I am thrilled, delighted and honoured to bring you the news that my third book, What Doesn’t Kill You, is the first to be published under Choc Lit’s newest imprint!
Dark Choc Lit is the new imprint for ‘… compelling, emotional, hard-hitting novels. Not your typical romance story.’
My author tag is ‘romance without the soft edges’, and with Truth or Dare? being quoted on Amazon as ‘hard-hitting‘ (wood_beez48), ‘romance but so much more‘ (Happy reader), and ‘For those who like their romance/love stories a bit tougher, then Truth or Dare? is it.‘ (Book reviews), and Follow Me Follow You,being ‘very emotionally affecting‘ (Welsh Annie) and ‘a mature romance with it’s feet set firmly in reality‘ (Shani), I feel very at home with Dark Choc Lit.
It is most definitely the home for the third in the Chesil Series, What Doesn’t Kill You,and I’d like to take this time to thank my amazing publisher for this opportunity.
So … are you ready to see the beautiful Berni Stevens cover? I have no idea how Berni does it, but she captures the essence of the entire story with her stunning covers.
Scroll down …
It’s a beauty …
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – but how strong can one person be?
Griff Hendry knows what it is to be strong. After a turbulent past, he’s dedicated himself to saving lives, working as a coastguard along the breath-taking shores of Dorset. It’s Griff’s belief that everyone is worth saving – which is why he can’t forgive his father, Logan, for what he did.
Griff’s future is plunged into uncertainty when his wife, Evie, tells him she wants a separation. The revelation is a shock and leads Griff to question what Evie could possibly be hiding – and she isn’t the only one holding back. Griff’s troubled stepdaughter, Tess, also harbours a dark secret.
As the truth is uncovered, Griff is forced to accept that perhaps he’s never understood what real strength is.
From Dark Choc Lit – compelling, emotional, hard-hitting novels. Not your typical romance story.
Emergence … It sounds like the final part in a Veronica Roth series. It’s not, as far as I’m aware. It’s a reference to the time I’ve spent in the edits cave with my third novel, What Doesn’t Kill You, and the fact I’m out and enjoying the October sunshine.
I’m hoping to have more information about the book soon and will let you know the minute I hear. In the meantime, I’m taking full advantage of my time outside by attending a number of writing-related events, starting with the Bridport Story Slam this Tuesday 13th October 2015, at the Beach and Barnicott in Bridport. I was honoured to be a judge last year, and this time I’m returning as the MC. It’s a fantastic evening and I urge you to come along.
Each contestant has a five-minute slot in which to read aloud their short story. If the story exceeds the time limit, the reader is dinged out. I’m not in charge of the bell.
It’s not only about writing, but the performance, too.
I will be there with copies of Follow Me Follow You for sale and would be delighted to talk books and writing during the breaks. It starts at 19:30.
On Saturday 24th October 2015, I shall be at the Redbridge Central Library, Ilford, with three of my fellow ChocLiteers, talking about writing romance. It’s excellent value at £3, and here are the details.
Along with two of my Littoralis friends, Kathy Sharp and Kate Kelly, I will be presenting a panel on the advantages of being with an independent publisher. There are many events planned for that day, including writing workshops. Really worth checking out and booking in advance.
For further updates about my trips out, please go to my News and Events page.
I’ve been in website jail. It’s taken a little while to sort out, but I am once again free to blog!
I was victim to over a thousand spam or non-existent subscribers, and as my last blog went out, so did three thousand emails, of which hundreds pinged back. This action put my website host on alert, and quite rightly, they put the site on lock-down.
In order to gain back control, I had to delete the dead or spam email addresses and install a captcha code box to prevent robot subscribers. I spent a lot of hours copying, pasting and deleting these addresses in order to remove them from my database, and once I let my provider know I’d complied with their request, my site was unblocked.
So, lesson learned. On the off-chance my code box doesn’t pick up all the spammers, I will delete the addresses that ping back as and when they occur. The reason I didn’t do this before? Fear of the unknown. Well, now I know, and despite being a lengthy process, it turned out to be reasonably simple thing to fix.
What I wanted to tell you, whilst I was in website jail, was that both my Choc Lit novels, Truth or Dare?, and Follow Me Follow You, are in the Amazon summer sale, each 99p to download, here. If you’ve read and enjoyed them, please do recommend them to a fellow reader. Thanks.
It’s All About The Digging: Minecraft and Research.
I spent a hectic, exhausting, fantastic weekend in London, at MineCon – the Minecraft Convention.
Minecraft is one of the most widely played games in the world, and seventy-three countries were represented at the convention.
My children play Minecraft on various platforms, including their laptops and the Xbox, and are huge fans of YouTubers – in this case people who have made a name for themselves making films centred on the game.
Ten thousand tickets only went on sale. The competition was fierce. The event was sold out in minutes. Whilst my daughter and I sat in a car park in Plymouth, eating our sandwiches before attending a Paloma Faith gig, Gajitman was at home, poised at the PC, waiting for the first batch of tickets to be released.
At six-fifteen, I received a text to say he had secured five tickets – one for me, two for our children and two for our children’s friends. My teen was absolutely delighted and couldn’t wait to phone her mate to tell him the good news.
So, having achieved what at first seemed like the impossible, we found ourselves at the ExCel Centre in London for a weekend of gaming, workshops, panels and meeting the young (to me) YouTubers.
This is exactly the sort of thing my new hero, Ash Carrington, would do, and so I found the research invaluable, especially as I learned how Minecraft is now being used as an educational tool and as a way to help build real life communities.
While the children played Minecraft tournaments and carried out virtual building and mining, I did some digging of my own and was impressed and motivated by what I learned.
In conjunction with one another, the creators of Minecraft, Mojang, and UN-Habitat are using the mining and building game to encourage young people to design urban spaces, which are then built in real life. I think the Block By Block initiative is fascinating. Please take the time to check out the site for more info.
This is the sort of project with which Ash, a well-known TV presenter, would be involved, carrying out his work anonymously, and I have returned home full of ideas as to how to develop his character.
On a personal level, it was an absolute joy to see the pleasure and excitement on the children’s faces. I say children, but they are young adults, who paid for their own tickets, carried their own rucksacks, and planned their two days to take full advantage of everything on offer.
The icing on the cake for them was a private meet and greet with a group of Minecraft YouTubers known as The Pack. The equivalent for me would be a chat with Kate Bush, Paloma Faith, Jodi Picoult … you get the idea. YouTubers are today’s celebrities in the world of tech.
It was an honour to accompany the four young adults, and their energy was infectious. Something I will remember, and something Ash will teach my new heroine, Jo …
At school, I tried really hard to succeed at History. My brother enjoyed his history lessons, and my mum could name all the Kings and Queens of England, but I struggled with the political concepts and I was rubbish at deciphering documents.
I can recall snippets here and there – the Versailles Peace Treaty, the League of Nations, NATO, David Lloyd George (not to be confused with Harold Lloyd, whose TV shows were being rerun back in the eighties, when I was studying for O level History), and World War Two, but to me, it was simply a list of names, dates and figures.
Recently, I’ve learned more about the past by listening to those who have lived it, than I did sitting in class at school.
I’m at the wonderful phase of book writing – the beginning – when a whole new world, new characters and new scenarios are evolving. I’ve almost completed my research, but I have enough at this stage to start getting the first draft down. One of the characters in the book is named Nell. She grew up in the Channel Island of Jersey during WW2. With my history of … history, I needed to research this period of time and a friend of mine who, like Nell, grew up in Jersey, has been kind enough to talk me through her memories.
Spread over a few get-togethers, we chatted for several hours. Not only was I touched by my friend’s willingness to talk about her life, I am now better educated and have a higher regard for those things I tend to take for granted. To sit with a person who lived through the rationing, faced starvation, had no means of heat, and no form of communicating with the outside world, has made modern history real, and I wonder if I’d have learned more at fifteen if I’d had the honour of being taught by the people who were there. That’s not to say the teacher wasn’t doing her job – she was highly regarded and I liked her, but hearing the stories told first hand, and listening to the personal accounts have affected me more and given me a greater insight than I ever gained trying to absorb dates, times and document captions from a sheet of paper.
Or is it that now I’m older and have a history of my own, I understand more the value of life?
This week is Rheumatoid Arthritis Awareness Week, and this is my post in support of the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society’s campaign. I was going to blog about this yesterday, but fatigue and a flare-up got hold of me and the thought of sitting at my desk was too much.
Oh, the irony.
As an aside, this time last year I was writing my RA Awareness post with my new ulna head in my left wrist. This year, I have no ulna head in my left wrist. I’m not even sure I should call it a wrist … Sadly the new implant didn’t alleviate the pain, so the decision was taken to have it removed. I’m pleased to say my *wrist* is healing well. It’s early days, but I am hopeful all will be resolved.
It’s my knees playing up at the moment, and they’re prone to giving out from under me – TWANG! No warning. Needless to say, I’m not wandering too far. Thankfully the sun is shining in Dorset, and I’m able to sit in my small, but quiet garden and read, or make notes for my fourth novel.
Gajitman recently enlarged our patio so we have room for a gazebo. It was
backbreaking work for him, digging up slabs and earth, cutting away roots, mixing cement and building a new dwarf wall. He’s an IT engineer by trade. Our son joined in with great enthusiasm having fun wheeling out barrows full of earth and stones. I have no idea how such a slender lad can be so strong. I watched from the conservatory window, my heart bursting with love, as I knew the boys were doing this for me.
They were creating a little piece of Italy – a reminder of a writing course I attended two years ago in Arte Umbria, where the guests would sit out, under the gazebo, overlooking a glorious landscape. I had an incredible week there where I made new friends, was nurtured, and felt relaxed and well. It was bliss.
I was lucky enough to travel there with two good friends, Sue Moorcroft, the marvellous tutor of the course, and the lovely Celia Anderson, fellow writer. Without their help and support, a week away without Gajitman or my able children would have been tough. Even the thought of being somewhere new can cause me anxiety. Will I be able to use the shower? What sort of taps are there? How many stairs does the property have? What happens if I can’t undo my zip? On this occasion, I needn’t have worried. Everyone was so thoughtful, kind, and inclusive. It was a week away from home that will stay with me forever.
In July, I’m heading into London for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s annual conference. I’ve never been to the venue, so I have no idea what it holds in store, but despite my limitations, I can be intrepid because this supportive group of novelists accept me for who and what I am. They are generous with their time and practical help, and one or two (usually my close friends from my online writing group, The Romaniacs), have had the delightful pleasure of helping my put on and take off jewellery, fasten shoes, and open various jars and bottles on my behalf.
What strikes me as I’m writing this is how my family and friends understand I will ask for help when it’s required. They respect my independence and my privacy, my determination to try and my frustration at not succeeding, and somehow, like the magic shopkeeper in Mr Benn, they are always there when I need them.
Without the wonderful help and support from my trusted family and friends, my world would be the size of a grapefruit.
Now to spend the day enjoying my little piece of Italy. No travelling involved.
Today, we ChocLiteers are celebrating Choc Lit’s sixth birthday!
Choc Lit publish books ‘with romance at the heart’, so six is a very special number, as not only does it represent the Lover card in Tarot, but six is the symbol of Venus, the goddess of love.
When my children turned six it meant lots of little people running through our house, paper cups daringly filled to the rim with lemonade, tiny triangular sandwiches the adults ended up eating, and a zillion orange fingerprints on the woodwork, for which the eating of Wotsits was blamed.
I see no reason why partying in this way should cease …
So, put your Wotsit on the table, raise your glass of lemonade, and join me in wishing Choc Lit a very happy sixth birthday. And here’s to another wonderful six years of love and romance.
Who’s for a game of Twister?
Be sure to follow the Choc Lit blog, Facebook page and Twitter feed (#ChocLitparty) for birthday treats.
In celebration of the e-launch day for Alison May’s brand new romantic comedy, Midsummer Dreams, I’m posting today on the theme of all things dream-related. Be sure to check out Alison’s blog today, and see how many other dream-related posts you can find floating in the midsummer air.
I had a dream…
These are almost the lyrics to a song by the first band with whom I fell in love. (And yes, I have just watched the video, I did sing along, and I did come over all emotional.) I was ten years old when my friend introduced me to ABBA.She played Mamma Mia on her cassette player. You know the sort of machine? You had to set up the skinny microphone, balance it precariously on its Y stand, place it next to the radio, and press down the play and record buttons together to tape the Top 40 … One of those.
With ABBA, it was love at first hearing, and for the next few Christmasses, I was guaranteed the newest album and accompanying poster. I knew every word of every song – even the B sides to the singles. I painstakingly handwrote the lyrics, lifting the arm on my record player to pause the song while I copied down the next couple of phrases.
I’d sit at my desk, staring through my window, listening to Abba, singing along, imagining I was on stage performing Fernando and Super Trouper, and I’d dream of meeting Benny, Bjorn, Agnetha and Frida.
Alas, I never met the four people who dominated the walls of my bedroom, but I have been on stage singing their songs, and enjoyed every moment of living that particular dream.
I had a nightmare…
… finding jeans that fit the small of my back.
My dream for the future…
That my children live happy, healthy and fulfilling lives, and that they know their dreams can come true. As Walt Disney said; All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.
Four people. Four messy lives. One party that changes everything … Emily is obsessed with ending her father’s new relationship – but is blind to the fact that her own is far from perfect. Dominic has spent so long making other people happy that he’s hardly noticed he’s not happy himself. Helen has loved the same man, unrequitedly, for ten years. Now she may have to face up to the fact that he will never be hers. Alex has always played the field. But when he finally meets a girl he wants to commit to, she is just out of his reach. At a midsummer wedding party, the bonds that tie the four friends together begin to unravel and show them that, sometimes, the sensible choice is not always the right one.
Wednesday saw the removal of my wrist cast, which in itself was enough cause for celebration, but when I returned home from hospital, I found a message from the wonderful people at the Official Jodi Picoult UK Fanpage informing me I’d won tickets to Jodi Picoult and Samantha van Leer’s evening at the Times building, London.
I’m a HUGE Jodi Picoult fan. This is not a secret. Her books inspired me to write issue-driven novels. Mine have strong elements of romance, with the happy ever after or hopeful ending, but they are issue-driven.
I was not going to turn down this superb opportunity to attend a Jodi Picoult evening, but the event was the next day.
Cue major excitement and blind panic.
Cue Gajitman, the hero of the hour, insisting I should go and he would take care of everything on the home front.
Trains, although a little tricky trying to book one all the way home that didn’t take seven hours, were sorted, the schedule for the next day was set, and I went to bed keen to get some sleep ready for my big adventure.
The day was hectic, with train cancellations, bus transfers, and the journey taking almost twice as long as anticipated, but everything – all of it – was worth it. I met some wonderful people – a lovely lady who was travelling the same journey as me – we chatted all the way to Waterloo, fellow Jodi Picoult fans (Hi Helen), who were as thrilled and excited as me to be at The Times event, and Jodi Picoult, her charming daughter, Samantha van Leer, and a handsome Prince Oliver, who were funny, delightful and engaging.
I met Jodi Picoult three years ago on her Lone Wolf tour when I ended up on the stage howling like a wolf, as detailed in the blog I wrote at the time, here.
Yesterday, it was the mother and daughter team promoting their second co-written book, Off The Page, a follow-up to Between The Lines, with assistance from Prince Oliver, a character fresh out of the pages of the books.
After the introduction, readings were given, the first by Samantha, the second by Prince Oliver, then the audience was invited to participate in a Q&A session.
A question was asked about research, and that’s something about which I used to speculate when I was a brand spanking new writer. I remember thinking specifically about Jodi Picoult books, packed as they are with hard-hitting and sensitive issues, and wondering how a writer gained access to experts.
Jodi explained she writes about issues that keep her awake at night, then finds the experts in that field and emails them requesting their assistance, explaining she is writing a book. She arranges to meet for an interview, which she records, and/or requests to shadow them to get a feel for their role. Their help is acknowledged in the published books.
Seven years on from starting my first novel, I’ve found that people are very generous with their time and knowledge and are happy to help a writer in need, for which I will always be grateful, and I offer thanks and if they allow, an acknowledgement in the book, too. My family and friends were my first port of call. There’s a vast amount of skill and experience within both groups, but if they’re not able to help, the chances are they’ll know someone who can. I’ve yet to approach an expert without a friendly letter or Facebook message of introduction from a mutual acquaintance, but should that time come, I know it’s okay to do so.
People were interested to learn about the writing process when co-authoring a book. Jodi and Samantha explained they literally sat side-by-side when writing the books and were often ‘on the same page’, but that didn’t stop heated debate or discussion on the occasions they were approaching the story from different angles. It was then Jodi realised her daughter was indeed a writer, that her ideas were great, and valid, and had every right to be considered. (I’ve paraphrased here, but this was my understanding.)
Samantha was thirteen when she had the idea for Between The Lines, and the book was written over the course of two to three summers, with the writers working eight hours per day. I think I’m right in saying the second book was written in a similar way.
I posed the final question of the evening, asking if when writing her adult books Jodi ever ran plot problems past Samantha, and Jodi cited an occasion where a dark scene had caused her problems. Samantha took it on and it was resolved. This made me smile as it’s something I do with my daughter, who has an instinct for asking the questions that will lead me to a revelation or realisation.
What I enjoyed most about last night was the mother/daughter dynamic on the stage – completely natural, with a dose of gentle ribbing, perfect synchronicity and flow of conversation, and an obvious love for one another.
Thank you so much to The Times, the Official Jodi Picoult UK Fanpage, and to Prince Oliver, Samantha van Leer, and Jodi Picoult for a warm, friendly and thoroughly entertaining and inspiring evening.
It’s true. I have been plastered all weekend, and will continue on this course until June.
No wine was consumed …
As a person with rheumatoid arthritis, I’ve had many operations to alleviate pain, fix, replace or remove damage caused by the aggressive disease. My hands and arms are the most affected areas, but RA attacks many joints, including feet, ankles, knees and jaws.
Following wrist surgery two weeks ago, I’m now in a lightweight cast, up to my elbow, and will remain in it for five weeks. It’s comfortable, it’s usable, and it’s
protecting my joint while it heals. I say joint, but I actually don’t have a wrist joint anymore. It was replaced in December 2013, and that replacement was removed in the last operation, the surgeon filling the space with soft tissue.
I am constantly amazed by the work of my orthopaedic consultant and his team, and I’m extremely fortunate to have their skills available to me.
My blue cast is comfortable, unlikely to give me concussion at night should I lose control of my arm, and, most importantly, on my left hand, which means as a right-hander, I can brush my teeth.
I’ve used my recovery time well, reading, which has been so enjoyable, and planning book 4. The plans are still in my head, but pretty soon the big sheet of paper and the marker pens will be OUT!