My blog has received a ‘One Lovely Blog’ award!

7fd5e-onelovelyblogawardIt’s always nice to receive awards but this one has a particularly nice ring to it and I am very grateful to Terry Tyler for nominating my blog this time round. If you’ve not seen Terry’s blog before, you can take a look here and read her post about receiving the award at the same time. Thanks again, Terry for being such a great supporter of my blog 🙂

The rules for this award are similar to those for others I’ve received. Firstly, I have to tell you another 7 interesting things about myself. I know that you’re probably getting a bit fed up with me by now but I promise I am going to try and come up with something even more interesting than I’ve told you before! Then I have to link to 15 other blogs that I think you will find entertaining.

So here goes with my 7 interesting things about myself. I’ve decided to give this list a bookish theme. This week, I was tagged by one of my Facebook friends to list 10 books that have stayed with me since reading them and I duly complied, enjoying the activity enormously. However, there were lots of other books I could have included but didn’t have space for so here are some of those and the reasons why, which should also reveal a little more about me.

SalemslothardcoverAlthough I love reading romance stories, my first great love in book terms when I was young, came through Stephen King. One of our close friends bought every book as it came out and then passed it on to me to read next. I devoured these books as a teenager, even though some were truly frightening but I loved that. My favourite book of his is…Well, that’s the problem! I can’t pick a favourite because I loved them all but I can still remember reading amongst others, ‘Salem’s Lot,’ ‘The Shining,’ ‘Christine,’ ‘Pet Sematary’ and ‘It.’



dustinI couldn’t include Shakespeare’s ‘The Merchant of Venice’ on my list but it’s definitely my second favourite after ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ I studied it at school and so knew it very well. If you’ve read my previous lists about myself, you’ll know that I like the actor Dustin Hoffman very much so when I saw that he was to play Shylock in ‘The Merchant of Venice’ in London, when I was studying at University, I knew I had to go. I still have very fond memories of that experience to this day 🙂




marklesterOne of my other Charles Dickens favourites is ‘Oliver Twist,’ probably because I loved the musical first! I did go on and read the story though and loved it. I think the musical does a very good job in sticking to the story and of course, there are the songs. I actually performed in this play at school, although I only had a tiny part, despite being a good singer, because the music teacher had her favourites and I wasn’t one of those 😦




Alex-Haley-RootsI did include ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ on my list because it had a profound effect on me and my life. I hate injustice but particularly when it’s related to race and I find stories about that very powerful. As a young person, I remember watching ‘Roots’ on the television with my mum and being shocked to my core by the events contained within the story. I only read the book a few years ago though, when one of my children was studying it at school. It’s a massive book, as you’ll know if you’ve ever read it but I flew through it because the story is so wonderfully written.



book-thefirm-lgTalking about justice, I love legal thrillers too and so when John Grisham’s books first came on the scene, I was captivated at once. I loved ‘The Firm’ because I’d never read anything like it and I still love it to this day. I have all the hardback copies of his books sitting on the top shelf of my bookcase even now but I have to admit to not having reread any of them for years.




200px-TheIceHouseAnother author I used to enjoy reading was Minette Walters. She wrote contemporary crime fiction and her book, ‘The Ice House’ was one of the best I’d ever read. I went on to read lots of the others over the next few years. However, once I had my first child, I knew I could not read any of this kind of book for a while because it upset me too much when I tried. I do now read crime fiction again but I still find anything to do with children difficult to stomach.



harry-potter-booksMy last one that I have to include here because I didn’t have space on the first list is every single one of the Harry Potter books. I love them all and have read and reread them many times. Over the last few years, I have been able to read The Philosopher’s Stone at school with some of my classes and I am always amazed at the number of children who have never read it. Why not?! I want to cry. I remember many happy hours spent reading the early books with my children, until they were ready to go off and read the rest on their own. We all love the books and the films and we’ve been on the tour as well and these are some of our happiest memories together, all thanks to J. K. Rowling 🙂


Here’s my original list for your perusal:

1. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare.
2. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.
3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë.
4. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
5 . To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
6. The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
7. Wait for You by J. Lynn
8. Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James
9. The Island by Victoria Hislop
10. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak


And here are the 15 blogs that I recommend to you this time. Do go and take a look if you don’t know them already, you will be well rewarded!

1. Jane Isaac, Crime Writer – Caffeine’s Not a Crime

2. Paula Reed Nancarrow, Writer and Poet – On Writing, Creative Practice and Performance

3. Wendy Janes, Proofreading for the Independent Author – Proofreading by Wendy

4. The Romaniacs – Kindred Spirits with a love for Writing

5. WriteMindsWritePlace – Women Chatting about their Writing World

6. Dylan Hearn, Writer – Suffolk Scribblings

7. Bill Cunningham – W. C. Cunningham Writes

8. The Write Romantics – Love, Life and Writing

9. Jane Lovering, Author – From Behind the Keyboard

10. Debi V. Smith, Writer – Chocolate Wasteland

11. Debbie Young, Author – Debbie Young’s Writing Life

12. Jessica Redland, Writer – Jessica Redland, Writer

13. Robyn Koshel, Book Reviewer and Writer – Elder Park Book Reviews

14.Katie Oliver, Author – If you like a bit of comedy with your romance…

15. Clare Chase, Writer – Writer of Fast-Paced Romantic Mysteries











© Julie Stock and My Writing Life, 2013 – 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Julie Stock and My Writing Life with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Choosing and working with a Book Cover Designer

Nashville Book CoverAlmost as soon as I started writing my debut novel ‘From Here to Nashville’ last year, I had a strong idea in mind of what I wanted the cover to look like. As it’s a contemporary romance with a country music theme, I knew it had to have a guitar in there and something to suggest it was a love story but at that point, that was really all I had come up with. I found a photo on one of the stock photo sites that I liked, paid for it and downloaded it. My daughter helped me insert some writing on to it and lo, my provisional cover was born. Regular readers will be familiar with it and I have also asked friends and followers on Facebook for their view of the cover. I didn’t get many replies but those that did reply said they liked it.

However, one of the pieces of advice I picked up early on is that your cover has to be brilliant, especially if you’re going to self-publish and as much as I still like my own cover, I have known for a long time that it wouldn’t compare to a professional cover design. So, I started building a list of potential cover designers very early on. ‘Where from?’ I hear you cry! Well, one place I began to find the same names appearing was on Joel Friedlander’s ‘The Book Designer’ website, where every month, he holds an ebook Cover Design Awards ceremony. Here’s the link to last month’s:   I watch out for this every month because I love looking at all the covers and reading his comments about them. It is a very rare thing for a self-published cover to receive praise but they do sometimes and you can see what things he thinks they have done particularly well. I noticed over the months though that the same design companies came in for regular praise and I started bookmarking these companies for the time when I might need them.

In addition to this, whenever I noticed a book with a good cover, I would check the first few pages to see if the cover designer was mentioned and if they were, I would bookmark their company. I looked out for recommendations from others and read articles with interest about people’s experiences. So when the time came for me to choose a cover designer, I already had a good list of about 6 companies to choose from.

The next stage was finding out how much they would charge. Unfortunately, I am finding that self-publishing can come at quite a high cost and therefore, getting value for money is really important. I am obviously happy to pay for professional work but there is a limit for everyone and if, like me, you don’t really even have a budget (!), every penny is going to be important. What I found is that the larger companies wanted me to sign up to a package, typically priced at around £250 for just an ebook cover. This seemed like a lot of money to me for a service that didn’t look very personal. I wanted to work with someone that I could build a relationship with, as I thought that would be very important if they were to stand any chance of understanding what I want from my cover. This was why I didn’t choose the company in the end, even though they are priced very competitively. I came across the site via a recommendation from The Writers’ Workshop because one of their writers was holding a contest for the design of their book cover. It is a clever idea in that you submit your brief, choose how much you’ll pay and then designers submit their designs to your contest and you choose the one you like the most after 7 days. I just didn’t feel that this was personal enough for me but it might work for you so you should take a look if you like the sound of it.

After a fair bit of research then and keeping my ear close to the ground for over a year, I came back to a design company that I had bookmarked right at the very beginning. We exchanged emails a few times to clarify what I was looking for in the broadest sense and to finalise the price and I started working with them last week! Since then, I have filled out a very detailed questionnaire, which asked me very searching questions about my story, things like genre, setting, themes, tone, point of view, key words and target market. I have also been able to upload a file of images I have put together containing ideas and inspiration about my cover, as well as my synopsis. The hardest bit was specifying what I think is good design and what I think is bad design, with examples from Amazon. That took me absolutely ages! It was also hard to explain which sort of reader I feel would read my book in answer to the question, ‘Perfect for readers of….’ It probably took the best part of last week for me to answer the questions and upload my files. Now it’s on to the design process which will allow three rounds of revisions and be final by 17th September. The cost for the ebook cover is £149 and I have the option to go back for a print cover later if I need it. I know you want to know who the company is but I’m going to hold on to that information until the design is ready. When it is, you can tell me what you think and I’ll tell you who they are so do keep checking back and in the meantime, keep looking at other people’s covers for inspiration 🙂

Thanks, as always, for reading and let me know in the comments below, if you have any questions you’d like to ask.








Writing a great blurb for your contemporary romance novel

DSCN9080After a great break away, it’s time to get back to writing and I always find that this weekly blog post breaks me in gently on a Monday morning. I thought I ought to start with an update of where things are with my writing journey. This photo shows one of the mountains we saw whilst we were away in the French Alps last week and it reminds me a lot of where I am with my writing right now.

Before I went away on holiday, I got in touch with a freelance editor I’d met at the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s (RNA) conference in July and asked her to do a partial edit on the first three chapters of ‘From Here to Nashville,’ my debut novel. I have sent her the final draft of those chapters so I hope that these represent as close to the finished work as I can make it on my own. I am nervously awaiting her feedback which is due by the end of this month. Dependent on what comes back, I may or may not have a lot of work to do to polish the rest of the story to the same standard as the first three chapters will be after her help.

The other thing I have done is to contact a cover designer and I am all set to go with them this week in starting work on an e-book cover only, in the first instance. They have a lot of experience in book cover design and also in the romance genre and I’m looking forward to working with them. The cover should be ready by mid-September and I will keep you up to date with its progress.

In the meantime, I am still implementing the revisions suggested by my RNA reader following my manuscript assessment as part of the New Writers’ Scheme. This should keep me busy whilst all these other things are going on. On top of this, I have started working on a blurb for my novel, just another one of those seemingly easy but actually quite difficult jobs you have to do as a novelist. I read an interesting blog post at the weekend by Tara Sparling called ‘What Makes People Buy Self-Published Books’ which you can read here on her blog. The three things that came out of her survey that encouraged people to buy were the cover, the sample and the blurb. As I’ve got going on the cover and the book itself is on its way to being professionally edited, I felt it was time to turn my attention to the blurb.

I have had a go at this in the past but found it quite difficult so I did some research and found an interesting piece all about it here, on Digital Bookworld’s site. Their advice is to follow four easy steps to writing your blurb: first, describe the situation your characters are in at the start of the story; then explain the problem; next, tell the reader what the ‘hopeful possibility’ is; finally, describe the mood of the story. I found this incredibly useful and have even managed to produce a first go which comes in at just under 150 words. It’s not as good as it could be yet but it’s a start. I also spent some time looking at blurbs for other books I’ve read and enjoyed on Amazon to see what I should be aiming for. Whilst doing this, I noticed that most blurbs start with a separate line of just a few words which aim to hook the reader in. For example, Kate Atkinson’s ‘Life After Life’ blurb starts with: ‘What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?’ And ‘Can Baking Mend a Broken Heart?’ from Jenny Colgan’s ‘Little Beach Street Bakery.’ In keeping with this idea then, mine is ‘Can Music Really Make Your Dreams Come True?’ Once again, it’s a first go but it’s made me think about my story and how to hook readers.

Thanks for reading and if you have any thoughts about writing a blurb, do let me know in the comments below. Good luck with writing yours!