Making Endless Lists

Day two of the seven day writing challenge with Joanne Fedler. 

 Day two’s exercise came as rather a surprise to me. I’m an avid maker of to do lists, but I’d never heard of making random lists within the context of writing a novel. The purpose of it, Joanne explained, was that it would help us come up with starting places for plots and themes. She said that writing is haphazard, and therefore we need to become good at putting pieces together. 

 I admit I was slightly skeptical, because personally I don’t feel my writing is particularly haphazard, but I was still ready to give it a go. So I made two of the lists she’d suggested. The first was things from history I wish I’d witnessed. The second was things I am witnessing now. I found the first one particularly difficult and finally came to the conclusion that I either know too little or too much about history. The only ones I could think of also came with the probability of death or, if one was lucky, disease. Mind, when it came to making the second list some points from our present world were just as scary! 

 So, it was a fun and interesting exercise. Did it help with my writing? I have to be honest and say I don’t think it did really. I cannot see how a list of historical events could be turned into a coherent novel that didn’t involve far too much time travel! Am I taking it too literally? Perhaps. But that’s just the way my mind works. However, this method may be a revelation to you, so if you feel like giving it a try, don’t let me put you off. And there is one aspect of novel writing in which I can heartily recommend making endless lists- outlining. Make lists of characters, family trees, character traits, backstories, scenes, whatever the heck you want. That will definitely help you write your novel. 

 Below are some of the suggestions Joanne made for possible lists: 

10 things you lost
10 things you can’t live without
10 objects with special meaning to you
10 books that changed your life

 If you try this then do let me know how you get on. Did it work for you? 


One Little Act


 I started as someone pushed impatiently past, knocking their wire basket against my hip. Oh dear. They’d probably been tutting behind me for ages and I hadn’t heard. I adjusted my hearing-aid and squinted at the rows of pet food. The cheaper cans were on the top shelf. They would be. I raised a stiff arm towards them. 

 ‘Can I help you?’ said a voice. ‘Is this what you want?’ 

 A young man deposited two tins of cat food into my trolley and went on his way. 

 And I smiled the whole walk home. 

Read more from me- the Kindle eBook of my novel ‘Victoria’s Victorian Victory’ is currently now available! Take a look

Afternoon Tea- A Brief History


 Afternoon tea is generally considered an old English tradition, but it actually only dates back to Victorian times. It was started by one of Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting, who complained of a ‘sinking feeling’ at about four or five in the afternoon. Since the fashionable hour to eat dinner was at around half past eight, it’s easy to see why she felt there was room for some genteel snacking in the afternoon. She began inviting friends to join her and the tradition of afternoon tea in the upper classes was born, soon to be imitated by the middle classes. 

 For the lower class of people who had their main meal in the middle of the day, such as my main character Victoria and her family, afternoon tea was a luxury they couldn’t often indulge in. Though Victoria does once have friends to tea on a weekend as a special treat! Tea itself had a bit of a struggle for popularity with the established drink of the day- weak beer. However, alcohol began to get an increasingly bad press and temperance movements recommended replacing it with tea. After that it wasn’t long before tea took over as the drink of choice. And the rest is history! 

 Did you know? Tea replaced beer at about the same time as mills began refining flour to make white bread. As a result of these two things nutrition levels in Victorian Britain plummeted due to the lack of grain in people’s new diets. 

This article first appeared in my newsletter. Read some of the reactions to it below: 

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You can sign up on the contact page of this site. (I don’t spam and I would never share your email address with anyone else.) 

An Interview with Author Krysten Lindsay Hager 

Krysten Lindsay Hager writes about friendship, self-esteem, fitting in, frenemies, crushes, fame, first loves, and values. She is the author of True Colors, Best Friends…Forever?, Next Door to a Star, Landry in Like, Competing with the Star (The Star Series: Book 2), and Dating the It Guy. Her debut novel, True Colors, won the Readers Favorite award. Krysten’s work has been featured in USA Today, The Flint Journal, the Grand Haven Tribune, the Beavercreek Current, the Bellbrook Times and on Living Dayton. In this interview she tells us about her inspirations, getting published and her advice to new writers. 

When did you start writing?

I’ve loved coming up with storylines since I was a little kid. I was always scribbling story ideas down and my fifth grade teacher told my parents she thought I’d be an author one day. I started writing more seriously in college and grad school. I was already writing for a newspaper during that time and I’d try to find time to work on book writing.

What was the first thing you ever had published?

I published short stories and essays and articles in magazines, newspapers, and online sites, but my first book was for preteens called, True Colors (Landry’s True Colors Series: Book One).

How did you end up with your current publisher?

I was in an online group for freelance writers. We motivated each other to find new places to publish articles and essays and a few of them were writing books as well. Two of them were with my first publisher and they were both happy there, so I filed that name in the back of my mind. Honestly, freelancing is such a great way to being as an author because you build a platform and learn how to handle things like having your work in public and dealing with reactions/criticism, etc.

What’s your writing fuel of choice? Tea, coffee, neat whisky?

Pepsi! And I do like a cup of tea at the end of the day.

Where do you write?

I moved a few months ago and now I have a new office—I just got bookshelves and was able to get my old books out of storage. I do a lot of my admin stuff and blog posts while watching the news in my living room.

What do you like to read?

I was just organizing my bookshelves and realized I own a lot of non-fiction! I have more fiction on my Kindle. I like biographies, YA, middle grade, new adult, contemporary novels, classics, mysteries, and I read all sorts of non-fiction like health books, self-help, Christian books, and current events.

Is there a particular author who has inspired you?

Several inspired me, but Paula Danziger, who wrote middle grade and YA, was the one who made me feel I was meant to make a career out of this. I read a bio on her and I saw some parallels with why she wanted to write for teens and my own feelings.

What advice would you like to pass on to new writers?

A lot of people ask me this and tell me their writing professors/teachers/mentors tell them they need to start publishing articles, etc. before they begin trying to get a book published and that’s a great idea. I was told to do this as well and not only do you build up your platform and get people to see what you can do, but you get experience in so many ways—exposure, clips for your bio, and experience dealing with public reactions.

Tell us about your latest book. What’s it about and what was the inspiration behind it?

Dating the It Guy is about a high school girl named Emme who winds up dating the son of a well-known senator. She goes through a lot of self-doubt as she watches his perfect ex-girlfriend trying to get him back and not feeling good enough for his new crowd. It’s a book about love, family, and learning to be yourself.

Where can we buy your book?



Amazon paperback:

Amazon UK Kindle:

Amazon UK Paperback:

Barnes and Noble:

Barnes and Noble Paperback:




Giveaway News! 

 Hi everyone. Just wanted to let you know that if you head over to my Instagram sometime in the next 24 hours I’m participating in an author-hop. There are 18 of us, all offering our own giveaway prize! My own prize that I have on offer is a signed paperback copy of my book Victoria’s Victorian Victory.  Head over there and take a look, enter mine and other giveaways, and meet some new authors! 

 Also, I have some great articles coming up- an interview with author Krysten Lindsay Hager about her new book, and a guest post all about attending the London Book Fair. And lots more! Why not follow my blog to make sure you don’t miss anything? 

Graphic by Anna Madrise. 

An Interview With Julia Blake

Julia Blake is the author of The Book of Eve and the soon to be released Lifesong. In this interview she talks about her career to date, including a difficult battle with severe illness and how she is overcoming it. 

When did you start writing and what motivated you to do so? 

 I’ve been writing since I was old enough to pick up a pen, short stories, silly poems, plays, that sort of thing, but it all crystallised for me when I attended a writing course many years ago. It was as if a key in my brain turned, and four months after finishing the course my first novel was complete. I think I finally allowed the voices in my head free reign and all I had to do was put into words the stories they were telling me. As to what motivates me, I want to be a full time writer, that’s the dream – well, isn’t it for all of us – to spend my days doing what I absolutely love the most.

Tell us about your novel, The Book of Eve. 

 The Book of Eve was the fourth novel I wrote. I’d been to a family funeral and thought how they made people reconnect after not seeing each other for a while, so wanted to begin a novel at a funeral, maybe the funeral of a main character (I know, crazy isn’t it, kill off your main character in the first chapter). I then had this rather gruesome image stuck in my head of red blood dripping down a white marble staircase, after that, things began to click into place and The Book of Eve was born.

What kind of reception has Eve had? 

 It was very well received at first, especially in America where one critic called it a “modern day Downton Abbey” and with over thirty 5-star reviews and not one single bad one, it seems those who read it loved it, but then I got very ill a few months after publication and was unable to promote it so sales dropped off.

I’m sorry to hear that. How has your illness impacted your writing? 

 My illness went undiagnosed for years, my rather unsympathetic doctor insisting it was my age, and it wasn’t until I changed doctor and he initiated an exhausting range of tests that the growth (by then the size of a grapefruit) was found and treatment could begin. During those years I gradually grew weaker, one of the symptoms being severe anaemia which in turn affected higher brain functioning. By the time of diagnosis I had a blood haemoglobin level of 6.5 which made basic living a struggle, reading was difficult, writing impossible, so I didn’t write a single word for several years.

How awful. How are you overcoming these challenges? 

 Since last June I’ve been on massive doses of iron and medication to help shrink the growth and it’s like I’m coming back from a very dark place. As the anaemia loosens its grip I’ve found ideas beginning to flow and now I’m almost back to normal, the voices in my head back to their noisy demanding selves. I’m having surgery soon to remove the growth and then can concentrate on total recovery.

Where’s your preferred place to write? 

 For a long time I had no special place to write, trying to cadge computer time whenever I could, but last summer we converted the spare room into a den for my teenage daughter and I was finally able to claim a corner of the lounge, where I have my own little desk and laptop. It’s somewhere that is totally mine, somewhere dedicated to writing.

Is your writing fueled by tea or coffee?

 I hate to say this, but neither. I do have a big mug of builders strength tea first thing in the morning and couldn’t do without it, then most days I have a cup of fresh coffee mid morning (not instant, can’t bear the stuff), but I find too much caffeine makes me muzzy headed so for most of the day it’s water, well, until gin o’clock time that is!

Are you a Plotter or a Pantser? 

 Oh, seat of the pants gal, absolutely. I think if I started plotting everything I’d never get any actual writing done, I like to sit at the keyboard and with no thought for consequence plunge straight in. But then, that’s me in life, when decorating I never want to waste time with boring prepping, just want to grab a paintbrush and get stuck in.

What advice would you give to new writers? 

 Don’t listen to advice… no, only joking. I think mostly keep writing. It’s very easy, especially as you get older, to let life “stuff” get in the way – work, family, home – it all crowds in on you and leaves no time for writing. Make time. Carve out a time and space that’s yours. Grow a thick hide, you’re going to need it. Unless you never let anyone but your nearest and dearest read your writing, then someone sooner or later is going to give a bad review, criticise your work and generally grind all your hopes and dreams into the dirt. It happens. You have two choices, get bitter or get better. You can’t please all of the people, all of the time and that’s especially true with writing. Also, beware of social media, it’s a two edged sword. Yes, it’s an amazing way of promoting your work, of connecting with other authors, making use of their wisdom and experience, but, it can also be a distraction, taking you away from the real job in hand – mostly writing.

What’s next for you? 

 What next? My novella Lifesong will be published later this month on Kindle and I’m very excited about this. I wrote Lifesong many years ago and submitted it to the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future novella competition. Not expecting anything, to my delight it was placed sixth internationally. Lifesong is very different from Eve and I hope will appeal to a different audience. I suppose it must be placed in the science fiction genre but it’s not aliens and space battles, instead it’s a hauntingly beautiful story of our planet and what we are doing to it, so, if anyone has concerns about the environment, then check out Lifesong, I think it will speak to you.

Where can we buy your book? 

 The Book of Eve is available as a download and an absolutely gorgeous paperback from many online retailers such as Barnes & Noble, ebooks, The Book Depository and, of course, Amazon.

Lifesong is now available to preorder here

Julia’s bio: 

I was born and raised in the historic market town of Bury St Edmunds, in the county of Suffolk in the UK, where I live still with my teenage daughter, one mad cat and a succession of even madder lodgers. I love writing and my passionate hope is that one day I will be able to step away from the rat race and be a full-time writer. I’m a bit of a foodie and am quite a good cook, enjoying nothing more than feeding people. Books are also a massive part of my life, and I usually have two or three on the go at any one time.


Connect with Julia here: = website = instagram = facebook 

@JuliaBlakeAuthor = wattpad  

Another ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Review! 

 Victoria’s Victorian Victory is a charming, old fashioned novel set in Victorian times and reminded me very much of the writings of L.M. Montgomery, the Lark Rise to Candleford series and the Flambards trilogy by K.M. Peyton.

 Extremely well written, the novel is nicely paced with well developed, believable characters and a strong plot line. The author has obviously researched the period thoroughly, because the details were absolutely spot on, adding so much depth and authenticity you could almost smell the fresh cut hay and hear the mooing of the cows.

 Victoria’s Victorian Victory is about 14 year old Victoria Bloom, whose life is turned upside down after the death of her father. Expecting her older brother to take up the challenge of running the family farm, things take a turn for the worse when her brother Charlie is seduced away by the bright lights of London, leaving Victoria and her family to cope alone, with the rent due, a harvest to get in and the very real prospect of the workhouse looming before them.

 However, Victoria is not a girl to take adversity lying down and I think her character is one of the book’s main strengths. Almost modern in her thinking and outlook, Victoria is determined her family will keep their home. Not only that, she is convinced she can make the farm thrive and become more prosperous than ever.

 In this age of “kick ass” futuristic heroines, all in love with vampires or werewolves, it was a refreshing change to read a book where the heroine was just strong minded and independent because that’s her character. Not because she has super powers, or a destiny to fulfill, but just because her sheer grit, determination and stubbornness will never let her admit defeat. In Victoria’s eyes, an obstacle is there to be got around, and get around them she does. Often with a cheek and inventiveness that had me chuckling.
If there is one tiny flaw with the book, it’s that it ended too abruptly, leaving me wanting more of Victoria and her family. I am hopeful that the author has a sequel in mind as there is definitely, in my opinion, far more of Victoria’s tale to be told.

 All in all, a thoroughly lovely book, highly recommended.

Thanks to Julia Blake for this wonderful review of my baby! 

If this sounds like your sort of book then you can find it here on and here on

How To Decide What To Write

A Guest Post By Krysten Lindsay Hager

 The idea of writing a novel can be overwhelming, but here are some ways to get started.

 First, focus on the thing that got you inspired about writing a book. Was it a setting that you thought would be perfect for a romance novel or mystery? Maybe there was an event that happened in your life that you felt was the perfect backstory? Or maybe a character you want to write about?

 For my Star Series, I knew wanted to write a coming of age story set in a beach town (Grand Haven, Michigan) that I grew up visiting as a preteen and teen. Growing up, Grand Haven and Saugatuck (another beach town featured in the series) always seemed like the perfect places to be in the summer. I remember being a preteen and going into shops with my aunt and watching the older teen girls picking out outfits. It made me feel even younger than I was seeing how sure of themselves they were as I was always wanting to blend in with my surroundings. So I decided to create a character named Hadley Daniels who was a teen, but wasn’t at that self-assured phase yet. I had Hadley go to visit her grandparents in Grand Haven for the summer and find herself living next door to a former teen TV star named Simone Hendrickson—hence where my title, Next Door to a Star, came from. Simone is that epitome of those self-confident teens I used to see and who I want to be when I was a kid. But I wanted to take the story to where you saw Hadley struggle with trying to find her place in that group of teens and also show that Simone wasn’t always the confident girl she appeared to be. In fact, in the second book, Competing with the Star, we see she’s actually more insecure than Hadley. I took both a setting and a memory to create these books.

 With my Landry’s True Colors Series, I knew I wanted to take aspects from my own preteen/middle school years. I had kept journals during that time and for some reason I have a really strong sense of recollection of those years—to the point where I can tell you the albums I listened to at that age, what my classrooms looked like, the exact names of the lip glosses I used, and what they served for lunch. I blame the fact they gave us such teensy servings of Spaghettios for lunch to explain why I make enough pasta for eight people when I cook now. So besides remembering the awesomeness that was/is the Bonne Bell Dr. Pepper Lipsmacker, I also remember the awkward cringe-y moments that I experienced in class when I got called on while daydreaming. However now I get the last laugh on that because many of those very daydreams have worked their way into book storylines, so who’s wasting their time in a fantasy world now? Ahem.

 Anyway, seeing as I can recall my exact feelings of humiliation, it makes for richer and more vivid scenes as I feature Landry deal with the sweating and other…unpleasantness, when she gets when anxious. Even though I revisit all those emotional and anxious times as I write and, it’s probably causing me physical and emotional distress to go back to those moments where all my friends turned on me, I have to say those are the exact scenes I get reader reactions about. One thing about writing for teens and preteens is that they have a very strong b.s. detector. They can tell if you’re not being authentic. So when I get messages saying, “Oh my gosh, that’s me, too with my anxiety,” or, “I thought I was the only one,” I know I’ve done my job.

 You can also start a book just based on a particular moment in your life by writing just one scene as you recall it and then see if you can basically write a book around it. I had someone tell me about a situation where she was made fun of and no one around her stood up for her, but they also didn’t know how to react. She shared with me how she felt and I built a scene around that for Landry in Like. In fact, it triggered a memory of mine from grade school and I ended up writing another scene involving one of Landry’s classmates getting humiliated on Valentine’s Day and another classmate being grateful that Landry went out of her way to give him a Valentine when no one else did. Memories that bring back strong emotions can really add life to a scene, so that’s an excellent way to begin.

 I recommend always carrying a little notebook around with you to jot down ideas that pop into your head. Last summer we drove through a town in Dublin, Ohio, and I stopped because one of the streets reminded me a bit of two towns in Michigan I grew up visiting (Birmingham and Fenton.) I saw this one restaurant with an outdoor eating area and I just knew this was going to end up as a date setting for a book. I took pictures and made a note of it and later, when I was revising a scene in my YA novel, Dating the It Guy, I realized that should be the romantic restaurant Emme and Brendon go to while on a date. Not only was that setting fresher in my mind than the one in Michigan, but now I have pictures to post on my website so my readers can see the places that Emme and Brendon visit.

 People often think writers have an entire book plotted out before they sit down to write, but that’s not always the case. Thinking you have to have the whole book ready to go when you sit down to begin can stop some people from trying to write at all. Just take one strong sense and see where it takes you. You never know where that story might end up.

 Krysten Lindsay Hager writes about friendship, self-esteem, fitting in, frenemies, crushes, fame, first loves, and values. She is the author of True Colors, Best Friends…Forever?, Next Door to a Star, Landry in Like, Competing with the Star (The Star Series: Book 2), and Dating the It Guy. Her debut novel, True Colors, won the Readers Favorite award. Krysten’s work has been featured in USA Today, The Flint Journal, the Grand Haven Tribune, the Beavercreek Current, the Bellbrook Times and on Living Dayton.  

You can Find Krysten’s books here.

Follow Krysten:








Pet Hates

  We all have pet hates. Things that aren’t really that big of a deal but just get under our skin. I have three: spelling mistakes (seriously, I can’t even bear to write an incorrect shopping list), men leaving the toilet seat up, and seeing something on sale which I recently bought for full price. The latter in particular just gets me every time! 

   Because that’s a pet hate of mine, I want to save you from a similar situation. So this is just a heads up that my award winning short story ‘A New Life’ is currently available on the iBooks store for FREE. Only for a limited time though, so get it now before you miss out! 

    This story is the perfect quick read for lovers of romance and coffee. I hope you enjoy it. If you do, please consider leaving a nice review, it would make such a difference!