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This week, I am delighted to welcome John Jackson to my blog. If you are an RNA member, you are bound to know John, firstly because there aren't many men in our ranks and secondly because he's the one with the camera! As well as being a photgrapher, he describes himself as a hedgehog wrangler and a dance fan.


John's debut novel, Heart of Stone, was published recently and he's joined me here today to chat about it and about his writing in general.


How did you start writing? Were you a childhood writer?


I started writing many years ago when our kids were little. I was away at sea, and it was a good way of passing the time. This is LONG before the days of e-mail; back then we may only be able to get a letter away once every 3 weeks, and possibly up to 6 weeks between chances to phone home. Writing filled that gap.


They were simple animal stories; sub-Beatrix Potter/Alison Uttley. Unfortunately, I no longer have them. I tried vaguely later in life, but without any real conviction or drive to finish a story.



How long did the first draft take to write? How many drafts were there?


It took me six months to complete the first draft. That went in to the RNA New Writers Scheme. It was then rewritten and edited about 4 more times.



How did you get together with your publisher, Crooked Cat?


A friend, Angela Wren, was with them. I looked them up, saw they were open for submissions, and sent my MS in. I then did a lot of "due diligence" talking to other authors on their list, in different genres. Everyone published by them reckoned they were excellent! I can only agree.


One of your Amazon reviews comments that the "dark tendencies of the main villain were both frightening and gripping." Did your villain's character grow over time or was it matter of arriving in your imagination fully formed?


He did grow with time. He was a baddy to start with, and got worse. He is based on a real person, Robert Rochfort, who was my 5 x Gt-grandfather, and who really WAS an evil person.



Plotter or pantser? Or were you following family history so closely that this question is redundant?


I'm a Plotter by nature. All my family will tell you I do a mean List! The REAL events were too tragic all round to make a novel as it stood. I like the idea that I have written the story of what SHOULD have happened.



For you, what is the hardest part of the writing process? And what do you enjoy the most?


The hardest is having the confidence to believe in the story I want to tell. The best part is writing "The End" when it is properly finished.



John's links: 


Chat with him on Twitter         


Catch up with his news on his blog           


Heart of Stone on Amazon



And The Oscar Goes To... Yes, It Felt THAT Good.

Posted on 17th November, 2017

Sorry, but this week's blog is going to be devoted to me showing off.


If you have a passing acquaintance with my website, or if you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed that the audio version of The Deserter's Daughter, read by Julia Franklin, was released on November 1st.


Well, when I received my copy of Isis Sounding's quarterly magazine, Audio Update, guess what was on the front cover...


In the general overview of the season's new releases, it not only introduced The Deserter's Daughter, but went on to say: "We're looking forward to her second novel, A Respectable Woman, next year as well." Wow!


Not only that, but when I looked inside at the sagas page, my book - my book! - had been given top billing.


It was such an honour. I felt like I had won an Oscar.


Sorry about the showing off, but I'm sure you can understand. I hope you've had a great week too.


This week, my What I Learnt From... series continues and I am happy to welcome Jessica Redland back to my blog to share the lessons she learnt from writing her Whitsborough Bay series, Searching Fir Steven, Getting Over Gary and Dreaming About Daran, plus, of course the related novella, Raving About Rhys.


* * * *


A year ago, I released the final book in a trilogy. The books follow three friends – Sarah, Elise and Clare – with each book being told in a 1st person perspective of one of the characters. It’s been fascinating writing a series and I’ve learned a lot so here are a few tips from my experiences:


When it comes to writing, I’m a bit of a pantser. I like to put fingers to keyboard and see where the characters take me. I’ve tried planning my books in a lot of detail but I’ve always ended up massively deviating from the plan because the characters develop differently or twists suddenly come to me while I’m driving or in the shower.


But, I still have an overall plan. I know the overall premise of each book, how they’re going to end, who the characters are, and the dilemmas I’m going to throw at them.


My personal view would be that you need this for any book you write, but I think it’s even more important for a series because it helps you work out whether each book in the series is strong enough to stand on its own, and whether you have the order of the series right.



Create a strong setting and capture the details


In my mind, what makes books a series is consistency of both characters and setting. It doesn’t mean that your cast of characters can’t grow or diminish, and it doesn’t mean that your characters can’t go to new settings but some consistency is key.


I created a North Yorkshire seaside town called Whitsborough Bay. It’s predominantly modeled on Scarborough where I live, but I wanted somewhere fictional so that I could change things. Searching for Steven starts in London but moves to Whitsborough Bay. Getting Over Gary (book 2) is purely set in Whitsborough Bay, but book 3, Dreaming About Daran, is mainly set in Leeds and Ireland. There are lots of links with, and visits to, Whitsborough Bay, though.



Quite early on, I started a spreadsheet so that I could capture the names of streets, pubs, cafés, shops etc. My memory isn’t good enough for me to remember all these little details, but I certainly didn’t want to confuse the reader by changing the names of places mid-series.



Write each book as though it’s a standalone novel

There will always be readers who pick up a book and don’t realise it’s part of a series, therefore reading it out of order. There will be readers who read the series in order but have significant gaps between reading each part and need a little memory refresh.


I’d therefore suggest that each book is written so that it can be read as a standalone novel. This is a careful balance as you need to have some summaries/back stories without having so much that those familiar with this information will be put off. From the reviews I’ve had which mention this point, I’ve thankfully managed to achieve this.



Write the whole series before releasing it … if you can


This is a tricky one. If a writer is looking to have a really long series or if they secure a publishing deal early on and are facing submission deadlines, this might not be possible but, if you can, I’d suggest writing it all before releasing it. Why? Because, as you progress in the series, you will come across scenarios that would work better if you’d been able to create a character/plant an idea earlier on.


I didn’t do this. I secured a publishing deal when I’d only written Searching for Steven and had half-written Getting Over Gary. Steven was actually released before I’d written any of Dreaming About Daran. I was lucky because there weren’t any major changes I’d have made if I’d finished the series first, but there were a few minor points here and there. None of them are significant enough to have stuck in my mind. If I hadn’t had an overall plan for the trilogy though, I’d have massively messed things up. I knew that Clare, the protagonist of book 3, had a secret about her past. At the time I wrote book 1, I wasn’t sure what Clare’s secret was, but I was able to set this up nicely in book 1, build it in book 2, then reveal it in book 3. If I’d gone beyond a third book, I suspect that there’d have been other details that I needed to set up right at the start which is why I’d suggest writing the whole series if you possibly can.


Of course, you may not know that you have a series on your hands which brings me onto my final point…



Sometimes a series doesn’t start out as a series


When I had the idea for Searching for Steven, it was meant to be a standalone book. I was so shocked that I had a fully-formed idea for a novel, and very aware of the huge task ahead of me in writing it, that I didn’t think beyond writing that one book.


In the book, Sarah finds an old cassette recording of a clairvoyant reading from when she was 18. Now aged 30, everything on the recording has come true except for one thing … she’s about to meet the man of her dreams and his name is Steven. Every protagonist needs a good friend to turn to but, in this case, I wanted Sarah to have two best friends: one who’d wholeheartedly believe the prophecy and push her into her search for Steven, and another who’d dismiss it as a pile of gibberish. As I developed the two friends, Elise and Clare, it became apparent that they had stories of their own to tell: big stories that couldn’t be confined to a sub-plot. So my trilogy was born.



And to finish…


Well, that’s the problem. I didn’t want to finish. I’d lived with my Whitsborough Bay setting and characters for about 13 years (it took me a decade on and off to write my first book) and, when the trilogy concluded, I didn’t want to let it go. I realised I didn’t have to, though. I’ve written 3 more books since then and they’re all set in Whitsborough Bay. Each features a new cast of characters but there are cameos from those who appear in the original trilogy. Fans of the trilogy will love spotting some old friends and those who are new to the books won’t think their presence is peculiar as there’s a reason why they are in the story.


In Searching for Steven, Sarah owns a florist’s shop on Castle Street. It’s a cobbled street full of independent shops and cafés, inspired by a combination of a street in Scarborough called Bar Street, and the wonderful cobbled streets in Whitby up the coast. My first full-length novel post-series, Bear With Me, is partly set in a teddy bear specialist retailer opposite Sarah’s shop and my two Christmas short novels both feature businesses on that street. As a result, I’ve had to draw myself a plan of the businesses in the street so that I can remember which business is next to/opposite which business before I trip myself up!



Jessica xx

Jessica's Links:



All her books are on her Amazon page    



Chat with her on Twitter  



Visit her website and blog     


The last weekend of the month has rolled round again and it is time for Kirsten to give us her monthly round-up of what has happened in her writing life these past few weeks. Over to you, Kirsten!


* * * *



Despatches from the Querying Trenches


The motto for this month’s missive is ‘be careful what you wish for’!


Two days after bemoaning the lack of response from agents in last month’s column, I received a rejection. It was from an American agent I had met though one of those twitter pitch contests. It was a very nice rejection and she had gone to the trouble of giving me feedback on what could be strengthened - she thinks there is too much dialogue - for which I am very grateful.


But a rejection nonetheless.


I’m still waiting to hear back from the five UK agents who have the full but, of course, they currently have their hands full with the Frankfurt Book Fair so I think I will need to bite my nails a while longer. While I wait, I have sent the manuscript to the wonderful Alison May for a critique. (Alison offered a very generous full manuscript critique in the wonderful Authors for Grenfell initiative and I was one of the successful bidders.)


Meanwhile, it’s back to basics for me. I started writing my novel because I had a story I was burning to tell and then I fell in love with the whole process of crafting a novel. Recently I’ve been chasing publication - which is quite a different kettle of fish altogether. I’d still love to be published - and I actually enjoy the submissions process - but it can be quite relentless and all-consuming as many of you know. So, this month I’ve decided to go back to having fun with my writing.



I’m a member of Reading Writers, a fabulous bunch of funny, supportive and wise novelists, poets, playwrights, journalists and short story writers – some published, some not (yet). I really love their meetings but I’d always decided I was too busy to enter their competitions. I was too busy chasing publication to stop, take a breath and try something different. This month I entered a short story called Sunday Lunch into their Autumn Competition and it came second. I know!! Believe me, it’s been such a boost. My first writing award and it feels fantastic.



The other thing I’ve decided to do is to have a bash at NaNoWriMo starting next week. This will be a first for me and I am really excited. I am going to go hell for leather and try to finish the first draft of my second novel which currently stands at 23k words. To be honest, if I even get to 50k, I will be thrilled. I’m really up for this. Who’s going to join me? I’m writing as Curly Wurly and I would love to buddy up.


So that’s a very quick round up of my October writing life. In ‘real life’, I’ve been working and accompanying my son on uni visits. I LOVE uni visits … I really want to enrol at them all (but maybe not to do computer science …)


What have you guys been up to this month?



November is nearly here, which means all over the world, writers are flexing their fingers, ready to get typing as they join in the annual frenzy that is NaNoWriMo - National (actually, International) Novel Writing Month, in which the aim is to get 50,000 words written in a month. And to make it a tiny bit harder, November has 30 days, not 31.


So if you're thinking of joining the fun this year and you're wondering what it's really like, I've asked some of my writer friends to share their experiences. But I'll start with my own very first NaNo:


50,000 words in a month - it's a considerable undertaking. I remember how, at the end of October 2011, I agonised over whether to take part. Could I really commit myself to that? Eventually I signed up - and then immediately panicked. What had I let myself in for?


That November 1st I spent the day at work, then came home and wrote 1,400 words, which on any other day would have been a splendid achievement; but in NaNo terms, you need to produce a daily average of 1,667. So there I was at the end of day 1 and already I had fallen behind.


Did I hit the 50,000 word target? Good grief, no. I managed 32,000 words. I could have written more (though nowhere near enough to get me within reach of the magic 50,000) except that I fell into the editing trap. When you do NaNoWriMo, the one piece of advice you are given over and over is not to stop. Keep going. Save the editing for later.


* * * *


Jan Baynham is in the process of submitting her debut novel to agents and publishers while she writes her second novel. On her blog, she shares her writing journey and also gives support to fellow writers. She and I became friends through a mixture of Twitter, the RNA... and NaNoWriMo.


Here's what Jan says:

When I first heard about NaNo, I didn’t think I’d ever be able to complete 50,000 words in 30 days and was very impressed with anyone who showed that kind of commitment. I’m the queen of procrastination and I take forever to do things through overthinking. In 2014, that was what was happening to my attempts to write my first novel. It was taking an age so when all the publicity for NaNo came around, I thought I’d give it a go. I registered and set myself a goal of getting up a couple of hours earlier than normal and to try and write every day.


I found other NaNo writing buddies, one of whom was a certain Susanna Bavin! Another Sue taking part that year was my now writing buddy Sue McDonagh, whom I’d just met at a new writing group in Cowbridge. Having NaNo buddies like these was a wonderful support. They encouraged and motivated me to keep going.


Seeing the tally of words written each day was another huge motivator for me. I got immersed in the story and apart from checking through what I’d written each day, I left serious editing until after NaNo was over. In 2014, I exceeded the 50,000 word goal by a couple of thousand and I feIt I had really achieved my target. I used the next NaNo to actually finish the first draft but my saga was finally written. I set the novel aside until a month later and then I started the editing in earnest. Did I make that editing stage harder by just writing non-stop for the whole of November? I don’t know but NaNo was one way for me to complete the initial draft of my first ever novel and it was a great feeling when I got to the end. The advice ‘Don’t get it right, get it written’ seems to be right for me and that is why I shall be registering again this year.


* * * *


My next contributor is Jane Ayres. Jane and I are part of an online writing group, giving one another lots of support. Jane organises The Place To Write writing retreats. Here is what she says:


I planned. I bought a new note book, announced my novel on the web site, and I was ready.


November 1st came and I was off like a bullet from a Japanese railway station. The word count was everything. Dishes were left unwashed and the family began to wonder who I was. I loved entering my efforts on the graph every day. I told myself needed this month of NaNoWriMo to ‘make’ me churn out my story.


But 25,036 words in I stalled. I struggled on but I couldn’t keep it up. I began to hate my characters. In the end couldn’t bring myself to write another word. I was downhearted, sick of the constant competition. I had failed.


Now I realise I’m a not failure, but just a naturally slow writer. My way is to let things stew away in my head for a few days, rather than get words down in a hurry and change them later. But that’s just me.


If you’re someone who likes a fabulous writing community with meet-ups, pep talks and branded coffee mugs, or just needs a reason to get writing, then NaNoWriMo could be for you. Enjoy!


* * * *


Karen Coles, writing as K E Coles, is the author of the 5-star rated Mesmeris Trilogy, a darkly compelling YA series about a malign religious sect.


Here's Karen's view of NaNo:

I took part in NaNo last year, although I must admit I gave up before reaching the

50,000 limit. It did push me into writing more words, but a lot of those words were dreadful, and were consequently deleted as soon as nano had finished. I haven't

been tempted to do it again as it knocked my confidence rather than boosted it.

I think it is probably more useful for 'natural' writers, who are able to write

wonderful prose instinctively. I'm more of a slogger and have to really work at it,

so not for me.


* * * *


Catherine Boardman, a former BBC producer, now runs the wonderful 

Catherine's Cultural Wednesdays website and blog, featuring news and articles

designed to inspire everyone to get out and about. Her piece about doing NaNo

last year made me laugh. Hope you enjoy it too.


1,667 words a day, that’s not many.  I can do that.  A target, that’s what I need.  
Nothing like
a deadline to focus the mind.Turns out that, yes, I do respond well
to a deadline, but 30
days is too much of a deadline. I fiddled around
‘researching’ for the first five days. Ended up talking to a Norwegian professor about
Viking sailing techniques. Really really interesting. Word count 3,000. The next day
I tidied the house, I never tidy the house. Then I gardened. After two weeks I had
10,000 words. I stopped looking at Twitter. It was awash with word
sprints and
people completing all 50,000 words and going back for a bit of a polish. At 15,000
words I quit. Will I be doing NaNoWriMo this year? No, but I will be cheering others
on from the Twitter sidelines.


* * * *

So there we have it, a whistle-stop tour of the joys of NaNoWriMo. Are you a NaNo writer? Do you recognise any of these experiences? Or, if you are thinking of signing up this year, has all this helped? 



This week, the What I Learnt From... series continues with Julie Stock sharing her experiences as an indie-author. Julie and I were Twitter-friends for a couple of years before meeting in real life at the RNA Conference in Lancaster in July last year. One of the things I always enjoy about Julie's blogs and interviews is her openness and honesty, which provide so much support as well as information to fellow-writers.


What I’ve Learnt from Indie Publishing Two Novels...


When I started writing my first novel, From Here to Nashville, I was 48 years old. I knew from very early on that I would choose to publish independently because I wanted to make sure it was published before my 50th birthday and traditional publishers just don’t work that quickly.


So I spent a lot of time learning about the indie publishing process and by the time I came to publish my book, I actually found the whole process quite straightforward. It had been a steep learning curve, learning about editing and proofreading, as well as cover design, and the publication process itself but I found that I really enjoyed it. I particularly enjoyed having the control over every aspect of the publishing process.


However, by the time my second book was ready to publish, I made the decision to try for a traditional contract. This was for two reasons: firstly, with the benefit of some experience, I could see that I would learn a lot from having my own editor within a publishing company, and secondly, if I was with the right publisher, I might also gain a lot of support with marketing, which might in turn, lead to more sales.


But as I went through a year-long process of submitting to agents and publishers, I slowly came to realise that the traditional model is just not for me. I realised that I had come to relish the freedom I had with indie publishing and that I didn’t want to lose that control. I found that many agents and publishers were asking me to write books for the market and I finally had to admit that I simply didn’t want to do that. And I was getting conflicting reviews from different people: some of them loved my writing, while others hated it. So how would I ever know who was right? In the end, I had to make a very hard decision. The benefits could still be there for me if I wanted to persevere with submissions to agents and publishers but I would also lose all control over what I wanted to do, and on top of that, I had no idea how much longer I would have to persevere for.


In the end, I made the decision to publish independently once again and I’m happy to say that my second book, The Vineyard in Alsace, has done even better than the first. I may not ever sell in the tens of thousands but I am making a decent living from my writing, and that’s all I’m looking for. So I don’t regret the decision to indie publish again for one second; nor do I regret the year I spent trying for a traditional contract. It has all made me realise that publishing independently suits me and my goals, and that it is the best choice for me. That’s not to put traditional contracts down – it’s just being honest about what works for me. I am happy doing what I’m doing and while it works for me, I’m going to carry on doing it.


I think that every writer has to decide on what success looks like to them and then pursue it in that form. And for me, at this stage in my life, indie publishing suits me best.





Is there really such a thing as a second chance at love?


Fran Schell has only just become engaged when she finds her fiancé in bed with another woman. She knows this is the push she needs to break free of him and to leave London. She applies for her dream job on a vineyard in Alsace, in France, not far from her family home, determined to concentrate on her work.


Didier Le Roy can hardly believe it when he sees that the only person to apply for the job on his vineyard is the same woman he once loved but let go because of his stupid pride. Now estranged from his wife, he longs for a second chance with Fran if only she will forgive him for not following her to London.


Working so closely together, Fran soon starts to fall in love with Didier all over again. Didier knows that it is now time for him to move on with his divorce if he and Fran are ever to have a future together. Can Fran and Didier make their second chance at love work despite all the obstacles in their way?


The Vineyard in Alsace is a contemporary romance set against the enticing backdrop of the vineyard harvest in Alsace in France.






Julie Stock is an author of contemporary romance from around the world: novels, novellas and short stories. She indie published her debut novel, From Here to Nashville, in February 2015 and published her second novel, The Vineyard in Alsace earlier this year. A follow-up novella to From Here to Nashville is also in progress, as well as the next novel.




She blogs regularly on her website, 'My Indie Writing Life.' You can also connect with her on Twitter and via her Facebook Author Page.




She is a proud member of the Romantic Novelists' Association, The Society of Authors and The Alliance of Independent Authors.



When she is not writing, she works part-time for a charity as a communications officer, and freelance as a proofreader, web designer and supply teacher. She is married and lives with her family in Bedfordshire in the UK.




This weekend, Julie's debut novel, From Here to Nashville, is free on Kindle Unlimited or 99p to buy.


Here's the link. Happy reading!




This week, I am delighted to welcome my good friend Kirsten back to my blog. Kirsten ran a popular series of guest blogs at the end of every month from January to June. I lured her onto my blog by suggesting a short run of blogs, thinking that would be all she would like, and she never asked to stay on because she is far too polite. Then we met up with Wendy Clarke at the RNA Conference in July and - well, let Kirsten tell you what happened next...


It’s me.


I’m back!


And I’m thrilled to be here again.


We’ve got the lovely Wendy Clarke to thank. Susanna and I met her at the (fantastic) Romantic Novelists’ Association Conference in June and Wendy was kind enough to say how much she’d enjoyed my musings. At which point I admitted I hadn’t really wanted to stop musing and Susanna said she hadn’t really wanted me to stop letting me muse so …. here I am!


I hope you’ve all had a great summer although it seems forever ago now, doesn’t it? We did a fabulous road trip down the east coast of the States culminating in the total eclipse at Charleston. We all loved it - so much so that my American teen and my British teen both want to move there! It was a total break and I didn’t really think about the writing at all. (Well, maybe a little. And I’ve got a great idea for a novel ...).


Now it’s September, the month of clean sheets and fresh starts. And I’m itching to dive back into my writing journey. But I must confess I’m a little confused as to what to do next ...


My full is with five UK agents, one US agent and one publisher. My partial is with a couple more. I would absolutely love to work with any of them. But it’s been nearly a month now - in some cases almost two - and I don’t know what that means!


Do agents and publishers usually respond to writers once they have requested the full? Maybe they have all already decided the book is not for them but the convention is not to let the author know. Maybe they just asked for the full to be kind and have no intention of reading it! In which case, how long do I wait before deducing that this is the case? Maybe I should already be drawing a line under them and editing furiously in advance of the next round of submissions …


But, then again, maybe it’s too soon. Everyone warned me that things in publishing work at a glacial pace so maybe a month or two - especially over the summer - is nothing. Maybe they haven’t got to my book yet, so to start anther edit would be silly. Maybe I should sit it out a while longer. Or maybe I could nudge. But that might be too presumptive?


You get the gist. The inside of my head is not a very restful place to living at the moment!

What would you do? What did you do if you found yourself in the same situation?

So far - because I am essentially an optimist - I have come to two conclusions. The first is that I should be proud so many people have requested the full. That must mean people who know what they are talking about think I write quite well and that I have a promising basis for a story. That’s got to be good, hasn’t it? The second is that I need to crack on with Book 2, Which I am - with gusto. The first draft is 50,000 words and counting and I am discovering that I will always be a pantser but that a little bit of plotting certainly doesn’t go amiss!


Thank you very much for reading my monthly round up. If you would like to, please do leave a comment. I am in need of as many replies as I can get right now!!




Welcome to my new series called What I Learnt From..., in which writers share what they have learnt from a particular aspect of their work; maybe from a brilliant course they attended, maybe from working with an editor, maybe from receiving a useful critique or entering a competition.


I am delighted to welcome Heidi Swain here today to start off the series. As you can see, she is looking very sparkly - and deservedly so, after the success of a string of novels for Simon & Schuster.


Many thanks for agreeing to be the first writer to contribute to this series, Heidi. It is lovely to welcome you back here again.



What I learned from… writing 6 books


Heidi Swain


Hello everyone and welcome to my ‘what I learned from’ contribution to this fabulous feature which is the brainchild of lovely Sue. As always I would like to kick things off by thanking my host for inviting me to take part and giving me the opportunity to have a long hard think about what I have learned during my writing journey, even if it has made for some pretty awkward soul searching.


You see, I thought it would be fun to share with you what I have learned about my writing process during the last three years. In that time (or just over), I have produced 6 books, all of which will have been published by summer 2018 and may even be gracing the shelves and e-readers of a few of you. However, some of what I discovered when I sat down and really thought about the process of writing them, was difficult to accept. The dream versus reality was a bit of a shock to the system.


You could be forgiven for thinking that having gone through the routine 6 times already, 5 of those with a tight publishing schedule to stick to, that I would have got the nuts and bolts pretty much in place by now, but when it comes to writing summer books, ie those that will hit the shelves in time for the summer hols, there seems to be an unexpected pattern forming. I have found that writing a Christmas book is a totally different kettle of fish and from what I can work out it all comes down to timing.



Last year the pattern began to form as I was writing Coming Home to Cuckoo Cottage and this year it’s transpired again with the as yet untitled Novel Number 6. The story is set, the plot is planned (to the same degree as I always plan), words are written, (in this instance around 30,000 of them)… and then it all goes belly up.


What, in theory at least, back in June looked like a couple of clear months to nail the first draft are rudely interrupted by academic holidays, Christmas edits and all manner of other commitments which kick in and it is at this point that I abandon progress in favour of trawling over the first ten or so chapters. I edit, I fiddle, I readjust and rethink and all the while my head is telling me to just get on with it, but I don’t. For a while I cave, and I fiddle and I think and I readjust.


And then, just when I think I’ve reached crisis point, the switch if flicked and I’m off and running. This year I wrote 67,714 words in 20 days which, added to the 30,000 I already had, meant that I had a solid first draft by the beginning of September.



Having gone through the agony of it once with Cuckoo Cottage I had no idea why I didn’t rethink and put off writing Novel Number 6 until I had properly cleared the decks, but what I do know is that my readers love Cuckoo Cottage, so clearly there was no harm done and knowing me, I’ll do it all again next summer. Perhaps it’s like childbirth – the memory of the pain is diminished between labours to ensure the future of humankind!


I’m teaching a one day ‘writing a novel’ workshop later this year and I know I’ll be advocating the ‘don’t look back’ philosophy but coupled with that, now that I am aware that I don’t actually practice all that I preach, I’m going to be throwing in a healthy dose of ‘acceptance and adaptability’ as well.

Every author has a different way of doing things and we can read all about their methods and perhaps even give what works for them a go, but actually, when it comes to getting the words down, the most important thing that I have learned is that we need to find our own way and embrace it. Don’t apologise that it doesn’t conform, just accept it and write with it. Be confident in what works for you and yes, please do feel free to get in touch next summer and ask if I’m making a muddle of it all over again!




Heidi Swain Author Bio

Although passionate about writing from an early age, Heidi Swain gained a degree in Literature, flirted briefly with a newspaper career, married and had two children before she plucked up the courage to join a creative writing class and take her literary ambitions seriously.


A lover of Galaxy bars, vintage paraphernalia and the odd bottle of fizz, she now writes feel good fiction with heart for Simon and Schuster.


Her debut novel, The Cherry Tree Café was published in July 2015 (paperback June 2017) and Summer at Skylark Farm hit the shelves the following June. Mince Pies and Mistletoe at the Christmas Market was a hugely successful Christmas 2016 release and her fourth book, Coming Home to Cuckoo Cottage was published in July 2017. She is currently preparing for her October 2017 Christmas release, Sleigh Rides and Silver Bells at The Christmas Fair.

Heidi lives in Norfolk with her wonderful family and a mischievous cat called Storm.



Heidi's website 

Her Twitter page

Chat with her on Facebook  

Heidi's author page on Amazon 

Sleigh Rides and Silver Bells:

Kindle edition

Paperback edition

That September Feeling

Posted on 1st September, 2017

To me, September has long felt like a time for new beginnings. It comes from having been a teacher, when September is a long month full of starting afresh with a new class of children (and aren't they tiny compared to the ones you said goodbye to in July!), learning their names and personalities, their strengths and needs, and helping them to settle in to their next year at school.


Even though I left teaching four years ago, I still get that "new beginnings" feeling at this time of year; and this year it is particularly apt as I am busy writing book proposals for my agent to put forward.


I'm also looking ahead to the release of The Deserter's Daughter in audiobook form, published by Isis Soundings. I'm especially delighted because I heard this week that it is going to be read by one of my favourite readers, Julia Franklin. I love audiobooks and have a couple of shelves of the ones I can't live without. A quick count revealed that no fewer than nine are read by Julia Franklin - and now she is going to read my book as well!


Looking ahead on the blog, I'll soon be launching a new series called What I Learnt From... in which authors will reveal where their good practice came from and share some top writing tips along the way.


The lovely Heidi Swain has already told me that hers will be called What I Learnt From... Writing Six Novels.



Other writers who will be joining in include indie romance writer Julie Stock, rom com author Maddie Please, contemporary romance writer Emma Davies and paranormal and historical romance author Jacqueline Farrell.



And Kirsten will be returning with her regular round-ups of her writing life.

So that's what lies ahead on the blog. I hope you'll join me here throughout the autumn.



Off On My Blog Travels... Week 2

Posted on 6th August, 2017

This week I am delighted to be the guest on my friend Jan Baynham's blog. Jan and I have been online friends for some time and we met in the real world for th first time last summer at the RNA Conference in Lancaster. This photo is of us at this summer's RNA Conference in Shropshire.


Jan's blog is always of interest to writers, being a mixture of interviews with writers and posts about her own experiences as a writer and a reader.


I hope you will join us on her blog this week. I loved answering her questions - including:

- which came first, the plot or the characters?

- how much editing did I have to do on The Deserter's Daughter?

- do I have a writing routine?


Oh yes, and I also share some sneak preview information about my next book.


Here's the link: Jan Baynham's blog  I hope to see you there!