Blog Archives

As March marches off …

I’ve lost count of how many times over the past three months I’ve said the words, “I sound like a broken record”.  I mean, APRIL already? I adore Spring, the blossoms, the daffs, the start of lighter evenings, Easter weekend (plus the choccies, of course!) but seriously, wasn’t Christmas five minutes ago?

 

Anyway, welcome April.

Practically my whole family and a fair few friends have birthdays in March/April/May so I’ve been buying cards aplenty. We celebrated Mother’s Day too, not me personally, but with my lovely mum. Mr B and I de-camped to my parents place, bearing gifts, and we cooked a lovely roast beef dinner for mum and dad with all the trimmings. It was a beautifully warm day in south London and outside my parents kitchen door is a suntrap, so after our food fest we planted our seats and grabbed some much-needed rays (a bonus in March for sure!).

In other news, my lovely publisher Choc Lit announced they were going ‘on tour’ to do some Library events, starting with Exeter on the 8th of this month, with further days planned including one in Southampton Library  and one in Stockton. I will be attending the Southampton one along with several other members of Team Choc Lit, and am thoroughly looking forward to it. It’ll be great to meet readers and writers, all very informal and fun, so hopefully I will see some of you there.  On the day, there will even be a chance to pitch your manuscript to our editor/s. You can buy tickets in advance – more details here ~ CHOC LIT ON TOUR

 

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Choc Lit also had a stand at this year’s London Book Fair and I couldn’t resist showing you a pic. Gloriously bright & welcoming, eh? They had sweets to dish out as well!

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March Reads ~ A fab quartet of  books kept me thoroughly entertained , two of which are by my fellow Romaniacs bloggers and are yet-to-be-published and  completely different in genre, one a dark and brilliantly atmospheric and suspenseful tale, the other a delightful yarn that had me belly-laughing, the main character being a lady who will have you in stitches. You’ll love her!

The third story I read was Jane Lovering’s new book  Little Teashop of Horrors  I’m a massive fan of Jane’s writing and always feel as though I receive all the best elements a story can offer when I read her books;  loveable, relatable, quirky characters, laughs aplenty, fab settings and thought-provoking themes. Bravo, Jane! Another winner, I’m sure.

The fourth book I had my nose buried in during March was The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner, a must-read for any budding authors out there. I’d initially consulted it when I was on draft three of As Weekends Go. What I love about this book is the way Betsy gets right to the heart of all those doubts and fears you have about your writing. Every question answered in such detail and with such care, from submitting your manuscript right through to the editing stage and beyond. A really well written reference book, with lots of entertaining stories and anecdotes thrown in.

 

Thank you, March!

Love Jan X

 

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As February meets March …

February started fabulously. Much cheering and dabbing of eyes upon hearing that my lovely eldest nephew and his equally lovely fiancee had set their wedding date for next year. Cue lots of “it hardly seems possible” speak, whilst gazing at photos of said nephew aged three years old and genuinely wondering where the years had scampered off to.

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Ten days in and I’d been hoping my faithful, toasty sparkle boots and fleece might not be required quite so much but then as I sat there mithering on about the smattering of snowflakes fluttering past my window, I reminded myself of the weather we’d had three years previously.

Eeek!

Now that’s what I call snow!

Our neighbour at the time was a born prankster and caught me out good and proper with his ‘alternative’ snowman. I kid you not, I almost fainted when I walked up our communal steps and saw the image on the right staring at me. Good times for sure 😀

 

Feb continued to bring much needed and much appreciated cheer when I learned that As Weekends Go was on my fave author Lisa Jewell’s list of books she’d read and enjoyed in 2016. A proud moment for sure.

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The pic that accompanied Lisa’s blog post. There I am, second from top, middle column! 🙂

 

The writers’ group I belong to  ~ The Romaniacs ~ celebrated five years of blogging this month. A supportive, loving, super-talented bunch of gals I’m proud to call my buddies.

 

On Valentine’s Day, Mr B cooked me a beautiful meal. I love him with all my heart.

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Three weeks in, I had a lovely message from a lady on Facebook to say she’d spotted my book in Bexleyheath Library, promptly borrowed it, and later reported back that she thoroughly enjoyed it.

The last week of Feb/beginning of March proved a little challenging as I pulled a muscle which seemed to affect my rib, shoulder blade and chest wall – ouch – and left me lying on the sofa for the best part of four days, frustrated and forlorn, especially as my Dad was in hospital following an operation and I couldn’t get to see him. Happy to now report that both Dad and my muscle are on the mend.

Pancake Day came and went with a whimper at Brigden Towers. Probably just as well as last years’s efforts were woeful . I don’t know what I did wrong, given there’s not much you can muck up, but me and pancakes are definitely not a winning team …

Following the ‘Bexleyheath’ sighting of As Weekends Go, a friend of a friend spotted my book in the Hilton Chennai, snapped its picture and kindly sent these over via email.

Talk about brighten my day!

 

Finally, I’m steadily moving on with my sequel/standalone to As Weekends Go and feel much happier with it, more passionate and excited which is such a relief as I’d seriously worried that the ‘want & the will’ had packed their bags and waved me off for good. Now, instead of beating myself up for not writing as many words in a day as I’d like, I tell myself that any words on that page are another step towards the finish. I’m loving the way the storyline is progressing, so long may that continue. Well, not too long … I actually want to submit it at some point. You get my drift though. 😉

 

February Reads ~ This delightful duo definitely get the thumbs up 🙂

The Breakthrough Experience by Dr John F. Demartini ~ I confess this was a re-read and as intriguing second time around. It’s about breaking through barriers in different areas of your life, balancing the positives and negatives and can be quite intense at times, scientific, even,  but it definitely changed my perspective on a few things. Some good exercises to follow too. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea (what book is?) but will certainly make you think.

The Thief’s Daughter by Victoria Cornwall ~ a terrific romantic ‘against all the odds’ tale of 18th century Cornish smugglers, fraught with dangers, temptation, heartache and brilliant characters and dialogue. A top debut.

 

* I couldn’t end this post without paying a little tribute to Jo Skehan, a lovely lady who sadly passed away on March 1st. Jo and I were firm frends on Facebook and although we never actually met one another in person, we shared many a laugh (Jo’s jokes were legendary!). Jo was a superb writer too. She will be sadly missed. 

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Rest in peace, Jo x

 

 

Thank you February (and a little slice of March!)

Love Jan x

As January ends …

Blimey, blink and you miss it sums up my January. I swear it was only a couple of days ago Mr B and I  saw in 2017 with our friends down the pub over a few glasses of fizz while the spectacular fireworks  lit up the London skyline on the TV behind us.

It’s been an up and down old month and although I’m pleased and relieved to have rediscovered my writing passion, I’m still behind where I wanted to be with Book 2 – my follow on from As Weekends Go. Life doesn’t always play ball, as they say, but I’m a huge believer in the ‘everything happens for a reason‘ theory and about the importance of timing, so on we go.

Having said  all that, any words on the page are better than nowt, so that has to be a positive and with each new chapter of Book 2 written, my excitement grows at the thought of submitting it and (fingers, toes and anything else crossable crossed) eventually seeing it side by side with my debut novel.

I had some lovely news from my publisher this month in that I and several other of my fellow Choc Lit authors had been selected for the Kobo UK New Voices in Fiction promotion. The effect on downloads had me jumping up and down. At its best As Weekends Go flew high at number 2 in Contemporary Romance, number 12 overall in Fiction & Literature.

Thank you, Kobo, Choc Lit and dear readers.

 

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I’d joked with Mr B that I was going to run around the block in my sparkle boots to celebrate but then looked out of the window early that morning and saw this …

 

Maybe not …

I do love the snow but the ‘soft, thick easy to walk in‘ variety, not the ‘turns to ice the minute it hits the pavement‘ kind.

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The famous sparkly boots!

 

January Reads 🙂 This terrific trio kept me thoroughly entertained.

One Dark Lie by Clare Chase – a mystery about the unexplained death of a Cambridge academic. Lots of secrets, action and a lovely dose of romance made this a top read for me.

Fur Coat & No Knickers  by Adrienne Vaughan – A fab selection of  engaging short stories, some adventurous, some romantic, some mysterious, all featuring characters who left me wanting more. Some great poetry included too.

Search Inside Yourself  by Chade-Meng Tan – I’m a big fan of mindfulness and meditation and anything that aids both mental and, in turn, physical wellbeing. I found this book both interesting and informative. Easy to follow too, unlike some mindfulness books that occasionally stray into the ‘too technical or scientific to fathom‘ bracket ( for me anyway!) Some good exercises to practice too.

 

 

Thank you, January!

Love Jan x

 

What a month that was!

October? Really? Not that I’m complaining, I love October, but I’m still grinning about what September blessed me with.

In a nutshell:

The paperback release of my debut As Weekends Go, a special moment, not to mention emotional. Tears flowed, as did the laughter, cake and fizz and I was overwhelmed by all the lovely messages I received. I even got a congratulatory retweet from Crystal Palace FC 🙂

Here’s a gorgeous banner my lovely publisher Choc Lit created for me.

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And a second banner by my good friend Laura James along with the fab publication day blog post she and my other fellow Romaniacs  composed for me here: The Romaniacs Blog

 

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Another hugely proud moment was when I learned my novel was being featured on Lovereading UK  as one of its debuts of the month. A Weekly Staff pick too. Double delight!

 

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Cue more fizz & chocolate (naturally!) and the added bonus of sunshine …

 

 

The support and good cheer I received throughout the month from all my writing buddies at Choc Lit and beyond, especially from my fellow Romaniacs, plus lovely readers and bloggers was brilliant.

Here are some guest posts, promo posts and Q&A features I took part in during September – thank you dear bloggers!

Choc Lit Blog ~ Memorable weekends of mine.

Jera’s Jamboree ~ Q&A

Jo Lambert ~ Launch Day promo post.

Linda Hill ~ Guest post on the importance of doing your research.

Whispering Stories ~ Q&A

Being Anne  ~ Guest post on stereotyping & my fictional footballer (plus Anne’s wonderful review of As Weekends Go).

Towards the end of the month I attended an author/blogger meet up in London which gave me a great chance to say hello to faces both new and familiar. A good time was had by all, with much writerly chat and laughter. We were also blessed with glorious sunshine again and a fabulous view of the Regent’s Canal.

All in all,  a month to remember.

Bring on October! 😀

 

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Love Jan  x

 

 

 

 

 

 

One week countdown and an exciting delivery …

 

I have the most enormous grin on my face and it shows no sign of sliding away any time soon.

You see I’ve reached that point where no matter how hard I try to concentrate on writing book 2 or tell myself that I really should be chasing up those research queries, all I can think about is next week’s official paperback release of my debut As Weekends Go.

Even more so now I’ve taken delivery of some copies from my lovely publisher Choc Lit. Honestly, I almost launched myself at the poor courier when I realised what was in the box he was holding.

Here they are, looking all glam and glossy.

 

 

To hold my book in my hands really is a dream come true. Such a sweet moment. One that I will treasure forever.

I’m so looking forward to publication day on September 7th.

I think there may be chocs and fizz aplenty! Enough for us all 😉

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Love Jan  

Exciting news update …

Happy August!  I can’t believe I’m saying that. Where did July scoot off to?

Just a little update as to what’s been happening with me. It’s been all go these past six weeks. With the paperback release of my debut novel As Weekends Go just over a month away, I’ve been preparing some guest posts for various ever-supportive bloggers and answering some brilliant interview questions in preparation for publication day and beyond. I’m  so excited at the thought of seeing my book in print and holding it (no doubt with a small tear in the eye).

I had some fab news when my publisher emailed me to say that I’d made The Bookseller, listed in their new titles : Fiction for September feature.

Here I am, just below Alan Titchmarsh and right of Prue Leith! 😉 Sorry it’s so HUGE and a bit blurred.

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Anyway, I was thrilled.

More exciting still, was learning that, upon reading my novel and loving it, Lisa Jewell, one of my fave authors, has agreed to give me a quote for my paperback. I’ve read and loved all of Lisa’s books, so to know she’d enjoyed my story gave me the biggest lift.

On a different note, I knew my author pictures needed updating, so one Friday in July, my good friend Noreen who also happens to be an ace photographer came over with her camera and we had a mini photo shoot. Once we’d stopped laughing, etc, she patiently snapped away (I’d already told her she’d probably need to take about a hundred pics to get a handful of half-decent ones!) and I was really pleased with the results, not to mention relieved that we had a few to choose from, one of which will go in the paperback.

Here’s a little montage – some serious, some not so …

 

Well, that’s my round-up complete, apart from to say that I’m working hard on the sequel to As Weekends Go. It’s a standalone novel that features a few familiar characters and some newbies too – fresh dilemmas aplenty. 😉

Enjoy August!

Love Jan

x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Birthday, Choc Lit! ~ Celebrating seven superb years …

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In tribute to my fabulous award-winning publishing team, here are seven fab things I love about Choc Lit.

1~ The name. Choc for chocolate and Lit for literary. Who could fail to smile at that delicious combo? I mean, books and chocs? Heaven!

2~ The logo. Warm, welcoming and instantly recognisable. Love it!

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3~ The team at head office and beyond who offers its readers and bloggers such variety, some darker issues, others lighter, but all with romance at heart. And to its authors, from manuscript submission to editing to publication day and thereafter, that family feel, passion for our books and professionalism.

4~ Those stunning covers. I’ve had so many compliments about mine and heard so many people raving about others too. Big cheer for our very special designer Berni Stevens Lucky us!

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5~ Camaraderie and encouragement among the authors. Lotsa love, laughter and literary cheerleading and advice.

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Choc Lit authors aplenty!

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Me and my fellow ChocLitier and Romaniacs blogger, Laura James

6~ The Tasting Panel ~ a dedicated team of independent readers who assess each manuscript. We also now have our Choc Lit Stars; fans of our work who help spread the word about us.

7~ Choc Lit Spread ~ our online magazine packed full of news, views, comps and fab deals. And our Choc Lit treats  – short stories published online by our various authors, all with that taste of romance running through them.

 

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I could go on and on and on …

Here’s to another seven years.

Cheers, Choc Lit! Happy Birthday!

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Character Interviews – Who am I?

In the early stages of drafting As Weekends Go, I gobbled up every nugget of writerly advice going – I still do – you never stop learning and any guidance is invaluable.
I’d already created detailed profiles for each of my main characters, some secondary characters too, i.e. ages, physical descriptions, family backgrounds, schooling, jobs, habits, likes/dislikes, friendships, relationships, star signs. A further suggested exercise that proved brilliant for me was “literally” interviewing them. Instead of writing a structured Q&A for each, I let them chat away on the page (so to speak) to see how they viewed themselves, to hear their voices and obtain an insight into specific personality traits, hopes, values, etc.
Here’s a brief glimpse at two of the main cast members – random facts in no particular order – to further illustrate what I mean :

Hello, could you please tell me a little bit about yourself...

“Hi, I’m Rebecca Stafford, married to Greg for four years, no children as yet, but having now moved into our new home, we plan to start a family, which I’m so excited about. I just hope Greg’s workload reduces. He’s been so stressed lately – a bit snappy too, (between you and me) – and could really do with relaxing a bit more. I do worry about him.

I’d say I’m a good listener, diplomatically honest, as I hate to hurt people’s feelings. I’m quite a home bod, and I love the company of my friends and family, especially my best friend Abi who I’ve known for years. I dress in what suits me. I’m not a dedicated follower of fashion as they say, but I do take pride in my appearance.”

Next please ... (1)

“Hello, I’m Alex Heath. Describe myself physically? Well, I’m very fit  – in the sporty sense (I wasn’t being vain!) as my profession demands it. I’ve always been active, trained hard and appreciated all the challenges and rewards it brings. I’m not really into the celebrity thing and shy away from publicity even though I know it’s all part of the job. I think it’s important to stay grounded, have good friends and family around me and never forget what a privilege it is to be doing what I love.

I’m a good judge of character. Some people say I can be stubborn, (my mum, usually!) which maybe I am, but it helps me to focus on what’s important. Nobody likes being taken for a fool, do they? Do I like being rich? Well, it certainly has its advantages. I’d be a liar if I said otherwise, but I’m level-headed with money; prefer spending it on other people than myself.”

***

Now, I know these exercises won’t necessarily be for everyone. Admittedly, a lot of the pre-interview detailed character profile information I didn’t actually use in the book, i.e. Rebecca’s favourite film or her opinion of her first boss, but it did give me an insight into how she might react in certain scenes, or to the various people she met, whatever the situation. Same with Alex. So too, with my other main characters.

I did the same thing for my second book which I’m currently writing. If you think interviewing your characters is something that might help you develop your own stories, then give it a try. I can definitely recommend it.

 

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Love Jan X

Three weeks on and still beaming with gratitude …

Well, what a three weeks I’ve had.

I’d have blogged about it sooner if the dreaded lurgy hadn’t paid me a visit. And outstayed its welcome, I might add.

More of that later though …

On a much more positive note, three weeks ago – Easter Sunday to be precise – my debut novel As Weekends Go was selected for Amazon’s Kindle Daily Deal which meant that it was 99p to download for that day only. Mr B and I were at a family gathering at my parents for most of the day, and between all the laughter, chatter, games and chocolate-scoffing, we were keeping our beady eyes on its progress. I can’t tell you how excited and grateful I was to see it rise up the charts to a heady number 199.

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Before I knew it, the Prosecco was cracked open and flowing. It was great to all celebrate together.

I then received a text from one of my writing buddies telling me that the book was number 1 on Amazon’s Movers and Shakers list.

WHAAT?! 

Cue manic whooping and refilling of glasses. (Any old excuse!) 😉

It actually peaked at number 74 the following day.

74!

 

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I could hardly speak! 😀

All in all it was an Easter to remember.

As if my beam wasn’t wide enough, I subsequently received the wonderful news from my publisher Choc Lit that my book was also being released in paperback in September and was on pre-order.

Double WHAAAAT!!!??

I shed more than a few tears of joy at the thought of actually holding my book in my hands. The massive grin was now threatening to engulf my face completely.

Merry Christmas

Well, that’s when the pesky lurgy crept up on me.

Cheeeeeeeeeeeek of it – interrupting my joyous flow!

I’d been smugly saying how I never get colds/coughs, etc, and then, BAM, I’m exchanging Prosecco for hot honey & lemon drinks.

Talk about thwart the festivities …

Of course, I made up for it once the sore throat had subsided. Mr B also brought me in a few treats in the meantime to aid my recovery, sweetheart that he is. 😉

 

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I couldn’t believe how rough I felt or how long it has lasted. I’m still coughing now.

But … I feel miles better than I did and even though it may have dented my glow, my grin of gratitude for how my book is doing and for the lovely feedback, reviews and priceless words of advice and support I’ve received and would never take for granted, shines large.

Cheers, everyone!

Love Jan X

 

 

 

A month of mixed emotions …

It’s been a funny old February.

Fun versus fear in equal measures.

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Fun because it has brought back such lovely memories from last year; my debut As Weekends Go being shortlisted for Choc Lit’s Search for a Star competition, on Valentine’s day no less, and the whole buzz of the following few weeks when I learned I’d won and was offered my contract.

Fear, because fast forward a year and I’m sitting here in the midst of what some of my writing colleagues have hinted could be post-publication blues.

Sound familiar?

I do hope so, as I’m beginning to worry that there’s something wrong with me. I mean, I’m hugely grateful to be published, so too for the tremendous support I received from everyone on  launch day and beyond, and have had some fantastic feedback on As Weekends Go and some cracking reviews.  I’m also very much enjoying the eyebrow-raising research I’m doing for Book 2.

So why do I feel a little flat?

I think it’s partly down to something  I knew I’d have to face head on, particularly after publication, yet  almost three months on, still brings me out in a cold sweat just uttering the words …

Self-promotion.   

I try to be positive in everything I do. I thoroughly enjoy chatting online with all my writerly buddies, being part of such a supportive ‘club’ so to speak , and am never more comfortable than when I am singing someone else’s praises. Yet, when it comes to tooting the horn for my own novel, I cringe. Even setting up my own blog was a massive step for me, which luckily a good friend helped me with. I love blogging with The Romaniacs but it’s a collective thing, so feels more relaxed.

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I’ve  taken part in several Q&As with fellow authors and bloggers whom I can’t thank enough for featuring me, as it has given me more confidence. Joke is, I’ve conducted many author interviews, myself, over the years, which  I’ve LOVED. Then again I’ve been the one asking the questions…

It has made me quite sad at times as, like every other author, I poured my heart and soul into my book, and feel really proud that I finished it, yet can’t seem to fully celebrate promoting it.

I’ve been watching and learning, so perhaps in time it will become less scary, feel more natural.

I certainly hope so as it’s playing havoc with my mojo and if there’s one thing I love doing, it’s writing!

Any thoughts, dear friends? If not, chocolate will do! (Preferably buttons of the giant variety ;))

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Love Jan X