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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

Author Spotlight – Alys West

This week, my author in the spotlight is urban fantasy and steampunk writer, Alys West. Her debut novel, Beltane, will be out on December 14th.

Beltane finalBeltane – Alys West

Finn McCloud is a druid, connected by magic to the earth. He’s made a big mistake; one he expects to pay for with his life.

Maeve Blackwell has plans for a new start, free of the façade she so carefully maintains. At Beltane, the Celtic festival of fire on 1st May, all her preparations will come to fruition.

Struggling artist, Zoe Rose is in Glastonbury to work on the illustrations for a book about King Arthur. But when she arrives at Anam Cara, the healing retreat run by Maeve, it’s not the haven she hoped for.

Maeve isn’t the warm-hearted, hippy she expected and Zoe can’t help feeling there’s something very odd about the place. Is it coincidence that the other guests become ill after Maeve’s given them healing? And why did the Green Man carved on a tree in the garden, which she’d felt inexplicably drawn to, mysteriously vanish during a thunderstorm?

As if that wasn’t enough, the weird dreams she’d had all her life are getting worse. Every night she dreams of a handsome stranger. Then, the day after the thunderstorm, she meets Finn. Realising he’s the man she’s dreamt of (not that she’s going to tell him that!) she’s forced to accept that her dreams are premonitions.

With Beltane fast approaching Finn knows that Maeve must be stopped. He’s torn between wanting to protect Zoe from the supernatural world and his desire to be with her. And the more time they spend together the harder it is to keep secrets from her.

When Zoe’s dreams reveal that at Beltane both their lives will be in terrible danger, it’s clear that only by trusting each other can they have any hope of defeating Maeve.

Beltane will be out on Monday 14th December and can be pre-ordered from Amazon.

*****

And now for my interview with Alys:

I know you write in a number of different genres. Please could you tell us more about the genres and a little about the books you’ve written in them?

So far I write urban fantasy and steampunk. I didn’t really know what genre Beltane, my first novel, was when I started writing it. I just wrote the story that I wanted to tell and then tried to fit it within a genre when I started submitting. I think you can best describe it as a supernatural romantic thriller but as that’s not a recognised genre I’ve ended up calling it urban fantasy.
Steampunk

My second novel, The Dirigible King’s Daughter, is a steampunk romance. I’ve been fascinated by the idea of steampunk for a while. I live in York and a couple of years ago I went over to Whitby when the Goth Festival was on. I was intrigued by these people who clearly weren’t goths. They wore brown and had amazing contraptions which seemed to be formed almost entirely of brass cogs. Somewhat later I discovered that was steampunk and, the more I looked into it, the more interesting it became.

Steampunk is an alternative history and works on the theory that the world continued to be powered by steam and never became dependent on oil and electronic technology. Much steampunk is a version of a Victorian world but with more advanced steam technology like dirigibles (or airships). I’ve set my steampunk world in 1897 which meant I could have wonderful Victorian clothes and hats (I got way too fascinated by 1890’s fashion and wasted hours on Pinterest!) and massive amounts of fun with the dialogue.

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

I don’t seem to find it hard to come up with ideas for novels. Ideas for short stories are far more tricky. I definitely seem to need the bigger canvas of a novel. I’m currently doing an MA in Creative Writing at York St John University and one of the things that I’m hoping I’ll learn from that is how to write short stories.

Most of my ideas seem to come from places. Beltane is set in Glastonbury and the idea for the book came fully formed from the place. There’s nowhere else I can think of that has the same mix of history, myth and alternative culture as Glastonbury and, let’s be honest, if weird things are going to happen anywhere they’ll happen in Glastonbury!

The Dirigible King’s Daughter is set in Whitby and was probably directly inspired by the people I’d seen there for the Goth Festival. Because of them the idea of steampunk and Whitby got linked in my brain and, then it just kind of took off from there.

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

I don’t really write a first draft which I know is a bit odd. I’m constantly refining and polishing as I go along which means the process can be very slow compared with some of my writing friends. It took me three years to write Beltane, which included an awful lot of writing and rewriting along the way. However, I have speeded up considerably as I wrote The Dirigible King’s Daughter in about four months. I polished less that time and then did a second draft but I was pretty blessed with that book as it just seemed to tell itself.

What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

I think that depends on the book. I’ve really struggled with various bits of different books. I got in a terrible state about writing the end of Beltane and procrastinated for weeks about it scared that I’d ruin it with a naff ending. The Dirigible King’s Daughter had a tricky beginning when I got in a muddle with flashbacks and how to tell the back story. Lughnasa, which is the follow up to Beltane, had a really sticky middle. It got so sticky that I put it down and wrote The Dirigible King’s Daughter instead just to have something else to think about for a while. I need to get back to Lughnasa and find my way out of the sticky middle and I’m hoping to have time to do that during the Christmas holidays.

What do you enjoy most about the writing process?

I think I just love writing and telling stories. I know that when I’m doing it I’m happier and more alive than when I don’t so I guess I’ll just have to keep writing and hoping that someone wants to read the stories that I tell.

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

I’m pretty sure there isn’t a recurring theme but, as I didn’t know that Beltane had a theme until I went to Julie Cohen’s workshop at the 2013 RNA Conference about 3 months after I’d finished writing the book, I may be wrong about that! The theme of Beltane is trust and abuse of trust. I figured that out during Julie’s workshop. The Dirigible King’s Daughter is about loss and grief and how people handle that.

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

I am about three quarters of the way through a first draft of Lughnasa. As I’ve mentioned it’s the follow up to Beltane and includes some of the same characters. Winston, who is a supporting character in Beltane takes centre stage in Lughnasa. Finn and Zoe are back too but there’s some lovely new characters too. I’m particularly fond of Jenna, who’s had a very hard time after her Mum was murdered six years ago and finds herself torn between her attraction to Winston and her old love, Hal. It’s set in Orkney, which is somewhere that I fell hopelessly in love with when I first visited in 2010 and am very keen to return to next year.

I see that you’ve started publishing one of your books to Wattpad. Can you tell us what made you choose that platform in particular?

Alex ebook cover 1 (1)I’d heard lots of good things about Wattpad and I knew it was very popular for fantasy. I thought it might be a good idea to try out The Dirigible King’s Daughter on there and see how it worked. I’m putting up a chapter a week and, after a very slow start, it’s steadily starting to build up and get some regular readers.

Once I’d started with it I rapidly realised that I didn’t have the time to invest in doing all the things that people say you need to do to build a readership on Wattpad and that the book would have to stand or fall on its own. So after changing my profile picture to a steampunk avatar (I am about 25 years older than most of the people on Wattpad!) I just left it to do its own thing. But I am having fun with it. You should have heard me cheer when I finally got over 100 views and when I got a comment on a chapter from someone I didn’t know, it honestly made my week! I’d say it’s a really great way of testing out a book and seeing what works and what maybe needs a bit more work. I’m intending to publish The Dirigible King’s Daughter on Amazon next year.

Thank you so much for having me on your blog. It’s been an absolute pleasure and I hope I’ve not waffled on too much with the answers to your really interesting questions.

*****

Alys West (2)About Alys

I’ve been obsessed with books and writing since I was a child. My first attempt to write a novel was when I was eight which taught me that it was actually really hard work and took a long, long time!  After working in a book shop in my twenties I got back into writing, turning out very average poetry and one song but mostly I just read an awful lot.  From reading fantasy authors like Guy Gavriel Kay together with mystery and romance I figured out the kind of books I wanted to write. And as a big fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer I knew that they would have magic in them.

Joining the Romantic Novelists Association New Writers’ Scheme helped me to develop my writing and I got through to the first round of the Wow Factor competition run by Cornerstones Literary Consultancy in 2013. Through the New Writers’ Scheme I met a fabulous group of aspiring novelists who formed The Write Romantics, which has become a popular site for writers and readers.

I’ve just started a MA in Creative Writing at York St John University which I’ll be doing part-time for the next two years.

I live in York and work at the University of York. When I’m not writing or blogging I can be found listening to folk music, getting involved in yarnbombing, doing yoga and drinking far too much tea.

Find Alys at:
Website
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You can also check out her steampunk board on Pinterest at Alys West Writes.

Giving My First Talk as an Author

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Me in full swing!

My first author talk at my local library has now been and gone but I am still glowing from the wonderful evening I enjoyed there. The library staff were very kind in helping me set everything up beforehand and I had a good sized audience on the night with lots of friendly faces. The atmosphere was so welcoming that I hardly felt nervous at all, which I had really expected to. I ‘present’ all the time in my day job but it’s quite a different feeling when you’re talking about yourself. I know from speaking to other writers that the very idea of standing up in front of an audience scares them half to death! If you can do it though, giving an author talk really is worth it.
I had tried to get round my nerves by being very well-prepared and I think this paid off on the night. The plan was for me to talk about my debut novel From Here to Nashville and also my journey to self-publication. I wrote out what I was going to say over a couple of weeks, adding to the script as I thought of new things. Then I transferred it on to index cards, as advised by lots of other writing friends, and I practised to see how long it was, including me reading out an excerpt. All in all, it was 27 minutes long when I practised but on the night with a few questions, it was more like 45 minutes. I also videoed myself at home to see if I had any glaring habits that I wanted to avoid!
Once I had put the talk together, I had a chat with a writer friend of mine who also had a library talk coming up last week. She suggested playing some country music as people came in which I thought was a great idea and some of you may remember of course, that I even had a Spotify playlist already set up of the songs Rachel sings in the story so I added that to my plan. My friend also suggested asking the audience questions to involve them in the talk and to stop it from getting too formal so I did that too.
In the end, these were my headings:

  • How I started writing.
  • The Nashville TV series and how it inspired the idea for the story. Read out my blurb.
  • Writing as a ‘Pantser’ and discovering NaNoWriMo along the way, which led to me investing in Scrivener.
  • Discovering and then joining the RNA New Writers’ Scheme and my first report back from them.
  • Finding an editor, designer and proofreader.
  • Deciding to self-publish rather than trying for a traditional contract.
  • Publication to Amazon and later other platforms. Read an excerpt. Talked about trip to Nashville.
  • Marketing post-publication – social media activity, including this website and blog.
  • My next books.

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Talking to another RNA member who happened to come along!

One of the things I had to think about very carefully was what technology I would be able to use. The library is all set up for the internet but it isn’t working there currently. This meant I had to do screenshots of the things I wanted to show which could have been boring on their own. So I added in some content to my presentation to go with the shots as well. There were a fair few pictures of my books and I also had a table set up with my books and marketing materials on as well.
The library organised a projector and screen for me and we arrived early to set it all up and make sure it worked correctly. I had to take our bluetooth speaker from home so that we could play the music because the library didn’t have any speakers. I made a list of all the things I would have to take with me and checked and double-checked it before going!
As I said, everyone was so welcoming that I was fairly relaxed from the start. My daughter took some videos of me and my husband took some photos so we have something to remember it all by. I suppose I will have to give in and let you see one of the videos now!

I took a few questions afterwards as well over refreshments and I also sold signed copies of my books. In fact, I sold more copies than I have ever done before at an event of this kind!
So, all in all, as I said at the beginning, it was a very good experience. It was really hard to approach the library in the first instance but once I did, they were very encouraging and happy to help me with promotion and setting up along the way. As I hadn’t had the courage to send out a press release when I first published From Here to Nashville (I know!), this was a good opportunity to write one so that I know what to do next time round. So there were many benefits to doing this, not just the obvious ones.
I suspect that most libraries would welcome local authors with open arms as they try valiantly to keep people coming through their doors so if you love your local library as much as I love mine, then why not give it a try? You might be surprised at how much fun it is! Do leave me a comment below to tell me how you feel about the idea or maybe you’ve already done one so please share your experience 🙂

Author Spotlight – Jannette Spann

This week, the author in the spotlight is inspirational romance author, Jannette Spann. Her latest book is Right Time for Love.

RightTimeForLove (1)Right Time for Love – Jannette Spann

Brandy Wyne’s future includes an old house with plumbing problems, a new job, and caring for her mother who has suffered a stroke.

Gavin Wilkin has increased his Grandpa’s plumbing business to twice its original worth, but the old man’s got a hot lady friend with greedy hands. How can he convince his grandpa of what she’s after without hurting him? Added to his problems is the responsibility of caring for his seven-year-old niece for the summer.

Brandy can’t afford the plumbing repairs she needs, and Gavin can’t find a sitter for his niece. Ever heard of the barter system?

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Excerpt

He eased into Brandy’s drive, looking forward to spending time alone with her. An hour in her company never failed to relieve his stressful day, but when she came off the porch and headed his way, the frown was less than welcoming.

“I’ve got a problem,” she said, the moment his door opened.

“Join the rest of us.”

“I’m serious.” Brandy remained hot on his heels, following him around the truck.

He shoved his cap back. It didn’t matter if he was fed up and bone weary, she wasn’t relenting. “Okay, Brandy. What did she do?”

“Lily said she wants me to be her mother.”

He stopped, glancing back over his shoulder. “What brought that on?”

“I’m not sure. We were playing dress up, and I’d done her makeup and hair. Then out of the blue, she threw her arms around my neck and said she wanted me for a Mama!”

“What did you say?”

“That she has a mother.”

Gavin picked up the shovel and pickaxe, and headed toward the house. Ordinarily he’d use the backhoe and be done in a day, but he needed this job to last as long as possible, or at least until Paul and Clarice got back. Spending time with Brandy was icing on the cake—sometimes.

She grabbed his arm. “What am I supposed to do?”

*****

And now for my interview with Jannette:

1. As I write romances from around the world, I’m interested to know what inspired you to choose your setting for your latest novel?

My last novel was set in Mobile, Alabama. Some of my favourite vacations have been spent on the white sugar-sand beaches of the Alabama gulf coast. Beautiful downtown Mobile is a history-lover’s dream. I could spend a day looking at the giant live oaks, azalea and camellia bushes. Nearby Bellingrath Gardens is gorgeous any time of the year and so romantic I had to include it in a scene. Dauphin Island fit the ending perfectly.
2. Do you find it hard to come up with ideas for stories? How do you go about it?
My ideas seem to find me. I write stories about people with ordinary problems any of us can have – maybe. The fun starts with creating a story around the problem. Add interesting characters, a beautiful location, and my stories take on a life of their own. The humour in my books just happens.
3. How long does it take you to write your first draft? How many more drafts will there be after that?
It’s hard for me to answer this question. I don’t believe I’ve ever written a complete first draft, from start to finish, without editing along the way. Just call me queen of ‘copy & paste’. The number of drafts I do depends on the book and the comments from my critique partners. Needless to say, by the time the story is ready for a publisher to see, I’ve gone through several drafts.
4. What is the hardest part of writing for you?
Finding the time. My family comes first.
5. What do you enjoy most about the writing process?
Some people like the research process, or creating pages of outlines. That’s a necessary process that I have to go through, but what I really love is getting lost in the story. If the plot is good, and the characters I’ve created are believable, then when I get lost in the story I’m thinking my readers will too. That’s when I know I’ve got a good book.
6. Is there a recurring theme in your novels or is each one completely different?
I write Inspirational Romance. My stories are always as different as the individual characters I place in each of them. The problems my hero and heroine face are always unique and so are the ways they’re solved, but the underlying theme for my books is the same as it is in real life – God is in control.
7. Have you started work on your next novel yet? If so, can you tell us anything about it?
My current work in process takes place in northwest Alabama. A retirement home and a farm make up the setting. The heroine is an LPN working on her RN degree. The hero is a restaurant owner who’s taken over the running of the family farm. The only thing they seem to have in common is their love for old people.

About Jannette

Born and raised in northwest Alabama, Jannette Spann is a retired hospital ward clerk. Married to the man of her dreams for the past forty-eight years, she is a wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. Her love of writing began when she was in the fourth grade, and she loves to write about family, love and loyalty.

Jannette is a member of Heart of Dixie, the North Alabama Chapter of Romance Writers of America. She won her first writing contest in 1999, but it wasn’t until after retirement in 2012 that she began to pursue writing in earnest. Eight months later her first book, Hidden Hills, was published by Astraea Press. She loves the beach, but when at home, her idea of summer fun consists of a cool breeze, a cold glass of tea, and sharing the front porch swing with her husband, Mike. In winter, she gladly trades the swing for a rocker in front of the fireplace and the tea for a cup of hot coffee.

Find Jannette at:

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Promoting Your Book with a Library Talk

V__CAE9A few weeks ago, one of my work colleagues saw my debut novel From Here to Nashville on the shelf in our local library. She very kindly took a picture for me which I shared on my Facebook Author Page. It was a very exciting moment for me, as you would expect.

I decided that I should go into the library as soon as possible and see it for myself but when I said that’s what I was going to do, everyone told me to ask if they would be interested in me giving a talk about my book and my self-publishing journey at the library. I knew that this was a good idea but the very thought of it filled me with dread. Taking that step meant really ‘announcing’ to my local community that I am an author and although people who know me wouldn’t believe it, I am actually quite shy.

So I let a week or so go by and then one day, when I was feeling brave, I just went in and introduced myself to the manager and she was so friendly and welcoming that I was glad (as well as relieved) that I had summoned up the courage to do it. She was delighted when I asked whether she would like me to do a talk and we exchanged details with the aim of scheduling it in before C20151108_093552hristmas.

After a flurry of emails, we have now settled on a date and the manager has produced some wonderful promotional materials too which you can see here. Around this time, someone on our RNA (Romantic Novelists’ Association) members forum asked for advice about writing press releases. This is something that I should have done for my book when it came out of course but once again, I was afraid of doing it in case I was shot down in flames. Well, I got in touch with another lovely member of the RNA who was offering help to anyone who needed it. I have now written a press release which Linda has checked for me and it is ready to be sent to some of our local newspapers and I even have an idea (with Linda’s help) for sending it to the local radio that might just grab their attention. Even if it all comes to nothing, at least next time, I will know what to do.

So now all I have to do is to work out what I’m going to say! I am very used to standing up and talking in front of people (children and adults) but of course, I have never been talking about myself before. I have already decided that the Power Point approach is not going to work for this sort of talk. It’s not a presentation after all. The whole event is going to be an hour and a half long in total but I think that a half hour talk by me, followed by time for questions should be enough. The library is then offering refreshments while I will be signing and selling lots of books (I hope!)

For my talk then, I am going to use index cards and tell how I started along this journey with the idea for the story followed by a summary of the steps along the way to self-publication. I will have my computer there so that I can show my website, amongst other things because I think this will be of interest to some members of the audience. I plan to finish up with a bit about my new book Where My Heart Belongs which is now in the final editing phase before it goes off to a professional editor.

I hope that if this talk goes well, I may be able to interest more libraries in the area, as well as other organisations like the WI. The library manager also contacted me the other day to ask whether I could lend her some copies of my book for a display they’re doing about my talk because the copy they have has now been taken out! This prompted me to get on and apply for a Public Lending Rights account which has been on my to-do list for a while. If you don’t know about this, it is a free service provided by The British Library for authors whereby you are paid for all the times that someone borrows your book from a library. It really is marvellous 🙂

I will of course let you all know how I get on and I hope that if, like me, you have been hesitating to get out there and promote yourself, the library may be a good place to start. If you have already given a talk at your library or somewhere else, please do let me know how it went in the comments below. Thanks for reading.

Author Spotlight – Elise Abram

This week, the author in the spotlight is Canadian science fiction author, Elise Abram. Her latest book, The Revenant, is a young adult zombie horror fantasy and that’s what she’s going to be talking to us about today. You have been warned!

front coverThe Revenant – Elise Abram

He wears neither cape nor cowl, but Zulu is a superhero, nevertheless.

Raised from the dead as a revenant more than a hundred years ago, Zulu possesses Spiderman’s stealth, Superman’s speed, and Batman’s keen intellect. His only companion is Morgan the Seer, an old man cursed with longevity and the ability to see the future in his dreams. Zulu has spent the last century training with Morgan in order to save the people in his nightmares from certain and violent death. Branded a vigilante by the Media, Zulu must live his life in the shadows, travelling by night or in the city’s underground unless his quest demands otherwise.

Kat is an empath, someone who sees emotions as colourful auras. Relentlessly bullied by her peers, and believing her life amounts to nothing but a huge cosmic mistake, she finds purpose in her abilities when she is recruited to help Zulu and Morgan complete their missions.

Malchus is  Morgan’s long dead twin brother. A powerful necromancer, Malchus manages to find a way to return to the living, and he has a score to settle with Morgan. Believing Morgan responsible for his death and out to seek revenge, Malchus begins to raise an army of undead minions and use them to hunt Morgan down. As Malchus closes in on Morgan and his charges, the trio soon realises the people most in need of saving are themselves.

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Excerpt

Barb grunted a low grunt.

Malchus heard something that sounded like cracking bone. He stood and walked slowly around to face Barb. She was working to frantically shove the remnants of whatever she had in her hands into her mouth. Blood covered the lower half of her face and her hands and dripped down her forearms, off her elbows, and had begun to pool on the floor. The sleeves of her sweater, rolled up her arms and above her elbows, were saturated.

Having pushed the last of whatever it was she had been eating into her mouth, Barb set to licking the blood off her fingers and then from her forearms. She rolled down her sleeves until they covered her hands, and then placed the material into her mouth and sucked the blood from them as well.

“Barb!” Malchus said, sickened in spite of himself.
Barb looked up at him, eyes wide with fear, the cuff of one of her sleeves still between her lips.
“What are you eating?” he said, sounding calmer than the thump of Hal’s heart would indicate.
“Rat.” The sweater cuff fell from her mouth when she spoke. She licked her lips, and as if realizing there was still blood to be had on her face, wiped her cheeks with the back of her hand, looked at it, then pressed it against her mouth and sucked.
Afraid she might eat her own hand next, Malchus said, “Why?”
“Hungry.” Her answer was garbled as she said it with her lips still against the back of her hand.

*****

And now over to Elise for a bit more background about her latest novel.

Beware The Coming Zombie Apocalypse!

But that’s not…real, right? I mean, zombies are a construct of our popular culture. Surely zombies exist only on celluloid, in books and as digital files on someone’s eReader?

Maybe for now.

The term “zombie”, according to the Google Dictionary, is of West African origin and has been around since the nineteenth century, but didn’t become popularised to mean the undead having risen for no other purpose but to feed on the brains of the living until George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead in 1968. Online sources agree this is probably when the genre of zombie horror originated. It has featured in our popular culture ever since, especially since the introduction of AMC’s The Walking Dead.

So zombies have become a mainstay of gory fictional horror. That doesn’t make them real.

Not in humans. Not yet.

Articles online abound, describing all sorts of parasitic infections that zombify insects and animals once they’re infected. One such article, published within the last year by Sarah Griffiths, science and tech reporter for The Mail Online, reports how the Toxoplasma parasite infects the brains of mice rendering them unafraid of cats. The cat eats the mouse and the parasite multiplies in the cat’s intestinal tract, infecting the cat as well. Because the mice brains are re-wired by the parasite, scientists claim they are effectively turned into zombies.

Medical journalist Jerome Burne reports on a number of parasites infecting the brains of insects. When the Camponotus ant, native to the Brazilian rainforests, is infected with the Ophiocordyceps fungus, it adopts an unsteady walk, wanders from its usual pathways, clamps its jaw on a leaf, and dies around six hours later. Burne explains the reason parasites take up residence in the brain is because they are sheltered there from the immune system. Joanne Webster, professor of parasite epidemiology at Imperial College London adds that in the brain, the parasite is given “direct access to the machinery to alter the host’s behaviour.”

Though scientists assure these brain-hitch-hiking parasites will not survive in humans, it doesn’t stop disaster preparedness sites and organizations from using zombie apocalypse scenarios in their studies. For example, Delaware County emergency-management officials staged a zombie emergency drill for Halloween 2011, as did Quebec’s pubic security department in 2013. The CDC Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response website is uses zombie preparedness as a platform to measure if people are prepared for an emergency. Still reeling from the SARS epidemic in the early 2000s, a recent discussion in the Canadian House of Commons urged Foreign Affairs Minister, John Baird to think about an International Zombie Strategy because “zombies don’t recognize borders.”

So while a zombie apocalypse is not imminent, experts believe it is possible.

The only remaining question is: will you be ready?

author photoAbout Elise

Elise is a high school teacher of English and Computer Studies, former archaeologist, an avid reader of literary and science fiction and student of the human condition. Everything she does, watches, reads and hears is fodder for her writing. She is passionate about Second Cup lattes, cooking, writing and language, differentiated instruction and ABC’s Once Upon A Time. In her spare time she experiments with paleo cookery, knits badly, and writes. She also bakes. Most of the time it doesn’t burn. Her family doesn’t seem to mind.
Find Elise at:

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