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.


photo of dried pin cones on top of books
Blog, self-publishing, Writing

More Self-Publishing News

I explained here that I’ve started self-publishing my backlist. Royal Passion is the first in my Royal Romances series, and I’m releasing it in October. I’m busy doing the final edits, and today, I’ve got more self-publishing news!

Save the Datefor More Self-Publishing Hints

On Tuesday, 8th August, fellow author and cover artist Joanna Maitland and I will be appearing on a Zoom chat arranged by the Herefordshire Chapter of the Society of Authors. We’ll be talking about our experiences of self publishing. If you’d like to find out more and book a place, click here.

One of the things I’ll be talking about is how the design of Royal Passion the ebook tells readers what to expect. All they can see online is the cover and the first few pages, which must convey a lot of information in a short space.

Self publishing cover news Greek beach and seashore, with a yacht. Image of a romantic couple.

Royal Passion is escapist romance. I wanted the cover to make readers think of holidays in the sun, with cloudless skies and romance with a hint of sizzle…

More Self-Publishing Know-How

There are lots of books jostling for attention online. Cover art needs to make a big impact at thumbnail size. Joanna made sure that the cover art for Royal Passion gave the impression it was contemporary, escapist romance with a hint of heat. The font and colours will be readable even at a small size.

Like for Like

Inside the front cover, Royal Passion is designed to look exactly like other book in the romance genre. It opens with an introduction to new readers. Then there’s a note about my backlist (you can find out more about me here, and see some of my books here). The all-important copyright notice is next, followed by an extract from Royal Passion to whet readers’ appetites, and a message thanking everyone who has helped me to bring the book to life.

And Then?

Readers turn the page to meet Sara and Leo, two strangers in a Grecian paradise who are determined not to fall in love…

Your Chance To Read on…

My August newsletter will give five lucky subscribers the chance to read an advance copy of Royal Passion. Sign up for my newsletter here, and I’ll include you in the draw.

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Blog, Writing

Adventures in Self-Publishing

Rather than let my backlist gather dust, I’m going to republish selected pieces of my writing. Join me at the start of my adventures in self-publishing…

A Coral Reef of Creativity

During my career as a writer, I have written a ton of stuff. Articles, short stories, and novels are sitting around in my office and on my computer gathering dust (both real and virtual). After years of living alongside this coral reef of creativity, at last I’m going to put it to good use. It’s either that, or one day I shall disappear under a landslide of Lever Arch files.

crop woman writing down notes in diary
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

My First Adventure in Self-Publishing

A few years ago, I put out a story, My Dream Guy, on Amazon. You can read that for free here, and find more of my published books here and here. I did that after discovering how easy it was to do that using the writing tool Scrivener. Around that time, I joined the Alliance of Independent Authors after attending a presentation at an RNA conference. I was inspired…but never quite brave enough to load up more of my work and press ‘publish’. Every time my Alli subscription fell due I would think, “This year I’m definitely going to do it!” Then life got in the way, the days turned into weeks, and then months. You know how it is.

The Adventures Start Here…

And then this year the planets aligned—or rather, an attack of guilt about how much I spend on various subscriptions sent me out to local meetings of both the Romantic Novelists’ Association and The Society of Authors in the same week. My regular New Year’s Resolution to self-publish was already months old, and I had done nothing about it. Then Historical novelist Joanna Maitland inspired members of the RNA with her experiences of self-publishing her extensive backlist. My flagging spirits revived. Three days later, I went to a meeting of the Society of Authors’ Monmouthshire group. I was still feeling enthusiastic after listening to Joanna when members of the SoA got to work on me. Instead of the leisurely lunch I had expected, I spent the whole time making notes (when I wasn’t eating). By the time I got home, my mind was buzzing with ideas and suggestions. Then my research started. It’s been going on ever since.

person holding a book

…the Self Publishing Is Coming Soon!

Right now, I’m investigating the keyword creator Publisher Rocket and the manuscript formatting package Vellum. I have given this blog a makeover, and I’m busily updating the manuscript of His Majesty’s Secret Passion. This will be the first book from my backlist that I produce. It will have a new name, Royal Passion, and a brilliant new cover is being produced as I write. Subscribers to my monthly newsletter will hear about my adventures in self publishing as they happen, and they will be the first to see the cover of Royal Passion when it is ready. Join them by entering your email address here!

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Blog, Writing

Become A Better Writer By…

Becoming a better writer starts with confidence. The first step in reaching any goal is telling yourself you can do it. It doesn’t matter if your goal is writing a novel, creating a collection of poems, or keeping a journal.

…Believing In Yourself

Becoming a Better Writer: get a business card. Photo by Hans via Pixabay

If you want to be a writer, give yourself that job title from Day One. Then work at it with all your might. Whether or not you are published, as soon as you put words down on the page, you become an author. Celebrate that fact! Create your own business card and keep it in your phone case. Seeing it every time you use your phone will remind you of your ultimate goal. Your first business card can be as simple as a hand-written, cut-down postcard. Include your writing name, email address, and that vital word ‘author’. As soon as you can afford it, order a small supply of business cards from somewhere like Vistaprint or Canva. Then when the time comes you’ll have something to hand out to your readers, and book stores.

Writers are supposed to avoid using clichés, but practice really does make perfect. Here comes another favourite saying—I wish I had a pound for every time someone has said to me; ‘I’d love to be a writer, but I don’t have the time,’ or, ‘I’d love to be a writer, but I don’t have the inspiration.’ If you care about your ideas and you are willing to work at them, the words will come. The more time you invest in writing, the better you will become.

Become A Better Writer By—Writing!

Entering competitions teaches you to write to a deadline. Some offer a paid-for critique service, which is helpful. Attending conferences and workshops will give you ideas and advice, but in the end how much your writing improves is up to you. If you wait until you are in the mood to write, you might as well give up now. You have to put in the work, whether or not you, or the words are in the mood to play along. As long ago as 1911, Mary Heaton Vorse came out with the perfect advice to writers everywhere; ‘The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.’

yellow black pencil sharpened above the white paper in macro photography Becoming a better writer by writing
Photo by Lisa Fotios on

Writing goals keep you on track and give you something to aim for. The SMART system is really useful for writers. The individual letters of the word stand for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time sensitive. Saying; ‘I want to write a book’ is woolly. There’s neither detail nor urgency about it.

I will have written a book at least 70,000 words long by 31st December this year is specific. It’s measurable, because at the end of the year you will either have reached your goal, or you won’t.

Writing a book of that length in a year is both achievable, and realistic. All you have to do is write 109 words every day for 365 days. Want an idea of what that daily total looks like? There are more words than that in the first nine sentences of this blog.

Set a Goal

Becoming a better writer takes self-belief, practice, and a definite goal. If you sit down, concentrate, and write a few lines every day, it will soon become a habit—like cleaning your teeth or brushing your hair.

Why don’t you share your writing goals for 2023?

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

merry christmas sign
Blog, Writing

December Notes and Writing Prompts

Lots of us are busy with parties and Christmas preparations this month. I started early! However busy you are, take some time out to and relax. When the weather is cold and clear we can get some wonderful sunrises and sunsets this month. Here are some December notes and writing prompts, to give your creativity a nudge.

December Writing Prompts: photo of a winter sunset with birch trees and snow.
Photo by Pixabay on

December Notes

December 1st is the official start of winter. At this time of year insects are in short supply. Wildlife has already eaten most of Autumn’s berries and seeds, so birds and animals are getting hungry. Even if you don’t have a garden, you can feed them. There are windowsill feeders to bring life and movement right up close. That can provide inspiration for non-fiction work, or simply a break from work. I waste lots of writing time watching the finches, nuthatches and woodpeckers squabbling!

December Writing Prompts: Use the contrast of light and dark to spark creativity. Two pillar candles
Photo by Matej Novosad on

December in the Dark

One of my favourite December memories is trudging home from school one dark winter afternoon, weighed down with a ton of homework. With a hundred yards to go I looked up—and saw the coloured lights of the Christmas tree in our front window, shining through the darkness. They were only the old-fashioned, static Woolworths fairy lights, but that didn’t matter. Seeing them gave me a real boost. It’s important to include contrast in your writing. The difference between reality and promise, or darkness and light, add depth to your work.

close up of christmas decoration hanging on tree
Photo by Gary Spears on

Sensory Treats at Christmas

December brings lots of sensory treats. There’s Jack Frost nipping at your nose, and the fragrance of crushed pine needles, or marzipan, and all kinds of exotic citrus fruits. I love the sensation of sliding into a brand new bubble bath on Christmas morning. It’s a shame those bubbles are always cold, no matter how warm the water!

Writing Prompts

Editors schedule magazine features and stories about Christmas months in advance. The The People’s Friend , for example, looks for Christmas pieces in early summer. You can get some inspiration ahead of Christmas 2023 deadlines by studying what is on offer right now. Background reading of this month’s Christmas fiction and non-fiction will give you an idea of what is wanted. Make lots of notes. Then you can spend the next few months working them up for submission.

Now It’s Your Turn!

Create your own December Notes and Writing Prompts to inspire you this month. If you have a busy Christmas, the time between the big day and New Year celebrations can be a bit of a let-down. Writing gives you focus. If you are on your own this Christmas, writing can help to ease loneliness. Either way, you can use the dark days of December to squirrel away inspiration for your new writing year.

December Writing Prompt: close up of mistletoe
Photo by Dids on

Ideas to get you started

  • What if the family member who always did the cooking went on strike, and refused to cook Christmas dinner?
  • Power cuts are predicted. How would your characters cope, faced with cold baked beans and bread toasted over a candle?
  • Mincemeat originally contained real meat. What’s the worst traditional dish you can think of—and how could you persuade your fictional characters to try it?
  • Kisses under the mistletoe—a huge mistake, or the start of a beautiful friendship?
  • Christmas 1914 saw a football match between British and German forces during the First World War. How would you mend a rift between opposing sides? This is the idea behind my latest story Goodwill to All, by the way!