Saturday, 27 November 2021

Plans? What plans? Part 2

My darling, beloved father died last Wednesday, so none of the plans I made for November and December will be happening.

Tuesday, 23 November 2021

Plans? What plans?

I had a plan for what I was tackling before the end of March. And now it's not what I thought it would be.

Realm #5 left my desk on the 8th November, winging its merry way to my editor. Who was originally scheduled to have the book until the end of January. This was my plan:

  • November: take most of it as a break, with perhaps some audiobook recording, but at least a break from writing
  • December: go back over book #10 and rewrite where necessary. Intersperse writing with audiobook recording
  • January: line edits of book #10; audiobook recording
  • February: edits of Realm #5 once it was back from my editor
  • March: get Realm #5 ready for publication

Except on Friday, my editor emailed me to ask if I wanted Realm #5 back in 4 instalments before 20th December, or all in one on the 20th. I don't know if it's coming back to me 6 weeks ahead of schedule because other clients dropped out, leaving my editor with more time, or if she scheduled more time than it needs. She did say she thoroughly enjoyed it (which is always lovely!).

It's currently 22nd November and I did indeed take much of the last couple of weeks as a break. Part of me wishes I'd been a bit more productive writing-wise, but I needed to catch up with other things (like gardening and housework). Realm #5 is coming back in 4 weeks, which isn't enough time to rewrite and edit book #10. It's probably enough time to make a serious dent in the audiobooks project, so I should probably crack on with that. Certainly my hubby will be pleased if/when we can finally take down the recording tent that's lurking in the back of our main sitting room! I may have suggested it was only going to be up for a couple of months, about three months ago.

Maybe the new plan looks like this:

  • Until Realm #5 is back: record audiobooks
  • End of December: go through the editing with my editor
  • January: do the edits on Realm #5
  • February: get Realm #5 ready for publication
  • March onwards: book #10 and audiobook recordings

Sorry, hubby. Looks like the tent's going to be up for a while.

Tuesday, 9 November 2021

Realm #5 has left the building!

"Realm #5" is away to Fiona, my editor. And now I have "End-of-book-itis" and feel exhausted, bereft, and at a loss over what to do with myself.

I mean, I could do my tax form... (and I probably will, sooner rather than later!). Or the housework, which has been abandoned for quite some time now. I'm hoping to take a bit of a break, but knowing me, that will last all of about a week, before I start editing book #10/recording the audiobooks/plotting book #12/starting something totally new/all of the above.

But, for the next few weeks, I won't be looking at "Realm #5" and that thought is both liberating and crushing. I've been writing the series on and off since 2014 (😮) and since then, any time I've not been working on it, I've always felt a pull back to it. But the series ends with this book. There will be no more "just making some notes for the next one" because there is no next one. As I say - this feels both liberating and crushing. Liberating, because I have a gazillion other ideas buzzing around in my head which I've been promising to get to once Realm #5 was off to Fiona. Crushing, because I've spent so many years with these characters, that it feels like I'm losing some best friends.

Anyway, for now, I'm going to make another cup of tea and try to remember what life involves, when it doesn't involve writing and editing!

Tuesday, 19 October 2021

First edit? Check.

I didn't think I'd get there but at the weekend, I finished the first edit of Realm #5 (a structural edit). Because life happens, I've had to push the date I'm sending it off to my editor back a week, but I've just started on my second edit. The second edit is the "use all the right words" one!

I'm probably going to take the rest of November off after the ms goes away. I'm tired. I need a break. And I need to rediscover my love of writing a little bit, and feel less like I'm on a treadmill. I still have a gazillion writing goals (and not enough time to complete them), but I definitely need a break. Mind you, I know me, and I'll probably end up taking a week off and then getting stuck into something long before the end of November.

But I have to say, I feel a whole let better now that I've got through the structural edit. It's always more difficult than the line-edits.

Tuesday, 12 October 2021

1857 and jobs or hobbies

1857 is a podcast by one of my good friends and I was listening to it over the weekend, while doing some knitting. (This was my attempt to make my brain shut up and allow me to chill.) The episode was on when hobbies become jobs, and if they do, will they lose their appeal. Give it a listen.

It struck me as apposite, because I had a 'proper job' (i.e. one that paid me a decent wage and a pension) and I gave it up, mostly because it had pushed me into a breakdown but partly because I wanted to do 'my dream job' which was writing. And while I was doing the proper job, writing was a hobby.

Is writing still my dream?

Well, eleven books on and I'm still doing it. And luckily I'm in the fortunate position of not needing to go back to having a 'proper job' because all those years of working allowed me to squirrel away money. Which is good, because writing doesn't even cover its costs, never mind actually let me earn anything!

Some days, it's a fabulous lifestyle. I lose myself in the worlds I'm creating, talk away to the people I made up, and time just flows. On days like that, I feel like the luckiest person alive.

Other days, it's hell. As Stu and TJ contemplate in the podcast, as soon as you start monetising something, it stops being a hobby and starts being stressful. I can feel as if I'm on a treadmill and not always writing what I want to write.

I think I need to go back to having more fun with my writing and write stuff just for me. (Of course, in many ways, that's kind of what I did... I wrote The Guardians of The Realm series for me, because I wanted to read something just like it and found nothing out there that was quite right. I hadn't realised at the time that I had such unique taste...)

The quandary I feel I face is that what I want to write isn't what other people want to buy. Which is a bit of a bugger when you turn your passion into a job. What sells like hot cakes in the urban fantasy world right now are a whole series of things that I personally don't enjoy reading and couldn't write.

I'm currently deep into edits, but once they go off to my editor at the start of next month, I think I might take some time to write stuff that I enjoy. It'll probably never be published. But the passion is feeling too much like an unpaid job right now, and I am a terrible boss.

Tuesday, 5 October 2021

Juggling too much...

 ... as ever!

I'm working my way through the first draft before it goes off to Fiona, my editor. Yes, I do realise that in many ways I am doing the writing equivalent of tidying up before the cleaner arrives, but I want it to be in a reasonable state before I send it off.

Fiona books up well in advance, so I had to choose a start-date, long before I was even close to finishing the rough draft of the book. I went for November 1st, with the hope that I will have done my various edits before then, but thankfully, Fiona is very flexible and so if I need to shift the date, I can do.

On top of trying to get those edits sorted, I have a gazillion other things braying for my time and attention, so it might be a close call!

I may be some time...

Tuesday, 28 September 2021

First draft is done!

Well... when I say 'done' I mean it's a first draft, so there are still some scenes with 'FINISH THIS' written across the bottom, and I don't yet have a brilliant final line, despite having stared at the laptop expectantly for an hour or so.

There are also lots of bits of highlighter on it, because I know the word I've written is rubbish, or I haven't got a name right, or a load of other bits and pieces.

But it's at the point where I'm taking a few days off from it and then will do a full read-through, making plenty of notes on what's working and what's not.

And the hardest part of it all? Taking a few days off from it!

Tuesday, 21 September 2021

And... breathe...

I figured out the ending to the current book!

Allegedly, I'm a planner, not a pantser, so how on earth did I not know the ending of the book??

Good question. I actually had two potential endings and it depended on what was happening with the series as to which would be The Ending. If sales of the series were amazing, I would be writing Ending A, which would propel the series through two further books (to make 7 in total).

Or, if sales were still chuntering along and other things were burning holes in my brain, I would be writing a different ending.

Well, dear readers, sales are chuntering along and other things are most definitely burning holes in my brain, so Ending B it is.

Because it could have gone two different ways, I also hadn't actually planned much detail on either ending. I'd sketched out key points but nothing more. This morning, I've just had a fabulous writing session where the ideas flowed, and everything knitted together.

Now I just have to write it!

Tuesday, 7 September 2021


 A couple of weeks ago, I teased that I had a new project on the cards, that involved a garden parasol and a blanket. These are for making myself a recording tent!

That's the set-up, in the corner of the room in the house furthest from the traffic. Under all that red blanket is a garden parasol - you can see the green tip of it at the top of the picture. Inside the tent is a second desk (my main desk is also in this room, but by the window). The lamp you can see behind the sofa (with the crumpled blanket on it) is now inside the tent.

Why? Why do I have a recording tent in the corner of my sitting room?

Tuesday, 31 August 2021

Angela Nurse - 10 books that shaped me

I've had the huge honour of interviewing Angela a couple of times on here. First she told me about her way of planning a book; and at the start of June, I interviewed her about her book "Jack in a Box". Well, I'm delighted to have Angela back, and this time, I asked her: "Tell me the 10 books that have shaped your life."

Here are her 10 books. Enjoy! It's a great read.

The Three Billy Goats Gruff (ladybird edition)
It’s not the story that’s important to me with this one, it’s the storytelling or rather the storyteller. When I was very small my dad was not often home at bedtime (work commitments) and when he was, we would both delight in his telling of this classic. I remember the tension building with the ‘trip trap’ on the bridge and my mum telling him off for getting me too worked up right before bedtime. Story telling feels like it’s part of who I am, and I think that’s why this book had such an impact.

The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy
Another childhood classic. I identified with Mildred Hubble; I was a clumsy, messy kid who had a habit of getting things a bit mixed up. I also wanted more than anything to be a witch myself, to make magic potions and cast spells and was always on the lookout for my very own pair of hobnailed boots. The Worst Witch taught me that you didn’t have to be perfect to be the Main Character.

Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Tuesday, 24 August 2021

Interview with Janna Ruth

I'm delighted to be able to share my interview with Janna Ruth with you this week. Janna is the author of The Spirit Seekers urban fantasy series, the first book of which - A Force of Nature - has just been released. I caught up with Janna recently to grill her.

Tell me more about your book?

All she ever wanted was to live in peace with the spirits. Now, the storm king is out for her blood.

My new Urban Fantasy Series “Spirit Seeker” is working on the premise that all natural disasters and extreme weather events have been caused by nature spirits. The story follows Rika, who is one of the few people in the world who can see the otherwise invisible spirits. After having lived on the streets for eight years, she is taken in by the Spirit Seekers, elite soldiers in the war against nature. To survive, she’ll have to learn their ways, but Rika isn’t quite so sure whether she wants to become a spirit seeker, because not only can she see spirits, she might’ve befriended one or two.

The series takes place in Europe, showcasing a different European capital in each novel and featuring a different kind of spirit. It’s a series for everyone that loves action-packed stories with found family, conflicting loyalties and a slow-burn romance (so slow the love interest only appears once in book 1 😉).

What prompted you to write it?

Tuesday, 17 August 2021

BUSY! But a good busy...

Lots of writing... nothing new there, though I appear to be juggling three projects (again)

A secret squirrel project that I'm super excited about (which involves a garden parasol and a blanket...)

Two lots of family visiting... looking forward to catching up with people!

Exciting times!

Tuesday, 10 August 2021

Price Drop!

Aegyir Rises, the first book in the Guardians of The Realm series is on sale. Just 99c in the US/99p in the UK.

Don't miss out! Grab your copy now.



She just wants a normal life. When an ancient demon seeks revenge, can she stop him before he slaughters everyone she loves?

Reagan is on the brink of her life finally coming together. Safe and loved, and living with her long-term partner, she’s looking forward to landing her dream job.

But then, all around her, people start dying.

Soon, she finds herself battling an ancient demon while fighting to keep hold of her sanity. Are the nightmares she’s having actually memories? And why does she keep finding strange objects inside her house?

Reagan needs to figure out who she really is in order to stop Aegyir destroying everyone she loves.

Tuesday, 3 August 2021

Interview with Rowena Rede

This week on the blog I'm delighted to feature Rowena Rede, author of Origin Story. The second instalment of the series - Backstory - is out soon. Rowena, welcome!!

Tell me more about your book?
Origin Story is about an elite duo of secret agents who wind up down on their luck and take on an unusual job, thrusting them into the dangerous and previously unknown to them world of the supernatural.

What prompted you to write it?
The idea for Origin Story came after I co-wrote a short story. The character I created, Park Thatcher, was so well received that I decided to write an “Origin Story” for him as well as introduce him into a new environment separate from the world in which he first appears.

What are you working on at the moment? Are there already plans for the next book after this one?
I’m working on the sequel to Origin Story and hope to have it out in the world by the end of Summer 2021. 

I’m also working on an urban fantasy serial for Kindle Vella titled, Kat’s Calling. It’s about a demon with a moral compass and a reluctant warrior angel teaming up to stop a heinous act.

When did you first start writing? And what made you start?
I’ve always felt a need to write. Even as a kid. I would write fanfiction for cartoons that I was obsessed with and bands that I loved. I didn’t start professionally until three years ago with a short story that I was invited to co-write. After that I just kept at it. Now I’m in the thick of it and loving it.

What was the first full-length novel you ever wrote? (I realise this may not be the same as the first book you have had published!)
Origin Story, but it’s definitely on the short side.

Which is your favourite secondary character in your book, and why is it your favourite?
I have three main characters so that’s a hard choice! My audience seems to like the morally grey vampire called Merle.

Where is your ideal writing space?
Somewhere cosy and quiet with lots of cold beverages. I recently turned a very tiny coat closet into a small writing space so I could shut the door and drown out the loud noises that accompany a household full of children and animals.

What’s the best bit of advice you’ve ever been given? (not necessarily writing-related!)
I take a lot of inspiration from this quote, especially when I’m doubting myself or my writing- “You’ll never do a whole lot unless you’re brave enough to try.” – Dolly Parton

And now for some more random questions... 

What’s your radio tuned to most often?
Soft Pop Hits from the early 2000s or Indie/Folk

You’re stranded on an island. You can choose one of the following three things. Which do you choose and why?
1. Limitless supply of paper and pens.
2. A computer which will never run out of battery and which can access the internet, but you can’t post anything/get help via it, only read what others have put up.
3. An endless supply of loo roll.

Option 1. I’ll keep myself entertained, and I could substitute the paper for loo roll so 2 birds, 1 stone and all that.

You can only wear one of the following colours for the rest of your life. Which colour do you choose?
Yellow. Orange. Green. White. Pink.

Green. I like darker colors and green is flattering for me haha.

Cats or dogs?

City or country?

Real book or e-book?
I’m a hybrid reader. I enjoy both and if I really love a book I’ll buy a physical copy as well as an e-copy.

Fountain pen or biro?
Biro. I find that the really cheap packets have the best ones. They just glide so smoothly and don’t smudge. I’m prone to messes so they’re just practical for me really. 

Thanks very much for letting me bombard you with questions!

Check out Origin Story now!

And you can keep up to date with all of her news at any or all of the following places:

Tik Tok

Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Interview with Marie Flynn

This week I'm delighted to introduce Stephanie Flynn, who writes urban fantasy under the name Marie Flynn. Her latest book, Demon Curse is out right now, and I was able to grab an interview with her about it.

Tell me more about your book?

At the heart, it’s about a man from a spiteful home trying his best to impress his family, and in his desperation, he makes a mistake that destroys everything he loves. The rest of the series is him learning from his past mistakes and rectifying them the best he can with very limited resources.

What prompted you to write it?

I had images in my head of a woman bickering with a stray cat, and the cat complaining about being a cat. The story filled in from there, with the woman being the protag. But after editing the blurb over and over, I realized the cat was the most interesting character. So the cat, iKat, became the star.

What are you working on at the moment? Are there already plans for the next book after this one?

Tuesday, 20 July 2021

Plastic free updates

For a while now, I've been trying to reduce the amount of plastic I buy. Sometimes this is easy; sometimes it feels impossible. I will not buy new clothes that have any non-biodegradable fibres in them, and I'm cutting out as much other plastic as I can.

Let me give you my latest updates...

Hair conditioner:

In my last update in May, I was about to try a solid hair conditioner and promised to report back to you all.

Well, I can tell you that it's not bad! It leaves a bit of a waxy feel when it's wet (though this goes when it dries) and adds thickness (something my hair really doesn't need, but I'm happy to put up with). There's plenty of shine and it smells fresh and clean. I would recommend it.

I'm using the Gruum nourishing shampoo and the shine enhancing conditioner (though I may try out others and see what the difference is). I've used other shampoo bars in the past and they've left my hair feeling like straw, so I'm delighted to have found this range which is actually working!


This is still largely a failure, though I saw in a supermarket that Colgate have brought out a wooden toothbrush, so change appears to be afoot! My two main issues are that the wooden toothbrush head is too big (research done/product tested on men rather than both sexes?) and this makes it hard to get to my back teeth. The toothpaste tablets... I seem to need to use two to feel as if they're actually cleaning my teeth, which does make the whole system a lot more pricey. I will persevere. If anyone has any recommendations, hit me up!

Still winning with...

Toilet paper! (and tissues and kitchen roll)

We get ours from Who Gives a Crap. If you use that link, you can get £5 off your first order. We use them not just because the paper is great, but because 50% of their profits go to charities that help build toilets and improve sanitation around the world.


We tend to buy from Friendly Soap, because their soaps are competitively priced and smell wonderful. They also partner with charities working on hygiene, and tree/hedge restoration projects.


This has had to work hard over the last few days! It's a deodorant not an antiperspirant, so there's still some sweat, but I don't stink! I use Cosy Cottage's solid deodorant in a tin. There are two fragrances and I have both of them. I think I prefer the geranium and lavender version, but the other (sandalwood and tea tree) is also very lovely. There's still free delivery on all orders and if you sign up for their newsletter you can get 10% off. In the hot weather, I keep mine in the fridge, otherwise it can be too soft, bordering on liquid!

What other plastic-free wins would people recommend?

Tuesday, 6 July 2021

Slow progress...

I'm hypermobile. As in many of my joints bend the wrong way. When I was a kid, this was fun and I used to revel in being able to gross people out with it.

Fast forward a few decades and I have major issues as a result of unstable joints. In order to maintain even a modicum of stability, I have muscle issues around many joints (shoulders, hips, knees, ankles). In my hands, it hasn't been possible to maintain joint stability and so I now have very bad arthritis in my thumb joints.

How does this link to progress (or lack of it)? Well, although typing is unaffected by my thumbs screaming at me, holding a pen is. And we all know how much I need to write by hand when I'm planning/writing a book.

Currently, I can manage about 1 side of A4 before my right thumb is too sore for me to hold a pen/pencil. Luckily, I can write left-handed 😃 (and indeed wrote exclusively left-handed during my PhD due to my right wrist having a prolonged unstable/painful few years).

The problem is, although I can write left-handed, I can't write left-handed as fast as I can (on pain-free days) write right-handed. And I'm still needing to plan both Realm #5 and Shiny New Thing. Which means a lot of writing. What would normally be taking me about an hour to write, is currently taking me a morning.

"So, just type then, if typing is unaffected."

Hm. I wish my brain worked like that, but it never seems to work to type my planning notes (though I am trying to do that more, to save my thumb).

Ah well. I'll keep on plodding on.

Tuesday, 29 June 2021

Updates on all the books...

My brain has been having the opposite of Writer's Block recently. SO MANY BOOK IDEAS! And yet, only one brain and a busy life. I know that I've been talking about a variety of ideas over the past few months, so what stage is everything at?

Book #10

This is the time-travel romance that I was writing at the end of 2020 (and for some of 2021). It's currently on the back-burner, partly because there are some major plot issues that I need to resolve but mostly because a new book set in The Realm was screaming at me.

Realm book #5

This follows on immediately from "Invasion". I'm currently ~30% into the first draft. I know the plot; it's largely finding the time to write it that's the issue. It's hard to tell you any more about it without giving away spoilers for "Invasion".

Two more books set in The Realm

Again, hard to tell you much about these without ruining "Invasion" and Realm #5. At the moment I have good plot notes for #6; less so for #7. I might wrap up The Guardians of The Realm series with book #5. It's more likely I will finish on book #6. These are on hold, though I am adding notes to their outlines as and when they come to me.

Shiny New Thing

In my "Notes and Ideas book" I have this, dated 14th May this year:

No concrete ideas. Warrior, body inked with tattooed symbols/runes. Has magic. On a journey. Wears leather armour also bearing the same symbols, but it's actually the tattoos that protect him/give him his magic.

Most of the rest of the plot came to me while I was on holiday. See this blog post for a bit more on that. I now have pretty good plot notes for this (though not 100%) and some of it written (those scenes that I could see as clear as day). I've been trying to work on it in an afternoon, and Realm #5 in a morning, but it's ended up more one day on one book, another day on another.

Essentially, I know the main character (and some aspects of others). He is being taken across country as a prisoner. He is magical, though his powers have been curtailed. A war that had been over for a generation is now brewing again, and I know his role in it. The setting is solid; some of the characters are sorted and perhaps ~75% of the plot is in my head (and I'm trying to get it down on paper, too). I suspect this will end up a new series. 😊

Random Other Book #1

I have good ideas about this, though I haven't actually started a new notebook yet (it starts getting really serious when I do). It involves Scottish mythology, a missing relative, and magical beings. This was what I'd been stewing over two years ago!

Random Other Book #2

Again, I can see some bits of this quite clearly, though the full plot eludes me for the moment. It involves an ancient artefact that isn't what the archaeologists think it is. I know more than that about what happens, but I'm keeping it to myself for now!

Random Other Book #3

This may actually get folded into Random Other Book #1 as it's still a bit woolly. There are links to the elements, a trapped spirit, and a woman who is key to the trapped spirit. Beyond that... Yeah. Woolly.

Given that it takes me at least 6 months to write a first draft of a book, I can see I'm going to be busy for some time! My current focus is to get Realm #5 and Shiny New Thing to first draft stage. The rest will just have to wait.

Tuesday, 22 June 2021

First 5* book of the year...

I haven't been posting many reviews over the last however long, because a lot of books I've read have been a bit 'meh' and I don't like leaving bad reviews; I'd rather share things I've loved.

The first book I've genuinely felt like awarding 5* to is Justin Lee Anderson's novel The Lost War. In fact, I loved the book so much, I approached Justin and asked if I could interview him and he agreed - see last week's post!

The Lost War
The war is over, but something is rotten in the state of Eidyn.
With a ragged peace in place, demons burn farmlands, violent Reivers roam the wilds and plague has spread beyond the Black Meadows. The country is on its knees.
In a society that fears and shuns him, Aranok is the first magically-skilled draoidh to be named King's Envoy.
Now, charged with restoring an exiled foreign queen to her throne, he leads a group of strangers across the ravaged country. But at every step, a new mystery complicates their mission.
As bodies drop around them, new threats emerge and lies are revealed, can Aranok bring his companions together and uncover the conspiracy that threatens the kingdom?

To be honest, I wouldn't normally have read this kind of book, but I'd entered the SPFBO6 competition last year (see the review I got here for Aegyir Rises as part of the competition), and Justin's book was the overall winner, so I wanted to see what it was like.

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Author Interview with Justin Lee Anderson

I am absolutely delighted to be interviewing Justin Lee Anderson on the blog this week. Justin has just been awarded the SPFBO prize for 2020-2021, for his book The Lost War. If you've not yet checked it out, do so. It's fabulous! Having read it and loved it, I contacted Justin and asked if I could interview him, and to my delight, he said yes!

First of all, congratulations on winning SPFBO6! You must be delighted. The winning book, The Lost War, is the first in your Eidyn series. Tell me more about it?
Thank you! I like the description of Lost War as a ‘twisted fantasy road trip’. It’s essentially a mystery set in a traditional fantasy world, with murder, conspiracy and monsters. I suppose it’s a bit like what would happen if Stieg Larsson played D&D. Fantasy and mystery are my two favourite genres so I sort of mashed them together.

What prompted you to write it?
Three things: I wanted to write a book about RPG characters that friends and I had played for years; I wanted to write a story set in a world based on Edinburgh’s history and mythology; and I wanted to write a political allegory. It was when I realised they were all one book that it came together.

Tuesday, 8 June 2021

Someone new has come into my life...

First of all, he gave me a pebble that looked like the night sky, and told me to protect it with my life.

Then he gave me a shell with a small hole in it.

The following day, he told me his name.

Finally, he told me his story.

Yes... I went away for a short break in the Hebrides and, lo and behold, a new book has sprung forth. This always happens, and sometimes the new ideas aren't really a whole new book; they just get melted into whatever is the current work in progress. But, dear readers... I have started a new notebook! 

The cognoscenti among you will know that that means business. Only big ideas that have the legs to make it into a book (or series!) get a new notebook all to themselves. So, now I am attempting to write Realm #5 in a morning and Shiny New Thing in an afternoon. I swear this way madness lies, but if I don't write at least some of his story, I will be driven insane by him chittering away in my head.

When I had scenery like this, it's no great surprise that my imagination was on fire...

Tuesday, 1 June 2021

Author interview with Angela Nurse

I am absolutely delighted to be interviewing Angela this week. I first met Angela a couple of years back (when we could still meet in coffee shops, before covid struck) to talk about using Scrivener for writing, and also just to have a natter. Her first book Jack In A Box is just out, so I took the time to grill her about it, and about life in general.

Tell me more about your book?
Jack In A Box is book 1 in the Rowan McFarlane Mysteries. Rowan is a single mother to a teenager daughter and this is her first case as Private Detective. She was supposed to be joining her Uncle Jack’s agency when he gets murdered and this ends up being her first case.

What prompted you to write it?
I wanted to write a crime/mystery series with a female lead but not a police procedural because I wanted the main character to have more scope in their investigations and actions. I like books with characters you become invested in and I wanted to create a cast of characters around Rowan that readers would also be interested in.

What are you working on at the moment? Are there already plans for the next book after this one?

Tuesday, 25 May 2021

Plastic Free updates

I've not posted about this for a while, but I've been trying to reduce how much plastic I use/buy wherever possible. I thought it was perhaps time to update you on how I'm getting on.


We try to buy our fruit and vegetables loose (or in paper bags). This is usually a win, but sometimes either the loose fruit/veg is awful or just not available.

We use loose tea, though since we started that, a couple of companies have stopped using plastic in their teabags. I'm not sure we'll rush back to teabags though. We're quite used to the loose tea now.

We use Who Gives A Crap toilet paper and have been hugely impressed so far. You can get £5 off your first order if you use this link. As well as being plastic-free, the company donates 50% of its profits to water-sanitation projects around the world, which is amazing.

Solid shampoo. This was a complete fail the first time around. My hair felt like straw. But I switched to a new product, by grüum, and my hair feels amazing! It's the only solid shampoo that has actually worked well for me. Again, if you fancy £5 off your first order with them, use this link. They do a range of shampoos and conditioners, as well as a number of other products (not all of the other products are plastic-free). I got a trial bar back in January and I would say it will last me another three months or so, so they really are worth it. I've ordered a conditioner bar and will report back on how well that works.


Wooden toothbrush. It's fine, except (like so many things in life) it's designed for a man not a woman. I find the brush-head too big in my mouth and consequently don't feel as if it's getting to my back teeth well enough. Next time around, I think I will order the child's size and see if that's any better.

Plastic-free toothpaste tablets. These are okay, but I feel as if I need two of them to get a decent clean, rather than just one (which makes them twice as expensive). I may try another brand and see if they're any better.

Trying soon:

I'm going to try Ocean Saver cleaning product tablets soon and re-use the plastic spray bottles I already have. I'll let you know how I get on.

We're replacing plastic pan-cleaners with these knitted hemp ones. Not sure how well they'll work, but I'm prepared to give it a whirl (and knit my own if they work well).


There's still too much of our food that's pre-packed in plastic and I don't know how to reduce some of it. The best I can manage at the moment is to check if the plastic is recyclable, though that isn't necessarily actually happening, even if you put it all in the correct recycling bins.

PPE. My Dad is in a care-home and in order to visit him, I have to take a lateral flow test (LOTS of single-use plastic), wear gloves (non-recyclable), a mask (ditto) and an utterly pointless apron (even the care-home staff think these are pointless as only parts of you are covered. Again, it's single-use and not recyclable). I'm hopeful that eventually I will be able to visit Dad without needing to do all of this, but until then, I take the test and wear the PPE and feel sick to my stomach about all the waste.

Tuesday, 18 May 2021

Back in The Realm...

Genuinely what my head feels like!
Nope. No one will be surprised at this news.

"Book #10" - the book I'd almost finished the first draft of just before New Year - is on the back-burner. I started going back through it after "Invasion" was launched and had to check a couple of things with an historian. The things I was checking were okay, but in the course of the conversation, I realised something else in the book (a major plot point...) wouldn't work. It was around the brother of the main character being in the army and stationed at Fort George. Except, he wouldn't have been stationed there, according to the historian (who knows about these things). That, coupled with a) another minor niggle with the plot and b) an overwhelming desire to be back with Aeron and Faran and... well. As I said. No one will be surprised to know I'm currently drafting a 5th book in the Guardians of The Realm series. 😁

I know... I know!! About a year ago I said I wouldn't be writing any more Realm books. But they just won't let me go. The characters keep chattering in my ear when I'm trying to concentrate on something else. They're like Siren Songs, calling me to the rocks so that I can dash my brains out.

Tuesday, 11 May 2021

Keeping track of characters

In discussions with other writers, we've talked about how to keep track of characters. There are actually two main aspects for me: the names I've used, and what those characters are like. There's a brilliant cartoon by Tom Gauld: The Indecisive Novelist, where the characters from a book are discussing their name changes:

Taken from:
No copyright infringement intended

That cartoon can touch a nerve with many of us! So how do we keep track of the myriad of characters that appear in our books?

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

The census rabbit hole!

A few weeks ago I had disappeared down a map-rabbit-hole. This weekend past, I disappeared down the census rabbit-hole. Find My Past had free online access to the census data up to 1911 census over the bank holiday weekend. You needed to register (free) but then could start building a family tree. Clicking on various 'hints' took you to more census data that you could then add to your tree.

In the past, someone had done my father's family tree, going back a few generations. After burrowing around in the census data over the weekend, it became quite clear that the information at the very top of the tree was wrong!

Tuesday, 27 April 2021

Busy brains and morning mindfulness

Whenever I have a lot going on, my brain switches into "too busy to focus" mode. I know I have a gazillion things to do and that time is tight, so I need to be focused, and yet somehow I get nothing done.

Even while drafting this, I have broken off to tweak something on the description for Aegyir Rises, answer a message on Facebook, fiddle with something else, and check my royalties (someone is currently inhaling Aegyir Rises on Kindle, if my sudden spike in Kindle Unlimited Pages Read tally is anything to go by... thank you, whoever you are! Hope you enjoy it enough to read the rest of the series.)

Busy brain.

Alongside all that, last week I was helping my mum sort out some things and we found a load of old photos taken by my great uncle, which led to us chatting about him, and now my brain is also interested in doing more research on him. And other members of my family.

Busy brain.

I've been doing a 5-day Ad Challenge (now ended) which means I've been setting up lots of Amazon Ads. Something else to keep looking at (even though I know I won't be doing anything with them for a while and certainly not right this second).

Busy brain...

And I haven't even mentioned book #10 or writing. Or all of the other books I have swirling around my head, demanding to be written.

Tuesday, 20 April 2021

Writing and mental health

I'm know I'm not alone in having my mental health shredded by lock down, but in many ways it's surprised me. I'm not known for being a party animal. In fact, my "lock down life" is incredibly similar to my "pre-lock down life". The only differences are not being able to see my Dad in his care home, and missing my knitting group. I maybe had one coffee-date with a friend a month, pre-lock down. You'd think I would be able to take this pandemic in my stride.

Turns out that although I'm still as antisocial as I've always been, something about lock down is currently taking my generally more-buoyant-than-drowning disposition and demolishing it. I'm struggling to write (which is really not like me. Normally I have more ideas and desire to write than I have hours in the day). The smallest thing is liable to make me cry. My joie de vivre is gone, leaving nary a trace.

And yet all the signs are good. Vaccination in the UK is going well. I've had my first jab. By the end of the week, both of my parents and my husband will have had their second jabs. The country is slowly emerging from lock down. More people are allowed to meet up, albeit outdoors (at least in Scotland). The weather is sunny.

None of that seems to be filtering through to my emotions.

I'm trying to write my way out of it. Not my books... they currently lie outside my grasp and trying to write them is more frustrating than healing. No, I'm trying to journal, or write to process my thoughts and feelings.

I keep a daily diary where I record how my day has gone. That can often be quite dry and factual, in all truth. But I also have a separate notebook where I just write. It started out as "Morning Pages" and on occasion I still do morning pages. In fact, I should probably go back to doing them regularly. However, these are more "any time I'm feeling low pages" which could be any time of the day.

It's essentially a process to clear my head. I can't change anything that is currently dragging me down. I need to learn to accept that. Just the act of putting it all down on paper seems to help though.

The requirements are simple - a notebook, a writing implement (more often than not a pencil) and some time. Sometimes I write for a few minutes. Other times I'm still in full flow half an hour later. Generally I feel more sanguine afterwards.

How are you coping? What solutions do you turn to? Drop me a note in the comments?

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Maps and rabbit holes

I love maps and I especially love old maps. Right now I am studying some hand-drawn maps from 1770 showing how land was allocated around Ardersier.

These old maps are amazing, not least for firing up the imagination and creating life-stories and adventures from little more than a list of old names. Naturally, I have no idea what their characters were like - that is pure invention on my part - but there is coding on the map that indicates what kind of ground it is (it's on another part of the map that stretches towards Nairn).

Of course, the real way to get the imagination going is to combine looking at maps like this with gravestones!

A while ago, I was up in Ardersier and my hubby and I spent an afternoon looking at old gravestones. It's a little eerie to find the headstones of the people listed on the map. From the dates, you can work out how old they were when this map was drawn and how old their neighbours were. It's only a few more steps to start imaging their lives.

I found one gravestone very interesting. It had clearly been made for the death of a child, but the intention was obviously for the mother and father to be buried in the same grave eventually. The space left for the father's details remain blank. The details for the mother are more extensive than had been planned for and are crammed in. My brain is immediately going, "Why isn't the father buried here? What happened to him? Who had the mother's details added? The husband? Why did they go for so much when the space was so small? Did they have more children and if so, where are they buried?"

This is the stone:

It reads (as far as I can tell):

In memory of

Alexr McDonald

in Canty who

and Isobell

Dunbar his spouse

who departed this life

August [illegible] aged [illegible]

and their children

James McDonald

who died the [illegible]

Feb 1789 aged [illegible]


The large space at the top was presumably for Alexander McDonald's death date, and the fact it says 'children' rather than 'child' makes me assume they planned to have more. But there are no more listed, even though the wife was ultimately buried there. So many questions rattle through my brain when I find stones like this! And naturally, I've been scouring the 1770 maps to see if I can find either McDonalds and/or Dunbars. 😀

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Spanners... and thinking hats


Okay, so here's the thing... I was writing "book #10" before Christmas and had got probably, ooh, 80% of the first draft done before I shifted to editing "Invasion".

"Invasion" is now launched and sailing off into the big, bad world, so I went back to "book #10" to finish off the first draft and start on the edits. 

"Book #10" is a new departure for me. It's a time-travel book, with some of it set in 1762. Before I started the edits, I wanted to check a couple of things with historians. I was checking two fairly general things - one about the construction of an outbuilding; the other about whether a soldier barracked at Fort George would be able to spend much time with his brother in Ardersier. In the grand scheme of things, these seemed insignificant and innocuous and I was checking them because I wanted to ensure the 1762 bit was authentic.


They genuinely were pretty minor things, and the historians were full of lots of fabulous information that helped enormously both with them and with various other things. However... it turned out that the brother wouldn't have been stationed at Fort George if he was in the army. That information, plus some general chat about something else entirely has blown two enormous holes in the plot! 

Thinking hats

So now I have my thinking hat on (how marvellous it would be to have a hat like the one in the picture!) to work out what to do to fix the holes. I have some ideas and I'm pretty sure I can get it all to work. But I need to rewrite about half of the book. So far, I have managed to do an awful lot of things except make a start on that rewrite! Even some housework!

Ah well. Just goes to show that it's always good to talk to experts (even if they do end up demolishing your plot before your eyes).

Tuesday, 30 March 2021

Interview with Michelle Ermens

This week I am delighted to be featuring Michelle Ermens, whose new book The Essence of Magic is launched today! Get your copy now! It's on a special introductory price until 6th April, so don't miss out.

Tell me more about your book? 

In The Essence of Magic, we follow Thera, who has always known that she’s different from her loving, human family. But if she isn’t human, that would make her a special, and they haven’t been seen in human territory for hundreds of years.

After a visit from a masked stranger who warns her of danger and an attack on her village, Thera is forced to flee with her mother and two younger siblings. They end up with no other choice than to enter special territory, a dangerous place filled with strange creatures and magic. Thera’s only chance to protect her family might be to get some magic of her own.

Often, in young adult books, the family of the main character is either absent or not very loving, but I wanted to go in the opposite direction. Thera’s mom and younger brother and sister play a big role in the book. She loves them more than anything and there’s nothing she wouldn’t do to protect them.

What prompted you to write it?

It actually all started because I had a good idea for a character, the masked stranger, and the more I thought about him, the more an entire story evolved in my head. Even though this character didn’t end up being the protagonist.

My books often start like that, with one good character, or sometimes just one good line, and then something big grows from that.

What are you working on at the moment? Are there already plans for the next book after this one?

I just finished writing all six books in the Magic’s Source series, so at the moment I’m going through them, rewriting and refining them. I hope to publish the entire series this year.

I also started a new series in the same universe. I can’t give away anything about it yet, but the story doesn’t completely end with the last book in the Magic’s Source series.

When did you first start writing? And what made you start?

I started writing when I was a little kid. I loved reading more than anything else, it was my way to escape from the real world, and the more I read, the more I realized that I had a lot of stories and a lot of incredible places and characters inside me too, so I started writing them down. First just pen to paper, often in between my homework, and later, thankfully, on a computer. But I still have all those notebooks with short scenes and old ideas and sometimes I love to look through them so they can give me new ideas.

What was the first full-length novel you ever wrote? (I realise this may not be the same as the first book you have had published!)

The first full-length novel I wrote was called Souls of the Air. I wrote it when I was fourteen and I still love it to this day. It was never published, of course, but I do plan to rewrite it one day and make an entire series out of it. It was filled with dragons, which I love, so I can’t just forget about it.

Which is your favourite secondary character in your book, and why is it your favourite?

My favourite secondary character is probably Corean. He is a young boy part of a monstrous clan of specials, so he looks rather monstrous himself, but he longs to be different. He loves to read and learn, he’s incredibly sweet, can never stop talking, and is awkward around other people, which I think is adorable.

Where is your ideal writing space?

Rather than one ideal writing space, I would love to travel the world while writing my books. I hope that dream comes true one day, but until then, I usually just write behind my desk or outside in the garden when it’s sunny.

What’s the best bit of advice you’ve ever been given? (not necessarily writing-related!)

If there’s something you really want to do, then you should do it. Even if it fails, that’s still better than not trying at all. Ten or fifty years from now, you’ll definitely regret the things you didn’t do more than the things that didn’t work out.

And now for some more random questions... 

What’s your radio tuned to most often?

Pop music, probably. When I’m not listening to the radio, it’s often musical numbers, Disney songs, or older songs that I know by heart and that I can sing along with.

You’re stranded on an island. You can choose one of the following three things. Which do you choose and why?
1. Limitless supply of paper and pens.
2. A computer which will never run out of battery and which can access the internet, but you can’t post anything/get help via it, only read what others have put up.
3. An endless supply of loo roll. 

Number 1! My two favourite things to do are writing and drawing, so with endless paper and pens, I’ll never get bored when I’m alone on an island.

You can only wear one of the following colours for the rest of your life. Which colour do you choose?
Yellow. Orange. Green. White. Pink. Green. 

I usually only wear black or blue, so green comes closest to that.

Cats or dogs?

Cats all the way! We have the most adorable calico cat at home called Jasmine.

City or country?

I’ve lived in both and I have to say that for now, I’d prefer the city because it has more going on and everything is close by. But later in life I do see myself living in the country because it has a lot more room and green.

Real book or e-book?

Nothing beats the feel and scent of a real book in my opinion, but I do have an e-reader because it’s too heavy to bring real books with me everywhere I go. (I did a five hour hike once with an 800 page book in my backpack and I do not recommend it!)

Fountain pen or biro?

Biro. It’s a lot more convenient and I write a lot faster with it. Plus, I love clicking or twisting the end of the pen while I’m thinking about what to write.

Thanks very much for letting me bombard you with questions!

You can catch up with Michelle at all the following places:


Get The Essence of Magic here (US) or here (UK)

And don't forget to check out Michelle's book Lucky.

US readers click here
UK readers click here