I'm a Harlequin Mills and Boon author. I'm married with four kids, one dog, five cats and still have my sanity. I walk my dog and get to make up stories all day, whilst having tea breaks when I like and getting to surf the net looking at all kinds of stuff and call it research.
So, I’m currently in a year’s break from writing Medicals. I asked for a year off, from my fabulous editor, as there was a lot going on personally, stuff that I won’t go into here, but I asked for a break because I just felt like my writing brain needed one. Some time off to just chill, to not have to be endlessly coming up with plot ideas and twists and conflicts.
And so far, it’s going great!
Filling the Well, was a saying I heard the first time, from my great friend Kate Hardy. It was something she advocated for strongly and at the beginning of my writing journey I didn’t understand it, because I was so full of ideas and joy and enthusiasm. Only, as time wore on and I’d got my first fourteen books under my belt, I felt the need to take a break.
So I began reading. I began soaking things in. I binge-watched whatever I wanted to (The Haunting of Hill House was the first thing and currently it’s Game of Thrones) I walked the dogs on long, looooong walks, I breathed in nature, I listened to music, danced to music, did some cardio, some yoga. Took a masterclass. Anything and everything that took my fancy. And throughout it all, without fail, my brain kept returning to the thought that I needed to write.
Plots arrived. Characters began speaking. Scenes formed in my head, like mini-movies. It seemed no matter how hard I tried to relax, the writing was always there. Simmering away, even if I didn’t try. I put my fingers to the keyboard three months into my break and the ideas in my head, didn’t match the words on the screen and I got frightened that I’d taken such a big break and I couldn’t write again.
But slowly but surely, and with lots of stubborn determination and practice, the words are better again. They match what’s in my head and I’m back in the habit. I’m writing something new. Away from the genre of romance and I think that was part of the problem. I was trying something new. Something exciting. Something that wasn’t guaranteed to be published and fear was in there.
Fear of failure.
I still have that fear, but I can put it to one side now. The words are what’s important, the STORY is what’s important and I don’t have to get it right first time. That’s what revisions are for, after all! What matters is enjoying the WRITING.
I’m enjoying it again. It feels fresh. Filling the well, was what I needed to get some perspective, to think about what I want to be doing, that will make ME happy, as happy was sadly lacking last year, due to many personal things going on. Losing my beloved dog, Daisy, was one and things like that make you realise your own mortality and what you do with your own life and how you make yourself happy.
So, I’d like to hear from you guys. What do you do when YOU need to fill the well? What do you do to make yourself happy? What brings you joy? Perhaps there’s something you do, that someone else could learn from. You could inspire joy!
When Krystiana woke the next morning, the first thing she did was reach over and turn off her night-light. It was an automatic thing—something she hardly noticed doing—but today when she did so she stared at it for a moment, wondering if Crown Prince Matteo had one too.
For two years he’d been stuck in a cave. Was he now afraid of the dark?
Throwing off the bedcovers, she got up and threw open the double doors to the sun terrace. The fragrant air poured in and she closed her eyes for a moment as the warm rays from the sun caressed her skin. This was what she loved about living here. The warmth. The colour. The heat. The beauty of this treasured isle.
How fortunate that her aunt lived here. It had been exactly what she had needed after her experience at the hands of her father—to leave such an ugly existence behind and come to a place that only had beauty at its core. There had been a new language to learn, but wonderful, loving, passionate people to support her. New friends. A new life. Isla Tamoura had given her a new beginning, a new hope, and she loved it here so much.
Krystiana took a quick shower and braided her long hair into its usual plait, donned a summery dress and sat down to eat the breakfast that had been brought in on a tray. She was used to eating breakfast alone. She quite enjoyed it. But this time, before her day started, she grabbed her pad and pencils and began sketching the view from her balcony. This afternoon she would be going home again, so there was no time to spare.
Her sketch was vague. Outlines and shapes. She would fill in the colour later, allowing her imagination to take flight. She took a couple of quick photos using her phone.
She almost lost track of time, and when she did glance at her watch she saw there were only a few minutes until nine o clock—her scheduled time to give the Prince his yearly physical. She left her pad and pencil on the bed, finished her orange juice and then pulled the sash to call Sergio. She wasn’t sure exactly where in the palace the examination would take place.
Sergio arrived, looking as perfectly presented as always. ‘Good morning, Dr Szenac. I hope you slept well?’
‘Very well, Sergio, thank you. I have my appointment with His Highness Prince Matteo, to start his physical, but I’m not sure where I have to go.’
He nodded. ‘I believe you are expected in the private gym. Dr Bonetti always carries out the yearly check-ups there.’
‘Thank you.’ She’d had no idea the palace had its own gym—but, then again, why wouldn’t it? Matteo and his family could hardly pop out to the local leisure centre if they wanted to lift a few weights, could they?
Sergio led her through the palace, down long tapestry-filled hallways, past vast vases so big she could have climbed inside and not been seen even standing upright. They passed a coat of arms, a suit of armour, and fireplaces filled with flowers, until he brought her to a set of double doors.
‘The gym, Dr Szenac. All of Dr Bonetti’s equipment has been laid out for you, and the computer has been set up for you to enter the results of each test for the record.’
‘Thank you—that’s very kind.’
‘The computer isn’t likely to be difficult, but if you do have any queries we have an IT expert on hand.’
Sergio smiled and opened the doors.
The gym was filled with all types of equipment—treadmills, stair-masters, weight machines, free-standing weights, workout equipment, yoga mats. Anything and everything seemed to be here, and one wall was made of glass that revealed a room beyond filled with a full-length swimming pool.
But she didn’t have time to linger. The Prince would be here at any moment and she wanted to be prepared.
She was running her eye over what she needed to achieve today, reminding herself of the assessments, when she became aware of a presence behind her.
She turned and bowed slightly. ‘Your Highness.’
‘I’m ready, if you are?’
Smiling, she nodded. ‘Absolutely. Ready to begin with the basics? I’ll need to do blood pressure, pulse and SATs.’
‘All right. Take a seat.’
She began to set up her equipment—the pulse oximeter that she’d place on his finger to measure not only his pulse but the oxygen levels in his blood, and the arm cuff around his upper arm that would measure his blood pressure.
His basic measurements were perfect. Exactly what she’d expected them to be.
‘Okay, now I need to check your height and weight.’
‘I don’t think I’ve shrunk.’
She smiled. ‘Glad to hear it.’
Again, his weight was perfect for his height.
‘Now I’d like to set you up for a treadmill test. I’ll need to attach you to a breathing tube, so we can measure oxygen intake, heart-rate and lung capacity whilst you run up a slight incline for three minutes.’
He nodded. ‘Can I warm up first?’
‘By all means.’
She looked at his previous measurements and typed them into the computer, aware that Matteo was stripping off behind her and beginning to stretch.
When she turned around she noted that he was in excellent physical shape. Clearly he used the gym often to keep fit. His muscle tone was almost beautiful. His figure was sculpted, without being overly worked. It seemed almost wrong to look at him and admire him like that. Not least because he was a prince.
‘Right, I need to attach these electrodes, if that’s okay?’
Does my voice sound weird?
He stood still whilst she attached the electrodes to his chest and body, trying her hardest not to make eye contact, then attached the wires that hooked him up to the machine for a reading. She fastened a breathing mask around his nose and mouth, and suddenly there was that eye contact thing.
She could feel herself blushing. ‘Okay… For the first minute I want you just to walk at a steady pace and then, when I tell you, I’m going to increase the speed and I want you to jog.’
He gave her a thumbs-up and she started the treadmill and the EKG monitor that would read his heart’s electrical activity. The machine began printing out on a paper roll and she watched it steadily, keeping a careful eye out for any issues, but it all looked fine.
She glanced up at him as he ran with a steady pace, his body like a well-oiled machine as he tackled the jog easily. His oxygen intake was perfect; his heart-rate was elevated, but not too much.
When the three minutes were over she switched everything off and then laid a hand on his wrist to check his pulse. She felt it pounding away beneath her fingertips and kept count, then made a note of the result.
‘You’re doing brilliantly.’
He pulled off the mask. ‘Good to know.’
‘You work out a lot?’
‘Can’t you tell?’ He raised an eyebrow.
‘Well, I…er…yes… You look very…er…’
He laughed. ‘I meant can’t you tell from my results?’
She flushed even redder and laughed with him. ‘Oh, I see.’ She nodded. ‘Yes!’
‘I try to do thirty minutes every other day, alternating with the pool. Lifting weights. Half an hour of cardio… ‘
‘You do more than me.’
‘It’s easier for me. My life is scheduled to the minute, so I know when I can fit things in to get everything done.’
She was curious. ‘Is that a perk or a drawback?’ she asked. She wasn’t sure she’d want to be so regimentally scheduled each day. What about free time? What about spontaneity?
‘It depends on the day.’ He laughed again, wiping his face with a towel.
He shrugged. ‘Well, I have this, and then I get to spend some time with my daughter.’
‘Princess Alexandra? She’s beautiful. How old is she now?’
‘You must be very proud of her.’
‘I am. But I don’t get to spoil her as often as I would like.’
Of course not. She didn’t live with him. The Princess lived with her mother, at her family’s private estate.
‘That must be hard for you?’
He stared into her eyes. ‘You have no idea.’
Oh, but I do, she thought. I know how hard it is being away from those you love.I know only too well.
She blinked rapidly and turned away, forcing her mind back to the assessment. ‘Next test.’
‘I’m all yours.’ He did a mock bow.
Krystiana smiled and then indicated that he should move to the next machine.
They were just about finished with their testing when the doors to the gym opened and in walked Sergio, looking grave. It was the most solemn Matteo had ever seen him.
He finished towelling himself down and raised an eyebrow. ‘Sergio? What is it?’
‘I have some unfortunate news for Dr Szenac, sir.’
She looked up from her notes and frowned. Was it about Dr Bonetti’s wife?
‘I’m afraid there’s been an accident at your villa. A drunk driver tried to take the corner near your abode too fast and ploughed into your home. I’m afraid your living area and bedroom have been almost destroyed, and the property is not safe for you to reside in just yet.’
Matteo was shocked and looked to Dr Szenac. ‘I’m so sorry!’
Her face was almost white. ‘Is the driver all right?’
He was impressed at how her concern was immediately for the driver.
‘I believe he got away quite lightly, all things considered. He’s being treated by the medics now.’
‘Okay. Good. That’s good.’ She turned away, her thoughts in a distant place. ‘Oh, my God. What about Bruno?’
‘My dog. He’s a rescue.’
‘I believe your neighbour was out on a walk with him at the time,’ Sergio replied.
‘Oh, thank goodness!’
She sank down into a chair, her legs obviously trembling, and put her head in her hands. Matteo felt for her. Was her home ruined?
‘You must stay here with us. Until everything is fixed.’
She looked up, tears in her eyes. ‘I couldn’t possibly do that.’
‘Nonsense! It’s done. Sergio, could you arrange for Dr Szenac’s clothes and anything she needs to be brought to her quarters here in the palace? Including her dog, who I’m sure will bring her great comfort. We’re going to have a guest for a while.’
‘I don’t know what to say…’ she said, beginning to cry.
He smiled. ‘Say yes.’
She looked at him for a long moment and he saw gratitude. ‘Then, yes. Thank you. Yes.’
He nodded. ‘Sergio? Make it happen.’
‘I’m so lucky I was here when it happened, she said later. Otherwise I might have been injured!’
‘Well, you were here, and that’s all that matters.’
‘No buts. There’s no point in wondering about what mighthave happened. You just need to worry about what ishappening.’ He smiled. ‘I learned that in therapy. Look at me—spreading the knowledge.’
She smiled as she stroked Bruno’s fur. They’d had a joyous reunion when Sergio had returned with her dog, her clothes, her computer and some rather startling photographs of the damage to her villa.
‘That’s going to take weeks to repair,’ she’d said.
‘Let me take care of that,’ Matteo had offered.
‘I couldn’t possibly let you do that! It will cost a fortune!’
‘Are you insured?’
‘Then don’t worry about it. Let me do something good for you. You were kind enough to step in at the last minute and help me out when I needed a doctor—let me step in and help you out when you need a…’
‘A builder?’ She’d laughed.
He’d smiled back. ‘A knight in shining armour. Didn’t you see my suit of armour downstairs? It’s very polished.’
So of course she’d thanked him profusely, feeling so terribly grateful for all that he was doing to help her out.
‘I appreciate that. I really do.’
‘Nonsense. It’s what friends do.’
And she’d smiled. Were they friends?‘Thank you.’
Matteo had invited her to dine with him that evening.
‘You can bring Bruno. If he’s lucky we might be able to feed him titbits under the table.’
‘He’ll never want to leave this place if you do that.’
And now they sat on his sun terrace, awaiting their meal, staring out across the gardens below and watching the sun slowly set.
‘By the way, I don’t know if you’ve heard but Dr Bonetti’s wife has pulled through. She’s in a stable condition and expected to go home soon. He phoned from the hospital. Let my secretary know.’
‘That’s excellent news! Wow. So good to have such great news after earlier. And the driver who hit my home? Do we know about him?’
‘Already home. And already charged by the police for drink driving. He’s to attend court in a few days’ time.’
‘If it was an accident I’m sure he’s very sorry.’
Matteo sipped his water. ‘Unfortunately, from what I’ve discovered, the man is a known drunk. He’s already had his licence taken from him and the car wasn’t even his. It was his son’s and he’d “borrowed” it.’
‘We’ll get him into a programme.’
‘We?’ She raised an eyebrow.
‘My pack of royal enforcers,’ he said with a straight face, knowing there was no such pack at all.
He laughed. ‘I’m sorry. I don’t really have enforcers. I was just… Look, he needs help. Someone will go and visit him and make sure he enrols into a programme that will get him the help he needs. Before he kills someone next time.’
‘Maybe I could go and see him myself?’
‘Is that wise? You’re emotionally involved.’
‘Which is why he might listen to me. Meeting the actual victim of his crime might make more of an impact.’
‘Was hitting your wall not enough?’ He cocked his head to one side. ‘How do you know so much about crime and victimology?’
She looked down and away from him then, and he realised there was a story there. Something she wasn’t willing to share.
‘I’m sorry—you don’t have to answer that.’
She laughed. ‘Don’t therapists suggest that talking is good for the soul?’
He nodded. ‘They do. But only when you’re ready. Areyou ready?’
‘I don’t know.’
He sipped his drink. ‘You’ll know when it’s the right time. And, more importantly, if it’s the right person to talk to. You don’t really know me, so I quite understand.’
She stared back at him. Consideringly. Her eyes were cool. ‘I think you’d understand more than most.’
He considered this. Intrigued. ‘Oh?’
She paused. Looked uncertain. And then he saw it in her face. The determination to push forward and just say it.
‘I was six years old. And I was taken.’
‘Taken?’ His blood almost froze, despite the warmth of the sun.
When I was little, Christmas was a very low-key idea. My parents didn’t have any money, even though my Dad worked full time and my Mum worked a variety of part time jobs to make ends meet. Each year we’d drag the tatty Christmas tree and decades-old decorations down from the attic and try our best to make them look pretty. I remember paper lanterns in bright green and a weird orange colour held together by sticky tape (and sometimes staples!) hanging from the ceiling of our lounge. Every Christmas, we four kids would cut up strips of paper to make paper chains, as well as making snowflake designs to hang up to add to the cheer.
Presents were never anything extravagant. We all knew there was no point in asking for a bike or a computer or anything like that. We truly were the kids that were grateful for a chocolate bar, or a satsuma in our gifts. Talcum powder was a regular gift I received each year, which I would eke out all year until the next Yuletide when another tin would arrive!
But one year (I was probably around 10 years old) I can remember saying to my parents that I would love to have a typewriter. I’d been writing stories down on paper for ages, but thought the only way I would be a proper writer, would be if I had a proper typewriter. I felt it would make me ‘official’ and ‘real’. That somehow, my stories would be much better for having been hammered out on a machine, rather than flowing from my pen.
I didn’t hold out much hope. I’d looked in the Argos catalogue, I knew how expensive they could be. But I begged and begged my parents for one. When it got to my birthday in July, I told them not to get me anything, but to put it towards a typewriter for Christmas.
When Christmas arrived, I almost couldn’t contain myself. I kept telling myself to calm down. That I might get downstairs and only find the usual talcum powder and selection box and that I should be pleased I was even receiving those, but there was a small part of me that hoped more than anything that when I got downstairs there’d be a large present all wrapped and waiting under the tree.
And there was! And it was beautiful! A royal blue, Silver Reed typewriter, that came with a solid, black cover that clipped on over the top! I remember screaming and dancing with joy, doing a little jig in the front room, before finding a piece of paper to scroll into it, so I could start tap, tap tapping away!
It was second hand, but that didn’t matter to me. The ribbon barely had any ink left in it, but that didn’t matter either.
I loved that typewriter. And my parents house was filled with the sound of it, whenever I was home from school and at weekends as I wrote story after story after story, finally able to submit to magazines and newspapers because my work was typed and not handwritten.
That typewriter was the best present I ever received! I can still feel the joy, even now, of what it felt like, to open that gift! And that was the beginning for me. What I consider my ‘official’ beginning of me as a writer.
What was your best present ever? I’d love to hear all about it!
This December, I have a new book coming out, called Their Unexpected Babies. It returns to a favourite topic of mine and one I wrote about in my very first book – surrogacy.
I’m endlessly fascinated by surrogacy, the couples who choose it, the women who offer their womb for nine months, knowing that the child they carry is not for them. In my first book, I explored surrogacy from the point of view of the surrogate herself and in this new book, I’m exploring it from the point of view of a woman who can’t carry a child of her own.
I hope you enjoy this little excerpt!
Dancing was an art form. There were those who could do it well, who looked as if they’d been born to dance. And there were those who did it badly—and Leah was one of them. Dancing might even be a bit too fancy a word for the moves her body was able to perform. Fancy swaying might be more realistic.
She felt awkward trying to do anything more complicated than that, being all angles and long limbs, like a newborn foal, trying to stay upright. It wasn’t her favourite thing to do and, quite frankly, she couldn’t wait for this to be over.
Just keep smiling! Pretend you’re having a great time.
Everyone else was. One or two had even paired off with a couple of guys who had bought them drinks. Thinking of which, she was beginning to get a little thirsty. She looked over at the bar, to see if there was much of a queue, and instead met a steady pair of beautiful blue eyes gazing back at her.
He was at the bar—the man in question. Holding a tall glass with what looked like water in it, condensation dripping down its sides. Black shirt, open at the collar. Black trousers.
She couldn’t look away. She wanted to, but he held her gaze, and somehow, before she knew it, he was standing in front of her.
‘May I have this dance?’
The old-fashioned request was charming. If he’d said anything else, come out with a cheesy line, then she would have raised a sardonic eyebrow and turned away, but his question—polite, gallant, charming—hit all her buttons.
She could feel her cheeks flushing and was thankful he wouldn’t be able to see that in the darkness. But the terrible thing about being in the dark was that it also made you throw a bit of caution to the wind. It created intimacy. And she couldn’t help but laugh.
‘You’ve seen me dance, right? The flailing?’
He smiled. ‘It was utterly charming.’
He leaned in. ‘Adorable.’
And she liked him. He smelt great. She didn’t know what it was, but she just felt secure with this guy. What was one more flail? They were in a public place. Nothing was going to happen.
She bit her lip as he led her to the centre of the dance floor, and just as she was about to begin the music changed. It was almost as if this man and the DJ were in cahoots, because the music switched from a frantic, heated rhythm to something slow and soulful. The kind of music that begged couples to dance in each other’s arms. Bodies pressed close. Intimate. Knowing.
She smiled and stepped shyly into his embrace, draping her arms over his shoulders as he pulled her to him.
He smelt delicious. Edible. A musky heat. And she closed her eyes as they swayed in tune together, sensing him inhale the scent of her shampoo as he lifted a tendril of her hair up to his nose. It was such an intimate gesture she felt shivers tremble down her spine, and her breath hitched in her throat as she wondered what he’d do next.
But he was a perfect gentleman. His hands didn’t wander and she found herself wondering about this man in her arms. Who was he? Where had he come from? What was his name?
Why was he so hot?
She let him have the next dance. And then the next. And when she had to sit down, to give her feet and ankles a rest from the vertiginous heels she had unwittingly chosen for that evening, he walked her over to a place to sit and helped her slip them off. He massaged her feet for her whilst she squirmed in delight on the banquette and thanked the heavens that she’d had a pedicure two days ago.
He looked at her and smiled. ‘Are you ticklish?’
‘Then I’ll be careful.’
She liked the way he held her feet firmly, determined not to tickle her, but to give her the maximum benefit of his strong, capable hands.
‘You know your way around a woman’s foot.’Leah cringed once the words were out.
But he didn’t raise an eyebrow. ‘I know my way around many parts of the female anatomy.’
She blushed. The foot massage already had her biting her lip, trying her hardest not to moan and groan in delight at what was happening to her flesh, and his words made her wonder what magic he could cause in other places, with other parts of his anatomy?
But the thought was fleeting and quick. That wasn’t who she was, so she knew she didn’t have to worry about that. But somehow they got talking and chatting, and his name was Ben. So simple. So wonderful. It suited him.
She discovered they liked a lot of the same things—old movies, reading, and the exact same brand of salted caramel chocolates—and when he learnt how close she lived, he offered to give her a piggyback home.
‘A piggyback?’ she asked in amused disbelief. They weren’t kids.
‘You can’t dance in those shoes and you certainly can’t walk in them. I’m amazed you didn’t break an ankle just getting here.’
The idea of him walking her home thrilled her. She didn’t want to part company with him yet. But she didn’t want to do this alone. Just in case. He could be anyone.
Hannah offered to accompany them for safety. Her friend lived in the block opposite her own. As good as his word, Ben carried her all the way back, like a groom carrying his new bride over the threshold of their new home, telling them jokes and making them laugh, paying attention to both women fairly, though it was clear his interest was in her. And when he gently set her down on her feet, her soles pressed against the chilly pavement, she impulsively offered him a coffee or a nightcap, not yet willing to say goodbye.
He’d smiled. ‘Coffee would be nice.’
Hannah waved them both goodbye, giving Leah a big thumbs-up sign in secret, when Ben wasn’t looking.
She smiled and fished her keys out of her bag.
What am I doing? I don’t do this. I don’t invite random guys back!
But another voice in her head said, Go for it! When are you going to get another chance?
So she made him coffee. And they sat together on the couch, drinking it until it was gone, and the tension in the room was palpable.
‘I should go.’ His voice was loaded with regret. ‘It was lovely spending a few hours with you, but I have an early start in the morning.’
She nodded. ‘Me, too.’
She wasn’t kidding either. She started a new job tomorrow. Going to the club had been in celebration of that.
He stood up and she stood with him. They were so close! Millimetres apart. Leah gazed up at his face, his mouth, and then he pulled her gently towards him and lowered his face to hers.
The kiss was perfect. Gentle.
And then it wasn’t. And they couldn’t remove their clothes fast enough.
From irresistible attraction… To ready-made family!
After her best friend agrees to be her surrogate, Dr Leah Hudson’s dream of being a mum is finally coming true! But throwing caution to the wind for one night with sexy Dr Ben Willoughby has shocking consequences… Leah’s pregnant! Now, with two babies depending on her, Leah must push her feelings for committed bachelor Ben aside—unless he proves that Leah and the babies can depend on him
I’d like to think that all writers have gone through this.
They write a book. (hah! I made that sound dead easy. It’s not.) And they read it through, they redraft, they tweak and when they think it’s as perfect as they can make it, they send it in to their publisher.
(Please note, I have NO IDEA why you might need a golden pineapple when writing a book. But perhaps that’s where I am going wrong)
The joy of finishing a book, of writing, The End, is a very special feeling. You have spent weeks, months with these characters. You have tortured them, you have stuck obstacles in the way of their happiness until finally you give them their Happy Ever After. You’re thrilled that the boy has got the girl and the girl has got the boy. Result!
And then, just as you’ve already embarked with another set of characters, to send them on their journey of happiness (torture), your email pings and there’s the dreaded revision letter for the last book.
I positively DREAM of one day sending in a book that needs no revisions. It has been done! (not by me, but others have)
And it turns out that the book that you thought was as perfect as you could get it, needs help. Your editor likes it very much, but they think you can strengthen certain aspects, or they think you need to rethink a certain aspect of a character’s backstory and the most common note, I think we all get is, DIG DEEPER. (If I had a pound for every time I have DUG DEEPER, I would be a rich person)
So you pull your hair out, rant and rage and tell yourself that your editor thinks you’re useless (you’re not. That’s just the process) and then once you’ve had time to let the revisions marinade in your head, you get to work. There are many ways to tackle revisions. Do the little changes first and then the big ones. Or just start at Chapter One and make them as you work your way through (my preferred method)
And then finally you resubmit the manuscript, believing it is all over. Your editor will say WE LOVE IT and issue payment for that book.
Or, in my last case, they tell you that the revisions haven’t worked at all and actually they’ve had a rethink themselves and think that the story needs a vast overhaul.
You know The Scream by Edvard Munch? Well, that was me, recently. Rewrite the entire thing? Aaaargh! All that work! All those hours, days, weeks spent creating that world, those characters, all for nothing?
It was hard. I might even have had a little cry about it. But I put on my Big Girl hat and my Wonder Woman pants (thanks, Annie O’Neil) gritted my teeth and got on with it and you know what? I rewrote that entire book in eight days. EIGHT DAYS! My family barely remembered who I was. All they knew was that there was some weird woman upstairs, with bad hair, muttering to herself, that could be kept under control with copious amounts of tea.
But I did it. I rewrote the book and sent it back in. And STILL there were more revisions, a third set came back!
Even though I’d already written twelve other books and thought I knew what I was doing, i totally screwed that one up! But, as I said on Facebook, the last time this happened to me was when I wrote A Father this Christmas, my third title and that book had FIVE sets of revisions and is now my best seller.
So, I’m hoping no more revisions ping back into my inbox. At the moment, the book is with my editor. AGAIN. Fingers crossed, it gets accepted.
And if it doesn’t? Well, I’m just hoping I have another best seller about to hit the shelves!
Louisa Heaton’s latest book (that didn’t require copious rewrites) is Saving The Single Dad Doc! Available from all good bookstores.
I’m all about finding the joy right now. In such a troubling, terrifying world, I think we all owe it to ourselves to look for the bright moments, the joy, the happiness, no matter how small they may be.
The last time I wrote for this blog, we’d lost our beloved dog, Daisy, but now, almost three months later, we have a new pooch, Lexi. A rescue German Shepherd. She is bringing joy back into our lives again and somebody new to love. She gets on brilliantly with our resident dog, Mango and all the cats – though initially, they weren’t overly thrilled with her arrival!
Another thing I’m grateful for is my middle son passing his Theory Test first time, which was great news for us and today, he is going to pick up his very first car. I can hardly believe I have a child that is old enough to drive, but I do! In fact, I have three of them!
I’m grateful that my youngest son, who has always struggled with autism, is doing brilliantly in his new school. We had a long fight to get him the support we needed (which was ridiculous) but he has it now for the first time. Stability. Happiness and he, himself, is finding the joy in learning for the first time.
I’m grateful that I can write and I’ve had two books published since I last blogged – A Child To Heal Them and Saving The Single Dad Doc. I’m thrilled to pieces that I get to do the best job in the entire world, every single day!
There are other things going off in my life, that aren’t brilliant. Family members with significant illnesses for one, that we can’t do a damn thing about, but I am trying to find as much time as I can to be with them and create happy memories, before we’re unable to. Each joke, each smile, is something to be treasured.
I’m enjoying the warm, sunny days. The days I get to walk along the beach barefoot. The days I get to sit with my children around the dinner table and laugh. Small things, but wonderful things.
Years ago, Oprah Winfrey wrote about the importance of having a Gratitude Journal and I believe in that totally, because when you force yourself to look for the good, every single day, you find your focus shifting in life. You don’t concentrate so much on all the stuff that goes wrong, all the stuff that’s out of your hands that you can’t change, and instead you focus on what made you smile – whether it was a particularly beautiful flower you saw that day, or an old couple still holding hands, or just the fact that you enjoyed a particularly lovely cup of tea!
Try it and see. There are some lovely Gratitude Journals on the market. Or you can just pick up a pretty notebook and make your own.
In the meantime, if you’d like to read a story about hope and possibility and love, then check out Saving The Single Dad Doc! And remember to look for the joy and the beauty and enjoy your life in lots of small, little ways. Why not tell me below about what you are grateful for today? Try and find three things and share! I can’t wait to read them.
(WARNING – This hurt me to write. I apologise if it upsets anyone, but I felt the need to tell the story)
Ten years ago, when our youngest son was four years old, we were struggling to reach him and communicate effectively. His speech was minimal and the words he did say, were often unintelligible, except to me and his Dad.
Back then he hadn’t been diagnosed, though we strongly suspected autism was the case. I was researching autism, trying to find other parents like me, struggling to reach their child and I came across two families, that had brought a dog into their home to try and make a break-through. We’d always had dogs in the house, but hadn’t for a while, after the death of our previous dog, Lucy, a golden labrador.
So we decided the time was right for another. And bought a fluffy white bundle that looked like a baby polar bear.
Her name was Daisy and she was a golden retriever.
Goldens are renowned for their gentle spirit, intelligence and capacity for patience and love and we knew that she’d need it. Jack could be furious and physical, lashing out in frustration at not being able to convey his feelings.
Until Daisy and Jack met.
Daisy settled into our home well. Making friends with everybody, including the rather unimpressed cats and our other children, tolerant of all the loud noises and the constant hands that wanted to pat her and stroke her. Jack often lay down on the floor, using her body as a pillow and she would follow him and the others around, making sure they were always in sight, always around.
Jack’s verbal abilities and temper became better. He helped us take Daisy for walks and they would play and run in the surf together and when Jack got tired (which wasn’t easy!) Daisy would continue to play in the water and chase seagulls and sticks and whatever you threw for her.
She became our family dog and entered our hearts so easily with her big, brown eyes and soft, white fur and the way she’d somehow manage to make you pet her, whilst you were watching television or a movie. The way she’d nuzzle her nose under your hand, so that you’d stroke her or give her a belly rub.
She loved physical contact.
She loved us.
You could see it, clearly in her eyes. In the wag of her tail. In the way she’d sit at the window whenever you left the house and stay there until you came back again. The greeting when you came through the door.
She had some funny quirks. She liked rolling in smelly stuff. She liked to dive into dirt just after you’d given her a bath. She liked to rub herself into the grass so hard, she’d give herself a grass bindi – a little green stain in the centre of her forehead. And after breakfast, lunch and dinner, with her belly full, she would roll onto her back and squirm about, as if she were getting a spinal massage, whilst groaning and moaning in joy.
She never barked. She never chewed something she shouldn’t. She often looked guilty for something the other animals had done, as if she were willing to take the blame, but she was always so happy for those cuddles and kisses to let her know that you weren’t mad.
And then, a week ago today, April 20th, I found her lying in the garden. I thought she was sunbathing. The weather was hot, but it was still early morning, so not too bad. But there was something about the way she was lying, that made my inner red flags go up.
As I got closer, I saw her breathing was off and so I immediately checked her gums and they were white. Not the healthy pink they should be and I knew she was either in shock from something, or was suffering internal blood loss. I called the vets and they asked me to rush her in.
The vet, Hannah, could feel a mass in her abdomen, but as they’re a small practice, they didn’t have an ultrasound machine and needed to send her to Portsmouth to get it done at their emergency surgery.
But she wasn’t strong enough for travel. They offered to put her on a drip and get some fluids into her and painkillers in case she was hurting anywhere. She couldn’t stand because her blood pressure had tanked.
They did a chest X-ray, but it only showed that her heart was enlarged. Now stabilised, they asked us if we wanted to see her before they took her to Portsmouth and we all went in and surrounded her with love and affection. Stroking her. Telling her that we loved her. That she had to fight, whatever it was. And then it was time to go.
We sat at home. Jumping every time the phone rang and believe you me the world and his wife suddenly wanted to talk. Random calls. Marketing calls. We tried to be polite, but were probably curt to get them off the phone.
Then the cardiologist rang. Daisy had fluid around her heart and it wasn’t beating properly. The mass in her abdomen was a build up of fluid that her system couldn’t shift. The fluid around her heart could be one of two things. Either a simple infection, in which they could operate to remove the pericardial sac and fluid and she’d be fine, OR, it could be a cancer, in which case, she wouldn’t survive.
We had to give her the chance to live, so we pinned our hopes on it being an infection and gave them permission to operate. The next hour was terrible as we waited. Our children were upset, no-one could eat, our stomachs felt painful and twisted. We didn’t know what to do with ourselves. Keep busy? We couldn’t concentrate on anything, except replaying everything that had happened.
And then the phone rang. The cardiologist had found a massive tumour running through her heart. There was no way she would survive. Did she have our permission to put her to sleep?
Hearts broken, we said yes. We’d wanted a last goodbye. To be there, when it happened, but it would have been too cruel to have woken her, in pain, just so that we could be there. So she was put to sleep.
Our world stopped. We all fell to pieces. There’s a big, Daisy shaped hole in our home. No dog lying in the doorway that we have to step over every time. No dog waiting for us at the bottom of the stairs when we come down in the morning. No-one lifting our hand with a big, wet nose, for a cuddle.
The sight of her dog bowls in the kitchen had me in floods of tears. Finding her lead in the car, broke me again. Hearing my children sob in their rooms tore me asunder.
This is all so raw. So painful. But I know that we will, in time, be able to talk about her with a smile and bring up happier memories. We will be able to look at photographs of her and feel a good feeling.
She had a good life. She was the happiest dog I know.
RIP Daisy. We will always miss you and will forever have a piece of our hearts.