Tag Archives: books

Meet The Cast

Jack made a suggestion last weekend which I thought was brilliant. (Where did I find this man who is so full of great ideas?) He said that it might be a good idea to compile a sort of guide to my characters – with a brief summary of who they are, without containing spoilers.

How clever he is!!!

I love this suggestion.

So…I am working on it.

Soon to be published here on WordPress – the authoritative guide to the world of Annabelle Riley – the people in her story who are so essential to her journey.

Photo by cottonbro studio on Pexels.com

Two Very Different Men And The Siren In That Gold Dress

I have found that pictures can provide huge inspiration. I remember seeing an image a few years ago and deciding that was Annabelle the night Robin met her…

In my mind, Robin is just one of the men who see the stunning siren walk into the venue where a PR event/cocktail party is being held by a New York media company. Robin is there with his flatmate, who works for the company. Seeing that Robin cannot keep his eyes off Annabelle, his flatmate (who knows that Annabelle is known as the blonde on the arm of one of the hottest musicians in the charts – Dean Mathers – until their recent split) tells Robin that he does not have a chance with Annabelle.

Determined not to be put off, Robin makes a beeline for Annabelle. He has no idea who she is and he has never heard of Dean Mathers.

Now although the picture above was the original inspiration for Annabelle’s breath-taking entrance at the party where Robin sees her for the first time, I knew there were a few details that I had to address. Annabelle has been very low and lost since her break up from Dean. The last place she wants to be is at a party, but in her new role for Sony, she is expected to be at these social events. There are signs of how troubled she is on her arms and legs and other parts of her body. So I realized that her stunning dress actually needed full length sleeves as well as being long and nowhere near as revealing as the dress above. Annabelle has deliberately chosen the dress because it hides her injuries, but the dazzling gold is eye-catching.

Then comes the worst start. Robin attempts to flirt with Annabelle by sidling up to her and remarking, “You do realize that your dress isn’t in fashion, don’t you? You the only woman in the room not showing off any cleavage.”

Annabelle is quite rightly unimpressed by Robin’s overly personal and direct comment. She gives him that look of “Go away please Creep!” Coldly she replies, “I don’t need any advice on how to dress,” and turns to move away.

Realizing immediately that Annabelle does not see any humour in his comment, Robin tries to keep her attention, “What about my tie? What do you think of my tie?”

Irritated by Robin’s persistence, Annabelle states, “It’s just a black tie.”

“Is that all you can see? There’s a lot more to this tie than that.”

Bewildered, Annabelle turns Robin’s tie over and reads the garment care label, “100% silk, delicate dry-clean only”.

Robin looks into Annabelle’s eyes, “Don’t judge too quickly on first impressions. There is a lot more to get to know.” When Annabelle is still hesitant, Robin holds out his hand and suggests, “Can I go back and start again? Hi, I’m Robin Grainger. It’s nice to meet you.”

Accepting his handshake, the beauty replies, “Annabelle. No, there is no going back, we can only go forwards.”

Gambling the progress he has made during an awkward conversation, Robin boldly asks, “Does going forwards mean you will consider coming back to my place?”

It is just one scene…but it included lots of references that tie into other conversations in the book. It is Dean who has always said to Annabelle, “No regrets. There is no going back, you can only go forwards.” The night she meets Robin, Dean is still at the centre of her thoughts. It is the care label on Annabelle’s dress that he uses to show her he is not going to let her down.

I am finding as I am imagining and writing, Annabelle is profoundly aware of the differences between Robin and Dean.

It is Robin’s direct confident manner that Annabelle is bowled over by and she soon find herself swept off her feet by the self-assured, strong-willed, decisive and dynamic man, who is a contrast to often disheveled and unkempt Dean, who suffered from stage-fright and turned to alcohol to settle his nerves and cope with pressure. Annabelle has spent years with Dean, her first boyfriend, who grew up like her in the Bronx, and talked about guitars, motorbikes and tattoos…and has habits that distress Annabelle, meaning she often has had to care for him when he made himself ill. She cannot help see the contrast in the clever, well-read English man who dresses well, eats well, and is thrilled to have met Annabelle.

It is so much fun to go back and think about these characters in more detail. I love Chris Ward as much as everyone else who has read Annabelle’s story. But for now, I am dwelling on Annabelle before she ever meets Chris. This is a stage in her life that fascinates me, and I am amazed at how much fun it is to work out the intricate detail.

Do You Believe In Happy Endings?

I was talking about happy endings with a friend the other day. We both agree that we would be very disappointed in a book that did not have a happy ending.

I have read books like that in the past, and I ached and grieved afterwards and I suddenly decided I don’t want to be put through that misery any more by other writers. I don’t mind an arduous grueling journey, so long as the destination makes it all worthwhile.

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

I have lived every day of my life knowing that the painful, stressful, turbulent voyage that we are currently experiencing will give way to a wonderfully happy ending. But this bit right now…I have to admit, I would love to skip a few pages, even a few chapters…I am longing for the climax. I will not grieve the corrupt, greedy, callous system.

Reading For Pleasure Is Becoming A Luxury

When I went away on holiday, I took a couple of books and I am ashamed to admit that I did not have chance to read a single page. I was so looking forward to having the time to read, to let my mind wander, but it did not happen.

I have no regrets that I spent so much time with family. If course my relatives come before reading for pleasure. But now I am back in London, I would still love to wangle a way to have some time to myself to pick up a book and have a little escape through it.

Photo by George Milton on Pexels.com

Perfecting Annabelle

When I wrote Annabelle’s story, I was not worried about making her perfect, because the whole point of her voyage was that she was a mess, a beautiful mess, and was trying to repair some of the damage in her past before she could press forward with her future.

To begin with, I wrote from my own experiences, but over time, I drew inspiration from the stories and experiences of close friends. Annabelle emerged as a fictional character who embodied real life women, both myself and three of my closest friends.

I am so sad that one of my friends who is very much a part of Annabelle has recently passed away, and I am heart broken. I have been feeling quite lost and useless the past couple of days, but last night I stayed up really late going over the passages in my books which had parts inspired by my lovely friend. I felt that I had to urgently improve and perfect those parts of her story.

At the same time, I had to remind myself not to overdo it. Annabelle is fictional, but the real women behind her, none of us were perfect. We all faced challenges and had to voyage through storms. The whole point of Annabelle is that we LEARNT. The series became the LEARNERS AT LOVE series, because love was such a fundamental part of our journeys.

I know this might sound stupid…but that feeling of helplessness….that I could not protect my friend from illness and death….I suddenly felt as if I had to protect Annabelle, I had to wipe away anything that might make someone critical of her, judgmental of her. But loving someone with their weaknesses, their failings, their disappointments, their efforts, their struggles, their endurance, their courage, their victories – journeying, travelling, voyaging through life and in love with someone…I cannot take that away from Annabelle. She deserves all the authenticity that is the very real life inspiration that made her.

Sail Away On This Voyage Of A Lifetime

I had a message from a friend of mine yesterday which brought a huge smile to my face. She claims that Jack and I know every song, every album, every band ever. Of course we don’t. But we do like many different genres of music and we take an interest in anything new to our ears.

Well, my friend asked me if I had heard “Sail Away” from David Gray. I had not heard it before, and she started claiming it was the first time she had ever introduced a song to me, and not the other way around. But the reason she wanted me to hear it, is that she said it is the perfect song for the movie. You know…the Hollywood movie version of “This Voyage Of A Lifetime”, the final part of the three part Annabelle Riley series “LEARNERS AT LOVE”.

(Naturally, I am still keeping Hollywood at arm’s length – way too many shifty types there!)

Ocean, Milky Way, Boat, Sailing

So I listened – with my headphones in now I appreciate the difference in quality – and I loved it. Wow the bass! It is great! I loved the video she sent me too. Is it the original video? I don’t want to know if it’s not!

I also noticed recently that there seems to have been a change in the way Amazon links appear when copied onto a WordPress post. They used to pop up into a full on display of the book being linked. But it seemed to just stop very suddenly. I can still link them to an image though. For example, by clicking the image below….it should transport you to Amazon – no, not the Amazon – the website where you buy stuff that you probably don’t really need.

The Editing Never Really Ends – Does It?

As many of you know, when I wrote The LEARNERS AT LOVE Series, it was the formation of many short parts published over the period of around six months on my blog – around four or five a week.

There were several reasons I was writing and several influences. I think I started writing Annabelle’s story because I had just come back from Australia wondering how it is that you can be on the opposite side of the planet from someone you love. How do you cope? What happens when someone else takes an interest with you and flirts with you? I had been through a lot that year, including a miscarriage, and my great adventure to spend the summer with Goldfinch – lots of mixed feelings, lots of inspirational experiences and lots of love.

It all came out in Annabelle’s story – love, romance, disappointment, humour, grief, major decisions, inspiration from the people around you, frustration with the people around you, warmth and encouragement, self-isolation and feeling lost, putting a brave face on for everyone around you, hiding things that are crushing you from within. It al came out in a fictional character, with a fictional story, with a lot of very real input from real life.

Airports sometimes feel like gateways to another world – another life. I kept on dreaming about being at the airport with Goldfinch – an experience I have had five times now. Annabelle too was going to journey through several airports along her voyage. I think that the 10,100 mile trip I took was why Annabelle ended up travelling so much. It seems a little odd after the Pandemic that she travels with such ease.

It was too intense to give Annabelle my story, it was just too much. But I found myself wanting to bring into her story other things that had happened in my life and the experiences of friends. I have a friend who almost lost her husband when he was in a serious traffic accident. I have a friend who has battled with very dark thoughts towards herself. I have family members who have made mistakes in the past with debt, gambling, alcohol and Class A drugs – and remarkably they have fought those battles and turned their lives around. I found myself weaving in things they have said, conversations we have shared, the experiences they have had with other people, the health service, and their own emotions as they tried to make progress with their battles.

As many other writers will have found, it is incredibly cathartic to weave lessons from life you have picked up yourself or from others, inspiration from real life, real people, real emotions into your fictional story. Writing Annabelle’s story was hugely helpful to me.

However, I sometimes wonder if I deluged Annabelle Riley with too much of an impossible situation at the point we meet her. I have never stopped editing the books I wrote, as far as correcting silly spelling mistakes and typos, and trying to liven up the narrative. However, I have come to a slight dilemma over how much she has been through in a short time. I have read Annabelle’s story several times with a red pen and updated my manuscript with minor amendments to improve the text.

Photo by George Milton on Pexels.com

There are some parts of her story which are essential and cannot disappear because otherwise the rest of her story won’t make sense. I cannot tamper with her relationships with her parents and siblings or her ex-boyfriend. They all have to stay. But from the point she met Robin, I keep looking at all that happens in a short space of time – and of course this is all backstory, because we meet Annabelle several years after she meets Robin – him leaving because his contract has ended and his Visa has expired, her pregnancy, her trip to England, the car accident, the post-natal depression, the grief, the nervous breakdown Robin experiences.

I sometimes wonder if it is too much for one person to endure? Why did I give her so many challenges? Then I remember, well, I guess that I was the one doing the writing, and perhaps part of what fueled me was my own experiences, being trolled and slandered by Jack’s fans, being sexually assaulted and violently attacked, moving around to find somewhere I felt safe, settled and could work independently, falling in love, him leaving because his contract had ended, my pregnancy, my miscarriage, my trip to Australia, my sadness that I had to come back to London and carry on without knowing what the future would hold. All that was bottled up inside, and it came out in Annabelle’s story.

Does Annabelle have too many challenges on her plate? I don’t know. But what I do know is that cliches do not solve her challenges. She has journey on through life, learning about herself, making peace where she can with her past, enduring judgmental comments from others, struggling to communicate, feelings of isolation with her challenges, fear and mistrust, being knocked down by her own failings and sensitive to harsh words from others who seem to be judging her harshly, trying to build a life for herself and realizing that things beyond our control can knock us way off track.

I need to do some brutal editing to the first book. I know there are some passages that are repetitive, and I think repeating her challenges over and over can drag a reader down. But at the same time, I know that when I started writing Annabelle’s story, I was in a way at a crossroads in my life, having been through some very traumatic and painful events, and not being sure what the future held. I think I need to preserve the weight of her challenges, and that she is sort of in a state of “limbo” when we meet her. But the brutal editing ahead of me is about not letting the challenges dominate, but finding the right balance of humour and heartwarming characters to carry Annabelle forward as she continues her voyage of a lifetime.

Friends Forever

This past weekend was one of many smiles. Jack and I get a lot of work done every Sunday. This weekend, we had some help in the form of two of our close friends who we have not seen for a couple of months. Last time we saw them, we were in someone’s garden. This time, we were inside because of the lifting of the social distancing restrictions that we have been carefully observing for months.

I was grateful for some help to put together a slideshow I will be using in a training session I will be conducting. Then we baked together!!! Yes, it is so lovely after over eighteen months to be able to bake with friends in the kitchen. I will never take these things for granted.

Girls, Sparklers, Fireworks, Celebration, Happy, People

It suddenly crossed my mind that because my friend is moving abroad in a few months time, she might not be at my wedding. That was a heartbreaking thought. I suspect that she will also be getting married at some point over the next year or two, and very likely over in the USA. Another heartbreaking thought that I might not be at her wedding.

Distance is hard. It’s not just the distance, it is the cost to travel. The Pandemic has spooked me when it comes to travelling thousands of miles away. I live on a tight budget. When I do travel, it is the result of scraping and saving for a long time. I am not the kind of person who can afford for things to go wrong. I don’t have any plans to go abroad for a long time. Even Jack finds it weird that I don’t want to think about a paradisiac honeymoon. I would be happy with a fortnight in the Lake District – only his parents live there, so that is probably the last place we will be spending our honeymoon.

We talked a lot…as friends do….all sorts of subjects came up….including books. I have downloaded a few books at my friend’s suggestion. So…last night I started reading a book she told me I would enjoy by a WordPress blogger called Sarah Fennell. I read the first two chapters and I am already enjoying it.

I shared with her my latest YouTube playlist – full of love songs that I am using in the BAKE OFF posts I am preparing. We shared headphones so we could hear the deep bass.

Friends….friends who know what we like….know what makes us tick…and bring deep smiles to our faces….they are so precious.

This year we are hosting the heartwarming 2021 GREAT BLOGGERS’ BAKE OFF FESTIVAL OF LOVE. We are so thrilled with the photographs that have already been sent in. We would love you to take part too!! Please send your baking photographs into:


The First Few Chapters

You may know that before I published The LEARNERS AT LOVE Series in paperback and Kindle formats on Amazon…I published one part at a time on my very own blog over a period of around seven months.

Now when I was writing the first few chapters, I had an idea in my head I had read a book not long before. The book I read told almost the same story from the differing points of view of seven different people. It was very clever. I was so impressed by this style, I tried to employ it to some extent in Annabelle’s emerging backstory.

First of all Jenna tells Chris what she has overheard of Annabelle’s past (which is all based on malicious gossip). When Chris is trying to learn more about Annabelle, Burt Jennings says very little. Overhearing Chris is asking questions, Pearl tells him what she knows of Annabelle’s story. Eventually, Annabelle and Chris start up a friendship, but Annabelle is careful with what she shares. Annabelle confides in Gina (Chris’ older sister), sharing some of the details she has not dared to share with the older folk in the town of Blackwood. Of course, the different information Chris has heard only makes sense when Annabelle finally chooses to reveal her past to him.

I know what I was trying to do….but for a reader who is new to Annabelle Riley’s story, I think those first few chapters can be confusing. So I have been going over the first half of the first book “We Hide What We Hate About Ourselves” with a view to revising the flow. I don’t want readers to find it annoyingly repetitive. I want to edit those chapters so that each character reveals something different about Annabelle, but not identical details.

Editing just never stops, does it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!