The Writing Process

DSCN3955Thanks to Zanna Mackenzie for tagging me in The Writing Process Blog Hop. Read about Zanna’s writing process here.

At the end I’ll be tagging a few other authors, so please do follow those links to their blogs and interviews.

Click on any of the book covers below to purchase them or go to my webiste at


What am I currently working on?

I’ve just finished a new YA novel, and now I’m writing a screenplay. This is an adaptation of somebody else’s novel, which is a new thing for me. It allows me to view the source material objectively and add my own interpretation. I’m working closely with the author, so she’ll let me know if I’m way off-beam. Adapting, as opposed to creating, is a different (but fun) activity, requiring a sense of self-discipline (as opposed to self-flagellation).

Igboland cover6

What makes my writing disctinctive?

I have books published in a number of genres, which is both good and bad. In artistic terms, I like to work in a variety of styles. I’ve written horror and slipstream stories; young adult fiction; romantic and contemporary novels, and non-fiction.  The reason why this might be bad is that it makes marketing my work very complicated. Perhaps I’d do better just to stick with one genre? On the other hand, I like to try my hand at different projects.

Treading on Dreams by Jeff Gardiner - 1800-300dpi

Why do I write what I write?

Because I have to is the annoying and elusive answer. Writing has me by the throat now and won’t let go. The creative process is the most inspiring feeling. When I’m in the middle of something I get a kind of tunnel-vision, which is difficult to break from. It could be a form of self-indulgence, but I feel I understand that old cliche of being ‘in the zone’. It’s a great place to visit…


How does the writing process work?

I’ve been lucky enough to work part-time (as in a real job) for a few years now, so I have had two days a week to concentrate on my writing. Going part-time was like being given the gift of time. I think I used it well – although procrastination and distractions were always there to tempt me. I have four books published with two more to be released later this year, and two others completed, so I think I’m relatively prolific.

I also have a young(ish) family who are my pride and joy. Balancing my time between family, day-job and writing has been a struggle. I want to spend time with my kids, and when I don’t I feel guilty, so that’s something I’ve had to work on and improve. It means evenings and those few hours when the children are at clubs (dancing, gymnastics, Brownies) that I can steal some time to write.

A typical writing day will involve me taking the kids to school, then answering emails and doing some marketing on social network sites (something else I need to improve on). Once those admin-type tasks are done then I can settle in to the writing. If I’m in the middle of something I’ll check through what I did yesterday and then plan the next section before getting my head down. I don’t stick rigidly to word counts but 1000 words a day would be a basic minimum.  Then just before 3 o’clock I walk up the road to collect my kids.

ML Jeff2

What next?

I’ll continue to write novels (particularly YA) and am hoping to find success with screenplays too. I have lots and lots of plans and notes and scribblings and dreams. My big news is that I am able to give up the day job (for a while anyway) so the gift of more time has been granted to me. Now I must resist the urge to waste that time … (perhaps self-flagellation is the answer?)

A Glimpse of the Numinous

And now I’d like to tag the following authors. Please visit their blogs to read about their writing processes:

Ailsa Abraham

Sarah Louise Smith

Kemberlee Shortland:

IGBOLAND: what the reviews are saying

Igboland cover5

  • “enchanting, heartbreaking and uplifting.”
  • “A riveting read.”
  • “a tender portrayal of change and growth… Poignant, yet uplifting, this novel opens the mind to ourselves and the world beyond.”
  • “An immensely worthwhile read.”
  • “difficult themes are handled skilfully and sensitively … thought provoking.”
  • An, interesting and engrossing read.”
  • “a cracking tale that would translate to the medium of film extremely well.”


Click here to buy Igboland
Click here to buy Igboland



A new life begins for her thousands of miles from home.

Lydia and Clem Davie arrive in an Igbo village in Nigeria in July 1967 just as civil war breaks out, but Lydia has trouble adjusting to life in West Africa: a place so unfamiliar and far away from everything she truly understands.

Initially, most of the locals are welcoming and friendly, until one or two begin a frightening campaign of anti-white protests.

Lydia’s life is changed irrevocably after she meets enigmatic Igbo doctor, Kwemto, and war victim, Grace. Through them Lydia learns about independence, passion and personal identity.

Conflict and romance create emotional highs and lows for Lydia, whose marriage and personal beliefs slowly begin to crumble.

Will this house in a Nigerian bush village ever seem like home?




Miriam Drori: Life-changing decisions

IIMG_0569-20%‘d like to welcome Miriam Drori to my blog. Her novel, Neither Here Nor There, is the intriguing story of Esty who is transformed by decisions related to love and personal identity. It is set in both London and Jerusalem. Please follow the links at the end for more information, and to purchase her book. I’ll hand over to Miriam now for more detail and context.


The trouble with making a life-changing decision is that there’s no way back. In some cases, you might think there is, but after going through that big change, you’re not the same person you were and so an attempt to return to your former life is unlikely to work.

When Esty, the heroine of Neither Here Nor There, decides to leave her closed, haredi community in Jerusalem, she knows there’s no way back. She knows it will change her relationship with her parents, siblings and everyone she has ever known. But, with the confidence of youth, she’s sure she’s made the right decision and things will turn out well. She has no inkling of problems she will face – problems that will cause her to doubt her decision so much that she almost loses her mind over it.

Jerusalem Post Office - where Esty visits in 'NHNT'
Jerusalem Post Office – where Esty visits in ‘NHNT’


I have made life-changing decisions, too. Now I can look back and appraise them, but I can’t undo them. The move to Israel and my marriage were definitely good decisions. I’m still here and still married, and I’m happy. At age fourteen, however, I made a bad decision to stop talking in order to diminish the bullying. I didn’t even know it would be life-changing, but I’ve spent the rest of my life trying to reverse it and only partly succeeded.

How about you? Have you made life-changing decisions? Did they turn out to be good decisions or do you regret them? I’d love to hear about them, either here or on my blog:



Miriam Drori was born and brought up in London, and now lives in Jerusalem where she single-handedly demonstrates female superiority against three males, now that her daughter has left home.

Following careers as a computer programmer and a technical writer, Miriam has been writing creatively for the past ten years and has had short stories published online and in anthologies. Neither Here Nor There is her first published novel.

Miriam began writing in order to raise awareness of social anxiety. Since then the scope of her writing has widened, but she hasn’t lost sight of her original goal.


My website:

Neither Here Nor There is available from:

Crooked Cat Books:


Amazon UK:

And elsewhere.



Treading On Dreams – What do the Reviews Say?

  • “The journey is intriguing and Jeff Gardiner depicts it with adept skill … an engaging, fast-paced story that defies prediction and yet has enough intrigue and romance to totally thrill every reader.”

Treading on Dreams by Jeff Gardiner - 1800-300dpi

  • “delicious characters and surprising twists”


  • “a myriad of emotions going on …This was a wonderful book and I was sad to see it end.”


    • “From page one, readers will be pulled into Donny’s story, and follow him down a deep hole of emotional despair and longing for a woman he loves…”



  • “delightful book”


  • “An excellent story and difficult to put down.”







Donny is obsessed with his housemate, Selena – but his love is unrequited. He enthusiastically accepts her willing friendship, which only fuels his deepening fantasies.

Jaz is their crazy landlord who likes sleeping with women – lots of them. He takes pleasure in educating the once innocent Donny in the hedonistic pleasures of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. It blows Donny’s mind.

Selena is engaged to Melvin – the perfect man – but is also keen to befriend the ever-demanding Donny … until she falls pregnant and her wedding looms.

Donny expresses his true feelings at the wedding, causing mayhem and anger. But there remains a chink of hope: perhaps Selena’s marriage to Melvin is not quite as perfect as it seems.


Interview with Lorraine Mace / Frances di Plino

Lorraine Mace, Frances di PlinoI’m excited and honoured to welcome Lorraine Mace, talented author of both crime fiction for adults and children’s books. You might also know her as Frances di Plino. I’ll let Lorraine explain things in her own wonderful way. I’m also delighted to add that there is an extract from Vlad the Inhaler after the interview. Please see the links below for more information and click on the covers to purchase the books.

What are the main ideas or themes in your book?

Writing as Lorraine Mace, I am a children’s author and my debut novel, Vlad the Inhaler deals with some of the issues that many children face on a daily basis. My main character is different and of mixed blood – being half human and half vampire. He doesn’t fit into either species because he is a hupyre (pronounced hew-pire). To add to his woes, he is asthmatic, vegetarian, can’t turn into a bat and is scared of the dark. He is viciously bullied by his bigger full vampire cousins and is an unlikely hero. However, it is down to him to save everyone else from a reign of terror.

As Frances di Plino, I write crime and in my novels I try to get into the heads of those committing crimes, as well as those trying to put them behind bars. I firmly believe no one is all good or all bad, so want my characters to show that complexity. In every villain there is a nugget of humanity and in every ‘good guy’ there are aspects of the villain. We all have things in our lives we wish we hadn’t done, for whatever reason, and hope no one will find out about. I want my characters to have multi-layered personalities – good and bad.

Tell us more about the main characters and their dilemmas.

I’ve explained Vlad above, so will concentrate here on the main character in my crime novels. Paolo Storey’s father was Scottish and his mother Italian. He is fiercely on the side of the underdog and believes in justice above all things. He lost one of his daughters in a hit and run attack meant for him and cannot forgive himself for it. He is very close to his remaining daughter and on (just about) speaking terms with his ex-wife. He’s intelligent, kind-hearted, and I’m more than a little in love with him.

Why did you write Vlad the Inhaler? Any other issues or ‘big ideas’ behind it.

I was bullied very badly at school and know how it feels to be the outsider who doesn’t really fit in. I wanted to take that feeling and make the child in me deal with those problems in a way I couldn’t at the time. I decided to use a fantasy character because I wanted my young readers to enjoy the story and not feel they were being instructed in any way. The children who have read Vlad seem to love the story. When I did a reading recently, before I began, I explained all Vlad’s problems and I was delighted when one of the children put up her hand and said: he’s just like us!

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00016]

How do you go about writing a novel? Is it a simple or complex process?

It’s a simple process in that I set word count targets for each day, week and month until the first draft is complete. The complex part is convincing myself to knuckle down and write the words I can hear so clearly in my head. I generally start out with the full plot already formed and have to break it down into manageable scenes so that it makes sense. I tend to come up with the main idea fully formed: knowing who does what, why they do it and how the book will end. That’s the easy part. Fleshing out the characters, adding in subplots and layers is the complex part.

I’ve now had three crime novels and one children’s book published, so I must be doing something right!

What advice do you have for less experienced writers?

Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite until you cannot bear to look at the manuscript – and then rewrite again.

What are you working on next?

I’ve just had the second in my children’s trilogy accepted by my USA publisher, so it’s time to switch back to the slightly scarier Frances di Plino persona and finish the fourth in the D.I. Paolo Storey series, Looking for a Reason.

Paolo three

If you could leave a message to the world, what would it be?

We need to invent a troll decontaminator. Trolls infect so much of our online lives, looking for victims to attack for no other purpose than to make someone’s life miserable. I’d love scientists to come up with an electronic zapper that turned trolls into decent human beings.

What would your perfect day be?

An entire day reading at the side of the pool, diving in for refreshing swims when the sun gets too hot. Meals and drinks brought to me by an otherwise invisible attendant. No work, no phone, no distractions, just a full day of me time. I’ve never had one, so if you could wave a wand and arrange for it to take place, I would be forever in your debt.

Name a book or a film that means a lot to you.

Cinema Paradiso – I first saw it twenty-odd years ago, but even after all this time, the theme and storyline still move me to tears.

Thanks Lorraine. I can thoroughly recommend the DI Paolo Storey series to anyone who loves crime fiction with a dark edge, and I’m looking forward to reading the brilliantly titled Vlad the Inhaler. Good luck with all future writing projects, Lorraine.

Lorraine Mace is the humour columnist for Writing Magazine and a competition judge for Writers’ Forum. She is a former tutor for the Writers Bureau, and is the author of the Writers Bureau course, Marketing Your Book. She is also co-author, with Maureen Vincent-Northam of The Writer’s ABC Checklist (Accent Press). Lorraine runs a private critique service for writers (link below). She is the founder of the Flash 500 competitions covering flash fiction, humour verse and novel openings.

Her debut novel for children, Vlad the Inhaler, was published in the USA on 2nd April 2014.

Writing as Frances di Plino,she is the author of the crime/thriller series featuring Detective Inspector Paolo Storey: Bad Moon Rising, Someday Never Comes and Call It Pretending.

Writing Critique Service

Frances di Plino

For anyone interested, here is the opening scene from Vlad the Inhaler, aimed at 8-12 year olds.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00016]

Vlad had never known such hunger. Weak with longing, he was driven insane by the smell of the ripe flesh he held in his shaking hands. He let his fangs pierce the soft downy skin and sank to his knees. Nothing had ever tasted as wonderful as this; knowing it was forbidden added to the sensation. He closed his eyes and bit deeper, filling his mouth with the sweet fluid.

The bedroom door flew open, hitting the stone wall with such force windows rattled, spiders scuttled back to their cobwebs and half the candles blew out.

Aunt Valentyna towered above him, red eyes glaring, jet black hair standing on end, and ruby lips curled into a snarl.

“I knew it!” she thundered. “I knew you were doing something disgusting. What exactly are you eating, you repulsive excuse for a child?”

Vlad choked and dropped his feast, splattering flesh on the flagstone floor.

“Well, I’m waiting. What is that?” his aunt demanded, touching the half-eaten peach with the pointed toe of her shoe before reaching down to pick it up.

Vlad could feel the juice dripping from his chin and wished he’d eaten faster. His stomach ached. In the last four days he’d only had an apple and a banana. The peach was the last of his human food. He flinched as she grabbed him by the collar. Although he kicked and wriggled, she lifted him with one hand as if he weighed no more than a bat’s wing.

“Can’t fly, can’t drink blood, and can’t even breathe half the time. No wonder your parents hid you away. Imagine the disgrace of bringing a hupyre into the family. What a pathetic specimen you are. I’d have had you put down at birth.” She threw the remains of the peach out of the window. “Well, you disgusting half-breed, what was that revolting object?”

Vlad tried to answer, but it felt as though someone had stuffed cotton wool down his throat. He couldn’t drag his eyes from the points of her fangs. Tears of frustration slid down his face. Gasping, he tried again.

“P … p … p …”

“What? What did you say?”

“P … p … peach.”

“Disgusting,” she said, and flung him across the room.

Thudding against his bed, he scrambled round to face her. Looking up at his furious aunt, he tried to control his wheezing. Desperately, he struggled to breathe out. His mouth opened and closed, but he couldn’t drag any air into his swollen lungs. The more he panicked, the harder it was to breathe.

“Stop making that pathetic noise, right now! How many times do I have to tell you that vampires don’t get asthma? Where did you get that … that thing?” she demanded. “If it was one of the servants …”

Valentyna left the sentence unfinished, but Vlad knew what she meant and shivered. The last servant who’d tried to help him had joined the family for a feast. As the main course.

“C … c … cupboard. Hid … fruit … there.”

She yanked open the wardrobe door and dragged everything out. Clothes flew across the room and landed in a heap on the floor.

“If I find so much as a mouldy grape, out the window it goes, and you’ll go with it. A disgrace to the vampire heritage, that’s what you are. What’s wrong with normal food?” she scolded, snatching up the glass of congealed blood from his bedside table.

As she waved it under his nose the thick sludge broke through the skin that had formed on top and Vlad’s stomach heaved.

“You’ve let this get cold. What a waste of fine food. I’m going to bring some fresh blood and stand over you until every drop has gone.”

She raised her hand and leant forward, sneering. Her long, curved incisors gleamed in the candlelight. Vlad shrank back, hands over his head waiting for the slap. But it didn’t come. Valentyna laughed and slammed the door as she left.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00016]

Tagged on a Blog Hop

Thanks to fellow Crooked Cat writer, Carol Hedges, author of Victorian crime novel, ‘Diamonds and Dust’, for tagging me on this Blog Hop. At the end of this interview I will be tagging another brilliant author, Catriona King, whose DCI Craig detective thrillers are a must-read.

What am I working on?

Following on from ‘Myopia’, I am currently working on two more YA novels. One contains fantasy elements, although it’s set in the real world; slipstream fiction is the best description. This novel explores universal issues and themes. The other novel that I’ve finished uses football as a subject to examine themes such as bullying and family. It has a grandfather/grandson relationship, and involves some pathos but is ultimately uplifting. The message is something along the lines of: ‘Never give up. Stay focussed and determined if you hope to realise your potential’.

myopia cover 1

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My YA novels involve a good deal of realism. As a teacher for over twenty years, I feel I can write about school and teenagers with a great deal of realism. My other novels are more adult-orientated. ‘Treading On Dreams’ is a coming of age tale about obsession and unrequited love; ‘Igboland’ is the story of Lydia, an English woman living in West Africa during the Biafran War. Her own marriage and faith are beginning to crumble when she meets Igbo doctor, Kwemto, and learns a great deal about herself.

My fiction stretches across genre boundaries, breaks a few rules and expectations. I tend to believe in good writing whatever the genre, rather than sticking to one type of narrative or setting. My short story collection, ‘A Glimpse of the Numinous’, is a booksellers’ nightmare as it contains horror, humour and romance.

Glimpse of the Numinous Prototype

Why do I write what I do?

I write because my head is full of stories and images that need an outlet, other than through me losing my marbles. Sometimes writing is a cathartic experience. ‘Igboland’ came out of my sentimental attachment to the country of my birth: Nigeria. ‘Myopia’ was a response to seeing the effects of bullying on sensitive students. ‘Treading On Dreams’ began as a narrative about a man who is overly sensitive and naive: traits not usually associated with being masculine. I write horror, humour and romance because people are not just one thing, but are complex beings full of hope, anger, light and shade.

Treading on Dreams by Jeff Gardiner - 1800-300dpi

How does your writing process work?

In practical terms I write two days a week, around my part-time job, and when I can find time. I also have kids, so it’s hard balancing all three aspects of my life.

Once I have a project on the go I am very focussed, and on a good day with few distractions, I can write 2000 words. Being a writer does not just involve writing, though. Marketing and publicity is an important aspect that takes up a huge amount of time – something non-writers might not fully appreciate.

I love the creativity of writing, but I also enjoy the discipline of editing and improving my work. That’s a skill which goes hand-in-hand with the creative process.

Igboland cover5

Now I’d like to tag Catriona King. The 6th book in her DCI Craig series, ‘The Slowest Cut’ is just out.

News about my novels, short stories and non-fiction.


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