Snippets from a Writer’s Life

I am six weeks into my Slick at Sixty fitness campaign, and though I am seeing some positive results, progress is so painfully slow that I’m on the verge of saying, stuff it, forget it, I don’t care. I’m not exactly going hungry but I’m sick of hearing myself say, ‘I’m starving’ about twenty times a day. I miss the option of having things like toast on those mornings where I wake up feeling that I need a kick start, and there are other days when I want to throw my Fitbit in the bin, because it’s only registering 6000 steps – and most of those have been from the couch where I’m writing to the kettle in the kitchen and back again!

However, onwards and upwards. Along with one of my sisters, I’ve been trying out the Fitcoach app, taking a break from my usual Jillian Michaels workouts, which I’ve begun to find a bit too time-consuming. I like the app because it offers something different every day – not that I do it every day, I’m only human. You can adjust how hard it works you depending on what kind of work out you’re doing. I also like that the individual workouts are between about 10 and 20 minutes, so much more easy to slot in. In an effort to keep myself focused, I work out in front of a mirror, but I’m beginning to wonder if that’s a grave mistake. Seeing myself planking is not an edifying spectacle, and it’s caused me to replace my obsession with getting a knee lift to fretting about back fat. Where does it come from? And how do you get rid of it? It’s one of those areas I hadn’t even noticed needed attention. Was it always there and I didn’t realise? Or is it yet another of those blasted inevitable consequences of age things!

Another of my sisters has helpfully set up a Fitbit challenge group, and I’m taking part in that too. (Family bonding is the intention, but my family are so competitive, I foresee strife.) Since I’m in the middle of writing a book, it will doubtless require me to do a lot of leaping up between words to run frantically on the spot every hour to try to keep up. But anything that keeps me going, working out and cutting down is welcome.

My garden is proving useful by providing me with an abundance of salad and tomatoes. And there are days when I put on something that was too tight before and now isn’t and that gives me the boost I need. Yesterday I made soda bread. Bread is a massive weakness of mine. I am proud to report that though I did have some of it for breakfast, I put the other half of the loaf into the freezer. Brownie points, please!

I’m continuing with my venture into the world of Tiktok too. For someone who has been camera shy her entire life, this was initially very traumatic. My first attempts were pretty dire, my voice monotone with fear, and my expression frozen into a terrified (and terrifying) smile. But to my astonishment, I’ve discovered that I like it. It’s a fun way of sharing silly things like the purchase of new boots (lovely, lovely new boots which I haven’t worn yet) and of course books. What I love about Tiktok is that it’s full of readers. Readers who love books with a big, ginormous, in some case slightly obsessive love. They read books over and over, annotating them so that they can re-read their favourite bits. They emote – they really emote – over what they loved, what made them cry, what made them angry. And they share all this in the most inventive ways. It’s so wonderful to see people of all ages sharing the love, and it’s made me take a step back in wonder at my own books. I’ve written those, I thought one day, looking at the book cases stacked with different editions. It’s not that I’d forgotten I am a writer, but I kind of had forgotten that other people see me as a writer.

Sadly, though lots of Tiktok readers read historical romance, there’s not a lot of love being shared for Harlequin Mills&Boon romances. I don’t know why that is, and I’d really like to know, as there are some very talented authors writing for the imprint. Do the covers and titles put people off, or are people so full of pre-conceived ideas they don’t even bother to pick them up? I’ve been experimenting with my own backlist, talking about the content and sharing some insider information, and though they have attracted lots of views, I am still too new to the app to know whether I’m reaching new people, so I’d really love to hear your thoughts on this – on Tiktok, on Instagram or here, whatever suits.

Making Tiktok videos about my backlist has also reminded me of the tons and tons of secondary characters I have that I’ve wanted to go back and write, but most of them don’t merit a book of their own. I had an idea ages ago for writing little epilogues for some of my books, a bit like Marian Keyes does sometimes – just bullet points about what happened to who, not to be taken too seriously. So that’s another thing I’d like to know from you – is that something that would interest you? And if so, what would you like me to do first?

As I mentioned, I am also writing a new book – though progress has been very, very slow, and I procrastinated a bit more by taking a few days out to go on another visit to Bute and hang out with family. His Runaway Marchioness Returns is a story I’ve had in my head for a while, inspired, as many of my premises are, by a song – in this case Same Old, by Civil Wars. My hero and heroine had a marriage of convenience, they lived separate lives, they went their own way and then eight years later circumstances bring them together for a second chance marriage of convenience! I love the story, I am loving Lily and Oliver, and though as usual I got to about 8K and had to rip it up and start again, I’m now on track (I think). But as I said, progress has been very, very slow. I don’t know why, I just can’t seem to get back into a proper writing rhythm – and not for lack of trying. But the deadline is now looming large, and I need to knuckle down. That’s why I’m writing this blog, obviously!

There will be progress this week. There has to be. I shall put my latest sewing project on hold – I’ve been experimenting with make-up bags and pencil cases using up lots of my fabric remnants. I shall do the minimum in the garden. I shall ration my social media time and stop kidding myself that making Tiktok videos is the same as writing. I shall get on and get writing.

Honestly.

Really.

Truly.

I will.

But first, I could murder a slice of toast.

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6 Comments

  1. Good luck with the deadline. I know how hard it is to lose weight, I have been trying to do things, but have now broken a toe so exercise has to be re-thought. I have too many comfy elasticated waistlines which allow sneaky pounds to pile on.

    I don’t know the answer to fame on these social media sites, so many are filled with the young who although like romance may not rush to the Mills and Boon / Harlequin moniker like their mothers and Grandmothers! They are missing some good writing, like you say, although I do stick to the historical romance from this publisher. I can’t get on with the one or two contemporary romances that I have tried. Their book covers put me off, even some of the historical romance ones never seem to fit the character between the pages.

    1. Elasticated waists have a lot to answer for! And the habit a lot of us, including me, acquired during lockdown, of wearing yoga pants that squashed us in and created optical illusions. I had an op on my big toe a few years ago, and I couldn’t believe the effect it had on my ability to exercise. You don’t think of your toe as vital to balance but it is – I had to give up pilates for about a year and every now and then when I’m planking or whatever, it twinges and I wobble. I hope your toe heals up quickly, and wish you loads and loads of luck with the exercise. I can guarantee it’s something I’ll be coming back to writing again here, if it helps.

      Thanks for the feedback on the covers, it is much appreciated. Funnily enough, I saw a discussion on Goodreads the other day on the thread of one of my books dicussing Harlequin covers. Mine got good feedback because the couple looked like the hero and heroine, but it seems a lot of people think otherwise on a good many of the books, which I hadn’t realised. One of my fellow M&B Historical writers said exactly what you just said too, about people thinking M&B are what their mums and grans read so not for them. How to get them to take another look – oh, if only I knew the answer but I’m determined to keep trying.

  2. Oh gosh Marguerite – that post really resonated with me! Vegetables and salad are great but like you I love bread (and rice and pasta.) I can eliminate the latter two but bread is more difficult! So I compromise with a pitta or a dark rye Ryvita.
    Exercise has been difficult this year and I’m only back to 4000 steps – slow but sure I guess. After the feedback from my 1:1 editor at the RNA conference I’ve been editing/rewriting the first 3 chapters for submission to M&B. Progress is slow and I’m blaming the heat! So you can appreciate why I totally empathise!

    As for Mills and Boon historical – I like the covers – but I suspect there’s a certain kind of person who looks down on them. It would be great if M&B were as successful at product placement on film and tv as Coca Cola and Ferrari!

    1. It shouldn’t be such a struggle, should it! But we keep going, so go you for doing that, and for encouraging me too. I go to Ryvita too, and also oatcakes, and mostly that satisfies the craving but there are times when nothing but toast will do. I am terrible for beating myself up afterwards though, which takes away the treat-iness of it, so that’s something I need to work on. And seriously well done on the steps – it’s not how much you do, it’s that you got back and started again.

      Also HUGE well done on the M&B submission. If they don’t think something will work they will tell you, so they must see promise in you. Keep that in mind when you’re looking at something you’re changed for the millionth time and thinking, I can’t do this. You can. I know, I think that way all the time and get through the other side.

      And thanks for the cover feedback. What struck me on Tiktok is that our covers are so massively different from nearly everything else in the historical romance genre that readers are hoovering up. I’ve had quite a bit of interesting feedback on this, so I’m collecting and pondering!

      Happy writing.

  3. Personally I much prefer reading your emails and following your activities. What you just wrote about your exercise made me laugh, thank you. Now please get back to completing your novel so I can purchase it. Enjoy your Summer as we are in Winter in Australia

    1. I’m on it Rosalind, I promise. And before this one is out (March next year) I have a Christmas duet with Bronwyin Scott at the end of the year, so you’ll be hearing more from me on that. Meantime, I’m just going to do a bit more procrastinating before settling down to some words!

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