Something Spooky For The Weekend

Celia: I haven’t got any spooky Halloween pictures but here are two atmospheric ones – the sort of  moments when ghost stories might be told…

A night for horror movies?

A night for horror movies?

Holiday barn...when the candles were lit, it was shhhpoooky

Holiday barn…when the candles were lit, it was shhhpoooky

couple dark alley

Sue : I wouldn’t fancy walking down this road on my own


Sue : Time to pick a pumpkin or two …

Heads at the Harry Potter Studio

Heads at the Harry Potter Studio

Pumpkin carving. Whose pumpkin is this?

Pumpkin carving. Whose pumpkin is this?


Life Cycle of a Writer – Learning to be patient…

The last few weeks have been about short story celebrations and learning to be patient when it comes to the novel… I’m in the middle of a major re-write of my work-in-progress, taking out one character’s POV, adding in a whole new character and sub-plot. I had a really good, constructive conversation with my fabulous agent, Juliet Mushens, and embarked on the re-write full of enthusiasm. I sent her the first few re-written chapters and obsessively checked my emails for the next couple of weeks, waiting for her feedback. The feedback, when I rather nervously opened the email, was good – she loved the new chapters. Hurray!

I promptly emailed back saying brilliant-I’ll-give-up-sleep-and-finish-writing-the-book-in-the-next-two-weeks-and-send-it-back-to-you, to which she responded – stop! Slow down! Write it, rest it, then edit it, then send it. Make sure it’s the best you can possibly make it. I’d given myself a deadline – totally self-imposed – of having this book finished and out on submission by the end of the year, so I was racing through the edits to meet a deadline that no one else even knew about. I’m now attempting to be patient – far better for it to go out next spring as a finished, polished book than rush through it now and have to re-edit yet again.

I had a couple of nice surprises on the short story and flash fiction front – my story A Life Lived in Colour made the top twenty shortlist out of a thousand entries in the inaugural Bath Flash Fiction Award and I got to attend a prize-giving event at Wells Festival of Literature when a story made their shortlist.

IMG_3725 IMG_3731

I was also thrilled to make the shortlist for a flash fiction piece in the Hysteria competition, and my story will be in the anthology released at the end of November.

This all helped to remind me, when I get impatient and want to have a book published now now now, that although I don’t yet have a novel published, I’m building up a nice collection of magazines and anthologies with my stories in them.


I think sometimes, as writers, we’re so keen to progress, to move on – win the competition, win a prize, get an agent, get a book deal, get another, bigger, better book deal… – that we forget to congratulate ourselves on what we have achieved. It doesn’t matter whether that’s a shortlisting, a book deal or just finishing a story and being able to say I did it. We’re doing it, we’re writing, and that’s worth celebrating.

Pass the cake, someone, crack open the wine – let’s celebrate!



Renovation of a French Cottage

It’s been an exciting couple of weeks for me as I recently published my novella The French Retreat – the first in the Falling for France series.

Although I’ve had three books published by HarperImpulse (United States of Love, Closing In and The Half Truth) this one just had the edge in the excitement stakes. I think this was due equally to the fact I self-published and because it’s set in France; a country for which we, as a family, have a great affinity with.


boq oct 09 003

The French Retreat centres around a restored farmhouse which has been turned into a retreat for artists, photographers, writers and anyone who is looking to escape from the pressures of modern living. The inspiration behind the story came from our own home in Southern Brittany. We’ve been gradually restoring the cottage over many years and I thought I would share a few before and after photos. The renovation is a continual work in progress but it’s definitely come a long way since we bought it with no electricity, no water and an earth floor!

Rush hour

Rush hour

Early Days

cottage 2

More Recent Days

Cottage 1

The French Retreat


With Christmas on the horizon, losing her job and her home wasn’t on Marcie Grainger’s wish list. In a bid to reassess her life, she heads off to the only place she has ever felt truly content – her brother’s farmhouse retreat in rural France.

Marcie isn’t the only one looking to escape. Ex-soldier Will hopes the gentle pace of French life will help to banish the ghosts of his past and offer him the fresh start he desires.

However, all is not what it seems at The Retreat. Fuelled by a string of strange happenings and local rumours, Will and Marcie are pushed together as they try to discover who or what is behind it all. In so doing, they end up finding a lot more than they bargained for.

The French Retreat is a story of human compassion, hope and love.




SFTW – Ways to celebrate!

In amongst all the edits, we’ve had flourishes of excellent news over the past few weeks, so we thought we’d share some of our favourite ways to celebrate small successes…

Sue : To celebrate the launch of my novella, we went to the pub. It's not just coke in the glass!

Sue : To celebrate the launch of my novella, we went to the pub. It’s not just coke in the glass!

It's strawberry milkshake and chocolate in the James household, although cheese toasties featured on the wedding night ...

Laura: Major or minor successes, it’s strawberry milkshake and chocolate in the James household, although cheese toasties featured on the wedding night … This photo was taken to celebrate signing my first Choc Lit contract. ‘Truth or Dare?’ followed a few months later.

There's noting in my life that can't be celebrated with a Birds' Caramel Doughnut. I had one today, because...erm...anyway, they're also good for stressful days at work.

Celia: There’s nothing in life that can’t be celebrated with a Birds’ Caramel Doughnut. I had one today, because…erm…anyway, they’re also good for stressful days at work.

And here's how I celebrate Halloween.

(And here’s how I celebrate Halloween.)



Friend not Foe – Social Media

Before we hand you over to Samantha Tonge and her guest post on social media, we’d like to say congratulations on her latest release MY BIG FAT CHRISTMAS WEDDING and wish Sam every success!

ST My Big Fat Christmas Wedding cover

In my experience social media is a bit like Marmite – people… writers… either love it or hate it. I am lucky. Lucky, in the sense that these days I feel authors really need to embrace it, and I just happen to think it is ace.

Don’t get me wrong – some days I feel exhausted from writing, and then on top of that having to promote my books on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and occasionally Pinterest. One of my writing fantasies is, at some point in the future, to have my own publicist.

Plus a book launch is especially gruelling, scheduling tweets, doing  a blog tour … I do nothing but promote my book for at least one month after publication day. This involves posting the purchasing link to it in various reader groups on Facebook, doing a blog tour, posting up relevant photos on Instagram, tweeting my heart out on Twitter and perhaps building a Pinterest board. And, then, of course, social media is a two way thing. If someone is kind enough to take an interest in your work, it is only good manners – and obvious business sense – to interact with them. This means lots of commenting and conversations on all social platforms.

Does that make it all sound very clinical? I hope not, because the main reason I love social media is all the wonderful, generous, sincere, funny people I have made friends with. Some I’ve even met up with in real life. That’s an added bonus and makes the relationship all the more richer when you meet each other again online. I’ve been bowled over by the generosity of time-giving bloggers and reviewers, who work for nothing and do their best to review your book as quick as they can.

The danger is – if you enjoy social media as much as I do – that it becomes something of a distraction. I can easily spend the first hour of my day catching up with news, posting on Facebook and setting my pinned daily tweet on Twitter. “But it’s for work” a very naughty voice says, when I’m having an in depth conversation with an online friend about what we watched on telly last night!

Joking aside, though, I take social media very seriously and spend probably as much time on it as I do writing. But then I am lucky as I work as a novelist every day, 9 til 5. Promoting your book is a time-consuming business, but in my view essential, to reach readers and spread word of your book, especially if, like me, your publisher is digital-first. You haven’t got the visibility of being in shops.

So my top tips, for making the most of social media?

First and foremost don’t be afraid. I am the biggest technophobe in the world (just ask my long-suffering computer consultant husband) but have managed to work out how to use almost all social platforms on my own.

If you haven’t much time, concentrate on the platform(s) you really enjoy. I have recently discovered Instagram which is HUGE fun (and great for photoshopping those wrinkles!), plus have made several sales from there.

Interact, interact, interact – thank everyone who comments on a post about your book. Be polite. Interested. And try to have fun with it.

Make use of the facilities on Facebook and Twitter which allow you to schedule posts – these are great time-savers. I use HootSuite for Twitter.

Take your camera everywhere and snap meals, bar drinks, scenery, animals… you never know when a photo is going to come in useful for a tweet, Facebook or Instagram post.  A photo livens up whatever you are posting and draws more attention.

Don’t do solid promotion – try and intermingle other stuff in with the book-related posts. Having said that, don’t be apologetic about posting about your work. After a book launch I post at least one tweet an hour about the book, and then mix in other items. Followers’ feeds are filled with so many tweets per minute  that they aren’t going to worry about one every sixty minutes from you.

Think about branding. Whilst I am more personal on Facebook, on Instagram I stick more to what I perceive as my chicklit brand, ie food, wine, fashion, cats… things I love and most romance readers enjoy.

Good luck with it all, especially those of you with time constraints. My last word would be try not to see social media as the enemy. It is there to help you reach a wider audience, boost sales – and to make writerly friends.

Thank you, Sam, for that great advice.

Here’s the blurb for My Big Fat Christmas Wedding …

Things don’t always run smoothly in the game of love…ST My Big Fat Christmas Wedding cover

As her Christmas wedding approaches, a trip back to snowy England for her ex’s engagement party makes her wonder if those are wedding bells she’s hearing in her mind, or warning bells. She longs for the excitement of her old London life – the glamour, the regular pedicures. Can she really give that all up to be…a fishwife?

There’s nothing for it but to throw herself into bringing a little Christmas magic to the struggling village in the form of a Christmas fair. Somewhere in amidst the sparkly bauble cakes and stollen scones, she’s sure she’ll come to the right decision about where she belongs…hopefully in time for the wedding…

Perfect for fans of Lindsey Kelk and Debbie Johnson. Don’t miss the Christmas Wedding of the year!

ST me bannerBio

Samantha Tonge lives in Cheshire with her lovely family and a cat that thinks it’s a dog. When not writing, she spends her days cycling and willing cakes to rise. She has sold over 80 short stories to women’s magazines. Her bestselling debut novel, Doubting Abbey, was shortlisted for the Festival of Romantic Fiction best Ebook award in 2014. Her summer 2015 novel Game of Scones hit #5 in the UK Kindle chart.








Life Cycle of a Writer – Lucie


Well, I’m afraid to say that I haven’t come to you this time around with any exciting news relating to my writing. I really wanted to be able to say exciting things, or even just a development, but the truth of the matter is, I am just not getting any time to work on my novel at the moment.

To say I am upset is an understatement. I always told myself that when I started university, I would still make time for my writing. I would get up early, stay up late, work at weekends… but the truth is, I spend all of those extra hours doing my studying. It is fair to say that I didn’t realise just how much of my time would be taken up with study and work for my degree.

I spent days, weeks even, stressing about it, worrying that all those people who have supported me and followed me through the last few years, would see me as a failure and forget about me.

But then I sat down and gave myself a stern talking to. Yes, I haven’t written properly in months, and yes, I find it hard to read books at the moment that aren’t textbooks, let alone write one. But I also realised that I needed to start looking at what I AM doing, rather than what I’m not.

I AM… studying for my degree. I never, in a million years, thought I would be smart enough to study for a degree. University was something that other people did, not me. I have a family, and a job, I would never get time to obtain a degree. But yet, here I am, doing just that.

I AM … building up an online profile with my vlogging and my website. Not only highlighting my writing, but also my passion for children, parenting and childcare.

I AM… working hard at my day job in a nursery, doing not only my practical duties, but I also undertake additional duties such as devising activities and designing and building up a resource area for all members of staff and children to benefit from.

I AM…making notes for my children’s books. Whilst I don’t have time to write full novels, I do have time to loosely plan and jot down book ideas for my children’s writing. I love writing, I love working with children – so it seems silly not to merge the two and combine my passions.

I AM… being a mum and a wife. I work so hard to be the best mum and wife I can be, and to make my family’s lives as fun, exciting and enjoyable as I can.

So, you see, I may not have a book deal to shout about (just yet!) but I do have things to be grateful for and I AM working very hard. All these different things may seem random, but they all link together in my bigger picture.

I WILL write for children.

I WILL write for adults.

I WILL complete my degree and go onto further training.

I WILL always love my family.

And I wholeheartedly believe that you should try this at home.

Stop thinking about what you aren’t doing, and start celebrating what you ARE. You are amazing, believe in yourself and you will get there.

Lots of Love

Lucie x

Something For The Weekend: Writing Events We’ve Attended.

Tomorrow is the award ceremony for the Exeter Story prize, and our Ce is on the shortlist with her story Naked in the Rain. In celebration of this, we’ve put together photos from some of our favourite writing events from the last few years.

Good luck, Celia :-) xx



Sophie Duffy, Cathie Hartigan & Margaret James, the creators of the Exeter Story Prize. This was the launch of the project nearly 3 years ago

Sophie Duffy, Cathie Hartigan & Margaret James, the creators of the Exeter Story Prize. This was the launch of the project 27th June 2013

2011; Laura and the lovely Carole Matthews. The inaugural Festival of Romance weekend.

2011: Laura and the lovely Carole Matthews. The inaugural Festival of Romance weekend.

The RNA Summer Party 2012, pre-party drinks. Missing Jan, though.

The RNA Summer Party 2012, pre-party drinks. Missing Jan, though.


Sheila O'Flanagan, Veronica Henry, Laura and Jill Mansell July 2014

Sheila O’Flanagan, Veronica Henry, Laura, and Jill Mansell July 2014

Hehe. Laura meets Jodi Picoult for the second time. June 2015

Hehe. Laura meets Jodi Picoult for the second time. June 2015

The RNA Conference 2015

The RNA Conference 2015

Friday morning

Festival of Romance, Watford 2011


Quiz Team, Festival of Romance, Watford, 2011


RNA Winter party 2011


Festival of Romance Bedford 2013


Lisa Jewell’s author talk & book signing event Hampstead 2010


RNA Summer Party 2013


New Romantics Press Author Event – Kensington November 2014

Arte Umbria Writing Week July 2013. Laura, Sue Moorcroft and Celia.

Arte Umbria Writing Week July 2013. Laura, Sue Moorcroft and Celia.


The Totleigh 13! Not everyone who goes on an Arvon course get to spend the week with Donovan but Debbie did!


Another inspirational Arvon course again for Debbie with tutors Kate Long and Simon Thirsk. This time it was at the former home of poet and children’s writer, Ted Hughes – Lumb Bank in Heptonstall.


Following Tamsyn Murray’s ‘Live, Breathe, Love Writing’ workshop in Cheshunt earlier this year, Debbie has since typed ‘THE END’ on the WIP she struggled with for four years!

Romaniac Sparkle Weekend December 2014

Romaniac Sparkle Weekend December 2014