Four seasons in one day



People say I am unobservant. And yes, they are correct. I am the person who walks down the street and ignores you. Not intentionally, but I am so caught up in my own little Beev bubble (probably dreaming up my next plot) that I literally do not notice who or what is going on around me. You can be standing right in front of me, waving like a loon and calling my name, but unless you pull my hair or slap me round the face, chances are I will pass you by and never realize you were there.

I once had six full sacks of garden rubbish sitting beside my front door waiting to go to the tip. One day while I was at work, my neighbour kindly took them for me with her own rubbish. It took me two weeks before I noticed they had gone. And let’s be clear, these weren’t small sacks, they were giant size and filled to the brim. In fact I had been tripping over them every time I tried to get in and out of my front door, so you’d think I would have noticed when they’d disappeared.

So we have established just how unobservant I am, yet as a writer I do notice some things. I notice idiosyncrasies, I always notice and remember how things smell, from people to animals to places, and I notice the changing seasons.

Summer is my favourite season. I love the warmth of the sun on my skin, the thick lush greenness of the flora, evenings that stay light until nearly 10pm, thunderstorms and the scent of summer rain. That said, I can find something to like in all seasons; tulips, daffodils, blossom trees and new born animals, and the promise of the summer to come in spring, the beautiful fall colours of autumn, crunching through leaves, that cooling nip in the air, then winter, often haunting and bleak, but so pretty at times in the frost and snow; especially when you’re snuggled up in the warm with a hot cup of coffee or a smooth glass of wine and some good food, looking at it through the window.

I think most writers would agree that the seasons play a part in your work. Once I have established my characters and the basics of the plot, I think about what time of year I want to set things. Will my characters be suffering through a humid summer or dealing with the shorter days of a harsh winter? The sounds, smells and feel of the weather all help add atmosphere and can bring a scene to life.

The Dead Letter Day sequel is set during a sweltering summer.  The stifling days add to my characters frustrations and cause sleepless nights. I’m planning on throwing in a good thunderstorm to help set the atmosphere for a particular scene and the heat can cause carelessness. It’s never a wise idea to leave the windows open when there is a killer on the loose.










Twelve months in the life of this writer


So another year has passed in the life of Beev and what a hell of a year it has been. Here are some things I learnt over the course of it.

My memory is steadily getting worse. Over the past 12 months I have routinely walked in the room, only to forget why I am there. I have also paid for my grocery shopping, then walked out of the store with an empty trolley, because I’ve left it all sitting on the checkout. That I don’t know my mobile number is excusable, but I changed my landline last winter and I CAN’T REMEMBER IT. To be fair, I don’t call myself, do I? As for my writing, I have to go back and check over earlier chapters because I keep forgetting details. Nothing major, just stuff like dates, locations, character names, who the killer is… I honestly believe I am going to finish the Dead Letter Day sequel and then be able to read it along with you guys, as I won’t have a clue what’s going to happen.

I still hate winter nights, but I am learning to cope with them. I am a summer girl. I like my maxi dresses, beer gardens and warm evenings that stay light till 10pm. Going to work and coming home in the dark depresses the hell out of me, but last winter I learnt that hot soapy bubble baths, snuggly PJs, scented candles and good food and wine can be pretty good. And all that darkness gets me in the mood for writing some sinister plotlines.

Grisly is no longer a word I spell incorrectly and I now know the difference between a cuddly brown bear and a gruesome scene. I also now know the entertainments editor of a certain national newspaper is a bit of a pedantic old witch, so not to cross her path.

I am still incredibly gullible. My work colleague told me the Channel Tunnel is closed at certain times of the year when we have heavy rainfall, as they have to repair the leaks. Yup, I was the stupid idiot who said, ‘really?’

I have learnt my periodic table. My quest to be the ultimate geek continues. Not content with learning all of the countries of the world, all of the capital cities of the world and all of the flags of the world, I decided to take on science. I may not know my own telephone number, but I’ve got all that yttrium, molybdenum and protactinium shit down pat.

My cooking is edible. For years I’ve been hiding behind diabolical culinary skills as an excuse to get everyone else to cook dinner for me. Now I finally accept I can make most things if I’m prepared to put the effort in. Of course I am Beev and the microwave is still my best friend. I never was very good at that “effort” business.

And finally, I have learnt to never give up on your dreams. A year ago today I was furiously typing away trying to get the Dead Letter Day manuscript ready for entry in the Rethink Press New Novels 2012 Competition.  Before that point, it had been sat in a cupboard under a few bottles of red wine gathering dust. Little did I know that it would win me a publishing package and remind me that, aside from family (human and fluffy) and friends, writing is the most important thing in my life. As I sit here working on the sequel I can’t believe I became so jaded I gave up. Seeing my book in print and reading the great reviews makes every year of struggling and every knockback so worthwhile. If you have a dream, stand tall above your critics and if you believe in yourself enough, you can make it happen.



Why indie writers make me smile

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There have been many highs since winning my publishing contract. Seeing my book in print for the first time, stumbling across someone intently reading it, getting it into the bookstore, almost breaking into the top 1,000 club on Amazon and the emails and reviews of praise are the most obvious ones, but another and more constant high, has been the friendships I have struck up with some of my fellow indie authors.

I don’t get all indie authors. Some seem so far up their own book’s ass, they have no time for anyone else, and their persistent pleas to ‘buy my book, buy my book’ get extremely irritating.

Then there are those authors who because they are now published, seem to think it’s their God given right to be nit-picky critical with every book they read. Again I don’t get this.

Anyone who has written a book knows exactly what goes into it; the blood, sweat and tears, the frustrating moments when you doubt yourself and don’t think you will get to the final chapter. Our books are personal, they are the thoughts and daydreams in our heads and we are exposing them, putting them down on paper for everyone to read and desperately hoping we don’t get ridiculed.

Any writer who says criticism doesn’t hurt is lying. It hurts like a bitch. And that is why I don’t get those writers who seem to enjoy digging the boot in, because they know this better than anyone. Leave the negative reviews to the critics and the non-writing readers. If I love a book I will review it and say so. If I don’t like a book, I will keep quiet. So many people say they are going to write a book and don’t get around to it. I figure anyone who actually goes through with it deserves my respect, and there are so many different genres and writing styles, just because I don’t like something doesn’t mean it’s not good and won’t have its fans.

Fortunately I have connected with a number of very lovely indie authors over the past few months; genuinely nice people who are happy to share their experiences and swap feedback. They are always there with a kind word or a joke when needed and so supportive, and I really love sharing the publishing journey with them.

I am hoping over the next few months they will all agree to be interviewed here on this blog. I have read a few of their books and love that they have taken me out of my comfort zone, away from my usual genres. I feel privileged to be connected with such talented writers and look forward to reading more indie books in the months to come. This publishing lark works so much better when we all pull together.

Fellow indie writers, I salute you.




A day in the life of this writer

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Working full time, I have to grab my writing opportunities when I can, be it a couple of hours in an evening or an afternoon of a weekend. Occasionally I will have a clear schedule; a solid six hour period to throw myself at my novel. Nothing will disturb me, no one will interrupt me; I will churn out twenty odd pages of brilliance.

Except it never quite works like that, at least not for me.

This is pretty much how it goes.

Fire up laptop.

While it’s loading, time for a coffee.

While the kettle is boiling I notice a few weeds poking up in my pathetic excuse for a garden, well… it’s actually more like a verge. Okay, it’s the area I step over between my front door and the bin. I pour my coffee and head outside to remove the offending items.

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Lola follows, because she is not really a cat, she is a sheep. A sheep disguised as a cat.

She rolls around on her back making funny little whining noises in an attempt to get me tickle her belly. I am a sucker for cat belly so I bin the weeds and give her a cuddle.

Her sister, Ellie, hears the purring and realizes she is missing out. More belly rubs and cuddles. That is another five minutes wasted.

Back inside, I grab my coffee and head back to my laptop, which has switched itself off, bored waiting.

I reboot and drink my now lukewarm coffee. Once the laptop is loaded I quickly check Facebook, Twitter and my email. Because you can quickly do that, right?

Half an hour later, after replying to emails, posting a couple of updates (because you’ve got keep yourself out there in the public eye) and making a Scrabble move or two, it is really time to crack on with writing. I log off the Internet and open up my novel.

First to reread the last few pages I wrote. I like to do this to get myself back into the flow of the story and reacquaint myself with storyland. So I’m up to date and ready to write. I have just typed the first few new sentences when the phone rings.

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It is my mother.

Now I swear that my mother has a magic telephone in her house that is programmed to ring whenever I am about to eat dinner, get in the shower, watch a movie or am working on my book. How else would she have a 100% record of interrupting me whenever I am doing one of these things?

Usually Mum is distressed about something when she calls. This may involve a decision she has made and is now regretting. She does this a lot, and not just with small stuff like agreeing to play golf three days in a row and realizing it is too much for her, but with big stuff too. Only my mum could spend ten years designing her dream kitchen, finally have the money to do it, then realize within a week of it being finished she should have done it completely different. Or spend years living in a house and dreaming of downsizing to bungalow, only to move to a bungalow and complain because she can no longer go upstairs.

If she’s not distressed about a bad decision, it will be about Tesco putting up the price of toilet roll by 15pence or no longer stocking her favorite kind of bottled water. Or it could just be distress because she is knackered. Now don’t get me wrong, Mum is fairly sprightly for a lady in her mid-sixties, apart from suffering from back pain and shoulder pain and headaches, and days where she just can’t put one foot in front of the other. Anyway, you get the picture; Mum has phoned to have a moan.

So I let her have a moan. I join in too, because I am her daughter and I can moan with the best of them.

By the time we are done – usually when her free hour is up – it’s back to the book. I’m thirsty from all the talking though, so first I decide to put the kettle on.


While it is boiling I notice the flashing light on the washing machine and realize I’ve forgotten to get my clothes out. I make my coffee, sort my laundry and nearly trip over Lola lying on the stairs while I have my arms laden with clothes.

Lola wants a cuddle and shows me her belly. I cave and then have to make a fuss of Ellie, because Ellie is a very jealous cat and if she doesn’t get what she wants she might go upstairs and piss on my bed. (She hasn’t done it yet, but I know the threat is there).

S/W Ver: 85.97.F1P

Back to my laptop with my coffee, I reboot, take another quick look at Facebook, Twitter and my email. Lose another half an hour networking, then turn back to the book. I write a sentence, sip my coffee. It’s cold, so off I go to make a fresh one.

This time I will focus. I won’t get distracted by cats, mothers or laundry. I will stay away from the Internet. Well, okay, I’ll just play a quick game on Sporcle first.

Okay, enough. Get back to the book, Keri.

I type a few more lines before needing clarification of something. Being a writer, research can be very entertaining and very random. One minute I could be looking up the year Google was launched (September 4th, 1998, for anyone who is interested), the next I could be finding out how long a person could survive in a buried coffin. (One to two hours depending on how much you’re panicking and using up air).

So I do my research. Just check Facebook, Twitter and my email while I’m back online.

Hello, I’ve had a few new messages. Better reply.

Finally back to my book.

I notice it’s spitting outside. This isn’t good as I have plans for tomorrow. I check the weather forecast.

All this Internet work is making me hungry. I head off to the kitchen for a snack and another coffee.

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And so the pattern continues.

Finally I notice I have about one hour left of my six hour time frame. This is not good. How have I managed to waste my day again? I sit down to write and suddenly, like the man who ate a bad curry and had the whole wide world fall out of his ass, my writing starts to flow.

I am typing faster than my brain can engage, my characters coming alive and doing their own thing. I’m just documenting it and all of it is good stuff. I can’t stop and I overshoot my six hour window, working into the evening, forgetting to stop for dinner, for a shower or for sleep. Sometimes it’s ten pages, other times as many as twenty to thirty pages.

Eventually I stop. Usually I have to force myself to stop because I have a day job to go to the following morning, but I don’t want to.

I could write all night.


Am I the only writer who…



Gets a five hour window to write, spends four of those hours staring at a blank screen willing the words to come, then in the last hour manages to churn out a dozen or so pages?

Goes to the day job and spends the entire time acting out scenes with my characters and wishing I was home working on the book?

Overhears a line of dialogue or notes someone’s mannerism and thinks ‘I’m nicking that for one of my characters’?

Out of the most ordinary situations, has a seed planted, that then grows into a full blown plot?

Has moments where I think ‘I can’t do this. I will never finish my novel’, but then other times where I look at what I’ve written and proudly think ‘this is bloody good. Go me’?

Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! Don’t you forget about me.


Everyone needs to recharge their batteries now and again and I have just returned from ten gloriously sunny days on the Spanish island of Menorca.

Before I departed England, I made a conscious decision to switch myself off from all social media. No Facebook or Twitter posts, no blogs, no book promotion at all. I knew my pages would take a hit. After all, out of sight is out of mind, and a week and a half is a fair amount of time.

I was right and on return my Facebook author page, where I am most prolific, and where it is easiest to analyse viewer statistics, had dropped by over a 100 regular viewers to just 6. Proof perhaps to those who think they can write a novel and sit back for an easy life, that if you want your book to sell, you have to be marketing on a daily basis, making the public aware of your existence.

By that, I don’t mean shamelessly self-promoting your book on every web page going, but instead building up a presence as you, the author, and engaging with your audience through entertaining posts. There is nothing wrong with an occasional polite and gentle reminder of your product, but keep ramming it down your audience’s throats and they will soon grow sick of you. Instead tell them how things are going with your current book, give updates as to what you are working on at the moment and mix things up with a few witty anecdotes from your personal life.

So readership of my page has dropped and over the coming weeks my job is to try and get this back up. I don’t regret my decision to switch off. I needed a break, to forget all things Dead Letter Day related for just a little while, and spent my ten days lazing in the sun and catching up on reading.

I used to be a voracious reader, but between writing, promotion and a full time job, I’ve struggled to complete more than a couple of books over the past six months. While on holiday I had time to immerse myself in four excellent novels (two by established authors, Karen Rose and Nora Roberts, and two debut novels by Megan Denby and Phil Simpkin) and I was reminded of the importance of reading to an author.

When I wrote Dead Letter Day I was probably averaging twenty books a year and I fully believe that reading makes you a better writer; not in terms of plagiarism, but because it helps unlock your mind and gets your creative juices flowing. And I can’t wait to get back to working on my new book.

If you are interested in checking out my holiday reading, please see the links below.

Karen Rose – No one left to tell

Megan Denby – A thistle in the mist

Phil Simpkin – Jack Ketch’s puppets

Nora Roberts – Black Hills


Say hello to the people who live in my head

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Characters to me are the single most important thing about a book. Of course your plot is relevant; you need to have a decent storyline, but unless your characters are leaping off the page, no one is going to want to read it.

The characters are going to be on the journey with you and they need to be interesting, if not always likeable, for you to want to spend three or four hundred pages in their company. This is why I put a lot of time into developing mine before committing them to paper.

It is not just a physical thing. Yes, of course you have to know how they look, but you also need to get to know their personalities. Are they confident or shy? Perhaps they are mean or selfish or have a kind heart. Where do they come from, do they have an accent, what was their family life like growing up? Then there’s things such as relationships, tastes in food, music or television, the way they dress, the little personality quirks that make them individual.

Build your characters on paper and in your head. Have conversations with them; get a mental image of how they look and the kind of thing they would say or do in certain situations. It is up to you to breathe life into them, otherwise they will come across as one dimensional and no one is going to want to read about them or care about their fate.

I can’t speak for other writers, but my characters are never based on specific people. Sure I may take a personality trait or two, but in my head they are entirely my creation. As the author though, I am sure each of them has a little bit of me in them.

For example, Angell is a cat lover with a fondness of pizza. Hmm… sound familiar? I could also be accused of sharing Hickok’s direct approach at times. I’m not very good at pussyfooting around an issue. I am a little more polite, but if I want an answer I will ask the question, and I definitely have his sarcastic streak. As for Vic, well he’s a bit clumsy, likes sitting on his ass and has a fondness for stuffing his face with junk food.

Nah, that doesn’t sound like me at all.





Are any of us truly perfect?

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When I received the call to say I’d come runner up in the Rethink Press New Novels Competition, I was gob smacked. As I have told before, I had mostly lost all confidence in my writing, having come so close twice before, and I had reached a point where I honestly believed I just wasn’t good enough. But this wasn’t the only reason I was so shocked.

The reason I had so much trouble getting my head round the fact that I had won, was because my book was a thriller, and I had a pre-conceived notion that book awards were for tortured souls and luvvies; people who looked down on my genre in snobbish disdain.

Now I am sure there are writers and critics out there who do hold this view, but I am pleased to say they seem to be in the minority. Most I have encountered are lovely, down to earth, unpretentious people who support all. My book was selected as runner up and the response from the buying public has fully restored my belief that I am just as deserving of success as any other writer.

Dead Letter Day is not a work of art. It is a fast-paced, twisty thriller with a strong storyline and well-crafted characters. Is it a literary classic? No, and I don’t want it to be. As long as I can provide readers with several hours of escapism and fun and they find the story gripping and exciting, then I have done my job; because to me the point of reading is to get lost in the pages of a book and have a good time, irrelevant of subject or writing style.

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Of course any book will have its critic and one particular literary critic refused to even consider my book for review based on a spelling mistake. Now I try my best to make my writing as airtight and perfect as possible, but humans are fallible, and errors do creep in. Anyone who claims to never make a mistake is kidding themselves. The error in question was the word ‘grizzly’. I had used this when I should have used ‘grisly’. It is on my press release and also written once in the book. Yes, I used the wrong context of the word and yes, when it was pointed out to me, I was mortified, and I will endeavour to get it changed for future editions.

But let’s be clear here, this reviewer completely dismissed my book and how good or bad it may be on the basis of one word? Fair or harsh, you decide. I claim full responsibility for the mistake, and I am certain it won’t be the last one I make, but we are talking about a 276 page novel that I wrote and proofed until I couldn’t see the wood for the trees. I didn’t pick up on the word, neither did my test audience or anyone else who proofed or has since bought my book. Of course, some buyers may have spotted it and have been too polite to say, but it hasn’t stopped the five star reviews and great feedback for the novel.

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A good job then that this particular reviewer is not in charge of what the public should and shouldn’t get to read, because it seems my book is in good company when it comes to the odd error. Robinson Crusoe for example took all of his clothes off, swam out to a boat and filled his pockets with biscuits. Bridget Jones, having driven to a party, seemed to forget her car was there, because she had to catch the train home and in Harry Potter, characters fly on broomsticks over the castle walls, even though there are enchantments in place to stop this happening. In Sherlock Holmes, Dr Watson’s wife calls him James in one scene instead of John and Carrie’s dad in Stephen King’s classic horror novel is described as having been in her bedroom shortly after she was born, even though it is later explained that he died when his wife was seven months pregnant.

So readers I ask you to decide, what you would prefer. A less gripping book that is word perfect with absolutely no errors at all, grammatically or plot wise, or one with a couple of mistakes, but a great story?

As for me, I have finally decided to finally make my peace with grizzlygate. Perhaps a future edition of the book can feature a big brown bear on the front cover to appease the aforementioned critic.

Why the most important thing about your book is the person reading it

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A fellow author shared a joke with me a couple of days ago about how social media has made it easier and more acceptable for fans to stalk their favourite writers on a daily basis.

The joke was very amusing, though it did get me thinking about the people who follow this blog, my Twitter feed and my Facebook author page. So far I have published one novel and my Facebook fan base stands at around 220 followers, which may not sound huge, but several of these people interact on my page on a frequent basis and many of them have not only read and loved Dead Letter Day, but have gone the extra mile to recommend me to all their friends and family.

A writer is nothing without readers and that social media has made us so accessible to them is, in my opinion, a very good thing. Here are my reasons why.

1/ Having social media pages can give readers an insight into who the author is. Previously, writers were something of an enigma and unless they were very famous, the only clue you had to the person behind the name on the front cover was a mini biography and, if you were lucky, a snapshot of them somewhere at the back of the book. Giving readers a chance to engage with an author creates an opportunity to build a stronger fan base.

2/ Writing a novel is a lengthy process and it used to be a case of out of sight out of mind, but this is no longer so. Authors are able to keep in touch with their readers by regular blogging, letting them know what they are up to and whetting appetites before the release of the next book.

3/ Fans who are regularly interacting with an author and getting to know the person behind the books are more likely to keep recommending your work and spreading the word to friends and family. You can advertise all you like, but nothing beats personal, word of mouth recommendations.

4/ Knowing people are enjoying your books is the best feeling in the world and I believe this is the same for any author. For me personally, my confidence in my writing was at an all-time low when I entered the Rethink Press New Novels Competition. After years of knockbacks I had clawed my way back and was on the verge of a deal with a major publishing house, only for them to decide my book wasn’t for them. Even after winning my contract with Rethink there was a part of me convinced that people wouldn’t like my story. It is thanks to my fans (and a couple of great critical reviews in local press) and being able to hear from them personally how much they have enjoyed reading Dead Letter Day, that my confidence has been restored and I truly believe I can do this writing lark.

Whatever your view on the positives and negatives of social media, I think it is worth remembering that a writer is nothing without their readers and it is important to make time for your fans.

The juggling life of a writer

Lovely Oregon. Setting for Dead Letter Day and its yet to be named sequel.

Lovely Oregon. Setting for Dead Letter Day and its yet to be named sequel.

I was discussing with a fellow author a few days ago the difficulties of finding quality writing time in our busy day to day lives, and I am sure this is something most others working on novels can relate to.

Unless you are one of the lucky few, whose books have sold so successfully you can afford to write full time, you will probably have a day job eating up a huge chunk of your week. I had one of these when I was writing Dead Letter Day, but was fortunate that it was nine to five-thirty and fairly stress free. Now I have been promoted and have a much bigger workload and a lot of responsibility sitting on my shoulders. Add to this a boss who uses words such as “disaster”, “catastrophe” and “nightmare” on a daily basis and most evenings when I leave work I want nothing more than to unwind with a hot soapy bath and a bottle of wine.

At the moment the day job pays the bills and quite rightly they expect full commitment while I am there. I am not lying when I say I have seriously contemplated jacking it in and getting a job in the local supermarket, so my “me” time can be spent full focusing on my second book and not worrying that I have forgotten to do something crucially important in the world of contracting. It’s still not ideal though, so I will continue to juggle work and writing and hope that one day the second one will pay well enough to allow me the luxury of going part time.

In addition to work, you have to find time for family and friends. Some writers I know have the commitments of a young family to contend with and I applaud them for being able to get any writing done at all. I have no kids – unless you count the two furry monsters that live with me and demand frequent feeding, litter changing and attention – but I still want to find time for my family and friends. They have all been so supportive of my writing career, I can’t neglect them.

Housework has gone out of the window since my book was published. While my desk at work is chaotic and the inside of my car looks like “Steptoe’s Yard”, my house (well actually, it’s more a shoebox) has always been my little bubble of serenity. Everything has to be clean, tidy and smell good. Not so much anymore. The carpets are barely visible under a layer of Lola fluff, my bins are overflowing, there are socks outside of the linen bin and a pile of washing up is gathering by the sink. It’s driving me insane, but a little voice chirps away in my head, telling me to ignore it. The book is more important.

Finally there is marketing. I already have a book out and I need to do everything possible to keep it in the public eye.  The marketing side is great and I really enjoy promoting the book, but it is very time consuming, as I am sure other authors will agree. There are myriad websites offering book promotion opportunities and it is very easy to lose an entire weekend plugging away blogging, reviewing and updating. And it pays. I have noticed that if I am very active online reminding people about the book, my sales improve. Whenever I take some “me” time and focus on writing the sequel, my rankings suffer. Add to this contacting press, bookstores, libraries and book clubs and marketing can easily become a full time job.

Now I don’t want anyone reading this blog to think I am complaining. I have been handed a wonderful opportunity and with the publication of Dead Letter Day, my ultimate dream came true. I feel very lucky to have the above dilemmas and I wouldn’t change any of it for one second. I am a writer and the need to write and the frustration at not always being able to write is just making me vent a little while I try to put some order into my life, so I can get everything done.

This weekend I am going to do my anal Virgo thing and have boxes. There is a little box for the marketing, which involves this blog and a couple of posts on Facebook, another box for the housework, which I will be doing as soon as I have finished the marketing bits. My house needs to be clean or my brain will go into meltdown. Then the rest of the afternoon, this evening and most of tomorrow I have kept free to write. Likewise, I will be doing the same over the bank holiday weekend. I have even turned down an invitation to go to the pub next Sunday afternoon. See how seriously I am taking this? I know the letterettes are desperate for the sequel and I want to deliver one that won’t disappoint.

I am not an author who can manage five minutes writing whenever I can snatch the time. I need to lose myself in the plot of my book and the lives of my characters in order to bring them to life. So this afternoon I am off to Juniper, Oregon.

See you later, folks.