Dawn Brookes Publishing

Publishing Topics by author Dawn Brookes

Plotter, Pantser or Planter?

Plotter, Pantser or Planter?

You may have heard the term plotter and probably pantser and I’ve been mulling these writing styles over in my head and while doing so I’ve come up with a combination of the two, planter! What on earth is she talking about? All will become clear…


In terms of writing, a plotter is a person who sits down and outlines a plot of their story following a structured approach. This approach will most likely drill down to chapter headings and a rough outline of the contents of each chapter ending with a finale.

A story outline such as this is a requirement for submissions to agents and/or publishers and it is an approach many authors follow rigidly.


The opposite to a plotter, the pantser sits down and writes, allowing their creativity to take over. There is no plan, the story develops itself on the hoof as the author writes. Authors who rebel against the traditional plotting already mentioned might swear by this approach arguing that the former inhibits their creative side. 

Some people argue that pantsing results in better stories while others say that it is damaging. Who’s right? Neither. It’s whatever works for the author or more importantly, the reader as he/she is the ultimate judge of whether it is working.


In reality many authors use a combination of the two approaches and you can see what I’ve done here – creating one word from the two. I personally use a combination and when I was playing with this word initially it was a bit of fun.

The more I think about it though, planting is what I do as an author. I have a seed of an idea, I start to write and for me as the story develops or the plant starts to grow, I start to structure my story by outlining chapters and what I want to include in those chapters. In my planter analogy this would consist of planning the next steps for the plant e.g. adding compost, fertiliser, re-potting and deciding where the plant will end up. 

The planter analogy even lends itself to the editing process where the plant or story is trimmed back, shaped, nurtured and turned into something beautiful.

Mystery Writer

As I am in the early stages of my writing career I wouldn’t presume to be an expert in anything but for now I am a Planter (a combination of pantser and plotter). I am discovering in my own writing life that when I plot out who my murderer is likely to be (usually a choice of two characters), as I weave the story, this changes and the murderer ends up being someone completely different to my initial one. The way I see it is that if I can’t guess who the murderer is it creates more of a challenge to the reader!

These are just my thoughts written down for consideration and for your information I used the Pantser method of writing for this short post, it is not meant to be a treatise on the subject! I hope my musings have been entertaining if not useful….

Wine Tasting

Wine Tasting

Rachel Prince attends a wine tasting lesson in the book Deadly Cruise.‘ I thought it would be fun to put together a summary of what she may have learned!

Introduction to Wine Tasting

In terms of fine dining, no drink plays nearly as important a role as wine. Top restaurants and cruise ships have their own sommeliers to advise guests with regard to the wines suitable for accompanying their food choices.

A good wine is an experience in its own right. Accordingly, wine tasting is growing in popularity as more people have opportunities to dine out and to take cruises. Many cruise lines offer wine tasting lessons on board ship with the ship’s own sommelier and visits to wine growing vineyards as part of a land-based tour. In particular, a vineyard tour offers a unique insight into the inner workings of wine growers.

Wine tasting provides an excellent opportunity to engage intensely with wine variants. By practising wine tasting you will learn which grape varieties and dishes can be combined. This helps you choose which wines are suitable for which occasion and what specialties you can serve with what wine. You will learn to sensitise your taste buds and your nose for the different flavors!

What is Wine Tasting?

When it comes to wine, tasting wine is not synonymous with drinking. Tasting comes from engaging and stimulating the senses including those of sight, smell and taste. Wine tasting is a skill needed to analyse wine to check it is suitable for serving and that there are no imperfections.

You will use the eye to check colour and clarity, the nose to check aromas and the mouth to detect flavors and textures. Tasting also involves the pleasure of recognising aromas, identifying flavours, assessing the style of the wine, and sometimes its vintage or origin.

As a result, tasting then becomes a journey in your memory, in time and in history.

Visual Examination

The glass is filled to one-third, and then the process of examining the dress of the wine. A sommelier might explain that visual examination provides information on the age of the wine, its concentration and its power.

In most cases, reds become lighter over time, with purple robes turning to ruby ​​and garnet. The intensity of the dress, which goes from strong to weak, gives information on the power of the wine.

Reflections reflect the age of the bottle, purple or pink raspberry reflections are the hallmarks of a young wine, while reflections of orange suggest an older wine, already well evolved.

Finally, the brightness of the wine confirms these first indications, the wines becoming less and less brilliant with age. The information thus collected must be consistent with the label and following the tasting. Thus, lack of brilliance and ruby ​​reflections could be indicative of a wine defect.


The olfactory examination helps detect the volatile aromas present in the wine. It informs and completes the first assessment gathered by the visual examination. The smell of a wine indicates its evolution, quality and origin. Begin by holding the glass still as this enables you to detect intensity, finesse and aroma.

You will be able to detect the aroma of fruits, spices and other ingredients. Note the intensity while gently inhaling through the nose. Next you will need to shake the glass gently in order to agitate the wine. Agitation oxygenates it thereby intensifying the aromas and refines your analysis. After stirring, the wine will present a complexity of the aromas already detected.


Tasting is the final step and the most favoured. Tasting makes it possible to assess the indices already obtained from the first two steps and brings new elements in terms of texture and taste.

Specialists divide the tasting examination into three:

  • The first sensation or attack
  • followed by the mid-palate
  • and the finale.

Taste analysis:

There are four elementary tastes: sweet, salty, bitter and acid.

5 tips for getting the best out of a wine tasting experience

  1. Take your time. Great wines get better and better with age. A longer barrel maturity is therefore a special proof of their high quality in red wines. When it comes to wine tasting with a winemaker, an afternoon walk through the vineyards is a nice way to tune in to a wine tasting session in the early evening in peace.
  2. During wine tasting sessions several wines are tasted one after the other. Even if you do not drink from every tasting glass on offer, alcohol is accumulated during the course of such a test. This has an influence on the sensitivity of the sense of taste. After a certain number of wines, the tongue detects fewer differences. In this respect, it makes sense to make an appropriate pre-selection of the bottles to be tasted in advance with the winemaker. A professional wine taster will spit out the wine after tasting.
  3. Enjoy wine in community. Even if the wine tasting is primarily about increasing stocks in your own cellar, such a sample is always an experience in itself. This can also be shared and wine tasting together with good friends can increase your enjoyment of the experience.
  4. If visiting a vineyard as part of a cruise ship tour it is not always possible but where possible eat on site and stay overnight if you are not on a tour where a vehicle is provided.  Never drive after a wine tasting session. Staying overnight provides the advantage of eating in the same place during the evening. Of course it is advisable to visit a restaurant that also offers the previously tasted wines. In this way, their suitability as a companion to a good meal can be checked immediately putting your learning into practice.
  5. Many wine lovers find their favourite wine grower. They often order the same wine over the years. Such loyalty is of course honourable, however, it can shut out the experience to be gained from many other fascinating facets of the world of big and small wines.

Therefore, one should always maintain a certain enthusiasm and plunge again and again in to the varied tasting adventures provided by wine tasting with a new winemaker.


Rachel enjoyed her brief wine tasting lesson on board the fictional Coral Queen, and I hope you enjoyed taking this ‘behind the scenes’ look into what that might have involved. If you haven’t yet read ‘Deadly Cruise‘, you can purchase it by clicking on the links below:

Buy Now UK

Buy Now USA




Images except for the book cover courtesy of CCL from Pixabay with thanks.


Cruise Reads

Great Cruise Book Reads

Cosy MysteriesHaving been a cruiser for the past 10 years, I like nothing more than sitting on the balcony or in one of the many rest areas around the ship and reading a good book. Now I’ve started my own cozy mystery series set on a cruise ship, I have been looking at other books where cruises feature. I’ve been amazed at just how many there are!

There are some that I probably wouldn’t read while on board, particularly tense thrillers by Mary Higgins Clarke but you might not be so squeamish. Others that involve ships sinking might not be my favourites either. Both of these I would read when safely ensconced on land, however.

For me, there are a number of good ones that I have recently discovered and I have provided a few here that you might like to take a look at. My books A Cruise to Murder and Deadly Cruise, obviously go without saying, if you like a good clean murder mystery.

Other cozy’s include a series by Hope Callaghan that centre around a middle-aged, nosey assistant cruise director who finds herself solving mysteries while touring the Caribbean. The first three are available as a box set, I think there are around 14 in the series. They are fun, light reading and I have enjoyed reading a few of them. The plots are simple and there is no real tension so if you prefer something more gripping you might need to look at some of the others in this list.


Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie has to be a cruise reader’s favourite. A classic novel involving a murder during a cruise down the Nile which is investigated by the famous Hercule Poirot.



Deep Sea Dead by Lori Avocato is a recent discovery, which I confess I haven’t read. I will be reading it soon though because, like mine, it features a nurse on board ship. This nurse goes undercover to investigate some shady goings on and ends up investigating a murder. My books feature a nurse as a supporting character to my main protagonist so this one has grabbed my attention for a read. If you get to read it before me, let me know what you think of it.

If you do prefer a more tense read, Mary Higgins Clarke has written a few books set on cruise ships, her latest being All by Myself, Alone. The story follows a transatlantic cruise where a death and a robbery take place. These are investigated by Celia Kilbride, a jewellery expert.

If you like historical context, a recent wartime novel is that of The Ocean Liner. It involves as escape from war torn Europe to America aboard a luxury liner. Two cousins are seeking to escape the concentration camps along with other passengers who are fleeing the war too. Secrets and peril abound as the ship is stalked by a German U-boat.

There are many more books set on cruise ships than I could possibly read. I seem to be discovering new ones every day, not to mention my own series that will grow for the foreseeable future. There are plenty of books to choose from. The second book in my series is available now.




Why Cruise?

Cruising is Fun

Contrary to the experiences of the protagonist, Rachel Prince, in my new series of murder mysteries, cruising is fun. I took my first cruise around ten years ago. Like anyone who has taken a cruise I wondered if I would be bored during sea days – boy was I surprised!


There are activities galore on cruise ships and they are geared up to providing entertainment or relaxation for passengers day and night. If you are a fitness fanatic like my protagonist Rachel Prince, many ships have gyms and running tracks. The majority of medium to large cruise ships have indoor and outdoor swimming pools for all the family. There are also jacuzzis. 

On top of this there are talks throughout the day for those who want to learn something new; dance lessons; quizzes; art auctions; gaming lessons; golf simulators; kids clubs and so on…..

If you want to relax, there are quieter areas scattered throughout most ships and spas where you can have your hair done or go for beauty treatment (all quite costly).

In the evenings there is a theatre show, bars with entertainment, bands playing throughout the ship and a disco for the more active. Many ships have either an indoor or outdoor cinema too.

Food & Drink

There is never a shortage of food and drink on a cruise ship and the majority is included in your stay. You can choose to dine a la carte both lunchtime and evening, or there is the all day buffet that serves food morning to night, a grill bar near to the pools, ice cream bars etc. If you want a bit of luxury and are willing to pay a surcharge there are usually specialty restaurants such as Italian, Indian, Chinese, Steakhouses… But don’t worry, the buffet has specialty days throughout the cruise where you can sample some or the world’s best cuisine.

Beware those cocktails though, they come with a hefty price tag! Pre-cruise drinks packages are a great idea and can include soft drinks for kids.


For me personally, I would never cruise without a balcony suite but there are more economical options with inside staterooms (bear in mind there are not windows or portholes), or staterooms with portholes. If you don’t mind the dark and are planning to be out all day anyway, these rooms are not that bad. If you can afford it though, get a balcony suite. There is nothing like opening those balcony doors and sitting out with a drink watching the sunset or sunrise. 

There are also family suites and luxury suites so something for everyone. If you are travelling as three adults you can ask to share a balcony stateroom as they all have sofa beds that can be made up. You can opt for double or twin when you book.

Why Rachel Prince Mystery Series is set on a Cruise Ship

The main reason for this is that I love cruising and obviously need to do more cruises for research purposes! In many ways a fictional series set on a cruise ship is an eye-opener and I wanted to explore life upstairs and downstairs. The first book introduces this concept and will be explored further in future books. I could have had a protagonist that worked on a cruise ship but that would have missed the passenger experience. I opted for the main protagonist to be a passenger (although this may not work for a long series), and her best friend to work as a cruise ship nurse. That way, the books can explore both worlds while delving into a variety of murder mysteries. There are some characters who will feature regularly and some who will come and go (or die)!


The wonderful thing about cruising is that you can wake up in a new place or country every morning! If you prefer not to lounge on a beach all day then this is the life. When in port, you can choose to take one of the many tours arranged by the cruise line or you can do your own thing – I tend to do a mix of both. 

Cruise Line Options

Cruise lines I have sailed with are Fred Olsen, Princess Cruises, NCL (Norwegian Cruise Lines) and Celebrity. I plan to sail with Cunard in the not too distant future and know people who have sailed with them and with P&O. There is a plethora of cruise lines and destinations to cruise to and from. You can fly/cruise or cruise only.

There are smaller cruise ships if you prefer a more intimate feel and huge if you want non-stop activity. For numbers of activities NCL and Princess appear to top the list but don’t take my word for it – try for yourself. There are some themed lines such as Disney and bigger ships like the Independence of the Seas the choice is yours.

There is so much more to say about cruising – give it a try!

Rachel Prince Mysteries

If you are interested you can take a look at my cruise ship mystery book 1, A Cruise to Murder. Book 2, Deadly Cruise will be released later this year.

Products from Amazon.co.uk


Oakwood Festival Summer 2018

Oakwood Summer Festival Had it All!

The excitement of summer brings about the Oakwood Festival on my local patch each year. This year was always going to be different though:

Now run by the residents association it was their debut and it was carried off smoothly

The sun was shining on a glorious hot day

The event was later in the day running from 1-6pm

Thankfully for me, it was held on the middle Sunday of Wimbledon so no tennis meant I was committed

For those who have previously attended it was a welcome change from the wet weather of many of other years where it has even had to be cancelled on occasions! Sadly, the heat meant the dog show couldn’t take place and there were no donkey rides, but animal welfare must come first.


Lots of charities were in attendance as always and it was great to learn of their work. There was singing; a DJ; dancing; hula hooping and many other forms of entertainment put on by the locality. Food was readily available and the Community Centre was turned into a bar!! Amazingly the stall that looked like a beach shop did a roaring trade due to the hot weather.

I was amused to see lots of people carrying Slimming World bags attending the Sweet Stall!

The bouncy slide was popular with the children and thankfully it went off safely, I am happy to say and was well supervised.

There was a demonstration of how to use the local defibrillator towards the end of the day.

Oakwood Literature Festival Stall

The new pop-up gazebo worked a treat and was easily put up, if not by me! The stall was situated in the corner of the field, and being next to the sweets stall, it was bypassed by many! I did have some lovely conversations with local residents about the Literature Festival, though. I sold a few books too which adds icing to the cake. It was a lovely afternoon out – albeit a little on the sweltering side. I was glad to get home and take a shower!


Well done to the Oakwood Residents Association for putting on a lovely day out – see you next year!

The Oakwood Literature Festival will be held on Saturday 18th May 2019 and information can be found on the website and via the Facebook Page.