Paula Daly – Top Tips for Budding Writers


My latest review was the latest book from Paula Daly – The Trophy Child. Whilst I have participated in the blog tour for this, I was a bit remiss in not publishing the fact but the lovely people at Penguin Random House and of course Paula herself has sent me some ‘tips for budding writers’ to support my review which was published on this blog on the 27 January.

Without further ado, I hand over to Paula:

Full disclosure: I could not have found the time to write when I had a full time job and a young family. Some people do. I am not one of them. I’ve read accounts of people getting up at four in the morning, writing a thousand words before work, to pursue their dreams of becoming a published author, but when my kids were small the best I could do was get a meal on the table each evening, and make sure they had clean uniforms to wear.

I started writing when, after a move to France, I was able to work part time when I returned to the UK. I have three children and my youngest would have been around three at the time. For me, the key to getting the words down on paper was carving out a decent amount of time in which to write. Say, an hour or so. So I got super-organised with everything else that needed doing around the house. Everything that could be done outside of that hour I did fast and efficiently, to protect the writing time. Then I would pick my youngest up from nursery, put him in front of the TV with some toys, jigsaws and a drink, and I would write in the next room for as long as I was able to.

Now that my kids are teenagers everything is easier. And now that I’m a fulltime novelist I no longer have to slot writing in around a day job. But I do employ a number of tricks to maximise my writing time. Here are my five top tips:

1)                          Plan your meals weekly and shop for groceries online. This whole process takes me twenty minutes per week using the Tesco app. I used to find grocery shopping for five frustrating and a colossal drain of my energy. Now I can have it delivered to my kitchen towards the end of my writing day. So I get the word count done and all I have to do is put the stuff away.

2)                          Don’t answer the phone. My extended family know that I don’t answer the phone if I’m working. I screen calls and if it’s not one of the kids, or their school calling, I don’t pick up. Relatives don’t think writing is a proper job and think you can stop and have a chat whenever you like. You can’t. Call them back when you’ve finished. Or else better still, call them and put them speakerphone when you’re doing something mindless like folding washing. Two birds etc.

3)                          Have a notepad handy. When I first started writing, I was bursting with ideas but I couldn’t get these ideas down on paper until my allotted ‘writing time’. So I would write notes all day: when the vegetables were boiling, when the kids were in the bath, when I was outside school waiting for them to come out. What I found was, when I did finally get down to writing, it felt more like I was taking dictation, as I had all of my ideas already formed.

4)                          Lose the guilt. To make a real go of this you’re probably going to have to put your writing before your kids a little more. And what I mean by that is, you may have to get rid of some of the extra-curricular activities. My youngest quite liked football and wanted to join a team…but we refused. I didn’t want to spend my weekends, rising early, driving thirty miles to stand in the freezing rain, when I could have been reading a book in bed instead. Because to be a writer you must read a lot. And you need the time to do it.

5)                          Once the kids are of an age when they can be left to play alone, tell them you’re writing and you’re not to be disturbed. They won’t care. Really, they won’t. And they won’t become damaged by your not spending ‘quality time’ with them either. Most kids don’t actually like quality time and would much rather be pleasing themselves than doing an activity that you deem to be a good use of their time.

Thanks to Paula, I hope it has inspired some people out there. If it hasn’t then remember all that hard work of Paula’s has gone into creating some cracking good reads – do check out The Trophy Child.


The Trophy Child – Paula Daly

Meet the Bloom’s. Noel is a GP, with a daughter Verity from his first marriage. His second wife Karen brought to the marriage a son Ewan. Both Ewan and Verity are teenagers and not exactly what Karen would call perfect children. But Bronte is 10 years old and is the daughter of Karen and Noel  and she will be the perfect child. She does every extra curricular activity possible, additional languages, music and her time is constantly taken up improving her education. Karen’s whole life is consumed in ensuring that Bronte is the best.

Bronte is being pushed to the limit.

Verity has tried to strangle Karen and is now receiving counselling.

Ewan is achieving nothing other than familiarising himself with drugs.

Noel is spending more time at his job and in hotel bars. He seems to be struggling with the situation he finds himself in.

Karen isn’t aware of anything other than her and Bronte.

This family is disintegrating in front of our eyes.

Then something happens, something perhaps expected but nonetheless frightening and the family disintegrates further.

However it is what happens next……

There is a uncertianty to this book, which adds to the plot and the pace of the novel, which are both excellent.

All of the characters are fully formed and within a shot space of time, I managed to feel sympathy and empathy as well as sheer loathing for them all. Their actions are played out in such a way as to lift right off the page. This is what kept me captivated as the book progressed.

I recommend this book as a good strong example of Paula Daly’s work.

The Trophy Child is published on 26 January. 


White Lies and Wishes – Cathy Bramley

This is the latest novel from Cathy Bramley and is in fact a whole novel, not being released in parts as some of her previously novels have been. Cathy Bramley novels are for reading in one fell swoop, preferably in a comfy chair with a cup of tea and a biscuit to accompany you!

Jo, Sarah and Carrie meet at a funeral wake and form an unlikely bond. Jo is a strong single determined female who is trying to prove something to her father and herself by saving the families footwear business.

Carrie is bored. A housewife with a habit for the biscuit tin, the cake tin, the chocolate tin and with self-esteem issues she does not feel she fits in anywhere.

Sarah is trying to be the perfect mother, the perfect wife and the perfect accountant. Juggling all three is not going to work forever.

When they meet in rather humourous circumstances they form this bond where they share their wishes. Trouble is they are not sharing the truth as well. Jo needs to overcome her vertigo, Carrie wants to lose weight and Sarah wants to be made a partner in the accountancy firm.

However it seems that by not sharing the truth with each other and themselves, they will find themselves in a difficult position to achieve what they really want.

Whilst there is romance in this novel, this is really about forging friendships both new and old and overcoming many hang ups and worries and living life to the full. Of course there is a happy ending, but actually all the happy endings are not necessarily the ones that I as a reader was expecting or what the three women planned. That is what makes this a delightful book to read.

Cathy Bramley is fast becoming one of my favourite authors up there with Katie Fforde and Trisha Ashley. If you know these authors then you know what you are going to get from Bramley.

I look forward to more of her work.

Thank you to the publisher for providing me an ARC of this novel.

White Lies and Wishes is out on 27 Jan 2017.


Books in 2016

I am probably a bit late in looking back at my books of 2016 but it is still January.

I read 101 books and therefore I completed my challenge on Goodreads and go forth with 100 in 2017.

So with thanks to Goodreads – 101 books equates to 31,182 pages. The longest at 683 pages, the shortest at 17!

Never mind the statistics – what about the books.

The Storm Sister – Lucinda Riley. I have the third in The Seven Sisters series to read and I am putting it off, because I know I will love it so much – how peculiar! It is by my bed waiting I promise.

The Ballroom – Anna Hope is a beautifully written book. And with it also being her second novel, she creates something wonderful in this story. I recommend it.

I think 2016 was a year of reading basically what I wanted, with little thought to what I should have been reading and certainly reviewing. That is why I iindulged in some “family saga” novels. Rosie Goodwin is an example of this and I had to indulge in all of Dilly’s story from beginning to end. Dilly’s Sacrifice, Dilly’s Lass and Dilly’s Hope complete the trilogy.

I seem to return to a lot of places in 2016. Early in the year there was Helen Pollard – The Little French Guesthouse, followed by its return. I spent the whole year on and off with Holly Hepburn – At The Star and Sixpence. Tilly Tennant introduced me to The Little Village Bakery and I got to spend Christmas with them too. Then Phillipa Ashley and I were at Summer at the Cornish Cafe and I spent Christmas there as well.

I caught up with Cathy Bramley at the Plumberry School of Comfort Food and was delighted to share Christmas Dinner with them too in Comfort and Joy. I shared Christmas with Holly Martin under a Cranberry Sky and a Starlit Sky. I was back in Tindledale for The Secret of Orchard Cottage and again with them at Christmas with Not Just for Christmas.

Wynbridge was the place that Heidi Swain brought to life in Summer at Skylark Farm and again I went back at Christmas with Mince Pies and Mistletoe at the Christmas Market. I did the same with Bella Osborne and Willow Cottage as well.

What is wonderfully comforting about these books is it feels like you are going back to old friends when you pick up the books. Getting a glimpse into their lives.

Of course there are other authors and characters I have revisited. I love Mirabelle Bevan and caught up with these tales and waiting patiently for the next. I am behind with the delightful Flavia de Luce so I have more of them to catch up on which is great. I am also all up to date with The Little Village School series by Gervase Phinn.

I spent a lot of time I think this year, devouring book after book because I wanted to know what happened next and I did not want to leave the characters behind.

Of course there were new books to consider, ones that were different from what I normally read, there was looking back a lot less thrillers in 2016. The ones worthy of a mention are Lissa Evans – Crooked Heart, Cath Staincliffe – The Silence Between Breaths, Kate Williams – The Storms of War, Anthony Horowitz – The Magpie Murders and Tracy Rees – Florence Grace.

I do not have a favourite book of the year, I enjoyed them all for different reasons  as they provided joy, sadness and tears all at the right time. I think that is the best way to enjoy reading and I aim to continue doing exactly that in 2017.




Meet Me at Beachcomber Bay – Jill Mansell

Imagine sitting next to a man on a plane and as well as making a complete fool of yourself you also have some sort of connection by the end of the flight.

This is what has happened to Clemency. But fate is not meant to be and she departs the airport with perhaps a sadness in her heart but also with many questions about the man she has met.

Back in her home town, St Carys in Cornwall, Clemency gets on with her life, as an estate agent. Not giving that encounter on the plan another thought, or so she thought.

But when Belle, her stepsister introduces her to her new boyfriend when she arrives back in St Carys to set down some roots, it appears that the encounter on the plane has resurfaced.

Now tasked with finding the perfect home, Clemency has to work through all her feelings and remain true to her sister. Trouble is Belle is not being true to herself and it seems that she is having doubts about something too.

Of course when you have the background of an estate agency in a lovely Cornish setting you are going to encounter some other characters and therefore, the story is made richer when we get to meet Ronan, Marina and Kate. Everything is so cleverly woven together that you don’t see the plot twists coming, all it does is keep you reading and reading.

This is a strong novel from Jill Mansell. It is not a bit of fluffy reading, far from it. It is a story that has sibling rivalry, the difficulties that we set ourselves personally when it comes to accepting our own true love as well as the complications that love can bring at any age and the consequences these actions can have years later.

I loved it.

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for allowing me the opportunity to read this book.

Meet me at Beachcomber Bay is out now.




Once Upon a Winter – Tilly Tennant

One Upon a Winter is the whole novel, made up of previously released parts and also with a bonus bit to the story.

Hannah is hosting Christmas this year with her sister Gina and teenage niece Jess. Preparations are underway for the big day and it looks that there will be enough food to last for days if not weeks. Good job really as the snow is falling and it looks like it is going to last.

Then there this a knock at the door.

A man is there asking for help. He doesn’t know how he got to them or in fact who he is.

But his arrival turns Hannah, Gina and Jess lives upside down. That is after they decide he is in fact not a murderer!

Hannah is rather bohemian perhaps in her outlook and she has started to accept the fact that she might be on her own in the future. Gina, bossy and practical is now having to start again as her husband decided to trade her in for his secretary. Jess is trying to find her feet and accept all the changes that are suddenly happening in her life. Changes that perhaps she could not see coming.

It is all down to the man who knocked on the door on Christmas Day.

He started something.

He somehow permeates their lives because friendships and relationships are created from other characters introduced into the story and they all seem to touch Hannah and Gina’s lives. Of course we get to learn about the Christmas Davy visitor and it appears that everything is not as it seems.

For me the book did take a long time to really get going, there were many strands to the story that kept having to be weaved in that it lost the heart of the book at times. I did not enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed the other books I have read by this author, which were never serial releases (The Little Village Bakery and Christmas at The Little Village Bakery). Her strength for me is in the whole novel approach.

A pleasant enough read to pass the time.

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for allowing me the opportunity to read this novel. 



Jottings · Witterings

One Thousand Posts

One thousand posts! I never even thought I would have kept this blog going so long. Thank you to everyone that has read the one thousand posts as well!

New Year. Means new challenges, new books, new projects and new resolutions.



Trisha Ashley has a new novel coming up in 2017 and this blog will be part of the tour. As you may or may not know, I am a big fan of her stories and really looking forward to reading this. 

Hundred is the number of books I am aiming for in 2017.

One hundred and one books read in 2016. Apparently that is 31,198 pages. There will a Books of 2016 post coming up soon.

Unfinished craft projects. I have a number and I need to get some finished, if only to find some space back in my house.

Swimming continues. I have gone from twice a week to three times, as I really was not enjoying one of the other exercise classes.

A few changes to the blog are in order. I have got rid of a few of the pages at the top, in terms of keeping lists of authors and their works. It was becoming too time consuming and I was never going to keep on top of it all and there had to be a line drawn so this was one of them.

Nine Hundred and Ninety Posts have gone before!

Deborah Burrows new book Ambulance Girls  is published on 23 February and I am part of this blog tour as well.