Tuesday, 31 December 2013


Writing aside for a moment, in so many ways, 2013 has been quite a year.  But this time last year, if someone had told me I'd have self-published three books and sold tens of thousands of them; would have an offer from a digital publisher, that I'd write something completely different and find an agent... I probably would have said, right, would be fantastic, BUT...

But it's happened!  And right now, because it's still new and makes me grin a bit madly when I think about it, I keep reminding myself, because I'm so enjoying this bit.  I'm still chasing the dream of a traditional publishing deal with this latest book, but I wouldn't have got this far without the thousands of people who've bought my books so far.  Or other writers who've given me advice, agents who've given me feedback.  All of you who've written reviews, bloggers who've featured my books and even me, too!  You are all completely brilliant.

So a massive THANK YOU to all of you, from the bottom of my heart...
and may your New Year be filled with love.
2014... Bring it on...
 Happy New Year  #happynewyear #newyearwishes

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

I have an agent!

Monday was the very best day.  One of those really amazing days I'll always remember.  It began the way it always does - up early, tromp through mud and feed animals, turf teenage son out of bed.
It also happened to be one of the Mondays I volunteer at a hospice - just for a couple of hours.  Just as well, too, because I was nervous and it took my mind off what I was doing later on.

Then, that afternoon, I caught a train and walked along a London street in the cold December sun, to the first of my meetings with two of the agents who had said they'd like to represent me.
I'd already decided that if I got a taxi, I'd be sure to get to the right place at the right time.  You'd think that, wouldn't you, with a taxi?  I did, only the taxi driver took me to the wrong place, so I was flustered and really, really late, which wasn't the best start.
But I soon forgot about it, because it was surreal and brilliant and exciting all at the same time, and nerve-racking too - until I met them, because they couldn't have been more welcoming.

By the end of the afternoon, my head was full to bursting.  I came out of the second meeting and just walked, for ages, in the dark, a bit numb, not having a clue where I was headed.  (I ended up in Waterstones)  Then I walked some more.
(Later that evening, I got a train to Gatwick to meet my daughter Georgie who was flying back from Greece after nearly three months - like I said, it was a great day.)

But back to agents, because all the times I've imagined this situation, I never once imagined I'd have a choice.  So, I guessed, if I met with them, depending on how well we got on or what they said about my book, presumably all would become obvious.  Only it didn't - well, not straight away.

I kept telling myself, that if only one of the agents had offered, I'd have been just as thrilled, so from this enviable position I found myself in, all I had to do was figure out how I was going to decide.  Both had told me to take my time and think about it - very sound advice, because in all the excitement, and it was, hugely exciting, it's so tempting to make the decision in a hurry.

My first consideration had to be their vision for my book.  I knew it needed polishing and that a professional would see straight away where it could be improved, but that said, I wanted to agree with them.  I'm not precious about my books, but it felt important to be true to my own vision for it too.
But in this instance, that on its own didn't help me.  Both agents had really valid, constructive comments to make which I mostly agreed with.  Added to that, I could imagine myself working with both of them, too.

After that, I spent a fair amount of time reading about other writers' experiences.  What both authors and agents had to say about multiple offers.  I looked up the authors that each of the agents I met represented - types of books and what happened when they were submitted to publishers. 

Then when I put it all together, I knew what my decision was.  I emailed the agents I'd decided not to go with, which I found really hard, then withdrew one submission who hadn't got back to me.  Then I picked up the phone.

And so, as of today, I'm completely thrilled to announce that I am now represented by the fabulous Juliet Mushens of the Agency Group!

Making one of the biggest decisions ever...

Okay, so after that, things got even more amazing.

We now have agent B in the picture, because after the call from the first agent, when I emailed her that evening, to tell her that I'd had two offers of representation, she said please send it over, like now - even though she's on holiday.  She'd read ASAP and get back to me.

She did the ASAP bit.  She actually emailed me back later that same evening, saying she'd just finished reading it and she'd love to represent me, too.  I had another offer from another agent making it four!!! You agents - in the nicest possible way - you're ever so slightly like buses!!! Do you know how long I've been trying to find one? 

Truly though, I'm euphoric, excited, and somewhat humbled by the response I've received, so whatever happens now, the hugest thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who's shown interest.  The sweat, blood and tears have got me the next step along the way.  All I have to do now is make a choice...

That day I got a call from an agent...

Okay.  That thing about dreams.  They're a thing I have - I posted about them a while back too, because I've had this one for quite a while.

It goes like this.  You sweat blood over that precious manuscript, get it as polished as you can, peruse your list of the best possible agents, write cover letters and press SEND, crossing fingers, in fact crossing absolutely everything...
Then, you wait.  And it can be quite a wait.

This book's a psychological thriller - my first in this genre and I had no idea how it would be received.  Going on past experience, I know you get rejections.  On this occasion, I submitted to a small number of agents, not getting my hopes up too high because I've been here before.
Sure enough, Agent X got right back to me with a no thanks. 
Here we bloody go again, I couldn't help thinking.  Deep breath.  Told myself, No...  It's just one rejection.  And you only need just one agent...
Next, Agent Y pinged back please can I read the rest and I sent it straight away, suddenly hopeful again.
Then Agent Z pinged back yes, too.  Sent it to her too, starting to get quietly excited.

But then I stopped myself, because this happened to Wildflowers.  Six requests for the full MS and no takers.

Anyway, a sleepless night followed.  This book has done this to me, especially latterly as I got closer to finishing it.  For the last few weeks, every other night has been a two or three o'clock-er which is a great time to write but not so great the next day.
But, I'd sent the book off.  There's another I'm writing but I couldn't concentrate.  So I faffed and procrastinated and went to see if any other insomniac nutters were about on Twitter, which they weren't, and so I started perusing all the writery kind of websites I like reading.  And this name kind of leapt out of the screen at me.  And I thought, why haven't I sent this to him?

So I did.  At about six in the morning.  Got an email at half past 10.  Please could I send the rest. so I did.  Carried on day writing other book, then after lunch, sleep deficit well and truly kicking in, moved to the sofa with cat, switched on mindless TV (no offence, Peter Andre and Sixty Minute Makeovers) and was just dozing off when the phone rang.

It was him. The last person I expected.  We'll have to call him Agent A, at this stage, and he said such lovely things about my book, I was completely tongue-tied.  He really, really liked it - so much he even missed his lunch to finish it...
So we arranged to meet. 

I phoned my husband to tell him.  Voicemail.  Went to meet my son off his college bus.  He wasn't on it.  Kept it to myself for two whole hours - surreal.  Then phoned Georgie in Greece - she's thrilled for me.
Our meeting's the same day Georgie comes home after three  months in Greece.  It's going to be one of those one-off kind of days and I can't wait.

So, I went from submission to meeting in less than a day.  And truly, I've worked hard as I can, and I've dreamed of this kind of response, but if it's happened to me, it can happen to you, too xx.

But this is only the first part of the story...

Tuesday, 12 November 2013


This one's more of a ramble than a post.  It's been the most wonderful, glorious summer, hasn't it... Weather to camp and go to the beach in, warm enough to spend long evenings outside under the stars...(Drinking wine obviously)

It's hanging on in there, too, though the blackberry-laden hedgerows and misty mornings signal that autumn's not long away.
I've just walked our dogs on the Downs, which we're lucky enough to have on our doorstep.  It's a steep, chalky path in dappled shade to the top, where today, tractors are ploughing and hundreds of swallows are gathering to leave us for warmer places.

Talking of which, my daughter's a bit ahead of them - but only just.  She's spending the next three months as a volunteer for a Greek charity looking after ponies.  This was her day yesterday.:
3am get up, get mother up, emotional drive to Heathrow (v emotional).  Find Terminal 5 - easy, spacious, very early, where excited but mostly VERY happy-tearful emotional farewells follow.
Georgie then flies to Athens, takes a bus to Kymi, then a ferry across to Skyros, hoping someone will be there to meet her the other end.  Meanwhile I drove home, feeling a wrench that was physically painful and went to bed.  I won't lie, I cried too, but it doesn't mean I'm not thrilled for her.  The pain went and I think it's fantastic she's there, because it's what life's about and if you can't do things like this when you're 19, when can you?

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Guest post on Mama J Hearts...

For those who haven't found her, Mama J has this fab and very pretty blog about all things writing related - well worth taking a look.  And last week I was lucky enough to be one of her guests...
This is her:


Enjoy! x

PS Here's the post too.

Guest Post: Debbie Howells

On Dreams...

Several years ago, I had this dream to have my own flower shop - preferably in the old barn next to the cottage where we lived, with rough wood shelves and metal buckets full of beautiful seasonal flowers, with which I’d decorate weddings for all the brides who’d flock to see me. There’d be a big sign outside so no-one would miss us. My children would run around and the chickens would potter outside. It was my idea of perfect…

It took a while but the dream came true – almost, only it was a different barn, which meant the chickens stayed at home, but inside we created our very own rustic flower shop. I’ve decorated hundreds of weddings. And I’ve loved each and every one of them.

The whole wedding madness thing kind of gets under your skin though and that’s where the idea for my book came from. I had a name for my protagonist, Frankie Valentine, and a picture in my head of her small flower shop. Just like we all do, Frankie has a dream. She wants to be a florist to the stars, only just like in real life it doesn’t go quite as she plans.

So, last year, I wrote my book. Then put it away. Read and re-read it. Wrote another draft, agonised over cover letters and synopses, like we do. Then earlier this year, I sent it off to a handful of carefully chosen agents.

Then came the waiting, but what happened this time is that over the course of one of the most magical fortnights I’ve ever lived through while I neurotically checked my emails every ten seconds, five agents asked to read the full MS.

Five. Oh, so exciting, I can’t tell you. I dared to allow myself to imagine, just for a second or two, that this time, it might actually be going to happen! Then I stopped imagining anything at all, because I have no illusions as to how hard it is to A, get an agent, then B, find a publisher.

BUT… Not one of the five loved it enough. I had an email back from Broo Doherty. A rejection, but quite a lovely one as these things go. She liked my story and told me where it was lacking – and I agreed, which is quite annoying because if I’d figured that out before submitting to her, she might have really, really liked it and my own story might have had a different ending.

But I didn’t. More work followed and now, it’s a better book. My daughter Georgie made me a cover and I published it online. So now, instead of checking emails all the time, I’m constantly looking up how many downloads!! But it is being downloaded, and people are enjoying it – it reached a very respectable number in the Amazon best-selling ebooks. Again, it’s hugely exciting!

As everyone who writes knows, there are ups and downs, snippets of hope – however small - outweigh all the disappointments and help you to somehow, find the inspiration to keep on writing.

Good luck to everyone trying to do this. I’m not giving up. Quite simply, it’s my dream and I’m hoping, like the last one I had, that if I keep working at it, one of these days it will come true…

PS this is my book:

You can find it here
And this is me:

Thank you Jenni, for having me on Mama J Hearts.


  1. Congrats on your book, Debbie, and all the best with it!
  2. Great cover, Debbie. And congrats on the release of your book.

    I especially love the photo!
    1. Hi Stina - thank you! My writing dogs! The big golden one is called Bernard and the little black one Ella - loyal footwarmers while you sit for endless hours at your keyboard, then they take you for a run to clear your head!
  3. How cool! And I love the cover! Wow having your own flower shop sounds like a dream. And I know the feeling of having agents request then let you down. happens to the best of us, but the good thing is you got excellent feedback and made your story better. Big congrats!!!
  4. Thank you Pk! You just have to keep working at it, don't you - otherwise it'll never happen... x

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Author Q & A...

Just a quick post, because I had a lovely email last night from Free eBooks Daily.  They'd found Wildflowers and asked if I'd do a brief Q & A for their readers.  Of course, I said I'd love to!  Here it is:

Author Q&A

Why do you think your readers are going to enjoy your book?

Readers tell me it's made them laugh and made them cry. I did both while I was writing it! The story starts in a light-hearted kind of way, but fairly quickly you get the sense that there's more.
How did you come up with the idea for your book?

My day job for the last twelve years has been as a wedding florist. I've done hundreds! It's wonderful and challenging and every wedding is different. I think Wildflowers has been building up quietly for years!
I'm also a volunteer in a hospice, where I meet many extraordinary people.
How long did it take you to put this book together?

I think, less than a year. I wrote it, started submitting it to agents, got nowhere and put it away.
A few months later, I read through it again and decided it was worth persevering with. I did more work on it, which it needed, attempted to refine my submission and this time when I sent it out, I had five requests for the full manuscript.
I'm still without an agent, though one lovely lady was kind enough to give me some feedback, so I did more work and self published and it's made the top 10 free ebooks!
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

The value of putting a finished book away before you re-read, make any changes and start submitting. When you've been pouring heart and soul into your keyboard for months on end, perspective is shall we say, slightly skewed. Distance is good. It clears the head.
I also learned the importance of choosing the right cover. When I first self-published, wildflowers had a pretty photo of flowers on it! A lovely photo, just wrong, because as a kind friend pointed out, along with the title, it looked as though it was a text book about wild flowers!
This one, thanks to my daughter Georgie, is much better. When you consider your valued reader skimming the many pages of Amazon, there's a split-second of opportunity in which to grab them - and it's visual.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?

I don't want to give too much away, but it was the saddest part of the book. It was a challenge - and a very emotional one - to write with both feeling and sensitivity.
Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?

I didn't set out with a message in mind. I think what comes over is, life's about people. We should treasure them.

And here's a link to the website:


Monday, 29 April 2013

On KDP SELECT and book covers...

It's been an astonishing, exciting week...

I've been glued to my computer checking downloads watching hundreds of downloads turn to thousands, as Wildflowers shoots up the Kindle top 100 free ebooks.

I realise it's  the top 100 free ebooks, not paid.  That it didn't make me any money.  But that's not the point, because now I feel I haven't been wasting time, self-indulgently writing things that no-one else will ever read, which is great.  Though now, the challenge moves on, to see if my book will sell...

And how much is to do with the book's cover, because I know when I'm scrolling down pages and pages on Amazon, either the title or the image has to leap off the screen at you in it's split-second of opportunity...
A friend who read Wildflowers suggested that the combination of the old cover with the title made it sound more like a text book than a novel. And she's right - in fact, it was so obvious, why didn't I notice that??

What it means is Wildflowers now has a fab new cover to wear, just as it reaches the free ebook top 10...  Thank you Georgie x


Thursday, 18 April 2013

Next book...

I don't know if this happens to other writers, but just recently, I've begun with this idea that's just bursting with life - in my head - and then stopped, because for whatever reason, however hard I try, although there's the beginnings of a story there, on paper, it just doesn't flow.  Maybe that's because I've a lot to learn, but it can feel like that as soon as I commit it to paper, the story dies, which means it was never really a story in the first place.

There's another thing I've mentioned before - which is that you don't tell people.  You can tell the dog or the cat or the sheep, all of whom are very good listeners, just not people.  Not until your story is well on it's way to being something, because embryonic stories are fragile beings and if you talk about them too early, you murder them. 

Anyway, recently, after batting around what I thought were properly good ideas and realising after trying to write them that maybe they weren't, something new came into my head, completely out of the blue. And it just so happens it has flowers in it. And this time when I started writing, for the first time in a long time, I kept on writing and it started to work. And after talking it over with Bernard, I gave some chapters to my husband and teenage daughter.  (Bernard's one of the dogs)

Now, in our house we have a bullshit buzzer.  Also, in another life, my husband would have been the most scathing of scathing critics.  The kind you dread, or worse still, don't read, because they rarely say anything good.  Actually, it's not too late for him to do it in this life.    He's not always right, you understand, but has terribly important opinions to be expressed quite loudly.  All you other writers out there:  I hope your critics are a little quieter.  For unknown reasons, I still ask him. 
His opinion on this occasion was not bad, it depends where you go with it.
Well, duh. Talk about stating the freaking obvious. (And before he points it out, yes, I know, that's a tautology.)

Teenage daughter is gentler - but after eighteen years, I'm quite good at reading between the lines.  At least I think I am.  Like when she says, 'I like it...'  then hesitates, so you know there's a big invisible 'but' she's leaving out, just because she's a kind daughter who wants to encourage her mother.  Apart from being kind, she's also a brilliant writer.  She even has an agent who's interested in what she's writing, but that's her story.
Back to my own story, there've been a few 'I like it... but' moments in this house, only this time, she said, I really like it and I've scribbled on it.  I hope she wasn't just being kind because inside, I was whooping rather excitedly at this point.

It's early days, but so far, I'm loving where it's going.  I'll keep you posted. x

Sunday, 7 April 2013


It has been the most AMAZING weekend.  So far.  And it's only Sunday...

It began, like the best weekends do, on Friday night, with a party - wonderful people, music, fantastic food, free-flowing wine - it had all of that.  BUT.  This one wasn't just any party.  We were all there to celebrate someone who nearly wasn't.  Over the last year, since an accident left her severely injured, she's fought a battle most of us can't imagine, every single day, to overcome the problems it's left her with.  It's ongoing, but she's one of the most extraordinary and inspirational and awesome girls I know.  She's surprised all kinds of people along the way and I've a feeling she'll continue to do that for some time to come.  It was some party.
It kind of reminds you of what matters, which is actually what a reviewer wrote about my book.  I'm as guilty as anyone about obsessing about stuff most of which never turns out the way you think it will.  About stuff that in the grand scheme of things, is just details.  Bit of a waste of time, when you think about it.

Anyway, Saturday was just as amazing.  My lovely Tom (age 16) has been on a gliding course for the week.  He's had the most fantastic time, met great people, got up early (yes, he really did) and on Saturday, he went SOLO.  It's a big, big deal.   One of those things that stays with you.  I remember mine clearly, only the difference is that while I was completely terrified, Tom was up there for over an hour and would have stayed up there, only they needed his glider back... I guess all good things come to an end.  But I have a warm, fuzzy feeling and I'm ever so slightly proud.  Like I'm telling everyone I talk to and will be for weeks, probably for years.  CONGRATULATIONS Tom!! x   

And it's only Sunday.  The sun is shining, that Arctic blast has finally buggered off... Dare I say it - Spring???  That would be something too. 

Hope your weekend has been amazing x

Monday, 1 April 2013

On following your dream...

Once upon a time, when my children were babies, I made wedding flowers from home in whatever space I could find for them.  The kitchen table, a table in the shade opposite the back door, even the garage.  And how I wished, with all my heart, for my very own shop.  For years, I had a picture in my mind, of how I'd turn it into an emporium of seasonal flowers and plants, selling candles, antique containers, how I'd pile it high with apple boxes planted with herbs... and everyone who came in would be transported into the little world we'd created there.

It took a few years like these things do, but the business grew and the dream became reality - amongst stark warnings from those who knew better, that you had to work almost 24/7 to make a shop successful.  But the time was right and with my husband Bob, between us we decided to give it a go.

It was hugely rewarding, hard work and an amazing opportunity.  First I should point out, my husband never has been and never will be a florist - HA!  Just the idea!  However, he amused many of our customers with his unusual range of man-bouquets.  (He's an ex-engineer, ex-pilot and does things like fixing old landrovers - you get the picture).

But we worked like crazy for two years.  Us Mums who work full time... it's sometimes necessary, but believe me, we all know how hard it is. But I get huge satisfaction from saying we did it.  Did it well, too.  For a while - until the recession struck.  Then yet again, it was time to rethink our way forward.

These days, I'm lucky. We live in a beautiful village at the foot of the South Downs.  The babies are teenagers and there are dogs, cats, chickens and the sheep, Dave and Claire in the garden.  My husband teaches teenagers to drive and I make my wedding flowers in a wonderful old farm building a few yards from my back door.  And in between, I write!

Though these days, much as I love flowers, I have a new dream.  Of finding a publisher for my books.  I love to write stories that I hope will touch others in some way.  Stories that just won't go away.  And I'm hoping, that if I'm lucky and persevere and hone my craft and don't give up, like last time, it will eventually come true...

And here's a little picture of Spring, in case you've forgotten what it looks like!  Happy Easter x

Bernard and baby Dave

Saturday, 23 March 2013

On rejection...




All those weeks/months/years you're in your little bubble writing that story that's shouting at you that you have to tell it, that's fine, because ABSOLUTELY NO-ONE READS IT.  As every writer knows, you have the perfect excuse because if you tell someone too early, the magic goes.  And for as long as no-one reads it, because it's all in your head, you can keep on going, until one day - that you always thought was in the far-flung distant future - comes that amazing moment that YOU FINISH IT. 

Writing's full of great feelings and moments of utter despair.  Finishing your book is a truly great feeling - but only for a short while - because then something else happens, something you don't really think about while you're writing it and it's scary.  It's when OTHER PEOPLE READ IT- other people like AGENTS, be it the first page, first three chapters, or even, dare I say it, the whole shebang.  That's why you wrote it, after all, to be read, isn't it?  But it's terrifying and nerve-racking and exciting and you wait, everything crossed, breath held, praying one of them loves it...

Only just maybe, they don't love it.  In my case, five agents who requested the full MS, didn't love it enough.  FIVE.  So the cover letter, the first three chapters, the synopsis, were good enough.  The rest obviously wasn't. 

So what now?  Scrap it?  (No, No, NO)  Kill some darlings and rewrite it???  In my case, I took on board the feedback that one lovely lady gave me.  Did some more work.  And then, did I start submitting all over again...


Self publish, like Very Inspiring Author Jon Rance - This Thirtysomething Life.  This is his story here, on the brilliant Novelicious website:


Congratulations to him... I have read this post a dozen times because I want it to happen to me.

Friday, 22 March 2013

day 1

Publication-on-Amazon day!
WILDFLOWERS is about a girl who has a dream, but like so many dreams, the reality isn't quite how she imagines... 
Having written the book, sent the full manuscript off to the five literary agents who requested it (none of whom loved it enough to represent me), redrafted I hope what was missing...HERE IT IS. 
All I have to do now is get my head round the mighty Amazon machine and become visible...