When you first have an inkling of an idea for a book, everything seems so simple, but writing and publishing a book is a whole new world, not for the faint-hearted.

I started with a setting. I knew from the very beginning that I wanted to write a story set in Florence, and it was just a short step to set it in the time of the Medici, da Vinci, Botticelli...the time of the Renaissance. My story grew from a few "What if...?" thoughts. There were a few historical characters that I had to include with my own fictional characters, so I had to get their traits, appearances, actions and ages correct. The discerning reader of historical fiction would soon pick up any inaccuracies. (Actually, I have one big inaccuracy in my story, but I've kept it in to benefit the drama. I hope future readers will forgive me.)

Research expanded to the city of Florence, as it was in 1478, their method of government, how a Florentine home was set up, what and how they ate and dressed. A fascinating, if time-consuming, part of putting The Rose of Florence together, but it also enabled me to escape to 15th Century Florence during the worst of the Covid pandemic.

I consider myself very lucky to belong to the New Writers' Scheme of the Romantic Novelists' Association, allowing us to submit a manuscript for review each year. The extensive report is detailed and constructive, and my book is far better for having been through this process. This year, my reviewer suggested that it might be time to look for an agent and/or publisher. I was delighted that it wasn't just a pile of pants after all, but this is where it gets scary!

Get hold of "The Artists' and Writers' Yearbook" I was told. Every publisher and agent can be found there. This 800 page tome is now my constant companion. I have highlighter pens, pencils, post-it notes and coloured tabs everywhere. Each company has different submission requirements: email only; posted manuscripts only; a cover letter; an introductory message; a 500 word synopsis; a 1000 word synopsis; opening chapters; first 10,000 words; full manuscript; author bio; no author bio; hook line...and the blurb. Oh, the blurb! How many hours have I agonised over the blurb? Being an avid reader, I know the importance of getting it right. Wandering through an airport bookshop, that blurb decides whether it is worth carrying yet another book onto the plane or not, but how do I condense my whole story into just a few lines? That is a skill itself. I'm still working on it!

So, the next chapter of my life as an author will be very different from the first, and it's one I am very nervous about. It's like handing over a beloved child to a pack of wolves. Yes, that's rather melodramatic, isn't it? Still, some wolves have been known to take great care of the young...