Friday, 13 September 2019

Who Needs Luggage Anyway?

It's been a busy year with the publication on my two novels What She Saw and We Were Sisters (not to mention writing novel three) so my husband and I decided to sneak off for a week in Croatia for some much needed recharging of batteries.

As always, I spent way too long deciding what I should take. Asking myself the usual questions as I looked through my drawers and wardrobe:

What if it's extremely hot?

What if the evenings are chilly?

What if there's a thunderstorm?

What if the place is smarter than I thought?

What if it's scruffier than I thought?

What if I go walking?

What if the tops I've chosen don't go with the bottoms?

What if no one wears long skirts in the evenings?

What if my shorts are too short?

What if my bikini makes me look like mutton dressed as lamb?

As my husband often says... it must be very tiring being me.

So, with half my wardrobe squashed into my medium sized suitcase, and a fraction of my husband's wardrobe folded neatly into his own, we checked our luggage in at Gatwick. Then, in blissful ignorance, we flew to Zadar where we patiently awaited the arrival of said baggage on the carousel.  Some bags came out (not ours). A few more came out (also not ours). We waited some more. The carousel continued to circle... bagless. Then it stopped.

People were starting to look worried but not as worried as when a baggage attendant walked towards us, a frown on his face. Twenty five people's luggage hadn't been loaded onto the plane due to technical problems at Gatwick. We were two of those people!

Desperately, he tried to volley the questions fired at him:

Did he know when we'd get the bags? No. It could be one day, two days or even three days (in the end it was seven).
Why hadn't we been told we were flying without luggage? He didn't know.
What were we supposed to do? Fill in a form with our address in Croatia and (the next day) ring the number he gave us.

My husband and I stared at each other. We had the clothes we were standing in, our phones but no chargers, money, passports, travel documents and our kindles. That was it! I felt panicky. My blood pressure was probably sky high. And that's when I remembered my medicine was in my case!

We were on a three-centre holiday (Plitvice, Primosten and the island of Vis) and had planned on spending the afternoon in Zadar before driving to Plitvice National Park for our first night. Now the rest of our first day would be spent hunting down medicine and shopping (did I mention my husband hates shopping?). Thankfully, a nearby pharmacist sent us to a local ambulance station where a prescription was written for me so task one could be ticked off... but there was still the dreaded shopping. I thought of all my carefully chosen clothes in my case and could have cried, but I had to face facts. What we needed was a list of holiday essentials to get us through the first few days.

Flip flops
A couple of sleeveless tops and T-shirts
Toothbrush and paste
Phone chargers
Sun cream

We found a shopping mall (hurray) but everything was geared for autumn (boo). Eventually, we found a cheap shop that sold basics and we managed to get everything. Incredible, considering how choosy I am at home.

And then we started our holiday. To begin with, it was frustrating not having our own things. It was even more frustrating when the phone number we'd been given wasn't answered, when the link we were sent gave no information and when our bags eventually arrived in Croatia but were sent to the wrong island. But, then something strange happened. After a few days we started to relax. What was more important? The fact that in every photo I was wearing the same colour top... or the stunning scenery? In any case, having less choice made dressing for the day and evening a whole lot easier. When we eventually got our bags back (on our second to last day) I continued to wear the little black Croatian shorts as I'd grown to love them.

So the moral of this story is that in future I will pack my medicine and phone charger in my hand luggage but will also think carefully about what I really need to take with me.

Here are a few photos from my holiday to prove that, despite #luggagegate, we still had a wonderful holiday.

And tomorrow I'm off to York for the RNA Joan Hessayon Awards... now where's that list?

Saturday, 24 August 2019

Paperback Launch at Steyning Bookshop. How Did it Go?

Have you ever had one of those posts that you can't wait to write? Well this is one of them and the reason? I've just had my first ever paperback launch at my local independent bookshop, The Steyning Bookshop. A dream come true.

Proud? You bet!

The bookshop was established in 1984 just three years before I moved to the town from Brighton, heavily pregnant with my first daughter. Being an avid reader, it was one of the first shops I ever went into and I spent many a happy time with my children in the reading area. Once the children had grown up, I continued to visit with my three grandchildren.

Over the thirty years or so I’ve been living here, I’ve been to many author events organised by Sara the owner: several book launches and a number of talks by inspirational authors such as Debbie Howells, Elly Griffiths, Michelle Paver… even the fabulous Mary Berry. What I couldn’t have predicted is that one day I would be having a book launch of my own.

But why was I celebrating the launch of my second novel, rather than my first? The simple reason is that when my debut, What She Saw, was published, I was scared. It was my first novel, I was a new author and I had no idea whether anyone would want to even read it, let alone like it. But to my amazement, What She Saw went on to become a Kindle bestseller not only in the UK but also in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore and sales in the three months since I’ve been published have topped 40,000. It was the validation I needed to help me feel I'd earned my right to be standing there with a novel in my hand.

In the weeks leading up to my paperback launch, I'd posted on various Facebook author groups, asking for advice for the evening. How long should my speech be? How many pages should I read from the book? How could I stop myself from panicking? I received a lot of sound advice but one that stood out for me was 'just enjoy yourself'.

The evening started at 7.30 p.m. with guests arriving for nibbles and Prosecco (there was also wine and soft drinks). The bookshop held a maximum of fifty people and that was how many people I had! A wonderful mix of family, friends, writers and representatives from all the local activities I take part in: tap, badminton, ballroom, Pilates and choir. With everyone under strict instructions to arrive at the start, the room quickly filled up and the sound level rose several octaves.

After twenty minutes of socialising, the guests were ushered into a seated area of the bookshop. Sara introduced me and then it was time to ‘do my bit’ (a talk of around eight minutes consisting of a welcome and thank you, a little about my path to publication, a summary of We Were Sisters and bit about the location, as it’s set in the local area). The bookshop had even organised a sound system so I could be heard at the back! Now, having been a teacher, I’ve been used to speaking to large numbers of people but that had been children, not adults. Would I be able to deliver something that wasn’t rambling? Would I stumble and stutter? Not trusting myself not to blank, I wrote my speech down and decided to read it, but once I’d warmed up, I felt confident enough to ad-lib in parts which was liberating.

Next was a seven minute reading from the novel followed by a roving microphone in the audience for questions. And what great questions they were.

The formal part of the evening was over. I could breathe, have a glass of Prosecco, sign some books and relax while my guests ate my fabulous ‘book cover’ cake.

Then, too soon, it was 9 p.m. and the book launch had come to an end. Sara and her husband, Rob had looked after us so well. As the last guest left, I looked around me at the table of my books, the remnants of the cake, the empty Prosecco bottles. A room that had been filled with the support and love of so many people.

The whole event should have been daunting, scary even, but it wasn’t. It was exhilarating. And that was because I’d taken the advice I’d been given and enjoyed every moment of it. But the evening wasn't quite over as I popped over the road to join my friends in the pub to carry on with the celebrations and wet the baby’s head.

You could say, the paperback of We Were Sisters has been well and truly launched!

Saturday, 10 August 2019

Publication Day - The Truth

Two days ago, my second psychological thriller, We Were Sisters, was published and, of course, I'm delighted. Before I was published, I had an image of what publication day would be like: lounging around in silk pjs basking in the glory or drinking champagne in a bubble bath, surrounded by flowers from my well-wishers.

But what is publication day really like?

You really want to know? Well, okay, here it is. Publication Day... the truth (beware... it's not for the faint-hearted!).

Diary of a Publication Day

5.15 a.m.  Wake up. Check social media in case my social media manager, Noelle, has also woken early and decided to plaster news of my publication across the sites (even though it doesn't go 'live' until 7.15 p.m.). She hasn't.

6.15 a.m.  Repeat.

6.30 a.m. Wonder why husband is still asleep. Why isn't he up making me a celebratory cup of tea?

7.10 a.m. Desperate for tea but scared to get up unless I miss something.

7.15 a.m. Check Amazon. Why does my novel still say 'pre-order'? Check phone and see that my clock is a minute fast.

7.15 a.m. (again) We Were Sisters has been published. Ta da! Yippee! Wait for the euphoria to hit. It doesn't.

7.16 a.m. My publisher puts up posts on Facebook and Twitter. Share and re-tweet.

7.17 a.m. Decide that this time round I will won't thank everyone personally for their messages of congratulations. A 'like' will suffice. It's my day, I shall relax and enjoy it.

7.18 a.m. Start to thank everyone personally for their messages of congratulations.

7.19 a.m. Repeat.

7.20 a.m. Repeat.

8.00 a.m. Check Amazon rankings. Have I hit the #1 spot yet? They haven't moved.

8.01 a.m. Rankings must be broken. Refresh page. No change.

8.05 a.m. Check my first Amazon review. It's a disappointing 3*. But, never mind another one comes in... it's also 3*.

8.10 a.m. Decide that everyone hates me and my book.

8.12 a.m. Check reviews again. This one loves it. Decide they're only being kind.

8.20 a.m. Continue to re-tweet, share and thank.

8.30 a.m. Repeat.

8.50 a.m. Repeat.

8.45 a.m. Wonder if there's another way of saying 'thank you'.

8.50 a.m. Consider putting merci beaucoup then decide it's pretentious. Anyway, I'm not French.

9.00 a.m. Get out thesaurus.

10.00 a.m. Re-tweet, share, thank.

11.00 a.m. Repeat.

11.15 a.m. Repeat.

12.00 a.m. Start to feel a bit stir crazy. The walls are closing in. Wish I had arranged to have celebratory lunch with writing buddy Tracy like last time.

12.10 a.m. Decide I could open the celebratory bottle of Prosecco my husband's bought me before remembering he hasn't.

12.15 a.m. Re-tweet, share, thank.

12.20 a.m. Repeat.

12.30 a.m. Repeat.

1.00 p.m. Feel hungry but am scared to make a sandwich in case I miss something.

1.30 p.m. Run to fridge, grab a piece of cheese and two tomatoes. Check phone to see if I've missed anything. I haven't.

1.40 p.m. Check Amazon reviews. Someone has entitled their review 'Gripping Thriller'. Decide my book is probably the best ever written.

1.45 p.m. Check again. Someone had entitled their review 'Predictable'. Decide my novel is the worst ever written and everyone hates me.

2.00 p.m. Re-tweet, share, thank.

2.10 p.m. Repeat.

2.20 p.m. Repeat.

2.30 p.m. Start to feel I've got caught up in Groundhog Day. Google it because I can't remember the lead actor's name.

2.31 p.m. Click back onto Amazon in case I've missed something. I haven't.

2.32 p.m. Start talking to myself. Wonder if I'm going mad.

2.33 p.m Message writing friend Liz. Tell her I think I'm going mad and make her go for a walk by the sea.

3.00 p.m.  Walk helps. Tell Liz book is rubbish and everyone hates me.

3.10 p.m. Resist urge to check Amazon ranking.

3.20 p.m. Resist urge to check Amazon ranking.

3.30 p.m. Resist urge to check Amazon ranking.

3.40 p.m. Miss what Liz has just said to me as I'm too busy resisting the urge to check Amazon ranking.

3.50 p.m. Feel better after walk. Check Amazon ranking. It hasn't moved. Feel worse.

4.00 p.m. Come home to find huge tin of hand-baked biscuits and cupcakes from my publisher Bookouture.

4.10 p.m. Check Amazon ranking. It's moved up. Have a couple of celebratory cakes.

4.15 p.m. Check ranking. It the same. Have a couple of commiseratory cakes.

4.20 p.m. Wonder if eating four cupcakes, a chocolate chip cookie and a chocolate muffin might have have been greedy.

4.25 p.m. Feel sick.

4.30 p.m. Re-tweet, share, thank.

4.40 p.m. Repeat.

4.50: p.m. Repeat.

5.00 p.m. Repeat.

5.30 p.m. Think I might have finger strain from the re-tweets and thanks. Wonder if I should see the doctor. Decide I can't. She'd only laugh at me and, in any case, if I leave the house I might miss something.

6.00 p.m. Go to FitSteps. Resist urge to check Amazon Ranking.

6.20 p.m. Between rumba and jive check Amazon ranking.

6.21 p.m. Feel bad for checking.

6.30 p.m. Check again.

7.30 p.m. Wait for husband to come home. Wonder how big the celebratory bouquet will be.

7.45 p.m. Husband comes home. Pretend not to care that there's no bouquet.

8.00 p.m. Go for celebratory meal. Drink Prosecco. Wonder why my fingers are stiff when I pick up my glass.

9.00 p.m. Feel a sense of achievement at not having felt the urge to look at my phone.

10.00 p.m. Fall into bed. Smile because I've realised something. I've had another book published... and it's a good feeling.

If you'd like to read the novel that caused me to eat my weight in cupcakes, you can buy it from 
Amazon here. And it's only 99p!

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

What She Saw Makes Not The Booker 2019 Longlist!

I am absolutely delighted to tell you that my debut psychological thriller, What She Saw has made the Guardian's 'Not the Booker' prize longlist! Can you believe it... my little book!

Huge thanks to Tracy Fells for nominating me.

So what is this prize and why am I so excited? Well, it was launched by The Guardian in 2009 as a way of allowing the public to decide what novels are the year's winners rather than a judging panel made up of industry experts. A great idea don't you think? The longlist this year is made up of around 170 books with some big names on it, such as Ian McEwan and Kate Atkinson, but wouldn't it be lovely if a new writer made the shortlist of three?

... and wouldn't it be lovely if that author was me?!

That's where you come in. If you read and loved What She Saw, I'd be hugely grateful if you voted for it. All you have to do is click on the link below, and vote in the 'comments' section below the list of authors. You have to vote for two books from the list and write a short review of your favourite. Your comment must begin with the word VOTE. Simples.

Now, of course, I have no expectations of making the shortlist but to see people voting for What She Saw would be absolutely wonderful. Reading the Not The Booker review will hopefully encourage others to buy and enjoy it too.

If you'd like to support me, the link to vote is here

Thank you!

Saturday, 29 June 2019

Let's Celebrate

I'd like you all to share a glass of bubbly with me because I'm delighted to tell you... I've signed another two-book deal with my publisher Bookouture!

This means that I will have another two psychological thrillers published in 2020. One in May and the other in December. I've been in discussions for the last month and keeping quiet has been the hardest thing to do when what I've really wanted to do is shout it from the rooftops.

This is what the commissioning editor said in her announcement. I'm so proud! 

This novel-writing lark has been quite a journey, a steep learning curve with many ups and downs along the way, but it's been exciting and to be continuing on my new path is something definitely worth celebrating. I've already started my next novel and it's great to get to know new characters. Not that I've forgotten the old ones. I'm delighted that What She Saw is still receiving great reviews (currently 4.8 out of 5 on Amazon) and is still holding its own in the kindle charts. 

Exciting things are also happening with my second novel, We Were Sisters, as it's now available to pre-order, I can't wait until publication day on August 8th.

If you'd like to have a digital copy wing it's way to you on publication day, you can order it here

I'm delighted that I'm sharing this publication date with my favourite author, Lisa Jewell. What great company to be in!

Luckily, the announcement of my new signing came just a day before I went to my first publisher's summer party in London, which meant I didn't have to keep things quiet. I went along with writing friend and fellow Bookouture author, Liz Eeles, who kindly allowed me to take the bus rather than brave the tube.

It was a great party. So many authors to try and recognise from their social media pictures,
so many faces to match to books, so many people's names to forget. Who cares if it's now all a blur... everyone was so friendly and didn't seem to mind if I introduced myself to them twice! I also got to catch up with my lovely editor, Jen, and had the chance to quiz other members of the Bookouture team about their roles. I had no idea so much went on behind the scenes.

Maybe it might have been better if my first question to Oliver Rhodes, Bookouture's founder, hadn't been, 'So, what do you write?' or thrown two canapes on the floor but I came home exhausted and proud that my hard work has paid off and I am now part of this great family.

It's been a long and hard slog to get here but I think my fortunes finally turned when I won the Flash500 Novel Competition. If you fancy reading more about what happened after my win, you can pop over to Loraine Mace's blog and have a read.

It's back to my work in progress now but I'd just like to say one last word.


Saturday, 8 June 2019

What She Saw Tours the Lake District

My husband and I have just come back from a holiday in our favourite part of England... The Lake District.

It's the seventh holiday we've had there and, whatever the weather, we just love it. As you can see from the photograph below, that's just as well! (Luckily we had enough breaks in the rain to do many lovely walks).

This year's visit was a special one and those of you who have been following my writing journey will know why. Yes, in May, my psychological thriller, What She Saw, was published by Bookouture and The Lake District was its setting. 

The plan, this year, was to revisit all the wonderful places that had inspired the plot and provided key settings.

From our home in the south, it's a long drive to Cumbria (especially when you have lots of holdups on the motorway) but luckily my husband is a member of Audible and we spent the journey there listening to the audio version of my book. As Beth described her walk on the fells, just as we rounded a corner and the first peaks appeared, it was a very proud moment indeed.

We usually stay in a terrace of small miners' cottages near Chapel Stile called Lingmoor View (the inspiration for the one where Beth and her family live in my fictitious village of Church Langdon). Unfortunately, this year, it was already booked up in the week we wanted to visit, so we stayed in a different one in Grasmere, complete with a garden loved by red squirrels. We did make a visit to the cottages though so I could take a photograph with What She Saw.

Another key place in the novel is Temple Cavern, a disused slate quarry where Beth sits and draws the birds of prey she's so fascinated with. It features several times in the book and I created the place by merging Cathedral Cave at Little Langdale with Rydal Caves.

I love the majesty and mystery of the former but the entrance to Rydal Cave, with its stepping stones leading through the green water into the disused quarry, is how I envisage the entrance. 

Slaters Bridge is another place that is mentioned and is where I took the photograph at the top of my blog. We also visited, The Three Shires pub where Beth has Sunday lunch with her parents.

It's been a wonderful and momentous week in one of our favourite places and, to cap it all, I returned home to the news that What She Saw has sold just under twenty thousand copies in just over a month. I can hardly believe it. 

Maybe my husband and I are not the only ones who love this stunning part of the country!

If you'd like to read, What She Saw, you can buy it here

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

What She Saw Makes Amazon Top 100

I would like you to forgive this rather excitable post but I'm, well, rather excited.

When you have a novel published, you never know what to expect. Is anyone going to read it? Will people like it? Will you have to rethink your career? I thought all these things, and more, as the excitement of publication day wore off and life returned to normal.

It was a bit like having finished an exam and I couldn't help thinking, 'Was that it?'

My novel was hovering around the #1,000 mark on Amazon and I had no idea if this was a good place to be or whether I should skulk away into the shadows. I knew my editor was keen for What She Saw to make it into the Amazon Top 100 bestseller list but it didn't look as though it was going to happen.

Then suddenly, when my back was turned, something changed. My second psychological thriller, We Were Sisters, went on pre-order and the next thing I knew, What She Saw had begun to climb again. If I said I didn't check my Amazon ratings at frequent intervals after that, I would be lying. After all, things were starting to get exciting.

With each day, my debut slowly but surely climbed the charts until, early one morning, my editor emailed me to tell me I'd sold 10,000 books in twenty days and had broken into the Amazon Top 100. But it didn't stop there... it kept on climbing and, to my amazement, reached #58.

Not only that but it also got to #2 in the Amazon Hot Releases chart in Psychological Thrillers.

I was absolutely over the moon and was just thinking things couldn't get much better when I had another message to tell me that on Kobo in Singapore I was #1 in 'Mystery and Suspense Thrillers' (plus two other categories) and had bagged top spot in 'Hottest New Page Turners' in both the UK and the US.

The icing on the cake though was when I found out I had received my first 'Bestseller Badge' on Amazon. This time it was in Australia. What She Saw was #1 in Psychological Thrillers (and two other categories) and #2 in the whole of the Kindle charts. Here's the evidence!

I'm really sorry for what must sound like a horribly boastful post, and I don't mean it to be. It's just that (as a lot of you know) the road to publication for What She Saw has been a roller coaster and I can't help feeling like a proud parent as they watch their child who's struggled at school, graduate... which I will actually be doing in a couple of month's time!

I am so very lucky to have found my marvelous publisher, Bookouture, and the best editor in Jennifer Hunt.

She believed in What She Saw from the moment she read it and, thankfully, I now know others do too... including the lovely lady who took the time to let me know she'd read my novel on her cattle station in Queensland!