Guest Blogs, Origin Stories, The Writing Life

My Hero Origin Story

(Today we welcome guest USA Today bestselling author Naima Simone, talking about where she gets the inspiration for her heroes)

Very recently, my mother-in-love (not mother-in-law, ‘cause I luvs me some her!) asked me a question: Do you read anything besides romance? And let me put this out there, she wasn’t asking it to be ugly. Because my mom-in-love has read every single one of my books, owns almost all the print copies and they occupy a special place on her bookshelf. She was genuinely curious. I answered her honestly. I do read some mystery thrillers—Lisa Gardner is the ish!—but for the most part, I’m a romance reader. There’s so much variety in romance that I can find it all there. Comedy. Suspense. Sci-fi. Historical. Horror. Contemporary. Paranormal. And of course. Love.

I freely admit it. I’m in love with love.

From the time my mother read me my first fairy tale, I’ve been completely enamored with love and everything it entails. The falling into it. The pitfalls of it. The dysfunction of it. The joys and pain of it. The edification and complications of it. The heroines and heroes.

Especially those heroes.

Because the heroes are my romance origin story.

Now, I have a confession. My first books and stories? Horrible. Like, hide in a chest, lock it, bury it and order three viciously horned dragons and a puzzle-wielding Sphinx to guard it, horrible. Yeah. That bad. LOL! But the heroes in them shaped the ones I write now. Who were these heroes? So glad you asked.

The first romance I wrote starred Ralph Tresvant, lead singer of the boy band New Edition. Soft voice, romantic and obviously sensitive. I mean, he serenaded women, sooo… And though I nearly killed him off in my book (hey, didn’t I warn you it was terrible?!), my kiss did bring him out of that coma, so it all worked out in the end!

Naima’s notebooks

The next short story featured Oliver from Oliver Twist. He was so cute with his tortured past. Kid has abandonment issues written all over him. And yes, yes, I know, he has a happy ending, but seriously. You know he has serious emotional baggage. And I live for the tortured hero he’s destined to become!

I followed him up with Duke from G.I. Joe. Alpha, strong, honorable, man in control Duke. Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely loved the action and excitement and the whole good vs. evil of the cartoon. But I also obsessively watched for Duke and Scarlett. To see when, and if, they would ever get together. And since they didn’t to my satisfaction, I wrote their story. Over and over again.

Then there was Donnie Wahlberg from New Kids on the Block. Oh Donnie. *sigh* Bad boy. Rebel. A little wild. And from the way he could dance, you know he could…move. Whether he was a member of a boy band or a famous producer, or later, a millionaire, he provided the hero for several of my books and short stories. Including the one the first book I sold.

Naima’s first published novel

Though my writing has evolved—thank goodness!—the leading men in my books are all an amalgamation of my first heroes, my origin heroes. The core of honor, strength and alpha maleness of Duke. The sensitivity of Ralph. The tortured pain and hurt of Oliver. The bad boy wildness of Donnie. Their backgrounds, appearances and stories may change, but the heart of them remain the same.

Author bio:

Published since 2009, USA Today Bestselling author Naima Simone loves writing sizzling romances with heart, a touch of humor and snark. Her books have been featured in The Washington Post and Entertainment Weekly, and described as balancing “crackling, electric love scenes with exquisitely rendered characters caught in emotional turmoil.”

She is wife to Superman, or his non-Kryptonian, less bullet proof equivalent, and mother to the most awesome kids ever. They all live in perfect, sometimes domestically-challenged bliss in the southern United States.

Romance Includes You, The Writing Life

Medicals Romance Includes You recap

It was such a pleasure to see how many people participated in the Medicals Romance Includes You pitch session, and the variety of plots was impressive! As an author who joined the medicals family through So You Think You Can Write, I know how nerve-wracking pitching must have been. Congratulations to everyone who put themselves out there, and even if you didn’t get that ‘thumbs up’ from one of the editors, please don’t give up.

We all have stories to tell, and you can be sure there are people in the world who want to hear them.

I want to hear them.

Just prior to the pitch session, a lady contacted me through my website and asked for my opinion on her pitch. I was extremely flattered, because this profession can be an extremely isolated one, where I write and write and never know if what I’m putting out is really liked. I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t really think about it much anymore (and I rarely, if ever, read reviews) but it is nice to hear from the occasional reader.

Giving her a few pointers took just a few minutes of my time, and I wished her all the best, hoping she’d attract the editors’ attention, because I’d like to see how she handled her plot.

So, that’s my next point to all those hopeful authors out there.

Don’t let anyone’s opinion make you think you’re laboring in vain, even if it feels that way.

If this is something you really want to do, keep trying. Bad writing, if done frequently, can lead to good writing, as you keep learning and find your voice.

On a slightly less upbeat note, I saw a few pitches that had me thinking that perhaps that particular person hadn’t read any Harlequin/Mills & Boon medicals. There were plots points and situations I’d think many more times than twice about pitching to my editor. High drama is wonderful, but there are ways to take that to extremes and risk turning off the readers.

So, if you’re determined to break into the Medicals line, read the books. That’s really the only way to figure out what the editors are looking for. While preferred plots, characters, etc. change, the tone of the line remains fairly constant.

There were also a few pitches with typos, and missing punctuation. Now, let’s all be honest, typos happen to EVERYBODY. Yet, if ever there was a time to get obsessive about what you’ve written, it’s when trying to attract an editor or agent’s attention. Typos will get you attention—of the wrong sort!

But the bottom line really is, congratulations to everyone who pitched, because it takes guts to do! To those who got the nod, all I can say is, “Get writing! We’re all waiting…”

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Medical Romance Includes You: Hints and tips from our writers.

The Medical Romance Authors are so excited about the current #MedicalRomanceIncludesYou  Facebook and Twitter event for under-represented voices, on the 26th March 2021!  If you haven’t heard about this yet, there’s still time to get your entry ready so check out the details here.

The Twitter and Facebook pitch event is specifically looking for underrepresented voices who love to write Medical Romance.  The Editors welcome submissions from all authors at any time via the Harlequin Submittable page.

We’d love to encourage anyone who’s thinking of writing their own medical romance to give it a try.  So we’ve gathered some of our own, personal, hints and tips together – things that have helped us and which we hope will help you in your journey.

Good Luck, everyone!

Susan Carlisle

Keep in mind the story is about the characters, about how they think and feel in a situation. Emotion is what draws the reader into the characters world. You can write a great story and show emotion but if they don’t work together you don’t have a book. Also, the medical scenes are vehicles for the characters to learn something about each other. Good luck.

Fiona McArthur

Two things changed my writing forever. I hope they change yours.

Finish the book before submitting a partial – it took ten years of three chapters and rejections before I learned my book didn’t grab until I knew the whole journey.

Don’t expect to write thousands of words every day.  Some days, you will. But five hundred words a day, everyday, will give you a medical romance in a hundred days. Imagine. You’ve always wanted to write a book – now you can – in one hundred days. Good luck. Being a writer is wonderful.

Traci Douglass

To be more productive, word count wise, on a given day, try sketching out whatever scene(s) you’re working on ahead of time. Even if you’re a writer who doesn’t like to plot, per se, knowing the basics can help you write faster.  I like to do basic points—who, what, where, how and why—to make sure I’m staying on track and things are moving in the direction I want them to. Knowing what you want and need to accomplish in a particular scene will make it less daunting to sit in front of that blank page.

Also, the point of view characters goal at the beginning of the scene and at the end helps too. And don’t forget the emotional arc. That should change as well from the start of the scene to the end to keep the story moving along.

Ann McIntosh

As authors we’re constantly told, “Write what you know,” but when it comes to writing a medical romance, my advice is don’t be intimidated by what you DON’T know.

Medical romances are, first and foremost, romances. Medical professionals and first responders—whether doctors, nurses, paramedics, firefighters, vets, etc.—have the same hang-ups, phobias, family and relationship issues as the rest of us. Focus on the relationship conflict first, and think of the medical drama as a way to either up the stakes (e.g. they’re vying for the same job! Bucking heads over treatment options!) or to bring them closer together (e.g. she thinks he’s a dink until she sees him holding a scared patient’s hand, or a rescued baby!). If you’re comfortable doing medical research and love writing romances, go for it! We’re looking forward to welcoming you to our happy group.

Fiona Lowe

When you’re writing category romance, learn what’s popular in the line. After four rejections, I wrote a pregnant doctor working for the flying doctors, hitting two themes. They bought the book!

Don’t let anyone steal your voice. I was so desperate to be published, I let my critique groups’ opinions sway me. A Mills & Boon editor said to me, ‘your voice seems to disappear then return.’ It was a big revelation to me and I reclaimed my voice. They bought the book.

Louisa Heaton

Finish your work. Even if you don’t manage to sell it, or get it published, you will learn A LOT from writing an entire draft.

Each story will teach you something new.

Don’t get hung up on how long you think chapters should be! I see this concern an awful lot on forums. Your chapters are as long (or as short) as you need them to be. Chapters need to end on some sort of hook and this is what is most important. How will you make your reader want to read on? How do you make them want to find out what is going to happen? How will that situation resolve itself? What will happen to your heroine? Your hero? Leave your reader wanting more. Needing to know more.

Kate Hardy

* start at a point of change

* remember the medical is there to throw light on your characters or the situation

* if it’s not working, try writing the scene from the other character’s point of view (but avoid head-hopping – best to stick to one point of view per scene – and from the POV of the character who has most to lose)

Becky Wicks

ADOPT A FRIENDLY APPROACH
If you haven’t approached Harlequin before, it’s really all about your cover letter/email! Are you coming across as approachable, friendly, enthusiastic? Our lovely editors get a lot of mail every day, so it helps if you’re memorable off the bat. Forget formalities, politeness is fine but no one wants to work with a robot!

KEEP IT SIMPLE
Don’t use long words, in either your pitches or your cover letters. Remember, chances are, if you don’t know the meaning of a word, no one else will either, not without opening a dictionary!

BIG UP YOUR SOCIAL SKILLS
If you already have a social media following, shout about it. If you’re at a point where you can sell your own books to a fan base, sales and marketing will love you more. And yes, it’s unfair for those of us who can’t even open Twitter without crying but that’s the world we live in. Popularity sells.

BE RELIABLE
If an editor likes your idea and asks for more information, or something else back within a timeframe, leave your tardiness at the door and check in when you’re meant to. Or before. Knowing you’re an author/potential author who can be relied upon to deliver, whatever it is, will work hugely in your favour!

Annie Claydon

Sending your work off to an Editor can be daunting, but take your courage in both hands, and be confident – write your own story in your own voice.  Believe in yourself, finish your story, and submit your work!

But don’t be over-confident – read what’s already been published in the line you want to write for and listen to the Editors’ comments because they are always worth their weight in gold.  Always know that you can improve your work, and read it through (maybe reading it aloud to yourself, if that helps you to ‘hear’ your own voice more easily).  Don’t be afraid to change or delete passages that you think aren’t working.

More of Kate Hardy’s advice on writing can be found on her website – this is a must-read for new writers.

And don’t forget the Write for Harlequin website.  The Write for Harlequin Community Facebook page also offers lots of encouragement and good advice, including an Editor chat with Megan Haslam and Hannah Rossiter about the #MedicalRomanceIncludesYou event.

If you have a question, or you’d like to send a few words of encouragement to new writers, please post here.  We’d love to hear from you!

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Feeling the Love, on Valentine’s Day

It’s Valentine’s Day this Sunday, and we’re celebrating that precious feeling that makes the world go round!

In these uncertain times, love is more important than ever.  So whether you have snow falling outside your window, or you’re basking in hot sunshine (or anything in between) the Medical Romance Authors would like to wish you a very happy Valentine’s Day.  Whether you’re spending the day with that special someone, in your own good company, with friends or with family, we hope that you feel the love.  

We’ve taken a tour around the Harlequin/Mills and Boon websites in Australia, the UK and the US, and there’s something for everyone – free reads, competitions and articles, and the chance to save on your favourite romance books.

Harlequin, U.S. have a sweet offer – spend $25 or more on your order this weekend, and use the coupon code provided to save $10.  The offer lasts until 11.59 p.m. E.T. on Sunday February 14th, and you can find the details here.  Don’t forget to stop by at the Harlequin blog, for at-home suggestions for romance readers, and a Galentine’s Day discussion about how to write strong friendships.

Mills and Boon, Australia have a list of things to read and watch to satisfy our sweet-tooth cravings this Valentine’s weekend.  We loved this page, which features Valentine’s Day blogs and short stories from previous years – if you didn’t read these the first time around, you can catch up here.  And don’t miss their sale of best-selling E-books from just $1.99!  

Mills and Boon, UK are offering the chance to save 50% on your entire order until midnight on February 14th – look out for the code at the top of each page of the Mills and Boon website.  They’re also celebrating with an  A-Z of Romance quizzes, competitions and free reads.   And find out who your favourite authors (including our own Kate Hardy and Susan Carlisle), would love to spend Galantine’s Day with.  

Phew!  If there’s anything we’ve missed, or you’d like to tell us what you’ll be doing this Valentine’s Day, let us know in the comments.  And Happy Valentine’s Day, from our homes to yours!

Excerpts, Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Excerpt: Awakening his Shy Vet, by Shelley Rivers

Hello!

What makes an idea suddenly jump into your mind and spur you into creating? Where do you search for that illusive imaginative titbit that you hope will grow into a full artistic treat?

I have a confession to make. I love to paint, but I’m really bad at it. For me, the whole act of painting isn’t about ending up with a pretty and recognizable picture. My pleasure comes from the actual act of slapping paint all over a blank canvas. Swirling vibrant colours this way and that in a wild fun frolic.

I’m not scared to use bright shades and tones. The more colour the better. I also never worry about making mistakes, because if something goes wrong, well, I’ll just wait for the mess to dry and then paint over it and start again.

You know writing can be like that, too. I sometimes think we tend to forget that.

For my latest book, Awakening His Shy Vet, I found creative stimulation on social media.

I was deep in the unexplored layers of writing the book, and it wasn’t going well. The first lock down had just kicked in and it seemed to be permanently raining. Life was feeling more than a tad grey. Well, the story had stalled and the whole thing just felt like a huge ugly mess.

There I was wasting time on social media when I should have been researching. In desperation, I typed ‘horses’ into the search box and after passing over a couple of tweets, my eyes fell upon a photograph that just melted my heart.

It also fired up my imagination and kicked my muse off her sulky butt and into work mode. I had found the visual nudge that I needed to get the words flowing and the ideas gushing again.

So when your inspiration is waning and your muse doesn’t know where to head, try searching in the most unexpected of places. You may just find that one spark that shoots your imagination to a new and exciting level. That special place where your characters truly need to be.

Happy inspiration hunting dear readers and writers. Let’s hope that this year is the one where our dreams fly high and our stories make our hearts happy.

Best wishes,

Shelley. xxx

Here’s a small extract from Awakening His Shy Vet.

(Ruby and Kern find themselves roped into cleaning out an old barn.)

Extract –

Attraction wasn’t for her. In the past she’d purposely avoided such emotion, preferring to keep acquaintances – male and female – in the friend zone. At first because she’d feared her past would become known, but eventually because it was easier just to place everyone in the same group and leave them there. Anyway, between studying and working, what little spare time she’d had left had tended to go on sleeping and eating.

Besides, she wasn’t even sure she liked Kern MacKinley very much. The way he sneered every time he opened a box or unearthed a piece of furniture was a clear indication that he saw this afternoon’s work as nothing but a chore.

For a moment, though, when he’d studied that old newspaper cutting, she could have sworn she saw something like regret in his expression. She’d probably imagined it. Thought she’d seen something in him just because she wanted to believe that, despite his odd behaviour at times, he was a decent person.

“You okay, Ruby?” Kern asked.

Startled from her musings, Ruby glanced up to find him regarding her.

“You appear to be off in a private dream world.”

No, not dreaming – just reinstating some common sense. Attraction to anyone was a weakness which led to mistakes. She didn’t want to repeat the hurt of misplacing her trust. She’d survived it once – better not to test her resolve a second time.

He reached out and touched her chin. His long fingers were warm against her skin. “Hey, where’s your smile gone?”

She tilted her head thoughtfully. “Smile?”

“That pretty one you showed me last night,” he said softly. His thumb slid along the curve of her jaw before he let it fall away.

She returned her gaze to the box and frowned down at the contents. “I did not smile at you.”

“Yes, you did. Almost stopped my heart, it was so unexpected.”

9780008915209

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

We’re taking a break (but we’ll be back soon!)

 

We’re taking a break from blogging over the holidays, but we’ll be back again on the 1st January!

image-1

We’d like to take this opportunity to say a huge THANK YOU, to everyone who’s contributed to the blog – and in particular our lovely commentators and readers, who always make blogging fun and who have supported us so wonderfully this year.  We’re enormously grateful to everyone who takes the time to visit us.

And last but by no means least, on behalf of all the Medical Romance Authors – we wish you all the comfort and joy of the season and we’re sending special thoughts for all those who can’t be with friends and family this year.  Wherever you are, and whatever you’re doing we hope that the Holidays and the New Year bring you love, health and happiness.

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

A Nurse, a Surgeon, a Christmas Engagement, by Allie Kincheloe

Normally, I’m not a Christmas in October girl, but 2020 has been one of those years that I can’t wait for the warm and cozy feel of the holidays. It’s time for Hallmark Christmas movies, a snuggly blanket, and as many Christmas romance novels as I can binge read.

What are some of your favorite Christmas reads?

I have my own Christmas story out this December. I hope you like Dex and Lena’s story. Here’s an excerpt (and a universal link, if you want to preorder).

Allie

https://books2read.com/u/bzgPlZ

From emergency wedding date…

To happily-ever-after?

Nurse Lena has serious doubts about playboy surgeon Dex’s request that she be his emergency date to his brother’s wedding… But when he offers to be her fake boyfriend in return to meet her family obligation, she reluctantly agrees. Maybe it’s the heady spirit of the season—or a Christmas miracle!—but Dex surprises Lena at every turn. Could he be the man she swore she never wanted?

Excerpt:

His grip tightened around the scalpel in his hand. He’d rather stab himself with it than give Westfield something else to gossip about. He had only been home once since his ill-fated trip to the altar, and it had been awkward to say the least. In a single week at home, his mom had stuck every single woman in town under the age of forty in his path in hopes that he’d finally move on from Jessie. Awkward? Nah… What could be awkward about a parade of women he wasn’t remotely interested in?

He had, though.

Moved on, that is. Even if his mother was having trouble believing that.

He dated. Quite frequently, even. But no one seriously enough to bring home. He only dated to have a little adult companionship on occasion. A physical release, not an emotional connection. No risk for either party. In fact, he told anyone he dated from day one just what he was willing to give, and he always made sure to end things before anyone got hurt. None of the women he’d dated recently would work for this half-hatched plan, either.

He wouldn’t want to lead someone on, after all. Taking someone home for a family wedding during the holidays implied so many emotions that Dex almost shuddered in revulsion at the thought. Asking a woman to be his date to a family wedding at Christmas implied that a box with a diamond ring sat under the tree. And he’d never take that step again.

No, he planned to stay single forever. He had zero interest in long-term commitment, and he’d hesitate to do anything that might give any impression otherwise. After his trip down Matrimony Lane had dead-ended with him standing at the altar alone, his entire hometown watching as he got dumped from afar, Dex could live the rest of his life without putting himself into that sort of situation again.

“Taking a date would save me from more than a few matchmaking attempts and a fair bit of pointed stares. But finding someone on such short notice would be nearly impossible. It’s a Christmas wedding,” he added aloud, his thoughts running with how much more difficult the timing made things.

Getting someone to pretend to be his new girlfriend in June would have been easy. He’d just spring for a few days at a luxury beach resort and voilà, instant girlfriend. But with the wedding planned for the holidays, it made it ten times trickier to find someone to go along with a fake relationship scheme.

“Ah…so you need someone to go home with you, pretend to like you, and for the holidays no less. That will be hard to find.” Lena’s green eyes sparkled and he thought he might be able to see a hint of a smile behind her mask. “Who would have thought that a handsome young surgeon would have to resort to a fake Christmas girlfriend?”

“Are you volunteering?”

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Our 1,000th Blog Post!

It doesn’t seem ten minutes, since we were talking about names and sorting through images for our blog.  After weeks of preparation, Love is the Best Medicine went live in February 2012. 

Since then we’ve posted 999 blogs (this is the magic 1,000th) and written over half a million words (577,805, if anyone’s counting).  And we’ve posted so many photos that we almost broke the site at one point! 

We can’t thank you enough for being with us on this journey, we’ve had thousands of comments and countless views, and each one of them is important to us.  Those views have come from 170 different countries, and so what better way to celebrate our 1,000th post than to ask our authors to send a postcard from places they’ve visited in their books.  

Emilypostcard

Susancard  .

Amypostcard

Anniepost

Origin Stories

Kate Hardy: Origins of a Dream-come-true

Hello!

Today I’m here to talk about my ‘origin story’ and my journey to publication.

First book launch, November 2002

Nobody in my family is a writer.

Actually, that’s not quite true: my mum used to make up stories for me when I was tiny, though she never wrote them down. Had she lived, I think we would’ve become a mum-and-daughter writing team, but sadly that wasn’t to be.

Mum and me (plus a loyal, lovable third!)

But I was always odd. I come from a very working-class background. Yet, there I was, obsessed with books from the moment I was old enough to pick one up. I could read from a precociously early age, and the quick way for my parents to keep me occupied was to give me a pencil, paper and a title (haha — not that dissimilar from how things work nowadays, because I never get my own titles!).

I talked my parents into giving me a portable typewriter for my sixth birthday because I wanted to be a writer. I typed away happily, creating pony stories and ghost stories. Everyone in the family (and at school) knew I was a bit strange. At eight or nine, we had to come up with three questions we really wanted to know the answer to. Others had questions such as, ‘How often should you feed your dog?’ Not me. No. The weird child in the class had other things on her mind. Exactly how far away is the moon? Who was the shortest-reigning queen in history? How long after you bury a body does it become a skeleton? (Fortunately my teacher knew I wanted to be an archaeologist and had already lent me books on Egypt. And my mum was amazing — she’d worked out that I was born to tell stories, and encouraged me to keep going.)

Mum

And then, when I was 13, I discovered M&B. (Sara Craven’s ‘The Devil at Archangel’ — years later, I was thrilled to meet her and tell her how she’d inspired me. And how amazing was it that she became my real-life friend, someone who met me at author events with a huge, huge hug?)

My romances didn’t get very far at that age, but I kept writing — very Tolkienesque stories (which I think might be lurking somewhere in the loft, along with reams of terrible poetry). I tried M&B again about ten years later, and was too young and naive to realise that a four-page rejection letter from M&B doesn’t actually mean ‘go away and never darken our doorway again’. So I wrote other stuff (including ghost stories — one of which was published by Virago), and lots of journalism. I wrote some raunchy novels. But, all the time, I wanted to write romance.  

And then, when I was pregnant with our daughter, my husband asked me why I didn’t try writing M&B Medicals, given that I loved romance and loved medical dramas on TV. Good point. So I read a few. They all seemed to be written by Aussie doctors, so I thought I probably wouldn’t fit.

But everything all changed the day I was writing an article about bronchiolitis (RSV or Respiratory Syncytial Virus). Chloe, aged 6 weeks, had this horrible cough. It was a couple of days before Christmas. Was I being paranoid, or was she showing the signs of everything I was writing about? I went for the cautious option (I’d much rather be called an overanxious parent than ignore something serious!) and called the doctor. Yes, indeedy, that was intercostal recession I was seeing. Textbook case. Half an hour after our appointment, Chloe was in hospital for a nasal swab, and she tested positive for RSV. She was on the ward for a week — on oxygen, fed by nasogastric tube.

The only way I got through that week at her bedside was to start writing my first Medical Romance. Once she was back home, I carried on. My agent loved it. M&B loved it. A Baby of Her Own was accepted on Chloe’s first birthday and published on her second birthday.

Chloe, a couple of months after bronchiolitis

Fast forward to today: she’s going to be twenty in a couple of weeks, and I’m currently working on my 94th M&B.

The point is: it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from. If you want to write, then WRITE, and don’t let anything hold you back. Read craft books, yes, but don’t let yourself be boxed in by them; not everyone works the same way, and not every method works for every writer. If you’d rather work ‘into the mist’ (aka ‘pantster’) that’s fine, and if you’d rather plan everything up front (aka ‘plotter’), that’s also fine. Ditto being in the middle and doing a bit of both. Try it, and use what works for you.

No time? Then put half an hour in your diary every day. That could break down into two blocks of 15 minutes or 3 blocks of 10 minutes: whatever works with your schedule. Make sure you ringfence that time and do it every day. In that time, you write and do nothing else but write. Don’t edit, and don’t overthink or worry about the future: write. It doesn’t matter if it’s on screen, or scrawled with a pencil on paper (as long as you can read it!). One page (500 words) per day for 100 days will get you a first draft of a Mills & Boon in a little over 3 months. That’s when you start editing. The main thing is: write, because you can always change a page that doesn’t work, whereas a blank page gives you nothing to work with.

As for me: lockdown and Covid have both reminded me that life is short, so I’m sneakily writing the book of my heart. It’s something very, VERY unmarketable, so I might end up writing it just for me: but the story’s there and it won’t go away. Maybe it’s time to listen to my own advice… 😉

Oh, and my family? They all still think I’m weird. But I hope they’re quietly proud of me.

Excerpts

Excerpt – ‘Forgotten Pain’ by Josie Metcalfe

Josie Metcalfe is joining us today with an excerpt – if you missed Josie’s blog last week you can find it here and ‘Forgotten Pain’ is available now from Amazon.  Welcome again Josie, and over to you…    

I know personally that not all injuries and disabilities are immediately visible and that sufferers will often find ways to hide their problems when they have no other options. If they’re lucky they’ll find someone like Sally with the intuition to recognise that hidden pain, no matter how fraught the circumstances.

CHAPTER ONE

41sMduzowkL‘DOCTOR?’

In spite of her best intentions, Sally had just been dropping off to sleep in the corner of her big squashy armchair when the phone rang, jerking her back to full wakefulness.

‘Doctor Webster?’ the voice in her ear seemed to reach her from a long way away.

‘Yes. I’m sorry,’ she blinked rapidly and shook her head to clear away the cobwebs of sleep. ‘Dr Webster here. What is it?’

‘Accident at the gravel pits out at Abbey Meads,’ the woman said tersely.

‘How many involved and what’s the nearest access?’ Sally’s feet hit the floor and she bent forward to search around with her free hand to find the trainers she’d kicked off when she’d sat down to have a much delayed lunch. She forced her feet into them hurriedly as she stood up, belatedly reaching out for her bag.

‘Two mountain bikers racing downhill. Came off a ledge. Probable spinal injuries. You’ll have to go out past Priory Park towards open countryside. I’ll give you an accurate GPS as soon as I get it but there’s a turning on the left signposted Abbey Meads and a track almost immediately on the right taking you towards the gravel pits.’

‘Emergency services alerted?’ The surge of adrenaline meant she was firing on all cylinders now, her brain clear, her pulse rate elevated and her whole body ready to race into action.

‘Ambulance already on their way with a paramedic on board,’ the calm voice confirmed, ‘but they have to come across town. You’re closest.’

‘On my way,’ Sally dropped the phone into her pocket, swung her pack up on one shoulder and took off across a room cluttered with half-unpacked boxes, barely slowing her stride as she grabbed her jacket off the convenient hook beside the door the fluorescent word ‘doctor’ emblazoned across the back.

She reached back to grasp the handle to pull it shut but paused for the rapid scrabble of claws on the polished wooden floor as an eager canine nose followed her out onto the step.

‘Come on, then, girl,’ she invited, just missing the long-plumed tail as the catch clicked shut.

Within seconds she was turning the key in the ignition, her free hand reaching for her seat belt. ‘Down, Amber,’ she ordered, and her companion subsided obediently into the footwell on the passenger’s side.

She glanced at the map that had automatically displayed on her sat nav to confirm that she was going to be taking the most direct route and set the vehicle in motion, a flick of a newly-installed switch on the dashboard activating the flashing blue light on the roof. This was her first call-out since she’d joined the group practice at Abbey surgery and she needed to do well; she needed to prove that she’d made the right decision in coming here, if only to herself…

The GPS directions came through seconds later, before she’d even exited the driveway, and she was soon heading well away from the town through all-but deserted lanes before the automated voice sent her bumping along a rough track leading around the edge of the abandoned quarry, grateful for the superb suspension of the car provided by the practice.

‘Come on. Come on. Where are they, then?’ she muttered, the chilly wind tugging at loose strands of hair through the half-open window as she pushed her speed as hard as she dared over the unfamiliar terrain.

‘Shoot!’ She braked and swerved as a young man leapt out of no-where, his arms flailing like windmills.

Her tyres slithered to a stop on the loose gravel and she thrust her head out of the window, barely waiting for it to open fully.

‘What on earth do you think you’re…’

‘Down there!’ the youth broke in, pointing frantically at a faint track she’d almost missed. ‘They’re down there. Hurry!’ He whirled away from her and disappeared over the lip of the quarry as quickly as he’d appeared.

‘Right,’ Sally turned the wheel and moved forward gingerly until she could see the state of the track then increased her speed when she found it was an old access route to the floor of the quarry, wending its potholed way down the side.

By the time she reached the bottom she’d spotted the small knot of people grouped round the victims, the buckled remains of their brightly coloured bikes mute testimony to the event.

‘Stay!’ she ordered as she flung herself out of the vehicle, grabbed the smallest pack off the back seat, hooked it over one shoulder and took off at a run.

By the time she reached the injured boys, both of them were conscious but one was lying very pale and still, his shattered crash helmet evidence of the severity of the accident.

‘There’s an ambulance coming,’ she announced. ‘Can someone run to the top to direct them down here, please?’ then she knelt down on the gravel-strewn quarry floor shifting awkwardly as the cold dampness and small sharp stones cut through the sturdy denim covering her knees.

As she cast a rapid eye over the more seriously injured of the two she realised that she would need help with his care. The lower part of his face and neck had taken part of the force of his fall and she would need another pair of expert hands to stabilise his head while she put a cervical collar on him and maintained his breathing.

At least his pulse and respiration were within reasonable bounds, considering the state he was in.

The distant sound of a siren was drawing rapidly closer as she turned towards the second victim, hoping to have him ready to move by the time assistance arrived for his friend.

‘What’s your name?’ she looked up at the carroty-haired gangly youth hovering over her.

‘Andy,’ his voice wavered between tenor and soprano and his cheeks flamed with embarrassment.

‘Right, Andy,’ later she’d have time to smile at his adolescent trauma, but for now… ‘I’m going to need your help.’ Immediately, his shoulders straightened importantly. ‘Take one of your friends and bring out the two zipped bags behind the driver’s seat. Carry them carefully…’

He’d grabbed a husky dark haired lad by the elbow and they were sprinting towards her car almost before she’d finished speaking.

As they opened the door of the vehicle there was a low warning growl from Amber.

‘It’s all right, girl,’ Sally called, barely looking up from her task. She hardly had time to confirm her diagnosis of a broken leg before the two of them returned and she opened the bags to select the equipment she’d need.

A shadow fell over her as the surrounding group of lads pushed forward and she looked up at them. The concern they felt for their friends was so clear on their faces that it prevented her from snapping at them to stand further back.

‘Has any of you done any first aid?’ Most of them shook their heads as she glanced round at them but two raised their hands as if answering a question in school.

‘Right,’ she continued, her voice decisive. ‘The ambulance is on its way and we need to get your friends ready to go to hospital. This young man,’ she put her hand on his arm…

‘That’s Jimmy,’ Andy volunteered quickly.

‘Thank you,’ she nodded, ‘Jimmy has broken his leg. He needs to have both his legs splinted together…’

‘I can do that,’ one of the lads who’d raised his hand broke in eagerly. ‘We had that in our test.’

‘Good,’ Sally praised. ‘Take it slowly. Move him as little as possible. Ask me if you need help.’ She turned towards the second still form beside her, steadying herself with a mental reminder to check A, B and C again. She could hear her long-ago instructor drumming it into them. ‘Airway, breathing and circulation…’

‘What’s wrong with Wayne?’ Andy demanded.

‘He’s hurt his face and I think he’s hurt his back,’ she said quietly as she leant over him and carefully took hold of one hand.

‘Wayne?’ her voice was soft but carried clearly in the still air. ‘Can you hear me?’

‘…ss…’ she heard and tightened her hand gently.

‘Good,’ she encouraged. ‘Keep very still but can you squeeze my fingers?’ She waited for a response while she noted down the figures for his respiration and pulse and was rewarded by a deliberate pressure. ‘Well done. What about the other one?’

She was just taping the IV line to the back of his hand when her concentration was broken by the hurried arrival of two large pairs of feet topped by dark navy trousers at the edge of her vision.

‘Where do you want us, Doc?’ one voice panted as he lowered the stretcher he was carrying to the ground. ‘We had to leave the vehicle up on top.’

She looked across at the blond owner of the cheerful voice, his eyes as blue as the shirt of his uniform showing between the edges of his brightly flashed jacket.

It took very few words to direct him towards loading Jimmy and carrying him back up the hill with the willing assistance of his friends but before Sally had time to turn her attention back to Waynethe second paramedic knelt down swiftly on the opposite side.

‘He needs a neck brace,’ the deep voice was accompanied by a searing gaze from tawny eyes and for just a moment Sally was unable to look away. His breathing seemed unaffected by his rapid descent to the quarry floor, the only sign of his exertion the rumpled state of his dark hair.

When he looked back down at the young man between them on the ground she was left with a strange feeling of breathlessness before his forceful words finally sank in.

‘Of course…’ she began speaking, then stopped. There was no point telling him that she fully intended to protect young Wayne’s neck because he’d already taken a cervical collar out of his kit and was preparing to position it.

‘Hold his head without touching his jaw,’ he instructed, his deep voice curt as he concentrated on his task. ‘He’s bleeding from his nose so we can’t do a blind nasotracheal intubation and he’s partially conscious so we can’t do an œsophogeal…’

Sally subdued the momentary surge of resentment at his high-handedness with the silent reminder that it was the patient who mattered, not her pride.

A little imp of mischief had her watching his technique critically, but his procedure was faultless, as was his management of the boy’s transferral to the scoop.

‘When we’ve got him strapped down, we’ll load him into your vehicle,’ he said decisively, barely glancing in her direction as his hands moved competently about their business. ‘It’ll save time carrying him up the quarry track and your four-wheel-drive will smooth out some of the bumps.’

By now Sally was gritting her teeth but there was little she could do in front of their avid audience. But, she promised herself, once their patient was safely delivered…

The stretcher was locked securely in position behind the driver’s seat in the specially adapted vehicle and Sally was stowing her bags underneath it when there was a warning growl from Amber.

Glancing over the head restraint of the front passenger seat she was treated to the unusual sight of her one-woman dog sniffing at a lean male hand and she straightened up in time to see his head disappear into the vehicle.

‘What do you think you’re doing?’ she snapped as she wrenched her own door open, resenting this further evidence of his intrusion into her territory, both physical and professional. ‘Travelling with you to monitor the patient – unless you intend me to do it while I run along behind.’ Sarcasm filled his voice as he swung his long legs round and tucked his feet carefully beside Amber, his reassuring words to the dog spoken in a totally different tone to the one he’d used with her.

‘Of course,’ Sally muttered under her breath and bit the inside of her lip as colour surged up her face at her own stupidity. What on earth was it about this man that seemed to rub her up the wrong way?

Admittedly, her recent heartbreak meant that she was less than happy with the male half of the human race at the moment, but she’d managed to keep her antipathy under control in a work situation until she’d met him – or was there another reason for the sparks flying between them?

The journey up the winding track called for all her attention, the gravel loosened by a recent winter of rain and storms causing the wheels to spit stones in all directions as she guided the vehicle steadily upwards.

From the corner of her eye she was conscious of her passenger turning towards her and tensed, expecting him to make the same sort of chauvinistic comment most men made about women drivers. When he remained silent she glanced across quickly to find that instead of watching her driving, he’d reached one hand back to offer silent reassurance to their patient.

They lurched their way to the top of the quarry to find that the ambulance had already left for the hospital and it wasn’t long before Sally had reached the metalled road and was pointing the vehicle back towards the town.

Beside her, the silent paramedic was one-handedly noting his findings on the checklist clipped to his board, his pen moving swiftly to fill in the columns of sequential observations. Once they reached the hospital, the duplicate copy would be handed over with the patient to form the start of his case notes.

‘Stop!’

The sharp command broke into her concentration and she automatically put her foot hard on the brake.

‘What…? Why?’ but her words were spoken to his back as he flung himself out of the vehicle and wrenched the back door open.

By the time Sally reached him he was crouched over Wayne’s unconscious body probing the base of his throat, a fresh pair of gloves covering his long-fingered hands.

‘What…?’ Sally began.

‘Apnoea,’ his voice was distracted for a moment as he concentrated on what he was doing, giving Sally time to register that Wayne had stopped breathing. ‘Either his larynx has swollen or the rough track has shifted something to press on his trachea…’ he paused to reach into the opening of one of her bags and withdrew a familiar instrument.

The blade was exposed and the incision performed in less time than it took to blink and he was inserting the tracheostomy tube in the neat hole he’d made into Wayne’s trachea before the significance of what he’d done dawned on her.

‘Dammit, you’re a paramedic,’ she snapped. ‘You’re not allowed to do a cricothyrotomy.’

There was a frozen second before his eyes snapped up to meet hers, blazing.

‘He’s alive, isn’t he?’ he looked back down to tape the tube into position and dispose of the used scalpel blade.

‘That’s not the point,’ Sally argued. ‘Paramedics aren’t allowed to do that. What you did was illegal without certification.’

‘But essential,’ he broke in, his voice hard, ‘like getting him to hospital, preferably without brain damage due to oxygen starvation.’ Pointedly, he looked back down at Wayne, his hands moving surely over him as he checked his vital signs again.

Her teeth gritted angrily together, Sally backed out of the vehicle and climbed behind the wheel, reaching across to pull the passenger door shut before she put the engine into gear. In her rear-view mirror she could see him change position so that he could travel safely beside their patient for the rest of the journey.

Sally had activated the siren and flashing lights as soon as they’d encountered the start of the town traffic, the ululating sound only slightly muted when she closed her window up tight as she radioed their position through.

They had nearly reached the hospital when the thought that had been going round and round in her brain surfaced – the life-saving manoeuvre he’d done had been text-book perfect and he’d performed it as if it was second nature to him.

‘Where were you taught to do a cricothyrotomy?’ the words emerged unannounced into the intimate space of the vehicle, clearly audible in spite of the noise of the siren.

Her eyes flicked up to the mirror and caught the fleeting reflection of a bitter expression on his face before it was wiped smooth.

‘I watch a lot of television.’ His deep voice was as mocking as the twist to his mouth but there was no time for Sally to challenge him as she drew up outside the hospital emergency entrance.