Are there ANY alternatives to head nodding or shaking?

The best use of imagination is creativity. The worst use of imagination is anxiety. quote by Deepak Chopra

This week in creativity, I’ve been wrestling with characters shaking/nodding their heads. Human communication relies heavily on head nods and shakes. We all do it, and we do it constantly.

While characters may bolt, dash, dart or flee rather than simply running away, there is no other way to say nod or shake his/her head. At a pinch, you could say, ‘made a shaking notion with his head’ and…

No, you couldn’t. It sounds ridiculous.

What’s a writer to do? So far, 34 head shakes and 38 nods have popped up in the 64,000 words I’ve written so far. That’s five head bobs too many*, though on the plus side, at least my characters are more positive than negative.

Other physical actions that are difficult to describe in any other way include:

  • Raised his/her eyebrows (quirked them?)
  • Shrugged (raised her shoulders up and down?)
  • Grinned (the corners of his mouth lifted upwards?)
  • Smiled (as above)
  • Opened/shut the door.

Here’s an illustration…

Nell opened the door. Daniel glanced up at her and smiled.
“Are we going out for dinner?” she asked.
Daniel shook his head. “Too busy, sorry. How about tomorrow night?”
Nell shrugged. “Let’s see how I feel after work. I might be too tired.”
He raised his eyebrows. “Too tired? You do nothing at work.”
He grinned to soften the insult.

Or,

Nell fastened her hand to the door and swung it open. Daniel glanced up at her, the corners of his mouth tilting upwards.
“Are we going out for dinner?” she asked.
Daniel turned his head from side to side. “Too busy, sorry. How about tomorrow night.”
Nell lifted her shoulders up to her ears. “Let’s see how I feel after work. I might be too tired.”
He piqued an eyebrow. “Too tired? You do nothing at work.”
He widened his mouth to soften the insult.

Creativity part 2

After reading a post about Pinterest for authors on a blog about writing, I’m revisiting the platform.

This paragraph stuck out:

For those of us overwhelmed by conversations and connections, Pinterest is a refreshing platform. You can spend hours (or minutes) looking at pretty things and not have to talk to another human. It is an introvert’s dream: a social platform where you don’t have to be social to be successful. This also means that it’s really easy to get started with Pinterest as compared to other platforms.

Kirsten Oliphant, Jane friedman blog on writing

Hooray! Permission granted to ditch Instagram and TikTok, where my feeble attempts to build a platform have failed miserably. Does anyone in the world put down their phone after scrolling through Instagram, and think, Well, I feel TONNES better now…?

So, after spending two years creating zillions of square and horizontally-shaped graphics, I’ve reverted to Pinterest-friendly rectangular ones, like the ones below.

And this one is for a board about my Highland books

This week’s Google searches related to writing

  • What weekday was May 28 in 2016
  • Waldorf doormen uniform
  • Photos of Waldorf reception (hard to come by, but I did chance upon the magnificent ‘swan’ bath towel pictured below)
  • Industrial estates in Anniesland, Glasgow
  • Pegasus in Greek mythology
  • Jobs in tech       
Bath towels folded to look like a swan

What I’m reading/watching

The book Klara and the Sun

Last year, the book group I belong to participated in a reading challenge set by the Booker Prize’s organisers. You can find out more about that here. We did not win (boo!); however, taking part led to other things…

BBC Scotland consulted us about a new radio programme about books and reading, and as a result I’m reluctantly excitedly taking part in the pilot show, in which a group of us discuss Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro.

According to the blurb: In Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro looks at our rapidly changing world through the eyes of an unforgettable narrator to explore a fundamental question: what does it mean to love?

Fingers crossed I don’t come across as too thick… If any of you have read the book, what did you think of it?

Bank of Dave on Netflix
Bank of Dave. Picture: Netflix

Do you need something cheery and not too brain-taxing to watch? The Bank of Dave on Netflix is delightful. The good guys win, the bad buys get their heads to play with and there’s a message about how the ‘establishment’ works only for a tiny minority of the UK’s population. (The Rupert Murdoch-owned Times critic described the film as ‘alarmingly simplistic’, proving the point oh-so-flipping well.)

*Characters in the novel Twilight are notorious for repeatedly nodding/shaking their heads.

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Writing book descriptions and paying more tax than Bezos (sort of)

Quote of the week:

Description begins in the writer's imagination, but should finish in the reader's - Stephen King

You might think for someone who has managed to write a first draft of at least twenty novels, writing the blurb (otherwise known as the book description) would be a piece of cake…

Not so. This week, I’ve been struggling with the blurb for a chick lit book that will be coming out in the spring. For inspiration, I copied and pasted book descriptions from three of Amazon’s best-selling chick lit books into a word cloud generator, which resulted in this image…

Word cloud using words commonly found in descriptions of chick lit novels

Right then, EB, I told myself, try to incorporate some of the words mentioned here into your book description.

A common mistake when writing a book description, especially your own, is to reveal what happens, so my first attempt was to try to focus on what people might feel when reading the book, or what they might be looking for when seeking out books (escapism, romance, etc).

"I really loved the story... As ever, your descriptive narrative is a delight, as is the humour and the pathos in the story."
Whisk together a high-stakes TV baking competition, an ex-boyfriend and the ghost of a grandmother whose death haunts the main character Lissie and what do you have…?
A recipe for a warm-hearted, poignant and spellbinding story with unforgettable characters who will capture your heart.
When Lissie, a lifelong baker, receives a last-minute invitation to appear on the popular TV show Best Baker UK, she is both thrilled and terrified. There’s a lot at stake, not the least of which is Lissie's chance to win the competition in the memory of her beloved grandmother. 
Baked with Love, the perfect read for romance and Great British Bake Off fans, is about second chances, forgiveness, family and the search for true love. Come along and join Lissie, Rob, Kieran and Jo on this feel-good journey!

The second approach is more traditional. Which one do you think would would make you want to read the book more?

Can lifelong baker Lissie turn down a last-minute invitation to appear on the popular TV show Best Baker UK, even though her ex-boyfriend is one of the contestants? 
Not a chance…
Her current boyfriend isn't thrilled, and Lissie's decision to put herself under the intense pressure of a reality TV show while spending so much time with the man who broke her heart six years ago appears to be a recipe for disaster...
But could Lissie uncover the truth about what happened all those years ago, prove herself to her grandmother, keep her boyfriend happy, and win Best Baker UK, forever changing her life?
The perfect read for romance and Great British Bake Off fans, Baked with Love is all about second chances, forgiveness, and the search for true love.

This week in creativity part 2

As someone who scraped a ‘C’ in o’grade art many moons ago, I’ve never been particularly good at artsy stuff, but this week I also added A+ content to all of my Highland books’ product pages.

A+ content is the information under the book that says ‘from the publisher’ and Amazon allowed indie publishers to use this facility in the same way traditional publishers have always used it two years ago.

Here’s what I created for mine…

Highland Chances product page on Amazon

This week in creativity part 3

This week, I have also been doing some creative accounting, ensuring that I cling on to all my hard-earned dosh as tightly as I can…

Joke!

Note saying Do Tax Return

For the tax year 2021-2022, I will pay a much higher percentage of my income in tax than Jeff Bezos did in 2021. Well done me, eh?

Quote of the week

The Stephen King quote above shows how books differ from films and the intimacy of reading. When you read, your imagination that fleshes out the world and the characters in your head, which is why no two people will read the same book in the same way.

What I’m reading this week

Still ploughing my way through A Place of Greater Safety and have now reached the part where journalist and politician Camille Desmoulins delivers his impassioned call to arms, which inspires the Storming of the Bastille a few days later.

French revolutionary figure Camille Desmoulins

What I’m watching

Happy Valley, which as discussed with one of my fellow bloggers last week, is SO GOOD.

Thanks for reading and let me know in the comments which of the book descriptions you think sounds the most enticing.

This week in creativity

Quote of the week:

Just in case things get boring, I'm bringing a book

In 2018, I set myself the goal of becoming a full-time writer by the time 2022 rolled around (and out). Ach, it happened and didn’t happen… the money-side never materialised. I suck at selling books.

Is the universe trying to telling me something? Tempting to say, yes. The world has spoken:

Emma, thou should put down thy pen and never pick it up again…

Look, the late Hilary Mantel, Maggie O’Farrell and anyone else who appears on Booker Prize/Orange Prize etc or lists has nothing to fear, but I’ve had enough praise from strangers—via reviews/emails/comments on Wattpad—to believe I’m not dreadful and I’ve won the odd prize here and there that spurs me on.

I write all the time. Busy day ahead? I get up early to cram words in. On holiday? I bring my laptop (or even my cheap, crappy Kindle along with a £10 keyboard) and tap the stuff out in hotel rooms. Christmas, New Year, birthdays and holidays? Pah! The words are squeezed in.

So yes. Goal accomplished, though perhaps not in the way I envisaged. Turns out crafting stories that no-one pays you for isn’t all that bad*.

Recently, I dug out a book I drafted way, way back in 2016. It was easy to write at the time, but when I was done, I shoved it in the metaphorical drawer with a sigh of, Well, that needs a TON of fixing.

And there it sat, accumulating dust over the years. When I re-read it at the end of last year, the errors, and more importantly, the solutions to them, popped up straightaway. Normally, I loathe revising a book but this one has been a pleasure. I scrapped most of what I’d written, and instead used the novel’s skeleton, fleshing it out much more satisfactorily with fresh words, scenes, dialogue and everything else that brings it to life.

An extract from my forthcoming novel, Forever, maybe

It’s so fulfilling.

Otherwise, I’ve spent the week grappling with book formatting for print, much of which has involved swearing at Word.

FFS, don’t start the numbers there. Don’t put them on blank pages! Keep this header, not that one! Look, I want each chapter to begin on the right-hand side. Just do it okay!

Weirdest Google search of the week

The writer’s search engine history is a weird and wonderful list that would raise the eyebrows of many a psychologist.

‘Names for parts’ is something I frequently Google. Settle down there at the back—I’m not alluding to anything filthy, just wondering what this bit of a vending machine/car/key/Calor Gas heater is called.

But recently, I was curious about how to get out of ankle tag. My main character had been tagged and needed to flee. Is such a thing possible?

Reddit (where else?) had the answers, and my favourite was—do your time and then it magically falls off. But, for dramatic purposes, I settled on the poster who suggested slipping a plastic bag over your foot, slathering it with lube, and wriggling out that way**.

Is it possible? Doubtful, but including it in the story allowed me to add an awkward conversation with the neighbours in which my main character knocked on the door and asked if they had any KY Jelly to spare instead of coffee…

What I’m eating/cooking

A selection of tapas dishes

We booked a late lunch at La Barca, a tapas restaurant in Helensburgh for Hogmanay. Tapas is food for gluttons—why try one dish when you can have three or four? The place was also buzzing, which I hope indicates that it is recession-proof in these high cost-of-living times.

At home, I’ve eaten a lot of this Rainbow Plant Life’s mushroom soup. If you love mushrooms, this is most mushroomy experience you will ever have…

Returning to the quote of the week… My first date with my husband took place in a pub. He recalls nipping to the loos and returning to find me engrossed in a book. (Manners prevailed; I put it away again.)

The world is divided into those who always carry a book with them—which is easier these days because those books can be on tablets or phones—and those who don’t.

But seriously, opportunities to read books while out and about arise on a regular basis. On a train, on a bus, in a GP’s waiting room, at the hairdresser’s, in a long queue, lunchtime at the office, coffee shops… why risk not being able to take advantage of them?

Which brings me neatly to…

What I’m reading

The Ministry for the Future

Re-reading this mahoosive whooper of a book for our book group. (I chose it—592 pages, small print. How to win friends and influence people…)

If you spend a lot of time fretting about the environment, this book might be for you because of the optimistic solutions it offers.

A Place of Greater Safety

In honour of the late, great Ms Mantel, I decided to re-read A Place of Greater Safety after watching Marie Antoinette on the Beeb this January (watch it, I beg you—the costumes, the sets, the acting).

What are you reading at the moment? Let me know in the comments… and if you’ve got a weird Google search, post that too!

*I say this from a position of extreme privilege. I have a part-time job, a partner with a full-time job and no kids.

**Please note. I am NOT condoning criminal behaviour.

WOMAN READING PIC: Photo courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/nenadstojkovic/49982362222, reproduced under the Creative Commons Licence 2.0

A farewell to all that

How’s your year been? Twenty-twenty two had a blink and you miss it quality—the year dashing past so fast it is difficult to believe the end is almost upon us.

In 2022, I hit a milestone birthday, travelled all over the UK relishing that freedom after the pandemic restrictions of the past few years, joined in a national book group reading challenge*, signed a contract for one of my books, received payment for the retention of the audio/visual rights for another, and caught up with a lot of people I hadn’t seen for years.

I fell off the blogging horse in 2021 and didn’t remount it in 2022 (that is one HORRIFIC analogy, sorry) BUT I plan to address that in 2023.

Man falling off white horse

The best bloggers are consistent and single-minded about what they write about. I follow a good few of them. Alas, my scatter-brained approach has never lent itself to consistency or single-mindedness.

Great for writing fiction as it allows for flights of fancy, but not so good when trying to come up with a consistent theme for a blog. And the life of this writer doesn’t lend itself to thrilling blog content.

Got up early. Bashed out 1,231 words before grinding to a halt when I realised that I’d created a ginormous plot hole. Mulled it over for the rest of the day without coming up with a solution. Wasted time on Twitter working myself up into a righteous rage over the behaviour of terrible politicians. Did the paid job. Exercised. Wrote a little bit more. Ate dinner. Collapsed in front of the TV…**

Repeat ad nauseum.

Woman writing in a notepad

However, I loved blogging when I started in 2012, and blogs are still my preferred choice for keeping up with what other people are doing, following my interests (writing, cooking, travel and nature, diabetes, nature photography 1 and 2, books, reading and archiving) educating myself and more.

Many of the platforms that later supplanted blogging did not exist in 2012. And yet given the choice between reading blogs or scrolling my way through Instagram/TikTok feeds? No contest.

There is also plenty of evidence that scrolling through social media does little, if anything, for you.*** Creatives tend to suffer extensively from comparison-itis. There is always someone popping up in your feed, excitedly detailing their book/TV/film deal/number of reads/commissioning for a script, etc.

I can’t think of a single blog I follow that makes me feel dissatisfied, envious, helpless, furious or any of the other emotions I routinely associate with social media.

So, to the future! Back to blogging… every week I plan to write about my week and find some way of making it interesting, funny and engaging.

A tall order, yes, but nothing wrong with starting the year with a lofty ambition or two. And talking of lofty ambitions, I plan on publishing not one, not two but three books this year, starting with the one in the illustration below:

Anyway, HAPPY NEW YEAR to you all. May 2023 bring you health and happiness!

*Sadly, our book group wasn’t chosen, but the experience was terrific fun and BBC Scotland then used us as sounding boards for a potential new programme about book groups and reading.

**Other writers’ experiences may vary.

***Sleep disturbances, emotional dysregulation, diminished academic performance and depression. Hilariously, there’s a pop-up on the article I read urging you to follow the website on Instagram…

Horse photo by Pixabay from Pexels: https://www.pexels.com/photo/action-animal-bronco-bucking-33251/

Woman Writing Photo by JESHOOTS.com on StockSnap

New Year photo: Jernej Furman on Flickr

Reasons to celebrate

I dunno… there aren’t many reasons to celebrate at present, what with the ongoing war in Europe, what’s happening to women in the US, the climate emergency and record inflation levels.

This week, a news presenter on the radio announced that we’d probably noticed how much more expensive our dinners were now than… and I honestly expected him to say, ‘last week’ there, rather than ‘last year’.

Still, I have my own small triumphs. First off, was undergoing tests in hospital that proved I do not have bowel cancer. A great result, eh? A routine bowel screening had shown blood in my sample, necessitating a colonoscopy.

As the literature said, less than 5 percent of those tested actually have cancer and I did not think there was anything wrong with that ‘bit’ of me. However, thanks to the dreaded C-word (the other one), there was a considerable wait for the colonoscopy.

But it went ahead the other week and there was nothing there. NOTHING. Which makes me fortunate indeed, not least because I live somewhere that offers such an efficient screening programme even though our National Health Service is creaking under the weight of backlogs and years of underfunding.

To prepare for a colonoscopy, you eat a low-fibre diet for three days. As a recently converted vegan that posed a real challenge (so challenging, in fact, that I abandoned the veganism for the three days, sorry oh much more principled people than I am). My celebratory post-colonoscopy meal was therefore this:

Tofu, brown rice, lots of veggies, a spicy peanut sauce and picked red onions—every single ingredient the instructions from the Endoscopy Clinic banned on the low-fibre diet.

(Thanks to yummylummy, who let me know about the role sugar-free jelly plays in prep for a colonoscopy… 😉)

Second, I have signed another contract with Wattpad, which will see my vampire book, Beautiful Biters (read the first chapter here) placed in its paid stories programme. While I am under no illusions about what this will do for my income, external validation for the stories I write is more than welcome.

In addition, this week I made my romcom Highland Fling free on Amazon, so that it could be part of a Hello Books promotion and when I checked my sales dashboard this morning, the book had been downloaded a grand total of 2,123 times, the bulk of which were in the US.

(I’m not sure my sense of humour translates. We’ll see!)

The most downloads I’ve ever managed in a week before has been in the 50-odd range, so the figures were a proper, proper ego boost. Let’s hope the good folks who download the book are spurred on to download the other five in the series, i.e. the ones they pay for. If it helps boost my Amazon rankings, it might keep the book more visible for some time, which again should help with sales long term.

If you would like to take part in the Hello Books promotion, which also includes other free romance titles, including this one by Enni Amanda, who created the cover for Highland Fling (and the other five books in the series), you can download the titles for free here: https://hellobooks.com/romance

Third, another small thing, but it feels like a biggie. I’m back into reading again. During the pandemic, I stopped. Not completely, but instead of powering through three or four books a week, it was more like one every few months as I was too busy doom-scrolling through the news and on blasted Twitter (I have a serious love-hate relationship with the platform).

Some gems I’ve read recently include:

Hungry, photo courtesy of my book group chum, Lucy, who also made this delicious tray bake to accompany Grace Dent’s food-related memoir, which came across as very relatable because I grew up in the same era/same sort of world and got invited to a Cosmopolitan lunch too. (A story for another day.)

Small Eden by Jane Davis, which I was lucky enough to receive an advance review copy for and read in two days.

The Cut by Christopher Brookmyre, whose writing and thoroughly Scottish sense of humour I’ve always loved.

My writing chum, Caron Allan, is busy putting together the final touches for her book, A Meeting with Murder, which I am very much looking forward to reading.

And finally, the two by-elections in the UK won’t mean much, if anything, to anyone outside the UK but I did a little dance of joy on Friday morning when the newsreader announced that the constituencies of Wakefield and Tiverton and Honiton had voted out the Conservative Party.

So, this weekend I will crack open that bottle of Moet my sister bought me for my birthday and hope that soon, very soon, we will all come together and rid ourselves of nasty, populist governments, minority imposed judgements that condemn half the population and the terrible, terrible people who have ended up in power.

Cheers, everyone!

Spring, fake restaurant reviews and a flash sale

Hello! Spring is in the air here in Scotland, though the temperature is still to get the memos and we had overnight frost two nights last week.

Growbags ready to deliver lots of lovely home-grown veg (hopefully) if we can persuade our cats and those of our neighbours that this is not a giant litter tray.

For various reasons, I’ve not stuck to my newsletter send-out schedule since the start of the year—not least because the world and the ongoing awfulness have made it feel pointless.

If you’re feeling powerless yourself, there are a few little things you can do… If you go onto Google maps, and type in Moscow (for instance) and then restaurants, you can leave reviews there along the lines of ‘Fabulous restaurant, but my appetite’s ruined because Putin has invaded Ukraine and is bombing hospitals and shelling civilians’.

I varied the wording for different restaurants because I assumed that copying and pasting the same thing would trigger some bot somewhere.

Channel 4 in the UK recently bought the rights to an old comedy show, Servant of the People, created by and starring one Volodymyr Zelenskiy. (As the joke goes in the UK, Ukraine elected a comedian, we elected a clown.)

We’ve watched the first two episodes and it’s incredibly funny (and I recommend it), but watching the programme feels surreal when you counter it with the images of the city that have been on the news of bombed bridges, mass piles of rubble and citizens wrapped up in hats and scarves as they try to flee.

My writing schedule has fallen behind too, though I hope to publish Baked With Love, a chick lit novel based on a fictional version of the Great British Bake Off in late spring.

After much umm-ing and ah-ing, I have decided to return to the Highland books and I’m going to give Mhari her own story. You can read the start of it here.

I’m also running a month-long sale of Highland Wedding, the third in the series of the Highland Books, on PayHip and you can buy it for the bargain basement price of 0.99p.

Finally, it’s St Patrick’s Day on Thursday and my birthday. I have always wanted to spend my birthday in Ireland because of how seriously the Irish take their national saint’s day, so this year we are travelling to Belfast to do so…

Can’t wait.

A Farewell to All That…

Well, 2021 didn’t quite work out as planned—did anyone’s 2021?—but when you’re an optimist as I am, you seek out the good things when you look back on a year.

First and foremost, no-one I know and love died of Covid (or anything else). Last year, we joked about 2021 returning to the time when Corona was merely a beer, bubbles only belonged in champagne and self-isolation was not something so many people had to do.

Hey ho.

But I am in the extremely fortunate position of living in a country where the vaccination was made available to the masses quickly and I’m starting 2022 having had both doses and the booster.

Let’s raise a glass to science.

Talking of glasses, I plan to do Veganuary AND Dry January, but in the meantime, let’s go out with a bang…

Secondly, I didn’t lose my job. The pandemic has wrecked many sectors and businesses (compounded by the mess that is Brexit in the UK). My husband and I have been able to work throughout.

Thirdly, the dreaded writer burn-out didn’t hit. Many writers have talked about this—the inability to find enough concentration to put pen to paper and spin out stories while the hideousness of the pandemic plays out in the background.

(Ooh! Bonus points for three uses of alliteration in that sentence, right?)

I published two books, finished one and wrote another two this year. My book sales are slow but steady, rather like the running style I employed in the days when I jogged. I will never win awards, but I plod on, determined to get to the finishing line.

You can buy the book here.

In the summer, I signed a contract with Wattpad in May for the audio-visual rights to one of my stories. In all likelihood, it won’t come to anything, but I enjoyed a few weeks of casting various actors as my characters, which is more challenging to do than you might expect.

On the minus side. I continue to find reading books a challenge. Ever since I can remember, I’ve read books, often getting through two or three a week. That stopped last year when I started reading newspapers and periodicals instead. Books feel like too much of an intensive work out for my dwindling attention span.

(Though if I can recommend one, I loved Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet and raced through it when we holidayed in Dundee in May this year.)

Here in Scotland, we are effectively back in lockdown with large indoor and outdoor gatherings banned, and people encouraged not to mix with more than three households/go out. It’s all a bit same old/same old, but the current situation will end at some point, and I force myself to make the most of it as I’m now at the age where time flies by frighteningly fast and it is wrong to wish it away.

Anyway, thanks for reading. May 2022 bring you health and happiness.

Best wishes, Emma XXX

Walking in Ireland (sort of) and romance giveaway

Image by Jonas Fehre from Pixabay

This week, I’ve been waxing lyrical on the delights of County Galway in Ireland for a new client. Those white sandy beaches! The Wild Atlantic Way! The tiny Aran islands in Galway Bay! The green double-decker bus you can stay in!

There is something bitter-sweet about writing of the beauty of somewhere else when you have been stuck in the same place for months and months. I write about the wonderful walks you can do in Galway when my walking route has been the same day in and day out.

Still, I’ve promised myself that as soon as this is over, I’m heading for the hills of… anywhere else, as long as it isn’t West Dunbartonshire.

Sweet romance Valentine’s giveaway…

Need some romance in your life…? Highland Fling and more than 40 other books are up for grabs in the Sweet Romance Valentine’s giveaway.

They include:

A Novel Proposal by E.E Everly… Annalise Owings has fallen in love with her boss, Evan Andrews, editor of a small-press publishing company. What’s worse, Evan is clueless about her affections…

And Songbird Beginnings by Sylvia Price

Sam MacAuley and his wife Annalize are total opposites. When Sam wants to leave city life in Halifax to get a plot of land on Cape Breton Island, where he grew up, his wife wants nothing to do with his plans and opts to move herself and their three boys back to her home country of South Africa.

As Sam settles into a new life on his own, his friend Lachlan encourages him to get back into the dating scene. Although he meets plenty of women, he longs to find the one with whom he wants to share the rest of his life. Will Sam ever meet “the one”?

This book is the prequel to the #1 Amazon Best Seller, The Songbird Cottage.

#NaNoWriMo 2020

ARGHHHHHH. I swore I wouldn’t do it, even tweeted saying ‘good luck, everyone but it’s not for me this year’… In the end, the lure of #NaNoWriMo proved too much to resist. Fifty thousand words here I come (hopefully).

Beautiful Biters, the first in the series

For those unfamiliar with the term, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month. The aim is to write 1,667 words a day every day in November, which gives you 50,000 words by the end, providing you stick to it.

I first took up the challenge in November 2018 and LOVED the whole process. There’s a website where you upload your progress and watching those words mount up provided extremely satisfying. I published that book in June 2019 and have since written and published three more in that series. Book five is due out this Christmas.

If nothing else, Coronavirus’s second wave here in the UK has awarded me time-a-plenty this month as we’re more or less back in strict lockdown. No visits to family or friends, no restaurants, pubs, cinemas, festivals, outings, fun whatsoever.

Anyway, for this year’s challenge, I intend to write the second in a planned three-parter about vampires. In the world I’ve created, humans and vampires live alongside each other because there’s a vaccine that makes human blood poisonous to vampires. Unfortunately, the right-wing government privatised healthcare some years ago, so not all humans have been immunised and the vaccination is now incredibly expensive.

A state licensing programme for vampires exists, one that oppresses them, and the government is far too fond of handing out the contracts for all vampire-related programmes to its incompetent mates.

Any of this sounding familiar…?

Anyway, my main characters are Maya (human) and Justin (vampire), both trying to work out how to flourish in this challenging world.

Here’s a short extract:

The vampire advancing on me, teeth bared and arms spread wide, stopped—his eyes rolling back, head tipping behind him as he tumbled to the ground.

“Are you okay?” I shrieked, darting over so I could thrust out a hand to help him up. We had been working on mind control techniques for an hour and this was the first time I’d disabled him. The kitchen floor was cheap laminate but solid underneath. The drop must have hurt.

Justin gripped my hand, grimace turning to grin.

Never date a vampire. They operate on crude levels. Sleep, blood lust and… plain ol’ lust. A sudden yank and I found myself on top of him.

“Now that you’re here,” he murmured in my ear, warm breath tickly. “Shall we forget this stupid lesson and do something else instead…?”

No mistaking the intent. That told me loud and clear. I hovered above him, propped up on my hands, hair falling forward. He blew out air, sending strands flying. I dipped my elbows to kiss him. Justin liked to work out. He approved of press-ups, particularly ones that brought two bodies closer together.

“Well, sir, if you insist,” I said, “though I should try it a few more times? Otherwise, how else am I going to fight off the baddies that want to suck the life out of my as yet unvaccinated sister?”

You can read the first book, Beautiful Biters, for free on Wattpad. The cover you can see above was created by the talented Jennifer Mijatovic (@wee_mij on Instagram check out the gorgeous sketches she does of her daughter). Isn’t it beautiful?

The inspiration behind a story…

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Write, Writer, Type, Machine, Creative, Idea, Novel

I write because I find bending words into shape hugely satisfying. The plot problem-solving element appeals too—so if a character does this, which results in that, how does the action move the plot on—kind of thing.

Inspiration comes from many things. During lockdown, I wrote a book based on a feature I heard on Radio 1*. When the UK’s shut-up-shop was announced at the end of March, Matt Hancock, the UK’s superb health secretary [inserts sarcasm font] was asked if people who had just started dating could still see each other.

Answer—no. But he did suggest if folks had recently hooked up, now was the ideal opportunity to find out if that relationship might work. The ultimate test. Locked up in one location 24/7, your only escape that one hour of allowed outdoor exercise every day.

Some days later, Radio 1 spoke to couples who’d done this. Met on Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, etc., and realised the new precautions against the spread of Covid-19 meant they wouldn’t see each other for weeks.

Right at the time when people had just hooked up for those heady first few dates. Hormones at the explosive stage, libidos fired up, every waking thought filled with the person they’d just met and what they wanted to do with them…

The people phoning into Radio 1 made that leap of faith and moved in with each other. My mind boggled. Fancy that! You’ve had three, four dates with someone and suddenly you’re in close proximity. Sharing a bed, bathroom, TV viewing habits, meals. Idiosyncrasies. Weirdness around food. Differing attitudes towards cleanliness in the home, etc. What an irresistible idea to explore.

And so A Leap of Faith was born—a couple who’ve only known each other three weeks and who make the decision to bunk up together. Even better, if the protagonist comes with too many pesky secrets and a long time aversion to talking about her past.

Last week, Radio 1 got in touch with one of the couples they’d spoken to at the start. Like a lot of people listening, I was on tenterhooks. In a world of relentless bad news—the Covid-19 cases are climbing steeply in the UK once more—please, please let Nigel and thingie (I can’t remember her name) still be together.

They were! They’d exchanged the l-word! They were dead happy! The nation, much in need to stories to cheer us up, rejoiced.

Anyway, if you’re at all curious about A Leap of Faith, you can read the story for free on Wattpad here…

*I’m way, way out of that station’s target demographic, by the way