January is drawing to a close and here in Lancashire in the north west of England it has been an unusually mild month. Living close to the Lake District in Cumbria I’ve enjoyed the short drive to park then wander, for some happy dog walks with Fred, our Westie. My favourite lake is Ullswater and you can see from these photos how beautiful it is. On a misty January day, the lake and mountains have an ethereal quality of their own. All the seasons are glorious and it’s no wonder the area is famed for producing so many poets and writers.
I am delighted to say that my new novel, The Spa Break is publishing in a few weeks and you can pre-order it today at the promo price of only 99p (the promo price may differ in each country). The ebook will automatically land on your e-reader on publication day. The paperback will follow a few weeks after the ebook.
The publisher is One More Chapter (HarperCollins UK) and I was thrilled to be contacted last year by Charlotte Ledger, the Publishing Director, who had an idea for a novel and asked me if I would expand her thoughts and write the book. The Spa Break finds four friends on a relaxing weekend away to celebrate a big birthday. But as the days unfold, the spa soon has these spicy sexagenarians realising that there are unexpected benefits to age and experience, and that over the hill certainly doesn’t mean out of the game. I loved bringing new characters to life and I hope that this feel-good, funny novel will be one that you enjoy.
Emily, Bridgette, Marjory and Serena are entertaining characters and I hope that I will be writing more about their escapades in future books. If this newsletter lands in the hands of any book reviewers, please get in touch for an ARC copy.
I’m enjoying reading novels by Marius Gabriel and am currently reading The Parisians. He has a wonderful ability to mix fiction with history during WWII, when Paris was occupied. Using real characters in his novels, especially from the world of fashion, such as Coco Chanel and Christian Dior, he brings the stories to life. Clever writing and highly recommended.
This month I have a signed copy of Hattie Goes to Hollywood to giveaway. To enter please go to my Facebook page or you can email me using the address below. Just comment why you would like to receive the book and you will automatically be entered into the draw. Good luck!
Welcome to new subscribers. Thanks for signing up; it’s so good to have you with us. I haven’t written here for a little while, so this is a catch-up post. Here in lovely Lancashire in the North West of England, autumn is quite stunning. On the edge of the picturesque Trough of Bowland and only a short drive to the Lake District, the autumnal countryside is beautiful at this time of year, especially when the sun is shining.
More recently, there has been heavy rain, and threats of flooding in the area and the little town where I live was hit by the deluge.
I’ve been hitting the keyboard hard these last few months and will soon have exciting news of my next book. I am in love with all the new characters and can’t wait for you to meet them. As much as I love writing, it is a job and takes discipline to sit down and slowly but surely work through the process of putting a manuscript together. The new novel has been different for me because I was given a theme and asked to write a story around it. With this in mind, here are a couple of tips that I’ve employed during the process.
Write for yourself, rewrite for others.
So often, writers are told to write for themselves, get the story down, feel the story and let the words flow onto the page. One of the most essential points in the process is listening to an editor and acknowledging their constructive points. So you have your first draft. You think it is brilliant, then your revisions come back with a hell of a lot of suggestions. Don’t cringe away with hurt feelings; take on board the advice from the capable and experienced editing brain that you entrusted your book baby to. They know the market and the reader you are writing for. Learn, write and learn some more.
Make your readers feel something.
If you don’t care about your characters, your readers will feel precisely the same way and soon turn to another book. You have to step into the shoes of the individuals you write about and walk through their lives with them, feeling their highs and lows and understanding what makes them tick. Sometimes I find myself crying when one of my characters is having a tough time, and that’s an emotion I embrace because readers may feel the same too.
Like many, the travel bug has been itching, and last month I was able to scratch it when we caught a last-minute flight and headed to the tiny island of Paxos in the Ionian Sea. Paxos is one of a cluster of islands that dates back to prehistoric times, and the Romans ruled the island from the 2nd century BC. By the end of the 14th century, the Venetians had taken over, and there is still evidence of incredible Venetian architecture throughout the Ionian islands.
With no airport, access to the island is by boat only, and on the day we travelled, the sea was choppy and not for the faint-hearted. October was stormy with heavy wind and rain at times, but it was genuinely glorious when the sun came out. Our home for the duration was a villa set in an olive grove. The house had been the former home of the British Governor of the island during the 19th century when Paxos was a British Protectorate. A perfect place to relax and take stock of the previous year, even when there was no electricity due to the weather and the candles came out.
I love audiobooks, and this month, in my free time, I have been listening to several novels by Diane Chamberlain. My favourite was Big Lies in a Small Town, which slips between 2018 and 1940 and is a great read.
I adored Eva Glynn’s The Olive Grove. It is beautifully written and based in Croatia and made me want to jump on a plane and head off to discover the places so skillfully described. Don’t miss it – it’s a great read.
My book club recommended Mike Gayle’s, All the Lonely People, and given the difficulties of isolating during the pandemic, this book really hit the spot. Another gorgeous read.
If you fancy a fun, cosy mystery to snuggle down with on the dark nights, my novel Hattie Goes to Hollywoodis on promo for you at only 99p/99c. Hattie is one of my favourite characters. Larger than life and full of fun, she gets into a great deal of trouble but somehow digs her way out with a smile on her face and plenty of laughs along the way. I hope you enjoy the story. It’s also available on audio and read by the lovely Gill Mills, also a fan of Hattie.
Christmas is around the corner, and I will write again before then. Do get in touch. I love to hear from you and don’t be shy. I love to chat about all things books and travels and whatever else is on your mind. You can find me on social media on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and I am always delighted to follow back.
I haven’t written my blog for some time and apologise to anyone who has missed a monthly update on my books and writing, or new recipe or two. The last twelve months have been the most difficult time of my life, with my beloved sister, Cathy, having been diagnosed with terminal cancer, to her death on 6th May.
Too soon and so badly missed, she was not just my sister and best friend but also my writing inspiration. As a late starter, from the very first word I ever wrote, she was with me. Encouraging me to glue my behind to a chair and get my fingers tapping out ideas on a keyboard. We plotted each novel together, shared the first draft, the highs and lows of publishing and drank champagne on news of a book’s success. She was my critique and my greatest fan, the one who urged me to write on and take my work seriously. As I sit here, I wonder how on earth I shall pick up the pieces and write again.
But I will. Because that is what Cathy would want me to do.
So, as I begin a new chapter in my life without my darling sister, the page turns and a new book is born. I am up and running again and the words are flowing and I am sure that my beautiful girl is waving her magic writing wand and willing me on.
To all of you who have lost someone close in these difficult and trying times, I send you my sincere love and raise a glass to their memory.
Books & offers
All of my books are free to read on Kindle Unlimited and Amazon Prime and you can find them by using the link below:
Method: Whiz all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Freeze.
TIP: If you have bananas that are going black, don’t throw them away. Simply freeze and use in this recipe (or a banana bread recipe). Bananas that have been frozen taste sweeter which means you won’t need to add as much sweetener. You can use any frozen fruit such as strawberries, raspberries or blueberries. Best of all, this ice-cream is ready to eat as soon as you’ve made it!
For the kids: use lollipop trays and freeze
I hope that the sun is shining wherever you are in the world and that life is treating you well. May you stay safe in the pandemic affected areas. Have a great summer.
Today, I am joined by Carol Thomas – a successful author of women’s fiction/romance, who also writes for children. Her new book Being a A Friend at Christmasis now available and is absolutely delightful. A book that I will be putting in all the Christmas presents for the little ones in our family this year.
The book is beautifully illustrated, by Carol, and I am delighted to chat to this very talented author about her writing life.
What inspired a successful writer of romance to create a children’s book?
I didn’t set out to write a children’s book, but my first, Finding a Friend, came to me almost fully formed. It was one of those moments, as a writer, you know you should note down. I had been reading my son a bedtime story, looked at a picture of him and our dog on his wall, and just started saying it. It then took just over a year to complete and publish the book, with the illustrations being done by the very talented Drew Bristow, an illustrator living in Brighton.
Being a Friend at Christmas, is the second in the Little Pup series, though each can be read as a standalone story. In this story, Little Pup is looking forward to his first Christmas in his new home, but he remembers the dogs he left behind in the shelter. He has a plan, but he needs Father Christmas’ help to make his wish come true. I can’t resist happy endings, maybe it’s the romance writer in me, but I knew I wanted to write this book soon after the first came out. It became a labour of love during lockdown, especially as I illustrated it too.
The illustrations are delightful – have you had any formal training?
That’s very kind of you. No, though for some time I doodled and kept sketchbooks, partly because I like drawing and find it relaxing, but also because it was encouraged as part of my teacher training. I must admit that having the illustrations in Finding a Friend as a guide helped and lockdown gave me the time I needed to practice and create the pictures.
What age group is the book marketed to?
It is written for under 7s. As a teacher, I wanted to write books that could be shared and enjoyed again and again. The text is purposefully rhythmic and rhyming to engage early readers, while little ones can join in and anticipate words and phrases. The illustrations are colourful and each story can inspire a conversation about the puppy’s thoughts and feelings.
The story and verse are charming, did it take long to put together?
For Being a Friend, I was writing to an idea and wanted to ensure I followed the same rhythm and rhyme scheme as Finding a Friend, and so it did take a little longer to complete. For a long time, I had most of it written but couldn’t make a couple of verses fit. I stepped away for a couple of months and returned to it afresh. I am thrilled with it now.
Going forward: Children v Adult writing – what do you prefer?
I enjoy both. Ruby Fiction, an imprint of Choc Lit, publishes my romance books, and so I have to prioritise time for them, but I also love creating children’s books, that I self publish. The process is different for each but ultimately rewarding.
Did you find the self-publishing process difficult?
I’d say challenging rather than difficult. There are still things to do with the process I’d like to be better at and to know more about but I am proud of what I’ve achieved. Being traditionally published too, I think it’s good to have the insight into both routes to publishing.
What can we expect from you next?
I am marketing Being a Friend at Christmas. I have a novel currently with my publisher, Choc Lit (fingers crossed they like it) and I am writing a Christmas novel that I hope will come out in 2021. I am crazily busy as I have also recently taken on a new teaching role working in year six, and, of course, must ensure I have quality time with my family and dog too – especially as they keep me sane!
Carol Thomas writes for both adults and children: Her contemporary romance novels, have relatable heroines whose stories are layered with emotion, sprinkled with laughter and topped with irresistible male leads; while her children’s books have irresistibly cute, generally furry characters young children can relate to.
Its been an absolute pleasure to chat to Carol and don’t forget that you can purchase Being a Friend At Christmas now, I think it is a perfect book for children and not just at Christmas.
I’m thrilled to have Vicki Beeby stop by my blog today as she celebrates the publication of her wonderful new novel, The Ops Room Girls which was published by Canelo on 16th July. Grab a coffee and sit back to enjoy this post as Vicky talks to me about her writing life.
What started your journey into the world of writing?
I’ve always known I wanted to write books one day, but I only knuckled down to writing novels about ten years ago. From my teens to my early thirties I wrote a daily journal, and I think that was a good introduction to the discipline of regular writing. In my twenties, I also started writing fan fiction, well before I knew fan fiction was actually a thing. I liked to write about minor characters and give them a story of their own. When I discovered internet sites where you could post fan fiction, I dared to upload a few stories and was encouraged by the feedback to keep going. After a while I wanted to create my own characters and worlds, so started writing original fiction. It still took a lot of perseverance to get my first publishing deal, but I don’t think I would have started if it hadn’t been for the encouragement I got from fellow fanfic authors.
What is it you most enjoy most about being an author?
I love the whole process of starting out with a spark of an idea and developing it into a complete story. At times the process can be painful, but nothing can beat the kick of holding a book in my hands, knowing that the words inside came from my own head.
Tell us about your latest book and why you chose to write it.
The Ops Room Girls is the first in a series called The Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. It follows the story of Evie Bishop, a working-class girl who joins the WAAF near the start of World War Two after having her hopes of an Oxford Scholarship dashed. She is posted to the operations room of an RAF fighter station where she befriends two other WAAFs – shy, awkward May and flirty, glamorous Jess. The book is set against the background of Dunkirk and the Battle of Britain and follows Evie, Jess, and May’s adventures as they embark upon romances and join the struggle to keep their pilots safe.
I love watching old war films but have always been frustrated that the action mostly centres on men. You would occasionally see women in the background, but you never discovered what they actually did. In particular, I was curious about the women in some scenes in the Battle of Britain films, who could be seen pushing blocks around a chart on a large table. When I found out what their job involved, and the vital work they did during the Battle of Britain, I knew I wanted to tell their story.
Who are your top three favourite authors and why?
Rosemary Sutcliff – I fell in love with history and historical novels thanks to her. Douglas Adams – I love his sense of humour and his way of looking at reality and twisting it. Marian Keyes – What can I say? She’s a goddess. I’m in awe of how she can write about dark stuff like addiction, grief and depression and still make her books funny and uplifting.
What are your writing plans for the next year?
I still have to write the third book in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force series, so I’m looking forward to getting stuck into that. After that, I’d like to write another World War Two series, although I haven’t fixed on what to focus on. I’ve got a list of story ideas that came to me when researching the current series so I’ll read through them and see which ones spark more ideas.
How do you celebrate on publication day?
I’m not one for elaborate celebrations, but I do take time off work so I can enjoy the day properly. When my first three books were published—medieval romances under the pen name Tora Williams—I went out for breakfast with my mum to celebrate. With lockdown, celebrations will be even more low-key. I’m in a bubble with my mum, so I’m going to take a cake around to her house and she’s ordered a cream tea by post. I’m such a party animal!
It was such a pleasure to talk to Vicky and I am currently reading and loving The Ops Room Girls – watch out for my review soon. You can follow Vicky on the links below:
It’s nearly the end of January and longest month of the year has flown by. For me, January has been busy following a hectic end to 2019.
I am so happy to share something special. I got married! It was a Christmas wedding with close family and the day was for us, absolutely perfect. My lovely hubby and I tied the knot and started the new year as husband and wife. Second time round for us both, at a time in our lives when neither ever imagined being in a relationship, let alone being married. So, dear friends, never think it’s too late to begin again in whatever you do from work, relationships and adventures. My life has changed completely since I walked out of my previous life and began again, and remember, as my mum always said, ‘The time to be happy, is now.’
Some big news for me is that I have a new book on the way! I’ve changed direction a little and decided to write a new series of mysteries. Hattie Goes To Hollywood is the first in the series and will be published on February 14th. You can pre-order at the pre-publication discounted price here:
When recently bereaved Hattie Mulberry inherits her aunt’s dilapidated cottage in the village of Hollywood in Cumbria, she envisages a quiet life. But retired hotelier Hattie is bored and when her neighbour asks her to investigate a suspicious suicide, Hattie’s career takes a new direction and H&H Investigations is born.
During the hottest summer on record, Hattie discovers there have been three recent suicides in Hollywood and she determines to find out why. Temperatures rise as she throws herself into village life and, with mischief and shenanigans aplenty, Hattie has her work cut out. But will she establish the truth?
Early reviews are super, and I am keeping my fingers crossed that Hattie Goes To Hollywood will soar up the charts and inspire me to write many more in the series.
Seville oranges are in season and I have been making marmalade. There are so many recipes for marmalade on the internet or in your favourite cookbook and I think that it is great to experiment and discover what tastes work for you. Test and try out different flavours. I added earl grey tea to a dark marmalade, and it is delicious. In a lime and lemon recipe, I included concentrated ginger cordial and it has a really warm, zesty bite. Have a look at this little video, where I talk about marmalade:
There is an annual marmalade awards event in the UK, at Dalemain House in Cumbria, each March. Details are below and entries come from all over the world.
If you want to try your hand at being an award-winning marmalade maker, get your entry in by 2nd February. It attracts many visitors to see all the marmalades, plus demonstrations and fun events over the weekend of 14th & 15th March.
Its newsletter time again folks and I hope that you’re all enjoying the summer.
I’ve been hosting talks over the last few weeks on subjects such as how to get your book written and whether to self-publish or go down the traditionally published route. These talks always generate a lot of questions and a lively debate. I thought I’d share with you how I became an author and you can read my story below.
To celebrate summer and holiday why not treat yourself to a fictional stay at The Best Boomerville Hotel this weekend? My lovely publishers are offering a discounted price of only 99p / 99c and you can download on all platforms including Amazon, Kobo & Apple. This book is a best-seller in the UK Amazon charts and has received fabulous reviews. The offer ends at midnight on 10th June so grab your copy now:
Who wants to win a Bertie Bear? Bertie, the lovely teddy bear from The Best Boomerville Hotel is so cute. He stands at 12” tall and comes with his very own canvas travelling bag. When I give my talks, Bertie comes too and everyone always wants to take a Bertie home with them. I’m offering you, my lovely subscribers the opportunity to WIN your very own Bertie.
Simply answer the following question:
Where is Bertie in this picture? There is a clue in the picture.
If you want to buy a Bertie Bear, click this link: BERTIE BEAR
HOW I BECAME AN AUTHOR
I grew up in a small town in Cheshire, in England and wanted to write from a very early age, but never thought that I was good enough. I went to an all girl’s Grammar school and hated it and a few weeks short of my sixteenth birthday, much to my parents’ horror, I left school, and also home. I travelled to Cornwall on the south-west coast of England and looked for work, doing anything from pot-washing to waitressing. In that time, I realised that I loved the hospitality industry and if I couldn’t write, I would work hard and one day have my own business. Fast forward several years and I achieved that dream. After catering college and working for a large hotel group in London and abroad, I eventually owned a pub and then a country house hotel.
When I sold the hotel, I became an agent representing celebrity chefs. It was a fabulous career but still I wanted to write and decided that I wouldn’t die wondering and pinned my bum to a chair to write my first book. Coffee Tea the Gypsy & Mewas born. Four more books have followed and my years in the hospitality industry provide a revolving door of inspiration for characters and stories. My novels are mostly based in that environment. Two of the titles are current Amazon best-sellers and my dream of writing full-time has been achieved.
I am currently writing a follow-up to The Best Boomerville Hotel for my publisher, Ruby Fiction. I am a speaker too and give talks on various subjects including entertaining speeches for large events, such as a guest speaker on cruise ships and at various literature festivals. I write food related articles for magazines and promote my work through social media and my website.
My advice for anyone wishing to write is, just get on with it. Don’t waste years wondering. Glue your rear to a chair and get going, write and write and write – no matter what. You will find your muse when you least expect it.
I started playing golf this month and seem to have got ‘the bug’. The good thing is that you can learn and play this game at any age and it is great exercise. I’ve also been trying lots of new recipes, this photo is of the best chocolate cake I have ever made – if you want the recipe click here: Best Ever Chocolate Fudge Cake.
Have a wonderful June everyone, thanks for subscribing to this newsletter and feel free to contact me at any time if you have any writing related questions.
I’m thrilled to have Morton S Gray on my blog today. Morton’s latest book, The Truth Lies Buried, is now available in paperback and audible as well as all ebook platforms. Morton, like me, loves beautiful Cumbria…
Thank you for inviting me over to your blog, Caroline. When you asked me to Meet the Author, I tried to think of a linking factor between us to spark the blog post and came up with The Lake District! Why? Because your super novel The Best Boomerville Hotel is set there and I have enjoyed many holidays in the area over the years. So, I thought I’d talk about a few snapshots from those visits.
A favourite teenage holiday photograph sees me on the ferry across Lake Windermere. I had just become conscious of what I wore and can still remember the feel of the turquoise flared trousers and green floaty tunic top. I felt amazing.
Fast forward to when my eldest son was small – I used to take him to the Lakes at least once a year. After driving up the motorway, I very often couldn’t face the car for a few days, so we used to explore by bus or ferry and had lots of fun. One year, son insisted on wearing his pirate bandana and carrying his plastic sword all of the time – surprisingly we made lots of friends that year.
Fast forward again and I had my first holiday with my now husband in Bassenthwaite. Hubbie severely overestimated both my level of fitness and the length of walk across the fells I could cope with. I had never climbed that far up a hill in my life and had never seen Windermere laid before me like a map as we were so high up. I think it was when I was exhausted and finding it difficult to put one foot in front of the other on the scree slope on the way down that I began to seriously question whether our relationship had a future! (P.S. we’ve been married sixteen years!)
We’ve had several holidays with youngest son in the Lakes (who if we were celebrities should by rights be called Bassenthwaite, but he gets embarrassed when I say that!), but these days it’s usually hubbie and I on our Lakes holidays whilst youngest son is on some school camp or other.
Our favourite place to stay is Grasmere, as you can walk off in all directions without having to travel in the car. Last year, we stayed at the lovely Daffodil Hotel on the banks of Grasmere Lake. And, no trip to the Lakes is complete without a visit to the wonderful restaurant, The Jumble Room.
Thank you, Caroline, I’ve enjoyed reminiscing about Lakeland holidays, but what I really wanted to tell your readers and that feels almost cheeky now, was about the paperback and audiobook release of my second novel for Choc Lit, The Truth Lies Buried on 12 March 2019. You’ll find details below.
Two years ago, I walked out of my life. It was one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made. In midlife, many women are settled with plans in place for their later years but I wanted change and couldn’t continue to live in an environment that no longer felt right, working at a job that was wrong for me.
So often we hear, ‘You only have one life, make the most of it, live each day as if it’s your last.’ But how many of us do that?
For years, I’d taken care of my mum, who passed away suffering from dementia. I’d raised my family, looked after other people and worked very hard. I’ve had a great life and there have been some amazing highs but life was no longer sitting comfortably with me and a voice in my head said, ‘Change it, before it’s too late.’ Making drastic changes involves big decisions and selling my house and walking away from the working world that I was a part of and my friendship circle, was tough.
But taking that leap of faith was the best thing I ever did.
I’d always had a dream. I wanted to be an author, to write stories and sell books. But I never thought I was good enough.
Now as my body clock was ticking, my literary one was too, so in the first few months of my new life, I sat in the Caribbean sunshine, glued myself to a laptop and wrote, The Best Boomerville Hotel, then found a wonderful publisher who believed in me and suddenly my writing took on a more serious note. Boomerville is all about embracing the middle and later years. In my research for the book, I discovered that in the UK, one in three people over the age of 50 live on their own, a statistic that would never have stood in my parent’s generation. Things are changing, we live longer and are fitter and healthier in our later years and I’d love mid-lifers to look positively at getting older and embrace new challenges. As the government introduces social activities on prescription, to combat loneliness for isolated people, opportunities are out there to do something different and stimulate learning and new experiences, unexpected friendships and possibly love.
In the writing world, I admired authors like Mary Wesley who had her first adult novel published at the age of 71 and Frank McCourt who wrote Angela’s Ashes at 66. Many writers flourish as they get older, by which time they’ve mastered their craft. I chose to write on a full-time basis and it was the best decision I’ve made in years.
Whatever your age, whatever you might do, a fresh challenge can feel like a rebirth, so don’t be afraid of coming out of your comfort zone, be afraid of staying in it. It’s never too late to being a new career.
I often write about Cumbria after falling in love with the county many years ago. For me, the Lake District is a creative’s dream.
My novels often feature a fictional hotel and the latest, The Best Boomerville Hotel is no exception as guests’ flock to the area and book in, to experience the beauty and splendour of the landscape.
For several years, I ran a pub, then a hotel, in the Eden Valley and was captivated by the warmth of the locals who were so supportive to a newcomer. Walking along the shadowy ridges of the fells in my spare time restored my spirits after a hard day at work and spurred my creative juices, for even then I knew that I wanted to write stories based in this special place.
More recently I was touched by the floods that devastated parts of the country. In particular, the town of Appleby which had once been my home and the floods feature in The Best Boomerville Hotel.
I write feel-good novels to uplift and inspire and with the magic of the mountains and sparkling waters of the lakes, I owe a great deal to my muse.