The Return of the Writer

Who doesn’t enjoy a trip down memory lane? There are several good reasons why I haven’t been cracking on with my writing this year – and one of them is because of travel. Yes, Mr T and me have too many holidays, but my most recent excursion has been a solo trip to catch up with friends in the Netherlands.

We lived in the beautiful Dutch city of Haarlem for two years from 2014 to 2016. We then moved down to Den Haag for a further year. I haven’t been back to the Netherlands since we left in 2017 (apart from the cheese buying pitstop in Schipol Airport on our recent journey back from South America).

During my time in the Netherlands I joined an international women’s group in Amsterdam –  I didn’t partake in a great deal of the activities on offer, I’m fairly unsociable, but I did enjoy the organised walks and the yoga sessions. After we left, a few of us stayed in touch, meeting up back in the UK a couple of times. Then Covid struck, and we hadn’t seen each other since.

A catch up was long overdue. As one of the gang permanently resides in Haarlem, she offered to host. Flights were arranged, the hotel booked. I must admit I was worried my memories of the city had become blurred; that my rose-tinted spectacles had fogged up entirely and nothing would be as charming as I remembered. But on the flight over, I discovered the passenger in the next seat was travelling to a conference in the city, and I felt like the native, able to give helpful hints and directions. This was then followed by the joy of dragging my suitcase over the cobbles, the forgotten pitfalls of negotiating bicycle lanes, inhaling the lingering aroma of cheese and chips…

It was soo good to be back, eating my appeltaart met slagroom in the Grote Markt. I never learned to speak more than the most basic Dutch because the locals understood me better when I spoke in English, but it was heartwarming to be surrounded by the buzz of those guttural conversations. Haarlem hadn’t changed; I noticed a few of my favourite shops and cafes had gone, but others had replaced them. I trod the well-worn streets, soaking up the atmosphere like a drug, all the while acknowledging how lucky I was to have lived in such a beautiful part of the world. We took the bus out to the beach at Zandvoort to sit as the Dutch do, in a windy open-air bar, admiring the grey skies and the even greyer North Sea. And talking of bars – I’ve never been kicked out of one in my life, until our last night, when the young hotel barman switched off the lights and asked if we’d mind finishing our drinks in the lobby because he had a home to go to. Midnight already? Surely not? I thought the Dutch liked to party….

Anyway, that was my trip back in time, pure nostalgia and I left feeling warm and fuzzy inside with the promise to return again with Mr T.  But the Netherlands is not the only place I’ve revisited recently. I’ve picked up on an old manuscript that’s been stuck in the drawer for the last seven years.   To be honest, I am struggling with my historical weepy, and I thought revisiting something more lightweight and in my usual style, would be a good way to get back into the writing zone. It’s worked! As I re-write huge chunks of my contemporary romcom, ideas keep popping into my head for the war time love story. It’s like a part of me that had been missing has now come back, the words are tumbling out as quick as I can type. How long this euphoria will last, I’ve no idea. At the moment I’m escaping to my desk at every opportunity – especially as we’ve another holiday in a couple of weeks…


If it’s Tuesday, this must be Argentina…

Five Countries, 26 days, 9 planes, 1 boat and 44 travelling companions – a recipe for disaster or a cracking good holiday?

It all seemed like a good idea back in the New Year of 2023 when we first saw the trip advertised – a fully-organised tour of South America with all the highlights conquered in one go.

Fast forward fourteen months and there’s a packing dilemma. How to fit suitable clothing for exploring an entire continent with a variation in temperature from 30 degrees hot to zero degrees cold into 23 kgs worth of luggage. Part of the adventure included a twelve night cruise, but cocktail wear was the first thing to be discarded. Fortunately we were sailing with Celebrity Cruises and me and Mr T have sailed Celebrity before. No tuxedo required. The only jacket Mr T would need would be a warm snuggly waterproof thing for circumnavigating Cape Horn.

The day arrived and flight number one involved a short hop from Heathrow to Charles de Gaulle in Paris, where there was an unfortunate incident involving the tiled floor of the airport and my bottle of Bachs Rescue Remedy. I do not fly without Bachs Rescue Remedy in my hand luggage – or at least I didn’t. Now I had to complete another eight flights without it. Was this an omen? Clearly not because three films, a cat nap and some of the worst airplane food I’ve ever eaten later, we landed safely in Rio de Janeiro.

Rio was everything I expected it to be.  Copacabana beach teemed with bronzed bodies  jogging up and down in minimalist sportswear.

We took a tour to the statue of Christ the Redeemer, squeezed into tight lines with hundreds of other hot sweaty tourists. It was very much a case of tick the box and get me out of here. In the afternoon we took the cable car to the quieter Sugar Loaf mountain for more fantastic views of the city and the circling vultures and frigate birds, but as dusk fell our guide refused to let us off the coach to venture into the city centre. It wasn’t safe, he warned. In any case, we had an early morning pick up in preparation for the next leg of our journey…

Early morning pick ups were soon to become a recurring theme on this trip.  Flight number three was to Izuagu waterfalls in Brazil. I’m ashamed to say I’d never heard of Izuagu before booking. Niagara, Victoria, Rainbow Falls, heard all about them, but Izuagu – the largest waterfall system in the world? Why are they not more famous? Izuagu Falls are amazing, spectacular, a total wow, no several wows moment – a system of over 250 waterfalls stretching for 2.7 km hidden in the depths of the rain forest. Add into the mix monkeys, coatimundis, iguanas and toucans…yes, more wows.

We spent one night on the Brazilian side of the Falls in Foz do Iguaçu and two nights on the Argentinian side at Puerto Iguazú, a lively border town where every other shop sells duty free liquor and gallon sized jars of olives. It was perfectly safe to venture out after dark in Argentina our guide assured us so we did – off to a local restaurant to sample a steak and a glass of Malbec, because it would have been rude not to.

We’d been warned about mosquitoes in Iguazu, but we saw none. That was because they’d all flown down to Buenos Aires ahead of us. We encountered more mozzies in our city centre hotel lobby than in three days in the rain forest. A whistle stop tour of the city’s top spots (and yes Eva Peron’s grave is one of them), followed by an evening tango show and we were starting to bond with our fellow travellers. There were 44 of us in our tour group from all walks of life, from all corners of the UK. At the dinner before the tango show we sat next to a couple who used to live in Nottingham. Our daughter lives in Nottingham we said. Turns out the guy used to play squash with her father-in-law. It really is a small world, although South America itself is very big, and we still had three countries to go…

Eva Peron’s grave

We boarded our cruise ship the next morning. At last a chance to unwind, and more importantly, unpack. Me & Mr T have a few cruises under our belt, but we were novices compared to others in our group. Personally, I was impressed with the facilities and entertainment on board the Celebrity Eclipse. Our first port of call was a short hop across the River Plate to Montevideo in Uruguay, which seemed a pleasant enough place to stroll around, before heading to the upmarket resort of Punte Del Este – the “Monaco of the South” apparently. Umm. I’ve been to Monaco. Not sure about that one.

After that we had a sea day and our first encounter with the Eclipse resident naturalist, Milos, a man who spends 11 months of the year sailing with Celebrity delivering talks. Eleven months on a cruise ship? He had to be mad, and he was, in a very congenial sort of way. No sooner had he given his first lecture than right on cue little dolphins jumped through the waves along side the ship. Our next stop was Puerto Madryn in Argentina where we took an excursion to the UNESCO world heritage site of the Valdes Peninsula, a 3000 square metre nature reserve in the hope of spotting the odd Orca or two gliding along the coast. And how lucky we were. We arrived after a two hour coach journey for our two hour slot of whale watching and within fifteen minutes spotted a pod of half a dozen Orcas.

Elephant seals on the beach

Our cruise was turning into a mega episode of Springwatch – elephant seals, sealions, llamas, dolphins, albatrosses, and now Orcas. After Puerto Madryn we had another couple of sea days, but our second sea day was due to be super exciting because we were going around Cape Horn, and Cape Horn, as we had now learned from our lessons with Milos, was not a cape in the true geological sense, but an island, and if the weather was good, the captain was going to sail completely around the island so that we could see Cape Horn from all sides. It was finally time to bring out the snuggly waterproofs, the hats and the gloves, because boy was it cold, and although it is wonderful to say we’ve sailed around Cape Horn, to be honest, it’s a rock, and it looks pretty much the same from every angle.

Onwards to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, and a short excursion to the Tierra del Fuego National Park – barren but beautiful.

Back on board we admired the glaciers along the Beagle Channel, followed by a day in Punta Arenas, Chile, where we went Condor spotting. These huge scavenger birds nested a two hour drive out of town, and on that two hour drive we saw nothing but scrubland and a few local ostrich, but my inner Michaela Strachan knew it was worth it. From Punta Arenas we joined the humpback whales and sealions navigating the straights of Magellan where the waters got decidedly choppier.

After two more sea days we were impatient to disembark and begin the final leg of our South American tour. The cruise ended at Valparaiso in Chile, and Sunday morning in Valparaiso means one big car boot sale. The streets were rammed with traders but there was no time for bargain hunting because we were heading straight to Santiago and a brief overnight stay before flying onto Cusco in Peru for what was for most members of the group the main reason for booking the whole tour – a trip to the Sacred Valley and the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu. Cusco is 3,400 metres above sea level. That’s very high, and yes we did suffer with altitude sickness – all the pain of a hangover with none of the pleasure of having drunk yourself silly the night before.

In Cusco there was the opportunity to play with alpacas, eat alpacas, and of course, if an alpaca steak isn’t enough, you can also sample the local delicacy of guinea pig. Not for me, though. The journey to Machu Picchu itself involved a bus, a very bouncy train ride, and then another bus, but Machu Picchu was everything I’d imagined, a magical spiritual place shrouded in mist, but for all its history, all its magnificence, it didn’t outshine Iguazu Falls. I’ll be honest, I don’t think anything ever will.

Our tour of the continent ended in Lima, another frenetic and decidedly frustrating city tour we could probably have all done without, followed by a thoroughly enjoyable boat trip to Palomino Island, where Mr T braved the pungent water to frolic with the sealions. I stayed on board. Somebody had to take the photographs. And we saw penguins. The final tick of the box.

Last night drinks in the hotel bar was a fun but poignant affair. After twenty six days of being together on plane, train, bus and boat, it felt rather sad and surreal to be saying goodbye to our travelling companions. You never know quite who or what you’re going to get when you sign up for these things, but I really don’t think we could have found a nicer bunch of people to share our South American experience with.

Our final flight back to Heathrow involved a stop-over at our favourite airport,  Schipol in Amsterdam, which almost felt like home. I’ve realised I can now fly without reaching for Bachs Rescue Remedy but I couldn’t pass through the Netherlands without purchasing a chunk of Old Amsterdam cheese.

If Peru’s most famous bear can have marmalade sandwiches I can have cheese!

And finally, an apology to regular blog followers for the lack of posts since the start of 2024. It’s been a bit of a year. I always knew there were going to be challenges and writing would have to take a back seat. The books are still out there on Amazon – as always – and ideas still whirr around in my head, but just for now, Rosie Travers Author is having a break!

Rosie’s Review of the Year

Here it is – the final post of 2023. I originally drafted a blog post to go out before Christmas but you know how it is, life and other stuff gets in the way. I’ve now scrapped the festive frolic, and instead, here’s my review of the year.


We managed three trips, without any trips, so to speak. A huge relief after last year. We walked the Guernsey coastal path, visited Crete to undertake a 18 km hike through the Samaria Gorge, and enjoyed a leisurely cruise around the Adriatic, all without major mishap. It’s always good to discover somewhere new and if you like your scenery to be stunning, I highly recommend the Krka National Park in Croatia. We’d never heard of Krka before we booked our cruise but it really was an ooh aah just look at that view type of place.

Books Read

2023 has been an eclectic year in terms of books read. In the name of research I’ve had to broaden my habits and have become a regular visitor to my local library’s history section. Some books have impressed me, others not, but I am soaking up a whole new layer of knowledge – ask me a question about the Free French Army, why don’t you (who? what? Exactly. I didn’t know such a thing existed either twelve months ago). Anyway, talking of France, my favourite book, chosen for research purposes, would have to be Charlotte Gray by Sebastian Faulks, closely followed by Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield, chosen not for research purposes but because it called to me from the library shelf with its beautiful cover and I needed a break from World War II.

The book that probably left the most lingering impression was When I Come Home Again by Caroline Scott – the haunting and poignant story of a soldier with complete memory loss in the aftermath of World War I. This was one of those books that just reaffirmed my love of reading; one of those books that made me wistfully sit and think I wish I could write like that…

And talking of writing…

Books Written

2023 saw the publication of the third Eliza Kane novel, Trouble on the Tide. I’m pleased to say the book was well received and sales of all three Eliza Kanes continue to trickle in when I pop my head out of my shell and do a bit of publicity. More than one happy reader has commented they think Trouble on the Tide is the best book to date. Another said it made her cry – always music to an author’s ears! As regular readers of this blog will know, this will be the last Eliza Kane for now. I always think there’s nothing worse than watching season 6 of a TV series you know should have finished at season 3. I like to think the Eliza Kane series is fresh and original. It’s good to end on a high.

Random Moments

What else have we been up to this year? The weather was pretty pants but we did visit the theatre a few times. I finally got to see Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap which has been on the list for a while, and more recently, we went to London to see Back to the Future, the musical – a great evening of entertainment and nostalgia. Also while in London we visited the Monet Immersive Experience where you can literally step into a Claude Monet painting. As surreal as it sounds – highly recommended!

Life hasn’t been all jolly this year, there have been some real lows, but there’s a lot of misery in the world right now without me adding my pennyworth. All I will say is I’m glad I’d already made the decision to take a break from Eliza Kane in 2024 because if I’d promised book 4, I’d be panicking. Next year is going to be busy, and full of new challenges – some of which I’m very much looking forward to. I may not have much book news to blog about in my posts for 2024, but please keep reading because I’m going to have lots of other stuff to keep you entertained.

Meanwhile, thank you for your continued support of my writing journey throughout 2023. I wish all book lovers and readers everywhere, a very happy, and peaceful new year.


Continuing my series focussing on some of the wonderful people I’ve met on my writing journey, today’s guest is cover designer Berni Stevens.  As an independent author it was important for me to ensure my covers were appealing and professional. I needed the right designer to transform my ideas into reality and I’m so glad I found Berni! Berni created all three covers for the Eliza Kane books, as well as the re-issue of The Theatre of Dreams.  Berni was recently nominated for an industry award by the Romantic Novelist Association in recognition of her work.  And, not only does Berni create covers, she also finds time to write her own novels too. 

Welcome to the blog Berni. Can you start with telling us a bit about how you got started in your career as a cover designer? 

Thank you for inviting me. As a child, I was always either drawing or writing – or both. I used to write stories and ‘illustrate’ them. And of course, I was an avid reader too. I think I would always have been involved with books somehow.   

My first year at art college offered several different career paths from fashion and photography, to illustration, textile design and graphics. I was a bit torn, as illustration had always been my intention, but looking around at some of the superbly talented illustrators in my year, made me realise I should think about a more ‘commercial’ approach. 

After a few months working for a small advertising agency, I went for an interview at a publishers in Mayfair, and I just knew this was the industry I wanted to be in.  In the beginning, I worked on both covers and promotional material for some years – at W H Allen, Fontana paperbacks (part of HarperCollins) and Michael Joseph (who had just been bought out by Penguin.) Then I just sort of graduated into cover design from there and never looked back.  

When did you cross-over into writing your own novels? 

I had a short story published by the Dracula Society in (about) 2002 and the editor of the anthology said my story read like the beginning of a novel. I’d never thought about attempting a full-length novel but paranormal romances were starting to take off round about this time, so I thought I’d try. This was pre the Twilight saga, but there were quite a few adult paranormal romances around by American authors like Sherrilyn Kenyon, Charlaine Harris and Laurell K Hamilton. I used to write on the tube journeys to and from work, but I didn’t do anything with my scribblings for some time. Another editor friend kindly read it and gave me some very sound advice in how to make it better! Eventually, I plucked up the courage to send it out into the world where it was taken up by The Wild Rose Press and finally published in the US in 2011. 

When you are writing your own books, do you always know straight away what the cover will be? 

No, almost never, it’s actually quite difficult to design for yourself, being that close to the story. I wasn’t allowed to be involved with the WRP cover at all – which incidentally I didn’t like much. I was simply given a form to fill in regarding descriptions of the main characters, setting etc.  Having seen a lot of the American fantasy covers with bare-chested Chippendale type men, I had asked not to have a male hero on the cover. But they put a male hero on the cover anyway, who incidentally bore no resemblance whatsoever to my hero, and the title lettering read as Hedgling when actually the title was Fledgling. But I think this experience has stood me in good stead and helped me understand authors better. 

I know you work with a diverse range of authors, are there any genres you won’t design? Alternatively, do you have a favourite genre to work with?

I’m not keen on the Science Fiction genre design-wise, although I do like Science Fiction books and films. The design for this genre is very specific and incredibly difficult if you’re not very experienced in the field. The illustrators who work on the genre are brilliant and I really admire their work.  I love working on quirky romances, Rom Coms, paranormal romance, ‘cozy’ mysteries and thrillers. 

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever been asked for on a cover? 

I designed a Steampunk romantic thriller once which was a lot of fun. Obviously, I needed the hero and heroine to be dressed in the appropriate clothes and I needed a few steampunk balloons for the background!  

But the strangest request I had, was for a table with about ten photographs on it and there were detailed descriptions for every single photograph. It was eBook only and I had to politely remind the author that the content of the photos would never be visible on Amazon.

It must be wonderful to look on Amazon or wander through a bookshop and see your designs on the shelves. What would you say has been your proudest career moment? 

Print books tend not to be taken by bookshops as often as they used to be, times have changed. Celebrity biographies and cookery books rule a lot of the shelf space as well as the celebrity fiction.  Bookshops rarely take the kind of point-of-sale material we used to do at HarperCollins either, and I was always the ‘mad person’ straightening the POS in various shops if it was one of my designs! Proud moments for me, has to be seeing a lot of books with my covers all together on a shelf in The Works or on tables in local garden centres. 

But possibly my proudest moment is when the CEO of one publisher I worked for, held up the cover I’d designed for a David Bowie biography, and said she couldn’t even begin to say how brilliant she thought it was! (I knew I liked her!) It was a labour of love of course, as he’s one of my favourite musicians ever. 

David Bowie’s one of my ‘heroes’ too….That must have been quite a moment. What’s coming up next with your writing? 

I’m working on two sequels at the moment, and actually I’m a bit stuck with one of them. Usually if that happens, I ditch the bit that’s annoying me and rewrite it until I’m happy with it. But it’s been very busy cover-wise for the last few months and the covers always come first. The Christmas covers tend to start coming in earlier each year – and they are very important! 

With two busy careers, you probably don’t get a lot of time to relax, but how do you like to spend your spare time? 

Five years ago, I trained as a Zumba instructor, I’ve always liked dance and originally trained in ballet, tap and modern jazz. I was a member of the Pineapple Dance Studios for years, until I went freelance and worked from home. (It became cost prohibitive). But I do take a Zumba class every week. I don’t make much money as I have to hire the studio and most of the money I make, goes to pay for that, but I love taking my class and we all have a lot of fun. 

Also, my husband and I go out to the American desert when we can and hike canyons. We like to search for Native American ruins and rock art to photograph. 

And we go to as many live concerts as we can afford (my husband is an ex rock drummer).

About Berni

Berni Stevens lives in a tiny, ancient cottage in Hertfordshire – which really will look fabulous when all the work’s done! (It’s taking a long time). She trained in graphic design and photography and has been a book cover designer for more than twenty-five years. 

She’s long been a fan of Agatha Christie’s, but her favourite novel ever is Bram Stoker’s Dracula

She loves to dance and is a licensed Zumba instructor, Hiking canyons in the American desert is another passion as are the many rock concerts she and her husband go to. 

Her first novel was published in the US in 2011. She has had six books published so far, and intends to write more!

Many thanks to Berni for sharing her cover designing experiences with us – she’s had quite a career. I’m sure you’ll agree the Eliza Kane covers perfectly depict that vintage look of the Isle of Wight.

The pink thrift of Freshwater Bay transformed onto the cover of The Puzzle of Pine Bay



Continuing my series of introducing readers to those special people I’ve met on my writing journey, today’s guest is Sue Baker. When you’re a shy, retiring writer like me you need people in your corner, especially people who have those social media skills you lack. Sue is one of those special people! She has just set up the Riveting Reads and Vintage Vibes Facebook Group after being an administrator for several other Facebook book clubs, sites where authors and readers gather and meet and discuss their love of books (and for authors that doesn’t just mean talking about their own novels!) These groups are invaluable to indie authors like me, providing opportunities to reach new audiences.  To top it all, Sue organises some amazing online launch parties, all in her own time.  So how does she do it – and why?

Sue, welcome to my blog. What prompted you to set up a Facebook book club?

For several years I have worked on Facebook book groups as an administrator or a moderator and I love all the amazing opportunities it gives me to engage with authors and other readers. (Not to mention the huge amount of brilliant book recommendations!) One of the aspects of moderating these groups that I particularly enjoy is the helping to set up the friendly communities, where authors and readers can chat together and support each other. When the last group ended, I decided it was time to bite the bullet and to create a group from scratch to run by myself and so Riveting Reads and Vintage Vibes was born, it’s the perfect mix for me as I adore all things retro and bookish. I’m so grateful for the support I have received , it’s been an amazing couple of weeks, and I have lots of ideas brewing for the coming months. 

Your launch parties are legendary, they must take some planning. Tell us exactly what is involved.

Ahhh, the publication celebrations! They came about thanks to an author friend, Isabella May. Isabella did a similar thing on her Facebook page and she was kind enough to allow me to borrow her idea! It’s basically a day of sharing posts on the group linked to themes in the book being celebrated and I try very hard not to give away any spoilers! I read the upcoming book, taking notes of ideas for posts as I read, then I create the posts, which I always share with the author before adding to the group. They are usually a mix of fun quizzes, food/setting/music-based posts and my review. I love the challenge of creating the party, it’s always a fun day and I enjoy seeing the interactions between readers and authors. 

The parties you’ve organised for me have been great fun and I love the way you take aspects from each book and turn them into questions and quizzes. It’s very much appreciated! What’s the best thing about running the book clubs?

I love the friendly community feel of the groups, where people pop on and end up chatting away with each other. It’s brilliant to provide a bridge between authors and their readers, I’m still amazed how lucky we are to get the opportunity to engage directly with the people who are writing the books we are reading! I will never tire of feeling excited when an author comments or messages little old me! I enjoy supporting authors, especially those who are just starting with their writing journey. It’s exciting being part of a books journey into the world! 

I know you are a prolific reader, how many books on average do you read each week?

I am blessed to be a really fast reader! Even as a child I read books quickly, I’m sure my teachers thought I had pretended to read a book, but I could answer their questions about the story every time! 

I read about three books a week, sometimes more if I’m off work or not got anything planned to do! I have an audiobook on the go and read a couple of either electronic books or paperbacks.

That’s answered my next question! I was going to ask what’s your preference, paperback, Kindle or audio.

I am addicted to audiobooks! I was very late to the audiobook party but once I tried them, I absolutely loved them! I listen in the car on my commute to work and in the evenings whilst I do my colouring in app, it’s the best way to relax! I also am a fan of using a Kindle, I have the app on my phone and so I always have lots of books available at any given time!

Can you remember the first book that inspired your love of reading?

Absolutely I can! It was The Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I was probably about seven when I first read that book and at 51 years old I am still reading her Little House books. I do enjoy reading books from my childhood, they are like a comfort blanket to me

Where is your favourite place to read?

At the moment my reading chair that faces our garden. In the summer, in the garden ( weather permitting) I do keep dropping hints for a summerhouse to read in but it’s yet to appear! 

Hopefully you’ll get that summerhouse one day. Besides reading and running the Facebook groups, what other hobbies do you have?

I love walking, I have a gorgeous whippet called Mabel, so we get out and about most days. I also love connecting with nature, visiting a beach or woods is always a means to recharge my batteries. I do a lot of my planning for the groups on walks too. 

Sue and Mabel the whippet

I enjoy walking too – it’s great for plotting! Finally, for someone who loves books so much, I have to ask – have you ever wanted to write your own novel?

Lovely Heidi Swain is gently encouraging me to try writing! I’ve had a go at her monthly writing prompts on her newsletter, and I have enjoyed the challenge! I do write poetry, my auntie was amazing at writing poetry and as a child she inspired me to try and so from time to time I do dabble with writing, but it’s for my own enjoyment really, I’m no Robert Frost!!! 

Sue with author Heidi Swain

About Sue

I’m Sue, I live in rural West Norfolk with my husband Simon and our two boys Joe (14) and Tom (10) with our dog Mabel and cat Gatsby. 

I work part time at a veterinary clinic ( inspired by the books of James Herriot from my teenage years) 

I have always loved reading and have embraced social media for its ability to bring people together. Sharing the book love has become part of my life now and I love every minute of it! 

Many thanks for Sue for taking part. Becoming part of an online Book Club community is a great way to share your love of books and find out about new authors. Check out Riveting Reads and Vintage Vibes here



It’s back to business this week as I continue my theme of highlighting some of the fabulous people I’ve met on my writing journey. Today’s guest is Anna Britton. Anna is a freelance editor who worked with me on all three Eliza Kane books, and this week she is celebrating the publication of her debut novel, Shot in the Dark. I’m intrigued to know how she found the editing process with her publisher. But first, let’s hear about the book…

Welcome to the blog, Anna. Tell me a bit about Shot in the Dark. What drew you towards the crime genre? 

Shot in the Dark opens on a young woman running through a moonlit forest. She climbs a tree, believing she is safe. Then three shots ring out through the forest. 

The next morning, the body of Melanie Pirt is found. Detectives Gabe Martin and Juliet Stern are tasked with finding her killer. But a lack of forensic evidence, tightened resources, and suspects who will not stop lying make this the toughest case they’ve ever faced. 

I didn’t set out to write crime, but the scene of Melanie running through the forest popped into my head and I rolled with it! The story flowed from there, and Gabe is a character who I have really loved unpacking. She’s determined and strong, but often feels dragged down by traumatic experiences of her past. I loved writing her and Juliet’s partnership, and I hope readers will enjoy their story! 

How did it feel having your work edited by someone else? Were there any arguments?! 

Ha – fist fights all over the place!  

My editor was such a joy to work with. She totally got the story I wanted to tell and helped me get there. We made massive changes to Shot in the Dark, and I feel so happy with all of them. They have made the story much stronger. 

I think I recognised, maybe because of being an editor myself, that someone knowledgeable and kind is only ever going to give advice that they feel is going to make the story shine. My editor didn’t mind when I didn’t want to make a change, so long as I had a good reason, and she trusted me to know my story best. 

A sign of a good editor! I know we haven’t always agreed on aspects in my books but the story always became better because of the editing process. Can you tell me a bit about how you got started as a freelance editor? How many books/authors do you work with at one time? 

I started out reading friends’ stories for free, but quickly realised that the way I analysed stories and engaged with them critically was slightly different to what I was seeing elsewhere. I naturally thought about the plot as a whole and questioned characters’ motivations, picked up on bigger issues with their writing and focused on their strengths and what they could do more of. 

I started out taking on a few clients while I was still working at a library, but things snowballed quickly! I was able to switch to editing as my sole income, which was lovely as it gave me lots more time for my own writing too. Now I take on one or two bigger editing projects a month, but the bulk of my work is with long-term mentees. I love walking alongside other writers as they figure out their stories and develop their craft. 

What, in your opinion, are the most common mistakes authors make in their manuscripts? 

This is a tricky question, as each writer and story is so different. I know for myself that in one novel I will be really conscious of not over-telling, but in another it will slip in. I might be hot on describing the setting and characters one day, but then forget that readers can’t see inside my head on another. I genuinely feel like each writer has unique skills and weaknesses, and my job as an editor is to help them focus on their strengths while being conscious of their weaknesses. 

I think one big mistake a lot of authors make again and again is not trusting their gut. People send me their manuscripts with a list of questions or areas to focus on, and when they flag something to do with writing technique, character, or part of the plot, nine times out of ten, they’ve identified one of their issues. Sometimes, it’s because they weren’t sure how to fix it, but sometimes they just weren’t trusting themselves enough! 

Has scrutinising other people’s work has made you super critical when it comes to reading? Can you switch off, or do you find yourself thinking if I’d edited this book I’d have suggested this/that? 

Oh no, I totally switch off. Editing uses a very specific part of my brain that I am very happy to let rest when I’m reading for pleasure. Reading has always been such a joy and an escape for me – so I’m glad that my editor brain can be turned off! 

What’s your favourite genre of book to read? 

I’m not totally sure I have a favourite genre – I’m a massive mood reader so careen between sci-fi and romance and YA and historical depending on how I’m feeling. In all stories, I need strong characters I want to root for until the end.  

I know you didn’t ask, but some of my favourite authors are Becky Chambers, Natasha Pulley, Fredrik Backman, Elizabeth Strout, and Jane Austen. I would like to sit down to dinner with all of them (we would bring Jane back to life) and listen to them talk about crafting stories. 

What comes next after Shot in the Dark? 

Shot in the Dark two! (This is absolutely not its name.) I’ve signed a three-book deal with Canelo, so I am currently busy working away on Gabe and Juliet’s second adventure. This one is even more twisty than the first, and I’m loving diving back into this world! 

Shot in the Dark is published by Canelo on 26 October 2023



Moonlight slants through the trees on the ancestral Dunlow estate, where a young woman runs for her life. Gunshots break the silence.

The next morning, the body of seventeen-year-old student Melanie Pirt is found.

DS Gabe Martin is more than ready to take the lead on her first murder case. Determined to prove herself to the cold and mysterious DI Juliet Stern, Gabe can’t afford any distractions – especially not ones that wake her in the night, reminding her of a past she’d rather forget.

Because while Gabe and Juliet have few leads, there are plenty of suspects. And every one of them is lying…

Buying link

Social media links (Twitter Instagram Bluesky) @BrittonBookGeek

Many thanks to Anna for coming onto the blog. I wish her every success with her new book. You can find out more about Anna and her editing and mentoring services at


Carry on Cruising

They say travel broadens the mind, but when you’re cruising it also broadens the waistline.

Me and Mr T have just returned from a holiday and I thought it would be fun to write a little travel blog – after all, that’s how my writing career started off . We’re not seasoned cruisers but when you live in Southampton, have family and friends in the business, can see the tops of the cruise ships from your bedroom window, it’s hard to avoid the lure of the liner.

A cruise is an opportunity to explore a lot of different places in a short space of time. Last year we set off in search of winter sun, and as any regular followers will know, it ended in disaster. Three choppy days at sea and in our first port of call, Lisbon, I fell over, broke my arm, and we flew straight home. This year we decided to cut out the Bay of Biscay and fly direct to the sunshine for a week’s exploration of the Adriatic embarking in Valletta, Malta.

To be honest, Malta has never appealed as a travel destination, simply because for many years our parents used to holiday there. Our reasoning was if they liked it, we probably wouldn’t. Now, of course, we’ve reached the age our parents were when they started visiting the island, so we booked ourselves in for a three night stay ahead of the cruise to sample Valletta’s delights. The old fortified city is very impressive, history seeps out of the crumbling masonry every which way you go. In a three hour walking tour on our first morning we learned an awful lot about the country’s troubled past from the Crusades to World War II, but nowadays Valletta is vibrant and bustling. Despite myself, I liked it.

As for the cruise itself, we’d booked onto P&O’s Azura for seven nights. We’d selected the cruise for its itinerary – we’d visited Croatia before in 2016 and always wanted to go back. This trip included four ports – with only two sea days at either end of the trip.  Sea days give you time to join in with the onboard entertainment programme, get to know your fellow guests, and of course, take advantage of the endless food and beverage options. One thing I have learned over the years is that cruising attracts the very people who should never be allowed anywhere near an all-you-can-eat-buffet, not just for their own health and welfare, but for the future burden on the NHS.

We were joined on our table one morning by a rotund couple who plonked themselves down opposite us with their over-loaded plates. “Steak for breakfast”, Mr Extra-Large gleefully proclaimed, marvelling at his haul, “whatever next”. Seriously, it took all my powers of restraint not to quip back “a heart attack?”

To be fair, it’s easy to over indulge with so much food on tap. The buffet restaurant only closes for five hours between 1.00 am and 6.00 am, you have to stock up. Before you know it, you’ve joined the roly-poly club. The shorts I wore on my first day were definitely tighter on the last.

There are other restaurants to choose from besides the stuff-yourself-silly option. I know some complain the dinners in the main restaurants are not plentiful. They’re perfect for me, but if you’ve a voracious appetite you may find yourself wanting. I must admit I could have done with a bit more of this gorgeous frozen chocolate and raspberry lollipop – but it was just the “pre-dessert” in a five course menu.

The writer in me relishes the opportunity to eavesdrop and observe my fellow passengers. Our set dining companions were a lovely couple from Ipswich and if you’re in the Ipswich area and want your roof fixed, I’d highly recommend James the roofer, despite his fear of heights (hashtag wrong job question mark). Other passengers we encountered were not so humble. There seems to be a competition amongst travellers to see who has covered the most nautical miles; up the inside passage, across the artic circle. You name it, they’ve done it. Nor do you have to be covert in your eavesdropping, some people need a volume control fitted as well as a gastric band. Mrs Booming-Voice from Connecticut who we encountered in Valetta is definitely going into a future book. In fact I may have to send Eliza Kane on a cruise specifically so that Mrs Booming-Voice can be bumped off.

At least the ports of calls excelled our expectations. We explored the ancient city of Split, took an excursion from Trieste in Italy to Slovenia which was a revelation, another trip from Zadar to the Krka National Park was a real highlight, and then our final stop Dubrovnik, now a mecca for Game of Thrones fans, as busy as always. I’m just so glad we’d stayed in Dubrovnik on our previous trip because it meant we could skip into the old town and then fight our way out without feeling we were missing anything.

Beautiful Lake Bled

Krka National Park

On our return to Valletta we weren’t being transferred to the airport until the afternoon. We whizzed back into the city for one final look around and decided to visit the Co-Cathedral, which our walking tour guide had told us was a must-see, but with all the splendour and opulence on display, not to mention the collection of Caravaggio’s, needed at least an hour and a half of our time to be fully appreciated. He was wrong. Me and Mr T did the whole cathedral in thirty minutes. Forget the culture, you can’t linger when you’ve got one last chance to sample the delights of the all-you-can-eat-buffet before you fly home.

The magnificent Co-Cathedral in Valletta

Never mind the Carravaggio’s, the tombstones on the cathedral floor are pretty impressive – I’m seriously re-thinking my gravestone options!


Meet the Podcaster

Writing a book can be an lonely process. I’m easily distracted and when I’m in a creative spurt I like to lock myself away and keep my head down. But when it comes to publishing and promoting, a shy retiring writer like me has to come out of isolation. These are not my areas of expertise and I need all the help I can get. I’ve made many new friends along my writing journey who are involved in different aspects of the publishing and marketing world. I thought it would be interesting to run a series featuring some of these wonderful people who have talents and skills I could never master! I’m starting with writer DJ Bowman-Smith, who set up her own podcast. Over to you DJ.

Hi, I’m DJ Bowman-Smith and this is a short post about the Words and Pictures Podcast.  

The podcast is just over a year old – I’m now on my 63rd episode. I began it because I thought it would be interesting to talk face to face with other authors. Although I am on social media and I make many connections, there is nothing like speaking to someone directly. Writers of all genres interest me and I want to talk to them all about their writing and their book covers. Every week I get to welcome all kinds of writers at different stages in their careers. It’s always inspiring.   

Each show starts with a section I call ‘at my desk’. Here I discuss my own writing experiences, my process and anything another writer might find interesting or useful. Now and again, I record a whole episode solo to speak in more depth about a topic.  

 Writing is a solitary occupation. I started the podcast with writers in mind, and on the way found readers. I know for a fact that lots of readers listen in to hear a favourite author speak, or to learn more about what writers do and how they do it. 

 I research each author and compile a short list of questions. During the interview, I have the questions near just in case. But the trick to interviewing somebody successfully is to listen to what they are saying and ask them a question about that.     

The actual nuts and bolts of running the podcast is more time consuming than people may realise. Setting up the interview time and answering questions can take a few emails. More recently I have made an FAQ page for the podcast which saves time. The interview lasts 40 minutes. Editing the sound files takes about an hour and a half. Adding the intro and outro, the music and loading it onto my host site Podbean is another hour. Show notes and the tagline need to be written and an e-mail with all the episode links sent to the guest. When this is done, I make a TikTok ready for the Monday morning when the podcast goes live. And of course, I post through my other social media accounts linking in the guests where possible. Each episode takes about four hours.  

In the future, I hope to monetise the podcast so that it can cover its costs. The host site Podbean has to be paid and I also use Auphonic for some episodes to improve sound quality. The Words and Pictures Podcast is doing well. Achieving enough listeners to interest advertisers will probably take another year. 

Find the Words and Pictures Podcast on your favourite app, ask Alexa, links on my website:

About DJ

DJ Bowman-Smith is a multi-genre author whose current passion is paranormal women’s fiction. This genre features a mature protagonist and a fantasy element. This is appealing because DJ can’t help adding a touch of make believe to anything she writes and she herself is a woman of a ‘certain age’.

DJ plans to write more in The Mid Witch series and more books with older, strong-minded female main characters.

She is the author of a dark fantasy epic which runs to four books, and she also writes for children under the pen name Tiger Molly.

DJ is an artist and enjoys creating her own book covers and illustrations. She writes for magazines and hosts the Words and Pictures Podcast every Monday. DJ lives in the UK on the South Coast with her husband and a fast and friendly whippet called Evie. She has two grown-up daughters who live in London.

DJ’s latest book, The Mid Witch, was published on 19 August 2023.


One Woman’s Struggle with midlife and Magic

Lilly is facing the fact that her husband is a philandering bastard, and she needs to move on now her children have flown the nest. Losing her job has not helped her dire financial straits, and her almost ex-husband wants to sell her ancient family home against her wishes. As she grapples with rude estate agents, stray dogs and hot flushes, a new problem emerges – she’s becoming a witch.

This paranormal women’s fiction is a funny and poignant take on midlife with a pinch of spice, a touch of magic and a relatable older heroine you can root for.

Buying link

I love the sound of this book and isn’t that cover gorgeous? Many thanks to DJ for coming onto the blog and explaining the intricacies of podcasting. And don’t forget to check out Words & Pictures – DJ features some great authors, including me!


Book Chat with Karen Hollis

In my final book chat interview of the summer I’d like to welcome author Karen Hollis to my blog. Karen, who lives in Lincolnshire, has chosen the magical location of Stonehenge for our chat, so naturally my first question has to be why Stonehenge? Over to Karen….

It’s my favourite place in the world. I’ve only been there once, maybe 5 years ago. I wasn’t expecting to feel anything special, but it was so breathtaking, I cried!!!

That’s quite a reaction, although I think it’s impossible to visit the site without acknowledging it’s unique sense of history and mystique. (Note to self, it would be a great setting for a novel…)

Welcome to my blog, Karen. Please tell me about your latest book.

My latest novel came out in April. It’s called Starting Again in Silver Sands Bay and it’s a second chance romance between two single parents – a divorced man aged 48 and a widowed woman aged 50. They both have children aged 11 and spend the summer in a caravan in Lincolnshire where they meet up.

What part of the writing process do you enjoy the most?

I’m a pantser and I love seeing what happens! I have some ideas of what will happen, but often my characters decide otherwise and that’s the best bit. I have one novel on my laptop that is planned, I know everything that happens in each chapter, but when I was writing it, I got bored because I knew what was going to happen.

In my current WIP, guinea pigs suddenly became a part of the story!!

I’m a total pantser too, and love it when the characters start dictating the plot. When I’m surprised by a turn of events I know readers will be too! Where do you do your writing?

At home, on my bed. Not great for my back, as my chiropractor keeps telling me. But I live in my mum’s house (I’m her carer), so my bedroom is like my office space.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block, and if you do, what’s your cure?

Not too often thankfully. I write non-fiction as well as fiction and always have several projects on the go, so if I’m stuck on one thing, I’ll try to work on the other. I write lots of books on gymnastics and am always interviewing gymnasts, which is pretty much my dream job! So if the novels aren’t working, I’ll concentrate on interviewing gymnasts instead.  

What inspired you to first put pen to paper, or fingers to the keyboard, and start writing novels?

My parents were journalists, so I’ve always been surrounded by people writing. As a kid, Dad would take me to the theatre and he’d be interviewing someone while I watched.

I first self-published a poetry collection in 2003. The novels came later. I have often started novels, but until probably three years ago, I could never finish one. I’d get halfway through and the gremlins on my shoulder would tell me it was rubbish, so I’d stop writing.

It’s only through finding some amazing, supportive authors online (especially the Chick Lit and Prosecco Facebook group) that I finally had the confidence to finish a novel. Welcome to Whitlock Close came out in 2022.

How many unfinished novels have you got on your laptop?

There’s Welcome to Whitlock Close 2 and a cosy mystery that I’ve started and still intend to finish. Then there’s maybe another four that I’ve started, but I’m not sure if I’ll go back to. I’ve nearly finished my WIP which is exciting.

How do you come up with names for your characters?

Most of the time, they tell me. They turn up in my head, I can see what they look like and they tell me their name. Now hopefully, other authors reading this will completely understand this and not think I’m mad.

In my WIP, there’s a cat called Poppy. My son, who’s 11, said “Did you name her after Poppy in my class?” I said “No, she told me her name was Poppy.” He then told me I must be mad, because that couldn’t happen, the characters come from my head, therefore so do the names. Well, yes, but it’s not quite that straight-forward to explain!

Only very occasionally do I struggle with names. A character in Welcome to Whitlock Close was called Tony, but I also had a Toby so I had to change Tony’s name, but it took a couple of tries before I found the right name.

I’m totally with you on the name thing. Sometimes my characters go through several name changes before I find the right one that fits. Other times the name is there before the character!

About Karen:

I was born in Lincoln, England in 1969. I loved writing from an early age, being the daughter of two journalists. I am a mum to five children and have three grandchildren. I have had over twenty books published and have written about a variety of topics including motherhood, poetry, Doctor Who and gymnastics. My first novel Welcome to Whitlock Close came out in 2022 and my second one Starting Again in Silver Sands Bay in 2023.

IG –

Blog –

Twitter (X) –

Amazon Author Page –

Starting Again in Silver Sands Bay –


Becki is fifty and a single mum to eleven-year-old Jemima, after being widowed five years ago.
Dan is forty-eight and a single dad to eleven-year-old Freddie, after his wife left him five years ago.
They have both given up on love.
But when they all go to Silver Sands Bay on the Lincolnshire coast for the summer, will they be able to put the past behind them and find love again?

Many thanks to Karen for taking part, and inviting me to Stonehenge. Now I just need to come up with a good name for a Druid….

The Joy of Paperbacks

I’m delighted to announce that paperback copies of Trouble on the Tide are now available. It’s always a time of great excitement in our house when the delivery van pulls upside. Who knows what or whose parcel you’re going to get next, but to find a box of your very own creations on your doorstep is pure joy!

I’m old and wise enough to know these paperbacks are not going to sell like hot-cakes.  Self-publishing through Amazon KDP means these books don’t come cheap – when you can get two for one bestsellers in Waterstones and WHSmith, and £3 bargains of the popular commercial titles in the supermarket, I appreciate the Amazon selling price of £9.99 isn’t an attractive proposition, but for a low-key self-publisher like me, KDP is the most viable option for producing print copies.

Books bought directly from me will be sold at a discount of course, but I know the only people who will buy – or receive – copies of this book will be people who know me personally.

So why do I do it? For that precise reason. Family and friends. Personalised books make marvellous Christmas presents and my Christmas list is sorted.  I’ve had a huge amount of support on my writing journey from my family and various acquaintances, and this is a wonderful way to pay them back. (Pay back sounds wrong, like a threat…Reward? Show my appreciation?)

In addition, what writer doesn’t want to hold their very own paperback? I’m a true book lover, I grew up in a house surrounded by books and reading has always been one of my main hobbies. I have a Kindle, and yes I use it, especially when I’m travelling, but you simply can’t beat the feel and smell of a paperback.

When I do talks to groups I like having paperbacks to illustrate the fact I am a genuine writer – because, let’s be honest, nobody has ever heard of me.  I’m so lucky I found the marvellous Berni Stevens who has created such attractive covers for the Eliza Kane series. Even if I don’t sell an awful lot of physical books at events, the covers do make an impression and I might see a spike in ebook sales afterwards.

The three books look wonderful together and I now have five of my own creations nestling amongst my favourites on my bookshelf.

Anyway, the whole point of this brief little post is to announce that paperbacks are now available to purchase either from me (happy to post within the UK or deliver by hand in the local area), or the big A.

Meanwhile, I’ve also updated my social media author pic to something I think gives me a more serious author-ish look as I embark on my next project (basically I’ve balanced my glasses on my head to look more intellectual). I’m still having a little bit of trouble getting inside the psyche of my new leading lady, young Kat, or old Kat, as she is at the start of the novel. She’s already telling jokes, which has to stop, because my WIP (Work In Progress) covers very serious matters. I need to lock myself away and concentrate, hard when the sun is finally shining and the temptation beckons in the form of a deckchair in the garden and a good book…