What happens when you publish your first novel in half a decade?

So it’s been over a month since the pre release of Orphan Sisters, my first published novel in five years. I see that publishing has moved on since 2012. The Internet is  now a huge part of the publishing process now and the popularity of e-books have advanced and plateaued during that time.                                                                         

Order the pre release today!

This will be my fifth novel and I have never had a pre release before. But this time, the hardback and e-book editions were released on June 1st – three and a half months before the mass-market paperback. It’s different but also really good, as it gives me a chance to gather reviews online before the ‘big day.’

Right now I’m also writing my sixth novel, so my head is filled with an all new set of dysfunctional ‘people’ and intertwining plot directions! It’s also set almost two decades before Orphan Sisters, during World War 2 and this is a big change that will require a lot of research. 

What is similar and has been for every single book I have had published, is the sheer joy I get from talking about my characters as if they were real. This happened last week after a very impromptu book reading at a gathering for creatives. Verbally, I was able to introduce the two main characters, Lana and May out into the world for the very first time and it felt thrilling… and terrifying! Apart from the usual neurosis fuelled battle in my head (what if no one likes them as much as I do?) I really enjoyed this process. In five years I had forgotten just how much. 

I’m pleased to say ‘my girls’ were well received. These characters which had lived in my head, and then on a page and then out into the atmosphere, had flown the nest to make their own way in life.

Now, today and with just over two months to go until the official launch date of Orphan Sisters, I’m looking forward to the book reviews. I have already had a few and they have been amazing. I remember trawling through reviews for my previous books and choosing to focus on the very few that were negative. Why do we do that as humans? Ignore the positive and focus on the very few which are not? I have told myself I wont do that this time. I can’t promise I wont, though.

Having a book published after five years, has reminded me of just how much I love meeting and hearing from readers who have read and loved my work. When you’ve spent the best part of a year alone at your desk writing the novel, it’s this sheer joy that always creeps up – coupled with a reminder of why I don’t actually want to do anything else.

Orphan Sisters is out TODAY! I’m serious. IT IS!!

My first published novel in FIVE years, Orphan Sisters is out on pre- release TODAY!

I mean the official release date of the mass market paperback is still 21st  September 2017 but today the e-book is available to download! Yipeeeeeeee!

It’s actually out there and I don’t think I can believe it!

It’s been a long and emotional five years.

I lost three members of my immediate family, left a job I had worked at for 12 years, moved countries and through it all, I carried on writing. One of the manuscripts I wrote during the first part of this hiatus was indeed Orphan Sisters. My agent at first did not find a home for it so I simply carried on writing. And writing. And writing. A few manuscripts later, Orphan Sisters was sold to Ebury at Penguin/ Random House, proving that as a writer anything can happen! So Orphan Sisters will finally get ‘her’ moment to shine whilst the other manuscripts wait in the wings (or in the external hard drive of my computer). Some of them will also one day (soon) get their time to shine, some never will. That’s the nature of publishing. It’s a tough business but I love it! 

Five years is a long time.

But through it all, I never gave up. I KNEW I’d be published again one day. I knew this was the path leading to the purpose God has set out for me. So I persevered and here I am. A new novel! 

Champagne and book launches will be on hold until September, but for now, I will celebrate this milestone with a Coca Cola toast and a prayer of thanks.



Order the pre release today!



If you take the ‘subtle as a sledge hammer ‘ hint and go off and download my book,  please leave a review. I’d really like to know what people think of my 5th book. Seriously, I would.

Wow, I still can’t believe ‘she’s’ out there!!!!!!!!



4 Tips to Help you Avoid Social Media Distractions

4 Tips to Help you Avoid Social Media Distractions (especially when trying to write a book!)

If like me you’re trying to write a book or complete a project, it’s sometimes doubly hard to do so without the inclusion of Youtube videos of cats dressed in romper suits or re- tweeting on the phone whilst staring at a blank laptop screen. If this sounds like you -an intervention is needed. As a psychotherapist, I’m not about to recommend therapy, but I do have a list of practical tips to help you banish those distractions.

1) Try a detox

Start small. How about twenty four hours without Facebook, et al? Then a couple of days and then maybe a week? I once deactivated Facebook for a whole month and got loads done- after I was able to convince myself that some urgent catastrophe had not befallen the world without me knowing about it!

2) Deactivate apps

Some apps like Hangouts and Skype may just need to be deactivated temporarily whilst your addiction phase is on High. When I’m about to write a book ,my procrastination levels are on full blast. I just HAVE to sweep the floor and check for dust behind the picture frames.  I just HAVE to check who’s online. I just HAVE to re-tweet that funny meme. STEP AWAY FROM THE DEVICE  NOW! Or, just de-activate the offending apps temporarily and for a set time each day. Media blockers like ‘Self Control,’ for Mac. Or ‘Freedom’ for PC are a couple that come to mind, with a more extensive list available here. I wont embarrass myself by trying to get all technical but as far as I know, when these apps are in force you’ll be unable to scroll though for example, Facebook for the time you have specified. I haven’t tried this yet but I’m tempted…

3) Turn your phone OFF

Yes, an oldie but a goodie. Every time I began a section of writing or editing for my latest novel Orphan Sisters I either switched the phone off altogether or turned the volume to zero. It’s also a good idea to place the phone as far away from eye level as possible. Perhaps shut it in the bathroom or in a shed! This worked for me, but only as a temporary measure because as soon as I took a break… I was straight back to that phone to look at a fresh batch of ‘puppies on a swing’ videos!                                                   

4) Activate the DnD sign

Depending on where you write, it may be a good idea to place a physical ‘Do not disturb’ sign on the door or simply be verbal about it by saying, ‘Do not disturb me for the next hour! Go away!’ Good luck with that one if you have little ones or an overly attentive dog stuck to your keyboard. But it’s a start.

Happy Writing!

What’s a Hybrid Author?

So, what’s a Hybrid Author anyway? It sounds like something developed in a lab by some fiction obsessed scientist, but simply put; this refers to an author who is both traditionally published as well as e-published. And that’s it. In a nutshell. Not exactly rocket science, is it?

So why am I blogging about this, when I’m a traditionally published author? Well, first I’m going to let you into a little secret. About four years ago I wrote a dystopian novel for young Adults. Since then, I’ve re- written it and even let a couple of folks in the industry take a look at it. And what started off as a ‘can I write a dystopian book?’ soon turned into ‘I must get this book published one day!’

This book is such a labour of love for me and quite far removed from my usual work- which as you know, is currently commercial and historical fiction.  Therefore this book would have to be released under a pseudonym (don’t worry I’ll let you know it’s me) if and when, no, WHEN it is published one day in the future.

Basically, I am determined to see this book in print and would see self-publishing as an option. This isn’t because I don’t have confidence in a mainstream publisher picking it up… okay there may be some reservations from time to time… No, No. I am confident!!! Okay, internal fight over, here’s the thing: knowing I could one day self publish this weird and wonderful book is a back up plan that I am glad exists. It’s always better to have choices, right?

So as a published author, you now have the choice to either send the completed manuscript to your agent with the hope that s/he will sell it for a good or great advance or you can think about self-publishing as an e-book and/or a print-on-demand.  These options do not erase the possibility that a traditional publisher might at a later date, buy and publish the book through the conventional publishing house route- you just never know. Stranger things have happened.

Similarly, you as a self published author are also free to explore the traditional publishing route. There are no set rules.

Hmm, there’s a lot to think about in the publishing arena and it’s always a good idea to read about and speak to other authors who have taken the hybrid route.

As for my dystopian YA novel: the feedback has been very, very good.   And between you and me, I could also see it as a Hollywood blockbuster movie. So, scriptwriters: call me!



When Life Imitates Art

There’s a racist line in my upcoming book Orphan Sisters set in 1950’s London; ‘Go back to where you came from!’ and today in 2017 I got told the same thing.

It took a while for the words of this stranger to register and when they did, I decided to confront her. This was very out of character for me, but then again, it’s not everyday someone shouts such bile in my direction. 

I am under no elusions.  I believe there to be a vast number of people who after looking at me, have thought such things in their mind. Let’s face it, we don’t actually live in a candy floss sprinkled world. You know, a world where every human being is seen as an equal regardless of skin colour or who they pray to.

We. Do. Not.

If you still think we do and ‘It aint that bad’ then the battering over the head with the recent US elections, Brexit and the rise of far right groups in various European countries has not been enough of a rude awakening for you. And if so, feel free to snuggle up to your teddy bear, close your eyes and sleep this one out.

I was told not to take it personally, ‘It’s okay, it’s just what idiots say.’ Well of course I’m not taking it personally. This cretin did not know me as a person. But in no way does she get a free pass. No.  She needs to know that this is not okay.

She will hopefully think twice about singling out an innocent person in the street again.

Or maybe she wont.

I’m all for relating to the characters I write about and before this incident really felt I did. But the thought of being constantly told to ‘Go back to where you come from!’ and gazing at signs written on paper stuck to windows that read, ‘No Dogs, No Blacks, No Irish,’ can eventually take its toll on the psyche. It has to in varying degrees. I guess that’s why I wrote Orphan Sisters. I wanted to highlight the links between racism and mental health issues.  After all, I am a mental health professional as well as a writer. I have seen the detrimental effects of racism on the psyche far too many times.    

I salute my parents, aunties, uncles and every one of those from the ‘British colonies’ who in the 1950’s dared to come to this country and make a way. My heart goes out to anyone who in 2017 feels that HAVE to.

So have recent world events (see above) merely blanketed the average racist with an extra coat of bravery?Yes. No. Who knows? Does it matter? Yes.
I also believe that what ‘she’ said, what various right wing publications say and what certain politicians say in 2017 is NOT OK.


5 Ways to Deal with Rejection

5 Ways to Deal with Rejection 

I know these blogs are getting more and more personal, but na…we aint talking about my love life!! Tee hee. But let’s face it, we have all been rejected at some point in our lives whether it be by a love interest or in career matters.  Those of you who followed my ancient blogs of yesteryear,  know what I went through before getting my first publishing deal. So I unfortunately have  quite a bit of  experience in the field of rejection.  Also, working in the field of mental wellbeing, it comes up a lot. So If we put all that experience in to one big pot of gloop, here’s the result (enjoy).

  1. Don’t take it personal: The more emotionally attached we are to the person, thing or situation, the harder the rejection is going to feel.  And it’s easy to believe there’s something wrong with us because if not, then why did the other person dismiss us? During those early days of submitting my book to agents and publishers, the rejections would hurt and slice through my bones (graphic but true). My very first rejection had me in tears! So, if we stick with the publishing analogy, we could say the book I’d sent them was too much like the book they’d just signed up for a million pounds earlier that week. Sometimes rejection occurs and it’s nothing to do with us. Don’t own stuff that might not exist.  

2. It May Have Happened for a Greater Reason:         

It’s easy to stay trapped in distress and anger and tears (I snapped out of mine as soon as I decided to improve my manuscript).  But remaining in that box is sooo counterproductive.  It’s better to  try and see past what really is a fleeting moment of discomfort and snot, to  acknowledge that there is a higher purpose to not getting what (or whom) we want. If like me, you believe in God, then you’ll know what I mean by; He has other plans for me. If you are even slightly spiritual then perhaps go with the belief that a higher purpose will be revealed in time. How many times have you heard the story of a friend getting dumped, only for her to find her true love a month later as she waits at the bus stop in the pouring rain, hair stuck to her face, new suede boots caked in mud…? I digress. My point is, I bet she’s now grateful that rat of an ex dumped her by text!

We all discover the greater purpose of our pain in due time.   

3. Don’t avoid the feelings, USE them:

Okay, let me rephrase that. Acknowledge the hurt and then use this to make changes that will ultimately lead to bettering YOU. In my case, I acknowledged the hurt getting yet another knock back from a publisher  gave me, but eventually was able to see the positive side. An editor had actually taken the time to write me back, so maybe my manuscript wasn’t all that horrendous after all! Even if they had put in a line resembling ; ‘good story, crap writing,’ at least I had a good story and all I had to do was improve my writing! Years after that potentially career shattering letter, I am getting ready to release my fifth book in September 2017 and it’s called Orphan Sisters (shameful plug).

I’m generally an ‘optimistic half full type of girl’, but when in the midst of a fresh rejection, it’s easy to lose that.

It’s OK to be sad, but not for long.

4. It’s Good to Talk:

But not to anyone. Some well meaning friends may simply pile on the clichés whilst others may offer unhelpful reams of advice. When it’s most dangerous is when you have tried to pursue a dream like becoming an actor and a well meaning friend says; “Well it was a long shot wasn’t it? Stick to what you’re good at!”  In this case its better to only confide in someone you know shares the same crazy ‘out there’ dreams  you do. The one friend who at the age of 99 still wants to become a world class opera singer. The type of friend who sees no limit and will never try to break apart your dreams.

5. Avoid Social Media:

Says the girl who is more than likely going to use social media to share this blog. But when you’re in the first throws of reaction, I’m not sure how helpful it is to log onto  Facebook et el and vent. How many times have you seen the Facebook friend of a Facebook friend call out her ‘useless boyfriend’ she found in bed with the neighbour’s hairdresser? It may have felt  freeing for her at 2am surrounded by old photos and that severed pink teddy bear he bought her, but that post will still be there to haunt her during quieter, reflective moments. Also, reading about a Facebook friend’s £2 million book deal may also not help your mood, if you have been trying to get your book/script accepted; or if your latest audition for an Actimel ad wasn’t accepted. Or you got a D on an assignment.  As for me, a story like that simply spurs me on to do better, but I know this is not the effect for everyone.

If you take only take in a fraction of this article (hey, we all skim stuff these days and have short attention spans) remember this:

Rejection says nothing about you as a person. Getting rejected is part of life.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

The Trouble With… Writing a First Novel…

Written your first novel? Had a few rejections? Not sure what to do next? Need to read an article that just might motivate you?

A few years ago, I featured the very lovely Rosemary Dun on this very blog. Then, she was an unpublished author waiting for her ‘big break’ and now, it’s finally arrived… in the form of THE SAME PUBLISHERS WHO PUBLISH J.K. ROWLING!

But I’ll let her tell you all about all that…     

When Lola invited me to write for her blog I was delighted, and then I thought, crikey, where to start?

I could talk about my novel The Trouble With Love, tell you what it’s about, and how I wanted my characters – Polly and Spike and the others – to live and breathe and love. I could talk of the central romance, of the often hilarious trials of dating as a single parent, of mother/ daughter relationships, of the challenges of having a child who’s hard of hearing; I could talk of wanting to write about modern families – the melded, step, traditional, and single ones, or I could talk of second chances and the many troubles of love.

Instead, I’ve decided to talk about how I came to be in the pond (all will become clear . . .) and how Polly and Spike’s journey was woven into mine.

Polly first made an appearance in my life in a short story I wrote (she was younger then). I liked her, and she seemed to like me too, as she stayed around, in my head demanding for her story to be told – but bigger!

So began the first version of The Trouble With Love – featuring Polly and Spike. I loved the characters, thought the novel worked, and when finished, I sent it out to agents. The response was lukewarm, along the lines of, ‘You write well, we like Polly, but it doesn’t fit our list …’ And then I received one which said, ‘Enjoyed this in parts, you can write, but at the end I thought, so what?’

So what?

Hm. I could have given up, but I wasn’t going to. OK – those two words stung at the time, but this “So What?” agent did me a favour, because I reread the novel with fresh eyes and realised she was right: my characters hadn’t undergone sufficient change, things happened to them (they weren’t driving the plot), and at the end they were the same people as at the beginning (where was their emotional journey?) I could see what she meant, and could only agree with that So What?

I wasn’t about to give up on Polly, and she didn’t give up on me, as she kept jabbing away at my subconscious, jabbering away in my inner ear, demanding to be written.


No way was I going to give up. Not this close to achieving my dream of being a published novelist! Time for me to dig deeper.

I tried several new beginnings (but it was going nowhere), I attended creative writing master classes, read how to books, learned more and more about my craft and about the dramatic structure. Basically, I learned how to structure and plot by learning from those who’d gone before, and by actually writing my novel, and embracing what Anne Lamott calls that “shitty first draft”.

Not that it was plain sailing. In my personal life I had a marriage break-up to contend with, single motherhood to navigate, a demented parent to cope with and I became chronically ill. But I kept on writing, accepting that it would just take me longer than most; that my journey would have more twists and turns; that I would travel at a slower speed than some, but that if I kept going, I’d get there. Which I did!

Because – joyously –  the news arrived! A book contract with Sphere! With Sphere of Little, Brown – wow! The same publishers as JK Rowling and Val McDermid and so many other writers I admire.

At first I didn’t fully realise how big a deal this was. Then I told a friend about it, tempering my success by saying how I was a little fish in a big pond. ‘You idiot,’ she said. ‘You’re in the pond! You’re in the frickin’ pond!!!’

*For a limited period, grab a copy of The Trouble With Love for only 99p !



No tags 0

Authors & Their Weird & Wonderful Writing Rituals…

Apparently Jane Austen played the piano before settling down to write and Charles Dickens wrote with a vase of fresh flowers on his desk. Indeed most writers I’ve had the pleasure of speaking to have some sort of daily ritual they undertake before settling down to the task of writing. I know I have. My particular brand of writer craziness involves a simple stage of procrastination and once I have read all my WhatsApp messages and straightened my braids for the fifteenth time, I finally sit down and write. A glass of water must be by my side (you know, because I’m trying to be healthy now) and there must be no sound around me. Of course, this routine flew out the window during my recent two and a half year trip to Atlanta where the noise around me in a glorious little Café was reminiscent of a club and a cup of peach green bubble tea sat obediently by my side. It was a ritual, nevertheless. Now back in England, I’m back on the water.

I was lucky enough to speak with five author chums about their writing rituals.

C.L Taylor

‘I light a rose scented candle, put on ski socks because I can’t write with cold feet and play whichever instrumental music/soundtrack that fits the mood of the book. I also ensure I have some water and some chewing gum to hand!’

Catherine Banner

‘I keep the proof copy of my book on my desk because sometimes it’s good to remind yourself that whatever problems you are trying to solve in your work are problems you have solved before…’

Julia Blues

‘I like colour on my fingernails. I will paint them random colours simply because I feel it colours the story with more emotion and character. Something about seeing my nails fly across the keyboard with flashes of colour gives me a sense of power, almost as if I’m a superhero of sorts sent to save these characters from some crazed nemesis.’


Alex Brown

‘I have to be wearing my lucky poncho, or it can be on my chair if the weather is warm. I then light a scented candle to match the season of the book. I then choose a selection of my beloved Northern Soul tracks to evoke the right mood and then I’m ready to write!’


Rosemary Dun

‘My writing happens upstairs in my version of Narnia. It’s where I go and visit different lands and fabulous/ naughty/mysterious beings having adventures. My door has a sign on it which says, Away with the fairies . . . Back soon.’
Catherine has a theory of why writers undergo such rituals when undertaking their literary endeavours: ‘There are so many things about the process of writing that we can’t control. Publication can by a large extent, be governed by lucky meetings, random salvages from the slush-pile which is where my own first book was discovered, collisions of stories and moments which might have been quite different another day, another time.  So many aspects of the process aren’t really in our hands so perhaps it’s natural to be a little superstitious about the ones that are…’

So, what are your writing rituals?

No tags 1