Diving In…

After a glorious August, where the only downside of the freakishly hot weather was that it grew some of the biggest spiders I have ever seen in my life, I’m back at my desk and ready to dive into novel number four…

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…because my legs really are that that slim and smooth.

At the end of the summer term I sent my finished manuscript, Lucy’s Locket, off in various directions, and while I waited for feedback, I took the month of August off from writing to catch up on cuddles with my growing boys before they got too big for that sort of thing. (Although I can confirm five foot ten is still open to such frivolous behaviour.) We spent two weeks camping in a field in Dorset, and it was a time for family, lots of swimming in the sea, eating too much, getting to grips with the TBR pile and generally escaping the modern world. We had no electricity and no wifi and I oddly rather enjoying being temporarily out of the social media loop.

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Jenni reread her manuscript and realised she really was an undiscovered genius and master of comedy.

Interestingly though, after months of snatching every spare moment at the keyboard to complete novel number three, I missed the creative process. There truly is nothing quite like the tappity-tap of your fingers on the keyboard, the satisfaction of a well-written piece of dialogue or a plot twist that presents itself unexpectedly. I was still mulling ideas around, even as I snorkeled for hermit crabs and toasted marshmallows over an open campfire. So by the time September arrived and I gleefully waved my little and not-so-little darlings off to school, I couldn’t wait to start the research and planning for novel number four.

The outline for my new novel is very nearly a fully formed thing. This time my story lends itself to a dual timeline, and has so far involved some fascinating research into the Arts and Crafts architecture of the 1890s. The story centres on two identical houses built in that period and the lives of the people who lived in them then, and who live in them now. As always, there is a hint of magic thrown in for good measure and, because there are two love stories, I get to write about two orgasm-inducing heros, who at the time of writing this are Percy (an up and coming architect in 1890 who is given the opportunity to design a house for a young married couple) and Rory (a burnt out city trader who has shut himself off from the world).

I would tell you more but I’m afraid I would then have to end your life in a most unpleasant manner. As interesting as this might be for possible future plotlines (and I have been rereading some sterling Agatha Christies of late so am not short of clever ways to dispatch you) I am not a fan of housework and can’t be bothered with the whole bin bag and bleach routine.

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So it’s a deep breath and a graceful dive into the world I so love and cherish. I will be head down and feet kicking madly for the next few months. And in the meantime, should anyone snap up Lucy’s Locket you will, of course, be the first to know.

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News, Booze and the Need to Snooze.

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Hello lovely people. I’ve been heads down with the novel, trying to get it finished in good time for my New Writers’ Scheme deadline, and feel I might have neglected you all rather. And that simply won’t do. So I thought I’d pop by and update you on the fun stuff I’ve been doing since My Tricky Middle, and in between the hours of dedication at my keyboard.

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The tricky middle is now a distant memory. I’m pushing the 100,000 mark and some of the sentences even make sense. It’s a case of editing and filling in a few research gaps, and I can see a glowing candelabra at the end of the tunnel. But I can assure you, while all this tippety-tapping of keys has been going on, Jack has not been a dull boy…

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I’ve been to some sparkly and spangly events since my last blog, and wine might have played a teeny part in some of them. (If only the glasses had been that big and my waist really was that small.)

In March I attended the RoNAs. Wow – what an event. Iona Grey won The Goldsboro Books Romantic Novel of the Year with Letters to the Lost – which I have subsequently read and would highly recommend. Anita Burgh and Claire Lorrimer, both winners of the Outstanding Achievement Awards, gave inspirational speeches. And, because she did write the funniest line ever in a book, I was thrilled that Milly Johnson not only chatted with me, but gave me a big, blue sparkly hug as well.

I started to attend the Norwich Chapter of the RNA, already being a member of the Chelmsford Chapter, and made some new friends. One of whom, Heidi Swain, travelled down to London with me for the RNA Summer Party – where a quantity of alcohol was accidentally consumed…

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I decided to rock the big, red blob look with wibbly,wobbly high heels a size too big. I kept accidentally finding myself with a glass of wine in my hand and a charming chap from Simon and Schuster was most understanding when I pinged my chips over him. (Well they were threaded onto a cocktail stick, for goodness sake. How do you deal with those one handed?) Claire Harvey won the Joan Hessayon Award for The Gunner Girl – but there were some fabulous books shortlisted, including Heidi’s The Cherry Tree Cafe.

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Launch of Summer at Skylark Farm.

In June I was invited to attend the Launch of Heidi’s second book; Summer at Skylark Farm – another smashing read, and a fab party to boot.

I finally met the gorgeous Mary Anne Lewis in real life, having been chatting away for months on social media. She is another NWS member, and Heidi had dedicated the book to her, so it was an emotional day for all.

And then something rather sad happened; my beautiful feline writing buddy, Seymour, got attacked in our garden by another cat. He is our partially-sighted rescue cat, only four years old, but a most affectionate boy and excellent companion during the solitary hours I spend at the keyboard. A claw went across his mostly functioning eye and the damage was too bad to save the eye. Life really sucks sometimes, doesn’t it?

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Eye say, eye say, eye say, have you heard the one about the blind cat?

But cats are ever resourceful. With a miniscule amount of vision in the remaining eye, a naturally outgoing personality, and the curiosity that cats are renowned for – he’s doing absolutely fine. I’m not sure he’ll be much help spotting typos any more, but he’s great at discussing plot development and characterisation.

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To bring you up to date, this weekend I attended the RNA Conference in Lancaster. I was a first time conference attender and was blown away by how friendly everyone was. I did know shedloads of people from attending RNA events over the past three years, but I got to make a whole summerhouse of new friends – bonus!

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Lisa Hill, moi and Susannah Branson

There were many highlights of this event, some mentioned on my Facebook posts, but an agent asking to see my full manuscript has to be the frosting on my cupcake. So whatever comes of this, I do feel I am a little bit further down the bumpy old road to my dream.

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Because this is EXACTLY what I look like when I work…

There will now be an intensive couple of weeks where I try to knock the manuscript into shape and my boys will have to learn to fend for themselves. (This evening’s dinner was interesting; salmon, vegetables and, erm… NO potatoes. Sorry Mum, I knew I’d forgotten something. Ah well, it helps the waistline and he tried his best.)

So when I finally press send, and Lucy’s Locket lands in the laps of the NWS reader and a literary agent, I think I will sleep for about a fortnight.

Budge up, Seymour. That’s my spot…

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Search For a Star…

… but may need to work on my twinkle.

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Way back when the daffodils were in bloom… oh, hold on, I have freaky winter daffodils out at the moment. Way back when daffodils are supposed to bloom, my first novel Dead Gorgeous was shortlisted in the Choclit Search For a Star competition.

Six hopefuls were shortlisted on Valentine’s Day last year and the lovely Jan Brigden was announced as the winner in March 2015 with her debut As Weekends Go. To be shortlisted was a wonderful moment – making me believe perhaps I could master this writing malarkey after all.

As an optimistic, half-full kinda girl not winning wasn’t a big deal – being shortlisted was. You can’t over analyse these things – I just needed to work on my twinkle. I quickly wrapped up novel number two, decided it was a huge pile of pants that needed to go through the washing machine on a boil wash (but that’s a blog for another day) and embarked on novel number three.

Dead Gorgeous will always have a special place in my heart, and who knows? It may yet make it into print. Robert John Whitton was gorgeous and, interestingly, although he was over two hundred years old, he wasn’t dead.

So when is a ghost not a ghost?