What do you eat and drink while writing?

Whenever I was studying for my exams when I was young, I would always need to have chocolate chip cookies. For me, that’s what revision tastes like! I would use them for motivation; all I had to do was get through revising another few pages, and I would have a cookie.

As I’ve got older, I really haven’t changed that much! Some days I am completely in the zone, the Muse is with me, and I can’t imagine struggling to write another chapter – and another chapter – and another chapter…

But sometimes, writing is hard. Writing is hard! Every word seems to be a real challenge and although I know I need to write more, I struggle.

That’s when the cookies come in.

There’s nothing quite like incentives like cookies! I line them up and make sure I promise myself not to have one until I finish the chapter. All of a sudden, the chapter is written, and I’m stuffing a cookie into my face!

But that’s what works for me. What works for you? What food or drink do you use to motivate yourself – or do you use something else?

Think bluestockings are a thing of the past?

My latest release in my Never the Bride series, Always the Bluestocking, has Mariah Wynn as my heroine – a bluestocking who is desperate for education and furious that society forbids her from university.

I loved writing this book. Mariah is probably one of my heroines who is most like me, and so I had a great time being angry on her behalf – or was it that she was angry on my behalf?

Because I am angry. Although I was able to go to university for an undergraduate degree and even my masters, there are women and girls all over the world who are denied that right.

Bluestockings are not a thing of the past. There are millions of girls in countries in almost every continent who are not allowed to go to school, whether because they are needed at home, because they need to work, or because education isn’t seen as valuable for girls.

I’d really encourage you to look at Unicef’s website about girls’ education, which you can find here: https://www.unicef.org/education/girls-education

I look forward to the day when every girl can get a good education! In the meantime, I’m going to keep supporting Unicef and writing books that have strong, powerful, and amazing women.

What makes the best writing room?

As many of you who are subscribed to my newsletter know, I moved just before the pandemic and that means that I’ve only just got my writing room into the order that I wanted!

I recently shared – for the first time – a sneak peek into the place that I write my bestselling historical romances, on the Dragonblade Publishing Readers Group. You can watch the video by clicking here.

So what makes the perfect writing room? Here at eh three things that I need to be able to write:

  1. Natural light! Without natural light, I find it impossible to concentrate for more than twenty minutes – which makes writing in the winter really challenging! I’ve got a lovely window right by my desk.
  2. Inspiration! I have a bunch of things in my study that inspire me. From my five bookcases full of my favourite books (though not all the books in my house!), I also have flowers, photos of my family and friends, an antique dagger, and a glass skull called Leonard…
  3. Snacks! Okay, perhaps not a difficult thing to get set up, but when I am finding a chapter really challenging to write, then I use food and delicious drinks to motivate myself.

So that’s my perfect study! Have I missed soemthing off your list?

Do you know the secret language of flowers?

What is your favourite flower?

I have loads of favourites. My grandparents were horticulturalists with their own nursery, with my Mum working for them, and so I was surrounded by flowers and plants growing up. I love them. I love nature!

(I wish I was better at keeping them alive, but…)

But my love of flowers isn’t limited to my childhood. My boyfriend (now husband!) immediately understood my obsession with flowers, and has treated me with flowers throughout our dating life, engagement, and marriage.

In fact, one of my favourite flowers is the purple/blue orchid, the first flowers he ever treated me with.

Flowers have been used in courting for years, and the Victorian era solidified our ideas of the language of flowers, which existed as early as the Regency period.

This secret code was designed to make sure that other people couldn’t immediately tell what you wanted to say to your beloved.

So did you know what a gentleman caller would be saying to you if they sent you…

…a mimosa? This delicate plant meant ‘chastity’, because of the way its petals close up when touched.

…a dark pink rose? This gorgeous blossom means ‘thankfullness’.

…a sprig of heath lavender? I love this scent, and when given as a gift, it means ‘admiration’.

…an orange lily? Run a mile if you receive this one – it secretly means ‘hatred’!

…a sweet pea posy? My absolute favourite flower, this heavily scented flower means ‘blissful pleasure’ or ‘goodbye’!

Did any of these surprise you? What is your favourite flower – let me know in the comments, and I will tell you what it means!

Do your friends read your books?

Everyone has a hobby. For some people, it’s a sport: swimming, rugby, tennis. For others, it’s something that is more personal: gaming, or learning a language.

And then for others, it’s creative: knitting, crafting, music, or writing.

I have wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. My parents even found some of my earliest school reports from when I was around six years old, and even then I’m ignoring what I should do at school and writing stories instead!

I have always found writing a wonderful escape, and a way to explore different worlds.

Many people actively encourage their friends in their hobbies, either turning up to matches, or praising their creations.

But what has been really strange is that since I have become a published author, it’s been a bit strange seeing whether my friends want to read my books or not.

Obviously none of my friends should be forced to do it! I would hate for my friends to feel like they were obliged to read my books, but at the same time…

I pour so much of myself into my books. Writing is my passion, it’s what I spend – well, almost all my time doing! It’s such a huge part of my life, and so sometimes it is odd that you cannot understand a part of me without reading my books.

What about you? Do you encourage your friends to read the books you love, or get involved in your hobbies?

Medieval romance vs Regency romance

Okay, here we go: it’s time to decide which is the best, medieval romance or Regency romance.

Let me just be upfront right now and say that I have written romances in both the medieval era and the Regency era. I love reading books based in both of those eras, and a few in and around that!

But they are incredibly different…

Medieval romances

Usually set more in the Highlands of Scotland, medieval romances have a lot of clan or tribe rebellions, far more kings and queens, and some incredible clothing descriptions.

I love medieval romances partly because that is what my Masters was in (Medieval Studies), and I think there is so much we don’t know about the medieval era because it’s not really taught in schools that much. I learn so much about the medieval era whenever I read romances set here!

Regency romances

Probably the most popular type of romances on Amazon right now, these are books set around the same time as Jane Austen’s romances. Instead of clans, it’s card games and balls, with plenty of gossip and scandalous rumours!

I love Regency romances because of the hierarchies, the desperate need for so many ladies to marry, and how quickly a reputation could be utterly destroyed. The Regency era is so wonderful to be swept up in and it’s easy to imagine it – though perhaps that’s because I live just down the round from Bath, England!

So, which is the winner?

…don’t hate me – I can’t pick! I love romances set in the medieval era, and the Regency era. They have so much to offer, and if I didn’t read one, I would miss it so much.

What about you? Do you have a favourite – or perhaps a different time period? Let me know in the comments below!

What makes the best historical romance?

I have read and loved historical romances for…well, almost my entire life! So many of my readers share with me what they are looking for in a historical romance, and I wanted to share some of my favourites.

  1. Titles! Readers love titles – Earls, Dukes, and Princes all round, please!
  2. Friends to lovers. There’s nothing like a good friends to love story – I’ve even written a few myself.
  3. Enemies to lovers. This is probably my favourite type of historical romance, especially if it’s warring clans or families!
  4. A misunderstanding. If there isn’t a misunderstanding, is it even a historical romance?!
  5. Letters, particularly letters from mothers to daughters – so cute!
  6. Obviously, a period of history that is just wonderful. My favourites are medieval and Regency.
  7. Gifts. I love gifts in historical romance, and when it’s jewellery, it’s even cuter.
  8. And last but by no means least…epilogues! I love seeing what happens to the characters after they have found true love.

Have I missed something that you love from historical romances? Tell me in the comments!

Always the Courtesan is on pre-order!

You know that book I mentioned that I’d finished? It’s now available for pre-order!

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Always the courtesan and never the bride – it’s a life she never chose and cannot escape…

Indulge yourself in book 3 of the bestselling Never the Bride series. Read for FREE in Kindle Unlimited!

Lady Honora Lennox hasn’t gone by that name in three years – not since she was abducted and forced to work in a brothel.
She’s but nineteen and has given up on the world offering her anything of kindness. Until he walks through her door.

Josiah Stanhope, Earl of Chester, is exhausted with politics and games, deceit and lies – it’s time for simplicity, and there’s nothing simpler than the clear cut exchange of coin for pleasure. And yet there’s something different about this girl. She knows how to please a man, certainly, but there’s more to her. Something refined.

He’s determined to find out the truth. She’s terrified of destroying her family name. Tensions mount as wills clash and there can only be one victor.

Can Josiah ever prove himself as trustworthy, or will he fall back to old habits? Can Honora ever return to society after her fall from grace – or is his bed far more inviting?

Make sure you pre-order this delicious Regency romance now!

Completing a book in lockdown

In my last blog, I talked about the weirdness of trying to write in lockdown, and how hard I was finding that. I am always honest with my readers, and so I wanted to share some of the process that went on behind the scenes. You can read it here.

So many people reached out and shared that they, too, were finding it a challenge to do normal activities while lockdown was in place. Our whole routines have been completely disrupted, and it’s hard to think of another event in recent memory that has been like this. The only thing I can think of is the Blitz, and sadly that’s almost beyond living memory now.

I wanted to update you with the joyous news that I finished a book yesterday! Not just written, but edited twice, proofread, and sent over to my editor.

I experienced such a huge sense of relief when I clicked ‘send’, because it’s been a real struggle for me to focus on writing. Ther are so many things going on in the world, and my day job interacts with the NHS (the UK National Health Service) on an hourly basis. It’s hard for me to mentally separate myself from the pandemic, and that’s been really hard on me emotionally.

It is thanks to amazing authors who I speak to on a regular basis, and thanks to you, my wonderful readers (thank you, those who got in touch!) that I am able to keep going.

And you know what? I think I’ve broken my funk. I woke up this morning wanting to edit the next book – and I can’t remember the last time I’ve felt like that.

It’s challenging to think about normal life, and what the world will be like when this is all over. But whatever that world looks like, we’re going to work it out together – and with some amazing books by our sides.

Writing in lockdown

Almost half of the world’s population is in lockdown, and so am I. Writing in lockdown has been something I’ve been really struggling with, and after four weeks of it, I wanted to write a blog about it and be really open and honest about it.

If you believed social media, you would think that everyone is loving lockdown! Enjoying baths, playing with their kids – there are some great moments that can be had when you are spending more time than normal with your loved ones.

But of course, there are downsides, and those aren’t the bits that we portray to the world, so it’s easy to get a skewed view on things.

My emotions, honestly, have pendulum-swung from side to side almost every day. Because my day job can be done at home, and my husband is a key worker so is leaving the house anyway, we made the decision that I would not leave the house/garden at all, and he would pick up food when we needed it when he was already out and about.

That means that I’ve not left the house for a month.

And it’s weird! In some ways, I love that: I’m very much a homegirl, and I love just being at home, in comfy clothes, relaxing.

But isn’t it funny: as soon as you are told you cannot do something, all you want to do is that thing!

I was also really looking forward to hosting a few family get-togethers this spring, all of which (of course) have been cancelled.

And in all of this, my writing has suffered. It’s hard to focus on a love scene set in Regency England when you keep hearing doom and gloom on the news.

I find it difficult to write light and frothy banter between my hero and my heroine when I am hearing such terrible news from friends and family about their loved ones.

It all feels a bit meaningless, do you know what I mean?

But yesterday, some of that shifted. I sent out a newsletter to my readers (late, sorry!) and I was really honest with them about how it was challenging, and I was doing my best. I wasn’t even expecting a response, I just wanted to be honest with them.

The emails I have received over the last 24 hours have been so lovely – some of them even made me cry! To know that my readers were absolutely standing with me, that some of them were finding it hard, but that my books – and the books from other authors – were keeping me going…

It reminded me why I love to write, and why I wrote in the first place.

So this morning, I woke up early and instead of lounging in bed (tempting, I know), I got up, headed downstairs, cracked open the laptop, and finally finished some edits on a book.

And it feels great.

How are you doing in lockdown? Are you finding motivation hard? Are your emotions all over the place?