Amber Cover Reveal

I’m thrilled to be revealing the cover for my next novel, Amber, which is book four of The Working Girls series. It’s my favourite cover so far of the series. I love the amber colour of the title and the way it complements my protagonist’s hair colouring, and the girl on the cover is perfect for the character of Amber. My publishers have even included the archway in the background, which has a lot of significance in the novel. 

So, here is the cover in all its glory:

Amber

And if you want to check out the fantastic blurb too, here it is: 

NOBODY TO CALL

With a mother unfit for purpose and a brother who despises her, working girl Amber can rely on no one but herself – until the meanest pimp in Manchester, Kevin Pike, offers her his protection. Unfortunately, this attracts the fury of Cora, a prostitute no one wants to get on the wrong side of…

NOWHERE TO HIDE

When Cora is found strangled to death, the late-night city streets feel increasingly exposed with a killer on the loose. And as Amber grows closer to Kevin, she realises his security comes at a price she might not be willing to pay…

NOTHING TO LOSE

Amber is frozen in fear, knowing one wrong move will risk her life. But then she discovers a horrifying secret that forces her to choose: stay or run?

Amber will be out on 1st April 2021 but is currently available for pre-order at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08GV1CYX6 in the UK and https://www.amazon.com.dp/B08GV1CYX6 in the US.

Some Writing Tips

Here are a few writing tips I’d like to share with fellow authors and aspiring writers:

Google Images

I find Google Images invaluable for helping me to picture scenes in my mind. For example, if I had a character who lives in squalid conditions, and I was trying to describe his surroundings, I would do a search for ‘neglected living room’ in Google Images.

It also helps with things like describing the fashions for the year in which your book is set. Try entering 1990s fashions, for example, and see what you come up with.

The MirrorMirror

If I am trying to describe certain facial expressions I will look into the mirror and try to recreate them. For example, furrowing the brow, sticking the bottom lip out etc.

I also use the mirror for certain moves so that I can see how they work in practicality. This is helpful for action scenes to make sure that what you’re creating is believable in terms of how far your characters’ limbs will reach, for example.

It’s fortunate that I have blinds at the windows of my office so that people can’t see me carrying out all these strange moves and facial expressions.

Shut your Eyes

It’s amazing how shutting your eyes can help you to visualise a scene because it cuts off your surroundings and enables you to focus solely on what you are trying to create in your imagination.

Google for Names

When I am creating characters, I like to give them names that suit them and that are age appropriate. I therefore enter ‘girls name + (the year)’ in Google, which enables me to see a list of the most popular girls’ or boys’ names for the year in which my character was born.

researchResearch Contacts

When I first started writing novels, one of the things I struggled with was finding contacts who could help me with my research. Gradually I have come across people who I have met through friends etc. However, at first, I was keeping a separate list of contacts for each novel.

Recently I amalgamated the list and created a separate folder specifically for research contacts. It saves me time in having to wade through several files if I am looking for help from the same contact in the future.

Recap Scenes

Whenever I start writing for the day, I always go over the previous scene I have written. This has two benefits. The first is that it enables me to edit the previous day’s writing with a fresh mind.

The second benefit is that it puts me into the right frame of mind to start my writing day. Often, by reading the previous scene I will be fired up with ideas of where I want to take the novel next.

If you’re anything like me, I’m a massive procrastinator so this method helps to give me a push.

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Notes re Plot Development

On a good writing day my thoughts can run away with me and sometimes they come to me faster than I can type them. I therefore find it helpful to pause the actual scene I’m writing while I jot the ideas down in note form. I use a different colour font for this and italics so it’s obvious they’re notes rather than forming part of the text.

This method is also useful at the end of the day when you want to finish work, but the ideas are still flowing. It’s great to sit at the PC the following morning and find that you’ve already got the bare bones of a chapter on screen and you just have to flesh it out.

Although we all have our own writing techniques, I hope that some of these ideas might prove useful to you.

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Blog Tour for Crystal

Today sees the start of the blog tour for Crystal. Although the book was published on 7th May, 4th June was the original intended publication date. 7th May was the scheduled date for the print publication of Vendetta, which has been delayed due to the Corona virus. My publishers therefore decided to publish Crystal on that date instead.

Here is the schedule for the blog tour:

As you can see, Aria have lined up some fabulous reviewers and I’m looking forward to checking out their posts.

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Conversations with my Brain

‘Here we go again,’ I think, looking across at the clock. ‘For God’s sake! Its four o’clock in the morning. Can’t you just let me go back to sleep?’

But my brain is having none of it. ‘I’ve thought of a great idea.’

I tut. ‘Shut up and leave me alone.’

‘But you’ll like it, I promise.’

‘No! I’m tired.’

‘Come on, you’ll love me for it in the morning.’

‘No, I won’t!’

‘OK, suit yourself, but you’ll be cursing when you wake up and you’ve totally forgotten that brilliant idea I gave you, and all because you couldn’t be bothered writing it down. You’ll be sitting at that machine again, getting frustrated because it all sounds rubbish. And here I am, giving it away for free.’

‘Alright!’ I snap. ‘But make it quick. You know I find it hard to get back to sleep again once I’m fully awake.’

brain-1773892_1280

It’s at this point that I decide my brain must be male. What woman would put me through this night after night? I picture him bouncing around with anticipation.

‘OK,’ he says, his voice full of enthusiasm now. ‘It’s about that bit you were struggling with?’

‘Oh yeah,’ I say, warming to him.

‘Yeah. I’ve thought of a brilliant way you can get round it.’

I try to shake off my sleepiness. I’d love to just turn over and go back to sleep right now but I know I daren’t miss this opportunity. I flick the bedside lamp on, the light stinging my tired eyes. Then I turn the light down low and reach for my notepad.

‘Come on then, but just this once and then I’m done. What have you got?’

‘OK, here goes. You should go back in time in the next chapter and keep the readers waiting for the denouement. There’s a bit you left unexplained anyway so it will keep them interested while they’re flicking through the pages like they’re swatting a fly.’ I can feel the excitement oozing out of him as he adds, ‘Ooh, they’ll be so eager to get to the next chapter.’

I must admit, I’m quite impressed with the idea and I quickly jot it down in my little notepad in the semi-darkness, hoping it will be legible in the morning. It’s not long before I fill in two pages then I switch the lamp back off and try to relax.

But the brain is fully awake now and it’s not long before he disturbs me again. ‘Eh, I’ve thought of something else.’

‘Don’t push your luck! I only agreed to the one idea.’

‘But I’ve thought of a great cliff-hanger. Chapter 41, the one you’ve just written, it ended a bit drearily, didn’t it?’

‘It wasn’t that bad.’

‘Oh, it was! And it wasn’t half as good as chapter 40. But I know a way you can spice it up.’

I try to ignore him and carry on with my quest to get back to sleep. ‘You’ll thank me for it in the morning,’ he whispers, tapping at my skull.

‘You’re such a pain in the arse!’

‘Yeah, but you love me for it, don’t you?’

Emoticons-Sleeping-face-11150-large

I can’t resist a smile as I switch the lamp back on and scribble down some more notes. Again, I’m impressed. My conscious mind would never have thought of that. This time I switch the light off quickly, turn over and wrap the duvet around my head, in a vague attempt to drown out the constant interruptions. But it’s no use; he’s soon making his presence felt.

‘Psst. Me again. Have you thought about what you’re going to put in the chapter after next?’

‘No, I’ll deal with it in the morning.’

‘You sure?’ he asks, sounding hurt. ‘Only…’

‘Stop it! You’re giving me bloody writer’s cramp.’

‘I’m worth it though. Go on. Write it down. You know you want to… Please… Pretty please.’

I swipe the duvet viciously away, feeling myself weakening into submission again. ‘For God’s sake! Why do you always get your own bloody way?’

‘Because you love me.’

‘You wish! And stop being so bloody cute!’ I say resignedly as I switch on the lamp for the third time.

The thought occurs to me that if there are shift workers living across the way, then they probably think I’m practising Morse code. This bloody lamp has been on and off so many times, and it was the same last night. What I wouldn’t give for a decent night’s sleep! But I know that will be impossible until I’ve cracked it with this novel.

After the fourth interruption, I finally settle down to sleep. But I wake up in the morning feeling groggy with the after-effects of a restless night. I switch on the lamp one more time and swing my legs out of bed.

Then I notice it. The pad on the bedside cabinet. I pick it up and quickly flick through. Five pages full of notes, both sides. Wow! I’m ecstatic.

‘Y’know brain, you’re not so bad after all,’ I admit, grudgingly.

‘It’s only because I care. I did it all for you.’

I smile. ‘I know. I suppose it was worth it.’

Then I rush downstairs, determined to overcome my grogginess and get this lot down on the PC while I’m still buzzing.

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My Lockdown Launch

Today is publication day for Crystal, the third book in The Working Girls series, and I must admit it is the strangest book launch I have ever had. Usually, I would go for a meal with friends and/or family to celebrate but with everybody in lockdown due to the Coronavirus, that isn’t possible. I therefore intend to celebrate online instead.


The Coronavirus has affected the launch in other ways too. Publication date has been brought forward by a month to replace the scheduled launch of Vendetta in paperback. This is because digital books are selling much better than paperbacks at the moment due to the book shops being closed. Also, the blog tour will be going ahead on the dates that had already been scheduled i.e. from 4th June through to 17th June. This is because this had already been arranged with bloggers.


Here is the book blurb for Crystal:


THE PIMP.
When Crystal’s pimp, protector and former lover, Gilly, dies of a drugs overdose Crystal is bereft. She refuses the paid protection of a rival pimp, determined to go it alone. But a vicious beating from a client leaves her feeling vulnerable and angry.
THE JUDGE.
Meanwhile, Crystal’s daughter, Candice, is asking difficult questions about her job. Crystal decides it’s time to make some changes, and, when a high-profile judge offers her payment to keep schtum about his nefarious activities, it gives her an idea. Perhaps other clients will also pay for her silence…
THE REVENGE.
Crystal engages on a revenge mission to rob, blackmail and expose her most depraved clients. But some of these men are highly dangerous and, if Crystal wants to exact her plan of revenge, she must accept the risks that go with it.


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Thank you to everybody who has bought a copy to date. I hope you enjoy Crystal’s story. If you haven’t yet bought a copy, you can grab one at: http://viewbook.at/Crystal or, if you prefer to read on the Kobo, you can find the book at: http://bit.ly/2GSlhZp.


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Changes to Publication Dates

Due to the Coronavirus my publishers have decided to make some changes to the publication dates for forthcoming books in order to cater to market demand. This will affect two of my forthcoming publications, Crystal (digital) and Vendetta (print).
I’ll start with the good news – we could all do with some of that at the moment. The publication date for Crystal is to be brought forward from early June to 7th May, which means it’s less than four weeks away – yippee! This is because book demand at the moment is predominantly for digital books rather than print due to book shops being closed. Here’s the Amazon link for pre-orders:
http://viewbook.at/Crystal, and the Kobo link is: http://bit.ly/2GSlhZp.
Here’s the not so good news.
A print version of Vendetta was previously scheduled for 7th May and was due to be stocked by book shops. However, due to the closure of book shops print demand has fallen by 80%. Therefore, the print launch date has been deferred. Currently the new date is August but this might change depending on the effects of lockdown. I will let you know as soon as I have updates.
It is still possible to order a print version on Amazon at: http://bit.ly/2GSlhZp by following the link and selecting the ‘paperback’ option.
Take care, stay safe and happy reading.

Reasons to Stay Positive

In a scary couple of weeks that has seen me and both of my adult children become ill with Coronavirus symptoms, I thought I would try to draw some positives out of the current situation.

While I appreciate that the position in the world right now is dire, I always find that positive thinking helps me to fight off anxiety and depression when I’m going through bad times. With concerns over mental health issues during the lockdown, I’m hoping that this post will also help other people to think of their own positives.

  1. Although there is a good chance that me and my two children may have had Coronavirus (due to the fact that my son has been in contact with Coronavirus patients) the good news is that we all displayed mild symptoms and we have all fully recovered.
  2. As a home worker I can still work and don’t have to face the additional worry of financial hardship.
  3. We are going to have one hell of a party when this is all over.
  4. If a similar situation should ever arise again in the future, hopefully the world will be more prepared and we may have such things in place as vaccines, testing and protective equipment.
  5. Even though I’m still working, I have a bit more time on my hands. It’s a refreshing change not to be constantly rushing around.
  6. The time spent on lockdown will give us all time to reflect on how we live our lives so that we can hopefully make changes for better in the future.
  7. Humanity is a wonderful thing. I believe that current events have brought out the human side in so many people and it’s great to hear tales of people offering support to one another.
  8. I have had the same bit of cash in my purse for about three weeks and not had to rush to the cashpoint.
  9. I’ve not had to fill the car with petrol either.
  10. Many people staying at home are reading more, which is a good thing for authors.
  11. We can all watch holiday programmes and plan for the wonderful trips we will make when everything is back to normal.
  12. I’ve not had to do any ironing because who sees (or even cares) what I look like at the moment.
  13. I am currently focusing on diet and exercise to build myself up in case I haven’t had the virus and also to look after my general wellbeing. I am not eating out, having takeaways or boozy nights out. The upshot of this, I hope, is weight loss.
  14. I’ve found some online software that enables me to have a virtual party with my friends – maybe I should put the weight loss on hold for the time being.

I know that not everybody can draw the same positives and that some people are suffering real heartache and hardship because of the Coronavirus. However, I’m hoping that many people are able to draw some positives out of the current situation and I hope this post helps.

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The Work and Social Impact of Coronavirus

Watching recent news and social media posts, it’s easy to get swallowed up by all the mass hysteria surrounding the Coronavirus. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not playing down its effects but it’s sometimes best to stop, take a breather and try to take a more positive approach to what is happening.

I must admit that I succumbed to a bit of self-pity this morning. In recent weeks I lost my father and added to that is the fact that my children might not be able to make it home for Mother’s day because of the virus. As part of my coping mechanism when my father died I decided to get out and keep busy as much as I could knowing that I couldn’t afford to revisit the chronic depression I suffered when I lost my mother.

But, recent news announcements suggest that I would be irresponsible to go out any more than necessary and I don’t want to do anything that will place either me or other people at risk. I therefore thought that as a homeworker and asthmatic that lives predominantly alone I might be faced with weeks on end stuck at home feeling bored and depressed.

I think that when something catastrophic like this happens we all look at how it will affect us as individuals and how it will affect our loved ones. Most of us are innately self-interested but I think it pays to look outside of that sometimes. That is what I did this morning and I found that I can draw some positives out of my own situation, and I’m hoping that other people will be able to do so too. These are just my immediate thoughts about my own situation but I’m sure others will come to me:

  1. As a homeworker I don’t have to worry about not being able to work unlike a lot of bar, restaurant and other workers who will be faced with weeks of no pay or even redundancy. My heart goes out to them – it must be a really worrying time.
  2. With today’s technology it is easier than ever to keep in touch with people, not only by messaging but also by video link using the various apps available. I usually only do video calls with my children and partner but I’m considering extending this to other friends and family.
  3. I can do as many exercise classes as I want via You Tube on my TV – Step, Zumba, Tai Chi, the possibilities are endless. And exercise is a great way to lift mood because of those endorphins. I can even extend this to as many friends as I can fit in my lounge while keeping a safe distance and, because we’re all friends together, we could take whatever measures we wanted to protect ourselves without feeling self-conscious. (I’ve got a mental image of us wearing masks and latex gloves, carrying our own bottled water and disinfecting the door handles.) We might even have a laugh while we’re doing it.
  4. The weather is picking up so it’s a good time to get out in the garden – working or relaxing. There are so many things you can do including giving it a facelift by painting fences etc.
  5. It’s also good to go out for a walk or a bike ride if you have an outdoor area that isn’t too populated, for example, if you live near the countryside.
  6. I’m also looking at my diet, trying to eat healthily and take my vitamins to build up my immunity. As part of this I’m trying to cook more healthy meals that I can stock in my freezer.

These ideas have led me to think about other people and steps they could take to help themselves. If you’re facing reduced hours or redundancy then it might be an opportunity to focus on a skill that might prove lucrative in the future. I know the situation is grave at the moment but some good might come out of it in the long run. My own writing career started after I spent a period as a stay at home mum and decided on a complete career change. I can honestly say I’ve never looked back as I wasn’t very happy in my previous career.

There are also opportunities to make money online. You could sell hand-crafted items on Etsy on unwanted items on Ebay, Amazon or Facebook marketplace. You might even have a skill that could make you money online via sites like Upwork, Guru and PPH or even by shouting about it on social media.

I have also been inspired by a couple of news items such as the one regarding the family of a Coronavirus victim in Manchester who have asked for no flowers at his funeral, just acts of kindness. Then there are the two ladies in Altrincham who are making sure that elderly and vulnerable people in their area are not left isolated or in need of shopping etc. This kind of community spirit is needed at a time like this.

Most of us can also draw comfort from the fact that the vast majority of people survive Coronavirus. Currently the mortality rate in the UK is just over 2%. Although it will be difficult for those affected, many of us can look forwards to a time when the virus is behind us and we have survived it.

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Plans for 2020

I’m a bit late with this post but, aside from it having been a busy few weeks with holidays as well as work, I’ve been waiting for some exciting news. I therefore thought I’d combine my news with some details of my plans for the forthcoming year. So, here is my announcement:

More Books

I’m delighted to have just been signed by Aria at Head of Zeus for a further two books in The Working Girls series. That means there’ll be five books in total. Here’s a reminder of the three existing books:

The Mark and Ruby have already been published and Crystal will follow in the summer but you can already pre-order it at: http://viewbook.at/Crystal.

I have just started work on book four, Amber, which should be available early next year. Book five is called Sapphire and it will be the final book in the series.

Aside from that, Vendetta, the third book in my Manchester Trilogy is to be published in paperback in May. It will be stocked in bookshops from 7th May but can be pre-ordered online from Amazon, Waterstones, Blackwells and W H Smiths. Later, it will be stocked by The Works.

More Research

All five books in The Working Girls series involve prostitution and I carried out a lot of secondary research for the first three novels. A character in the forthcoming two books spends a period of her life as a homeless person and I have therefore been carrying out research on the plight of Manchester’s homeless.

Recently, I visited Lifeshare, a Manchester based charity for young homeless people and for a couple of days after that I found it hard to concentrate on writing book four as it has affected me so much. I think a lot of us have preconceptions about the homeless and, like a lot of people, I carry on walking if I pass a homeless person. This is mainly because I feel at threat as a lot of them are unpredictable due to drug and alcohol abuse.

It is true that a lot of the homeless are hooked on drugs and alcohol but this doesn’t apply in all cases. Many young people have just had a bad start in life; whether from a broken home or brought up in care. There are also instances where young girls are encouraged by an older boyfriend to take drugs until they reach the point of dependency and are subsequently thrown out of home by their parents.

Hearing stories of some young people and the trials and tribulations they face on a daily basis has made me view things in a different light. Everybody deserves a chance in life but unfortunately some people never get that chance. There are a wide range of circumstances that lead to homelessness and/or drug addiction and not all of them are down to personal choice. Certain factors can have a knock on effect so that one thing leads to another, for example, a young person brought up in care might have been  encouraged to take drugs by an older child and without parental influence that child might become more susceptible to peer pressure.

Although I still wouldn’t approach a homeless person directly, I do want to help in other ways. Homeless charities carry out important work and are a lifeline to many unfortunate people. As well as donating, I will be publicising the work of homeless charities through my books. If you would like to make a small donation to Lifeshare, here is the link: https://www.lifeshare.org.uk/donate/.

Apart from giving me invaluable information, Lifeshare have put me in touch with other organisations involved both in homelessness and prostitution so I’ll be carrying out further research to help with books four and five. This will begin with a visit to the MASH (Manchester Action on Street Health) centre early next month. This is another important charity that provides help and support to female sex workers in Manchester. You can find out more about them or make a donation at: http://www.mash.org.uk/get-involved/.

More Author Talks

I am currently in talks (pardon the pun) with a couple of groups regarding author talks and I intend to organise some others in the future.  Although nerve-racking, I am starting to enjoy the experience. It’s a good way to spread the word about my books on a local level, and I always enjoy the opportunity to chat to readers.

So, all in all, I think I have a busy year ahead but I count my blessings to be earning a living doing something I enjoy so much.

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Print Launch of Blood Ties

I am pleased to announce that Blood Ties, book two in my Manchester Trilogy, will be available in book shops from today, and will be stocked at Blackwell’s, The Works and others. This follows on from the print launch of book one, Born Bad, in April and there are plans to launch a print version of book three, Vendetta, later next year.

We celebrated the launch with a party, which started off at Blackwell’s book store in Manchester and continued on to the bar a few doors down. It was a fantastic night and was a pleasure to share it with some of my wonderful readers, fellow authors, publishers, and family and friends. Here are some photographs of the event:

 

The print launch of Blood Ties will be followed by Vendetta, book three in the trilogy, which will hit the book shops later next year.

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