Friday, 23 March 2018

Writing from the Heart

Those of you who know me or follow this blog will be aware that I’ve been writing for some time now, with four books, and many published short stories to my name. I began with short stories and the pleasure I get from constructing a whole new world in just one or two thousand words has never diminished.

However, in the fascinating world of fiction it is sometimes supposed (if you’re not an author) that writing is an easy occupation. That somehow an idea germinates – that bit is true – and then the words just flow onto the page. It does happen, occasionally, but most of the time it’s hard work, writing that first draft followed by multiple edits, loving it, hating it then hopefully loving it again. Then maybe another edit.

Just occasionally something magical happens and this was the case for me with my latest book. It was my addiction to the books of Georgette Heyer and love of the Regency that were the inspiration for The Ghost of Glendale. Like many others, I was practically weaned on the books of the queen of romantic Regency novels. While I don’t presume to emulate my idol, it has long been my ambition to attempt this genre, having previously concentrated on women’s contemporary romantic fiction. The Ghost of Glendale was that perfect experience. Straight from the heart and the words tumbling to get out. It isn’t the longest book I’ve ever written but it is, to date, my favourite.


At twenty-four years old, Phoebe Marcham is resigned to spinsterhood, unwilling to settle for anything less than the deep love her parents had shared. That is, until adventurer Duncan Armstrong rides into her home wood, larger than life and with laughter in his eyes and more charm in his little finger than anyone she’s ever met before. Far from ridiculing her family ghost, Duncan resolves to help solve the mystery which has left Simon Marcham a spirit in torment for two hundred years.

This book was such a joy to write. There’s a ghost, a little bit of history, a couple of horses – I love horses – and the obligatory difficult relative. But above all there’s the relationship between the two main protagonists. They may have ‘lived’ nearly two hundred years ago but they are as real to me as anyone I know today – and they are fun! I hope you like them too.

Publication date is 25th April but for anyone who is interested The Ghost of Glendale is now available to pre-order.

A special word of thanks to Debbie Viggiano whose advice has been invaluable and my particular thanks to Rebecca Emin and Cathy Helms who were instrumental in getting this book out there for me. .

See you next time.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Chatting with Rosemary Goodacre

Today I am delighted to welcome Rosemary Goodacre on this, the first day of the blog tour for her debut novel, A Fortnight is not Enough which is published by American publisher Books to Go Now. Rosemary has written a feel good story which I read at one sitting. Her young heroine is everything a heroine should be, I liked the writer’s style and I look forward to reading more from this author in the future.

Thank you for agreeing to answer my questions, Rosemary.
Before I begin I'd like to say thank you for hosting me on your blog.

You’ve picked a wonderfully romantic setting for your novel. It feels as if it’s somewhere you know well. Is this the case and why did you choose this particular location?
We visited Provence in 2016 and it’s a beautiful region, with plenty of sunshine. I’ve had a fantasy about deliberately not returning from a wonderful holiday destination, and when I wanted to make it into a story this location seemed to work well.

The setting for
A Fortnight is not Enough
Your heroine is an artist and it’s evident you know a lot about your subject. Are you a painter in your non-writing life?
I’m afraid I’ve only dabbled, though it’s a lovely career or hobby. I’ve got some artistic friends and relatives. One room at home is full of paintings by my school friend and her family.

I watched Imogen mature into a young woman with a growing faith in her own talents and abilities. Was this planned and do you think it a fundamental part of the story?
Yes, she has to use her skills and qualities to fulfil her aims. She also has to break free from someone who is a controlling influence. It could be described as a Young Adult novel.

A Fortnight is not Enough is your first published novel. Do you have any other projects in the pipeline?
I have recently completed a full length novel entitled The Day of the Dolly Bird, which is a romance set in London in the Swinging Sixties. It has received an encouraging report from a professional novelist. I am currently working on a romance set in World War I.

Can you elaborate on your writing career to date and your route to publication?
I have always loved writing and lately I’ve become more serious about seeking publication.  I attend The Write Place Creative Writing School, run by author and journalist Elaine Everest, where there is constant stimulation and encouragement. I belong to the New Writers Scheme of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, and enjoy meeting other writers there and attending workshops. Their Annual Conference provides the opportunity for valuable one-to-one meetings with agents and publishers, helpful for gaining a better understanding of the industry.

I have had short stories published and placed in competitions, and I have been published in the Guardian. My novel Pleasure Train Polka, set in Austria in 1914, was short listed in the 2014 Write Time competition run by Corazon Books.

We’d like to know a little more about you. What can you tell us? (Hobbies? Interests? Pet hate?)
In an attempt to keep fit I do Zumba, on the principle that an hour a week shouldn’t kill me, but seriously, we exercise to music (Latin American etc.) so it’s great fun. I’m very interested in travel (mainly to continental Europe) and languages. I love classical music, including opera.

Thank you for joining me today, Rosemary. I wish you every success with your new book


Monday, 22 January 2018

The Benefits of a One Day Writing Retreat

I consider myself to be a dedicated writer and while my day isn’t always as well-planned and organised as it could be it is almost invariably filled with writerly things. Most of the time I can be found pounding away at my keyboard or reading my notes. Recently I completed the first draft of Long Ago and Far Away, the novel I began in November for the NaNoWriMo challenge of writing fifty thousand words in a month. Time now to work on editing before sending it out into the big wide world. Sometimes, though, it’s easy to become distracted – by Facebook conversations, by Twitter and, well we all know about displacement activities. However…

For a little over six years now I have attended The Write Place Creative Writing School in Kent, with weekly lessons that have kept me on my toes and from which I have learned a huge amount. But aside from the benefits of excellent tuition there is the added bonus of the one day writing retreats that are held regularly (usually once a month). 

There was one such retreat last Saturday. I went with less enthusiasm than usual due to a fuggy head. It's that time of the year isn't it! Fortunately I had planned what I was going to work on. Fugginess receded and by the end of the morning I had written the outline for my next book and begun work on the synopsis for Long Ago and Far Away. Then we broke for lunch, an assortment of delights brought by the participants to share between us all, and we always bring too much!

This is a particularly social time when we can relax for a while after hours of intense concentration, though writing usually comes into the conversation somewhere.

Back at our ‘stations’ work continued and tapping of fingers on keys was the only sound to be heard.  I used this time to finish the synopsis I'd been working on during the morning and to put on my editing hat. There was also an opportunity for each of us to take advantage of a one2one discussion with our tutor, Elaine Everest, and this is invaluable as it gives us a chance to talk purely about ourselves and our own aspirations, and of course to receive specifically tailored advice. 

By the time I got home I was exhausted but I had done at least twice as much work as I would have done at home. No breaks and no distractions. It was wine o'clock and I was ready. The next day I set to with a will and yes, I did a huge amount of work, but I may have taken the odd break here and there to watch TV or make a phone call. It happens.

The point I’m trying to make is that a day dedicated to writing is not unusual – it’s what I do – but a day dedicated to writing in a different environment where there are absolutely no outside distractions is priceless. My work is pretty much planned for the next month but I know that the next retreat will be as beneficial as this one has been. If it isn’t, it would be for the first time ever.

Did you know I now have a Facebook Author Page? Here is the link. Please come over and follow me for future news.

Monday, 8 January 2018

Look at my latest news

I now have a Facebook Author Page so please come visit and click follow so you have all the news about my latest work and future competition etc.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Two-Faced - But in a Good Way

It’s been said that as one door closes another opens. Janus, Roman god of gates and doors was depicted as having two faces, one casting his eyes back and one looking to the future. It takes no great stretch of the imagination then to understand why the month of January is said to be named for him.

Looking back 2017 was another busy year for me and I was thrilled when my third book, Escape to the Cotswolds, was published by HQ | HarperCollins on 21st June. Here is the blurb:

Artist Holly Hunter is turning her life upside-down! She’s leaving the bright lights of London (and a cheating husband) behind her and hoping for a fresh start as she escapes to the peaceful Cotswolds countryside.

Men are off the cards for Holly. Instead, she’s focusing on her little gallery and adopting an adorable Border Collie puppy named Tubs. Or so she thought…

Because no matter how hard she tries to resist him, local vet Adam Whitney is utterly gorgeous. And in a village as small as this one, Holly can only avoid Adam for so long!

Later in the year and never one to turn down a challenge, I picked up the gauntlet and in November completed the NaNoWriMo challenge to write 50,000 words in a month. You can read about my before and after experiences here and here.

Now it’s a new year and, like one of Janus’s faces, I am looking forward. And with no little excitement either. I have renewed my love affair with short stories and today sees the publication of Some Time Alone in the People’s Friend Special #151. This, appropriately enough, is about a new beginning and is set in my favourite area of the country in the same fictional village as my book, Escape to the Cotswolds, but with different characters.   

The exhilaration continues next week on 11th January when my Pocket Novel, The Ghost of Glendale, will be on a supermarket shelf near you. DC Thomson have produced this beautiful cover for my romantic Regency ghost story. Here is a taster:

At twenty-four years old, Phoebe Marcham is resigned to spinsterhood, unwilling to settle for less than the deep love her parents had shared. That is until adventurer Duncan Armstrong rides into her home wood, larger than life and with laughter in his eyes and more charm in his little finger than anyone she has ever previously known. Far from ridiculing her family ghost, Duncan resolves to help solve the mystery which has left Simon Marcham a soul in torment for two hundred years.

For those of you who know me or follow my blog it will come as no surprise that I am particularly thrilled with this one as I have a lifelong love of the period having been practically weaned on Georgette Heyer’s wonderful novels. And I have recorded the whole series of Pride and Prejudice (Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle) to watch yet again. And I watched Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion during the holiday period. What can I say? I’m a total fan.

So what, you might ask, has happened to all those words written for the NaNoWriMo challenge? This is still a work in progress. I’m hoping to complete the first draft by the end of the month. The synopsis is written, the first three chapters are ready to go but there are subplots and editing to deal with before I have a completed manuscript.

All the while in the background are short story ideas and novel plots waiting to take shape and form. Then there is the RNA Conference to look forward to together with workshops and writing retreats. A busy 2018 in prospect. Would I have it any other way? Definitely not. I love what I do. I hope you do too.

Wishing all my readers, friends and family aspiration, inspiration, joy and peace. Happy New Year to one and all. 

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Chatting with best-selling author, Elaine Everest

I am delighted to welcome Elaine Everest back to the blog. Author of The Woolworths Girls, The Butlins Girls and Christmas at Woolworths, those of us who have read her work will know that she sets her books during the dark times of World War Two. But these are not war stories. Though we learn something of these events, Elaine’s stories are primarily about her characters. They are uplifting and illustrate how good people can be in times of adversity. Elaine kindly agreed to answer my questions.

It was a real pleasure catching up with Sarah, Maisie and Freda, whom we first met in The Woolworths Girls. It’s 1943 and war is still raging as we meet up with them again in Christmas at Woolworths. As well as your original cast of characters you have introduced several more. One of the things I found so enjoyable was following the different threads and your apparent ease in knitting them all together with the backdrop of the war and the store. You never drop a stitch. So tell us how you keep control of all the ends?
Thank you for inviting me to your blog, Natalie. It is lovely to make a return visit. Where’s the wine and cake?
I like all of my girls to have something happen to them during each book. It keeps them in the reader’s mind and means they can interact with their mates as the story progresses. This may mean introducing a new character who causes a problem or creates tension in someone’s life. I try to have a character be involved in a local wartime event as it brings home how everyone’s life was interrupted by war. Wartime at Woolworths, which comes out in May 2018, has my girls involved in some distressing events and not everyone survives.

Music plays a big part in the book. There are references to several songs which do a great job of enhancing your scenes and I found myself wanting to join in singing many old favourites. Bearing in mind that you weren’t even born at the time, how did you uncover so many and does music feature largely in your own life as well?
So many of the wartime songs are timeless. Many come from before World War Two and seem to be timeless. These songs were sung at family parties, weddings, and visits to pubs and social clubs when I was young. I have to confess to shedding a few tears when researching and listening to the songs as I can see my much-missed dad and his siblings entertaining us to a song or two. I’ve also found that YouTube is a great aid when researching the songs – it puts me ‘in the mood!’

You will have a natural readership of a certain age but this is a story that I feel will resonate with any age group. What do you think it is that attracts younger readers to your work?
I’m fortunate in that the younger generation remember Woolworths. Many would have worked in the stores, as would their parents and grandparents. I’ve been told by readers that not only are they fascinated in how Woolworths survived during the war but how I’ve weaved stories of young women through those turbulent years. It is rather humbling to know that all generations are reading my books. So far the eldest is 102!

Your novella Carols at Woolworths was released in October. That’s two Christmas books in a very short space of time. Is it your love of this time of year that prompted you to write both?
I had the opportunity to write a short stand-alone Ebook that gave me the opportunity to carry one story over a few days rather than over a year or two like my other books. At times, with the staff and guest of Woolworths trapped by an unexploded bomb, there was the danger of the story turning into an episode of Dad’s Army but I kept focused with a few sad scenes that included my regular girls. 
I’m not a big fan of Christmas even thought it is my birthday on Christmas Eve. Like many people I have sad memories of loved ones who passed away at a time when so many are celebrating the festive period. Losing my mum only days before my eighteenth birthday when she was just forty years of age made December a horrid month to face for so long. Even now I feel it was so unfair that she survived an awful war as a child then faced such a horrid illness. However, I can pull upon my own grief when it is required in my books – come to that the anger helps as well.

I can see how you must have very mixed feelings at this time of year. Such a young age to lose your mother. I hope you are able to celebrate her memory with joy on your birthday.

It seems no time at all since we were chatting about The Butlins Girls and here we are already more than a month after publication of Christmas at Woolworths. By definition a saga is not a short book and this is your third in eighteen months, as well as a novella. How do you manage your time to keep up this pace and is it your intention to maintain your output of two books a year.
Plan, plan, plan! I know my story inside out before I start to write. I’ve looked at what is happening in the war, local news, Woolworths news and also gone back over my notes on each girl’s history – I even read the earlier books. This doesn’t mean I don’t stop and add another idea as they still percolate throughout the months I’m writing. In fact I’ve just added a romance for one of the girls in the book I’m currently writing. I’ll leave you to guess which girl…

Is Woolworths to be a continuing theme or do you have your sights on something else?
I always have my sights set on other stories. Each time a new contract is negotiated my agent has four or five outlines for stories that aren’t Woolies related. However, I appreciate that thousands of readers are waiting to hear what happens next in the lives of Sarah, Maisie, Freda, Betty and Ruby so I’m always pleased to write a little more about them.

I hesitate to ask this question but what do you do in your spare time?
Spare time? Haha! Now my husband has retired I often down tools and we head out for a few hours. It may just be an extra walk with our dog, Henry, or a trip to the garden centre but it is something I never used to do. We are also able to take more trips to Cornwall or away for the weekend, which is nice. I also enjoy research trips and meeting fellow authors at SWWJ and RNA events. However, any leisure time has to be made up so my life is still planned around writing my words.

Finally, would you be able to give us a short sample that you feel epitomises your work and brings to life the spirit of community that was so evident all those years ago.

This scene shows the interaction between some of my characters:

Betty turned as she made to cross Pier Road, where the Woolworths store was situated. ‘Why Sarah, Freda, is there a problem?’
            ‘There will be if you don’t come with us to Nan’s,’ Sarah said breathlessly. ‘She’s made a meat and potato pie.’
            ‘Enough to feed an army. We’ve been sent to invite you for your tea. Please say yes or we will be eating it in our sandwiches for the next week,’ Freda begged.
            Betty laughed, all thoughts of her long lost loved forgotten for the moment. ‘I’m interested to know how Ruby came by so much meat,’ she said raising her eyebrows.
            ‘Goodness, there is little meat in the pie. It’s just that she was busy arguing with Vera from up the road and peeled too many spuds. Not that we wouldn’t have invited you anyway,’ Sarah added quickly incase Betty was insulted. ‘Nan had to add another can of corned beef otherwise it would have been a spud pie,’ she explained.
            ‘I could always donate a can or two of snoek,’ Betty suggested to which both girls shrieked in horror.
            ‘Please, no!’ Sarah said with a look of distaste. Even if I was starving I couldn’t eat the stuff. Why, it’s revolting.’
            They girls tucked their arms through Betty’s and set off for Ruby’s house in nearby Alexandra Road. It was as they turned the corner into the High Street that Sarah looked back and spotted the man. He stood on the pavement in front of Woolworths where Betty had stood only minutes before and was watching Betty intently. Sarah knew she had seen the man before. With a cold chill running the length of her back she turned away and joined in the chatter about their friend Maisie who was babysitting Sarah’s adorable daughter, Georgina.

‘You say you’ve seen the bloke before?’ Maisie whispered as she dipped her hands into the washing up water and retrieved a fork, then checked her nails. Maisie wasn’t one for washing up as a rule but the others were listening to a play on the radio so she’d had no choice but to volunteer after the grand meal Ruby had proved for them all.
            ‘Yes, I remembered just now,’ Sarah whispered back, it was in Woolies a couple of days ago. I was helping Betty collect takings from the tills and he was there, at the corner of the haberdashery counter. I called out to Deirdre to serve him. You know how that woman likes to chat. The last thing I wanted was to have to pacify a customer if she wasn’t doing her job. But, he walked away and headed for the door. A couple of minutes later I spotted him watching through the window.’

            Maisie snorted with laughter before clapping her hand over her mouth incase the others heard. ‘Come off it. You’re ‘aving me on… why he could ‘ave been a normal customer thinking about a purchase. You’ve got too much time on yer ‘ands my girl,’ she snorted again using one of Ruby’s favourite sayings that was done in jest as her granddaughter, along with her mates, were doing more than their fair share of war work along with their everyday jobs at Woolies.
            ‘I’m serious, Maisie. I really do think that man is watching Betty.’
            ‘So, what can we do about it?’ Maisie asked. She knew better than to joke about something when Sarah looked so serious.
            ‘What’s all this?’ Ruby asked as she entered the kitchen with a pile of cups and saucers on a tray. ‘Anyone would think the pair of you have a secret.’
            Maisie and Sarah looked at each other and Maisie sighed. ‘It’s your idea so you explain to Ruby. I’m not so sure it’s not all in yer ‘ead.’
            Ruby frowned. ‘Come on spit it out then. I haven’t got all day. You can wash these cups and saucers while you talk. Give me the tea towel, Sarah, you won’t dry a thing twiddling it between your fingers. So, what’s the problem?’ Ruby asked as she started to dry a dinner plate.
            Sarah explained how she thought a man in a dark brown overcoat was following Betty and where she had seen him. ‘Do you think we should tell her, Nan?’
            Ruby thought for a moment as she stacked the dry crockery on the shelves of the pine dresser that covered the wall of the small kitchen. ‘I’m not so sure, you should say anything at this moment in time.’
            Maisie grinned. ‘See I told yer she wouldn’t believe you, Sarah.’
            Ruby looked seriously at Maisie. ‘Oh but I do believe Sarah. I’m more concerned that Betty, living alone as she does, would feel frightened.’
            ‘Perhaps we could lay in wait and catch the man next time we see him?’ Maisie suggested.
            ‘And what if we are wrong? We’d be the ones locked up. Leave it with me. I’m popping over to see Sergeant Jackson later on. I’ve saved him a plate of meat and potato pie. I can ask his opinion while I’m at it.’
            ‘Is Sergeant Jackson’s dad staying with him?’ Maisie asked with a glint in her eye, ‘I heard he was coming back to Erith,’ Maisie nudged Sarah and the pair of them fell into a fit of the giggles.
            Ruby’s cheeks turned a light shade of pink and she puffed herself up to her full height. Even so she was shorter than the two girls who were now laughing uncontrollably. ‘Stop it now, the pair of you. I’ve known Bob Jackson far longer than you’ve both been on this earth. He was a good friend of your granddad, Sarah, and his son, Sergeant Jackson went to school with your dad so you can stop all this right now.  There’s no harm in offering a bite to eat to a neighbour is there?’
            ‘No, Nan,’ Sarah said trying to keep a straight face.’

It’s been a pleasure talking to you, Elaine. Thank you for joining us and I look forward to seeing you here again next time.
Thank you, Natalie. It has been a pleasure to chat about my work xx

Author Information

Elaine Everest, author of Bestselling novel The Woolworths Girls and The Butlins Girls was born and brought up in North West Kent, where many of her books are set. She has been a freelance writer for twenty years and has written widely for women's magazines and national newspapers, with both short stories and features. Her non-fiction books for dog owners have been very popular and led to broadcasting on radio about our four legged friends. Elaine has been heard discussing many topics on radio from canine subjects to living with a husband under her feet when redundancy looms.

When she isn't writing, Elaine runs The Write Place creative writing school at The Howard Venue in Hextable, Kent and has a long list of published students.

Elaine lives with her husband, Michael, and their Polish Lowland Sheepdog, Henry, in Swanley, Kent and is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Crime Writers Association, The Society of Women Writers & Journalists and The Society of Authors as well as Slimming World where she can been sitting in the naughty corner.

Like my Facebook author page and answer a simple question to win a signed copy of Christmas at Woolworths. Entries close midnight on Sunday, 17th December.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

After NaNoWriMo - Did I rise to the challenge?

Well that’s it. I’ve DONE it and with two days to spare. And I have a certificate to prove it. Fifty thousand words.

It’s been…interesting. And it’s altered my perspective.  In the mists of time - about sixteen years ago - I began writing and immediately it became a compulsive activity which quickly evolved into an obsession and ended up becoming a career, though the obsession is still there. I’ve set myself targets and achieved them (I work better under pressure). What has become clear over the past month is that to some extent, though not entirely, I have previously arranged my writing around my 'other' life. For the past four weeks I have accommodated my life around my writing. One day, because of a pre-arranged fully booked day, I got up at four-thirty and by seven am I’d completed my target for the day. I know this isn’t unusual for some people but for me it’s unheard of. Prior to NaNoWriMo I would probably have left it and doubled up the next day but I couldn’t afford to do that this time. There was no way I wanted even to consider playing catch up. There are many people who habitually get up early and work before they leave home for the day job. I’ve always admired them but my admiration has increased immensely.

So what comes next? I have a complete story in fifty-seven thousand words – I started this book before the beginning of November. I haven’t read it through yet. There will be holes in the plot for sure. I can think of one or two already. Some parts will need to be expanded upon and others I suspect cut out completely. I’m quite apprehensive about this next part because it isn’t the way I usually work. My first edit always happens as I go along and it may not be comprehensive but it sets me on the right road. Have I deviated onto those narrow single track lanes with barely a passing place? Will I be able to find the route back to my goal, a well-crafted story that will satisfy my readers - and me? I hope so. I’m tempted to let it lie for a few days but I know myself well enough to be sure that tomorrow morning I’ll be opening the file and reading it through. I’m pretty certain that I’ll want to edit as I go along but I’m hoping to resist that temptation. I need to reacquaint myself with the whole story now before I do that.

This book is different from anything I’ve ever done before. What if it hasn’t worked? Will I have wasted my time? That would be a definite NO. Time is never wasted when trying to perfect one’s craft and it’s good to experiment occasionally. The longest and hardest part is yet to come. Whatever happens it won’t be a quick fix. I’m hoping that ultimately I will be left with a novel of which I can be proud. One thing is for sure though. I am incredibly proud to have taken on and completed this challenge. It’s amazing what you can achieve when you set your mind to it.

My footnote is by way of congratulation to everyone who has participated in NaNoWriMo 2017. Some will have finished and some will not, but all will have a substantial number of words and a part of or whole story that didn’t exist a month ago. And that is an achievement in itself.