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Author Spotlight – David J Robertson

This month’s author in the spotlight is children’s author, David Robertson, whose latest release is Dognapped!, an adventure book aimed at middle grade children (7-10) involving four canine friends. Welcome to the blog, David.
Dognapped

Dognapped! – David J Robertson

The quartet investigate strange sounds coming from the chimney of a canal boat which turns out to be feisty puppy, Ashley stuck inside the narrow tube. They manage to release him but accidentally cast themselves adrift.

On the boat’s radio they hear, ‘…news is coming in of a dognapping. Ashley has been taken along with a narrow boat. In a statement his people said, “whoever has taken our poor puppy is very naughty indeed!”’ 

The situation rapidly deteriorates until they eventually find themselves lost at sea. Will they make it back to shore? Can any of them swim? How silly does Rascal look in welly boots?

Buy Dognapped! here

***** 

Excerpt

One-Eyed Rose peered once more into the chimney. ‘Wow! It’s gone – whatever it was!’ she exclaimed, standing back. Now her one good eye had a black sooty ring around it.

I leant my paws against the window and put my nose to the glass. Inside were two black lumps. One was vaguely Bertie shaped.The other was a lot smaller.

The largest lump shook violently. Soot billowed through the air. It was Bertie! He blinked at me through the glass and pointed toward the back of the boat as he shouted, ‘The door was open all the time.’

I scurried along the bank and sprang onto the tiny deck. Clouds of black dust hung around the open door. Carefully, I made my way down three narrow steps and peered into the gloomy cabin. Bertie stroked his long black whiskers which were slowly becoming grey again. In front of him the small black lump trembled.Two vivid white circles appeared.

The lump had eyes!

I took a step back.This was getting scarier. Even Bertie, who knows a lot of things about a lot of things looked worried.

Looking round I spotted a carving knife lying on a table. I picked it up in my jaws – just in case! ‘Ahh…!’ went the tiny black lump.

It trembled harder than before.
…AAh!’

And even harder.

‘Is everything all right?’ One-Eyed Rose yelled down the chimney.
‘…Tishoooo!’ sneezed the tiny black lump, showering more soot into the air.

‘Wow! What was that?’ boomed from the chimney.‘Hold on I’m coming down.’

The tiny lump puffed out its cheeks. ‘Tshoo,’ it sniffed. It was now mostly white with brown patches and a brown tipped stubby tail.

Scamper!
Clatter!
Bang!
Thump!

One-Eyed Rose fell down the steps, ‘Wow! A puppy dog!’

The pup looked at Bertie with his bone-patterned scarf. He stared at me armed with a knife. Finally he gaped at One-Eyed Rose with the black ring around her one good eye like an eye-patch.‘Arggh! Pirates!’

‘Wow! Where?’ shouted One-Eyed Rose, looking around anxiously.

I dropped the knife.‘He means us, Rose,’ I told her, ‘we’ve frightened him.’

The pup bounced up and down on all four paws.‘I’m not frightened! Come on! I’ll fight you all. Yippity yap!’ he barked in a squeaky voice.

Bertie sighed.With a sharp clip of his paw he tapped the puppy across the tail making him somersault backwards.

‘Ow! I surrender!’
‘What sort of dog is that?’ One-Eyed Rose sniffed at the defeated baby.
‘I won’t tell you anything! We Jack Russells are very brave!’

I looked at the brown marks on his fur,‘I bet his name is Patch.’

The little dog grinned at me defiantly, ‘You’ll get nothing out of me, you nasty pirate. From now on Ashley says nothing! Yappity yip!’

‘So, Ashley, what was a Jack Russell puppy doing up the chimney?’ Bertie asked.
Ashley pouted,‘I was exploring.’
‘It’s a good job I poked you out with that brush. If someone had lit the fire you might have singed your tail,’ One-Eyed Rose said helpfully.

*****

Hi, I’m David J Robertson a … year old, (sorry the number lock seems to be broken!), bloke from the Black Country. There’s a children’s book – DOGNAPPED! completed and published (about my dog, Misty and her adventures) The second ‘IN THE DOGHOUSE!’ is written with a third already in the pipeline.

You may be wondering, ‘Why on earth is a children’s writer appearing on the blog pages of a romance author?’ Well, good people of this genre, it is my belief that you – being discerning readers – would like nothing better than to pass on your love of literature to your sons and daughters, to your grandchildren, to your nephews and nieces, indeed to any child who shows the slightest interest in taking their nose out of a mobile phone for even a second.

Also, I have a book to promote and although slightly biased I do happen to believe that it is quite good. In fact the illustrations by Ian R Ward are wonderful and I am very grateful for his input. Most people on picking it up do comment, ‘Oh this looks lovely!’ Sadly they’re all looking at the pictures and no one has read the story. I urge you to do so – you might like it!

So what are my writing credentials? I began writing seriously following a heart attack. Being cracked open like a lobster for a quadruple bypass seriously focuses the mind. Heed my advice – this is not the way to get into writing!

I’ve done quite a bit flash fiction and short stories. One day I’ll try to put them all together. You can see samples of these along with a blog on my website which is updated around once a week depending upon my inspiration, chagrin or whatever has plain got my goat during the past seven days.

And of course there’s the novel. Haven’t we all got one somewhere? It unfortunately needs attacking drastically with the red editing pen! A humorous (allegedly) science fiction/ fantasy adventure. I only started it in 2006 so it must be nearly finished by now.

Thursday mornings are taken up with Castle Writers in Dudley, in fact I’m now the Chairman, come along if you’re local – a bit of creative writing never hurt anyone.

Below are a few links to my website and blog, Facebook page and my Twitter account. Please feel free to pop over and say, ‘Hi,’ it would be nice to see you. Just a word of warning however – my dog, Misty does administer the website, take whatever she tells you with a pinch of salt! There’s also a link above to my publisher, Troubadour, it would be great if you fancied a copy of, ‘DOGNAPPED!’ You can read it yourself first before you donate it to your little darlings – I won’t tell, honest!

David RobertsonFind out more about David and his books here:

Website                                                       
Facebook                           
Twitter
 

The Authors’ Compass

WP_20160423_004Last Saturday, I attended a conference organised by The Society of Authors in Manchester, the first event I have been to for a while. It was just the pick-me-up I needed and a chance to get out and about to network with old friends and new. The day focussed on the changing face of publishing and as a self-published author myself, I was really interested to see if I could pick up new information to take forward.

The keynote address was given by Kate Harrison, who I’ve heard speak before at one of the RNA conferences and who is both a romance author and a non-fiction writer. Some of you may know her, as I do, as the author of the 5:2 Diet books. Kate’s talk was called ‘Navigation for Authors’ and she took us through what she sees as the benefits of the three different models of publishing existing today: traditional, self and hybrid.
Traditional Publishing – she described this as a sort of employee model.

  • If you’re lucky, you might get an advance under this model but you will definitely get royalties on your book sales.
  • You have access to your publisher’s wider distribution network but your royalties will be quite a low percentage compared to some other models.
  • You have no control over the price of your work, your rights to it or the marketing of it.

Self-Publishing  – this is the entrepreneur model, according to Kate.

  • You have to invest your cash upfront.
  • You build your own team.
  • You will encounter distribution barriers but you will get a higher percentage of the royalties potentially for all your book sales.
  • You control the price, your rights and your marketing.

Hybrid Publishing – this model allows you to maximise your value.

  • You make a decision as to how you’re going to publish on a project-by-project basis. In Kate’s case, she already had an agent and a publishing contract for her romance novels when she decided to write her first 5:2 Diet Book. Her publisher rejected it and so she worked with her agent to produce an ebook of her non-fiction work. It did so well that the publisher then offered her a contract for the paperback version.
  • Your brand strategy is under your control.
  • You have the flexibility to respond to the market and your own instincts.
  • You build a team on your own terms.

Kate’s review came at a very important time for me as I have been sending my second book out to agents and publishers but with very little success so far. I know that’s to be expected but it’s still hard to take, as I’m sure many of you will know from your own experience. I can see though that the hybrid model could have benefits and I know of a lot of authors who are going down this route. There was a lot of food for thought from Kate’s talk and if you get the chance to hear Kate speak, I would urge you to do so. You can find Kate on Twitter @Katewritesbooks.

WP_20160423_006The next session was called ‘The Publishing Landscape’ and presented by Kate Pool and Sarah Baxter who both advise members of The Society of Authors on publishing contracts. As I have never seen a publishing contract (!), I found this a very interesting session indeed. They made a few general points before they started talking about rights.

Firstly, self-published ebooks now account for about 20% of Amazon’s sales. The most popular genres in fiction are romance and crime, as you might expect. In non-fiction, the most popular subjects are health, diet, wholefood cookery and travel writing. However, they did say that it is very much about timing in terms of what readers want. They also mentioned that their revised guide to self-publishing will be available on their website in the next week or so. It costs £10 for non-members.

Moving on to rights, they said that the rights and terms a publisher will usually want are:

  • Territory and language.
  • Formats and media.
  • Use it or lose it. This means that if rights are unexploited after a certain length of time, the rights could then revert to you.

In the discussion that followed, they advised authors to be careful not to give away their non-print rights, which would include things like dramatisation, TV, plays etc. This is not a standard clause so The Society looks out for this one particularly. They advised that in terms of money, authors should think about two things: What is the publisher doing for you, how are they adding value and are you, as the author, getting a fair deal? Their final point was very interesting. They said that it almost doesn’t matter what rights you give away as long as there is a mechanism in your contract for you to escape from it. Food for thought indeed.

The next session was a panel chaired by RNA member, Rhoda Baxter, discussing ‘The Publishing Process.’ We heard from Kevin McCann, a poet and author of a book called Teach Yourself: Self-Publishing; from Richard Sheehan, a freelance proofreader and copy editor, who explained about the different types of editing available to authors; from Kate Roden of Fixabook.com, a company that analyses book design and gives creative guidance on jackets, blurbs and spines; and finally, from Helen Lewis, director of Literally PR.

The main things I learnt from this session were to do with cover design and PR. Kate advised that you think long and hard about your design strategy and what you want your design to achieve before you even contact your designer. Her tips to make your design better were to:

  • Consider what your customers like and what they want. She advised that you find this out by going on reader platforms on Facebook for example.
  • Play to the strengths of digital design, for example by having no words apart from the title on the cover. She highlighted one particular cover of recent times that she thought was especially good.
  • Use your fans to help generate excitement about your cover design. Involve them in your process if you can.
  • Mirror the design of the cover inside your book, as chapter titles for example (I loved this idea and wished I’d done that with the Nashville skyline!)

Helen Lewis had a great many tips to offer about PR but could only squeeze a few of them into the time available. I would really like to hear her full talk some time, which usually takes an hour! Anyway, in the mean time, here’s a few pieces of advice she gave.

  • Concentrate on only one social media platform and your website (Hallelujah!)
  • Build your author platform online by blogging and guest blogging. She also said that blogging shouldn’t have to be something you do all the time though. You should consider only blogging when a new book is coming out for example.
  • Build your platform offline by speaking at festivals, schools, businesses, parties, book clubs and signings at bookshops.
  • Invest time in building up interest in your book before publication. The Bookseller has a 6 month lead time for example.

She drew our attention to an article by Jane Friedman on Facebook for authors, which you can find here. She also mentioned that Literally PR has a Review Club on Facebook which authors can join for free by emailing Helen to join. That page is here. It doesn’t have many members at the moment but the idea looks interesting. Helen can also be found on Twitter @LiterallyPR.

The final session of the day, chaired by Kate Pool from The Society of Authors, was about ‘Publishing Routes‘ and featured Dan Kieran from Unbound, a funding platform and publishing company bringing authors and readers together; Kristen Harrison of The Curved House publishing company; and Michael Schmidt of independent literary publisher, Carcanet Press.

It was another very interesting panel with some innovative ideas about what publishing means in the modern world. I found Dan Kieran very captivating as a speaker and his own experience as an author is an amazing story. However, I can’t ever see myself buying into the idea of crowdfunding a novel to be honest, although it may suit other authors. In the case of Unbound, you have to raise a minimum of £3,000 once you’ve been accepted on to their scheme and then if you make that, they will publish your book for you in the traditional way, taking a split of the royalties. I couldn’t help noticing that many of the authors featured on their website are well-known names who wouldn’t find it as difficult as an unknown to crowd fund to that level perhaps. Still, an interesting concept and worth reading more about if you think crowd funding could be for you.

My favourite tip in this session came from Kristen Harrison when she told us about another project she is involved in called Visual Verse. This is an anthology of art and words, as this about page explains, where they supply an image and you have to respond to it with anywhere between 50 and 500 words. The twist is that you must write your piece within one hour and submit it. It is open to published and unpublished authors and some of the pieces already written are very powerful. I thought this was a fascinating idea and was a very different way, as Kristen said, of giving yourself an online footprint without having a website of your own. She was really into the idea of blogging projects with a start and finish, giving authors a much narrower remit than the standard idea of writing a blog post every week. If you’ve every wondered what the heck you were going to write about on your blog this week and felt overwhelmed by the very thought of it, you might like to consider this idea 😉

Well, as you can see, it was a very interesting conference and I learnt a great deal. You don’t have to be a member of The Society of Authors to attend their events by the way. I found out about this one via the RNA but all you have to do is to email them at this address info@societyofauthors.org and they will let you know what they have coming up.

WP_20160423_005

Author Spotlight – Julia Wild

This week’s author in the spotlight is romantic suspense novelist, Julia Wild, whose latest release is Moon Shadow.
moonshadow (1)Moon Shadow – Julia Wild

‘You’ll destroy me if I let you…’

Ellie Morrison is the star of a British, daily soap. So what’s she doing on a ranch in Montana posing as a housekeeper and investigating the murky past of its good-looking owner, Declan Kelloway?

And why does she find herself attracted to her new boss? After all, she has a perfectly satisfactory man in her life. And Declan is just part of her job, isn’t he?

Amazon

*****

And now for my interview with Julia:

Can you tell us more about what inspired you to choose the setting for your current book?

Hi Julie, thanks for inviting me to be on your blog, it’s lovely to join you here. To answer what inspired me to choose the setting for Moon Shadow, I wanted somewhere remote, somewhere isolated, and to be centred on a ranch. The result is Kelloway’s Ranch in Montana, America. I needed to put the heroine, Ellie Morrison into a situation right outside her comfort zone, where she would take some huge risks for big financial rewards, so that when we join Ellie, her promise of a lucrative TV series in America has fallen through, but she still has massive debts… She is already working for a Go Anywhere, Do Anything agency. The story and the love affair build from there, there is also a mystery woven through the story, asking the question: What, if anything, did Declan Kelloway have to do with his wife’s death? It is that answer Ellie is sent to his ranch to find, under cover in the role of Declan’s temporary housekeeper.

Do you find it hard to come up with ideas for stories? How do you go about it?

All my ideas stem from the wonderful question: What if? Just as an example, Illusions, my 5th novel, sprang completely from the question: What would happen if you met the man of your dreams – on your hen night? I based the hen night on one I had attended, threaded through an art mystery, the location moving between London and the Lake District.

How long does it take you to write your first draft? How many more drafts will there be after that?

The first draft would take between 6-8 months, but to be honest, I lose track of how many drafts, a lot would cover it! Maybe I need to learn to plan my stories more, but I do love the organic process of just leaping into a story and seeing what happens. I think the downside is the many drafts involved.

What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

The hardest part of writing is stopping to eat, or having to stop because my neck, fingers, everything aches! Like most fellow writers, I love being in the worlds I create.

What do you enjoy most about the writing process?

What I enjoy most is that moment when you know that your current idea is really working! Also, when you give a friend a rough outline, and their eyes light up and they say they can’t wait to read it.

Is there a recurring theme in your novels or is each one completely different?

The only recurring theme is the romance element, and I love unexpected twists and turns; I intend each one to be different, and hope in the not too distant future to re-visit the historicals I wrote a long time ago to see whether they are worth spending time putting onto computer (I typed all three very, very long manuscripts!)

Have you started work on your next novel yet? If so, can you tell us anything about it?

I have started work on my next novel. The next brand new book I am working on is based in London; the heroine is Melissa, a dancer in West End shows. Unexpectedly she meets up again with a past love, Oliver, who now runs his own nightclub in the West End. Incidentally, I would love to dance but have little rhythm; but I have worked in the West end as a nightclub waitress!

Thank you again, Julie for inviting me to be a guest on your blog, and I wish you all the best!

CJ 10About Julia

A member of the Romantic Novelists Association since 1993, Julia came through the New Writers’ Scheme to win the New Writers’ Award (now known as the Joan Hessayon award) with Dark Canvas.

She is married and lives in Bedfordshire and has three fantastic children – all grown up now – but all still very much part of her life.

Julia worked in the local mobile house-bound library for nine wonderful years, and then was re-deployed to a local library until 2014. When the huge cutbacks came, she took redundancy and is taking some time to be self-employed; doing what she loves best – escaping into the writing world. Before she begins working on new stories that are bubbling away, she is bringing out her back list as Print on Demand and ebooks.

Find Julia and her books here:
Amazon Author Page
Twitter
Facebook
Website

 

Author Spotlight – Jenny Harper

My first author spotlight of the year is on contemporary women’s fiction author, Jenny Harper. Jenny’s latest book is Between Friends.

Between Friends webBetween Friends – Jenny Harper

They thought he belonged safely in the past. His return threatens everything.

Marta, Carrie and Jane have been friends since they were at school. Now one is bringing up her family, another is desperately trying for children of her own, and the third is focused on her career – and each takes the support of the others as a given.

But when generous Marta offers out-of-luck actor Tom temporary shelter, her act of kindness sets in motion a tsunami of destruction. Marta’s marriage comes under threat. Timid Jane is haunted by the secret she has been hiding since she last saw Tom. And ambitious Carrie finds herself at the mercy of a man who can ruin her career.

Only by pulling together can the friends rid themselves of this menace. But is Tom too clever at sowing mistrust?

Excerpt from Between Friends (the beginning):

Sometimes Marta wondered how different her days might be if they were a family rather than a couple. If, instead of putting on a business suit at the sound of the alarm, she were to wake to the snuffling cries of a baby and pad across the carpet in the bedroom she shared with Jake to a cot in the corner. She imagined the feeling of picking it up, this squalling infant, of holding it to her breast and hushing it with love and milk.

She picked up her coffee from the counter of the small café, filled with a disappointment so profound that for a moment she thought it might set her weeping. This morning, again, her hopes had been dashed.

Still – she placed the cup on the table in the window and dropped her briefcase on the floor – it was a day of rare promise. She could see it in the slant of the morning light hitting the chiselled stone of the Georgian tenements across the road, and feel it in the warmth of the sun already beating through the window. It was going to be hot, a day for walking the beaches from Silverknowes to Cramond Island or strolling up the Pentland Hills with a flask of tea and a pack of sandwiches. A day not to be wasted.

By nature cheerful, she allowed her spirits to lift.

Across the road, sun hit glass as a door opened, reflecting low rays of light sharply into her eyes. A man emerged and stood, undecided, as the door swung to behind him. Was he a celebrity? It was August, and Edinburgh was teeming with personalities and stars, real and wannabe. Authors were here for the Book Festival, jazz musicians were opening their souls for the world’s inspection, dancers, actors, comedians and television personalities were vying with each other for attention and audiences.

She watched as the lights changed and the man crossed the road. He was tall and slim, stylishly dressed with well-cut jeans, brown loafers, a crisp white shirt and a grey sweater tied loosely round his neck. A battered brown fedora sat jauntily on his head and he carried a brown leather holdall over one shoulder. He was heading straight towards her.

Surely she knew him? …

Amazon UK

*****

And now for my interview with Jenny:

Can you tell us more about what inspired you to choose the setting for your current book?

My first four novels with Accent Press were set in a fictional town in East Lothian called Hailesbank. They are grouped together as the Heartlands series. I loved dreaming up a world entirely of my own – though set in a recognisable context – but Edinburgh is where I live and work. It’s a stunning city and I know it well – so I could not think of anywhere better to set a novel. I’m not the first author to think of this, of course!

Do you find it hard to come up with ideas for stories? How do you go about it?

When I’ve cleared my mind ready for a new venture, I turn first to my cuttings file. I tend to cut out and keep stories I see in newspapers and magazines that catch my imagination. They may be about interesting people or about weird things that have happened. They might be quirky, or funny or sad. Sometimes I try placing two or three very different scenarios/people/settings together and see if any magic happens. Occasionally I spot something that immediately sparks an idea. That’s what happened with the novel I’m writing at the moment – but sorry, I don’t want to talk about it yet!

How long does it take you to write your first draft? How many more drafts will there be after that?

I’m really slow at getting started. I can think the idea through and get a one or two page synopsis down quite quickly, but as I get deeper into it and get to know my characters, I have to adjust my notes all the time. I also like layers and depth in my stories (even though I like them to be page-turners!). Adding this should look seamless, but planning how it will work can do my head in sometimes! Once I get over half way, I can write very, very quickly. I once wrote 34,000 words in five days! I was mentally and physically a wreck by the end of it, but I didn’t have to rewrite much of it. If I were working just on the writing, it would probably take three or four months. However, I enjoy so many other things (walking, swimming, golfing, travel, seeing friends, playing bridge) everything takes much longer. I can comfortably write a full-length novel a year. I tend to rewrite and rewrite the early parts, but the work becomes more and more fluid and needs less and less editing as I progress.

What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

Getting the first half of the book written. I sometimes think I must be very stupid!

What do you enjoy most about the writing process?

I’m an editor by training (I worked for Collins and Cassells as a non fiction editor) and I really love this part of the process. I revel in cutting and polishing and buffing everything up so that it shines and sparkles.

Is there a recurring theme in your novels or is each one completely different?

I say that I write about ‘strong women under pressure’ and I guess that just about sums it up. My heroines have challenging jobs (which they tend to be good at), and we meet them when both work and home life (or their relationships) are showing signs of cracks. Other than that, they are all completely different! I have written about a wind farm engineer, a newspaper photographer, a politician and an artist. My last book, People We Love, was about an artist whose promising career has been put on hold after the tragic death of her brother. There’s a mystery at the heart of it, and a love triangle, and some pretty dotty characters. The next one, Mistakes We Make, is the first of the Heartlands series that carries on with some of the same characters.

However, Accent decided to release Between Friends in February as a kind of anti Valentine novel. It features three friends who all live in Edinburgh and a superficially charming but deeply malevolent man from their past whose return to their lives threatens everything…

Have you started work on your next novel yet? If so, can you tell us anything about it?

I mentioned Mistakes We Make, scheduled for release later this year. The novel I am currently writing is still very much under wraps, though I can tell you it is another standalone set in Edinburgh. I’m just beginning to emerge from the head-banging phase and I’m getting really excited about it!
Thank you so much for hosting me today.

About JeJenny CC 3 web croppednny:

Jenny Harper lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, though she was born in India and grew up in England. She has been a non-fiction editor, a journalist and a businesswoman and has written a children’s novel and several books about Scotland, as well as four full length novels and a novella in The Heartlands series (set in Hailesbank), and two short stories that have appeared in anthologies. Between Friends is her fifth full length novel.

Find Jenny at:
Website
Twitter
Facebook
Goodreads

Time to Celebrate!

photoYesterday was the first day in a week of celebrations for me as my debut contemporary romance, From Here to Nashville, reaches the first anniversary of its publication day.

I began by spending the day in London with the RNA (The Romantic Novelists’ Association) yesterday for a special workshop entitled ‘How to Make an Impact in Romantic Fiction.’ First of all we heard from Matt Bates, the WH Smith Travel Book Buyer and Lyn Vernham, Managing Director of Independent Publisher, Choc Lit about what the industry might want from us as romantic fiction writers based on latest trends.

Amongst other things, Matt explained that E. L. James’ book ‘Grey’ had 23% of market sales last year leaving everyone else a bit stranded in the romance market! If you take that book out of the equation, the first book in the top 100 sellers from last year, with only 4.93%, was ‘The Woman who Stole my Life’ by Marian Keyes. Interesting, eh? He also said that £7.99 was the average paperback publication price and that ‘nature’ seems to be a trend in the titles of current bestsellers e.g. Beekeeper, Dandelion, Sunflower, Nightingales, Sea.

Lyn said that romance remains a hard market to get noticed in. She said that series are very popular at the moment and that Apple were really pushing them at one point. On the day that the shortlist for Choc Lit’s latest ‘Search for a Star’ competition came out, she revealed that the one after this competition would probably be the last one. She told us that £1.99 seems to be the best price for an ebook and that contemporary romances still sell the most.

In the afternoon, Julie Cohen took over with an interactive workshop called ‘How can we deliver the right impact with the opening to our romantic fiction novel?’ We had all been encouraged to bring in our own work for discussion. So Julie collected these from us at the start of the day and after we’d analysed the first 100 words of her current novel ‘Where Love Lies’ and picked up some tips on what to include and what to leave out, she set off reading out each of our individual pieces of work. It was a bit daunting at first because she read each one out and then commented on it and invited us to comment too. She mostly kept the entries anonymous though and her comments were very constructive and thoughtful. Although mine broke one of the ‘rules’ by starting with someone waking up in bed, the feedback was really useful and I asked Julie for some more advice afterwards as well. So I came away feeling positive. It was great to go on another writing day and it gave me back my motivation to get going with my writing again.

Saturday, 13th February, 2016

When I got home, I found that my first guest post for this coming week had gone live on my friend, Susanna Bavin’s blog. Sue has been so supportive of me and my writing over this past year and so it was lovely to be asked to return to her blog to celebrate From Here to Nashville’s first birthday.

I’m also appearing on Elaina James’ blog this weekend, talking about the forthcoming Curtis Brown Discovery Day during which I will get the opportunity to pitch to an agent, something I have never done before! You can read all about how I’m feeling and how I’m preparing for it here.

Monday, 15th February, 2016

Tomorrow, I will be appearing on my Canadian friend, Tracey Weller’s blog, Never Too Late to Write but this is an interview with a twist because Tracey and I did the interview over Skype! We actually talked for three hours in total and the original interview was thirty minutes or so. Obviously, we didn’t want you dropping off in the middle so Tracey has edited it down to ten minutes. Once I got over my initial shock of seeing myself on video (!), I actually found I enjoyed it and I hope you will too.

Thursday, 18th Feburary, 2016

I will also be guesting on Zeba Clarke’s blog, That Reading Writing Thing on Thursday, answering some very interesting questions that Zeba sent me. I’ve not appeared on Zeba’s blog before and it is so wonderful to be meeting new writers all the time and to be able to take them up on their generosity of spirit.

On Tuesday which is the actual anniversary of From Here to Nashville’s publication day, I will definitely raise a toast to my debut book which has done me proud in its first year. I will also thank goodness for all my lovely writing friends and supporters who have kept me going throughout the past year and who continue to inspire me for the future. Thank you!

Thunderclap anybody?

Thunderclap_logoAs you’ll all know by now, if you are regular readers of this blog, I like a challenge and so this week, I decided that my next challenge would be to set up a Thunderclap campaign. What’s that, I hear you cry? Well, a Thunderclap campaign, if you’ve not come across this before, is a way of encouraging all your friends and supporters on social media to rally round to help you spread a certain message on a certain day.

So what led to this new challenge? Well, every Tuesday, the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) uses the hashtag #TuesNews to promote members’ good news, blogs, sales etc on Twitter and last week, as I didn’t have a blog post to share from this site, I promoted the fact that my debut novel, From Here to Nashville was nearly one year old. The RNA is a wonderfully supportive group and my tweet received lots of shares and retweets and it reminded me of the Thunderclap idea.

So I have now set up my own Thunderclap campaign using the step-by-step guide on their website. It was relatively painless. To be honest, the only real difficulty was choosing the right size of photo but I got there in the end. You do need to be prepared to write a short bio of yourself and also a message about what you’re trying to do with the campaign. For me, the message was simple – my book is one year old and I would like people to help me spread the word about that in the hope of encouraging more people to buy it on its actual birthday.

Now I just need to persuade 100 people to support it! This bit is really important as well because in order to support my campaign, you have to go to this link: Julie’s Thunderclap Campaign Page and then click on either the Facebook, the Twitter or the Tumblr button to give your support. Some people go to the page and look but don’t realise that they actually need to click on a button as well. When you give your support, you are just agreeing to a tweet/post going out from you on a given day using the words that are shown in the blue box on the page. If I get the full number of supporters, that tweet will go out all across Twitter/Facebook etc at the same time giving the message greater impact. If I don’t get the support, then the tweet simply gets binned 🙂
Why am I doing this? Well, it’s another means of marketing to see if it has any impact and a bit of fun too. I have supported a number of Thunderclaps because it doesn’t cost me anything except a moment of my time and a tweet or a Facebook post. I’m not sure what impact it has for the person trying to spread a message but I think it’s worth a try. I am very pleased with the fact that my book has been out for almost a year and it is a great way to celebrate it.

It only remains for me to ask you if you would mind popping over to my campaign page and clicking on one of the buttons to say you’ll support it for me. I would be very grateful and of course, I promise to come back and let you know how it all goes.

My First Week as a Freelancer

Clued Up PublishingMy husband started his business over twenty years ago and I always remember admiring his self-discipline when he first began as a sole trader, getting up at the same time as I did to get ready for my normal, boring job and usually at his desk before I left for my daily commute to Stevenage and corporate life. The fact that he is still running his (now limited) company today shows how hard he has worked at it during the intervening years.

As I began my first week as a self-employed freelancer last week, I worried that I wouldn’t be as self-disciplined, especially now there are all the distractions of the internet but I can safely report that I have probably never worked so hard in all my life. The reason is of course that everything I achieve is now going to be down to me and I will only reap the rewards if I put in the maximum effort. I don’t really know why I doubted my ability to be disciplined in my approach to this new life – I am one of the most organised people I know and everyone who knows me says exactly the same of me – but I suppose it’s all just new to me and I needed to see whether I could hack it.

So what did I do during my first week? Well, the first thing I decided was that there would be certain things I must do every day, specifically, three things:

  1. Complete and mark a new proofreading exercise from the book I am working my way through at the moment.
  2. Write at least 1,000 words a day of my current WIP.
  3. Edit my second book for at least an hour every day.

I am very pleased to report that I did these three things every day and felt happy with myself about that. I was at my desk before my husband left for work every day as well (it does help that my daughter has to leave for school at 7.45am and I always want to see her before she goes) and generally, I continued working till about 5pm, with breaks for talking to my daughter etc in between.

Apart from my three important things, I also set up a new website for my proofreading business. You can see it here: Clued Up Publishing, or just click on the picture above, and I created a poster on Canva as well. I used Canva for the pics on my website too and found it incredibly easy to use once I got going on it. I have had some really positive feedback on my website and it made me realise that it’s something I’m quite good at (if it’s okay for me to blow my own trumpet!) If anyone needs a WordPress website setting up or indeed, if you need a proofreader, please do get in touch either via the comments below or via the new website.

I am now the proud owner of two Twitter accounts as well! Crikey, I thought that would be much easier to set up than it actually proved to be but I got there in the end. If you’d like to follow me in my alter proofreading ego, I’m @Clued_Up_Pub. On my list of things to do this coming week is to set up a Facebook page for Clued Up Publishing as well so that will probably take most of the week to achieve.

I have signed up to a freelancers job website as well and hope that something may come of that in the future and I have kept my eye out for any part-time jobs I could apply for locally that would be less intensive than teaching but would ease the pressure on the finances a little. One job I saw looks very promising on the creative front so I’ll just have to wait and see 🙂

On the writing front, I also did some more research into writing short stories for women’s magazines, something I’ve wanted to do for a while but have never really had the confidence for. If I’m honest, I still don’t have a lot of confidence that I can succeed at this but I’m going to give it a try.

My husband popped into his accountant’s this week and brought them up to date on my new circumstances so I now have the form to fill in to register as self-employed to HMRC. It felt very good to receive that form, I can tell you.

All in all then, it has been a busy and satisfying week. I have realised though how lonely it can be being at home on your own all day. There was a time when I would have given anything to just be on my own for a minute, let alone a whole day but oh, how times change when your children have grown up and no longer define your identity. If you watched the BBC programme, The Age of Loneliness, this week, you’ll know what I mean. It was a very poignant programme and I shed quite a few tears watching it. I have gone from being surrounded by people in a very busy environment, yet sometimes feeling quite lonely amidst all the chaos, to being totally on my own. However, I think I just need to make sure that I socialise enough to keep that part of me ticking over and to that end, I have arranged a couple of visits with friends, family and the RNA to keep me going over the coming week 🙂

Thank you for reading, as always and do leave me a comment about how your writing life is going so far this year.

The Brave New World of 2016

DSCN1312After a good long break, I now feel ready to face the New Year and that’s just as well because a lot has changed for me in the weeks since the last post appeared on this blog.

The most important thing is that I left my teaching job to concentrate full-time on my writing! I know! This is both scary and exciting all at once. Just in case any of you might be sitting there wondering if I’ve hit the big time on the writing front, well, not quite yet but there’s always hope 😉 You can read more about what I’ve been up to in my goals for 2016 (see below).

You may remember that I took a proofreading course last year and since then, I have been getting in lots of practice and I’m ready now to start work as a professional proofreader, along side my writing. While I build up my new business, I’m going to do supply teaching as well and I hope that with various other writing related activities, there will be enough money in the pot for life to continue pretty much as normal.

As if leaving my job and starting my own business wasn’t quite enough excitement, I have also made some decisions about my writing life and where I want to take it this year. This all means that my writing goals are going to look a bit different for the coming year but first of all, let me review my goals from this time last year.

Here they are:
1. Publish From Here to Nashville in ebook form to Amazon, followed by a paperback version a few months later.
2. Finish the first draft of book 2 and send it in to be reviewed by the RNA.
3. Take part in NaNoWriMo with a full outline of book 3.
4. Keep blogging weekly about ‘My Writing Life’ and building up my ‘Cover Reveals’ feature for other writing friends.
5. Start sending out my newsletter to people who have signed up.

Looking back at these goals, I felt rather pleased with myself. The only one I didn’t achieve was number 3 and that was because I decided that the NaNoWriMo style of writing is not for me. As long as I have a good outline, I can write quite happily until my first draft is completed and so I still plan to do that for book 3 but in my own time. Number 4 went slightly differently because I changed my ‘Cover Reveals’ feature to my ‘Author Spotlight’ one instead but it was very successful as a feature overall. For the moment though, I’m going to turn the spotlight off so that I can get back into blogging regularly myself and I may just do the occasional spotlight instead.

So what will my writing goals be for 2016?
1. Publish Where My Heart Belongs. Before Christmas, I made the momentous decision to start querying agents with this book. This is because I feel I need help now to progress my writing career to the next level. I have also sent the book to one publisher so far, one that accepts unagented submissions. So book 2 will either be published traditionally, if things work out, or I will self-publish it. Now that I have had some experience and I know what I’m doing, I’m not daunted by this decision whatever the outcome is so all I can say is watch this space!
2. Write the first draft of book 3. I have a story idea, I just need to write the outline and then write the book!
3. Finish writing my follow-up novella of Sam’s story, one of my characters in From Here to Nashville.
4. Choose one of these 2 books to send in to be reviewed by the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme which I have rejoined this year.
5. Continue sending out regular newsletters to people who have signed up and trying to increase the number of subscribers. This has gone very well this year and it is a way of letting my supporters know little details that I don’t necessarily tell the rest of the world 😉

Tomorrow will be an interesting day for me then as I spend the day with my younger daughter rather than attending a training day at school for the first time in many years. Then on Tuesday, I will be taking my first steps along the road to my new working life. I will be setting up a new website for my proofreading business as one of my first jobs but if anyone wants to contact me before then, here is my business email address: woodbeez48@gmail.com.

Whatever you’re up to this year as far as your writing goes, I wish you lots of success and I look forward to talking to you more about it as the year progresses. Thanks for reading and Happy New Year!

Author Spotlight – Sharon Booth

My final author spotlight of 2015 falls on contemporary romance author, Sharon Booth. Sharon’s latest book is A Kiss from a Rose.

Rose final coverA Kiss from a Rose – Sharon Booth

Flynn Pennington-Rhys is the quiet man of Kearton Bay, so when he finds himself entangled in the chaotic life of Rose MacLean, his whole world turns upside down.

Rose is at a low ebb. With one daughter clearly harbouring a secret, another who has morphed overnight from Shirley Temple into Miley Cyrus, and a mother hell-bent on reliving her misspent youth with her childhood sweetheart, Alec, AKA Red Rum, it’s no wonder her self-esteem is at rock bottom. But when, on top of all this, her best friend goes on ovulation alert, and her slimming club leader has a meltdown, Rose needs someone she can rely on.
It seems, though, that Flynn has his own secret, and as events take an unexpected turn, it’s no longer certain that he can be counted on.

Will the quiet man come through for her? Will her daughters ever sort themselves out? And will her mother ever move on, or is Rose really doomed to years of sleeping in the bath tub?
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Excerpt

He smiled half-heartedly and tried again. ‘I do think you should sit down, Rose,’ he began.
She put her hands on his face, cupping it and staring at him intently. ‘You’re a gorgeous bloke, Paddington,’ she told him.

Heat spread over him. ‘Yes, well,’ he murmured, trying to prise her hands away from his face. ‘I wouldn’t say any more. You’ve had a nasty injury and a bit too much to drink.’
She wrapped her arms tightly around his waist. ‘Don’t make me sit down, Paddington,’ she protested, her voice slurry. ‘I haven’t been held for so long, and you smell ever so nice. What are you wearing?’
‘Clothes.’
‘I mean your aftershave, silly. What is it? It’s gorgeous. You’re quite gorgeous. Has anyone ever told you that?’
‘Yes.’
‘Really? Who?’
‘You, a few seconds ago.’
‘Oh. Well, I was right, wasn’t I?’

She lifted her face to him again, and they looked at each other for a moment. Flynn wished he could click his fingers and disappear. He’d never felt so embarrassed, and that was saying something. Then he noticed her eyes had dropped to his lips, and she was moving her face ever closer to his. His heart did a funny little jig, and then she was kissing him.

Warmth flooded through his cold body. All his synapses seemed to be firing at once; hot lava was coursing through his icy veins. Suddenly, he was kissing her back, and she held him tightly, as his hand cupped the back of her head, and he drank her in, like Meggie with a McDonald’s chocolate milkshake.

‘Oh, for God’s sake, Mother, pack it in.’

Flynn’s eyes flew open in shock, as Rose was torn away from him, and Fuchsia shot him an apologetic look.
Rose glared at her daughter. ‘Do you mind? Me and Dr Paddington Bear here were having a meaningful conservation. How dare you interrupt?’

‘Yeah, yeah, sure you were. I’m sorry, Doc,’ said Fuchsia, beginning to lead her away. ‘She always gets this stupid when she’s pissed. Just ignore her.’

Rose looked as if she was about to protest, but then crumbled and allowed herself to be led away.
Flynn was trembling all over. What the hell just happened? He had to get out of there.

‘Had enough?’ Joe asked, helping a sleepy Amy into her coat near the door.

Beside them, Mrs Travers was pulling on her gloves, while somehow managing to keep an iron grip on her sister’s granddaughter, Kylie, who was looking much the worse for wear.

Flynn felt dazed. ‘More than enough. I’m going home.’

Joe grinned at him. ‘Good looking woman, Rose MacLean. You could do worse.’

Do worse! Flynn left the pub without a backward glance.
It was just a kiss—a stupid, meaningless kiss. She’d have forgotten all about it by now. And maybe, by tomorrow, he’d have forgotten about it, too.

*****

And now for my interview with Sharon:

Your first two books have been set in the fictional village of Kearton Bay on the North Yorkshire coast. Can you tell us more about what inspired you to choose this setting and whether future books will be set there?

When I started writing what became the Kearton Bay series, I intended to set it in Somerset. You see, the whole idea was born on a car journey, en route to our holiday in that county. I didn’t have a story planned, as such, just a few interesting, and very persistent, characters. As the story evolved, however, it became clear that these were Yorkshire folk. Not surprising, given I was born and bred in the county. So I started looking for a specific Yorkshire location that would inspire me. Initially, I set the first book in the Dales, but it never felt right. I needed somewhere else, somewhere that suited the characters and was the perfect backdrop for their stories.

Then I remembered my visits, many years previously, to Robin Hood’s Bay, and it seemed the perfect place. I went back there to have a look around, and I just knew it was right. I used Robin Hood’s Bay as inspiration for my fictional Kearton Bay. As you say, the first two books were set there, and there will be two further books in the series. The name was in memory of one branch of my family tree—the Keartons—who, ironically, hail from the Yorkshire Dales!

Do you find it hard to come up with ideas for stories? How do you go about it?

I can’t say I find it hard to come up with the ideas. It’s getting them down on paper or on screen that’s the difficult bit! I don’t sit down and think, “Right, what can I write about now?” Ideas just pop into my head as I’m going about my ordinary life. I find that the more mundane the task that I’m carrying out, the more ideas I’m likely to have. Funnily enough, I get a lot of ideas when I’m at the day job! (Hope my boss never reads this.)

How long does it take you to write your first draft? How many more drafts will there be after that?

Well, the first draft of There Must Be an Angel, was written in thirty days exactly, because I wrote it for NaNoWriMo 2011 and I was determined to finish it. I was supposed to reach fifty thousand words during the month of November, but in fact, I managed a full hundred and twenty thousand words. Don’t ask me how, because I don’t think I could do that again to save my life. Having said that, it was complete rubbish. At the time, I thought I’d finished it. Haha! Little did I know it was just the start. I honestly couldn’t tell you how many more drafts I did of Angel. I lost count after the first twenty. Truthfully, very little of that first draft made it to the final version, and it took me almost two and a half years to get it to the point where I was happy to publish it.

Writing A Kiss from a Rose was a very different experience. I’d learned such a lot in those two and a half years, and it took me just seven months to complete. I mostly revised as I went along, then did another draft when I’d finished, a further draft after the beta readers had commented, and then the final draft after the editor had cast her beady eyes over it. It was a far less stressful experience than writing Angel, which at one point I’d come close to shredding!

What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

Definitely writing the first draft. Forcing myself to sit at my desk and staring at that empty screen and thinking, “Can I really do this?” To be honest, it’s horrible at times. I don’t know why I do it.

What do you enjoy most about the writing process?

When the words are flowing and the story’s really coming together, and I’m making myself laugh as I write, or I’m really feeling the character’s pain. It’s such a wonderful feeling to really immerse myself in the book. Oh, yes—that’s why I do it!

Is there a recurring theme in your novels or is each one completely different?

I was thinking about this, just the other day, funnily enough. With Angel, there was a strong theme of fathers and daughters. Then with Rose, it was mothers and daughters. With my next novel, it’s got elements of the father/daughter relationship, too. However, what I think runs through all of my stories is the theme of belonging—of finding a home, whether that’s a physical home of bricks and mortar, or a community, or that special someone who makes you feel as if you’re finally safe and you don’t have to look any further. I didn’t set out to make that a recurring theme, but it seems that’s what I write about.

Have you started work on your next novel yet? If so, can you tell us anything about it?

Book three is with my beta readers at the moment. It’s something new entirely—not part of the Kearton Bay series. It’s mostly set in the Yorkshire Dales, and it features an ageing rock star and his spoilt brat of a daughter, a naughty politician and his wife, a young woman who is caught up in something she can’t seem to get out of, and a rather gorgeous sheep farmer!

I see that you’ve recently had some stories published by People’s Friend magazine. Congratulations! Will you continue writing short stories along side your novels? Do you prefer one or the other?

I’ve been lucky enough to have a pocket novel published by People’s Friend, and I’ve just had a short story accepted by them. I was really delighted to write for them. People’s Friend is such a well-established and much respected publication, and I felt that it was a real boost to me when they said yes. I’d love to work with them again, as they’re so lovely to write for and it’s such an easy process. The whole editing thing is taken out of your hands, but you know you can trust them. They know what they’re doing, and they know their market. I’m working on a story now that I hope will be suitable for a pocket novel, and I will hopefully submit more short stories. It’s finding the time. I don’t really prefer one or the other. It’s nice to write all different lengths of stories. Keeps things fresh.

**Sharon also has a free Christmas short story up on Wattpad at the moment. It’s called The Other Side of Christmas and I can really recommend it!**

About Sharon

10450375_1548020332081619_595680736266470252_nSharon wrote her first book when she was ten. It was about a boarding school that specialised in ballet and, given that she’d never been to boarding school and hadn’t a clue about ballet, it’s probably a good thing that no copy of this masterpiece survives.

Her first published novel was There Must Be An Angel, which is the first in a series of four Kearton Bay stories, set in a fictional village on the North Yorkshire coast, inspired by the beautiful Robin Hood’s Bay. She lives in East Yorkshire, with her husband and their dog, and regularly yells for tea and biscuits while writing, to remind them that she exists. She is one tenth of The Write Romantics, has a love/hate relationship with chocolate, is a devoted Whovian, and just a little obsessed with Sherlock, The Musketeers and Poldark. She freely admits that she would write more books if the BBC didn’t insist on employing such gorgeous men.

Find out more about Sharon here:
Website 
Twitter
Facebook Writer’s page