The first thing to do when you want to write a book? Simple: read a book

So a work colleague said to me the other day, ‘I hope you don’t mind my asking, but I heard you write books. I’ve wanted to write one for years and I’ve got some ideas. Do you have any tips?’

After some questioning, I discovered she wants to write romantic fiction, a genre I personally have no interest in. Well, I say that; apart from children and young adult literature, I’m well into my Liverpool sagas, which often have some romantic angle. They’re formulaic and usually set during significant times like World War One or Two. I read them because they take me back to my beloved home city and I love the references to a world oh so familiar. The Liverpool sagas are a great form of escapism for me.

I asked if she’d read much and she admitted she hadn’t. ‘Well,’ I said, ‘if you want to write romantic fiction and don’t know how to go about it, you have to do your research, and in order to do that, the best way to start is by reading the type of books in the genre you’re aiming for. You need to research styles and what sells. You can join a library and borrow some books, or buy them. Kindle is cheaper.’

‘Right,’ she said. ‘Only I don’t have a Kindle.’

‘Do you have a tablet?’


‘You can download the Kindle app, then, and read the books that way.’

I’ve found a few books given to me by a friend who’s well into her romantic fiction, mostly which I’ve never read, to get her started, and I’ll give them to her this week.

She’s grateful for the advice and realises that it’s going to be a long process because I emphasised this on her: writing, editing, marketing, finding an agent, a publisher, deciding to go indie, it ain’t easy! I wish her all the luck in the world. She’s gonna need it!

But she’s grateful for my advice and I’m happy I’ve acquired enough knowledge over the years to help a newbie on her way!

2022: what’s in it for you?

Yet another Covid booster? Probably; the last one only gives a 10 week protection against the Omicron variant and I had mine in November. It’s now January and I just can’t wait to have another. Not.

Starting your new book? Finishing the one you started in October 2019?

October 2019?!

I couldn’t believe it when I realised that was the date of my first saved file for Faking Attraction! Covid-19 wasn’t even a thing then! Has it really been two years since I started it? I intended to finish it in 2021, but you know what it’s like. Same old story: life getting in the way. It took me five years to write Episode because my mum died halfway through, but what’s been my excuse this time? I don’t know. I think time has just whizzed by. That’s why I hate New Year, the years rolling on and moving us all one step closer to God’s waiting room! It’s actually a myth that time goes faster when you’re older, however. There are some fascinating articles on that subject, for instance, here and here.

I also believe it’s because as adults we have to plan ahead for things like family, pensions, retirement. We don’t often plan as children, we live in the moment. Decisions are made for us. I don’t go in for New Year’s resolutions (I always break them), but I think I need a major goal for 2022, and that’s to finish and publish Faking Attraction by early summer.

Whatever your goals are, I hope you achieve them. Happy New Year and let’s hope 2022 doesn’t end up as ‘2020, too’!

When being an author could be bad for your health

It all started in the middle of August when I felt this sudden sharp pain at the back of my right ankle. I wasn’t doing anything sporty at the time; I was just sitting on my bum on the sofa with the laptop, typing away at my new book, Faking Attraction. Thinking it was arthritis, I ignored it, but the pain got worse the following day. Ibuprofen didn’t touch it and I noticed my ankle starting to swell up. I stepped out of the front door and thought I’d been shot in the calf and the pain was unbearable. I was managing to drive to work, but all I could do was limp when I walked. Back then, as now, face-to-face GP appointments were difficult to get, so I took the advice of a colleague at work and went straight to Occupational Health, where I managed to get a phone appointment with a physio. He diagnosed tendonitis and gave me some exercises, which helped a lot, but not long after, when I thought things were getting back to normal, I was sitting down at the kitchen table, moved my chair back to get up and snap! my calf went again. This time, not only was the pain really, really, really bad, my calf went very tight. It was like that for over a week before I thought, ‘I’d better get it examined.’ It was a funny, bluish colour, too.

The doctor examined it, but wasn’t sure what to make of it. My leg and foot were cold, but that was inconsistent with a blood clot. An examination at the hospital vascular ward showed nothing sinister, but yesterday I had an ultrasound scan and they did in fact find a small clot in the lower part of my calf. So that’s three months of daily Clexane injections into my tummy (doesn’t hurt until you pull the needle out) and it’s put the kybosh on my Covid booster jab because when I said I had a DVT they refused to let me have it. Meanwhile, it’s still uncertain I have tendonitis after all and if I have, is my tendon ruptured and is that what has caused the clot? Another scan incoming to determine that; or…

…I’ve been sitting on me arse too much with my laptop.

Either way, it’s got me thinking: it’s not wise to sit too long without taking a break and in fact it’s been a wake-up call. Do as I do now: get up, walk around, do some stretching exercises, get some fresh air and have a walk around the block. That will also give you a break from the screen. Do a bit of vacuuming and dusting, too. Writing a book is no excuse for a mucky house! And when you do sit down to write, sit properly. Don’t slouch. Wiggle those feet and ankles. Keep the circulation going. No heart attacks, if you please.

Why does Enid Blyton still appeal to today’s readers?

Who knows?

It’s ages since I posted a blog post (yeah, yeah), so I thought I’d blog about this. Back in June I saw a few tweets relating to English Heritage branding Enid Blyton’s work as ‘racist and xenophobic’. As a 10-year-old, the first full-length book I ever read was First Term at Malory Towers. It inspired me to want to write for children, but when I read more of her books, and became aware of, but didn’t read, her stories involving characters like ‘golliwogs’, did I think she was a racist? No, because when I was growing up, there was no such word as or reference to being ‘woke’ and a golliwog to me was just a black doll. Robertson’s marmalade used to give away golliwog badges. I had a couple. They were just pretty, colourful badges to me.

Do I think she’s racist and xenophobic now I’m an adult? The answer’s yes. I’m in a better position to judge her work more closely and I live in a diverse, multicultural, multiracial country in a time when racism and prejudice is a sensitive issue. As a football fan, I support the Kick It Out campaign. Blyton’s stories, and those of other children’s authors like Angela Brazil and Elinor M Brent-Dyer from her era, are full of racist and prejudicial overtones. Blyton was even said to be a Nazi sympathiser. Recently, I’ve been re-reading The Chalet School series by Brent-Dyer. The character of Biddy O’Ryan, a wild Irish girl who is found hiding near the school after she’s abandoned, is deemed unsuitable to be a pupil at the school because of how she speaks, so there is talk of her becoming a servant to one of the girls, until it’s discovered she is clever and would benefit from the Chalet School’s influence. An example like that makes me cringe, so why do I keep reading these books, and why do the likes of Blyton and Brent-Dyer still sell, when, if I tried to imitate them, not only would I be branded a racist, I might even end up in the dock! The nearest Brent-Dyer gets to multiculturalism and diversity is through those of her characters from European nations, but there are no girls from African countries in her school, nor are there any at Malory Towers or St Clare’s. These books just don’t fit into today’s world, so why do they still appeal?

It’s a mystery. The only explanation I can give is that perhaps it’s the ideas and plots that are appealing, not the stories or characters themselves. It’s been said Blyton was a poor writer. Maybe, but her estate still gets the royalties. The opinion on Twitter is divided: some accuse English Heritage of being woke, others say it was just the sign of the times, other tweets say they feel uncomfortable reading her books to their children. What I want to know is what took English Heritage so long to come to that conclusion when most of us knew what her books were like for years?

Here’s the link to English Heritage’s statement:

Do you have to finish the draft of your book before you start to edit?

Yes, you must. You really must. You can’t get halfway through and think, ‘I’m going back to the beginning and read and probably rewrite…’ You’ll muck up the continuity of the story and the plot. It’s like getting halfway through a sculpture of a bird and deciding you want to turn it into a cat. As crappy as the first draft always is, editing starts when you get to the end. There’s nothing wrong with jotting down ideas on paper for any changes, though.

My problem is, the urge has always been too great for me and I’ve always been guilty of ignoring this advice, so for my latest book, Faking Attraction, I was determined I was going to be good and stick to the golden rule, until recently, when I had a fall after helping my husband move his car off the ramp and badly sprained my wrist. Oh, the pain! I rolled about on the driveway in agony and the bag of frozen peas didn’t help, it just made it hurt more. My wrist and hand blew up like a balloon. The following day, I was in trouble: I couldn’t type. I could write, though, as it was my left hand and I’m right-handed. So, high as a kite on Nurofen, out came the notebook, but then I thought could I be bothered to carry on writing a chapter by hand?

No, I couldn’t, so guess what I did? The urge niggled at me and anyway, I was also suffering with a terrible case of writer’s block. I thought up an excuse. ‘I can’t type paragraphs one-handed…’ (I’m a trained touch-typist) ‘so it’ll have to be re-reading and maybe doing a bit of an edit here and there. I can type the odd word one-handed.’


By the time my wrist healed, I’d caught up to chapter twenty-two and I believe I’d done a lot of good rewriting; and I think it’s helped me to continue to the end. But it’s very, very bad practice, and when I do get to the end, that’s not the end of it. That will be the first draft and a bit, and then I have to edit all over again.

OK, over to you, 2021

In normal times, I hate New Year: all that usually passes through my head is, God, this year I’ll be another year older! But these aren’t normal times: in 2020 Covid messed with our heads and in the UK we are now in a second wave. People have died prematurely from this nasty virus and all we want is to see the back of an awful year, so this time around I can’t wait for 2021 and when my turn comes for the vaccine I’m having it.

We also have Brexit and left the EU officially today, but that’s been going on for four years. At least it’s over and done with at last!

Last night I had two ciders, two Manhattan cocktails and a dram of Southern Comfort and today I have a head like Ringo Starr’s drums, but I managed to write 800 words of Faking Attraction. I don’t do New Year’s resolutions because I always break them, but I do intend to finish and publish Faking Attraction and I also hope to blog more. I never do it enough!

Happy New Year and let’s hope 2021 is better than 2020!

Faking Attraction: the dangers of making fake friends online

I haven’t blogged for a while and I wanted to update on the progress of my new book Faking Attraction, which I mentioned briefly back then. Aimed for older teens and young adults, I’m writing it as a form of therapy. Back in 2019, I was scammed on Instagram and was very nearly blackmailed. It was my own stupid fault. I became friendly with someone who turned out to be fake, a liar and a scammer. Like many other women – and men – who use social media sites a lot, I fell for the patter, the fake identity, the sob story and the lies, and I got my fingers badly burned; but I learned from it and decided, ‘OK right, this is one of the ways I’m going to get back at scumbags like you.’

Faking Attraction is about catfishing or romance scamming. The book is told from two perspectives and the protagonists tell their stories in alternate chapters: Cherry is sixteen, British, and pretty. She is active on a (fictitious) social media site based heavily on Instagram. When she is sent to boarding-school she posts a provocative photo of herself on the site and this attracts Adam, a fifteen-year-old American boy whose parents live on a US Air Force base in the UK. Adam falls in love with Cherry’s picture, but events take over and before Cherry knows it, she’s being scammed. I’ve incorporated two elements from the classic social media scam: being American and being in the military.

The message I’m trying to convey in the book is that social media, while being useful to people who write books or music, or paint beautiful pictures, as a way of promoting their work, can be a dangerous way of communicating for young and vulnerable people, and for lonely people, too. Thirteen is too young to be allowed to post on Instagram, but any age is open to grooming in some form.

It’s not just Instagram where catfishing and scamming take place; they also happen on Facebook and Twitter, and I’ve heard that TikTok is rife with it. I don’t use TikTok, not having any interest in it, and have not had any problems with Twitter or Facebook, but on Instagram I can smell a catfisher a mile off:

  1. They generally follow more than they have followers, mainly women (if a male account) or men (if female)
  2. Their accounts are usually private
  3. Their bios might say something about how they love their son or daughter or how they love God, or how they’re single looking for love yada yada yada, or the bio might be blank (there’s no hard or fast rule), but look out for poor spelling, a dead giveaway that English isn’t their first language; mainly they’ll claim they come from the good ol’ US of A
  4. If the account isn’t private, they will post numerous photos at the same time, mostly without descriptions; these may be ‘them’ in military uniform, or in medical scrubs, or with a daughter or son, or looking successful in suits, or gorgeous models. These photos will likely be stolen from other accounts. I’ve successfully closed down eight accounts this year from idiots who’ve followed me thinking I won’t notice they’ve copied accounts from authors I already know
  5. When they send a direct message that begins something like ‘Hi, how are you?’ that’s when you know for certain that’s a catfisher; and sometimes they won’t even bother to follow your account.

So, take care when using social media and trust no one. These planks don’t care who they go for.

Sorry, I don’t like the WordPress block editor

It’s yuk and not very user-friendly. For a start, where do you add the categories? And writing in boxes, like some sort of weird table.

Thanks, but no thanks.

I’ll stick to the Classic Editor. There’s nothing wrong with that and I hope they don’t get rid of it. It has everything there that you need, whereas the block editor is just a bit TOO simplistic.

I just don’t see the point in fixing things that aren’t broken.

Another One Bites The Dust!








In an earlier blog post I championed a site called iAuthor, a UK indie book promotion site I thought could rival Goodreads. I wrote:

A few months ago, I stumbled upon iAuthor, which operates something similar to the Goodreads Listopia, known as Themes. The title of the site suggests it’s geared towards the author. Authors are invited to create a theme and other authors add their titles to that theme, the idea being, I think, for other indies to take a look at your book and think, ‘Yeah. I’ll read that one. If I’m feeling generous I might even review it.’ I’ve created a few themes myself, like this one. Guess which theme appears to be one of the most popular of them all, though? Tells you a hell of a lot, really, doesn’t it! It also tells you that there are plenty of indie authors out there bouncing about like molecules in the air vying for space to get noticed, me included.

That was back in 2015 and I wanted to add a couple of books I’d read to some themes recently. Unfortunately, when I clicked on the iAuthor link a few weeks ago, I saw this:

Dear iAuthor Community,

From our beta launch in December 2012, through 5 iterations, to the interactive platform you see today, we’ve never wavered in our mission: to give the publishing world a hub for serendipitous discovery.

Your daily engagement has made this possible, for what would iAuthor be without our loyal users? You have been the platform’s lifeblood, at the heart of everything we do. You’ve been catalysts for innovation, and your well-considered feedback has been key in ensuring an industry-leading user-experience across all devices.

Regrettably, the Covid-19 pandemic means that we’re unable to maintain iAuthor in its current form. Nothing but the best will do; and against this singularly challenging backdrop, we feel that “the best” is no longer achievable.

iAuthor is therefore shutting its operations on Thursday 27th August. In accordance with GDPR law, your data and all associated content will be permanently deleted on that date. Unavoidably, this includes your book profiles, themes and samples. You needn’t do a thing, but might consider taking a commemorative screenshot of your iAuthor profile for reference purposes. All existing adverts will be wound down on Wednesday 26th August. Any adverts created after 12th August will be reimbursed in full.

It’s been a uniquely enriching 8-year journey. We’re privileged to have shared it with you.

With warmest wishes,

The iAuthor Team

That’s so annoying, particularly because free UK book marketing internet sites are few and far between. Covid has messed things up so much in 2020. While you’d think that people haven’t had much else to do during lockdown other than to do DIY or read, they have of course had other priorities, and so it’s natural that websites such as these, which champion the indie author, would go to the wall; and so it has.

Another promotional site that’s bitten the dust recently and that displayed my books is Manic Readers. It was mainly for romance authors, but was happy to accept all genres. It still has a Twitter and Facebook presence, but the last time they tweeted was in 2019 and they posted on Facebook back in 2018. Click on the link to and nothing happens. There had been a closed announcement earlier in the year.

It’s such a shame and I can see others following suit. Indie authors rely on these sites so much for promotion and there are too many paid sites trying to cash in on desperate writers trying to get their name out there.

Well, maybe it’s time I set up a free UK promo site of my own! I’ve been thinking about doing it, so maybe now is the time!

Indie authors need reviews, too, you know – even negative ones!

How many times has it been said? Readers still don’t appreciate the fact that ALL opinions count, whether good or bad.

Even if a reader doesn’t like the book, why don’t they say so? I’ve seen a lot of negative reviews for traditionally published, famous, well-known authors’ books and it doesn’t impair sales. Why should an indie’s books be any different? It continues to be a mystery to me. In fact, I should say that a negative review can do as much as a positive one as another reader will get curious and think, ‘Hmm. Let me judge for myself.’ I’ve said that before, too. I’ve also said I can live with a negative review; at least the reader has taken the trouble to read the book and say what they think and be critical.

Recently, I reviewed three indie author books and gave them each five stars because I enjoyed them and thought they were well-written, but other readers might not. So what? One man’s meat is another man’s poison. It doesn’t hurt to say what you think and there’s no pressure to write an essay, you need only a few sentences. Why take the trouble to buy a paperback or take advantage of a free download if you don’t read it and tell other readers what you think of it? It makes no sense.

These are the indie books I reviewed recently for Amazon and Goodreads:

Ascension (The Witches of Pioneer Vale Book 1) by David Combs

The Dog Poo Fairy and The Wildlife Rescue Fairy by Tracey Bryant



I wouldn’t call myself an expert reviewer – I’m definitely not – but at least I made the effort; and the authors were happy I had.

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