Fancy Being The Author in the Spotlight?

light-67324_640PLEASE READ THE UPDATE AT THE END OF THIS BLOG POST!

This week, I’ve decided to revive the ‘Author Spotlight’ feature which I started on my blog a while back. When I first started it, it was a chance for debut authors to reveal the covers of their debut novels to the readers of my blog and to post an excerpt as well. I had a couple of guest authors but after that, it fizzled out a bit and so I’m going to change the purpose of the feature a little.

In future, it will be mostly for self-published authors or for those authors published by small presses to highlight their newest release. That doesn’t exclude anyone who doesn’t fall into those categories, it’s just that I feel that they might need more help. I would like to include the following as a minimum:

  • A picture of your cover.
  • Your bio.
  • An excerpt from your forthcoming novel.
  • Your buying links.

I would be more than happy to interview you as well if you’d like but we can discuss that in more detail once you make contact with me. Alternatively, you could write a guest post for me on a subject that we both feel might be of interest to my readers. I would be very interested to discuss unusual settings and musical connections, of course!

I propose having one of these features fortnightly at the moment starting on May 11th. I will not be running the feature in August though. I am planning to revamp my website this year and so I’d like to get this feature going now before I make some changes. The changes I’m planning revolve around the fact that I don’t feel the need to blog about every aspect of my publishing journey now, although I will of course keep those posts for readers to refer to in the future. I think it’s time to move on to a new phase for the website now that my second novel is well on its way.

I want to be able to help other authors gain some more visibility by featuring them on my blog in the same way that I have been lucky enough to be featured on other authors’ blogs. Many of my author friends have books coming out in the near future and they’re looking for blogs to host them as they make themselves known to readers. In fact, it was hearing one author’s request for blog visits that made me remember that this was something I’d tried to do in the past and wanted to revive.

If you think this would be of interest to you, please leave me a message in the comments below and I will get back to you to talk about it in more detail and to schedule a date. I look forward to hearing from you and would be grateful if you would share this with your writing friends if you think it might be of interest to them. Thanks for reading, as always. Have a good writing and reading week 🙂

PLEASE NOTE THAT I AM NOW BOOKED UP UNTIL THE END OF SEPTEMBER! IF I HAVE ALREADY REPLIED TO YOU, I WILL TRY AND SQUEEZE YOU IN BUT WOULD BE GRATEFUL IF YOU COULD GET BACK TO ME AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. OTHERWISE, YOUR FEATURE WILL NOW BE FROM OCTOBER ONWARDS. THANK YOU 🙂

Our Holiday Adventure From Here to Nashville (part two) and a Week of Book Fairs!

This week, I promised to tell you about the other things we did on our holiday that I didn’t refer to in my book but which were all amazing and well worth doing if you’re ever in Tennessee.

The first thing I wDSCN0149anted to mention was The Johnny Cash Museum in Nashville. This was my favourite museum of all the ones we visited, with The Ryman and The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum coming a close second. First of all, the café and shop were quite small and clearly not the main focus of your visit (this was to prove very important when we went to Graceland a few days later). This meant that the museum took up all the room and rightly so. There were so many fantastic exhibits, ranging from Johnny’s birth certificate to a piece of wall from his house!

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There were lots of music items too, like his guitar and his boots, along with other outfits he’d worn. There was a whole room given over to his platinum and gold records and beyond that, an exhibition devoted to Sun Records where he started out. One of our favourite things was a stand where you could listen to one of his songs in all its different formats – a 78, then a 33, then a 45 record, a cassette, a CD and finally, an MP3 version. It was great listening to the difference in ‘hiss’ on the different formats. Strangely, the 78 record seemed to offer the best quality.

If you like Johnny Cash, you will love the museum of course but even if you don’t know his music much at all, you will come out eager to go and find one of his albums and listen to it again and again. My older daughter felt just like this and it was great to see how much she enjoyed it.

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We did so many musical things while we were in Nashville, going to The Bluebird Café, singing with a Live Band at The Hard Rock Café’s weekly karaoke (there are videos but you’ll have to pay me a lot of money to let you see mine!), listening to some Honky Tonk music at Robert’s Western World and we ended our week with a trip to The Grand Ole Opry House for their Saturday show. The Grand Ole Opry started out as a one-hour radio show on WSM dedicated to country music and has had various homes around the Nashville area. It is now housed in a building east of downtown Nashville near the Opry Mills shopping mall and the show we went to lasted for over two hours. It’s a curious blend of traditional and contemporary country music, interspersed with adverts from their sponsors and some quirky acts like square dancers! It was a bit cheesy at times but we spent a lot of time laughing along with the rest of the audience. It is a part of Nashville’s history and we loved it. One of the best moments for me of course, was seeing Charles Esten who plays the character Deacon in the ABC TV series, ‘Nashville.’ He was the inspiration for my character, Jackson, and so it was fantastic to see him perform on stage.

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A week after arriving in Nashville, we set off on our first road trip of sorts, travelling three hours west to Memphis. People had joked with us when we told them we were going there next about how it is one of the most dangerous cities in the US and we’d need some luck to make it out again safe and sound. We then made the mistake of looking it up on the internet so that by the time we did arrive, we were all feeling a bit tense about it. I’d booked a hotel near Graceland so that we could get there easily and I tell you, they did a fantastic job with their photos on the site. We had an interstate on one side and a cement factory on the other but curiously, neither of those details is included in the sales blurb on the booking site 😉 Here’s a pic of the view from our window for you to get the idea.

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Our room was pleasant enough though and everyone was really friendly so yes, it was functional but it served its purpose for two nights. We ventured into Memphis the first night to eat out and apart from a very persistent but friendly panhandler, we survived! It was very similar to other cities we’ve been in the UK and we adapted fairly quickly. It was very different from the atmosphere in Nashville, a bit more edgy I guess but I think that was to be expected.

 

So the next day, we went to Graceland which was the main point of the trip to Memphis and somewhere I’ve always wanted to go. It was a real operation, starting with the price! We then had to wait for a shuttle bus to take our tour group across the road (!) and while we waited in line, we all had to have our photos taken in case we wanted to spend $40 later on a souvenir photo pack. We were given iPad audio tours and eventually made it across the road to the home of Elvis Presley. We had no time to take a photo outside before being hurried inside to start the tour of the mansion. It made me sad to see the big tourist operation that this visit has become. I enjoyed the visit in that I liked hearing the story behind the house and the life Elvis had lived inside it but I didn’t like being herded along with no time to appreciate the finer aspects at my leisure. When we went back across the road, every exhibit we went in brought us out into another shop as well. Apparently, in 2011, Elvis was one of the top three grossing celebrities who have passed away which for me, says it all. I wouldn’t have missed the experience but I think it could have been so much better.

And so we reached our last night and we wanted to do something really special so we saw that there was a live band on at BB King’s Blues Bar on Beale Street so off we went. We had a great table, right next to another British couple (shut up!) and we sang along to a whole host of our favourite soul songs. It was such a great way to finish our holiday and a memorable way too. I can’t recommend this trip highly enough as I hope you can tell 🙂

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WP_20150414_001The week or so since we’ve been back has been crazy for me so I wanted to share the highlights with you. Firstly, I went to the London Book Fair on Tuesday. It was a great, if exhausting day and I attended lots of useful seminars and met up with some other lovely authors.

 

I was just about recovering from this by Friday when I attended the Indie Author Book Fair organised by the Alliance of Independent Authors as part of Indie Recon 2015. Along with about 60 other indie authors, I had a stand at Foyles Bookshop in the Charing Cross Road in Central London. It was a wonderful occasion and really busy, giving us all the chance to engage with readers face-to-face and to draw strength from each other. I was scared to death beforehand but I’m so glad I went and once it started, I just got talking and then I was fine! So here’s a couple of photos of me and my stall.

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As a result of my sale last week and the great success of the Indie Author Fair, I have had a good number of sales this week and today, I found out that this had all pushed me into the the Amazon Top 100 Bestsellers’ List for Romance Literary Fiction. I might have only been there briefly but for me, it was the crowning glory to a wonderful couple of weeks 🙂 Wishing you all a great week and thanks for reading, as always.

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Our Holiday Adventure From Here to Nashville (part one)

And so it’s back to life and reality now that our big holiday adventure is over. Oh, but what an adventure it was 🙂 I checked out all the places I referred to in my book and I’m pleased to say that I think I did a good job. For today’s post, I’m going to share those places with you and to tell you some of what we got up to while we were there.

The Journey From Here to Nashville

DSCN0039The first photo I took was at Heathrow where I was pleased to see a branch of Tiffany’s. I spent quite a few minutes with my daughters looking at all the beautiful jewellery there but didn’t find the exact pieces that Jackson buys for Rachel in the book. It didn’t matter though, it was just good to be in there 🙂

 

 

We were slightly delayed on the journey from Heathrow to Chicago and then sat on the tarmac when we got there, watching the window for our connecting flight to Nashville get smaller and smaller. We decided to go with the flow though and not let it bother us too much. We knew there were flights later that evening so we were sure it would all be okay. Some very kind people fast-tracked us through immigration and security but by the time we’d picked up our bags again, we thought we had definitely missed our connecting flight. Then, just as our bags were being retagged, we were told that our flight had been held for us and so we ran all the way to meet it and finally arrived in Nashville about half an hour after our original arrival time. Sadly, our luggage didn’t make it on time but we did get it  before the night was out!

Nashville

Day 1

On our first day, we walked towards the Nashville Farmers’ Market and after some breakfast there, we made our way downtown.

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I had no idea when I wrote my book that the 7th President of the United States was from Nashville. His name was Andrew Jackson and by pure coincidence, his wife’s name was Rachel Jackson, a lovely combination of the names of my two main characters 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

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And as we continued on our way down the hill from the Capitol building, we came across The Hermitage Hotel (named after Andrew Jackson’s Presidential home), and Rachel’s bolt-hole when everything goes a bit awry. The clothes shop in the hotel is called ‘Rachel’s Boutique.’ Such a delight finding out these little things along the way.

 

 

 

 

 

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And here is our first view of The ‘Batman’ building as it is affectionately known in Nashville. Everywhere we went, the AT&T building rose high above the skyline and I thought of Jackson describing it to Rachel every time 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

And DSCN0105after we’d had a play around at The Visitors’ Centre, walked the length and breadth of Broadway and had some tasty Tex-Mex for lunch, we went on The Music City Hop On, Hop Off Trolley tour. On our way back to our condo, I led the way past the inspiration for Jackson’s loft.

 

 

 

 

 

Day 2

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And so on to the iconic Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. A wonderful building on both the inside and the outside and we spent hours just marvelling at everything there was to see and hear. We loved the history and the variety of exhibits and memorabilia. Our girls focussed mainly on the Taylor Swift exhibits, of course but they had fun and that was the main thing!

 

 

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It was soon time for our trip to RCA Studio B where so many great musicians have recorded songs over the years. It was a great experience, full of history and memories from another musical era.

 

 

 

 

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And here’s the piano that Rachel sits at, sensing all the greats that have sat here before her, including Elvis Presley.

 

 

 

 

 

Day 3

DSCN0185We were all very excited about this day because I’d managed to reserve us a table at The Bluebird Café where Rachel sings her first ‘Open Mic’ session. It is a very small venue, just about 100 seats in all and I’d been lucky enough to get us a table on my second try at using their automated reservation system. The night we attended, it was an ‘in the round’ session organised by ASCAP (The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers). This meant that the four performers were sat in the middle of the audience and they took turns telling us about their songs before performing them. It was a fantastic show, with such talented performers that you will never have heard of I’m sure but I really hope they all get their moment one day soon. If you want to look them up, they were: Ryan Shea Smith, Austin Jenckes, Andrea Pearson and Jonathan Kingham.

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Day 4

I haven’t told you as yet how beautiful the weather was while we were in Nashville but on this day, it actually rained. It was only a quick shower though and we were soon able to get on our way to visit the Parthenon as we had originally planned.

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It is a replica of the real Parthenon in Greece, of course, built for the Centennial celebrations in Nashville and then rebuilt once again at the request of the people who couldn’t bear to see it torn down once the celebrations were over. It was meant to represent Nashville as ‘the Athens of the South’ on account of all its veritable educational institutions. We had a fun time visiting it and reading all about the history of the celebrations.

 

 

 

 

Next week, I will post about all the other wonderful things we did on our trip which I didn’t refer to in my story, including our days in Memphis. If you haven’t read my book yet though and now feel moved to do so, it is on sale this week at 99p! Here’s the link: http://bit.ly/FromHeretoNashville

Lastly, if you’re in the London area on Friday, April 17th, I will be attending the Indie Author Book Fair, hosted by Triskele Books and the Alliance of Independent Authors at Foyles’ bookshop in the Charing Cross Road. It starts at 4.30pm and it’s free. It would be lovely to see you and sign a book for you.

Thanks for reading as always and do please leave me a comment below.