My Secret Weapon

Over the years I’ve tried many ways of becoming more efficient. When I was a stay at home mum with three young children I would wait until the kids were all at school, or play group and snatch those hours to get on with my writing. Later, as a full time teacher, I put aside time in the evening, or the school holidays.

What I really wanted, however, was to be a full time writer. To be able to get up in the morning sit down at my computer and work uninterrupted until supper time. This was surely ultimate bliss.

A half-term dedicated to just that taught me that this was not the best way for me. The kids were away, so was Mike. The house was mine. My only responsibility the cats and the Water Spaniels. I wouldn’t see friends, or go out, I would write.

The first two days were fine. I got a lot done. I felt pleased with myself. By day three however I was definitely lagging. I couldn’t settle to work, I needed stimulus. A brisk walk helped, a little, but not enough to keep me going. Day four I hardly wrote at all, even housework was preferable, and by day five I was desperate for company and conversation. (This was the days before Social Media when interaction with people meant seeing them face to face.) I gave up. I called a friend.

What I learned was that given all the hours I could wish for I simply could not concentrate and keep focused on the writing.

Many writers have butterfly minds. It’s part of being creative. There are so many ideas out there, so many things to see, to hear, to experience that channelling creativity is hard. But if you don’t sit down and write then nothing gets written. Maybe challenging myself to write a 1000 words a day would work.

It didn’t. As always I started off well. The 1000 words, unedited spewed onto the page day after day. The trouble was that most of it was rubbish and had to be re-written. Did re-writing count as part of the 1000 words? If it did then I simply couldn’t keep up with my schedule as editing is a very different process and takes far more time than a first draft.

I switched tactics to a set period a day. I would write/work/edit for at least one hour. Fine. Except life got in the way of that and when it did I felt guilty that I hadn’t managed even so short a time.

Reading books on how to write a best seller in a week, or maybe a little longer, I came across the idea of grabbing whatever time you could, five, ten, fifteen minutes anything. This was definitely not for me. By the time I’d got myself in the zone, caught up with where I was in the novel/short story the five minutes would be over.

Back to sitting at the desk, an activity that is apparently so bad that some experts reckon it takes years off your life, as well as impacting on heart health, causing back problems and generally being a bad thing.

What one should do is sit for a while then get up and move around. Tried it. It didn’t work. Either I was too engrossed in what I was doing, or I was too busy watching the clock to see if it was time to stop.

At which point I came up with my secret weapon. I bought a timer.

20 minutes of concentrated work. No more no less. The moment the buzzer sounds I stop. Even mid-sentence. Knowing that is all the time I have, I concentrate fully. There’s no need to clock watch because the timer will tell me when to finish.

Working like this I’ve certainly written more and an unexpected consequence has been that when I am stopped by the timer I can’t wait to get back to what I’ve been doing. Somehow that arbitrary cut off point makes me want to do more rather than less.

I do wonder, now that I’ve got into the habit, whether the time will come when I simply won’t be able to work without a steady ticking in the background, but even if it does it won’t matter because I will just take my faithful timer with me, so that the next book will be written, edited and published in record time.

At which point the buzzer sounded.




#Friday Favourites: “Tiny sunbirds far away” by Christie Watson


Set in Lagos, Nigeria, “Tiny Sunbirds Far Away” tells the story of what happens when Blessing’s Mama found Father lying on top of another woman.

In the aftermath, the family lose their apartment and have to move away, swopping their Westernised lifestyle for life in their grandparent’s compound. The cultural shock is huge and at first Blessing feels that she will never be able to cope without running water, indoor sanitation, or proper schooling.

Gradually, however, she begins to see that there are good things about living out in the Delta. The land and air might be being poisoned by the oil companies, but her relationship with her grandmother grows ever stronger and she finds what she wants to do with the rest of her life.

Although the novel deals with serious issues, such as FMG, the desecration of the environment and government corruption, it is also full of humour and joy.

The characters are vividly drawn, the language lyrical, the sense of the countryside so intense that you can almost feel the heat, smell the outhouse, taste the food.

A thoroughly recommended read.

Shadows On The Grass

Thank you Barry for this great review.

Being Britalian

In November I was pleased to asked by Misha M. Herwin to be part of her blog tour following the launch of her third novel, Shadows On The Grass. For those of you unfamiliar with Misha’s work, she’s a prolific writer who writes both young adult literature and mainstream novels. She’s better known for her YA trilogy, Dragonfire and the popular Clear Gold series. Her mainstream work has included the time-slip novel House of Shadows and the keenly observant Picking Up The Pieces and this month saw the release of her third novel, Shadows On The Grass..shadows-on-the-grass

My first observation of this new novel is that it’d be foolish to assume this is solely women’s literature, it’s most definitely not. Yes, the action is centred around several women but that’s where the similarity with other women’s fiction ends. Set in 1960’s Bristol the story segues easily from 1965 to…

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#BlogTour #AuthorInterview with @MishaHerwin

Another post on my blog tour. Thanks to Kerry for hosting me on her blog and for the questions that really made me think.

Chat About Books

I’m delighted to be joining in with Misha Herwin’s Shadows On The Grass blog tour 🙂

(If you missed my review the link will be at the bottom of this post)

Misha Herwin

For those who don’t know already, could you tell us about yourself and your book(s) please?

I’m Misha Herwin and I write books for adults and children as well as short stories and plays.

Where did/do you get your ideas from?

That is a really difficult question. I suppose the answer is that I don’t really know. Mostly I see a character in a particular place and then their story comes to me. With my latest novel, “Shadows on the Grass” however, the inspiration came from wanting to know more about my own family history. As I began researching I realised there was so much material there that had to be put in a novel.

Are any of your…

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After the launch is over.


“Shadows on the Grass”, the e-book, was launched the week before last. I hosted a Facebook event and am in the middle of a blog tour. At the same time, I was tweeting to remind people of the free story “The Making of a Revolutionary” that comes with the book and trying to think of other ways in which to effectively market my book.

I was so caught up in the whole process that that I could think of nothing else. How can I get more reviews on Amazon? How many times, is too many to remind friends and family that I have a new book out and would really appreciate it if they would buy and review?

At first it was all very exciting. The adrenaline had kicked in and I was on a roll. The downside of that is the inevitable slump. fainting-woman-340x503This is when I want to run away to that deserted beach, get rid of the laptop and never, ever write another word.

The characters I had lived with for so long have gone out into the world. I have done my best for them and now I want a rest.

This phase won’t last. In fact it is already on its way out. Even now I’m wondering how to give you a subtle nudge in direction of my book. After this post, I’m going to send off a few e-mails, scan my list of contacts….

But if I could be teleported away for just a few hours that would be so good.


Shadows on the Grass by Misha M Herwin #blogtour #novel #newfiction

A good review and some very insightful questions. Thanks Jan.

Jan Edwards

Latest CoverWhen Misha Herwin asked me to take part in her blog tour for Shadows on the Grass I was more than delighted.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  It covers an awful lot of ground, not merely in time and space but also in the political and social issues.  And if that were not enough to keep me on the edge of your seat Misha also slides a time-slip element into the mix, which raises the tensions beyond the usual family saga.

With all that in mind I posed a few questions for Misha to enlarge upon.

JE: Tell us a little about yourself.

ScribeMH: I’m Misha Herwin and I write books for adults and for children. I’ve also written plays, which have been performed professionally, as well as in schools, and had a number of short stories published in various anthologies in the UK and US; including The Way to…

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#Friday Favourites: Prussian Blue by Philip Kerr

Prussian Blue 2

Bernie Gunther is a classic anti-hero. Subversive, sly with a keenly developed sense of self preservation, which enables him to survive as a policeman in Hitler’s Germany. Trapped by the system, he finds himself in a situation where he has to work for people he recognises as unrelentingly evil.

After the war however he is free to take up a job at the Grand Hotel Cap Ferrat, until his past catches up with him and he falls foul of the East German Secret Police.

The novel then moves between the action in 1956 when Bernie has to escape his pursuers and find his way back to West Germany and the murder case he was drafted to solve at the Berghof, Hitler’s summer hideaway in the Bavarian Alps in 1939.

The narrative moves seamlessly between the two, evoking a sense of period, place and peril. The pace is relentless, Bernie’s view of leading Nazis such as Heydrich and Borman illuminating. The novel is dark, set shot through with Bernie’s black humour and his analysis of his motives, and those of others, as well as his comments on the current events of his time give “Prussian Blue” depth and historical perspective.

When I first came across the series, I wasn’t sure I wanted to read thrillers set in Nazi Germany. After the first book, I was completely converted.  I love the darkness, the moral ambiguity, the vividness of time and place and of course Bernie Gunther himself. Highly recommended.