Publication day – book 10!!

It’s UK publication day for my 10th book – TEN BOOKS! It feels like a very special milestone.

‘From Now On’ is the 3rd book under my ‘Amelia Henley’ penname and it’s a real exploration of love, in all of its forms. I’d wanted to call it ‘Love Actually’, but – shrugs – you know…

I’m very grateful for all the a lovely things fellow authors have said about this story, you can read these at the bottom of this post. If you’ve read and enjoyed it I’d be so delighted if you could pop a star rating on Amazon – it really does make such a difference to the visibility of a book.

Charlie (33) isn’t close with his siblings Duke (11) and Nina (15) and when their parents die in an accident he has a difficult choice to make. With his girlfriend, Sasha adamant she doesn’t want children and a planned move to New York where a new apartment and jobs await them, what’s he going to do?

I adore this music loving family (and Billie the dog) so much. Writing from all three of the siblings’ points of view took me through the whole spectrum of emotions. I cried, laughed, rooted for them as all three must make difficult decisions about their futures. Although there’s sorrow and tragedy the story is ultimately uplifting with a scene that made me punch the air with joy once I’d written it.

Charlie, Nina and Duke have been brought up listening to jazz and are all musicians themselves. I made a playlist of the tracks in the book which you can find on Spotify here.

I’ll be sharing soon what I’ve learned writing and publishing 10 books about the process and the industry (A LOT) although I’ve still much to learn.

In the meantime you can find ‘From Now On’ on Amazon, Waterstones, Audible, Apple or any book shop or library will be able to order it in if they don’t already stock it.

Unfortunately as I’ve been unwell lately I haven’t had time to arrange any sort of launch (yet) but !I’m off for cake now to celebrate. Did I mention, 10 books. TEN!

Louise x

Thanks to all the authors who have said lovely things about the Johnson family: –

This book has it all – joyous, heartbreaking, uplifting with a perfect ending – an utterly gorgeous escapist read!’ Faith Hogan, bestselling author ofThe Ladies’ Midnight Swimming Club

‘Beautiful, emotional and full of heart’ Alex Brown, bestselling author ofA Postcard from Italy

From Now On is a gorgeous, emotional story about love and second chances . . . Amelia’s writing has real heart, so you get completely swept along in the story of this unconventional family . . . Heart-breaking and uplifting all at the same time’ Clare Swatman, bestselling author ofBefore We Grow Old

‘Bittersweet, tender and uplifting. A wonderful exploration of love in all its forms and what family really means’ Nicola Gill,The Neighbours

‘Heartbreaking and uplifting. Love just pours from these pages’ Fay Keenan,New Beginnings at Roseford Hall

From Now On is a heartbreaking read with a sublime ending!’ Lisa Timoney,Her Daughter’s Secret

What happened when I called 999 #NHS

Image courtesy of Krzysztof Hepner

I remember watching the news during lockdown. Seeing the rows of ambulances stuck in hospital carparks, nowhere to put the patients inside. My heart went out to those people. I couldn’t imagine how they felt. To be taken to a hospital where you should feel safe, secure, and not being able to gain entry for hours.

I never dreamt that this was still going on. That over two years later I’d be the one stuck in an ambulance overnight with nowhere to go.

Firstly, I’m a notoriously private person but I feel it’s important to share my experience because, naively, I’d assumed this problem was a Covid one and didn’t happen anymore. Yes, I’d heard there are sometimes delays responding to emergency calls but I’d thought (no judgement please) this was because of staff shortages, lack of funds, all of the ambulances being out on calls. Not… this.

I was away for the weekend. Having a really nice time, until suddenly I wasn’t. Something was wrong. Very wrong. My husband called 999, it was the first time we’d experienced doing this. The operator was the calm we needed. Professional. Assured us that an ambulance would be with me as soon as it could.

We waited. And waited. And waited.

In hindsight, we should have made our own way to the hospital (remember, no judgement). But we were sure the ambulance would come any minute. Knew I needed medical care. We were miles from home and panicking.

After approximately 3 hours a first responder attended. We sat in our cramped holiday accommodation. He explained he lived minutes down the road but had only just got the call.  He worked voluntarily and shockingly had paid £2000 for his own kit so he could do so. He said there was a big backlog. He told us where the nearest A & E was, an hour away, and then called the control centre and said my husband could drive me there. They ran through my current symptoms and strongly advised against it. Wanted him to stay with me so he could save my life if needs be.

And so we waited. And waited. And waited.

Around 3 hours later the ambulance turned up. The paramedics gave me a quick check over and said they wanted to get me to hospital straight away. They were super calm and so friendly and I’m eternally grateful to them.

When we got to the hospital around midnight, the carpark was full of ambulances containing patients. I’m not sure how many, I heard the figure 28 mentioned by another paramedic outside. It was explained to me we would have to wait.

For hours.

I was cold, exhausted, scared. In pain. I couldn’t help thinking of the other occupants in the other ambulances. How did they feel? Their families? I was getting a string of frantic texts from my husband who had been told he wasn’t allowed to come to the hospital (Covid rules). I told him to try and get some sleep. It was going to be a long night. And it was, broken up at 2am by having to move ambulances in the frigid night air as my crew had finished their shift (which btw is often in excess of 12 hours).

I chatted with all 4 paramedics involved in my care. I had many questions about the situation. The paramedics explained that this was usual for their hospital. That they knew this was also standard in other areas. That it’s set to get worse with the onset of winter, a new strain of flu on the horizon. An expected increase in Covid.

Worse?

I apologised to them over and over. I couldn’t, still can’t, get my head around that they spend between 2-4 years training for the career they went into to save lives, help people, make a difference, and much of their shift is spent sitting in a car park. Unused. Undervalued. Although they were all positive people, morale was understandably low. I also felt horribly guilty that while the ambulances were stuck, there were people out there desperately needing them. Those, like me, who had called 999, reassured help was on the way. These lovely, experts receiving abuse when they do turn up on jobs sometimes because of the long wait which is completely out of their hands.

I think, that’s one of the worst things for me. Despite my medical history I’ve tried to remain optimistic, always believing that if my life was in danger I could call for help and help would come in time. I’ve now lost that sense of safety. The faith I had in our NHS. The future now more uncertain.

Terrifying.

The night passed slowly. The paramedics keeping my mind off of my situation. We talked about everything from going into space, to the challenges I am facing with the plot of a time travel book I’d begun. The magnitude of the multiverse book I want to write. Copies of my latest thriller were ordered from Amazon (every cloud!)

It must have been approaching 6am when I was moved into the hospital. Another couple of hours after that when I saw a doctor. And then came more waiting for tests, results. Being wheeled around the hospital, left alone in waiting areas, in corridors. Dizzy from an entirely sleepless night. Lack of food.

Other patients were polite to staff (who were wonderful and trying their best), I was pleased to see this and can imagine it isn’t always the case.  But faces were etched with pain, with despair. People sitting on the floor because all the chairs were full, head in hands, sometimes crying (and this was me 14 hours in…). Symptoms were discussed between doctor/patient/nurse in the waiting rooms, perhaps to save time and perhaps because there were no private areas. The lack of privacy, dignity not being addressed because everyone had the same end goal. Doctors to discharge patients, patients desperate to go home.

It was approximately 16 hours later that I was discharged. The doctor giving me paperwork to pass on to my consultant who I’m scheduled to see. Me, still despairing because although I’d been having urgent tests (appointments for which have still taken months and I’m still waiting for some) my follow up appointment to discuss results is next April.

So what’s the answer?

Genuinely I don’t know if our beloved NHS is fixable. Not without a huge injection of cash at the very least. It’s easy to sit at home and rage and ‘if I were the Prime Minster I’d get the money from…’ without understanding the ins and outs but… something, surely?

I haven’t seen any evidence this government cares enough to try.

So what do we do?

My eldest son has private healthcare through his employer and I’m very grateful he does. Private healthcare is something I’ve looked into but no one will cover my pre-existing medical conditions and I didn’t even get as far as a quote. It will be unobtainable for many because of finances and medical history.

My middle child already can’t makes ends meet with the steep increase in everything. He’s had such a rough deal already. Mountainous student debt accumulated during a practical degree in filmmaking. The university not being able to deliver anything they promised due to Covid/lockdowns. Graduating but without any practical experience, a portfolio, work experience placements. The university not refunding any of the fees although we asked and appealed, the government not putting any measures in place (and you can watch my chat with Kai about the challenges students face here).

If you’re UK based you already know of the current hardships. The ripples of fear. The fruitless longing for our MPs to spend some time living on benefits, caring for sick relatives, grappling with childcare, living on a low (normal) wage. To gain an understanding of the lives of ordinary people and then, perhaps to show some empathy, compassion. We need to add spending the entire night in the back of an ambulance to that list.

Perhaps then something might change. But, of course, this is unlikely to happen. So how can we instil a much needed change? Is there anything the public can do? I’m asking this as a genuine question.

I was a mindfulness teacher within mental health, before I was a fulltime author, I always try and look for the positives but I’ve struggled to think of a positive way to end this post, so I’ll finish up with Cyril.

After I’d been discharged I had an hours wait for my lift to arrive and I got chatting to a man in his 80s who told me he didn’t often get to talk to anyone. He’d lost his wife 5 years previously – his one true love – and it was an absolutely pleasure to listen to him talk about her.

Sitting on the bench, in the sun, bonding with a stranger. A lovely end to a traumatic couple of days.

 

 

 

 

 

The BIG mistake I’ve made writing my new thriller – Diary of a novelist – August 2022

Hello

During my last update in May I’d hoped to get back on track documenting the progress of my latest thriller month by month. Sadly, my health has deteriorated further and I feel so ill and exhausted most of the time I’m not making as much progress as I’d like. I did venture out to the Harper Collins Summer Party. I hadn’t been out for months and although it was tiring it was lovely to briefly catch up some author friends at the gorgeous Victoria & Albert Museum. Unfortunately it took so much energy I made the difficult decision not to go to Theakstons Crime festival at Harrogate this year but have loved seeing everyone’s photos online.

Anyway, I’ve been slowly editing my next thriller, publishing Spring 2023.

I realised when I was reading back the first draft that I made a mistake with this book, that I had thought was in pretty good shape. This story covers two timelines and 6 points of view (honestly not as confusing as it sounds). This meant, more than ever, I had to know my characters and my story inside out. This is where I went wrong. With so many characters reacting to circumstances and each other I needed to know exactly how they were acting both on and off the page and I hadn’t thought it through enough. Characters began behaving, well… out of character, because in-between their chapter points of view I wasn’t entirely clear on what they were doing or how they felt.

The timeline is always my nemesis, this time I needed a mammoth one to include what everyone was doing when they weren’t active in the story. It was worth the extra effort because the story now flows better than it did before. If you’re writing a novel, something isn’t quite right and you can’t put your finger on what I’d recommend you have a think about the ‘off the page’ action because this will impact everything the characters do when they renter the story.

This month I’ve also been writing my new monthly fiction series ‘Confessions’ for My Weekly magazine. Each part sees a client confess something to Stella, a hairdresser. I’ve adored creating Hawlington Cove where I’ve set the story, and the community who live there. I’m learning a lot about constructing short stories and a series and I’ll be talking about how I approach both of those things soon.

For now, wishing you a happy remainder of the summer.

Louise x

Monthly round up

Special offers – ‘All For You’ my latest psychological thrillers is currently 0.99 on kindle and £2.50 on paperback

‘The Family’ is also 99p right now.

Highs – The cover reveal for my forthcoming Amelia Henley book ‘From Now On’

What I’m reading – The New House – Tess Stimson

What I’m watching – Outlaws BBC iPlayer – Stephen Merchant is a genius

Subscribe to my newsletter today and get two FREE short stories

Cover reveal!! ‘From Now On’

I’m SO excited to reveal the cover for my new book ‘From Now On’ which publishes this October (15 weeks, not that I’m counting…)

I’ve adored writing the twists & turns of the Johnson Family in this love story/family drama. Charlie, Nina & Duke, the siblings who each tell their story have completely captured my heart, particularly 11-year-old Duke. I shall miss them enormously.

‘From Now On’ is available to pre-order now from Amazon, Waterstones, Apple, Google & your local indie bookshop will be able to order it. Here’s the blurb –

A heartbreaking tragedy. 

Charlie left his hometown behind years ago and hasn’t looked back since. These days, with a successful career and a beautiful soon-to-be fiancée, he couldn’t be happier. But when he receives some unexpected news, his life is forever changed.

A life-changing choice.

Suddenly things are falling apart, and now Charlie has to care for his family. But how is he supposed to look after a heartbroken little brother and a sullen teenager who wants nothing to do with him? He’s completely at a loss and knows he can’t do it alone – not without the help of his oldest friend, Pippa.

The chance to start afresh.


As Charlie steps back into his old life, he soon realises it’s not just his family who needs fixing, but his relationship with Pippa too. But returning home is a painful reminder of all that he lost and tried so hard to forget. And if Charlie’s to fight for what he wants, first he must face up to his own past and decide whether he is ready to let go…

From Amelia Henley, comes a brand-new emotional and uplifting novel about family, love and the hard choices we face to protect the ones we love the most.

There is something very special about this book. Although it’s my 3rd Amelia Henley novel it’s my 10th book overall. TEN! I’ll be revealing more soon, as well as planning my usual live launch party, with prizes which of course you’re invited to.

Louise x

ABBA Voyage opening night – my thoughts!

Abba were my first love. They shaped my childhood in so many ways. The 1976 Greatest Hits album was the first vinyl I owned. I played it so often, the volume so high, my sister would thump on the thin wall that divided our bedrooms. I still play it today, loud of course.

Their music made me feel things I was too young to understand. I always cried when Fernando came on, Super Trouper led to melancholy. Mama Mia and Waterloo made me infinitely happy.

One of my earliest memories was being in Stalham, at my grandparents chalet. My family were all in the bar while I sat outside on that balmy summer’s evening, trailing my fingers in the cool water of the small fountain in the garden. The first strains of Dancing Queen leaked out of the bar and I ran inside, skidding over on the wooden floor. Getting straight back up to dance until the song had finished and then sobbing because my knee hurt.

As I grew older Abba were my constant companion. Through break ups and heartbreak. Celebrations. A song for every mood.

When Abba announced the Voyage experience I booked tickets the second they were released.

I’ve needed something to look forward to, this year more than ever. Plagued by ill health I marked off the days to the concert on a calendar but when last weekend I found myself unexpectedly in hospital again it was doubtful whether I’d be up to going.

But thankfully I was.

And WHAT a night.

I knew the theory of what Abba wanted to do, put on a show using digital versions of themselves but… WOW.

I won’t give any spoilers but when they took to the stage I was blown away. They looked so incredibly real that by the end of the first song I’d forgotten that they weren’t.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a hologram before unless you count Rimmer from Red Dwarf and, you know…

I’m not actually sure I’ve seen a hologram now. I don’t know what the technology is but it’s probably unlike anything the majority of us have ever seen.

It was as though we were some weird kind of time vortex, stepping into the future to reach the past. The whole evening carried a sense of history being made.

The show consisted of Abba of course but also a phenomenal live band, animations, archive footage and an incredible light show. An auditorium of people dancing together, singing together. United.

I’d purposefully booked opening night tickets hoping that the band would put in an appearance and when they came out at the end to take a bow six year old me was jumping up and down with delight.

All in all it was such an emotional night.

Fernando still made my throat tight with tears but it was during ‘Thank You For The Music’ that I was so overcome with emotion I had a little cry. Realising how much music has always meant to me, how much Abba meant to me. Thinking back to 6 year old me, in my childhood bedroom, playing my first record on my first record player believing then that life was endless, limitless. Knowing now that it is neither.

Although Abba it seems will live forever.

And rightly so.

What I learned at CrimeFest – novel writing

This weekend I stepped out of my comfort zone and went to CrimeFest for the very first time. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, CrimeFest is a convention for readers and writers of crime fiction. There are over 100 participating authors and in excess of 40 panels, along with a gala award dinner, quizzes and, this year, a Eurovision pizza party.

I haven’t been before, partly because I have social anxiety, and partly because I envisaged the event being huge and, having mobility challenges, was worried about how I’d get around. However after going to, and loving Theakstons Old Peculiar Festival in Harrogate (and you can read my post on Harrogate & disability here) I decided to be brave when I was asked to speak on a panel with David Jackson, Helen Fitzgerald and Mason Cross, chaired by the wonderful Robin Morgan-Bentley but more on that in a moment.

Firstly, a note about the venue. CrimeFest was hosted this year by the Mercure Grand Hotel in Bristol. I’m aware the venue has changed from its previous location, and may again, but the takeaway is that it’s small. Not in a vast exhibition hall as I’d imagined but with panels taking place in one of three conference rooms, all close together, with a bar downstairs to sit and chat in. There’s plenty of parking in Bristol and rooms to stay in (we didn’t stay at the Mercure but were a very short walk away). It was super easy to get around with lifts when things were on the first floor and a ramp for where there were unavoidable stairs. Bristol is fabulous and really deserves a blog post of its own.

Back to the panel. Our subject for discussion was ‘Doubt and Suspicion – who can you trust’ (in my books, nobody). This was my first event since the pandemic hit and I’d forgotten, despite all my pre talk angst, how much I enjoy sharing my passion for writing, and, how much I learn listening to other writers. Always.

Writing is a solitary experience, more so these past couple of years and I’ve been feeling increasing tired. Isolated. I’ve found it difficult to concentrate on my manuscript lately. I haven’t been well this year and have put it down to that but listening to the other writers share their challenges has made me realise I’m not alone in feeling this way. Helen made me aware that many writers can’t write at home and without access to coffee shops have found it hard to focus. Although I hate to think of anyone having a hard time (except my characters) there’s comfort to be found knowing that other writers haven’t all been effortlessly producing books.

All writers work in different ways and it’s always reassuring to be reminded that there is no right and wrong way. Helen, Mason, David and Robin are mores structured and have more of a plan when they write. I never plot my thrillers because I can’t but that’s okay. We all end up with a finished product. One thing we all had in common though was that when we begin to write, initially everything focuses around character and, in the first draft, plot is almost secondary. A well developed character is at the heart of every good story.

Stepping away from the computer and switching off when I don’t feel the words flow is something I don’t do enough of and it was interesting to hear that the other writers consider this essential (which it is and something I definitely need to work on). From watching comfort TV and films (Selling Sunset & Sister Act) to exercise everyone seemed to have a ‘thing’.

The biggest lesson I learned however, is that even if you aren’t progressing your story it doesn’t mean that you aren’t productive. I’ve always found myself irritable at the end of days I haven’t penned any words. No matter how much work I’ve put in to my career in other ways, unless the word count on my WIP has risen I feel I haven’t achieved anything worthwhile. Listening to Mason, Helen, David and Robin discuss that research, marketing and even thinking is a valuable use of time has really been a game changer for me.

I’m 7 years into my writing career now, my tenth book is publishing this summer, I’ve sold over a million copies and been translated into 25 languages and I still have SUCH a lot to learn but there’s so much joy in honing a craft and I think, over the past few months, I’d forgotten that. I’ve come away from the festival with (books – hurrah!) renewed enthusiasm, reminded of how much I love what I do. It’s been wonderful to catch up with old friends and make some new ones. I didn’t realise how much I’d missed live events and I can’t wait for the next one.

It was wonderful to see copies of my books in the CrimeFest bookshop. The digital version of ‘The Stolen Sisters’ is currently in a 99p offer. Download from Amazon here.

Diary of a Novelist – It’s been car crash, literally.

I began this diary series back in September to record my progress writing a first draft of a new psychological thriller, to keep myself on track (you can read the first part here).

This is my first update since January, so it’s going well then…

Since I began writing in 2014 I’ve written virtually every day. Initially squeezing in time around a full-time job but even when I became a full-time writer I rarely had a day off. Fitting in a session before/after days out. Early mornings during holidays. Even over Christmas. And now, now I feel quite despairing because I have barely written since before Christmas.

I’ve had so many health challenges in 2022. On top of the problems I was already experiencing there has also been a car accident which left me with whiplash and a headache so debilitating I couldn’t look at a screen for weeks, and then a nasty case of Covid which I still haven’t fully recovered from. This all led to a really low mood, at times thinking my writing career was over, that I’d never be able to get back into the swing of things. Unable to focus on anything for any period of time.

Two weeks ago though however, I found myself in Paris, and you can read more about that here. I didn’t think I’d have the strength emotionally or physically to go but with a BIG birthday to celebrate and a research trip needed as next summer’s ‘Amelia Henley‘ book is partly set in Paris we set off telling ourselves that if all we did was sit outside a cafe and drink coffee it would still be time well spent. Thankfully we managed more than that.

I’ve returned, not with renewed vigour, but with a quiet determination to return to the job I love. I have two edits waiting for me. The copy edits for my forthcoming ‘Amelia Henley‘ book. And the first structural edit for my 2023 psychological thriller (and I’m not procrastinating and avoiding reading the editorial letter by writing this blog…)

Wish me luck!

p.s. – If you’re at Crimefest this weekend do come and say hello. I’m on a panel at 16.00 on Saturday the theme is ‘Suspicion and Doubt – who can you trust?’

Monthly round up: –

No new words written!

High – My trip to Paris!

Low – Feeling so ill

What I’m reading – ‘Before the coffee gets cold’ Toshikazu Kawaguchi

What I’m watching – Only Murders in the Building

Special offers – ‘The Stolen Sisters’ is currently 99p – Download from Amazon here. “Twenty years ago The Sinclair Sisters were taken. But what came after their return was far worse. Can a family ever recover, especially when not everyone is telling the truth…?” I adored writing this tense story about Carly, Leah & Marie Sinclair.

Join me, hopefully next month to find out how the edits went and if I’m back on track with writing. Subscribe to my newsletter here today and get two FREE short stories.

Paris revisited

The last time we visited Paris was Spring 2020 – the Coronavirus was gripping the world, lockdown was just around the corner. We experienced a Paris we’ll likely never see again and you can read about that trip here.

Two years on, due to celebrate a BIG birthday, my husband asked if I’d like to return to Paris. As well as loving the city, the book I’m currently writing, due for publication next summer, is partly set in Paris and he thought it would also make a good research trip. Thinking he was joking I laughed. Like many people my anxiety has escalated during these past couple of years. I had barely left the house, hadn’t seen many friends, rarely saw family and I couldn’t imagine even going to the shops without feeling panic. After I’d stopped laughing, I had a little cry, thinking about how small my world was. How I was scared to do anything, particularly after the restrictions ended.

How this year I’ve contended with health challenge after challenge and I’m still here. Still waiting for life to begin again.

And then I said yes.

It was an odd couple of weeks waiting for our trip to roll around. My husband knew me well enough to know that I’d likely change my mind a million times if we talked about it, so we didn’t mention it at all and then, the day arrived, and, masks on, we caught the train.

The train!

I was out in the world and rather than being overcome by fear I was excited. Grateful. My family, like many others, have been through so much since Coronovirus hit, experienced so much loss. As I watched the countryside flash past the window I felt something I haven’t felt for such a long time. Hope for the future.

We stayed at the Hotel Le Walt. Our room had a view of the Eiffel tower and it was a joy to drift off to sleep watching the sparkles and then wake to the sight of this wonderful landmark. The staff were so friendly and helpful, the hotel very clean. We loved the location. There are plenty of places to eat and drink nearby, and a metro stop directly outside the hotel. Each evening we walked back through the Champ De Mars, a large greenspace by the Eiffel tower. There was such a lovely atmosphere here with families picnicking, people drinking wine, waiting for the tower to illuminate.

Our days were busy but our highlights were: –

A photo shoot! This was so out of our comfort zone but, back to the BIG birthday, I really wanted to mark the occasion. Paulo our photographer was wonderful and we were quickly put at ease. The photos are wonderful, we’re still going through them (I think we got around 500!) and it’s a lovely reminder of a perfect trip.

The Musee Rodin was very special. It was quiet. The gardens are small but lovely to wander around and my husband, not a fan before we went, came away with a real appreciation of sculpture. It was lovely to see ‘The Kiss’ and ‘The Thinker’. The museum itself is two story. There is a lift to the second floor. The food in the cafe was fresh and flavoursome. We loved eating in the sunshine.

We also adored the Musee de L’Orangerie. Monet offered 8 enormous water lily paintings to the French government in 1918. In exchange, the government agreed to showcase them in a custom built monument. The water lilies are set in curved panels in two adjoining oval shaped rooms and they are truly breathtaking. Even my husband was lost for words (that never happens). Again, it was quieter here. Afterwards we had an ice cream in the Tuileries Garden. It was a joy to see so many families enjoying the sun.

We took an evening boat cruise on the Seine. We had hoped the city would be beginning to light (it was billed as an illuminations trip) but it wasn’t, but we enjoyed it nevertheless, and the wine.

I’m going to mention the Louvre here, not because it was a highlight, because it was the one thing neither of us enjoyed. We’ve been to Paris several times we’re always asked if we’ve been to the Louvre and seen the Mona Lisa so this time we thought we’d ‘nip’ in. We all like different things so if this is one of your favourite places (as it is my sister’s) then I’m glad you enjoyed it, and if you want to go please don’t let me put you off. This is solely my opinion. But the queues were ridiculous, even with pre booked tickets, it was SO hot inside the glass pyramid. My husband and I were wearing masks but we only saw a couple of other people wearing them and it was very crowded. Rather than the usual tourist, gift shop as you leave experience, there seemed to be a gift shopping centre. What?! It took us almost as long to get out as it did to get in. I’d never go again. In the future it’s my beloved Musee D’ Orsay all the way.

Saint Chappelle is beautiful. It was was intended to house precious Christian relics, including Christ’s crown of thorns, acquired by Saint Louis. The 15 stain glassed windows are 15 metres high and they’re stunning. If you have mobility issues ask the staff and they will take you upstairs via an elevator based in the next building.

The entrance ticket included entry to the conciergerie next door a royal palace that became Marie-Antoinette’s prison. There was virtually nobody here and worth a quick visit.

We returned to the gorgeous Place des Voges as last time we visited Victor Hugo’s house was closed and, being a writer, I’m obsessed with other writers. This author of ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ and ‘Les Miserables’ has led an interesting life and the cake in the cafe is worth the visit alone. If you’re not interested in the house the Place des Voges is still worth a visit. It’s the oldest planned square in Paris and is so pretty. It’s lined with contemporary art galleries which are fun to browse and, of course, cafes.

Les Invalides was a five minute walk from our hotel. A military museum as well as a hospital and home for war veterans. The Dome des Invalides is the tallest church building in Paris (107 metres) and houses the tomb of Napoleon. We loved the dome, and the photography exhibition. We didn’t have time to look around the museum although we did manage to squeeze in some cake in the cafe (there’s a theme here).

I’m going to finish up with the Alexander III bridge because it is so other wordly. The writer in me romanticises it, imagining horses crossing with carriages containing women in beautiful ball gowns by lamplight. Anyway, if you’re close by it’s worth seeing and photos here will have the tower in the background.

My tips are not to plan too much. There’s something magical around every corner in Paris but if there is stuff you want to see do prebook skip the line tickets.

Comfortable shoes are a must. Even using the metro or cabs you’ll walk further than you think (and don’t worry about what to wear. Anything goes).

Paris is possible with mobility problems but perhaps takes a little more careful planning. I did put a note on my previous blog about this.

Regarding the Coronoavirus, there weren’t many people wearing masks and nobody social distancing. However, we wore masks all the time indoors, and often on busy streets too. When we took cabs the drivers were wearing masks, the windows were also down (we took a couple of ubers too and didn’t find this to be the case but of course it’s up to the individual driver). We ate outside most of the time, used hand sanitiser constantly. We’ve been home 10 days now and thankfully both tested negative.

I’d love to hear of your favourite places in Paris, I’m already planning our next trip.

Does your novel need a prologue? Includes the prologue for ‘All For You’.

In 2014 I began writing my debut, ‘The Sister‘, for fun. It was meant to be a short story. I hadn’t written any fiction as an adult and I hadn’t any qualifications other than a clutch of GCSE’s. I never believed I could write a book. I had always thought that to be a published novelist you needed a wealth of experience and a degree in creative writing.

When it got to the point that my ‘short story’ had reached 90k words I began to tentatively hope I could edit it to a high enough standard where I’d dare to submit it. Out of my depth, I was so grateful when a writer I met at an event offered to read the opening 3 chapters for me. I didn’t check where she was published, or how she was published. The fact she was in print led me to believe she knew absolutely everything.

Her overriding feedback was that my prologue was a huge mistake, “readers hate them, agents hate them and publishers hate them. If you submit something with a prologue it won’t be read.”

I felt my face burn with embarrassment. I didn’t know the rules and I’d been found out for the imposter that I was.

Immediately I deleted my prologue, but now, several books on and with over a million copies sold I’m familiar with most of the rules and (whispers) here’s the thing. There aren’t any.

That writer, as it turned out, was right that ‘The Sister‘ shouldn’t have a prologue, but not for the reasons she said.Her overriding feedback was that my prologue was a huge mistake, ‘”readers hate them, agents hate them and publishers hate them. If you submit something with a prologue it won’t be read.” That writer, as it turned out, was right that ‘The Sister‘ shouldn’t have a prologue, but not for the reasons she said.

The prologue wasn’t needed. It didn’t serve a purpose and in a novel, every single scene, every single word needs to earn its place, prologue included. After ‘The Sister’ spent two months at No. 1 I found the confidence to include a prologue in my second psychological thriller, ‘The Gift‘, because no matter what that writer said about people hating prologues, I don’t, and first and foremost I’m a reader. I don’t write one for every book because not every story warrants one.

So how do I decide when to use one? ‘All For You’ (currently 99p in the Amazon Kindle Deal) is my newly published thriller and I’ll use it as an example. In this story I wanted readers to know that teenage boys are disappearing and that Connor, my main character’s son, will be taken next. Then, in chapter one we jump to several days before Connor is taken so readers can watch it unfold and try to figure out who is taking the boys, and why.

All For you – Prologue

Something is wrong.

I’ve a deep, primal instinct screaming that I need to get home to Connor. It isn’t just because of the row we’d had. The horrible, hurtful things he had said, it’s something else. 

A knowing that, despite being 17, I should never have left my son alone.

Hurry.

The flash of neon orange cones blur through the window as I gather speed until the roadworks force me to a stop. The candle-shaped air freshener swings from the rear-view mirror – its strawberry scent cloying. 

My fingertips drum the steering while I will the temporary traffic lights to change to green. The rain hammers against the roof the of the car, windscreen wipers lurch from side to side. It isn’t the crack of lightning that causes my stomach to painfully clench, or the rumble of thunder, even though storms always take me back to the time I’d rather forget, but a mother’s instinct.

I’ve felt it before. That bowling ball of dread hurtling towards me.

Drawing in a juddering breath, I tell myself everything is fine. It’s only natural that worry gnaws at me with sharpened teeth. Every mother in our town is on high alert right now after the disappearance of two teenage boys. I have more reason to be on edge than most.

It’s not as though I’m thinking Connor has been taken, but it’s one thing for him to ignore my calls, he’d never ignore Kieron’s.

Never.

Particularly when he had asked Kieron to call him after his hospital appointment.

Why didn’t he pick up?

In my mind’s eye I see him, bounding down the stairs two at a time, balancing on a chair to reach the snacks he doesn’t realize I know he hides on the top of his wardrobe.

An accident, or something else?

Something worse?

My stomach churns with a sense of foreboding.

Calm down. 

I’ve been under so much pressure lately that I’m bound to be anxious. Edgy. But . . . I jab at my mobile and try Connor once more. My favourite picture of him lights the screen. We took it five years ago during an unseasonably hot Easter. Before Kieron was diagnosed, before everything changed. We’re on the beach, the wind whipping his dark curls around his face. His grin is wide, traces of chocolate ice cream smudged around his mouth.

We were all so happy once. I don’t know how, but I have to believe that we can be again. The alternative is too painful to bear. 

The phone rings and rings. Fear brushes the back of my neck.

I try from Kieron’s phone this time. He still doesn’t answer.

The lights are taking an age to change.

Next to me, Kieron sleeps. His head lolling against the window, breath misting the glass. The dark sweep of his lashes spider across his pale skin. The hospital visit has exhausted him. The red tartan blanket I always keep in the car has slipped from his knees and I reach across and pull it over his legs. The passenger seat is swallowing his thin body. At thirteen he should be growing, but his illness is shrinking him. It’s shrinking me. Sometimes I feel as though my entire family is disappearing. Aidan barely talks to me, never touches me. In bed there’s an ever-increasing space between us. Both of us teetering on our respective edges of the mattress, a strip of cold sheet an invisible barrier between us. My head no longer resting on his chest, his leg never slung over mine, his fingers not stroking my hair any more.

Connor is monosyllabic and moody in the way that 17-year-olds often are but he never was, before . . .

But it isn’t just that, it’s also this sickness that isn’t just Kieron’s. It’s everybody’s.

The lights change to green.

Hurry.

Before I can pull away there’s a streak of yellow. Through the rain a digger trundles towards me, blocking my path.

Kieron sighs in his sleep the way his brother sighs when he’s awake. Sometimes it seems the boys only communicate through a series of noises and shrugs. But that’s unfair. It’s hardly surprising Connor’s mouth is a permanent thin line as though he’s forgotten how to smile. It’s not only his concern about his brother on top of everything he went through before the summer that has turned my sweet-natured son into a mass of guilt and unhappiness, but the sharp truth that out of his friendship group of three, two of them have disappeared.

‘The Taken’, the local paper calls them, printing that out of those who were there that tragic day, Connor is the only one left.

But Connor knows this as he hides in his room, too scared to go to school.

We all know this. 

Tyler and Ryan have vanished without a trace and the police have no idea why. 

It’s up to me to keep Connor safe.

I glance at Kieron. 

I’ll do anything to keep both of my boys safe.

The driver of the digger raises his hand in appreciation as he passes by me. Before I can pull away, the lights change to red once more. Frustrated, I slam my palms against the steering wheel.

Calm down.

Rationally, I know Connor hasn’t been taken. 

He’s at home. 

The door is locked. 

He’s okay. 

But still . . .

He never ignores Kieron.

Never.

Hurry.

Despite the lights being red, I pull away. There’s no approaching traffic. I snap on the radio again. The newsreader relays in cool, clipped tones that the missing boys haven’t been found but police are following several lines of inquiry. Nobody else is missing. The unsaid ‘yet’ lingers in the air, and although I know Connor is safe, my foot squeezes the accelerator. Home is the only place my anxiety abates. When we’re all under one roof and I can almost pretend everything is exactly how it was.

Before.

Visibility is poor. Frustrated, I slow, peering out through the teeming rain. If I have an accident I’m no use to Kieron, to anyone. My heart is racing as there’s another crack of lightning. I count the seconds the way I used to with the boys when they were small.

One.

Two.

Three.

A grumble of thunder. The storm is closing in. Everything is closing in, crashing down. My stomach is a hard ball, my pulse skyrocketing as a sense of danger gallops towards me.

Hurry.

The urgency to be at home overrides the voice of caution urging me to slow down. I race past the old hospital, which has fallen into disrepair, the white and blue NHS sign crawling with ivy, and then the secondary school. I barely register the figure cloaked in black stepping onto the zebra crossing but on some level I must have noticed him as I blast the horn until he jumps back onto the path. He shakes his fist but I keep moving.

Hurry.

My chest is tight as I pull into my street, my driveway. A whimper of fear slithers from my lips as I see the front door swinging open.

Without waking Kieron I half fall, half step out of the car, my shoes slipping on wet tarmac as I rush towards my house.

‘Connor?’ 

The table in the hallway is lying on its side. My favourite green vase lies in shattered pieces over the oak floor.  The lilies that had been left anonymously on the doorstep are strewn down the hallway.

Funeral flowers.

‘Hello?’ My voice is thin and shaky.

The cream wall by the front door is smeared in blood. Connor’s phone is on the floor, lying in a puddle of water from the vase. His screen is smashed. My feet race up the stairs towards his bedroom. A man’s voice drifts towards me. I push open Connor’s door just as shots are fired.

Instinctively, I cover my head before I realize the sound is coming from the war game blaring out of Connor’s TV. His Xbox controller is tangled on the floor along with his headphones.

His bedroom is empty.

The Taken.

It’s impossible.

‘Connor?’ 

He was here. 

He was safe. 

The front door was locked.

Quickly, I check every room in the house until I’m back in the hallway, staring in horror at the blood on the wall, trying to make sense of it.

Connor has gone.

As you can see, prologues are a great tool for grabbing attention, giving background, creating a twist , and for providing a hook. A question. The prologue must be set apart from Chapter One, either with a different point of view or a different time – past, present, or future.

I asked my son once, who is an avid reader whether he read prologues as I was genuinely shocked to hear some readers don’t.

‘Of course,’ he said, ‘but I never bother with the things at the end. The epilogue.’

‘Why not?’ I was horrified.

‘Because I already know how the story ends,’ he said.

Not in my books. There is often, as there is with ‘The Family‘, a twist on the very last line in the epilogue, but how to end a story is another blog post entirely.

‘All For You’ is just 99p across all digital platforms. Download from AmazonAppleKoboGoogle

‘A galloping pulse-pounder’ Heat

‘[A] gripping thriller . . . with perfectly observed emotions and red herrings that will boggle the mind’ Woman & Home

‘A full-blown, brilliantly plotted and written novel, with a clarity and originality that is wonderfully unique’ On magazine

‘You’ll be left open-mouthed by the turn of events’ Woman’s Weekly

‘A compelling page-turner’ Bella

Meet the Walsh Family

Lucy: Loving mother. Devoted wife. And falling to pieces.
Aidan: Dedicated father. Faithful husband. And in too deep.
Connor:Hardworking son. Loyal friend. But can never tell the truth.

Everyone in this family is hiding something, but one secret will turn out to be the deadliest of all . . .

Can this family ever recover when the truth finally comes out?

Diary of a novelist – January 2022

Welcome to part 4 of my Diary of a Novelist series (catch up from part one here). Wow, the first 12th of the year has flown by! I haven’t worked on my manuscript at all but a writer’s life isn’t all about writing new books. Here’s what I’ve been up to. 

Week One

It’s time to take a deep breath and look at the first round of structural edits my editor is suggesting for my third Amelia Henley book which publishes this September. Structural edits look at the big picture, the structure of the story, the characters. It’s here that an editor will point out any things they don’t think are working and offer suggestions for improvement. My editor doesn’t mark-up areas of the manuscript for the first edit but provides a broad editorial letter with her thoughts. At this stage, although it’s rare, a publisher can reject a book for various reasons and the writer has to write something new. I don’t quite know how I’d cope with that! 

I’m nervous.

The letter begins.

“This is another deeply emotional novel. Your grasp of human emotion has always been wonderful and this story gives you many opportunities to flex those skills. I can already see readers will feedback how you brought them to tears”.

A sigh of relief that she doesn’t hate it. 

Then she covers my three main character points of view and my setting. There isn’t anything major to change. Just various points to revist and deepen the emotion. There is a suggestion to alter one of the characters motivation but I don’t immediately decide whether I want to do this. You don’t have to do everything an editor suggests, but I always listen and try everything before choosing what works and what doesn’t for me. Most of the suggestions made I will end up implementing but possibly not everything.

It’s been ten months since I finished this story and sent it off to her so the rest of the week is spent rereading and familiarising myself with the characters before making a list of what I want to tackle and in what order. I always do the largest things first. I LOVE a list.

Week Two

I’m at my desk by 8.30 every morning and work through until 5.30 with only a short break. I also work weekends. I don’t put in quite so many hours when writing a first draft but when I’m editing I like my head to stay in the story. 

I’d forgotten how much I love these three siblings, Charlie, Duke and Nina. It’s a real joy to be back with them again. 

By the end of the week I’ve tackled everything in the editorial letter, it’s already a much better book, but have decided not to take on board one of the suggestions. Now for a few days away from it.

Week Three

Launch week for my 7th psychological thriller ‘All For You’. (The eBook is just 99p) It’s been super busy. In the run up to publication day I’ve been posting competitions on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. I run a live launch party on Instagram and Facebook which is immense fun. I also do a live Q & A in the Fiction Café Facebook Group.

After a covid related delay it’s been wonderful to see my book on the shelves and learn that Fern Britton chose it for her book club pick for Tesco. Media reviews have been wonderful. It was also fabulous to get out for a celebratory meal with my husband.

‘A galloping pulse-pounder’ Heat

‘[A] gripping thriller . . . with perfectly observed emotions and red herrings that will boggle the mind’ Woman & Home

‘A full-blown, brilliantly plotted and written novel, with a clarity and originality that is wonderfully unique’ On magazine

‘A compelling page-turner’ Bella

‘Emotionally gripping & full of an underlying sense of unease. You’ll be left open mouthed by the turn of events’ Woman’s Weekly 

And so has reader feedback. I’m hugely grateful to everyone who has read, recommended and reviewed the story of the Walsh family and their dark, dark secret. 

Week Four

I read through my Amelia manuscript once more before I send it back to my editor and then it’s time for something completely different. 

I’ve begun a teacher training course in Shibashi Taichi Qigong, with Shamash Aladini, author of Mindfulness for Dummies, who I completed my mindfulness teacher training with many years ago.

After my first class I was super relaxed and went to the cinema with my son. Just as the film was about to start I had an idea for a new thriller I felt immediate excitement about. I wrote the prologue the second we got home. It’s got a great hook but as yet I don’t know what might happen but it will remain at the back of my mind until it begins to develop of its own accord. We saw Belfast btw. It was brilliant. 

The month ended with my US publisher sending me this super romantic cover for my Amelia Henley debut ‘ The Life We Almost Had’ which publishers in the US this summer!

New words written – 1500k for prologue of book I don’t have time to write!

Highs – Publication for my 7th thriller ‘All For You’!

‘All For You; is a Fern Britton pick!

First structural edit on my 3rd Amelia Henley book finished

Seeing my US cover!

Lows – Not working on my current wip

What I’m reading – Beyond Coincidences – Martin Plummer & Brian King 

What I’m watching – Yellowjackets – I’m obsessed!

Special offers – ‘All For You’ is just 99p across all digital platforms. Download from AmazonAppleKoboGoogle

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