How to Write a Book Synopsis That Stands Out

You’ve written your book but what to do next? Well of course, it needs to be published but how? You decide to approach an agent or a publisher, and after reviewing their submission guidelines you see they want a full synopsis and a few sample chapters of your book!
An author creating a book synopsis is a lot like a marketing writer having to put an advertisement or online landing page together. Both messages are usually short, sweet, and designed to instigate interest and hopefully, some action in the reader. But where new authors tend to fall down is in knowing their audience.

Let’s talk about a synopsis in the strictest sense. In other words, a complete, condensed insight of your story. Image it as being a snapshot of your book. Perhaps a trailer you’d watch if your novel were a movie, except in this case, the ending is revealed. And the intended audience?

Prospective agents and/or publishers.

When preparing a synopsis for these prospects, lots of authors think they need to leave the reader with a cliff-hanger. Keeping them in suspense! After all, this is about getting them excited and willing to take the next step. Right? Wrong.

Actually, the reality is totally different, as no-one is going to financially back a piece of work if they don’t know how it ends. So, what are the nuts and bolts of preparing a synopsis that is likely to grasp the interest of those on the business side of publishing?

Step 1: Creating a strong synopsis might give you some surprises. You should in theory do it before you write the book. What I hear you saying. But yes, it’s true. Writing the synopsis before you begin isn’t technically writing a synopsis – it’s creating a rough outline of what is going to happen, but it can form the basis of what is required to explain what your story is all about.

Few publishers are interested in helping you bring an idea to market (unless you’re already signed to a multi-book contract). They are looking for a finished product they can bring to the market, so you should be offering them something that has shape and which allows them to do it quickly.
Step 2:  Always follow correct synopsis formatting. You can rarely go wrong by using the standard manuscript format. A caveat there, however, is to always keep an eye on the publisher/agent’s specific demands. If they ask for something different in their guidelines, then that will beat any standard conventions for the industry.

Step 3: Make sure you write in the third person, using present tense, and regardless of what *POV or tense the book is written in. Also, put the first occurrence of each character’s name in CAPS so they can easily be picked out as the reader skims down the page.

Step 4: Moving on to content. The meat of your submission. Firstly, reduce the beginning of the book down to just a couple of sentences. Remember, you have pages and pages where you have introduced characters, settings, and conflict in the actual novel.

What you need to do is pick out what’s essential and present only the bare facts. Don’t go for atmospheric vagueness more a concrete foundation for the reader. You’ve reached a pure business stage in communication between publisher and writer, and your synopsis is a functional outlay of your story’s plot. It isn’t the blurb on the back of your book, and therefore isn’t meant to act as an end-user sales piece. Teasing the twists and turns and speaking directly to the reader aren’t techniques that fit in well here.

Stick to a direct and professional method of revealing your story’s structure. And, leave out any details or subplots that aren’t essential to the main narrative(s). Focus more on chapters than individual scenes. This is a concise breakdown of your story. Often no longer than 800 words but sometimes even less. So, always keep in mind that you are providing an overview rather than a blow-by-blow account.

Step 5: Read your synopsis through once more with your eye on character arcs, and make sure you’ve included your protagonist’s journey from the person they were at the beginning to who they become at the end. This is where you’re most likely to realise you’ve accidentally created a plot hole by omission. Show off your protagonist’s goals and actions, and your villain’s counter-actions. Look for defining moments in your characters’ journeys, and highlight how they change the course of the narrative.

When you’re done with that, read it through again for clarity, flow and rhythm, and then just one last time for spelling and grammar. You’ll probably be sick of reading it over by this point!

Trim as many words as you can. Use descriptive phrases sparingly, and choose words that carry a lot of weight instead of packing your synopsis with fluffy fillers.

In the end, you’re likely to have roughly a page to a page and a half of writing. A hard-fought distillation of your entire novel, ready to hit the desk of an agent or publisher with professional, no-nonsense aplomb. And, if it’s got to be shorter then you need to start cutting.
To help you why not try and write a synopsis of a book you’ve recently read and see if you can match the storyline? Remember, perfection comes with practice.

*POV - Point of View

How to Write a Book Synopsis That Stands Out

You’ve written your book but what to do next? Well of course, it needs to be published but how? You decide to approach an agent or a publisher, and after reviewing their submission guidelines you see they want a full synopsis and a few sample chapters of your book!
An author creating a book synopsis is a lot like a marketing writer having to put an advertisement or online landing page together. Both messages are usually short, sweet, and designed to instigate interest and hopefully, some action in the reader. But where new authors tend to fall down is in knowing their audience.

Let’s talk about a synopsis in the strictest sense. In other words, a complete, condensed insight of your story. Image it as being a snapshot of your book. Perhaps a trailer you’d watch if your novel were a movie, except in this case, the ending is revealed. And the intended audience?

Prospective agents and/or publishers.

When preparing a synopsis for these prospects, lots of authors think they need to leave the reader with a cliff-hanger. Keeping them in suspense! After all, this is about getting them excited and willing to take the next step. Right? Wrong.

Actually, the reality is totally different, as no-one is going to financially back a piece of work if they don’t know how it ends. So, what are the nuts and bolts of preparing a synopsis that is likely to grasp the interest of those on the business side of publishing?

Step 1: Creating a strong synopsis might give you some surprises. You should in theory do it before you write the book. What I hear you saying. But yes, it’s true. Writing the synopsis before you begin isn’t technically writing a synopsis – it’s creating a rough outline of what is going to happen, but it can form the basis of what is required to explain what your story is all about.

Few publishers are interested in helping you bring an idea to market (unless you’re already signed to a multi-book contract). They are looking for a finished product they can bring to the market, so you should be offering them something that has shape and which allows them to do it quickly.

Step 2:  Always follow correct synopsis formatting. You can rarely go wrong by using the standard manuscript format. A caveat there, however, is to always keep an eye on the publisher/agent’s specific demands. If they ask for something different in their guidelines, then that will beat any standard conventions for the industry.

Step 3: Make sure you write in the third person, using present tense, and regardless of what *POV or tense the book is written in. Also, put the first occurrence of each character’s name in CAPS so they can easily be picked out as the reader skims down the page.

Step 4: Moving on to content. The meat of your submission. Firstly, reduce the beginning of the book down to just a couple of sentences. Remember, you have pages and pages where you have introduced characters, settings, and conflict in the actual novel. What you need to do is pick out what’s essential and present only the bare facts. Don’t go for atmospheric vagueness more a concrete foundation for the reader. You’ve reached a pure business stage in communication between publisher and writer, and your synopsis is a functional outlay of your story’s plot. It isn’t the blurb on the back of your book, and therefore isn’t meant to act as an end-user sales piece. Teasing the twists and turns and speaking directly to the reader aren’t techniques that fit in well here.

Stick to a direct and professional method of revealing your story’s structure. And, leave out any details or subplots that aren’t essential to the main narrative(s). Focus more on chapters than individual scenes. This is a concise breakdown of your story. Often no longer than 800 words but sometimes even less. So, always keep in mind that you are providing an overview rather than a blow-by-blow account.

Step 5: Read your synopsis through once more with your eye on character arcs, and make sure you’ve included your protagonist’s journey from the person they were at the beginning to who they become at the end. This is where you’re most likely to realise you’ve accidentally created a plot hole by omission. Show off your protagonist’s goals and actions, and your villain’s counter-actions. Look for defining moments in your characters’ journeys, and highlight how they change the course of the narrative.

When you’re done with that, read it through again for clarity, flow and rhythm, and then just one last time for spelling and grammar. You’ll probably be sick of reading it over by this point!

Trim as many words as you can. Use descriptive phrases sparingly, and choose words that carry a lot of weight instead of packing your synopsis with fluffy fillers.

In the end, you’re likely to have roughly a page to a page and a half of writing. A hard-fought distillation of your entire novel, ready to hit the desk of an agent or publisher with professional, no-nonsense aplomb. And, if it’s got to be shorter then you need to start cutting.

To help you why not try and write a synopsis of a book you’ve recently read and see if you can match the storyline? Remember, perfection comes with practice.

*POV - Point of View

WHAT IS A 'PALKANA'?

It is surprising how one can travel to the other side of the world only to find oneself sitting next to someone who actually lives not far away from you. This proves the world isn’t as large a place as we think. And can also often lead to interesting conversations. Travel is also an adventure which will open one’s mind to many new and exciting experiences. And, in truth, as long as you don’t look with your ‘eyes,’ (ie your prejudices or ideas) then it will.

As an author you can benefit from the joys of travel as it will give you the basics for your writing. It can generate new ideas, scenarios, characters, plots etc. Each adventure is a new story, or part thereof, in the making. As the author you are in control. Make of it what you will.

Recently I spent some time with my family in Australia. If you’ve never been ‘down under’ then let me tell you, like most places anywhere in the world they have some of the most unusual names for things. Particularly when it comes to naming their towns and villages. Perhaps it’s something to do with their Aboriginal heritage. Think of ‘Palkana’ or ‘Yileen.’ Most unusual.

While out driving my daughter and I began to put the names of the places we passed against the characters of different animals. The intention being that I could use these in one of my future Little Friends children’s story books. We even discussed what each animals’ individual characteristic feature would be. The exercise proved not only to be a lot of fun but also quite informative. It just goes to show that inspiration for writing can come in many formats and from a variety of ways.

So, remember, whenever you get stuck and need some new ideas for your writing, stop, look around and observe what is happening in the world around you. It may surprise you what is happening and how it will inspire you to write.

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HOW LIFE AFFECTS AN AUTHOR

I recently attended a workshop about writing for young people - MG and YA groups.One of the subjects raised was how to incorporate the actions of youngsters (or indeed anyone) who write about their feelings on social media.
This of course, led to quite a  discussion. Strangely, a long-distance friend (met through social media) had recently asked for opinions regarding the behaviour of her daughter’s friend. In a nutshell this friend had written something about the daughter which was only half truth. She had also slanted it to put herself in the position of being the ‘victim,’ even though there had been independent witnesses to the contrary. As expected both the daughter and the mother were upset. However, they didn’t want to ‘lower’ themselves to the same level by reacting hastily and responding in kind.
As you can imagine there was a lengthy and contrary discussion over the matter resulting in the majority agreeing on the sort of advice we, as group, would have give the Mother. Our comment was that the daughter should ignore the comments even though it was hurtful as her friend was only showing her true colours by lashing out. Many believed the girl was so wrapped up in the belief of her own hurt (rightly ot wrongly) that she has failed to see the wrong she has done to her friend.
It was also felt that the girl was showing how immature she is as she is unprepared or incapable of discussing the problem face on. We hoped she would see the damage she has done before it is too late as she will obviously lose the friendship. This led us on to discussing the harm that social media does to our young people. But some commented how it also shows how immature they are.
Our discussions went further as we discussed the ways in which we could utilise our writing skills in teaching young people through our stories not to be so judgemental without good cause. It goes to show how life can affect what we authors write about. And of course gave the workshop leader the perfect subject for an exercise in writing about how to include such behaviour within our writing.
Just shows how everyday life affects what we authors do.
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Identity Theft

This week I experienced a form of identity theft on Twitter. This is the first time in 30 years of dealing with the internet and computers that I have had this happen. So, I suppose I have, to some degrees, been fortunate.

It appears someone had taken my image, my name (minus the 'y') and the bio details of my long standing Twitter account and used them to create a new account which had over 160 people following it. Strangely some of them were already following me on my official account. What was worse was that the person tweeting on the account was leaving a phone number purporting to be offering writing services but she was in fact soliciting for men? I actually discovered her personal email by following the phone number through Google and finding an advert for her in an online American Newspaper!

After many emails shouting (literally) at Twitter, and having proven who I really was who I said I was, they finally accepted that the new account was bogus and removed it. I have to say how frustrating and annoying the whole process was but thankfully it is finished with.

Of course, the only problem now, is that it has left me feeling slightly paranoid which is something I normally never feel. So much so, that I have been double checking my name on every social media, search engine etc etc I can find. Just in case!! And, I've been going through all my accounts and resetting my passwords as well. Very time consuming to say the least. It's surprising, as an Author and Writer, just how many accounts one accumulates?

So remember people, take extra care and regularly check your details out there in the floating cloud! This internet can be lethal at times.

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UNIVERSAL CREDIT THREATENS FUTURE WRITERS

According to the Society of Authors it has warned MPs that the changes to Universal Credit could silence working-class writers, impeding diversity in publishing and thus making it harder to attract different types of readers.
Speaking at the All-Party Parliamentary Writers Group inquiry into authors’ earnings on Tuesday (30th October), the SoA chief executive Nicola Solomon cautioned MPs that Universal Credit - awarded as a single monthly payment to people who are on a low income or out of work (twice monthly for some in Scotland) - could be detrimental to some authors’ income, forcing them to give up writing all together.

The SoA further explained that under the old system, currently in the process of being phased out, some authors with low earnings are able to claim working tax credits to supplement their income, thus ensuring they continue writing as a profession. But replacing this with the Universal Credit means self-employed people have to meet the “Minimum Income Floor” (an assumed level of earnings, based on what the government expects an employed person to receive in similar circumstances) in order to receive benefits. This is a threshold many writers are unable to reach. "This is equivalent to the National Living Wage for most working-age people," SoA said. "Given that the median annual income of a professional author is about £10,500, well below the National Living Wage, many authors will lose their entitlement to benefits under the new scheme."

Ms Solomon highlighted to MPs in her testimony to the inquiry that authors, including the likes of JK Rowling and 2018's Man Booker winner Anna Burns, have depended on the benefits system to support their writing. In the acknowledgements of Milkman (Faber), Burns notably gave thanks for the support of benefits from the Department for Work and Pensions that - along with the support of her local food bank, various charities and the SoA - enabled her to write her acclaimed book; sales of which reached the highest volume of any winner in the BookScan era in the week after winning the prestigious prize.

Unfortunately, claims the SoA, changes to the benefits system risks driving such working-class writers out of the industry. "From JK Rowling to Anna Burns, many authors have depended on the benefits system to support their writing. But, the design of the Universal Credit fails to recognise the reality of the work of authors or other self-employed workers in the cultural sector," said Solomon told the inquiry.

"Universal Credit risks driving working-class authors and other under-represented voices out of the profession. This would have a shocking impact on the diversity of stories being told. If writing is seen as a privilege then, only the privileged will be able to write. This gives us an incredibly narrow group of people who can afford to write, which in turn will make it harder to attract new readers and lead to a narrowing of our readership base."

NB We all know that writers are not in it for the money but this action will destroy more than just the pleasure of writing as less books produced will be detrimental to our children, grandchildren and future great-grandchildren.

Courtesy of the Society of Authors
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5 REASONS AUTHORS FALL for VANITY PRESSES

Whenever we hear stories about authors being defrauded by unscrupulous vanity presses, sometimes for thousands of pounds, the reaction can often be unsympathetic:
               “It’s their own fault for being so gullible.”              
                 “They should have done their homework.”              
                 “That was a stupid mistake. Don’t they read about these things?”
Whilst it is true that authors have more information at their fingertips than ever before we still question why some keep falling for these scams and schemes from the same exploitative companies?
1. High-pressure sales target author psychology
Vanity presses are quite notorious for being aggressive in their pursuit of authors. Once they have your contact information, vanity presses often flood you with inquiries and “reminders” to join them. One “manuscript referral service” tested resulted in over 120 emails from some of the worst vanity presses in the industry.
Throughout, these solicitations the push is to initiate a phone conversation with the author. A sales rep can apply more manipulative sales tactics when having a direct conversation with you. Remember, once a vanity press gets its hooks into you, the pressure can be relentless.
2. Vanity presses provide emotional validation
Flattering a prospective author is one way that Vanity presses can ensnare you. Usually by assuring you that only the best manuscripts are selected for publication by their “editorial board.” Having submitted a manuscript so epically atrocious it must have reduced more than one editor to tears of laughter, maybe just to tears?
A forty-page “autobiographical, metaphysical, self-help book for adults” was also submitted to eight of the most prominent vanity presses. Unsurprisingly, every single one replied to let me know they were interested in publishing my masterpiece? To a novice author who is uncertain of the marketability of their work and perhaps eager for validation, such a positive response from a perceived ‘authority’ can be powerfully seductive.
What you must remember is, it’s honesty and practical advice you need as an author, not ego stroking and half-truths.
3. Vanity presses prey on an author’s insecurities
Flattery is always seductive, but that’s not the only way a vanity press can work their way into an author’s psyche. Many vanity presses will try to persuade you that you are incapable of producing a professional book without forking out for an expensive, full-service, publishing package. This is especially effective if you are not comfortable with new technology. After all the idea of handing over the details of publishing to someone who can take care of it all for you must be enticing.
Vanity presses tend to bombard the author with the message that they cannot succeed alone, and that the fees are really only a “manageable investment.”
What most authors don’t realise is that the “manageable investment” could exceed £15,000.
ALLi authors can attest, professional quality is within reach of any author willing to put in the time and effort, and it doesn’t require a £15,000 publishing package to achieve.
4. Prejudices about self-publishing
Despite a decade of rapid evolution, the self-publishing industry still faces prejudices and unfair assumptions, such as:
           Self-published books are amateurish
           Self-publishing is prohibitively expensive
           Self-publishing requires the author to do everything themselves
           Self-publishing is a last resort for authors who couldn’t secure traditional publishing contracts
Vanity presses routinely exploit these prejudices, often trying to persuade the novice author that they can’t succeed without their company’s help. And, that their only other options are years of fruitless queries to traditional publishers, or a difficult and lonely self-publishing process that’s doomed to failure.
To the author, this sales pitch may strengthen their lack of belief in them self. Having encountered amateurish self-published books they often assume that is the state of all such published books, never having seen any evidence to the contrary.
Remember, a professional self-published book is indistinguishable from a traditionally published book. It’s only the amateurish books that are bad in the reader’s eye.
5. Reliable information is lost in the noise
Trustworthy sources of information about self-publishing companies are few and far between. ALLi’s Watchdog Desk has evaluated and rated hundreds of services, and other industry watchdogs like Writer Beware are an invaluable resource, but they are both limited by time and staff constraints. Authors may not know of these resources, or may lack the technical skills to find them on the search engines. The problem is further compounded by the volume and prominence of misinformation on the Internet.
Vanity presses purchase highly-visible ads for top searches, thus ensnaring unsuspecting authors looking for information. Supposedly respectable publications take ads for substandard vanity presses, legitimising those companies. Consumer watchdog charities like the Better Business Bureau sell out, whitewashing negative ratings for companies that purchase “accreditation.” (For example, notorious vanity press Author Solutions carries an A+ rating with the BBB, despite hundreds of complaints and a majority of negative reviews.)
Some Vanity Presses flood the Internet with glowing testimonials from authors they have deceived. Others wage despicable smear campaigns against self-publishing watchdogs in an attempt to discredit them.
When searching for reliable information on how to self-publish, the deck is stacked against us authors.
However, you can help arm unwary authors against schemes and scams by sharing watchdog service ratings and alerts. In the end, it’s not the author who should be blamed for falling victim to a rip-off; it’s the deceptive vanity presses that have made an industry of defrauding authors.
Courtesy of John Doppler at ALLi (https://selfpublishingadvice.org/)
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YOUR LIBRARY

How to help boost readership and earnings for writers, which could also mean you?
Libraries are full of stories in a whole range of formats that people can borrow, including you. They are ideal places for research and to get ideas, so go to your local library and borrow stuff. Especially stuff written by writers you like.
Even if you already own the books or have read them before, you don’t actually have to read them again? They could just sit in your car or on the shelf until you return. The point being, that having taken the book means it is registered as a loan for that author. And that, means they will earn a Public Lending Right (PLR) royalty. Plus, it also helps keep our Library Service operating. The old adage applies here - use it or lose it!
Did you know that most Library Services offer a free eBook/audiobook service which is easy to use? Firstly. you need to download the specified app to your device and register it to your library card to get started. After that you can download eBooks or audiobooks via the app. This actually takes less time and effort than visiting the library yourself, especially if it’s cold and rainy outside.
After years of campaigning by the Society of Authors, the law was changed at the end of 2017 so that eBook and audiobook loans now earn PLR royalties too. And again, it doesn’t matter if you don’t read/listen to the book as the author earns! Mind you it would be great if you did. Of course, remember if you are an author you can register your books with the PLR and start earning too if your books are borrowed?
Did you know if the library doesn’t stock a particular book you love, you can suggest they stock it – either physically or as an eBook. Don’t be afraid to speak to library staff or find the relevant link on the website to make any recommendations. You might always get what you want, but if you don’t ask you don’t get. And of course, you never know what the Central Reserve might hold. It is does have an extensive collection.
Readers are sometimes left with books lovingly kept but which they no longer read. Libraries are almost always happy to accept donations of new or good quality second hand recent books. And of course, as an Author you could can donate copies of your own books if the library doesn’t have any/many. Don’t forget, if you are donating books you have written, tell them you are a Local Author! Libraries buy lots of new titles every year but can’t buy everything. If you do donate something they don’t have and it proves to be popular, the chances are they will buy more copies.
Libraries are a great free resource. They run regular events help promote books and authors or have story-time reading sessions, especially for children. My local library is based in Central Cardiff. I am on their mailing list so get regular mail shots telling me what is going on or sending me invites to Author events. And they are usually Free. So, come on, make the effort and go check your local library out now.
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GREAT NEWS

Came back from a great day out with the other half to discover a large envelope waiting for me. Was delighted to discover I have been accepted as a Member of the Society of Authors. The comments on my Facebook page were encouraging especially those which said ‘You’ve arrived’ - what more can one ask from your fellow authors. I am so chuffed with the news as I have been wanting to join for sometime now. Shows perseverance pays.
Having been away ‘down under’ for nearly 3 months I have literally let things slide due to wanting a relaxing time with my family. However, I have returned with a new surge of energy to start catching up and progressing my writing.  The first thing being to meet with the publisher who surprised me by exceeding expectations and instead of only 6 picture books to review I had a 11 of the remaining 12. Luckily very few alterations so I am hopeful all 12 will be launched over the next couple of months. That means the end, for now, of the Little Friends Picture Story Book Series. However, I have designed a Colouring Book to go with the series so am happy with the results.
Whilst away we managed to launch ‘Can You Hear Me’ by Yami Gray. Yami (pen-name) is a young British writer now living in Australia. This small book is a collection of poems she wrote between the ages of 11 and 15 and is complimented by a small number of lithographic line-art images. The poetry is dark for one so young but makes excellent reading for those interested in unusual poems.
The next job on the list is to get the manuscript from another young writer I am mentoring completed ready for publication. This will be a fantasy story and may well be the start of a series of books relating to the heroine. Time and exams will tell.
After that I realise it’s time to concentrate on marketing and so I am setting plans in motion to start promoting the Little Friends Books and myself as both author and speaker. Interesting times are ahead. Watch this space.
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BACK IN THE SWING OF THINGS

So at last I am back in the UK after an extended stay 'down under' on the Gold Coast visiting family and friends. I had intended reporting back on the new people I was meeting but unfortunately circumstances didn't allow for me to do that so I am using today to catch up on what was missed. Apart from meeting the author Ally Blake I met quite a few other writers which was great, as well as linking up with fellow SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators) Members from the Gold Coast, Queensland area.
It is surprising where some writers go to offer their books for sale. Two of them I met at a local market/craft fair across the road from one of the places I was visiting. Mind you it was warm so sitting outside for a few hours wasn't too bad. As one of these writers wrote stories about their dog she had her pet on the stall with her which certainly proved to be an attraction and drew the crowds to her stall.
Despite the size of Australia it’s surprising the number of writing groups there are in the country, especially around the Gold Coast. One long standing group was The Ten Penners. They started out as a group of ten like-minded writers in 2004 and have developed their group since. The ladies I met proved to be warm and welcoming and were delighted to meet a fellow author.
Another author I met was Ally Blake. She was doing a workshop at the local library (see the previous blog Ally Blake Workshop 8th August). Ally writes for Mills & Boon and has just released book number 36. She is a well-recognised speaker and her events (I am told) are always well attended.
The other authors I met via a local SCBWI group meeting. They meet once a month at a local coffee shop to share ideas and up-date each other on what is happening in their individual writing worlds. Much the same as we do here in Cardiff where I live. Again I was made most welcome and it proved to be an interesting afternoon. Remember, if you are ever away from home always check for a local writers group or your societies meeting group as people will usually let you join in and will make you feel welcome.
And so, now I am back, it's time to get into the swing of things once again. I am seeing my publisher regarding the release of the final books in the Little Friends Picture Book Series and will be discussing what comes next. I have even started making a list of the things I want to achieve. Maybe the break away from all things writing has refreshed me? Who knows? Only time will tell.