So this happened, Happy Ever After was a finalist in this year’s Romance Writers of Australia Romantic Book of the Year (RUBY) Awards.
For those of you who follow me on Instagram and Facebook, this is old news, and I’ve been super slack in posting here, but the truth is I’ve been getting on with finishing my new novel Escape To Curlew Cottage. It’s now with my fabulous editor, so I can catch up on all the other parts of writing – such as blogging and telling you about this.
Happy Ever After came second, and I couldn’t be prouder. I was so super excited to walk up on that stage and get my certificate that I think I might have even done a little fist pump.
My Kiwi bestie was at the awards ceremony with me – fitting given that she got a massive shout-out in Happy Ever After.
Because I came second I didn’t need to make a speech, but if I had to have I would have thanked the same people I thanked in the acknowledgements for this novel: Nicola, my amazing editor for “getting” my voice and helping me publish the best book possible; my family for the taste testing; my dog for being such a fabulous muse; and everyone who has read the book at every stage of the process – from first draft to finished product.
If you haven’t yet read Happy Ever After, you can get it from the following places:
P.S. I’ll be launching my newsletter over the next few weeks, so if you haven’t signed up, now is your chance to do so. If you’ve previously signed up, I’m changing mail chimp accounts so it’s probably best if you sign up again just to be sure. Don’t worry, I won’t spam you. There’ll be one post a month with publishing news, perhaps some bits and pieces for writers, maybe a recipe…who knows?
At, or around, the solstice in December we begin to look at goals and intentions for the next 12 months. It makes sense then that at the halfway point in June we look at how we’re going against those.
Yep…moving right along. There’s very little positive to see here.
I can, however, update you on my reading stats for the year so far.
According to Goodreads, at the time of publishing this post I’ve read 60 books. That sounds a lot, but I have spent a lot of time away from home so far this year and that equates to time on planes, trains and buses. Plus, I’ve had almost 4 weeks holiday – and I read a lot on holiday.
I read each night before going to sleep and I read most afternoons after finishing in the day job. Even though I work from home I take that time as a “commute” of sorts to bring a fullstop to my day.
The longest book so far this year was “Anyone But Him” by Sheila O’Flanagan – 640 pages (of which I reckon it was a good 150 pages too long) and the shortest was a book of restaurant reviews by Jay Rayner, “My Dining Hell: Twenty Ways To Have A Lousy Night Out.”
Speaking of Jay Rayner, who is a British restaurant critic, I’ve read another two books, and countless articles in The Observer, by him in the name of research for “Escape To Curlew Cottage”. I could tell you why but that would be a massive spoiler.
There are also 2 cookbooks on the list – and yes, I read cookbooks. These both got 5 stars from me. Both are more than cookbooks – they are books about food and the stories that you can tell through food, eating and, in the case of “How To Eat A Peach”, travel. I reviewed Ella Risbridger’s “Midnight Chicken” here, but am yet to tell you more about Diana Henry’s “How To Eat A Peach”.
I was pleased to see new offerings by favourite authors:
“Maybe This Time”, Jill Mansell
“Swallowtail Summer”, Erica James
“The Magnificent Mrs Mayhew”, Milly Johnson
“Something To Tell You”, Lucy Diamond
“Wedding At Comfort Cafe”, by Debbie Johnson and
“The Spotted Dog”, by Kerry Greenwood
My first read of the year was “You Had Me At Hello,” by (new to me) Mhairi McFarlane. I’ve since read another couple by her.
Thanks to Sydney Shop GirlI have a new series that I’m cultivating an addiction for – Faith Martin’s DI Hillary Greene. I really enjoyed “Murder On The Oxford Canal” and am looking forward to reading more.
The most unsettling book of the year so far for me was Sulari Gentill’s “Crossing The Lines”. This won the Ned Kelly award last year for the crime book of the year – and deservedly so. Perhaps it’s because I’m so used to her Rowland Sinclair series, but I found this really rattled me. Like Anthony Horowitz’s books within a book, this has the author deeply entwined in the story, but while hisare quitetongue in cheek and sparkling this is much darker and twisty and really stayed with me. As a writer, I guess that’s what you want to achieve.
Karen Viggers’, “The Orchardists Daughter” also left me feeling quite unsettled – again, I think, because it felt dark, damp, and claustrophobic. Both books were good, excellent even, but at the time of reading eachI needed more light and hope in order to enjoy the read. The same could be said for “The Other Half Of Augusta Hope”. Should you read them? Yes, probably, definitely. I suspect my view was more about me and the way I was feeling at the time of reading them than the story itself.
There are a few genre romances on my shelf this year, but far fewer than in previous years. I simply haven’t been enjoying them as much as I usually do. I suspect it’s just a phase I’m going through. The ones on my list I picked up for my kindle as free or very cheap Bookbub deals. (As an aside, if you’re a prolific reader and you use a device to read, Bookbub is an excellent source of well-price ie cheap books. Google it.)
Normally I do a bit of the reverse snobbery thing and steer clear of books that have won or been short-listed for major awards. I do the same with movies and TV shows. This year, though, I’ve started 2 such books but haven’t been in the mood to finish either – I think because when I started reading them I was stressed at work and needed escape rather than more angst, and I didn’t want to have to think too hard. If I finish them you’ll hear about them.
And so far my faves for the year? In no particular order and based on my enjoyment factor…
“The Magnificent Mrs Mayhew”, Milly Johnson
“Maybe This Time”, Jill Mansell
“The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton”, Anstey Harris
“Little Beach Street Bakery”, Jenny Colgan
“A Cornish Summer”, Catherine Alliott
“Swallowtail Summer”, Erica James
That’s what I’ve been reading, what about you? Any favourites or recommendations?
This post will also appear on my personal blog at and anyways so apologies if you see it twice!
With the end of the year less than 2 weeks away it’s time to start the yearly round-up posts. Today it’s my year in reading.
How many books did I read?
According to Goodreads, so far this year I’ve read 95 books – although there were others that didn’t make it to Goodreads. That’s a few less than last year
Yes, that’s a lot of reading, but I do read most afternoons for an hour after I log off from the day job and again every night before I go to sleep.
And the ones that didn’t make it to Goodreads? Mostly genre romances that were devoured in an hour or so and are sweet but guilty pleasures – like vegemite and cheese on white bread with butter.
The longest book?
Ok, I’m not great with commitment, so the longest book I read was Erica James’ Love and Devotionat 536 pages. Again, according to Goodreads, my page count was greater than last year.
Any new series?
Absolutely. There was Debbie Johnson’s Comfort Café series, Jenny Colgan’s Mure Island series, E.V. Harte’s Tarot Detective series and Helen Pollard’s Little French Guesthouse series.
Additions to favourite series?
I was fortunate to get an advance copy for review purposes of Sulari Gentill’s latest Rowland Sinclair adventure, All The Tears in China. Thankfully there was also a new Rebus from Ian Rankin, In A House Of Liesand an addition to Anthony Horowitz’s Hawthorne tales with The Sentence Is Death.
Series I missed this year?
Nope. All good.
Thanks for the recommendation…
I rely on my book blogger friend Debbish for additions to my to-be-read pile, and she certainly didn’t let me down in 2018. A new bloggy friend – Sammy from The Annoyed Thyroid was also a reliable source of reading recommendations.
Any 5 star reads?
Yes – I was obviously feeling very generous this year as I handed out 5 stars to 17 reads. I’m not a great critic – if I’ve really enjoyed something it will get the marks from me. As for my favourites out of this list? That’s a tad tougher, but in no specific order here is my top 10:
The Land Before Avocado, Richard Glover
Paris Is Always A Good Idea, Nicholas Barreau
The Man I Think I Knew, Mike Gayle
The Chilbury Ladies Choir, Jennifer Ryan
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows
Café By The Sea, Jenny Colgan
The Wife Between Us, Greer Hendricks, Sarah Pekkanen
A far Cry From Kensington, Muriel Spark
Sunshine At The Comfort Food Café, Debbie Johnson
Gardens Of Delight, Erica James
Close behind – and also with 5 stars – was Art of Friendship by Lisa Ireland and Three Gold Coins by fellow Sunshine Coastie Josephine Moon.
Any books adapted into a movie?
I tend not to read blockbusters – in much the same way that I tend not to watch anything nominated for an Oscar. I’m a bit of a reverse snob in this way. This means that often I don’t watch movie adaptations.
This year, however, there was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – which I read before I watched the movie.
I’m not normally a non-fiction reader, but read some memoir this year – mostly foodie related, of course.
There was Nigel Slater’s Toastand Eating For England, and John Baxter’s A Paris Christmasand The Perfect Meal. Away from the foodie genre I enjoyed Billy Connelly’s Billy, and Ailsa Piper’s Sinning Across Spain – Walking The Camino.
Craft books read?
No, not this year.
Any business books?
What annoyed me this year?
I read way too many books this year where sub-plots were added late into a book for the sole reason of enabling the author to tie together loose ends. There were also too many books that told us in the last couple of chapters about the character’s growth without showing these traits throughout. Oh, look! She used to be like x, now she’s like y…that sort of thing. Show don’t tell.
This cost at least six books on my list from getting a 5-star rating.
What is concerning is that all were traditionally published yet they felt like they needed tightening editorially. Perhaps I only noticed because I’m aware that this is something I’m guilty of too – like typos in quickly cobbled together posts…whatevs..
I have some more non-fiction on my to be read pile and a couple of cookbooks that need to be actually read rather than flicked through. I’ve also added some food critics to my pile – for research purposes.
This isn’t great news for the authors that I support, but my resolution this year is to go three months without buying any books at all. I have books on my bookshelf – both physical and virtual – that are crying out for attention and yet last year (and the year before and the year before that and…you get the idea) spent the equivalent of a very good holiday on books and music. I intend to work my way through some of these this year. And yes, I said all of this last year too! Anyways I’ll revisit my progress (and my willpower) at the end of March. Oh, exceptions to this rule are books bought at airports which everyone knows don’t count.
I’ll give you a rundown of my year in books next week, but for now, with Christmas just 11 days away, I’m reading only seasonal titles – just to get into the spirit of it all.
In fact, I’m so full of the spirit of the season that I’m planning my own Christmas novel. It will be full of food, love, and two dogs named Nigel and Nigella. As for the rest? Yeah, I haven’t got that far yet!
Anyways, without further ado here’s what’s in my kindle for Christmas…
A Gift From Comfort Food Cafe, Debbie Johnson – part of the fabulous Comfort Food Cafe series
Christmas At The Comfort Food Cafe, Debbie Johnson – ditto
A Paris Christmas, John Baxter – a book about one man’s search to plan and source the perfect French Christmas dinner
Christmas at Claridges, Karen Swan – which, disappointingly, isn’t really about either Christmas or Claridges.
The Christmas Secret, Karen Swan – which, much more pleasingly, is about both Christmas and a Scottish whisky distillery.
Mistletoe and Murder, Carola Dunn – part of the Daisy Dalrymple series
The Mother Of All Christmases, Milly Johnson – I thought this one would be a lot more predictable than it has turned out to be…thankfully. What I’ve loved is re-meeting a whole host of characters from her previous (stand-alone) novels.
The Christmas Wish, Tilly Tennant – on my to be read by Christmas or over the Christmas break pile
An Island Christmas, Jenny Colgan – on my to be read by Christmas or over the Christmas break pile
Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery, Jenny Colgan – on my to be read by Christmas or over the Christmas break pile
Ok, that’s my Christmas reading list – what’s on yours?
Okay, so November is over and I should be proudly showing off my digital NaNoWriMo winner’s certificate, but I’m not – because I didn’t win this year. By win, I mean I didn’t get to my 50,000-word target.
I was on track – right up until the beginning of the last week – and then life, or rather the opposite, got in the way with the passing of a close friend.
In any case, I finished November with over 40,000 more words than what I started the month with – and that to me is a win. (As an aside, if you attempted NaNoWriMo and have more words at the end of November than you did at the beginning of the month, you’re a winner in my book.)
On the whole, this November was theoretically much easier than previous NaNo months – there were no holidays, no work projects and no time away or off the grid as there had been in previous years. The day job hasn’t even been as manic as it usually is.
Despite this I did, however, have more trouble with the whole bum-on-seat-fingers-on-keyboard thing than I do when I’m actively juggling. It’s probably why my likelihood of getting it done increases the more that I have on my plate.
I did more procrasti-watching, procrasti-blogging and procrasti-baking than I usually do too. Plus I was struck with a brilliant idea that I want to write immediately.
Instead, I’m writing copious notes and hope that the idea will still appear as brilliant as it does today when I finally finish editing Careful What You Wish For and drafting It’s In The Stars.
This is a public service announcement for my Mum and Dad who have probably signed on here early on Thursday morning expecting to read my Thursday morning blog and are disappointed because there’s nothing more than this message…
My non-writing posts can now be found over at and anyways. In fact, you’ll find this week’s post at this link…
Here’s a spoiler alert – it’s about dumplings…and other things that I’m loving right now…like street art, jacarandas and murals on busy city underpasses. Oh and butcher birds.
See you over there…
(Oh, and Mum & Dad? I’ll sign you up to the email…) xxx
Ok, so we’re a few days past the halfway point of this year’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).
The challenge, as I told you back in October, is to write 50,000 words in November. (If you want to know more the link is here.) The question, I’m sure that you’re all dying to have answered, is how I’m going so far this month?
For a start, I’ve been slack in that I haven’t been updating the official nanowrimo graph every day. I am, however at 35,305 words for the month so far. That’s exactly on target – and given the way that this month has gone, that’s surprising. It truly has been a case of getting it done in between the day job, the release of Happy Ever After, and the myriad of other bits and pieces.
I’m not going to tell you that they’re good words – because they’re not. It’s a messier than usual messy first draft. As someone very smart once said: you can’t edit a blank page.
I do, however, know where the story is going and, more importantly, how it’s going to end. Knowing how this one will end is important as it has to tie up all the characters and all the stories from the chick lit series that started all the way back with Baby, It’s You:
Baby, It’s You – Em’s story
Big Girls Don’t Cry – Abby’s story
Wish You Were Here – Max’s story
I Want You Back – Callie’s story (out soon)
Careful What You Wish For – Tiff’s story (out early 2019)
and finally, this one It’s In The Stars – Alice’s story (out mid-2019)
(Happy Ever After is a stand-alone novel…)
Each of these is a stand-alone novel, but with characters making “guest” appearances. My original idea was to have a set of central stories with everyone being loosely linked and coming together somehow at the end – like if Notting Hill was a series of chick lit books.
It’s working out that way, but it’s also heading towards another stand-alone series I have an idea for…more on that later…maybe.
It’s finally here – release day for Happy Ever After.
Release day is always a tad anti-climactic – especially when you’re an indie author and the book is in digital format rather than in print. Hubby and I did, however, celebrate with a few drinks – ok, quite a few drinks – last night.
My literary stable partner – is that even a term? – and friend Samantha Wood also helped make release day special by featuring me on her author interview blog today. You can find the link here. Thanks so much Samantha 🙂
That’s always the question.
I’m currently in the process of drafting It’s In The Stars – the 5th and final instalment in my chick-lit series; editing Careful What You Wish For – the 4th in that series; and writing the blurb for I Want You Back – the 3rd in that set behind Baby, It’s You and Big Girls Don’t Cry.
In the meantime, here’s a look at all my little book babies in a row together…
Happy Ever After is now available in all regions on Amazon. This link will take you to your region.
I love Queenstown. Absolutely adore it. It’s why Happy Ever After is the 2nd of my books to feature it as a location – Wish You Were Here was the first.
Anyways, these are some of the locations in Queenstown and surrounds that I’ve used…so far…
Of course. Framed by The Remarkables Lake Wakatipu is so amazingly beautiful. In fact, it’s so beautiful that it takes me by surprise. Every time I see the lake and mountains it’s as if I’ve never seen them before.
The Sun rolls it’s way through, lighting different parts of the peaks- almost in time with the breath of the breeze. That in itself is an interesting concept in that the lake rises and falls by up to 20cm every half hour or so, yet it isn’t tidal. It’s as if the lake is breathing.
And that’s all part of the Maori legend of the lake.
Apparently, a local ogre named Matau (they had local ogres in those days) was burned to death for taking advantage of the daughter of an important chief. The resultant fire melted the snow and ice of the surrounding mountains and it all ran into the deep hole where Matau fell- creating Lake Wakatipu. Yet the ogre was so strong that his pulse survives in the daily rise and fall.
I love stories like this.
Vudu Cafe & Larder
My absolute favourite place for brekky. They have another cafe now – Bespoke Kitchen, but the original is still the place to be in my humble opinion.
Down on the lake, I reinvented this place as Jess’s Beach Road Cafe in Wish You Were Here and it has a role in Happy Ever After as well.
The absolute best street food Asian in Queenstown – and possibly the best I’ve had in NZ – and you know I love my Asian street food…#bigcall
The Road to Glenorchy
Check that view. Is that inspiring, or is that inspiring?
There’s a pub here, a general store and trading post, a photogenic wharf and it’s also the jumping off place for the Dart River adventures (absolutely recommended) and a few tramping tracks.
Just down the road is Paradise – the scene of many ads, movies and TV shows…plus a rather spicy love scene in Wish You Were Here…
A charming gold-rush town at its absolute picturesque best in the autumn.
A great place for a Sunday session, the Cardrona is on the Crown Range Road between Queenstown and Wanaka – another road with spectacular scenery.
An old gold mining area now famous for amazing wines. I loved it for the fields of wild thyme and other wild flowers in late spring.
As opposed to Cromwell town which is the new Cromwell.
“Upon the completion of the Clyde Dam in 1992, the valley behind the dam was flooded to create Lake Dunstan. To preserve the town’s gold mining and pioneering past, dedicated volunteers painstakingly moved the buildings from Cromwell’s original town centre to higher ground.” (From the official tourism site…)
In case you missed it…
From next week all my personal, travel, wrap-up and linky posts will be over at And Anyways. I explained why here. I’d love to see you there.
This site will be devoted to books and writing – and the business of writing… I’m hoping that it’s the right way to be going…
Surely, I thought, I can make things easier for myself. The Sunny Coast and astro blogs have their own audiences that don’t tend to cross over to other sites, so I’d leave them be, but I could put all my other posts onto my author site ie this one. That way, I figured, I’d have all my audience in one place.
It made perfect sense – until it didn’t.
Although it was certainly easier for me to post to just one site, something didn’t feel right. The love had gone. Regular blogging was feeling like one more chore and I was *this* close to giving it up.
I told myself it was frustration at how slowly my author business was growing – but that wasn’t what it was about. So, in true project manager mode, I went back to look at my original scope:
When I began this site in August 2016 it was:
to provide landing pages for my novels
to market my novels
to provide information about the process, business, mindset and craft of writing
to provide information and resources for other indies (or trad) authors.
When I started And Anyways back in 2013, it was to provide a place where I could write about everything that my astrology readers had no interest in – ie anything that wasn’t specifically related to astrology. It was where I connected with other bloggers and had fun writing about anything that took my fancy.
It occurred to me that I have 2 audiences – actually 3 if you count the astro readers, and there are rather a lot of them – and 2 reasons for blogging:
Business and content marketing
For fun, creativity and connections
In hindsight, it was a mistake to combine the 2 – I’ve lost what both sites were intended to be about. I’ve diluted the professionalism and purpose of the author page and I no longer write about some of the other subjects that interest me or participate in some of the link-ups that I used to enjoy.
In participating in regular link-ups I’ve made fabulous connections – some which have crossed over into real life, and others that I hope will someday.
And that’s when it hit me – the problem wasn’t that I no longer wanted to blog, but that I didn’t feel free to blog the way that I wanted.
I put it out to the fabulous brains trust that is a couple of my Facebook groups who pretty much confirmed my thinking. So, here’s the deal:
Joanne Tracey – The Hungry Writer
This site will revert back to being all about books and writing. That’s it. I might write about craft or the business and mindset of being an author, but this is, for all intents and purposes, a business page and needs to look, feel and read like one and be true to its niche.
I’ll be breathing new life into this baby. I’ve already given it a facelift – pop on over and have a look.
What can you expect to see? Pretty much the things and places that inspire me, whatever I’m loving now, and anything else that I feel like rambling on with.
Naturally, there’ll be travel – and probably some food inspired by that travel. There’ll also be the weekly and monthly catch-ups, the lovin’ life linky on a Thursday, and maybe even some wellness stuff as I get into training for a long distance hike I’m planning towards in 2020 – if I can ever get this flipping ankle right. Some days it might just be a photo or three.
Okay, this is a secret little corner of the web that I’ve been cultivating for a few months now. It’s where I write about what I’m cooking, what’s inspiring me, what I’m procrastibaking and what I’m testing to use in my next novel.
I don’t write regularly or to any sort of schedule and I don’t intend to – it’s my kitchen diary. You are, of course, welcome to come across and check it out from time to time, although I will link to any new recipes in my weekly round-up.
I also have a companion Instagram account @brookfordkitchendiaries where I post my foodie photos these days.
If you’ve read Wish You Were Here, you’d know that my protagonist Maxine (Max) Henderson lived in a (fictional) village in The Cotswolds called Brookford.
Max worked in a nursery in Brookford – one of those ones that sell gifts as well as plants, with a little local produce on the side. She took what was in season and wrote a monthly newsletter for the shop – what to plant, what to harvest, and what to do with it. It was a kitchen diary of sorts, detailing what she’d been baking or cooking from the ingredients available – seasonal home cooking at it’s absolute best.
Max now lives in Queenstown and is still baking, but through her, I’ve discovered a love for writing about food – so much that my new novel, Happy Ever After, also falls firmly into foodie lit territory. This time though, food and family are closely intertwined.
Anyways, when I was looking for a name for my kitchen diary, I had to channel Max.
What happens now?
Tomorrow’s post for the Lovin’Life linky will be the last of its kind on this site. Likewise, my week in review will be on And Anyways from next week.
If you’ve signed up to receive notifications of new posts from both this site and And Anyways you might notice some duplication of posts over the next few weeks as I transfer some travel posts – especially the France posts – across to there. If you think you’ve read it before, you probably have. It might look as though I’m being very productive, but I’m not – I’m just copying and pasting.
This should all be done and dusted by the beginning of December, so thanks for bearing with me in the meantime.
If you haven’t signed up to receive an email every time I post to And Anyways. You’ll find the “follow” option in the footer or in the sidebar of any post.
For everyone who has been along with me for the ride thus far, thank you. I hope that you come to visit at And Anyways.
And if you’re interested in writing, the business of writing, and bringing a novel into the world, feel free to hang about here from time to time.