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Monday, 28 September 2015

Extract From My Next Book, Love Lies Bleeding...

This is what Sophia's looking at, until...
My next book is a romantic suspense, with the working title Love Lies Bleeding. It's back from my Beta reading team, so it's now in the final edit stage. Here's the opening—so this is your chance to tell me what you think about it, in the comments section...

'...and I love TV, but I don't want to watch it every day!' Sophia put on a spurt. 
If only Alan would take the hint.  Moving to Gloucestershire was supposed to be the start of her blame-free existence. He should have vanished from her new life months ago. Instead here he was, still tagging along behind and refusing every command, kind word and firm refusal. Despite all the danger and her obvious lack of interest, nothing could squash his puppyish adoration. What was wrong with the man? He stuck like human chewing gum.
I'm running out of options. The only thing left is for me to get nasty. Really nasty. 
The track ahead was a bony limestone spine, rising almost vertically. Kicking on, scrabbling forward, clawing at the path in a fever of excitement she left her unwanted minder for dead. For dead...
The cold, clean air burned her face. She dragged it in like vodka.
'I'm serious!' Alan's voice rose, a long way below her now, and insubstantial as cigarette smoke.
Sophia stopped, stuck her hands on her hips and screwed round to face him. 
Every day, he held her back somehow. Today, he was stopping her from sprinting for the summit. He was still ten yards behind, and wheezing like an asthmatic ferret. It was too irritating to watch him labour up the slope, so she scanned the horizon instead. On this perfect morning the atmosphere was gin-clear all the way to Hay Bluff, sixty miles away. 
A snail could get there and back before Alan's caught his breath. 
This was a day to feel the lust for life powering through your veins. Life was too short for promises. Sophia wanted to make the break, and get on. 
She tensed and dropped her gaze. It caught on Gloucester, down in the vale of the Severn. From here, the city's confusion of buildings was a dark smudge on the countryside. It was a necessary evil—as vital, ugly and inescapable as the feelings Sophia kept locked away inside. She pivoted, her trainers scribing perfect circles in the damp, grey grit. Down in the city, the heaving mass of humanity would soon climb onto the treadmill of a new day, running around in the same old circles, in the same old way. Digging her toes into the ground she scuffed hard, destroying the neat marks.
'I’m serious,' Alan repeated, his voice struggling up to her. 'You're beautiful.'
'I'm trouble, you mean,' she ground away at the divots, guiltily wishing it was his face. 'Especially for a man like you. If you think I'm falling for that old line, forget it. It's only the thrill of the forbidden you're after.'
'How many times do I have to tell you?' He caught her by the arm. She narrowed her eyes in silent threat.  Releasing her, he flung up his hands in a gesture of peace.
'Nobody,' the pulse pounded in her voice, 'does that to me anymore.' 
'All right... all right....' He backed off, his voice oily with understanding. 'I just want you to know I don't care about...all that. Your past, I mean. This is a new start. For both of us.'
  Sophia felt sick. It should be easy to storm away, and end all this. Instead, she rubbed her hand up and down over the place where his fingers bit her skin.  A breeze rippled through the trees, high on the viewpoint above them. Drops of water suspended from the twigs after the previous night's storm came pattering down, with the sound of a million footsteps giving chase.
'...and I’m going to start by improving my personal best,' a stranger's voice growled out of Sophia's mouth, 'Race you to the top!'
Gone in a flurry of wet grit, she reached the viewpoint in time to watch Gloucester cathedral blanch with a blow from the rising sun. Then Alan's pale face bobbed into sight, and her view was eclipsed.
She checked her watch. 'Now I'm ready to go home.'
'You don't want to run any more?' He sounded half-dead.
Home was one of those words like 'mother' and 'loyalty' that never felt good any more. 'Nope. I've done my time. All I'm heading for now is a shower.'
'Can I play?'
It was hard not to groan, and almost as hard just to give his shoulder a playful punch rather than aim a haymaker at his jaw. 'No.'
He usually begged, but this time he looked distracted. His gaze went over her shoulder, across to the far side of the lookout point. 
'There's a car parked over there.' 
There was no point in looking round. 'This is the County's dogging hotspot. Of course there's a car parked over there.'
'But it's obviously been here overnight, Soph. Who in their right mind leaves a motor like that, in a place like this?'
'Nobody in their right minds comes here at all, except in broad daylight,' How could a guy in Alan's profession be so innocent?
He wasn't listening. He was heading for the vehicle, and gaining speed as he got closer.
'You don't abandon a class vehicle like this in a place like the Barrow Wake, Soph. It must be hot.'
There was nothing for it but to follow him, closing the distance between them as fast as possible. 
'It looks pretty cold to me.' This place seemed deserted, but only an idiot would shout. For the last eighteen months, she'd been more alert than ever to the fact there were always eyes to see, and ears to hear. 
'It's unlocked,' he called, already opening the driver's door. He was all enthusiasm and movement until he leaned over the back of the driver's seat. Then he went rigid.
'What is it?'
'You don't want to know, Soph.' 
Pulling the sleeve of his new tracksuit top over his hand, he ran it across every surface he might have touched. That meant only one thing. Big trouble.
'It's a body.'  
Alan's face was corrugated cardboard, but there was no point worrying about details if he was going to be caught in the act. Sophia saw her chance to scare him off for good. Taking him by the arm, she pulled him away from the car. 'Okay. I'll take it from here. Go.'
'I can't leave you on your own—not with this!'
'I'll be fine. You know that. You've got to go. What would it look like, you reporting this before you've clocked in at Brackenridge Central for the first time? They'll think you're a right smart-arse, trying to show them up. And being found with me....get going. Don't look back.' 
She swung him around, and sent him on his way downslope with a satisfying thump between the shoulder blades.

Once past the bland gatekeeper who answered her emergency call, the police were very...nice. Sophia wasn't used to applying that four letter word to the law. She didn't like to spoil the novelty. 
When they arrived to fill the viewpoint with their noise, they wrapped her in a foil sheet and tried to put her in an ambulance. To be shut in something like that was a step too far for Sophia. She agreed to sit on the vehicle's tailboard, but being surrounded by all those chemical smells was horrible. It got worse. A pretty Police Community Service Officer was put on empathy detail. Sophia's brightest smile couldn't shut her up. Then the radio fixed to the woman's shoulder burst into life.  
Sophia exploded with a curse that thinned the officer’s lips. 
'Sorry...but that thing frightened me to death!"
'It's all right, Miss Hope! Don’t worry! You're safe!' When the girl patted her kindly instead of reaching for a charge sheet, Sophia relaxed a fraction.
'And you're in luck, too,.' The PCSO tried a diversion. 'Detective Inspector Joshua Miller is going to be doing your interview. He's gorgeous.'
Sophia’s smile almost turned genuine. This was going to be easy, after all. She knew what handsome men were like. They always kept one eye on their reflection, and the other on their watch. They never let anything get in the way of their next hot date, least of all their work. A few snuffly, indistinct comments to this DI Miller, and she'd be off the hook. 

On a map, the Barrow Wake was barely a mile away from Josh Miller's new home. He would have walked, but the last time he tried that there was trouble.  The press suggested his reluctance to drive was a comment on policing cuts, and Josh was hauled before a committee convened by the Chief Constable.
Today he took his Ducati, just to annoy them all. It wasn't as though the man found dead at the beauty spot would care.
'And neither will any witnesses,' he told his dog. Lucky watched the ritual of Josh strapping on his body armour without comment. 
Leaving Lucky to sleep off his breakfast, Josh rode down into the valley, then powered his motorbike up the torture of Crickley Hill. Sweeping around The Air Balloon pub, he rode the tail of the Cotswold ridge to the Cowley roundabout. Then he took the return stretch as far as the viewpoint, and all at an average speed of exactly seventy mph.
It was as satisfying as walking a Derby winner around the Epsom course. Josh was still scowling as he trickled the Ducati along the lane and into the Barrow Wake parking area. Three police cars, a cat's cradle of incident tape and an ambulance were already in place. With a grimace of distaste he brought the bike to a halt beside the nearest police car. A uniformed officer walked up to meet him. 
'Loey? Shouldn't your shift have finished by now?' 
'I'll be off home in a minute.  I got a lift up here in case I could add anything useful. Fact is, Ratty and I clipped a guy with the patrol car last night.'
Josh took off his crash helmet and dug his fingers through his hair. 'Tell me it wasn't our dead body.'
Loey shrugged. 'Not unless he goes dogging disguised as a Welsh rugby fan.'
That was a relief. Police involvement had a snowball effect on tragedy.  Josh stripped off his gloves, and dropped them into the helmet. 'Is your Welshman going to sue?'
'Dunno. The speed he got away from us, across the road and over the fence opposite, I don't reckon there was much wrong with him.'
'Didn't you stop to find out?'
'Course we did. But on a miserable night, and with us being on call, there was only so much we could do.'
'Write it up as an incident. In full.' Josh gazed pointedly at the sergeant. 
'Already done. Chapter and verse, sir.'
Josh gave a nod of acknowledgement while scanning the confusion of people milling around the parking spot. Some were in uniforms, others in white coveralls. 
'Any witnesses?'
'One. They've got her in the ambulance, sir. '
Josh guessed what was going on back there. The crew were probably still bringing the witness down from hysteria. It was marvellous stuff, that happy gas. 
He lodged his helmet on the Ducati's handlebars, and strolled over to the abandoned Mercedes. 
'Nice car,' he said to the photographer. She moved aside to let him see the nasty secret hidden inside.  
Josh braced himself to see the type of corpse found in places where nothing worse than the thrill of illicit sex took its toll on those old enough to know better. He got a shock. The dead man was fully dressed. He lay on his right side, across the back seat. His knees were drawn up, and he might have been asleep--if it hadn't been for the big and bloody mass where his head should have been. 
This was a shabby, sad discovery, unworthy of a place where Victorian quarry workers once uncovered a priceless Roman burial hoard.
Josh dug his hands into his pockets and stared out over the Severn vale. There were plenty of people here to take notes, measurements and pictures for him. They recorded the facts, in the expectation Josh would find the solution. 
He knew he'd come up with an answer eventually. That was his job. But how anyone could actually bring themselves to take that final, irrevocable decision to strike the killer was something Josh would never understand.
'Miss Hope says she's okay for questions, sir.' Loey announced. 
His voice brought Josh back to the present. 'Who?'
'The witness, sir. She's waiting for you.'
'Okay. I'm on it.' 
Josh stopped at the side of the ambulance to get his thoughts in order. Bodies, he could handle. The first ones he saw made such a hole in his heart, all the ones since then slipped straight through. 
Witnesses were a different matter. Every one he interviewed after an unexplained death left an indelible mark. The tears, the confusion, the incoherent, ever-changing stories. He gritted his teeth and prepared to meet a blotchy-faced dimwit. When he rounded the ambulance, he was ready to trowel on the sympathy. 

Sophia Hope's unbelievable smile made him drop that idea like a clumsy plasterer.

What do you think? To find out more, sign up for my newsletter by joining my mailing list. In the meant time, why not try my current release?

Monday, 21 September 2015

Why Not Try Writing Your Book Backwards?

Pic by A. Litterio
...not literally, of course! Instead of beginning with  blank sheet and typing Chapter One, give your imagination a workout.  Imagine a scene months, or possibly years, in the future. A reader reaches the last page of your book, and closes it with a sigh of satisfaction. Your story was exactly what they wanted.

That's the reaction you're aiming for, whether you write for pleasure or profit.

Buying a book, when there are thousands on offer both in the High Street and online, is a big decision. Reading is an affordable pleasure, but there are piles of treats everywhere. You need some way to ensure it's your book the reader chooses. Cover art and teasing cover copy work their magic, but by homing in on your target audience you can increase your chances of that reader searching out your book in the first place.  Identify your reader, and how and where you can find them is the first step to selling them your story.

What Do You Like To Read?
There are plenty of writers who scour the bestseller lists then churn out formula work that ticks all the boxes but may not result in selling books. Stand out from the crowd by writing from your heart, and you'll appeal to the hearts of your readers. I love the work of writers such a H.E.Bates, T.H. White and Henry Williamson, who all wrote about the natural world. My work is usually set in the countryside, because it's where I live and work. I can (and have) written stories based in cities as I was an office worker for several years, but the work always flows faster when I'm on 'home ground'.

Who Else Reads Your Kind Of Book?
Identifying your market, and developing unique selling point (USP) is vital. Write what you love, but have a picture of your readers in your mind while you work. I've written short stories for The People's Friend magazine, which knows its readership very well. They have specific guidelines, which you can find here. Basically, their readers like satisfying yet unthreatening stories, with happy endings. Contrast that with my current project (working title Love Lies Bleeding) a thriller which opens with the discovery of a murdered Member of Parliament, in which nobody is who they seem, and while the hero and heroine get together in the end, wedding bells aren't going to be ringing for them any time soon.

Who Will Review It?
Reviews, along with word of mouth recommendations, are the perfect way to get your name and book noticed. When there are hundreds of books published every day, that's the name of the game.  Obviously, five star reviews are best, but any grade is good. It means somebody has not only read your book, but they've taken the time to comment on it. From the minute you start writing your book, cast around for reviewers who write about books like yours. Making a list at this early stage means you'll be well ahead of the game when you get a publication date.

Monday, 14 September 2015

This Writing Life: There's A Busy Week Ahead...
Only a short blog today as I’ve got a very busy week ahead. I’m editing my new thriller to a tight deadline, trying to get round to beta reading my friend Lindsay Debout’s second collection of Warming Tales, and on Tuesday there’s  a meeting of my local RNA group to discuss, among other things, our next workshop. 

I hope summer still has a while to run, but my short romance, My Dream Guy, is published tomorrow, Tuesday, 15th September. You can reserve your copy of My Dream Guy from Amazon by clicking on this magical link:

I had some great news a few days ago. Both His Majesty's Secret Passion and Her Royal Risk, the first two books in my Princes of Kharova series for The Wild Rose Press are up for nomination in The Romance Reviews Readers' Choice Awards, Winter 2015.

His Majesty's Secret Passion is my idea of escapist romantic fantasy, with an exhausted businesswoman and a king in disguise finding fun in the sun at a luxurious spa. There's sun, sea and secrets to be discovered in the ultimate in getting away from it all.

Her Royal Risk pits a perfect personal assistant against the boss from hell in a new job that's nobody's idea of heaven. It's only when Krisia and Athan are faced with a disaster they discover working together is a lot more productive than pulling each other apart...and it's pretty romantic, too!

You can find out more about both books by clicking here. I'd be really grateful if you could cast your vote for His Majesty's Secret Passion by clicking here, and for Her Royal Risk, here. Thank you so much! 

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Stuck For A Great Read? Try Please Release Me, By Rhoda Baxter...

On Sale Today! 
Today is the launch of Rhoda Baxter's new book, Please Release Me.  I was ready to blog on the theme of being stuck as it's related to her book, but I didn't realise how apt my choice would be. I couldn't post my blog until just now. In fact, I couldn't do anything online at all. We've had no internet connection all day, so I was well and truly stuck, until Plusnet got their act together and I got back online!

So here, a bit later in the day than usual, is the news about Rhoda's book, Please Release Me...

What if you could only watch as your bright future slipped away from you? 
Sally Cummings has had it tougher than most but, if nothing else, it’s taught her to grab opportunity with both hands. And, when she stands looking into the eyes of her new husband Peter on her perfect wedding day, it seems her life is finally on the up. 

That is until the car crash that puts her in a coma and throws her entire future into question. 

In the following months, a small part of Sally’s consciousness begins to return, allowing her to listen in on the world around her – although she has no way to communicate. 

But Sally was never going to let a little thing like a coma get in the way of her happily ever after … 

To find out more, go to

And now here's my free ramble on the topic of being stuck...

Losing contact with the outside world is a regular thing when you live where we do. We're stuck in the middle of a Gloucestershire wood, and more than half a mile from the main road. March winds, summer storms or heavy winter snowfalls can, and often do, disrupt the power.  When we first moved here, going to bed by candlelight was fun—and who wants to get up early, when you're newly married? When the children were tiny it was even better. We could all be children together, playing snowballs, building snowmen and tobogganing the length of the steep lane which usually connected us with civilisation.

It was when the children started school we discovered the downside to being stuck out in the middle of the countryside, especially in winter. During the Christmas holidays of 2011, a blizzard lasting thirty-six hours presented us with three feet of snow. For the first few days, we were without electricity, broadband, and the landline. It was freezing! We only went outside to feed the hens, top up the bird tables and thaw out their drinking water.

Carving out paths to the bee hives and poultry was fun, but getting back to school after the break wasn't. The bus stop for the school coach is exactly two miles from our house. It's a lovely walk, when you're empty handed and without a deadline. When you're weighed down with school books, gym kit, and sports equipment with the bus arriving at exactly 7:55 on the dot each morning, it was torture. We left home in the pitch dark, to trudge for three-quarters of an hour along barely cleared, and rarely gritted, lanes. Then whichever parent was driving the walking bus had to trudge all the way home again. The one left back at base spent the time making hot chocolate and bacon sandwiches ready for the frozen traveller's  return, which is why neither OH nor I lost any weight during the week we were making all those journeys (worse luck).

Being stuck miles out in the English countryside, especially when you've got no power or telephone coverage could never be called a good thing, but there are advantages. It's so quiet, you don't get distracted by news and the internet, so you can get lots of writing done. And the scenery is amazing!

Monday, 7 September 2015

The Archers—A Habit I Just Can't Kick

Not St Stephen's
I know, each time we poor listeners are subjected to some new outrage I say I'll never listen to The Archers again, but the truth is I can't help myself. As I've explained in previous blogs, two generations of my family listened every day, plus the weekend omnibus. That's all changed. I know lots of people who've given up on it completely. As the series degenerates into Eastenders-On-Am, I can go for weeks at a time without switching on at all. The trouble is, I miss the old-style Archers terribly. It's a true addiction. I dip into online forums and the BBC Blog here to find out if it's worth tuning in again.

It never used to be like this. The Archers began a few years after World War Two, when few people had TVs. The Ministry of Agriculture liked the idea of a radio programme that would be "an agricultural Dick Barton" (think Indiana Jones, with tractors) to inform farmers of best practice while entertaining its listeners. The young, go-ahead Phil Archer tried out things his father frowned on. Comedy and drama spiced it up. The village's old scoundrel, Walter Gabriel, was always cackling at something. His son, the oddly suave and sophisticated Nelson, was a likeable yet slightly shady character. Phil famously lost his first wife Grace in a fire, a fictional tragedy intended to steal the thunder of a real-life TV station's opening night.

You tuned in to The Archers every night to hear about the ups and downs of family life in a believable country setting, with the odd train robbery, pet elephant, and plane crash thrown in now and again for variety.

I've lived in the country nearly all my life, and while times change and the tag line "an everyday story of country folk" was definitely beyond its sell-by date, The Archers is no longer fifteen minutes of escapism. They've shortened the slot, and the programme is now a clone of the snarling, sensational TV soaps I rejected a long time ago.

Okay, so life's not a bowl of cherries but the reason I (and my parents, and my grandparents before them) listened to The Archers was because I cared about the programmes characters, I wanted to hear the baddies get their comeuppance, and yes, I admit it–to laugh at the sometimes silly sound effects. It was fun. It was familiar.

Now all that has changed. First, the wind of Political Correctness swept through The Archers. The Vicar married a Hindu, while Ambridge has been introduced to racists, homophobes and gays, and at one time rivalled the United Nations in its number and variety of accents. Then, the Archers got a new editor.  Sean O'Connor came from TV, and doesn't it show? He's jettisoned old characters and some young ones, with the excuse they haven't been to drama school. The programme is now stuffed with drama school alumni who all (with the exception of Daisy Badger, who is unique) sound exactly the same. This really, really doesn't work on radio. We have no visual clues to help us sort out who is speaking to whom.

Reflecting the country's changing attitudes and population is a good thing. The problem for me is that concepts in The Archers are now introduced for the sake of it, with no reference to past characterisation, or future story development. For example: Shula Archer is a middle-aged pillar of the community, businesswoman, churchwarden and all-round goody-goody. She witnessed a relative's partner, Rob, commit a violent assault, then lied to the police about what she saw. That's something St Shula would never do in this story universe. Something she definitely would do is confide in her family about Rob's violent temper. This hasn't happened. People in real villages talk to each other. Rob the thug's card would have been marked out of existence a long time ago. Instead he's become a pantomime villain, while his first wife, the sainted Jess, has vanished. The nice, respectable woman who was liked by the whole village has been written out. She's never spoken about by the villagers any more. That's highly unlikely, considering how they were all such friends. Worse, Jess was apparently always a drunken slapper, according to the latest scripts. Wrong! Lady Muck Jennifer has a radar for that sort of thing. She would NEVER have let Brian within a mile of Jess if that was the case.

Kenton Archer has been bailed out by his family on lots of occasions. Expecting a windfall from the sale of his brother's farm, he maxed out on credit cards. So far, so typical. He's always been an idiot. When the sale fell through (another gripe—the scriptwriters now treat us as the idiots. How many listeners thought Brookfield Farm really would be sold, and David would move away? None, that's how many.) Real Kenton would have found a pressing need to visit his daughter on the other side of the world. Instead, he stays and slips into drinking and depression. That could well happen in real life, I agree. What I can't understand is why his wife, Jolene, craves his approval for the financial help she's getting from his family to bail out the business left to her by her husband? Jolene's a tough, sensible woman. She'd accept the money, save her business, and get help for Kenton. And that's another thing—only months ago Ruth Archer was crying over the size of an electricity bill. Since then, her family has had to pony up the dough for all sorts of expenses surrounding the failed sale of Brookfield, petrol, and temporary help while Ruth drives long distances to visit her mother. Now they can afford to hand over thousands of pounds to bail out Kenton, again. The rainbow after the Ambridge flood obviously had both ends on Brookfield land, with a crock of gold deposited at each one.
Go Wild In The Country!
The only reason I listen to The Archers now is if I get a hint that the evil Rob is going to get found out. As a survivor of mental abuse I'm horribly familiar with what's happening to Helen but to be honest, they've turned Rob into such a pantomime villain the storyline is ridiculous. It's the people you least suspect who get away with DV for the longest time. Rob's been fiddling the meg-dairy's computer, threatening blackmail, and he walked out on his job "on a whim". To take just one of those complaints, a huge enterprise like Berrow Farm would have a dedicated IT team. You don't rely on mucky fingered non-experts keying in info, as and when. You pay people who know all about it, and do it all day—properly.

The Archers used to have an agricultural advisor. I think they must have been abandoned somewhere, along with the archives and character sheets!

Have you been listening to The Archers for a long time, or are you a recent recruit? Are you enjoying the new-style Archers?

In other news, my own everyday story of city folk fooling about and (eventually) going wild in the country, My Dream Guy, is released on 15th September. You can order your copy here.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Romance In The Rain—My Dream Guy

Go Wild In The Country!
How do you fancy a short burst of fun at the end of this washout of a summer? I've got the perfect antidote for your back-to-work blues.

Here in Gloucestershire we had a miserable spring and early summer, followed by the hottest, driest July on record. 

Luckily for the wildlife (but not so good if you like life outdoors), all that sunshine was followed by a dismal, wet August. With the barbecues in storage, why not splash out on an affordable treat—my next release? 

My latest short romance, My Dream Guy, was inspired by a holiday booked by my husband a few years ago. I thought it was going to be glorified camping, which we'd got out of our systems in the years BC—Before Children. 

It was fun, but the idea of roughing it with a baby on board made me dread a week stuck in the middle of nowhere. 
Emily, the heroine of My Dream Guy, doesn't have any children to worry about. She's only twenty-three, with a job she likes, and a gorgeous boyfriend in the shape of Jack Wright, but the sparkle has gone out of their romance. 

When Jack books them into a Welsh campsite during the wettest summer on record, it’s nearly the last straw for poor Emily. Like her friend Grace, she's a soft beds and sushi kind of girl.

Emily thinks the bronzed farmer who was her teenage crush is going to be the best thing about this dreaded holiday. But time has moved on. Feinwen Farm isn't the place she remembered.  Hunky Harri might be twice the man he was, but he's not the only one who's full of surprises!

Will Emily’s holiday from hell turn out to have a happy ending, too? 
You can find out more here.

The real-life holiday I was dreading turned out to be great fun. The minute I discovered we'd be staying in a lovely chalet with all mod. cons (including a hot tub!) I was hooked. From an open fire to  swimming under the stars, our holiday had it all. 

What's your best holiday memory? There's a free copy of My Dream Guy on offer for a comment picked at random on Saturday, 10th September. 

Monday, 24 August 2015

5 Top Tips For Writing With Scrivener

Scrivener's not simply a word processing package, it's a project management tool for writers. It allows you to store all your research, ideas, images and metadata in one place—the same place you're creating your manuscript. It saves you from drowning in a sea of notes made on the backs of envelopes, or in half a dozen different notebooks (if you can find them). When your book is finished, Scrivener can export it in any number of forms, including compiled and ready for publishing online.

Once you can navigate the Scrivener system it's brilliant, but to begin with it can be daunting. You can find out more about the possible downside here, but now I've been working with Scrivener for a while these are my top tips:

1. There's no substitute for diving in and tinkering. Use the free trial facility available from Literature and Latte. Press all the buttons, switch from view to view, drag and drop, and try out various forms of compilation to create different types of document for publication or upload. You can customise the system, so that each time you start a new project the fonts and formatting are exactly as you want them. Take your time to become familiar with the whole Scrivener experience. It's lovely to open a new project and start typing, knowing you're free to work without having to fight the system. Which leads me to...

2. Never try to learn a new system such as Scrivener when you're working to a deadline. Learn first, write later. Or write using your normal word processor (regularly saving to flash drives or the cloud, of course) then import it into the Scrivener project where you store all your research and ideas. I did this when I was working on my latest short romance, My Dream Guy. I wrote the first draft in a single document, using Pages for Mac. Instead of giving each chapter a title, I put a hashtag (#) at the end of each one. When imported into Scrivener, the system automatically created a new file for each chapter.  After editing my work in Scrivener, all I needed to do to format it ready for publication was hit Scrivener's "compile" button and—bingo! One ready-formatted manuscript, ready to go. 
3. RTFM—Read The Flaming* Manual, which in Scrivener's case rather handily shows up each time you open the package. It's there, along with interactive and video tutorials, visible on the front page, and for a reason. Use it. The video tutorials provided by Literature and Latte are great if you're a visual learner—the type of person who needs to see things done, rather than simply having them explained in words.

4. Scrivener For Dummies, written by Scrivener Wizard Gwen Hernandez is an invaluable book, although in common with every other trouble-shooting system for computing I've used, if you don't know why you're stuck, it won't be much help. You need to know the exact questions to ask the index, and the terms to use. I found fiddling about free-form (see Tip 1, above) and then cross-referencing the effect I achieved with this book was a great way to learn. I've always got my copy within reach. As a result, it's covered with notes, and remnants of those two vital components of a writer's life, tea and cake. Gwen Hernandez also has a Scrivener Corner on her website, with loads of useful tips (and no cake crumbs). You can find that here.

5. If all else fails, type your question into a search engine. You'll be amazed how many articles and YouTube videos have been produced by enthusiasts. A word of warning: because these people are enthusiasts, you may find the instructors go too fast, or skip over exactly the details you need to know. More than one of these personable geniuses uses the phrase  "you'll know how to do that already...." about the precise part of the process you want explained. The screenshots these video artistes use are often tiny and indistinct, too, so use these only if you've got 20/20 vision, a degree in mind-reading, and you're willing to take a chance.

Have you tried working with Scrivener? What's your favourite tip?

* other words beginning with F are available...