Welcome to my blog. I am not a very regular blogger, but I try to keep this site updated with news and information. If there's none of the above I may just share my random ruminations.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

They Say that Lightning Doesn't Strike twice.

But it just has! 

I am extremely surprised to report that my book TORN, has won a 'Chill with a Book award'. In itself, this is brilliant news. But what makes it astounding is that LIFE CLASS won the self same award a couple of weeks ago.
I am so grateful to the indefatigable Pauline Barclay, who designed the 'Chill with a Book' website, and who has developed this award.

For the criteria see the post below.   

Thursday, September 29, 2016


I am absolutely delighted to report that LIFE CLASS has just won the 'Chill With A Book' Award.

To win this award a book has to score top marks with the judges on each of the 5 criteria listed.

1) Were the characters strong and engaging?
2) Was the book well written?
3) Did the plot have you turning the page to find out what happened next?
4) Was the ending satisfying?
5) Have you told your friends about it?

My thanks go to Pauline Barclay who set up the Chill With A Book site and who established the award, and also to her panel of anonymous judges.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A Blissfully Romantic Location.

We have just come home from two weeks in Greece.  The unarguable beauty; the warmth; the scents of pine resin, thyme and sage; the continuous swooshing of the sea and the clanking of goats’ bells - and from our vantage point high above it, we even saw a huge turtle swimming up the bay - all combine in a seductive sense memory that I've filed away to be revisited whenever I need a boost.

Our villa is terracotta, halfway up the slope

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By the time it came to leave it was a wrench, not just because we had enjoyed a lovely holiday,  but because we felt we were leaving friends.  Betty and Venettia, the caretakers of our villa, took us on a trip - it was at their own instigation. We prefer not to have a hire car and they were concerned we were missing out. They refused any contribution towards petrol, and collected us and drove us home, despite our insistence that we would get a taxi.


Members of the older generation of the family
The brothers

Dimitris and Christophoros, seemed bafflingly interchangeable, popping up to 'wait' at one or another bar or taverna. We then discovered that many of the eateries are a family concern, and that they are only two of the four brothers and three sisters of the family.

Andreas and Anait run the delightful and invariably excellent Nefeli taverna, with the help of Aleko (or Oleg) at front of house, and many others - including Anait's mum - in the background.

Anait with her fiancé and business partner, Andreas

The Nefeli

I have to mention Katerina and her daughter, Maria, who run the Minimarket, and their cat Nausicca. (Poor Nausicca was pregnant when we first met her, but by the end of our holiday she had given birth and then lost her first litter of kittens. It is thought they were predated.)
When I went to buy some olive oil made from the olives grown on their own farm, they insisted on giving it to me.

Last but not least, marathon man, Christos. He is the owner of the villa we stayed in and could not have been more charming, enthusiastic, helpful and eager to chat to us - despite his pidgin English, and our, even more pidgin, Greek. Amazingly fit, he had retired as a colonel only four years previously, from a 36 year career in the Greek army, in the paratroop regiment.

Christos and me - enjoying his famous frappé
I can understand why Romance writers choose places like the Greek islands to set their stories.  The location is idyllic, lending itself to languorous glances across a candle-lit dinner table; the balmy evening breeze and the lulling sound of the sea; fragrant evening strolls among the Oleander trees and the Gardenias, but.....

When I am asked if I am a romance writer, I usually disclaim the description, or at least attempt to qualify my kind of fiction. I am not a snob about it - I'm a member of the Romantic Novelists Association after all - but I need to manage the expectations of my potential readers. If someone picks up one of my books wanting to immerse themselves in an escapist world of hearts and flowers, yachts and fast cars, glamorous locations, then they will feel very let down. But, if the reader wants a more down-to-earth story about real people, in real-life situations, then my books might be just what they’re looking for. 

Life is not a fairy tale - most of us, at some time, have to deal with bereavement, marriage, childbirth, infidelity, separation, illness and ... love, in its many facets.  There is the love of parents for children, and vice versa.  There is the love between brothers and sisters. There is love between friends.  Even the love in a relationship, is not always - or only - romantic.  It grows, changes, deepens and sometimes, sadly, fades.  I see love as a part of life, probably THE most important part, but still only a section woven into the plait that makes up our lives. 

So, of course, I write about love, but I don’t just write about its heady and breathless joys. I write about love where it’s gone wrong or dies. I write about the bad consequences of love and sex, as well as its rewards. And I don't deny that locations such as the one I've just left, are very very romantic. I just don't write that kind of book. 

Thursday, May 12, 2016


A week or two ago I went for a solitary walk in the woods above our house.  I needed the exercise, but I was going with intent. I knew there would be bluebells. It is a favourite time of year for me, some years better than others. 2016 was a good year, made more enchanting by the fact that the wood anemones, wild garlic and violets were also out at the same time.

In LIFE CLASS, my character Stefan lives in a house on a wooded hillside. So how could I resist including a passing reference to one of my favourite flowers?

Stefan wants, above all things, to concentrate on his career as a sculptor. It is his intention to live as a solitary artist, without the messy demands of love - in any of its incarnations.   The ghosts from his past are his object lesson; love only comes with shame and guilt.

In this section, his mood is understandably depressed. His neighbour, an old lady he helps out with shopping and odd jobs, has died. But more than this, he is continuously troubled by Dominic, the damaged young man currently staying with him. Dom has been living dangerously and has put his health at risk.  And now there is a woman, a member of the art class he teaches, who intrudes too often and too disturbingly into his thoughts ... and into his life. How did he find himself in this position? He wanted to keep his life clear of the clutter of the unnecessary emotions that come with caring about other people.

It was cool but bright. As Stefan walked from the house to the barn, he saw a violet haze, wreathed smoke-like beneath the trees. Bluebells plus sunshine should have raised his spirits but, since the death of his neighbour, he’d yet to fully appreciate a lifting of his sense of responsibility. Was it because that weight had been replaced by another burden that touched his emotions far more closely? As he pulled open the barn door he was relieved to see Dom drawing at the table.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Jeff Gardiner visits WRITER CRAMPED

I am pleased to welcome a fellow Accent Press author to my blog.  Hello, Jeff. Thank you for visiting me and telling me all about PICA. It sounds like an enthralling read.

Jeff Gardiner's YA novel, PICA, explores a world of ancient magic, when people and nature shared secret powers. 
Luke hates nature, preferring the excitement of computer games to dull walks in the countryside, but his view of the world around him drastically begins to change when enigmatic loner, Guy, for whom Luke is reluctantly made to feel responsible, shows him some of the secrets that the very planet itself appears to be hiding from modern society.
Set in a very recognisable world of school and the realities of family-life, Luke tumbles into a fascinating world of magic and fantasy where transformations and shifting identities become an escape from the world. Luke gets caught up in an inescapable path that affects his very existence, as the view of the world around him drastically begins to change.

PICA Extract

A magpie (Latin name – Pica pica) has been persistently knocking on Luke’s window, and everywhere he goes he sees magpies. One day he decides to let the magpie in…

As soon as I pushed the window outwards the waiting bird hopped in, making a sound that almost equated to a tut. That can’t be right. I was imagining things again. My first fear that the magpie would squawk and flap about madly was unfounded, but I still felt nervous in its unpredictable presence, and had to keep trusting it wouldn’t poo on my bed. 
But it didn’t. In fact, it acted with excellent manners. What kind of bird was this? Wild birds don’t enter houses after knocking politely. If a bird does accidently get into a house it goes completely mental and craps everywhere. This one looked at me with eyes that gleamed with intelligent understanding. It knew me. I swear, it looked at me and knew I wouldn’t hurt it. In the old days I would have looked for a stick or a weapon. Now things were different, and I stared back at him with utter fascination. I moved even closer, confident I wasn’t in any danger.
‘You need to choose your friends more carefully, Luke.’ 
I stumbled slightly and had to grip the windowsill with my fingertips to hold myself up.
What the –?
The sodding bird had only gone and spoken to me. It snapped its beak, glared at me sideways, then flicked its tail. 
Was that for real, or had I lost the plot? Being with Guy had obviously turned me into a nut-job.
Up to now, I’d witnessed some amazing sights – but they could all be explained in encyclopaedias. However amazing the creatures Guy showed me, each one existed in the real world. But a talking bird? Now we’d suddenly jumped into a different dimension. 
And it had used my name. 
Had Guy sent this amazing bird to me to blow my mind even further?
It had to be Guy’s doing – sent on a crazy mission … unless …
Now I felt really stupid talking to a bird. 
‘Hello, Luke.’
Bloody hell. Take me to a padded cell. I’d lost it. Maybe I never had it!
‘Guy? Is that …’ This was crazy. ‘… is that you?’

If, like me, you've been inspired by this tantalsing extract to seek out Jeff's book, you can find PICA at W.H.Smith or at  Barnes & Noble . Of course, it can also be purchased through Amazon - UK, US or Australia

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

“Superb writing”

......who me? 

It goes without saying that reviews are important. But hang on ... does that statement truly “go without saying”? Have the reading public any real idea what a difference a good review makes? I am not just talking about sales figures. And anyway, it’s a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy that books with a lot of reviews will have better sales than those with only a few. What we know for sure is that the author with 150 reviews for a particular title, has probably already sold getting on for that number.  And the author with only 10....?  Well, you can do the math, as they say.

Of course it’s not as simple a calculation as it looks. Perhaps you need to analyse the type of book. Is a more escapist story read by people who are more likely to leave stars and reviews? And is the more challenging story read and enjoyed by those who are less likely to leave comments and enthuse?

Is one author very proficient at promoting herself, making friends, and optimising every social media channel?  While the other is less comfortable with that side of things, and is probably allowing opportunities to gain visibility slip past her.

Does one author give away hundreds of review copies, while the other doesn’t even like asking for a review.

All this sounds like special pleading.  To be brutally honest it probably is.  An author who believes in what she’s written, has to rationalise why her book, over which (cliché alert) she has sweated blood and tears, hasn’t sold. Why isn't it in the Times Literary Supplement’s top ten, why hasn’t it been longlisted for that prize or received a gazillion 5 star reviews on Amazon? But when I started to write this piece I was not actually thinking about sales or celebrity, money, prizes or public plaudits, I was considering something subtly different.

The true difference a good review makes is to the author’s self-esteem, to the author’s well-being and sense of achievement. It gives her permission to say to herself: “I haven’t been wasting my time. I did create something of value.”

Last year, when LIFE CLASS was about to be republished, I contacted Anne Williams. I had seen her name on social media and knew she was a prolific book blogger and reviewer.  That is all I knew.  But I stiffened my resolve and approached her, asking if she’d be interested in featuring me.  Anne proved to be a charming and friendly correspondent, and I duly did an interview click here which came out in November. Although I didn’t ask her to, Anne offered to read and review LIFE CLASS. Needless to say, I was delighted.

When Anne's review arrived in my inbox (she allowed me a sight of it before it went live) I was overwhelmed.  It actually made my knees go weak. But what I really want to share here is a snippet of our subsequent email conversation.

“I really, really, really loved it,” Anne assured me, as if suspecting I thought she was just being kind. She then went on to say, “I actually desperately wanted to say something about the part where...[deleted!] ...and the wonderfully real bedroom scene that follows, but I didn't want to risk giving away too much of the story - but that was such superb writing!”

The sense that a reader has really 'got' you, is precious.  I will treasure “superb writing!” far above any number of five star reviews,  for a long long time to come.

But please don't hold back if you feel moved to award LIFE CLASS the aforementioned accolade!Winking smile Winking smile