you’ve read Struggle and Suffrage in Bristol, which of the real-life women’s stories included in it would you like to see expanded into a full-length book? I would love an excuse to spend a few more months in the Bristol Archive!

You can find out more about me here, and see some of my books here.


Blog, books

Exciting Book News

I’ve got some exciting book news to share today.

Royal Passion Is Available On Pre-Order Now!

My first bit of exciting news is that my journey from page to publication is now nearly complete. Royal Passion, the first book in my Royal Romances series is now available for pre-order everywhere online! Click on this link to find out how to order your copy.

Book Cover fro exciting News blog Royal Passion, Greek Beach , romantic couple

More Exciting News

My second bit of exciting news is that my first Pocket Novel goes on sale on Thursday, 31st August. That’s less than a week away! The working title of my book was The Wishing Tree. That may have been changed to fit in with the company’s other published titles. Pocket Novels are sold in larger Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrison stores, WH Smith High Street, Martin McColls, and independent newsagents.

You can read here about how I’ve kept my New Year’s Resolution to self-publish a book. Next time, I’ll start going through the individual steps to publication in more detail. I’ve already updated the My Books section of this site, here.

Thanks All Round

Along my road to self-publishing I’ve had lots of support from the writing community. The Alliance of Independent, the Marcher chapter of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, the Society of Authors, and my cover designer Joanna Maitland have all been really helpful. I couldn’t have done it without them.

I hope you will enjoy reading Royal Passion as much as I enjoyed writing it. Don’t forget—you can order your copy now, from Amazon, Apple, Kobo, or Barnes and Noble.