Category Archives: Writing Thoughts

My new challenge: one idea, two completely different books

Ideas for books come to me at the most random moments, but very frequently when I’m on the road to somewhere, or waiting for a bus or a train. It happens so often that I’ve come to the conclusion that this must have something to do with my mind playing idle association games whilst not otherwise occupied.

Last week Friday, I was pondering life and bus timetables when a book title assaulted me. It came out of nowhere and wouldn’t go away. If I hadn’t been en route to somewhere, I’d have had to have sat down and get working straightaway. My frustration at not being able to do so was intense, but misplaced. Because as it turns out, the sheer practical inability of getting to work straightaway meant that my brain was simmering away at this idea in the background all morning and all day. Very soon, it turned the title into the active ingredient, the “nugget” of a story, the very core idea. And soon after that, it came up with not one but two complete executions of this one idea–but you couldn’t imagine more different outcomes.

I accepted the challenge and have now begun work on both projects. It’s a lovely twenty-six degrees today, and I’m out in the garden, soaking up the rays whilst setting down the rudimentary outlines for each book. One will be a crime thriller, and one will be a haunting psychological thriller. Both will pay tribute to my writing niche, fear not. There will be glamour and rock and even some romance.

One idea, two different books. Challenge accepted!

One idea, two different books. Challenge accepted!

Anyhoo, my unprecedented challenge is hammering out these two stories at the same time. That way, I get the satisfaction of harnessing both ideas and ensuring that they remain miles apart from each other.

Will I write the books concurrently? And if not, which one will see the light of day first? Now these are questions for another day. I’ll keep you posted, watch this space!


Guilty! I broke the author’s first commandment.

Yes, I certainly did. The author’s first commandment being, “Always carry a notebook and a pen.”

So I found myself on a bus to Lincoln last week Wednesday. It was early, just after school drop-off, and the sun was shining brightly on the green and lush Lincolnshire countryside as the bus trundled its way towards the city centre. Already the spires of the Cathedral were in full view, and the scenery was growing more suburban by the minute.

I was sitting on the top deck, idly minding my own business. Actually, I wasn’t minding my own business at all. I don’t recall thinking about anything in particular. I had no worries on my mind, no urgent tasks, no remnants of a frazzled morning to analyse. I was simply… sitting there. When, quite suddenly and completely out of the blue, an idea struck. What if a famous rock star, for a whole host of complicated reasons, had to up-end his life and start over, deep, deep under cover? Dah-dah-daaaang!

My nose twitched. (My nose always twitches when I’m onto something, idea-wise). Oh-uh. While the bus rambled on, its passengers oblivious of the creative avalanche in my brain, ideas for the story clicked into place like fragments of a jigsaw. Places, motivations, crisis points, laugh-out-loud potential… everything swirled round and settled into place faster than I could say (not out loud, of course), “hang on, I haven’t got a pen.”

Because yes, my friends, I had committed the unthinkable crime. I had left the house with a rucksack devoid of writerly implements. No notebook, no notepad, not even a pen with which to write on my bus ticket (tiny though it was, it would have been a scrap of hope!). I had nothing. Nada. Nixiplonks, as my other half would say. There was a reason for this of course. The previous Monday, I had got utterly drenched in a phenomenal rain storm, and I had to empty out my rucksack completely, disposing of notepads, pens, and various other things I habitually carry.

The normal contents of my rucksack... including a notepad and several pens!

The normal contents of my rucksack… including a notepad and several pens!

My fingers itched, and I was feeling frantic.

The problem wasn’t so much that I was fearful of losing the idea. The idea was firmly embedded in my head in broad strokes. No, the problem was that whole scenes were coming to me thick and fast, as though I’d already written the book and was germinating edits. This is what usually happens when I conceive a novel, except it usually happens in the middle of the night when I’m at home with access to all manner of writing accoutrements, most notably my laptop.

Worse! Next thing I knew, the bus pulled into my stop, and I had to hurl myself down the stairs so that I wouldn’t be carried further than I wanted.

Breathless and discombobulated, I paused under the big plane tree on Broadgate (if indeed it is a plane tree. Who am I to know these things? Details, details!) and dug out my mobile phone. Needs must!

See? Ancient.

See? Ancient.

That probably sounds like an inspired course of action to you, but you have to understand that my mobile phone is old. As in, seriously old. It’s the exact opposite of a smartphone. It makes calls and sends and receives texts, and that’s it. It does not access the Internet, Facebook, Twitter, email or my blog. It does not have voice-recognition or a pseudo-work-environment. But it does have a ‘to do’ list function.

For the next twenty minutes, I stumbled all over Lincoln, crossing various roads and only barely just dodging cars, bikers, and delivery trucks, while clumsily tapping the bare bones of my next novel into this ancient old phone one painstaking letter at a time. I would bet you that I was the epitome of the irresponsible phone user, and that many an irate driver shook their fist at me. But hey, I didn’t have a choice. I was a woman possessed.

I broke the author’s first commandment, and I had a sore thumb for days, but I rescued the plot, the plan, the grand idea. And that, people, means that you can look forward to yet another book in my catalogue. After Fallen for Rock (out 30 June) and my Christmas novella (Fairy Tale in New York, out in October or November) and my current work-in-progress (bringing you a glamorous rock star couple and their rather disastrous honeymoon with epic consequences, due for release in the spring of 2015), I have the next story in the hopper. And so the fun goes on!

But I counsel thee this. Never, ever, ever leave your house without a notepad and a pen. I shall learn my lesson, too!

Your turn! Have you ever been assailed by an idea, a concept, a thought, that you had to eternalise without any means of doing so? What did you do?

Confessions of a Blogaholic

My name is Nicky Wells, and I’m a blogaholic.

There, I said it. I’m a blogaholic, and I’ve been in rehab. That’s why it’s been so quiet around here.

You see, what happened is this. Once upon a time, I was a enthusiastic debut author who started blogging to support her platform. I came at this technology completely innocent. I had no idea that there was a huge community of fabulous bloggers out there dedicated to their cause and content. It was a complete revelation. The possibilities were endless! The universe was mine for the taking!

So I grabbed at it with both hands, and then some. I spent hours designing my blog, forging links, building relationships, garnering a following. I developed a schedule that involved music and guests and posts about writing. My blog was thriving, and so was I. It was a heady, breathless, exciting time, and I cherished every moment of it.

Some of my highlight moments...

Some of my highlight moments…

But then, gradually, imperceptibly, things began to change. I no longer owned my blog, but rather my blog owned me. My blog turned into the Mephistopheles to my Faust. I became obsessed. I dreamed about my blog—when I wasn’t in the throes of blog-induced insomnia, that is. I worried about content. I fretted about comments. The blog became the focal point of my life. I would be out and about with the family, snapping photos… for the blog. I would be writing down little anecdotes… for the blog. I became consumed with awards, challenges, memes, blog hops, more awards, more hops…. Moreover, I had connected with so many amazing blogs and bloggers that I was running myself ragged, literally, trying to follow, support, comment, share the love, and keep my head above water.

And therein lay the problem. I didn’t keep my head above water. I couldn’t! Not even remotely. You know I can’t swim, right? Joking apart, I felt like I was drowning. Eventually, one day, everything came crashing down on me and I asked myself—what the heck am I doing, and why? Me, the most energetic, enthusiastic, zesty person I know (ha!), quite suddenly lost her oomph. What a shock!

Now I don’t like to whinge. Life’s simply too short. So just before Christmas last year, I took stock, and I put myself into blogging rehab. In other words, I decided to cut myself some slack, give myself a break, and put blogging on hold for a while. In corporate terms, I undertook some strategic regrouping.

Well, now. I’m not quite there yet with the strategic regrouping. I’m not quite cured. I can feel the obsession pulling at me once again even as I type. However, so many of you have been in touch with emails and via social media to ask when my blog will return to normal that I thought I’d emit a little sign of life. I am here, my friends, and I thank you for your patience and your support. You rock! And it’s for you that I’m blogging.

Therefore — to mix a few metaphors — I’m going to put the cart behind the horse once again, and then get back on the horse. Romance That Rocks Your World! is back in action but, for the time being, according to no fixed schedule. You’ll hear from me whenever possible, but I’m not committing to anything. I’m going write with pride and joy, and I’m going to have fun when I’m here—which means you’ll have fun along the way… just not according to a strict pattern. But hey, that’s the spice of life, right?

Most importantly, as I’m less blog-o-centred, I’m writing books faster than ever. Fallen For Rock, my fourth full-length novel, is finished and currently awaiting feedback from betareaders. Publication date is 1 July. My next Christmas novella is well under way, and once I’ve finished writing that—probably in about May time—I’ll start writing my fifth novel, which is completely planned in outline format. So the time that I don’t spend fretting about blogging I spend writing books which, ultimately, is what I’m all about. Does that make sense?

I hope it does.

So I remain with renewed vim and vigour and a cautious dose of bloptimism… Yours in rock and books,

Nicky Wells (blogaholic)

How about you? Have you ever fallen out of love with blogging? How did you cope, and what did you do to reignite the passion? I’d love to hear from you!

Revealing My ‘True Colours’ ~ A New Likeness for the Ultimate Rock Chick Author

This is what happens when a professional image team gets on your case….

An Image Snafu?

Says my bio: Nicky Wells is your ultimate rock chick author.
Says Cameron, my publicist, “Do you reckon maybe you should, you know, look the part a bit more?”
Says me, “What do you mean, look the part? You know how much I love and breathe rock!”
Says Cameron, “I do. But people who don’t know you, won’t.”

Hm. Point taken, I suppose. What to do about that, beyond Music Monday and my eternal ramblings about all things rock? Oh, I know. A new author photo.  the ultimate rock chick likeness! YES! It was about time I had some rock-star fun again.

Hey, Hey, I want to be a Rock Star!

So. Arrange another photo shoot down Bristol-way with ace photographer team, Deborah and Simon Smith, pack the family in the car, and off we go. Last Saturday, we set up the studio, got organised, and got snapping. Between them, Deborah and Simon took well over 500 photos of me in all sorts of arrangements, ranging from the sublime to the outright…hilarious. Loud music and wind machines featured heavily at one point, as did many a laugh and exasperated snort, not to mention endless cups of tea (wine and beer came later) and a truck load of chocolate. The result? See for yourself.

We even had themed mugs. #RockStarService

We even had themed mugs. #RockStarService

Showing Off My ‘True Colours’:
Your Ultimate Rock Chick Author


Photo 1
Is that Jon I spot in the distance?
Photograph by Deborah and Simon Smith


Photo 2
Turn up that music….
Photograph by Deborah and Simon Smith


Photo 3
Let’s try a star pose..
Photograph by Deborah and Simon Smith


Photo 4
Collar’s up! LOL!
Photograph by Deborah and Simon Smith

Portrait 6

Photo 5
Hello. I’m your Ultimate Rock Chick Author. 🙂
Photograph by Deborah and Simon Smith

Wistful Rock Chick Author

Photo 6
Wistful Rock Chick Author
Photograph by Deborah and Simon Smith

Loving that Guitar!

Photo 7
Loving that Guitar!
Photograph by Deborah and Simon Smith

Hey Hey.... I really am a rock star, LOL!

Photo 8
Hey Hey…. It’s fun to be a rock star, LOL!
Photograph by Deborah and Simon Smith

Thinking about my next novel in black and white...

Photo 9
Thinking about my next novel…
Photograph by Deborah and Simon Smith


Photo 10
Singing my life with my song…
Photograph by Deborah and Simon Smith

Guitar Shot 1

Photo 11
Strike another pose… Me and My Guitar!
Photograph by Deborah and Simon Smith

And phew… that was it! After 500-and-something photos, we declared it a wrap.



Meet the Crew!

All photos courtesy of Deborah and Simon Smith.
Nail art by Isobel. Hair and make-up consultancy by Isobel.
A huge, big, enormous
THANK YOU goes to ‘The Smiths’!!
I loved that you had as much fun as I did. You totally rocked,
and you know how much this means!


Star Crew ~ YOU ROCK! 🙂

Now then…Have your say!

So. Which ones do YOU like best? I need a portrait and a body shot, with or without guitar and chair. I have two favourites, but having picked this lot out of 500 pictures, I might have lost perspective along the way, no pun intended. Help me out here…

Make the editor’s choice today ~ which photos are going to be The Ones?

This Author’s Evolution…

Just for fun, take a look at the history of my author photograph. It kind of captures the development of my author career quite beautifully.

From left to right…
Holiday Snap >> First Purposeful Author Photo >> First Proper Shoot: Nicky Writes Romance (That Rocks Your World) >> Your Ultimate Rock Chick Author.


It’s quite poignant, this, as it also captures the re-emergence of ‘me’ from within the Mummy-me. If you have kids, you’ll know what I mean.


(And don’t forget to vote!)

Write what you know, right? Well, I recorded a single once!

It’s no secret I love my rock music. But did you know I had a go at making a record…well, recording a single, once?

Following in Queen’s Footsteps

In May 2010, a fabulous group of choir friends decided to make a very unique wedding gift for one of our tenors. A suitable rock song sprang to my mind, and I adapted the lyrics to suit the happy couple. Someone located the backing track for the song, and we were all systems go. Before anyone could chicken out, I booked us into The London Recording Studios (aka Brick Lane Studios ~ the very place were Queen recorded Bohemian Rhapsody!) for an entire Sunday, and off we went recording, kids, husband and all in my case.

We arrived at 10 a.m. to meet with the sound engineer and concoct an action plan. Owing to a rather wide geographic dispersion, we hadn’t had time to come together for an advance practice. We were simply going to take our respective lines and… wing it.

A Steep Learning Curve…

The first attempt wasn’t great. We gathered round and had a go at belting the song out. The sound man looked somewhat dismayed but put on a brave face. Undaunted, we took a half hour to regroup and practice. Our second attempt was more promising, and the sound man came into his own. He suggested an iterative approach to laying down the track and became our quasi-director/producer.

First of all, we recorded the chorus together, several times. Then we recorded the chorus again, adding a little spontaneous harmony here or there.

“You’re On. On Your Own.”

The next step was individual recording of individual lines. Uh-huh, you read that right. The studio emptied as everyone quickly filed out, leaving me holding the music and evidently having the first go. Well, the whole thing was my idea…Gulp.

What, really? You're all leaving me here to go first?

What, really? You’re all leaving me here to go first?

Recording individual lines was a weird and wonderful experience. The sound man played me the song ‘so far’ through the head phones, and I had to erupt into song at the right moments. As I was first, there were a lot of instrumentals and no vocals other than the chorus. I had three or four goes at my lines (thoroughly enjoying myself!), and then we swapped to the next person.

*sings* his tickets now he's on his way-ay...

*sings* …got his tickets now he’s on his way-ay…

Mixing It Up Before Mixing It Down!

Back in the mixing room, the sound man had the studio sound on speakers, so as the next person recorded her lines, I could hear her, and my lines, and the chorus. And so it went on, bit by bit.

Slides and faders, buttons and dials... and the all-important computer. He seemed to be doing a million things at once ~ it was truly fascinating.

Slides and faders, buttons and dials… and the all-important computer. He seemed to be doing a million things at once ~ it was truly fascinating.

When we were done individually, we trooped in together for more backing tracks and tweaks. At this point, my then five-year-old decided he’d quite like a go, so we let him! He had his own little starring moment in the last chorus.

Oh yeah, he's having a go-ooooo!

Oh yeah, he’s having a go! (See that Paddington bear clutched under his arm? That’s for courage!)

He got the thumbs up from the sound man... which has me insanely proud. LOL!

He got the thumbs-up from the sound man… which made me insanely proud. LOL!

After six hours of recording, including an impromptu lunch from the local pizza delivery place (boy, did we feel like the real deal, hanging in the studio with pizza and drinks!), the sound man dismissed us for a couple of hours while he got on with mixing, mastering, and mix-down. When we returned to the studio, the song was as finished as it was going to get after one day’s work with no previous practice. We were mighty pleased!

So… I Wrote What I Knew

The whole experience was exhilarating, exciting and totally mind-blowing. I’d love to play you the result but owing to licensing restrictions on the backing track, I can’t. Maybe one day, I’ll get to make a real single and then you’ll hear all about it, I promise.

So when Sophie suddenly gets to be in the studio with Dan… when she records, and starts mixing… well, let’s just, I’d had a tiny little taste of the action myself, and it inspired me no end. Write what you know, they say…


All photos courtesy of Amanda McIlroy, with thanks. Photo copyright c/o Amanda McIlroy 2010.

Sometimes I Think Germish

You probably know that I’m a prolific writer and a vicious proofer. Of course, occasionally I do make mistakes. I have been known to commit the occasional grammatical faux-pas; sometimes the odd typo or three creeps in, and every now and then, I make genuine spelling mistakes. I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t! Further, I have to confess to having a very bad relationship with serial commas, but I do like my apostrophes used correctly.

All these mistakes get fixed and corrected, naturally. Either by myself, during my many rounds of proofing, or by an external proofer.

Yet I have a little secret that may not be immediately obvious to my readers. In fact, many people are terribly surprised when they find out, and I’ve even had a few people disbelieving me entirely (“you’re pulling my leg, right?”).

Here goes. I think, and therefore write, in a language that isn’t my native language. My native language is German, but I find myself utterly unable to string together a narrative in that language. Instead, I prefer English. I have lived and breathed and dreamed English ever since I moved to the UK twenty years ago. In fact, I have lived and breathed and dreamed in English from the moment I started learning the language.


Why, you want to know? I have no idea. I am as baffled as you are. There’s some strange wiring going on in my brain that is beyond bilingualism, because my preference for the use of English has come to the detriment of what is meant to be my infallible, incorruptible mother tongue. Somehow, for me, this is not so.

Moreover, this phenomenon goes deeper than just thinking, speaking or writing. I have been told by the few people who know me ‘fluently’ in both languages that my voice is deeper in English (or goes up three octaves in German, depending on your viewpoint), that my wit is sharper, my confidence stronger and my exuberance more buoyant. (Not my words, I assure you!) That is an awful lot to take in when you’re not even aware that that’s going on.

Suffice it to say that I do feel more comfortable in English, in every respect. I struggle to express emotion in German, which is proving a bit of a problem as I am making a valiant effort at raising my children bilingually. Yet in English, with its infinite nuances and wonderful registers, the metaphors flow and expression is easy. Weird, huh?

That said, when I was working on Sophie’s Turn, and more recently the sequel, Sophie’s Run, I had some very strange things happening to me. After all this time living and working in England, after all this time spent thinking and writing in English, suddenly the Germanisms started popping up in my brain.

This was particularly the case for Sophie’s Run as some parts of the book are set in several places in Germany. “Germish” is one of the official terms for this type of linguistic interference, only it usually refers to English words used (incorrectly or out of context) in German, rather than German expressions creeping into English. But still, you get the idea.

I found myself thinking up turns of phrases or expressions that are unknown to the English-speaking world. For example, I’d say something like, this is quite a plastic description. HUH? In German, a description that is ‘plastisch’ would denote a description so good that it’s 3D, life-like, authentic. In English, this mistranslation is meaningless. Evidently, these instances of Germish gibberish never make it onto the page; instead, I spend some significant time trying to find an appropriate English translation. Very occasionally, I have to give up and take a different English idiomatic approach.


A case in point is the actual title for Sophie’s Run, which drove me to distraction for months. There’s a German word, Aussetzer, that captures perfectly what I wanted to express, but there is no adequate English equivalent. Aussetzer means to undergo a temporary moment of madness where all reason deserts you and you do some weird and wonderful things. That’s a bit of a mouthful ~ you see the predicament? Hiatus doesn’t capture it, neither does folly, break, interlude, intermission, interruption. Mad five minutes isn’t exactly a catchy book title. The closest expression I could come up with was to flip out, which isn’t yet recognised by the Oxford English Dictionary. Therefore I couldn’t be sure that people would interpret this ‘street expression’ accurately and that’s way too risky for a book title. Plus, Sophie Flips Out doesn’t exactly conjure expectations of romantic comedy, rock star glamour and happy endings, now, does it? Therefore, Sophie simply runs. It lacks the German elegance, but it has its own cunning double or even triple meaning.

So there is something about the German language that lodges deeply in my brain and that pops up most unexpectedly. Very occasionally (say, once or twice), I have exercised artistic license and allowed myself to add the Germanisms to the manuscript when I felt that they worked, or that they added a touch of humour, or that the expression should quite simply exist in the English language. After all, that’s how language grows! So if you come across anything a little unusual, a little exotic, do get in touch… I invite you most heartily!

Do you have any experiences of weird interference with your brain? I’d love to hear I’m not alone…

A rolling writing schedule

It’s out with the old and in with the new in my office this week…

Goodbye, outline for Sophie's Encore...

Goodbye, outline for Sophie’s Encore…

...and hello, outline for book #4. Very nice to meet you!

…and hello, outline for book #4. Very nice to meet you!

Exciting stuff! For the first time in two years, I’m starting work on a completely new story. I’m creating new characters and I’m thoroughly enjoying making up profiles and back stories for Emily, Nate and Mike. (I think that’s what they’ll be called. I’m comfy with these names. Their personas are taking shape… but I’ll reserve judgement until I’m actually writing).

I thought I’d miss Sophie and Dan. And I do! But it’s fabulous to make new friends.

Obviously I’ve been talking about my upcoming fourth Work-in-Progress on Facebook and I realize that this must be really quite weird for people who aren’t me. I mean, Sophie’s RUN is only just out. Sophie’s ENCORE will be out in September, so there’s definitely another Nicky Wells book a-coming. And already this crazy author moves on, talks about her next WiP? How? Why? Slow down and… explain!

So I’ve been putting on my thinking cap and tried to visualize the internal, rolling work plan that I seem to be following. See, when one book goes to the publisher for editing, that’s the moment I use to plan the next book and, time permitting, to start writing. It’s a multi-stage, overlapping process that takes between 20 and 30 weeks from start to finish. And if your mind boggles at all of this, maybe a little picture will help. Here goes:

rolling workplan

It is only a rough guide (and a blurry one~I do apologize. By all means, click on the image to enlarge it!). A lot depends on how it’s all going; how many edits are needed, how much time is spent proofing and, of course, any other commitments I may have (like…school holidays!). That’s why there’s so much flexibility in the weeks ‘alloted’ for each stage. And evidently one vital activity ~ promotion ~ is missing apart from a reference to ‘blog tours’; that’s simply because promotion is ongoing. It happens every day.  But nonetheless, maybe this little map helps you get an idea of how I work.

Right now, I’m at the overlapping tasks of starting to think about my next blog tour for WiP #1 (Sophie’s Encore) while planning my fourth book (WiP #2).

I actually find that alternating between projects and getting some distance from each several times in the process really helps me evaluate my work. Plus it stops me going mad, LOL.

So. You don’t have to be mad to be an author, but it helps.
What do you reckon? 🙂

In the middle of the night….

You know I’m a chronic insomniac. I’ve blogged about this in various places over the years. You also know that I do get a lot of good ideas in the middle of the night… I’ve blogged about that too, over at Ian McGregger’s blog!

And yes, it’s happened again. So imagine the scene. It’s Saturday night. Well, actually, it’s Sunday morning, about 1:30 a.m. For some reason, I wake up with a jolt and I know that’s the end of that, as they say.

Nonetheless, and despite knowing better, I toss and turn restlessly in bed for an hour or two. I get hot and bored and more and more frustrated as a multitude of thoughts crash in on me, none of them writing-related. There are worries, and things to remember, and things to do, and upcoming birthdays, and things I forgot to do, all mingling in one bizarre and unproductive merry-go-round.


As you can see, at four a.m., I give up. I don my dressing gown and pad downstairs to seek solace from fellow insomniacs on Facebook and Twitter, as I have done many times before. However, there are only a few friends about and none of the usual insomniac clan! After a lovely but short half-hour of  chatting and catching up on blogs and social media, there’s nothing more to be done. Reluctantly, I switch the computer off again.

Alas. I am not ready for bed yet. I mean, it’s only 4:45 a.m.! Idly, I pick up a copy of the outline for my fourth book, which I have been playing with on and off for a few days. Another source of frustration, for while I know the story is there, I can’t quite get it to “zing.” I’m missing something. Or maybe I’m overambitious.

Anyway, I read through my note, circling things that I no longer like, highlighting things that inspire me. Then I go to bed.

KA-BOUM! Before I finally drop off, the story visits me in its entirety. It’s just suddenly there, the moment I have been waiting for, it zings, it sings, ooh and it’s totally rocking. It’s all I can do to scribble down my thoughts in my trusty notebook in the dark. Because, heck no, I ain’t getting up again, I just got warm and comfy, thank you very much, and I don’t want to wake OH. Plus I know I’m going to sleep, now!


I had to wait until Monday to write down a first short outline of this new venture in its entirety, but I took notes all through the weekend. And when I finally had ‘author-time’, everything just flowed. Obviously I haven’t started writing yet, that’ll have to wait until Sophie’s Encore is safely off my desk and off to the publishers in May.


But. I know I got it. It’s in the bag, it’s just a question of letting it out!

So once again… My best ideas haunt me in the middle of the night. Conceiving a book is a bit like having a baby; they come out good and ready when the time is right, no matter what time of day or night! Insomnia is my friend, really.

I know many of you are insomniacs too. Does this ring any bells?

PS ~ I am now going MIA for a couple of days as far as social media are concerned! Tonight is the night of the big FM gig (with VIP package!). The grandparents are babysitting and OH and I are taking a bit of time out. PLEASE feel free to comment, you know I’ll get back to you as soon as. XX Rock On!

This novel stinks!

She was walking along quite happily when the acrid, tangy smell invaded her nostrils. Burning, hot, and somewhat sweet, the distinct odour of fresh tarmac being laid was unmistakable. Instantly and without warning, she was catapulted back into another summer, onto another road, and she saw herself strolling through carefully manicured front-gardens, their cherry trees in bloom but the sweet scent of spring flowers obliterated by the byproduct of road resurfacing. Images of friends and places left behind flooded her brain and she gave a deep sigh of longing.

“What’s the matter, mummy?” The cheerful voice of her son roused her from her nostalgia and she woke as though from a dream…

Instant olfactory transportation

Wouldn’t it be awesome if novels could smell? There’s nothing more powerful for stimulating both emotion and memory than the sense of smell, and the above vignette is taken from my own recent experience. Strange as it may seem, the strong smell of tarmac brought on the sweetest of memories from a different time in my life. I have other smells that transport me to different places, most of them good.

Tarmac dispenser - - 1182613

By Bill Nicholls [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

For example, there’s a perfume that reminds me of a long-lost friend. Even today, if I get a whiff of this fragrance somewhere, I can hear my friend’s laughter and see his face in front of me. Likewise, my Mum’s perfume for special occasion takes me right back in time to being a little girl, when she and my father would go out at night and she would drop a little kiss on my head whilst I was (supposedly) fast asleep in bed.

Water-smoothed rocks and seaweed, Tintagel Haven - - 937220
By Jim Champion [CC-BY-SA-2.0 ( licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The sea has its own special smell that reminds me of childhood holidays. There’s nothing quite like that tang of algae and seaweed drying on the rocks when the tide is out… Hand in hand with that smell goes the memory of hot Frankfurter sausages in bread rolls served with chips and tomato ketchup. Oh, and sunscreen, always sunscreen.

Hot water smells. Have you noticed that? Turn on your shower on a nice hot setting on a really cold day, perhaps when the bathroom is still waiting to heat up in the morning, and you’ll notice that hot water has its own distinct signature smell. I kid you not.

And houses. Houses definitely smell, and the very act of opening the front door and inhaling that first whiff of home turns your house into your castle. I could go on and on an on…. See, smell is powerful stuff. It’s evocative. It puts you in touch with events and emotions that you’d long forgotten; and every day, it makes more memories for you to discover in the future. And yet… does it feature in books?

The forgotten sense?

Books are full of vivid descriptions, many of them of a sensual nature. As authors, we focus on what our characters feel (emotionally), see, hear, sometimes taste, and occasionally touch (feel). But what about smell?

I guess smell is a little harder to put on the page. As perception goes, it’s highly individual; what smells good to one person may not be so appealing to the next. (Although there are exceptions, of course. I say cake. And coffee!). Moreover, the memories bound with smell are highly individual. I mean, who would have thought that the smell of a new road surface would bring on such an avalanche of happy memories for me? This makes it hard for the writer to predict, harness and manage the effect of portrayed smell in the novel.

A great book in the making... but does it appeal to your sense of smell?

A great book in the making… but will it engage your sense of smell?

Last but not least, smell poses a bit of a technical problem. You can’t see it and you can’t touch it. It’s hard to describe in absolute terms other than in similes or analogies. It’s not exactly red, blue or green.  It’s not exactly tall, thin or round. Although I suppose it could be sweet, tangy, cloying, airy, sharp, acrid…. Yes, there are lots of adjectives, come to think about it.

Putting olfactory oomph into writing

Sophies_Turn.inddI went back through my own books and did a little search. Do I appeal to the olfactory sense in my work? Do my novels have some fragrant oomph? And to what purpose? Here are some of my favourite highlights:

Sophies_Run.inddCREATING MOOD

Describing an unpleasant reunion (from Sophie’s Turn)
“So anyway, he came back to bed, smelling of slug repellent and quite possibly dead slugs”—I gave an involuntary shudder—“and he tried to cuddle me.”

“Yeuch!” Rachel exclaimed.

Portraying attraction (from Sophie’s Turn)
But Dan laughed. “Easy now, there, tiger. You all right?” His arms were around me, and I could smell his aftershave.
Yum. His chest exuded warmth, and his breath smelt of sweet apple. I could have happily taken a bite.

Portraying attraction (from Sophie’s Run)
He put his arms around me and we held each other in a long embrace, breathing deeply. He smelled good, like that first time I had caught his scent in the hospital. I hoped I smelled nice, too, not of illness anymore, but of me.

“Penny for your thoughts,” Steve cut into my musings.

I giggled. “I was thinking that you smell nice, and that your chest is very toned,” I confessed.


Evoking newness (from Sophie’s Run)
The smell of fresh paint and new carpets greeted me as I unlocked the front door. Oh, lovely. It reeked of newness and a fresh start, and I knew that everything was all right.

Experiencing a new environment (from Sophie’s Turn)
I had never been in a stretch limo before, and I breathed in the heady scent of polished leather and wooden interiors—the smell of the rich.


Entering a coffee shop (from Sophie’s Run)
The door closed behind me, jauntily jingling the little bell attached to the top of the door jamb. I was instantly enveloped by the fragrant smell of strong, sweet tea and gulped greedily; I was gasping for a cuppa.


Signalling  change (from Sophie’s Run)
The house was quiet. It smelled of furniture polish,  fresh laundry, and Dan’s aftershave. Feeling like an unlawful intruder, I  ambled through the downstairs first but Dan was not there.

Signalling a discovery (from Sophie’s Run)
Immediately he noticed that something was wrong. The flat smelled wrong; it didn’t smell of Sophie, or her perfume, or her things.


So… wow. Yes, I’m impressed. I tried. I knew I was working on incorporating my character’s responses to certain smells, for I remember writing these scenes and the emotions the described smell provoked in me. Some of these examples may be more powerful than others, but I had no idea I had put so much smell in my novels.  I like it. I hope my readers like it, too. And I think I might well explore this stylistic means a little further going forward.

Your turn to stick your nose in! What’s your favourite smell?

Readers ~ do you notice ‘smell’ in the books you read? Does it ‘do’ something for you?

Authors ~ What do you make of the smelly novel? Does your work smell? Have you any hot tips for creating the fragrant page?

The REAL highlights of my VIRTUAL book launch

OIt’s just over a week since the launch of Sophie’s Run and I’ve had a little time to catch my breath. It has occurred to me that I enjoyed this second book launch a lot more than my first. Don’t misunderstand me, there was nothing wrong with the launch for Sophie’s Turn, a great time was had by all, the consensus was that it was a rocking party, but. There are a few things I did differently for Sophie’s Run, and they made a huge difference for me.

Making fireworks without seeing the sparkle?

Many authors these days celebrate their book launches online. We use Facebook and Twitter and Goodreads to host our parties, and we have a great time doing so. More importantly, this avenue has the potential to reach thousands of people all over the world.

However, for the author, the event can be a little surreal. There’s so much going on; the Tweets and Facebook comments come flying, you’re glued to the computer for the entire day, barely daring to leave your desk for a toilet break, let alone food. And that’s exhausting. It can feel like you’re creating massive fireworks that you can’t actually see yourself.

The very REAL highlights of my second book launch

So what did I do differently for Sophie’s Run?

I’ve been giving this some thought because the additional things I did weren’t the result of a deliberate strategy. Rather, they were the confluence of all the observation and learning and experience that came to me in the six months between the launches. And here are my three topline thoughts.

A Preview Party

Siren Launch PartySome time in October, I became involved with Siren FM, Lincoln’s first community radio station. Courtesy to the enthusiastic support of the host of the midweek drive show, Alex Lewczuk, I took part in several editions of the show as well as the ‘end of the world’ Mayathon in December. Somewhere along the way, the idea was born that we could celebrate the launch of Sophie’s Run live on air, on the eve of publication. We invited some special guests, we publicized the event ahead of time, and we had a go. It was a new format for the station as well as for me, and we had great fun. To me, that kick-started the launch day proceedings with real fireworks that I could see, feel and–thanks to the podcasts–can still hear today.

A Book Signing

Next, I had this idea of inviting readers to a very short ‘quick-fire’ book signing event at my local library on the actual morning of my launch day. I can tell you, when I had to leave my Facebook party, I frankly thought I was mad. I reassured myself that I would be back within the hour to resume my social media partying.

Launch Library SignIt turned out I was wrong on the timeframe and the madness factor. The event was a huge success, and here’s why. As I had set a half-hour time limit, most people turned up at 10 a.m. on the dot. We had coffee and tea and biscuits, and we chatted. Questions were being asked and before I knew it, there was an animated discussion about what it’s like to be a writer, how writing fits in with being a mum, and more. They asked for a reading; I hadn’t prepared one, but I gave one anyway. Most of my audience bought and walked away with a signed copy of Sophie’s Run. That felt really good. That was real. I had officially launched this book into the world. And ok, it took a little longer than half an hour, but it was worth it!

Chatting with readers all over the world

SWAGLast but not least, I took a slightly different approach to my Facebook party. I asked questions. I had some SWAG to give away, and I ran a few little spot-competitions. I got some fantastic discussion strings going, the most popular being my choice of Chinese takeaway for dinner. And when the fun was over, I got to sit down and write to the readers who won prizes. That, too, was real. In fact, that was absolutely amazingly fantastic.

Writing Readers

So ~ three real things, quick, short activities that made a tremendous difference to how real my virtual book launch felt. If I may be permitted a soppy moment, I’d like to say that I allowed myself to see my own fireworks, and I enjoyed them!

Was it the perfect book launch? Of course not. There are always things you can do different, things you learn, things you need to change.

How will I approach the book launch for Sophie’s Encore in September, you ask? Will I have another radio party? Frankly, I haven’t got a clue right now. I’m letting this come to me and I’ll see what feels right nearer the time. But I’ll be certain to include things that make the launch ‘real’ for me, and for my readers.

What do you think? Can you see this working for you? How do you make your fireworks sparkle for you?