Here Comes Trouble…

It’s news you’ve all been waiting for – Trouble on the Tide is now available to pre-order on Amazon Kindle. Official launch date is 27 June.

The third instalment in my Eliza Kane series features several new characters, including Eliza’s dad Ian who makes a surprising return to the Isle of Wight after a thirty-year absence.

Trouble on the Tide was an absolute blast to write – and that’s the joy of self-publishing. I can keep my books exactly as I want them. I’ve promoted this series as a “cosy mystery” because the market demands books fit into neat little pigeon holes, but as anyone who has read the first two books will know, there is so much more going on in Eliza Kane’s life than simply solving mysteries.

I’ve just finished reading Nevil Shute’s Requiem for a Wren as part of my research for my new writing project. First published in 1955 Nevil Shute’s style is probably considered old-fashioned in today’s commercially driven market, but the bottom line is he’s a born story-teller – anyone who can keep me engrossed in a novel about ammunition supplies to machine gun boats has to have something special. Reading this book reinforced why it’s so important for me to write an engaging and original story.

In Trouble on the Tide, I’m hoping I can capture readers’ imaginations with a mystery involving a forged piece of artwork and a body in a boat. Add into the mix a dubious celebrity antiques expert, the return of an errant father and of course, Eliza’s love-life and I’ve hopefully created another entertaining slice of Isle of Wight life.

I’ve woven topical threads into the story. The dead body belongs to a chef. I think we’ve all become more foodie and gastronomically aware in recent years and my chef is a prominent figure in Isle of Wight society, famous for championing local produce. Likewise those daytime TV experts are never off our on our screens, but are these experts as knowledgeable as they first seem? What really goes on when the cameras stops rolling (I’ll admit I’ve used my very vivid imagination here!) Women’s sports are also finally receiving far more media coverage and Eliza is determined to promote her new golfing for girls initiative. She also faces dilemmas in her relationship with single-parent Charlie Harper.  She has some big decisions to make.

Family is a major theme running through this novel, especially the father-daughter relationship. Mr T has been a brilliant dad to our two daughters. They are both well-established in their careers, have their own homes and steady partners, but he still gets phone calls about flashing lights on car dashboards and household appliances that don’t work, despite the fact both our girls live 200 miles away.   

Eliza hasn’t had a Mr T in her life, and I felt she deserved the chance to have one, or at least the chance to get to know her father better.  However, I must stress Mr T is nothing like Ian Kane and the two men have absolutely nothing in common – apart from the fact that 1981 was a special year for them both.  Why’s that? I hear you ask. Well, 1981 was the year Mr T first met me, but if you want to find out why 1981 was so significant for Ian Kane, you’ll have to buy the book!

Trouble on the Tide Blurb

When Isle of Wight restaurant owner Stewie Beech is found dead in a dinghy abandoned in picturesque Newtown Creek, the police conclude he died of a heart attack. But just days before his death Stewie discovered he’d been the victim of a serious case of art fraud, and his grieving widow Pilar is convinced the two events are related.

Forty years ago Stewie Beech and Eliza Kane’s dad Ian were best friends. When Ian returns to the Island after a thirty-year absence to attend Stewie’s funeral, he promises Pilar he will seek out the swindlers who conned her husband and bring them to justice.

A freak accident lands Ian on Eliza’s doorstep and she is roped in to help out. Eliza isn’t used to having family around and father and daughter soon clash, and not just with their conflicting theories about the mysterious circumstances leading up to Stewie’s death. Eliza is committed to promoting her new golfing for girls initiative, and has a love-life to sort out. She wants to solve the case and send her dad swiftly back to his native Yorkshire. But with few clues to go, Ian Kane is in no rush to go home, and it soon becomes clear he harbours secrets of his own…

The Kindle version of Trouble on the Tide launches on 27 June. You can pre-order your copy here. https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0C6B33VXT/ A paperback version will be available later in the summer.

Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with a couple of pictures of the area around Newtown Creek where much of the book is set – these were taken on our hike around the Isle of Wight in 2021 when I first discovered this rather remote corner of the island, and the idea for this novel was born!

*******

Coming out of hibernation…

It has been a very long winter but I’ve finally re-emerged!

It is four months since my last blog post. Back in November I was about to set off on holiday and all was well in the world…That holiday is not one I’m ever going to forget, and for all the wrong reasons. One broken arm later and we were back home within four days. Any hope of bouncing back to start editing Trouble On The Tide flew out of the window. On top of the broken arm I’ve also had the cold from hell to contend with since January.  It’s as if three years of being virus-free caught up with me. Even worse every cold/flu remedy in my medicine cabinet was out of date and the supermarket shelves were empty. Clearly everyone else in the same boat. 

Did I feel sorry for myself? Yes!

But now with spring around the corner, the snivels and coughs are finally coming to an end. I’ve managed to finish my self-edits and Trouble on the Tide is out of the door and on its way to professional editor Anna in the Isle of Wight for her strict appraisal.

As I said in November, this book has been a joy to write, and all the early readers who’ve had a preview have sent back positive feedback. One comment about a confusion over characters was quickly rectified when I realised one character had actually changed name half-way through the manuscript. A minor issue. That’s why editing is so important!

I originally thought I would continue writing my Isle of Wight mysteries for ever more. I could see endless possibilities for Eliza to investigate, but sometimes you watch a long running TV show and you think if only they’d stopped this after the third series…

I’ve spent the last three years immersing myself in Eliza and her family, and lovely people though they are, I feel it’s time to move on.  The plan is to launch Trouble on the Tide this summer and then take a break.

I do have another idea brewing but it’s a total change of direction and involves RESEARCH. It’s a story I’ve been thinking about for some time, but a casual “yes of course you can turn my family history into a novel if you want to” isn’t permission to proceed. Before I even begin to put pen to paper, I’ll need to consult and gather facts, and as someone who usually googles as they go along, this is a bit of an alien concept.  And if I do go ahead, I want to do this amazing story justice (think epic wartime romance/espionage/tragedy). In addition, although I’ve said I’d never go back to seeking a traditional publisher, if I could pull this story off it deserves a wider audience.

Being in hibernation over the last four months has reiterated the downsides of self-publishing. To be a successful indie author you have to be relentless in your marketing. If you’re not visual and vocal on social media, books don’t sell. The publishing world is tough, every celebrity and their mother currently has a book on the market.  In addition the cosy mystery is becoming overdone.  Eliza Kane was always so much more than just a simple cosy – there is the family drama, the romance, the dual timelines. I know comparativitis is a horrible condition that should be ignored, but when I see multiple versions of Mrs Busybody strangled by floral bunting at the church fete riding high in the Amazon charts I do start to feel I should have listened to all that advice and just written something that fitted into the commercial cosy pigeon hole. (I’ve just realised Flora Bunting is the perfect name for a killer…hurriedly picks up pen…)

On the upside, I did do a lovely talk at Lee Hub community library last weekend – the Lee Tower in Lee-on-the-Solent was the inspiration behind Hookes Bay pavilion in The Theatre of Dreams so it was an appropriate place to give a talk. The Lee hub library is also housed in a beautiful 1920s building now taken over by the community, which is the whole premise of my debut novel. Life really does imitate art. The audience seemed to appreciate the efforts I’d made with my Powerpoint presentation, they asked lots of questions about all four of my books and nobody fell asleep – always a good sign!

Me and my Powerpoint!

Now that I’ve finally stuck my head back over the parapet, I will keep you updated on the cover reveal and launch date for Trouble on the Tide. I’ll also keep you posted on whether that next project goes ahead or not. If it does you’ll find me in the library with my head in a reference book…

Trouble On The Tide

Here it is – the first sneak preview of the third Eliza Kane story – Trouble on the Tide. The first draft is finished and it has been an absolute joy to write. I set myself a deadline to finish this draft before going on holiday next week, so I know there is still a lot of work to do, especially in the latter half of the story. I’m itching to start editing. There are tweaks to be made, characters and scenes to plump up, a new twist is already floating about in my head, but I need to stop now, sit on it, and attack the manuscript with “new eyes” when I return to my desk in December.  I don’t think I have ever enjoyed writing a novel so much – probably because I know Eliza and all her foibles very well by now, plus part of the book is set in 1981 – my teenage years – so to re-visit that period in time has been great fun!

I will spend the winter editing and polishing off, and plan to launch the book in early summer 2023. More good news is that I hope to be able to have a physical book launch as well.  A new independent book shop has opened in Lymington in the New Forest, and I have been able to persuade the lovely owners, Robyn and Dan, to stock the Eliza Kane Investigates series in their “local author” section.  Robyn has done a grand job persuading her customers they will enjoy meeting Eliza, and they are now on their third stock-run of books (granted they don’t hold a huge stock but it’s wonderful to be told they’ve sold out!)

I know I’ve been all too quiet on social media while I’ve been working to get Trouble On The Tide finished, and as any author knows, if you disappear off air for a while people very quickly forget about you and your books. Self-publishing is all about being visible and vocal, but I have accepted that for my own personal well-being I need to concentrate on the things that make me happy – which is writing!  

I did pop my head up to do an author talk at a local arts centre in my old home village of Bursledon on the eastern side of Southampton earlier this week. As I’ve said before, “performing” in front of an audience is something I would never have seen myself doing a few years’ back, and I’d like to thank the Greyladys Art Foundation for inviting me along, and those brave souls who ventured out on what was a horrible Tuesday evening to listen to me wittering on about my path to publication.  I always refer to my path as a rocky road because just like the chocolate treat of the same name it’s full of soft gooey bits, delicious bits, colourful bits, and some very hard, break your teeth on bits. Right now, with Amazon sales and page reads on Kindle Unlimited of A Crisis at Clifftops and The Puzzle of Pine Bay trickling in slowly but surely, I’m at soft-gooey stage, which is a very satisfying place to end the year!

Don’t forget books make wonderful Christmas presents – personalised signed copies of all four of my paperbacks are available directly from me and I’m happy to post anywhere in the UK. Sadly I’m down to my last few copies of Your Secret’s Safe With Me and The Theatre of Dreams….and when they’re gone, they’re gone. The books will remain on Amazon in ebook format only, and signed paperbacks will become very rare copies. Who knows, one day they could be worth a fortune! I dream on…

Behind the Scenes

Over the next few weeks I’m going to be featuring posts from author friends sharing the inspiration behind their books. I’m going to start off the series by talking about The Puzzle of Pine Bay.

Writers’ minds are like sponges, we soak things up subconsciously and then years later out it comes. If you’ve already read The Puzzle of Pine Bay, or at least the blurb, you’ll know that some of the plot revolves around a holiday camp. Way back in the very hot summer of 1976 we had a family holiday in the Isle of Wight, at a holiday camp, and the memories of that holiday, and that camp, have stayed with me ever since.

Searching through my mum’s old photograph albums I came up with a few pics from that holiday, not all of which are fit for public viewing. Here’s my parents posing very happily with a large bottle of navy rum (why?) and another of our wonderful upmarket chalet. Sadly I can’t publish the one pic we have of the camp’s entertainment compere because my sister would never forgive me (but if you saw it, you would know where I found my inspiration for a certain character in the book!)

However, the “puzzle” Eliza sets out to solve takes her back to the mid-1990s as opposed to the 1970s, and I have to assume the entertainment, and the accommodation was a little more sophisticated by then. Today, I think the old Hi-de-Hi image of holiday parks has long gone (or at least I hope it has!)

The sub-plot of Eliza’s house renovation is also based on my own experiences. Eliza has taken on a challenge, and anyone who has moved house as many times as I had will have run into the same old problems of finding tradespeople to carry out necessary repairs. I also know that people do tend to leave items behind when they move out – whether out of sheer laziness, or simple forgetfulness! I’m guilty as charged! But as for Kyle, the boy next door, he’s definitely a total figment of my imagination (or wishful thinking…) I have to admit, though, I am addicted to garden makeover programmes.

When it comes to the missing magician – I wanted to create an enigmatic character who weaved his magic on and off the stage. A talented illusionist or a charlatan? I hope readers will find him in intriguing!

As for the setting – with a coastline like this, who wouldn’t be inspired by the wonderful Isle of Wight? I’m a sucker for the seaside and the island’s economy is embedded in tourism. There’s plenty of material there for several books!

The Puzzle of Pine Bay launched yesterday and is available at the bargain price of 99p for a couple more weeks. https://amazon.co.uk/dp/B09ZV7GL7R Early reviews have been good, and I’m just going to blow my own trumpet here for a bit with some quotes from Goodreads:

gripping and full of fab characters”

“wonderfully paced and a joy to Read”

“a wonderful book to laze in the sunshine and imagine the beauty of the Isle of Wight.”

Paperbacks of Pine Bay should be out in time in fill up those Christmas stockings!

Pre-Launch Nerves

Who’d be an author? First you have to come up with an original idea, then you have to write it down, several times over, then you have to sell your story to potential readers while waiting with baited breath for reviews. It’s a never ending wheel of stress and trauma.

Too late, the deed is done! The Puzzle of Pine Bay is out there on Amazon, available to pre-order and it really is a horrible feeling. I should be celebrating the achievement, and I am, kind of, but I’m also having a bout of pre-launch nerves as the doubts continue to rumble. What if no-one enjoys my new novel, what if I get bad reviews, what if readers think it’s a load of old twaddle? (Having said that, I’ve read plenty of books in my time that I know some people might refer to as old twaddle and I’ve still loved them. I’ve also read books that definitely were old twaddle, but I wouldn’t dream of telling the author…) Sending a book out into the big wide world is just like bringing up children. You do your best as a parent, cross your fingers and hope you’ve managed to mould your offspring into well-grounded loveable little humans who other people will find as endearing as you do.

The Puzzle of Pine Bay with its fabulous cover designed by Berni Stevens

Self publishing brings an addition layer of angst. As much as I love the control I have in keeping my story the way I want it, choosing my own cover, and setting my own publication dates, there’s no one else to blame if it all goes wrong. It’s not so much the financial investment at stake, as the emotional. To me the financial commitment involved in self-publishing is the same as Mr T purchasing top of the range go-faster running shoes to improve his athletic performance. He doesn’t expect to recoup a financial return for his outlay, his reward is the pleasure of an enhanced sprint along the pavement. I want my books to look professional, and although I can’t compete with established authors, and those with publishers and marketing departments behind them, I still want to do the best I can with the resources I have available. (And obviously yes, one day it would be wonderful to earn enough income from writing to cover all my expenses!!)

If you follow this blog regularly you will already know that The Puzzle of Pine Bay kicks off where A Crisis at Clifftops left off. Eliza Kane has quit playing competitive golf and decided to make a permanent home on the Isle of Wight. At the start of the book she moves into her new house in the picturesque resort of Seaview, only to make an alarming discovery in the cellar. The plot thickens from there.

When I wrote a Crisis at Clifftops, I already had Lilian’s story drafted before the additional idea of Eliza popped into my head. This time it was the other way round.  I knew how Eliza solved the “puzzle” she uncovers at Pine Bay, but I needed to give her a personal motive to investigate it. Hence Lilian has a pivotal role to play again.

Both these characters have become very dear to me. In fact, Eliza Kane is my new best friend. If you’ve read Clifftops, you’ll know Eliza is sassy, passionate and punchy, she can be impulsive, doesn’t always think things through and she drinks ever so slightly too much. We have a lot in common, but the one thing we don’t share is a love of sport. Golf is a male dominated game, and Eliza has had to be gritty and determined to reach the top.  

I realised early on in her creation that Eliza Kane is a tribute to Jordan Baker from The Great Gatsby, the only other fictional female professional golfer I’ve ever come across.

The Great Gatsby is one of my favourite books and the character of Jordan Baker has stayed with me since I first read the novel nearly forty years years ago. Jordan is the girlfriend of Nick Carraway, the narrator. Jordan is hard, cynical, and self-contained, and following her involvement in a cheating scandal, described as “inherently dishonest”.  I would never describe Eliza as dishonest, but like her 1920s counterpart, she is tough and independent, and she can be devious when she wants her own way. It’s Eliza’s sporting background which has given her the skills to solve crimes and makes the perfect amateur detective.

I have everything crossed that readers will enjoy Eliza’s next adventure. Much of the action revolves around some sinister shenanigans at an old holiday camp, Pine Bay. Inspiration for this part of the story comes from my own recollections of family holidays on the Isle of Wight, although the characters, and scenarios, are all total figments of my imagination!

Blurb

Injury has forced sporting heroine Eliza Kane into premature retirement. With a new house to renovate and a romance to rekindle, she moves back to the Isle of Wight, eager to start the next chapter in her life.
However, her plans soon unravel when she discovers of a stash of abandoned stage props in the cellar of her new home. Eliza is drawn into a search for a charismatic magician who hasn’t been seen on stage for the last twenty years.
Eliza’s enquiries amongst his former fellow entertainers at the old Pine Bay holiday park hit a wall of silence. When she finds herself threatened and in danger, she starts to question whether there is something more sinister about the missing magician’s vanishing act than a simple trick of t
he eye…

If you pre-order now, The Puzzle of Pine Bay will ping onto your Kindle on the morning of 5 July. Paperbacks will follow in the autumn.

Good News!

It’s been far too long since my last blog post but I’ve been waiting until I had something exciting to report, and now I do!

My second Isle of Wight cosy mystery, The Puzzle of Pine Bay will launch on 5 July 2022. This is later than originally planned but I’ve had distractions with weddings and other people’s house moves. In addition, although everything is now ready to go – bar the dreaded formatting and uploading onto Amazon, I’ve got holidays booked in May and June. I don’t want to launch a new book and then not be around to promote it.

There is another reason I’ve held this novel back. That old lack of confidence crept in again. Am I really cut out to be a writer? Although my first round of readers all sung the story’s praises, these people know and love me very dearly, I needed that extra validation of a neutral opinion. Once again I sent the manuscript off to a professional editor, and I’m pleased to report her feedback has helped me to improve the storyline in a way that I now feel confident will keep readers satisfied.

I don’t want to give too much away about the plot of The Puzzle of Pine Bay until the pre-order is ready – just to keep you in suspense a little bit longer! However, the story picks up where A Crisis at Clifftops left off. Eliza Kane is buying her first permanent home on the Isle of Wight. Moving in day turns out to be a little more dramatic than planned when she makes an unexpected discovery in the cellar of her new house. Old flame Charlie is still in the picture, and Nanna Lilian has another secret to impart, only this time she wants Eliza help in solving a mystery, as opposed to hindering her…

Here’s a little teaser for the cover, which I will be revealing in full in the coming weeks, along with pre-order details.

I always planned my Isle of Wight series to be never-ending – or at least three books, but up until a few weeks ago my plot for Book 3 was nothing but a flimsy piece of drivel.  However, inspiration has hit. The word count is now growing daily as the characters start to take over the plot – or rather plots (there are several!)

As for my own reading, March and April has been a mixed bag. I’ve tackled a couple of heavyweights, Kate Atkinson’s Behind the Scenes at the Museum, which I enjoyed, and Libby Page’s The Lido, which I found too slow going (my old creative writing tutor would be having kittens if I devoted an entire chapter of one of my books to a description of a fox rummaging through waste bins). After that I devoured The Custard Tart Cafe by the Sea by Isabella May, which was gorgeously entertaining, and I’ve just finished Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. I was quite sceptical about Crawdads because it’s one of the those books that received an awful lot of hype. I had the impression from its Amazon reviews that it’s either a book people love or they hate. Personally I was hooked, despite the fact that a huge part of the plot is totally implausible – girl abandoned to live a shack in the swamp at the age of 6, no electricity, no running water, no education, no medical attention, no dentistry, turns into a stunningly desirable young woman who writes poetry and illustrates nature books. A novel clearly written with Hollywood in mind.

If only…

That’s the wonder of reading and writing fiction though. It doesn’t have to be real, or make sense. For me it just has to be entertaining and enjoyable.

Meanwhile, to put you in the mood to return to the Isle of Wight, here’s a few gorgeous pics of the some of the locations which inspired The Puzzle of Pine Bay.

Priory Bay
Freshwater
Freshwater

All’s Well That Ends Well…

2021 has been a bit of a bumpy ride for all of us, and just when we thought things were getting better… the year seems to be ending as it started.

For me personally 2021 hasn’t all been doom and gloom. Along with the lows there have been highs, the biggest of which has to the publication of A Crisis at Clifftops. I proved I could do it – more to myself than anyone else, and I’m pretty proud of what I’ve achieved.  Not having had a highflying career, I don’t have a lengthy CV of professional accomplishments. Self-publishing and launching Clifftops probably comes third in my list of all-time personal triumphs, only surpassed by giving birth to my two daughters. Writing a book and sending it off into the big wide world is pretty similar to raising children. You do your best and just hope other people like them. It’s definitely a Proud Mamma moment when I see my babies altogether (and yes, the kids are pretty special too!)

Promoting my work still remains my biggest bugbear. I spent a large part of 2021 maintaining what I considered to be a chirpy social media presence with the aim of making myself more alluring to  potential readers. Of course it wasn’t enough to generate mega sales, but I exceeded my expectations and received enough good feedback to have the confidence to go ahead with a paperback version of Clifftops. I lack the mindset, skillset, stamina and patience to be a good marketeer and of course I should have been more prolific, telling my Twitter followers what I had for breakfast every day and posting artistic pictures of it on Instagram. But there’s only so many ways I can make yoghurt and berries look enticing, and none at all for a bowl of Weetabix and chopped bananas. Besides who actually cares?

What I do care about though is travel. Unlike breakfast cereal, travel is interesting, informative and enlightening. I love looking at other people’s holiday photographs and I am very happy to post up my own. With so many restrictions in place over the last twenty months opportunities to explore have been few and far between. Me & Mr T look back on our wonderful hike around the Isle of Wight as a highlight of the year, along with our road trip to Ireland. Both excursions provided scenic photo opportunities galore. 

We also just managed to squeeze in an escape to the sun before restrictions changed and spent a 10 days in Tenerife at the beginning of December. It was our first trip to Tenerife and will probably be our last. I didn’t post up an awful lot about it on social media because I didn’t find the place particularly inspiring, nor did I we have wi-fi in our hotel, which was actually a blessing in disguise because it made me realise yes I can live without Facebook 24/7, and in fact, I’ve hardly been on social media since we got back. Tenerife was good for re-charging the batteries, and although I say I didn’t find it inspiring, I did come up with a potential novel plot – Murder on the Mobility Scooter. I’ve never seen so many of the things in one place – they were everywhere, including tandems. I may send Eliza Kane off there at some point in the future to investigate a rogue tourist who takes revenge after been pushed off the pavement one too many times…

And talking of Eliza, her next adventure, The Puzzle of Pine Bay, is now pencilled in for launching in early summer 2022. Life has got in the way again and I’ve got side-tracked by other stuff. I’m also a perfectionist and I’m not going to rush something out there that I don’t think is ready. And that’s why I know self-publishing is the right route for me. I’m appalling at time management and need flexible deadlines!  

The downside of being an indie author is that slipping off the social media radar is not good for business. Ebooks sales have slumped, but that’s only to be expected when I’m not constantly maintaining online visibility. But I have found other ways and means of spreading the word which are, quite frankly, far more enjoyable. An author talk postponed from 2020 finally took place in November and if I say so myself, I went down a storm, or maybe not a storm, this was the WI after all. I went down with a polite ripple. But I sold books, and acquired another booking. I’ve also got a potential library talk on the back of my first podcast. And in case you’ve not listened to the podcast, here’s the link. http://wormhole.carnelianvalley.com/podcast/episode-48-rosie-travers/ Friends and family have also been doing their fair of sales on behalf, and for that I’m very grateful!

As we tick off another year, I’d like to thank everyone who has supported my writing career throughout the last twelve months and to all those guests who joined me on the blog to talk about the locations which inspired their own writing. March to November was pretty full on working on and promoting Clifftops, and I’ll be continuing my social media break into the new year. I’m looking forward to polishing off Eliza Kane’s next adventure, and wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and peaceful 2022.

Me & Mr T after one too many Christmas sherries!

One Month On

After a few weeks with my feet up, I thought I ought to pen my own blog post this week. A Crisis at Clifftops has now been out in the big wide world for a whole month, and it seems a good time for an analysis/appraisal of how things have gone.

Success, no matter how small, should always be celebrated. I’m a complete technophobe but I managed to upload my book onto Amazon – woohoo! I’m shy and reserved, yet I’ve managed to convince people they’ll enjoy this book enough to want to download their own copy – go me! Seriously, I am totally chuffed at the response.

My book launch was low-key. I’m working on a very tight self-publishing budget, prioritising editing and cover design, to ensure I had a professional quality product. I knew I would have to publicise this book organically with no paid promotions, not even a blog tour. I knew sales would be limited, but if I’m honest they’ve exceeded my expectations.

A Crisis at Clifftops was never going to become an overnight Kindle bestseller, but we made it to the dizzy heights of being a HOT NEW RELEASE, and at one point it was sitting at NUMBER 3 in its golfing category, which gave me something to sing and dance about.  I apologise now to anyone who follows me on Facebook –  every time I post something I can hear a chorus of “there she goes again, banging on about her b****y book.” The thing about being self-published is that if I don’t bang on about my book, no-one else will.  I have to keep it visible.

We all know about Facebook algorithms which limit who sees what, and anything I post on Twitter always disappears into a void. I’m grateful for every re-tweet and share by friends who understand how hard it is for independent authors like me to reach a wider audience.

Goodness knows how many books have been published in the last month. A Crisis at Clifftops will soon disappear off the radar. It will settle somewhere low down in the Amazon charts.  I do get a little flutter of excitement every time I see it move up in its Amazon category. I know those BIG bestselling authors never have to check these things – Richard Osman would be in a constant flap, but for me, each flutter is special, even more so because I made it happen all by myself.

There was a time after the publication of my second book back in 2019 when I felt totally disenchanted and deflated with the whole publishing/writing thing. Seriously I could have happily never written another word again.  

However, this time round I knew exactly what I was capable of. I set myself different targets. In the last four weeks I’ve received some amazing reviews from readers and from within the writing community, together with messages and comments which have totally restored my confidence and made my heart sing! And yes, even more exciting, readers can cope with a heroine who plays sport for a living!

I know not everyone who buys the book is able, or will be willing, to leave a review. There’s a minimum spend requirement on Amazon, and to be honest I don’t review every Amazon purchase I make. It’s a crochet hook – it crochets. It’s already got 1000+ reviews it doesn’t need another one…

I dream of 1000+ reviews, but us writers are needy, fragile creatures.  I genuinely want to know if you’ve enjoyed what I’ve written. So if A Crisis at Clifftops has made you smile, provided a few hours of escape, let me know. (And don’t forget to tell your friends if you think they might like it too – there are loads of people out there who would benefit from having this book in their lives, if only they knew it existed…)

Meanwhile, The Puzzle of Pine Bay, Eliza Kane Investigates Book 2, is on its way. I originally intended to have everything ship-shape and ready to set sail later this year, but that’s not going to happen. Apart from the fact that the Christmas novel marketing deluge is already underway (yes I know, ridiculous right? I don’t even feel I’ve had my summer yet), my plot was far too complicated. I’d basically tied poor Eliza up in knots. It’s not exactly back to the drawing board, more an extensive unpicking (why do you think I bought that crochet hook?!) Seriously, Pine Bay will be out early in 2022.

Making the decision to self-publish was very much about taking control, not just of what I write, but about publishing under my own terms. I’m really pleased (and relieved) with how these first steps have gone. To everyone who has downloaded a copy of A Crisis at Clifftops, you’ve made me very happy. Thank you. And if you haven’t downloaded a copy yet, what’s your excuse?

I Made This!

We’re not travelling anywhere exotic this week, but staying put at my writing desk in Southampton. I am going to talk about a journey though, my writing journey, and why I decided to head down the self-publishing route for my latest novel, A Crisis at Clifftops, which launches next week.

It’s three years since the publication of my first book, and two and a half since the second. There are various reasons why it’s taken me so long to produce a third. I’m a slow writer, I’m not one of these dedicated 5000 words a day people, I’m an as and when, and sometimes life just has this habit of getting in the way.  I’m also a perpetual tweaker with a serious case of self-doubt, so even when I’ve got what looks like a finished product, I’ll edit, re-edit, reinstate paragraphs I took out six months ago, add in a new character, start a new project, force family and friends to read my work, incorporate their comments, and edit it all over again…

Then there’s the whole submitting to agents/publishers debacle, which for anyone who doesn’t know, takes ages. You send out a query letter and wait for a response. And wait. And wait. Not just days. Or weeks. Months.

I felt I had to give it go. Of the handful of replies to my queries, I received a couple of “encouraging” rejections. It’s wonderful to be told there ain’t nothing wrong with your writing, BUT also disappointing when compliments are inevitably followed by a BUT (and even more disappointing when one of the big BUT’s appeared to be because of my heroine’s occupation!)

Over the last twelve/eighteen months of lockdown I’ve had a lot of time to reflect and contemplate. I knew if I carried on submitting, my book might eventually get picked up, BUT there would have to be changes and compromises, and another long wait until publication day itself. I’ve seen authors on Twitter shouting about new books coming out in 2023 – I didn’t want to wait in the literary wilderness for another two years. Making a decision to self-publish was like stepping off a hamster wheel.

I know what the publishing world is like. Creating a main character who played golf was a risky strategy, BUT even so those rejections were demoralising. I write because I enjoy writing. It’s a creative outlet, it keeps my brain cells ticking over, it’s something to do in the winter when it’s cold and wet and I can’t go outside.  And for me, being creative also means creating something that doesn’t mimic every other book out there on the market.

I must admit I did have a wobbly moment and wonder whether I ought to play down Eliza’s sporting prowess in my book blurb in case it put readers off, but then I thought, what the heck! Self-publishing means taking control and having the freedom to write the books I want to write. My heroines don’t have to conform and bake cakes. NOT that there is anything wrong with heroines who bake cakes, I know the public love cake-baking heroines, in fact I’m one myself, I BAKE CAKES, in fact here’s one I made earlier, together with the book I made too…I’m just talking about giving readers choices and diversity!

The self-publishing process has been a learning curve. I haven’t been reckless. I did consult an editor, and splashed out on a wonderful cover designer. I’ve taken a professional approach and enjoyed the process – which is what it’s all about.  I know I don’t want to be hunched over my laptop 24 /7 days to meet deadlines. I don’t want to spend every hour or every day on social media promoting my books.  I also have to be realistic about what I can achieve.

I have fingers crossed for next week’s launch. I hope readers will love Eliza, Lillian and Charlie as much as I do, and will want to follow their adventures into the next book in the series. And if they don’t, tough. I’m writing it anyway.

Here’s the A Crisis at Clifftops blurb for those of you who haven’t yet checked it out!

When Lilian Hathaway is named as the chief suspect in a murder enquiry, her granddaughter Eliza drops everything to rush to her side. After a string of crushing defeats, professional golfer Eliza is facing a career crisis of her own. She seizes the opportunity to hide away with Lilian at Clifftops Hotel, the family’s home on the Isle of Wight, determined to defend her beloved nanna’s innocence.

But just how innocent is Lilian?

As the evidence starts to mount up, Eliza turns amateur sleuth in a race to uncover the truth. Family loyalty is stretched to the limits when she discovers a series of events in her grandmother’s past which could have far-reaching consequences, not just for Lilian but also for Clifftops, and Eliza’s own future.

Available exclusively on Amazon Kindle, A Crisis at Clifftops is a fun and original cosy mystery, set against the backdrop of an old-fashioned seaside resort and featuring a feisty heroine who quickly learns life outside the sporting arena doesn’t always follow the rules.

Six Days, Four Friends & One Coastal Path

Not the title of the next Richard Curtis movie, but a post about our walk around the Isle of Wight. (Obviously I’d be more than happy to sell the film rights to Mr Curtis, although I suspect he’d want to change the leading characters from two middle-aged couples to four thirty-something singletons and a token American.)

According to the guide books, the The Isle of Wight coastal path can be completed in four days. We opted for six. We also booked overnight stays in B&Bs, rather than campsites, and a courier company to transport our bags. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, hiking for lightweights.

We were on holiday! We wanted to enjoy our walk around the Island, take in the scenery, soak up the ambiance of quaint rural villages, stop and smell the wild roses in the hedgerows and marvel at the stunning coastal vistas. We’d done our research and our training, we knew we could manage the ten or twelve miles required each day without too much effort. The friends we were going with had also done their training, at a slightly faster pace than us. But hey, once we’d got over that first sixteen miles of Day One at record speed, we agreed we were very happy to keep their back views in our eyeline, and let them forge on ahead.

Day One was always going to be the killer – Cowes to Yarmouth, an area of the island none of us were familiar with, off the tourist trail, remote and wild, and with a distinct lack of suitable pitstops.

The salty sea marshes around Newtown Creek take the coastal path along boardwalks and a meandering, but very pretty, detour inland, but with both pubs on the route shut, our planned long lazy lunch subsequently involved a mad dash to Shalfleet village shop five minutes before closing time to grab the last three packets of sandwiches and an impromptu picnic in the local graveyard. A valuable lesson learned on Day One – when you see an eating opportunity, take it.

Day Two, Yarmouth to Freshwater – cross-country no more than four miles, in fact it was doing that walk last year with our friends which sparked the whole idea of the round the island hike. The coastal path takes ten but you get to experience the tourist trap of Alum Bay, before enjoying the natural wonders of the Needles and Tennyson Down. Valuable lesson learned on Day Two – when you see an eating opportunity at a tacky tourist attraction, avoid it.

Day Three Freshwater to Chale, along the Island’s spectacular southern coast and in my opinion the highlight of the trip. Never mind the sunburn, the blisters, the fact that the path hangs precariously close to the edge of the cliff and in some places disappears altogether (seven acres of the island are lost into the sea every year according to the landlady of our gorgeous B&B in Freshwater). With the stunning view across the English Channel to our right, and rolling fields to our left, we hardly saw another soul all day, although we did spot a peregrine falcon.

Day Four, Chale to Shanklin, another delightful trek, but by now we realised we should have done more gradient training. This walk also took us to Ventnor, which is where most of A Crisis of Clifftops is set. Ventnor, eerily shrouded in midday mist, was pretty much as I remembered it from our visit a couple of years ago (big sigh of relief no major edits of location descriptions required when I got home!)

Day Five, Shanklin to Seaview, passed through the dubious delights of a rather rundown Sandown, not looking its best first thing in the morning (do any of us?) and onwards to Bembridge and beyond, the second longest leg of the trip.

Day Six was Seaview back to Cowes.   After Ryde much of the path is inland to avoid trespassing through the grounds of Osborne House, but the route twists along country lanes through quaint villages, until the outskirts of East Cowes when it becomes disappointingly urban.

All the way around the island the coastal path is well sign-posted, and areas of danger – and there are many – fenced off and diversions in place.  The courier service was excellent and our luggage was always picked up and delivered on time. Overnight accommodation was clean and comfortable, and we did spice things up a bit on occasions by tossing our room keys into a hat to see which couple won the ensuite with a bath…

You do always wonder when you holiday with other people, how you’re going to get on. Apart from providing inspiration for a whole new series of crime novels, Murder on the Mudflats, Bludgeoned on the Boardwalk, Calamity on the Cliff Path, when our friends did pause for breath, they were great fun. Seriously, we’re still talking!

I thought I knew the Isle of Wight pretty well, but walking the coastal path was a great way to see its diverse and contrasting flora, fauna and natural landscapes from a whole new perspective. Two weeks later the blisters have healed and we’re already already planning our next trek!