Gold Plated Reading

Looking for a book to take to the beach? To read on the plane? Or to cosy on the couch with? Do you prefer a paperback copy? Something you can see in the sunshine, something that feels good in your hands?

Well, Gold Plated is now available in both paperback and ebook format. And according to the early readers of the ebook, it’s a great read. Perfect for summer or winter reading, whichever way you prefer to read.

 Rosanna and Paul are celebrating fifty years of marriage. Their daughter, Heather, has helped plan their Golden Wedding Anniversary party, and it looks like being a wonderful night: sixties music, friends and family present, and Rosanna has bought the perfect golden gift for Paul. What could possibly go wrong?

When an uninvited guest shows up, Rosanna’s world is shaken and she is forced to look back over their fifty golden years and see them as they were.

Were they golden? Or just gold-plated?

Is this the kind of book you’re looking for? A love story that spans five decades, but is under threat and may not survive any longer. One with this sort of recommendation? —

“An excellent story.”

“I was hooked from the first line.”

“I started reading Gold Plated at this at 7 am this morning. And finished it late this evening. First book I’ve read from beginning to end in a single day in quite some time. I simply had to devour it!!! Thank you for an exquisitely entertaining read! A beautiful treatment of love, betrayal, and resolve where self-love triumphs ultimately.”

“Loved it! What an enjoyable read!”

“Through life’s ups and downs this story was very enjoyable to read. I loved the different settings and how clearly I could see them along with the characters from the descriptive writing. Gold Plated is a perfect title and this book took me on a lovely journey into Rosanna’s life which is inspirational… I believe it’s never too late to start again, I will also now think differently when I hear something is gold plated. I highly recommend this to anyone wanting a good read.”

“I have just finished reading Gold Plated, and thoroughly enjoyed it.”

N.B. If, when you go to Amazon, you read that this book is ‘out of stock’, don’t worry. It’s never ‘in stock’. Amazon don’t ever store a stock of POD books. They are what the acronym indicates. They are Printed On Demand. So do go ahead and order the book. It shouldn’t take long to pop through your letterbox.

It is also possible to order Gold Plated through Barnes & Noble, Waterstones, FeedaRead or any good bookstore.



Music in My Fiction

Music in Fiction

Last year, I wrote a series of guest blogposts about Music in Fiction, in which we discussed books that featured or mentioned music as part of the story.

There are many devices writers can use to help bring our writing to life. In that short series of articles, published on Chris The Story Reading Ape’s blog, I took a fairly light-hearted look at just one of them.


Music plays a large part in Gold Plated, my latest release – in particular, the music of the sixties, and I’ve included a playlist at the end of the novel, with links to YouTube videos of the original versions of some of the songs I’ve referenced.

The story begins with Rosanna and her daughter, Heather, meeting up to continue planning Rosanna’s Golden Wedding Anniversary party. As she wanders through the garden centre on her way to meet Heather, her own version of a popular song from her youth runs through Rosanna’s head:


When a third stranger smiles at me, the realisation dawns not only am I humming an adapted version of Lesley Gore’s 1963 hit, It’s My Party, as I meander among the flower beds, but also, I sport a silly grin – and the blush of embarrassment that follows the realisation. But I can’t help myself.

There’s a party in the offing and, for a change, the butterflies fluttering about in my chest have gossamer wings rather than tackety boots. I’m not often a party-person, being more comfortable as a wallflower than a poppy, but …

“It’s Paul’s party and I’ll smile if I want to, smile if I want to, smile if I want to. You would smile too, if it happened to you.”


It’s My Party And I’ll Cry If I Want To – Lesley Gore – 1963

Gold Plated is now available on Amazon Kindle – paperback will follow shortly.


Click to buy Gold Plated

If you’d like to read the series I wrote about Music in Fiction, click here.



Gold Plated


We were walking on the beach in Embo in the North of Scotland, September 2016.

Often, walking together is a great time to chat, sharing thoughts and dreams, decisions and schemes, but today we were silent. There was a heavy mist on the North Sea and the horizon was hiding, taking our words with it. There was something about the haar: it silenced birds, the wind, the whisper of long grass as well as our words – but it couldn’t silence the continuous rolling waves as they broke onto the beach – and it couldn’t silence our thoughts.

Often, thoughts would tumble out of our silence and we would share them. There was no reason not to today – yet we didn’t. We were enjoying a world shrouded in a soft, white veil, from which rays of sunshine struggled to break free while the sea, ruthless, relentless, ripped through to crash on the shore.

I didn’t ask what my lovely hubby was thinking, but concentrated on the story that was forming in my mind.

We were here on vacation with our family and there, set like a pearl in the middle of the two weeks, was our anniversary. Forty-nine years of married bliss.

But that’s never true, is it?

No-one is perfect, so no two imperfect people can forge a perfect marriage – not even us. We’d had ups and downs – never ins and outs – and some years were better than others – but we’d never not wanted to be married to one another.

Our children asked how we wanted to celebrate our 50 years of marriage next year, our Golden Wedding Anniversary.

I got to thinking about it. What did we want? What would we do? What were the children plotting? We told them, ‘Nothing much. Nothing expensive, no silly gold ornaments that we don’t need, golden gifts that we’ll never use. It would be nice just to be together.’

The conversation still swirled in my mind as my husband and I walked in our misty, magical silence. 

Then, in a sudden rush of gold, the sun won the struggle to light the world, compelling us to pause to take a few photographs.

I stood at the water’s edge.


Wave after wave of water rolling in, breaking with cold white froth over the landscape of the beach – year after year of life rolling in, breaking with warm love over the landscape of our marriage.

But what if?

What if it had been different?

So I wrote a story about a love that spanned more than fifty years.

Or did it?

Rosanna and Paul are celebrating fifty years of marriage.

Their daughter, Heather, has helped plan their Golden Wedding Anniversary party, and it looks like being a wonderful night: sixties music, all their friends and family present, and Rosanna has bought the perfect golden gift for Paul. What could possibly go wrong?

When an uninvited guest shows up, Rosanna’s world is shaken and she is forced to look back over their fifty golden years and see them as they were.

Were they golden? Or just gold-plated?


Gold Plated is with the publisher now so the paperback should be launched soon. Meantime, it’s already available on Amazon Kindle.

Dissonance – Now Available

Congratulations to Amanda Staley on the release of her debut novel, Dissonance. Have to say, I was among the first in the queue to buy a copy, and I’m looking forward to reading this new novel.

Amanda Staley

wpid-wp-1445477953954.jpgIt’s hard to believe one tiny idea blossomed into this book.  The past few months have been frustrating as my deadlines zipped by, and I still had not published, but at the same time I felt an incredible sense of pride of having accomplished as much as I had.

Today, a smile plays on my lips as I can finally say, I am a published author!  Dissonance is finally out there for people to read.  At the moment, it is only available on Amazon.  I am unsure if I will publish to other formats, or if I will just exclusively publish on Amazon and KDP unlimited.

I admit it took much longer than I expected to get this book published.  As I sit back and think over the last few months, I realized I let fear take over and stalled my progress.  I started worrying about what people would…

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Getting the Most from your Writers’ Retreat

You’ve gathered a few writing buddies together and you’ve booked a cottage in the country, you’re all set to try your hand at creating a Writers’ Retreat. So, how are you going to get the maximum benefit from it while putting the minimum time into planning it? Because, let’s face it, we’re writers. We want to write. Not spend hours and hours organising ourselves to write.

So do have a meeting or a virtual meeting before you go, to decide the main things in advance.

My friends and I have tried different approaches and each time we have gone away for a week, we have structured it a little differently so perhaps the most helpful thing for me to do would be to tell you some of the things that work well, not necessarily the things we have done.

One of the things to remember is, although you are going to your retreat to write, you will also need to eat, so planning a rough menu beforehand is worth considering. Shopping for that menu can be done in advance if you have room in the car for the shopping. Failing that, perhaps locate the nearest supermarket to you cottage and, after you unload the car, you can go back out for a shopping trip. This is where the planning meeting is useful. You can decide things like:

Will you share the cooking, perhaps on a daily rota? Or will everyone fend for themselves?

Will you share the shopping or will one of you volunteer to bring the supplies to the cottage and everyone chip in with their share of the cost?

Your meals need not be elaborate affairs. As long as there are plenty of basic things like bread and cheese, plenty salad and fruit, wine and coffee, everyone is usually happy to see to themselves for breakfast and lunch, unless your group wish to plan who prepares these meals too. Good to know in advance who is going to be responsible for producing a simple evening meal. Do one or two of your group particularly enjoy cooking? Or should you make a rota for everyone to have a turn.

Simplicity is the key.

No-one wants to spend the best part of the day in the kitchen — unless cooking is their passion, of course. In which case, enjoy! It’s a creative retreat, after all, and cooking is another delightful creative outlet.


Something else you might want to discuss beforehand is whether you want to use the retreat as a quiet place, conducive to writing, where you can each get on quietly with your WIP uninterrupted, or would you like to also have some structured writing time. If so, it would be good to plan who will lead that session and how. There are many useful books with suggestions for writing exercises, or you may have some old favourites of your own.

Starting the day with a little light physical exercise, like a short walk or such, followed by a timed writing exercise or two can be useful to wake up the body and the writing muscles. Similarly, it’s important to incorporate short breaks in the day to stretch out the muscles, get some fresh air and refresh yourselves.

After eating the evening meal, it can be pleasant to spend time relaxing together for a while, perhaps watching a film, playing music, or just sitting chatting over a glass of wine.

This might also be a time you would enjoy reading out some of your day’s writing to one another and getting some feedback.

Set goals.

At the planning stage, it is good to discuss together what each member of the party hopes to achieve. Whether some of you want to set yourselves a daily word count, or a weekly one, whether the aim is to edit a certain number of pages, poems or chapters, the best way to achieve the maximum benefit from your retreat is to set clear goals and encourage one another to work towards them.

Respect one another’s space.

Respect the silence.

Respect each other’s writing.

At the end of your week or weekend together, celebrate!

Discuss what worked and what didn’t, what helped and what hindered, and plan your next retreat.


What about turning your annual vacation into a personal writer’s retreat?

If your friend or your spouse likes fishing, skiing, white water rafting and you don’t, why not book a log cabin where he or she can do their thing and you can write, sharing a meal together in the evening, a glass of wine by the fire or in the evening sun, sharing the stories of the day.

My husband and I do this from time to time, where he pursues his interests during the day while I enjoy some quiet writing time and we share the evenings together. It works.


I would love to hear your suggestions.

What have you tried?

Have you enjoyed the luxury of a Writers’ Retreat?


Many of my novels have been partly written on one of the writing retreats my writers’ group have enjoyed over the years. You can find them all on Amazon Kindle or here if you prefer a paperback edition.


A Galway Evening

We had a few wonderful evenings with friends when we were in Ireland. They all involved a lot of talking, laughing and eating. Seafood chowder and sticky toffee pudding being only two of the home-cooked treats we enjoyed south of the border, and a slap-up feast of a meal-out with our dear friends in Larne, north of the border.

Some of our evenings involved great music too.

Robbie on guitar, Naomi on Button Accordion, and Rebekah on tin whistle.

We had a wonderful time in Ireland and I dearly hope we can make the trip again sometime. We saw interesting things, beautiful things, wonderful things, but the best of Ireland is in its people. Thank you, dear friends, for making out trip so special.


Always Nice to have a Visitor.

20140811_092437My guest today is Zenobia Southcombe, Zee to her friends, and she lives in Aukland, New Zealand, a bit far for her to travel just to pop in to sit round the fire and chat with me, but isn’t the internet wonderful? I can throw another log on the fire, cuddle up with my iPad and ‘chat’ to Zee on the other side of the world, perhaps even ask her to play a tune on her ukulele.


Take it away, Zee….


When Christine agreed to host a blog post by me, she asked me to write about marketing and a bit about my writing process. Marketing is such a massive area to tackle, and so I decided to look at one aspect that has been new for me – a blog tour.

Why a blog tour?
Well, I’m having a physical launch here in Auckland (New Zealand, or Middle Earth in case you’re not sure) but I want to push the eBook sales as well.
Quite frankly, eBooks are cheaper and far less hassle to produce, so on the financial side eBook sales are the way to go. In addition, there’s a global audience out there numbering more than New Zealand’s population, and I want to reach a larger audience.
A blog tour is a way to get publicity – to get my author name out there in the blogosphere to touch some of the people who might be interested in my work. Hopefully, it helps the blog hosts as well, by introducing some of my current readership to their blogs.

Finding blog hosts
Now, I know there are many services that do this for you, and I did look into them. There’s still a bit of work involved though (like, I would still have to actually write the posts!) and there are pretty strict timelines. I didn’t want to have to fork out money for something if I was still having to put considerable energy so I took it upon myself to do it independently. For a blog tour of 10-20 stops throughout the month, I was looking at between $70 to upwards of $125 (US dollars).
It was actually easier than I thought to find willing victims, uh, hosts for my tour. I put an open call for hosting a guest blog out in my main writer forums: the Coffeehouse on Google+ and a small NZ Indie Writers group on Facebook. I got back (at the time of writing) fifteen responses! And that’s just an open call – I didn’t ask any bloggers directly.
Once I’ve written up the fifteen that I have, I’ll reach out to blogs that offer author interviews and spotlights as a regular feature. There’s a great list on Chris the Story Reading Ape’s site, and I’m using this as my starting point.

What to write?
Each was different. For some it was an interview, which is the most straightforward as I don’t have to come up with the content. If you have the option for an interview – take it!
Because the point of the tour is to publicise my launch, I’ve tried to ensure that the content links to my book somehow. For example, I’m writing about marketing for Christine’s blog, but I’m using The Caretaker of Imagination’s launch to do so.

Final Cover AIllustrator Edition A

So now, you know about my launch, and you’ve gotten a glimpse into one of my marketing strategies. How’s that for a win-win?
It is important to consider the blog host’s audience. A lot of my host blogs have a large writerly audience, and while they might be interested in my books (especially if they have children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews) most are interested in reading about my marketing & promotions strategies, or my writing process.
It’s a good idea to have a few different photographs, as well as book covers, to send the host. Sometimes they will specify what they want.

Call to action
Generally, at the end of a blog post – especially a guest post – a call to action is advised. What do you want the reader to do when finished? Again, the blog host’s audience of utmost importance and so I have a few options (and I wrote them down in my planning for each post). If you’re a romance writer, chances are you won’t be interested in a slightly offbeat children’s fantasy book! But, you might be interested in my marketing strategies on my writerly blog.
The options include:
-sign up to author mailing list
-visit writerly blog
-visit author website
-participate in online launch (for posts published during launch week)
-buy my book(s)
-pre-order my book(s)

Would I do it all again?
I have a decent number of blog hosts for my ‘tour’ but not many of them are reviewers. This is something that blog tour companies would be great for, and the only thing that has me considering hiring one for my next launch in July. I have reached out to a few reviewers, and some people have agreed to give me a pre-release review in an exchange for an advance review copy (ARC).
What I will most likely do is a self-organised one like the I am doing now, and in addition do a small reviews-only blog tour with a tour company.

A bit about my writing process
And what about the actual writing? I’m onto my third book now, so I have a good idea of what works for me.
I’m a planner, and I plan my stories with a strong narrative plot – I use the three-act structure well-known by scriptwriters, and a general narrative structure to make sure my bases are covered.
From there, I do my drafting and revise it before sending to my editor for a manuscript assessment, or developmental edit, to tackle the big issues. I revise based on those notes and send it to my illustrator, who pretty much has free reign on the illustrations. We have decided that she’ll do the cover art first, so that I’m not putting pressure on my graphic designer to come up with a cover quickly.
At the same time, it goes to my beta readers and I revise after each of those are received. I send it to one or two final beta readers and then it goes off for proofreading and formatting (I have a formatter now, thank goodness!).
I write short books (about 12,000 words long) but even so the process takes a while. However, they overlap (e.g. I am working on Book 3 while my formatter has Book 1 and my illustrator has Book 2) so schedule-wise it works out wonderfully.

For more information and reflections about my writing process, author mindset and marketing strategies, visit my writer’s blog



Can You Hear The Music? Look! I’m Dancing!

“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche
Look everyone! I’m dancing!
It’s here!
flying free cover 2290x1520mm
You can buy it on Amazon Kindle everywhere Amazon has a presence.
The paperback will be launched in a few weeks, but I couldn’t bear to hold back the ebook any longer.
At last,
And its music makes me want to dance.
Tom’s Music

Bellini’s Oboe Concerto.

At first it was gliding… slowly, luxuriously… floating on the warm current of air that was the melody. It was all around her, lifting her gently, tumbling her softly in its caress. When she closed her eyes, she could look down from her lazy cloud and see Tom as she had seen him only a few short hours ago, sitting on a park bench, his long legs stretched out, his face turned to the sun, totally relaxed, contentedly waiting. The gentle warmth of the sun, it was soothing, so soothing. She was there beside him, relaxed, waiting. Like the music. She held her breath as it seemed to hover, watching, watching Tom open his eyes, the radiance of his welcoming smile.

He was off the bench and the music started to soar, taking her with it, making her laugh with sheer delight, catching her breath with its joyousness, its love of life. It made her want to dance, to spin round the room the way Tom had spun her as a teenager when he was teaching her and Rosie how to dance, the way he had spun her round in the park at lunchtime. Like this glorious music, Tom had spun her off-balance. She was intoxicated, drunk with its wine.

This was Tom’s music. It echoed his energy, his impulsive, spontaneous passion for life. She would never hear it again without thinking of him, without remembering their crazy, heady “flight” through Princes Street Gardens and all the way to London.

Elgar and Britten might have written their pieces for Jayne, for the tragedy of her past, but Bellini’s Oboe Concerto, this joyous romp, was Tom’s and she loved it. “Let go,” it seemed to echo. “Let go and love.” Yes, she could let go. She could let the past stay locked away. She could fly free with this music. She could fly free with Tom.


Bellini Oboe Concerto in E flat Major


There are more musical moments in the book, but I’ll let you find them for yourself. I may post links to them at a later date, but, in the meantime, I do hope these excerpts and links have given you a good taster of Flying Free. Enough of a taster, I hope, that you might fancy reading the book.



The novel.

Available on Amazon Kindle all over the world.

Later addition – now available as a paperback too 🙂

Here are a couple of links for you:

Kindle and paperback


… Play On

We’re still Flying Free, friends.

flying free cover 2290x1520mm

I hope you enjoyed the music and the excerpt from my soon-to-be-released novel as featured on my last post.

This second piece of music is  by Elgar and is his

Larghetto from Serenade in E minor.

It is also the second piece played in the orchestral concert attended by Tom and Jayne in London.


Britten had taken her back to her childhood and now Elgar held her there. She was still on the beach, feeling the old sadness, as the orchestra flowed into the Larghetto from his Serenade in E minor. Jayne felt the sad, haunting music reach deep into her, tearing at her, making her feel vulnerable, ripping memory after memory from her; just as the receding tide dragged everything into the depths of the churning sea, ripping creatures from rock and crevasse.

The music echoed the awful howling she could hear in her soul. She wanted to go, to run from it, but she knew the sound would follow her. It had been there all along, but she had turned the volume down, tuned it out to cope with ordinary living. Elgar had tuned it in again. She had no more power to hold back her tears or the encroaching tide of her memories, as she had to hold back the relentless sea.

The music paused, holding its breath, waiting for the answer of her heart. The hush in the auditorium was expectant, hopeful, as the music settled and calmed, rolling in on gentle waves, its energy spent, till it died away, leaving her stranded on the beach, agonising alone. Leaving her clutching her heart in her fist, unable to breath, afraid of the next onslaught when the past would smash over her in furious waves again. She was washed up, choking, drowning, fighting to crawl to safety but unable to see what safety looked like.

When Tom tried to put his arm round her, she drew away, her shoulders hunching, her arms wrapped across her body and her knees drawn up: a hermit crab withdrawing into its shell.

He smiled ruefully, his frown one of puzzlement rather than offence, and went to the bar to get her a drink. When he returned, she had done her best to rally, but her face felt pale and drawn, scraped bare by the outgoing tide. She couldn’t look at him, mumbling her thanks as she took the proffered drink and sipped it quietly. The lights dimmed and the orchestra prepared to play.


Larghetto from Serenade in E minor by Elgar



For Jayne, this is a sad piece and, to her, it comes to represent her past.

Do you find it sad?

Or does it evoke different feelings in you?

Do you have a song or a piece of music that does that for you?

Is it sad, haunting, happy or mellow?


Part three of our musical journey coming soon.


Flying Free can be found here in Kindle and here as a paperback

If Music be the Food of Love




Music plays an important part at several points during Flying Free, the third of my novels, and I wondered if you’d like to hear some of the pieces I mention, along with reading a small excerpt from the novel.

Today, I hope you enjoy  The Four Sea Interludes from Britten’s Opera, Peter Grimes.


Jayne had never been to a live orchestral concert before and was unprepared for the power of such a performance. It took her by storm. The first piece, Four Sea Interludes from Britten’s Opera, Peter Grimes, brought all the varying sounds of the open sea surging into the auditorium, shivering down her spine. All her senses sparked into life.

Eyes closed, she could feel the chill breeze of dawn over the desolate seascape, hear gulls whirling and crying, the tide slowly swelling, shingle churning on the beach. It was so real to her, prickling her skin with goosebumps, transporting her once more to the beaches of her youth and the mornings when she woke early and crept out of the house before her father was awake. She could smell the salty air, taste it on her lips. Her face lifted to the wind as it brought the chill of the water onto the beach. Her bottom cold on shingle and sand, watching dawn creep across the sky. In a world full of sound, smell and colour, there was emptiness.

She hadn’t been back since she was ten years old, yet the evocative music forced long buried memories to surface and she remembered well the chill of a seaside dawn. She shivered again.

In the last of Britten’s four interludes a storm raged out at sea. Excitement mounted in Jayne as it surged around her. The same fearful excitement she used to feel as a child, glorying in the power of the elements. She didn’t try to shelter at those times, but let herself be buffeted and drenched, having no fear of the storm’s fury. After such a tempest she always felt purged and renewed.

Exhilaration lifted her out of her seat as the orchestra brought the storm crashing to its end.


Four Sea Interludes from Britten’s Opera, Peter Grimes,


I wonder, do you ‘see’ the same things as Jayne when you listen to this music?

What does it conjure up for you?

Flying Free is available as Kindle or Paperback


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