Mind the Gap


So, you’ve finished writing the book.  You’ve taken it through several drafts, heaps of edits and marathon proof-reading sessions.  You’ve read it on your computer, your e-reader and in hard copy (please say you have…) and it’s passed through the capable hands of your editor, if you have one, and your trusted beta readers.  Now it’s ready for submission to your chosen agent or publisher.  Right?


You don’t want to send it off to meet its public with its hair in curlers, naked-faced and wearing an old cardi, do you?  Of course you don’t.

Television programme: "Last of the summer wine".
Actress Kathy S

Not so long ago I didn’t believe this either, but the moment you decide your book is ready to go, a strange, silent force moves in and deposits sneaky typos, repeated words, unclosed speech marks, rogue commas and other blemishes upon your nice clean script – all of which you’re a hundred percent sure were not there before.  At the same time, your mind starts working away behind the scenes all by itself.  Suddenly it throws out a cracker of a word or sentence or idea that absolutely must go in your first chapter, or wherever.  If you’ve already submitted, that’s an opportunity missed.

This is where The Gap comes in.

The book needs to lie low for at least a week or two – longer if you’re strong-minded enough.  Hide the computer file, throw the hard copy on top of the wardrobe.  Do whatever you have to do, but put some distance between you and it.  Fill The Gap with reading, writing that short story, or planning your next novel.  Or take a break from the whole kit and caboodle and open a bottle of something bubbly.  You’ve written a book and that’s no mean achievement, whether it’s your first or your thirteenth.  Celebrate that.11427579974_8537896b98_k-800x530

When your book has served its time in exile, set it free and read it again.  You’ll be reading from a new perspective and with fresh eyes, eyes that, miraculously, can now see what was there all along.  Add that make-or-break sentence and fix the errors.  Take out the curlers, make up its face and pour it into a slinky dress.

Now it’s ready to dazzle its public.  Right?



Author of Remarkable Things and Dirty Weekend (Crooked Cat Publishing)




How to research a novel

Author photo - Helen J RolfeI’ve always been what I’d call an ‘over-researcher’ if there’s such a term. Back in the days when I wrote articles for health and fitness magazines I’d read up on a subject using literature and the internet, I’d interview a couple of experts in the field and even for a short article I’d have far more information than I ever needed.

So what about when it comes to writing a novel?

With The Friendship Tree I really took the age old advice of ‘write what you know’. I knew the Sydney location well enough to send my characters, Jake and Tamara, into the city. I’d worked with a PR team, Brewer Creek was a fictitious town and I had enough knowledge to place it in the right area. To make Jake’s job as the local veterinarian realistic I chatted to Write Romantic, Rachael Thomas, who owns and runs a dairy farm.

I’m finding that as I write more novels, I need to do more research. My ideas and my characters are taking on dimensions that I’m not familiar with and I owe it to the stories to get all my facts.

So how do I know when I’ve done enough research?

At a certain point I find that the information I’m uncovering is repeating what I’ve already found, what experts in the field have confirmed, and it’s at that point I know I have enough information to go on. Sometimes questions crop up during the writing process and I’ll do a little more research at that stage, but by then it’s minimal.

So what am I researching now?

Well, for book four, which is in the editing stages, I took myself in to see professionals in the field because I knew it would allow me to make my characters jump off the page. This book focuses on a character who owns and runs a chocolaterie and apart from eating chocolate, I know nothing about what they do each day. Luckily, Creighton’s Chocolaterie in Leighton Buzzard invited me in for a couple of hours to watch them work and to ask as many questions as I liked. By the time I got home I knew I had plenty of information to start writing and as I got the words down on the page I knew it wouldn’t have been so easy without seeing the work environment for myself.

Of course, part of my research was to taste a few varieties too and bring home some samples. I couldn’t resist!



I think research for a novel is easy to begin on the internet. There is a plethora of information out there and as long as you’re using reliable sites it’s a good foundation. I think talking / interviewing experts in the field is also really key to good research. For Handle Me with Care I interviewed a specialist who knew so much about testicular cancer. I was able to tell him the situation I’d put Evan, my character in, and ask him if this would happen. I asked him physical symptoms, the emotional trauma patients face. And most of all, it helped keep my story believable, realistic and accurate.

For my novel, What Rosie Found Next, I interviewed a firefighter from Australia and again asked about certain scenarios and technicalities for my characters and situations I’d be putting them in. This was crucial and the firefighter who helped me passed some of my writing around the rest of the team so I could get feedback from more than one source. It helped me make the writing accurate and I was so happy when a few of them said they were desperate to know what was going to happen in the book!

Another way to research is in person. It’s not always possible but I feel it really enhances the way you write if you are able to experience something yourself whether it’s doing a parachute jump (not me!), visiting a foreign country where you want to set your new book, or work shadowing to see how a job is performed and ask questions on the spot.

My first draft of book five is underway now and with it being in a totally different settting, a place I’ve never been to myself, the research is heavy but fun! All I need to do is persuade my husband to let me book a flight over to New York! It’s work-related after all!

Helen J Rolfe.


If you want to find out more about me or my books, please visit my website: http://www.helenjrolfe.com/

Or you can find me on Amazon:  http://hyperurl.co/pxu978


Listening to a story

My fifth book, New Year at the Boss’s Bidding, is out now and for the first time one of my books is availableNew Year at the Boss's Bidding as an audio book. I was really excited when I was told this, but it got me thinking about the whole concept of audio books.

Have you ever listened to a book? My first answer to that question was yes. A long time ago I bought a CD (before the days of download!) but then the question transported me back to my childhood, to sitting on the floor of the classroom, in the reading corner, listening to a story being read by the teacher. From there, my trip down memory lane went to a television series  I loved watching. Jackanory was BBC’s story telling series which ran for over thirty years. So I guess listening to a story is something I do enjoy. I’d just forgotten all about it.

audio libro

I’m now quite full of enthusiasm to just sit and listen to a book. Imagine curling up on the sofa with a nice cup of tea and a story being read to you. What about listening while doing jobs around the home? When I’m in the kitchen I often have the television on for company, so wouldn’t an audio book be better? And then there’s travelling. I can just imagine being on a train, watching the landscape pass by whilst listening to a story.

I’m going to give them a try, but what do you think? Is listening really reading?

Happy reading – or listening!




A “Jolly Good” Christmas Gift


Look what I got for Christmas! A box set of the twenty-one original Famous Five stories by Enid Blyton. I’d like to say that this was an inspired gift from the hubby but, to be honest, I bought it myself, gave it to him, and told him it was a Christmas gift from him to me!

Oh my goodness, what a wonderful regression to childhood. I can’t wait to delve into the jolly good world of friendship, adventure, and ginger beer!

I devoured these books when I was younger. It started when someone bought me ‘Five Go to Kirren Island’ as a birthday present. I confess that I didn’t really get into it at first. I borrowed a different one from the library some months later and was gripped much more quickly by that one, going on to read all of them.

P1060742My favourite was ‘Five Got Into Trouble’. I can’t remember much about it, but I remember being absolutely gripped by the story. I think I’ll therefore read book 1 to remind me where it all started, then move straight onto book 8.

Did you like the Famous Five? Which was your favourite story? Have you read them as an adult? Were they as good as you remembered? We’d love to hear from you.

Jessica xx


And So That Was Christmas…

Here we are in 2016 already. All that preparation, planning, and agonising over choosing the right presents for the right people, all those lists, all that shopping and cooking…One blink and it’s all over. Back to reality. Normal life is resumed – with the addition of a few extra pounds in weight and the loss of quite a lot of pounds sterling. Ah, well.

We all hope you had a great Christmas, anyway. Here’s a little bit about what we got up to.


Alys West Christmas 2015

“From this photo you’d think I had a calm and serene Christmas spent reading books and eating the occasional mince pie.  The reality was a lot more manic – although there were plenty of mince pies! It had magical moments like standing outside on Christmas Eve with my nephew watching for Santa’s sleigh (aka the international space station) to go over ahead (I think we only spotted a star but don’t tell nephew that!) and his face when he saw that Santa had eaten the mince pies he’d left out for him.  There were a lot of silly games, some very muddy walks and a fabulous trip to the pantomime on Boxing Day.  Fortunately I live in an area of York that wasn’t flooded but seeing the devastation in the city has been heartbreaking and made me very grateful for things that I normally take completely for granted.”

There were the usual six of us; that’s me and him-indoors, Chris, Luke, Kerry (Chris’s partner), and Aunty Peggy, 91, and still good for a laugh, as long as you don’t mind having to shout and repeat everything five times.  You’ll be next, says no. 1 son.  Cheers for the reminder, I say, being half-way there already…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe’re a traditional lot with our turkey, Christmas pudding and all the trimmings.  Certain other accompaniments have also become a tradition over the years.  There’s the mini-firework that adorns the pud, and the giant party poppers.  And I mean giant.  No titchy things with faddling strings to pull for us.  Luke brings these whoppers that take a very strong person to fire.  The millions of paper bits these cannons produce can be found lurking among the cobwebs in the corners for ever after.  But it’s all good fun, isn’t it?

I had lots of lovely pressies –  including cosy festive socks, and some face-cream from no. 2 son which promises to OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAsmooth out the wrinkles and give me a youthful glow (he never misses) – but the very best gift of all was having our dear girl Kerry with us for both days. Her health problems often mean she is overwhelmed in company, especially at noisy times like Christmas.  It was wonderful to see her looking so well and happy.






HELEN P:image image (3) image (2) image (1)

Christmas this year for me was all about my amazing family. It was very quiet, but wonderful, spending precious time with our little angels. It was a time for being grateful for what we have and believing in each other.










xmas dinner tableChristmas was lovely this year. It was just the four of us, cosied up inside our new house for the first time since we returned to the UK from Australia. My youngest was up before four o’clock in the morning, excited that Father Christmas had been, but waited until after seven o’clock to open the presents so at least we could see ice skatingthe excitement without being so bleary eyed!

Boxing Day was family time with my brother, sister in law and their kids and it was a hectic yet very special day. I think I’ve eaten my body weight in cheese again this year, washed down with champagne and Prosecco, but it’s been lovely to totally relax over the festive period.

The only thing I’d change next year, if I had the power to do so, would be to give us a white Christmas! Snow would be the icing on the cake.




IMG_2197We definitely had a party at some stage over Christmas, as I rememberunnamed holding my head in pain as I loaded up the dishwasher!

We also bought a new kitten for my daughter, although this little beauty won’t be ready to leave Mum until February.

Did a lot of tidying up, a fair bit of drinking, and surprisingly didn’t get ill once – bit of a first for me!




Me and LilyI had a truly lovely Christmas, spent with twenty two of my nearest and dearest at my eldest sister’s house in Sandgate.  The gathering spanned four generations and ages from eighty three years young to the newest addition to the family, three week old Lily (left), with whom I stole plenty of Christmas cuddles. All this has been interspersed with get togethers with other family members and close friends, which will culminate in the annual New Year’s Eve get together at our place. I also had lots of old video footage put on to DVD, which we watched together during Sam and Me laughingthe clan gathering. Cue laughing until we cried at my now uber cool niece and nephews dancing in sombreros as youngsters and acting out scenes from Eastenders – priceless! This also allowed us to include my dad, who sadly died fifteen years ago, in our Christmas get together, as the image of him playing football with my nephews filled the screen.  My middle sister and I also got the giggles during Christmas dinner and it took me right back to being a kid again, as the more we tried to get control, the less we could – I blame the Prosecco! Whatever it was, those moments, and my own two girls declaring that they were one another’s best friends (and meaning it!), reminded me that – whilst we may not always be Walton-family close, in location or time spent together – nothing beats family at Christmas, or any other time for that matter.


1962469_963486923690608_3244973248462974315_o I had a pretty quiet Christmas, but that’s the way I like it as it’s great to 1047928_963486920357275_1855949422284932632_obe able to relax after working full-time. On Christmas Eve, I always take my Brownie Pack to church for the Christingle service and, although it’s not meant to be, we always end up giggling as the nativity descends into chaos. On Christmas Day, my nine-year-old daughter was up at 6.30am and keen to start opening presents. Hubby 10687284_963487000357267_114805807970703995_omade dinner as normal (I don’t cook) and then his parents came round for a turkey sandwich and to watch Strictly. The highlight of the day for me, other than seeing Ashleigh opening her gifts, was watching the finale of Downton Abbey. I’ve watched the series from the start and it’s been amazing. A few days later, we met up with my side of the family for the day. My brothers have two daughters each and five girls aged five to nine don’t tend to play well together so it’s always lovely to see everyone but pretty fraught when the strops and tantrums start! My best day was Bank Holiday Monday. Ashleigh was playing with her gifts, hubby went out to take some photographs, and I got to sit down at my computer and write. I haven’t had a chance to do that for a few months so it was long overdue.





Christmas in our house this year has been all about Poppy, our Golden Retriever puppy who is now ten weeks old.Poppy's First Christmas When I say all about, I mean all about. The Christmas tree is barricaded off with cardboard, the carpets are littered with puppy pads to avoid the inevitable accidents and everyone has to watch what they leave around in case it gets chewed. On Christmas morning, in true toddle style, the packaging was the most exciting part of the day for Poppy. All in all, an exhausting, but fun time.







10391717_899158410201399_5231263876706743688_nChristmas Day was very quiet in our house, as my husband was working both Christmas Eve night and Christmas night, so was either out, or in bed asleep! He did wake briefly for his Christmas dinner and to open his pressies, though.

The main event, therefore, was Christmas Eve. Our eldest son and his 1915388_899158200201420_984441174541278952_nfamily came from Derbyshire and stayed over the night before, leaving around two on Christmas Eve afternoon. I finished work at four and then our other four kids and the rest of the grandchildren came for tea. We had a great evening, with plenty of food and drink, and it was lovely to see the little ones’ faces when they saw the huge bags of presents that Father Christmas had left at our house for them to take 11250_899158256868081_7288807609095303617_nhome with them.

Our dog was a bit bemused by the whole thing and didn’t think much to any of her presents, although she thoroughly enjoyed her Christmas dinner. I rounded off the day by watching Doctor Who, Call the Midwife, and Downton Abbey, with a glass of snowball in my hand, feeling quite peaceful and contented.







And now it’s January again! We’d like to thank you for reading our blog (and our books!) and we wish you all a very happy, healthy, and peaceful 2016. xxxH (2)