Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

‘Please Release Me’ – coming unstuck!

PLEASE RELEASE ME_high res miniIn honour of the publication of my friend Rhoda Baxter’s new novel Please Release Me (happy publication day, Rhoda!!), I’m blogging today on the theme of ‘being stuck’, because all the main characters in that book are stuck in some way.

I guess we all feel stuck sometimes – mostly in the daily “rut” when life can feel like it’s Groundhog Day and very tedious. This is especially the case for an author when working on a book as every day is more or less the same. Even weekends in my case – being self-employed you don’t have the nine-to-five restraints and you just work until it’s finished. I don’t really mind, but it always feels a bit weird when friends say “thank goodness it’s the weekend” as that’s meaningless to me!

The thing I’m stuck on now though is a bit more specific and – predictably – it’s the plot of my next story, a YA fantasy. I need to make it darker and more frightening, but at the same time more believable. Not an easy task!

I’ve found that there are two types of story: those that come fully formed into your mind and just flow onto the page without any trouble, and those that seem like a good idea when you start writing them but turn into a real battle to finish. My current WIP – provisionally titled Dare to Defy – was, I thought, of the first variety, but on further inspection is turning into the second category. Bother!

That means revisions, rethinks and actually having to write a proper outline (something I usually try to avoid, being the kind of writer who just sits down and writes normally), but I’ll just have to get on with it and hope that I’m soon un-stuck 🙂

Blurb for Please Release Me:-

What if you could only watch as your bright future slipped away from you?

Sally Cummings has had it tougher than most but, if nothing else, it’s taught her to grab o

pportunity with both hands. And, when she stands looking into the eyes of her new husband Peter on her perfect wedding day, it seems her life is finally on the up.

That is until the car crash that puts her in a coma and throws her entire future into question.

In the following months, a small part of Sally’s consciousness begins to return, allowing her to listen in on the world around her – although she has no way to communicate.

But Sally was never going to let a little thing like a coma get in the way of her happily ever after …

Buy link: myBook.to/PleaseReleaseMe

 

RNA Conference 2015

Me and Gill-Marie Stewart settling in

Me and Gill-Marie Stewart settling in

This year’s RNA conference was held at Queen Mary University in Mile End, London, and although most of us had a bit of a struggle to get there (thanks to a tube strike), a fantastic time was had by all!  I certainly came away buzzing with ideas and enthusiastic about writing – it was fab and just what I needed!

There was so much going on, it was impossible to go to all the talks or to see/speak to everyone, but here is a short summary of the events I attended (and a couple I participated in):-

Caroline Sheldon, Hannah Ferguson, Carole Blake and Tim Bates (with Eileen Ramsay and Jan Jones behind them)

Caroline Sheldon, Hannah Ferguson, Carole Blake and Tim Bates (with Eileen Ramsay and Jan Jones behind them)

The Agents’ Panel on the Friday which was superb – brilliantly chaired by Carole Blake of Blake Friedmann, it included Caroline Sheldon(Caroline Sheldon Literary Agency), Hannah Ferguson (Hardman & Swainson), Tim Bates (Pollinger) and Lisa Eveleigh (Richford Becklow).  It’s always great to get the agents’ perspective on what is happening in publishing so this was fascinating.

Matt Bates, the lovely fiction buyer from WH Smith Travel gave a great talk about what sells and doesn’t sell in his stores.  I especially loved his insights into covers and the huge importance they have!

Sarah Broadhurst, book reviewer extraordinaire, told us about her lifelong love of books and her career – very entertaining and interesting!

Relaxing with Ann Ankers, organiser of the RNA Marcher Ladies

Relaxing with Ann Ankers, organiser of the RNA Marcher Ladies

An Editors’ Panel, chaired by Jane Johnson (who is also an author) gave more fascinating insights, and a panel of book bloggers/reviewers told us what reviewers are looking for and how to approach them.  This panel included the lovely Charlie of The Worm Hole blog, whom I’d had the pleasure of sitting next to at dinner on the first evening.  We share a love of castles!

Author Hazel Gaynor talked about promotion; Eileen Ramsay (RNA’s new chair) led a panel discussion that featured Katie Fforde, Jane Johnson and Daniel Hahn (chair of the Society of Authors); and author Ruth Long gave a fabulous talk about magic and folklore that made me want to rush home and write fantasy books!  Then Alison Baverstock taught us about marketing, Tamsyn Murray analysed three YA books to find out why they’ve been such huge successes and Kerry Fisher talked about her road to traditional publication.

Our two volunteers in 'uchikake' kimono robes

Our two volunteers in ‘uchikake’ kimono robes

I did a talk on “Show don’t tell” with the brilliant Sue Moorcroft, utilising some of the many Japanese things I’ve collected over the years and finally I was one of many who ended up on Jane Wenham-Jones‘s Sunday Sofa to discuss our quirks …  Are you exhausted reading all this?  Well, then you’ll see why I now need a week to recover from the conference 🙂  But I’m already looking forward to the next one!

Liz Fenwick looking like a princess!

Liz Fenwick looking like a princess!

... and Liz from behind

… and Liz from behind

Lucie Wheeler and Katrina Power trying on 'zori' and 'geta' (with tabi socks)

Lucie Wheeler and Katrina Power trying on ‘zori’ and ‘geta’ (with tabi socks)

Gill-Marie Stewart and Sue Moorcroft chilling

Gill-Marie Stewart and Sue Moorcroft chilling

Katrina Power (and her megawatt smile) with Carol Townend and others

Katrina Power (and her megawatt smile) with Carol Townend and others

An 18th century Jewish cemetery in the middle of the campus - interesting!

An 18th century Jewish cemetery in the middle of the campus – interesting!

All the Choc Lit authors who attended this year's conference (minues one)

All the Choc Lit authors who attended this year’s conference (minues one)

And three of the Paisley Piranhas - myself, Gill-Marie Stewart and Katy Haye

And three of the Paisley Piranhas – myself, Gill-Marie Stewart and Katy Haye

With the lovely Sue Moorcroft – my talk ‘partner’

With fellow ChocLiteer Laura E James

With fellow ChocLiteer Laura E James

Kimono

Some of the conference first-timers looked after by Katy Haye

Some of the conference first-timers looked after by Katy Haye

What happens when we have to go home ...

What happens when we have to go home …

 

Happy 6th Birthday to Choc Lit!

JordgubbstartaJust wanted to wish Choc Lit a very Happy 6th Birthday today!  So many lovely books during that time and I’m very privileged to be part of the Choc Lit “family” 🙂  I think I shall have to make one of these Swedish strawberry cream cakes to help celebrate the occasion.  Here’s to many more birthdays to come!

PS.  If you haven’t seen it already, there’s a special “round robin” birthday story on the Choc Lit blog – check it out (here)!

Catching Up

Receiving a lovely thank you gift from the RNA President Katie Fforde and the new Chair Eileen Ramsay

Receiving a lovely thank you gift from the RNA President Katie Fforde and the new Chair Eileen Ramsay

It’s been a hectic couple of weeks that brought a major change to my life – I am no longer the chairman of the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association.  As of their AGM (on 21st May) I finished my term in office and was free to attend the RNA’s Summer Party as just another member – bliss!  As you can see from the photos here (and below), it was a fun evening as always, hosted by my successor – the lovely Eileen Ramsay!  I’m sure she’s going to be a fabulous chair and I wish her all the best!

With Gill Stewart, Janet Gover and Joss Stirling

With Gill Stewart, Janet Gover and Joss Stirling

I have enjoyed my two years as chair very much (have I told you I’m very bossy and love organising things?), but I can’t deny it’s eaten into my writing time (and other things) so it will be nice to get back to something resembling normality again.  Since the party, I have already finished off a new Regency novella I’ve been meaning to work on for ages – which will hopefully be published in the not too distant future – and have been working on edits of book three in my YA series about the teenagers at Northbrooke High, New England TLC.  With a bit of luck that will be published very soon!

BullarMeanwhile, I had a mini holiday in Sweden visiting friends and relatives and catching up on my cinnamon bun consumption – trust me, they are truly delicious!  I think I may need to do some baking very soon …

Brigid Coady - winner of the Joan Hessayon Award at the RNA party

Brigid Coady – winner of the Joan Hessayon Award at the RNA party

With Catriona Robb and Giselle Green

With Catriona Robb and Giselle Green

With Alison Morton and Gill Stewart

With Alison Morton and Gill StewartR

 

 

Travel Destinations – K C Abbott

Today I have the last post in the favourite travel destinations series – I hope you have enjoyed these as much as I have!  A warm welcome to K C Abbott who has chosen a truly stunning place as a finale:-

Christina asked for exotic, so I thought I’d do oriental, in honour of her Jade Lioness. Most of us think of Japan or China when we think of oriental. Just to be different, I decided to show you Korea. There is much, much more to Korea than Hyundai cars and Samsung TVs.

It’s a fascinating country, tacked on to the Chinese mainland and a short sea-crossing from Japan, with a proud history which goes back 2000 years. It has influences from both neighbours – and Japan ruled it from 1910 to 1945 – but Korean culture remains distinct. If you know Japan, you’ll see the differences in what follows.

Kyongbok Palace

Kyongbok Palace

In the grounds of Kyongbok Palace in Seoul, the capital of the Republic of Korea, many of the women (but not the men!) wear traditional dress. It’s quite usual to do so on holidays; more so than kimono-wearing in Japan, I think. In this picture, the few women in Western dress look slightly out of place to me.

Evelyn dress

 

 

A close-up shows that Korean dress is very different from the Japanese kimono.

 

 

 

Evelyn musiciansMale traditional dress is rarely seen, but here’s an example on stage, with court musicians playing two types of Korean zither. Visitors can also see amazing dancing and drumming displays, by female performers.

 

Evelyn dance

 

 

This is the flower crown dance, with wonderfully elaborate and colourful costumes.

 

 

Evelyn celadon

 

 

Koreans pride themselves on their exquisite Celadon ceramics which fetch enormous prices nowadays and are much sought after by collectors. There are also beautiful brush paintings, in a style similar to Chinese.

 

Evelyn tassels braids

 

 

One specialised craft, fancy knot work for court dress, has pretty much died out though the results are astonishing.

 

 

Evelyn decoration

 

Equally astonishing, and unique to Korea, is the Tanchong style of decorating the external woodwork of buildings. The colours have to be seen to be believed. Yes, they ARE that bright.

 

Korean is a very difficult foreign language to learn. I was warned off by a colleague who was fluent in both Mandarin Chinese and Japanese. Even he was finding Korean difficult, so I decided I would be wise not to try! Fortunately for me, many Koreans speak excellent English, partly as a result of the US military presence there.

 

Evelyn alphabet

 

Korean has its own phonetic alphabet of 26 letters, called Hangul, invented in the 15th century and much easier to learn than Chinese characters. This early example of printing shows the simple Korean letters interspersed with Chinese characters to explain what the new letters meant. You can easily see how complex the Chinese is, by comparison.

 

Evelyn foodLovers of oriental food will be used to wielding long bamboo chopsticks. Korean chopsticks are different. They’re shorter, pointed, and made of metal, often silver. The theory is that, if you dip your silver chopsticks into poisoned food, they will turn black and you will know to avoid the danger. At least, that was the reasoning that my Korean friends explained to me.

This is part of a Korean banquet. The silver chopsticks are on the table, bottom right, alongside a silver spoon.

Korea is an amazing and very hospitable country. Definitely recommended, if you’re going to the Far East!

Thank you so much, Casey!  I visited Korea a very long time ago but I missed a lot of these wonderful sights so will definitely have to go back some time.

Viper Venom Cover MEDIUM WEBCasey’s latest book is Viper Venom: short stories to chill the blood which is available now as a free download on Smashwords (or for 99p on Kindle here). For fans of Casey’s dystopian thriller All Cats Are Grey, there’s a short story prequel in Viper Venom.

Evelyn cover Cats

 

Travel Destinations – Liz Harris

Today we go a little bit further afield again with the favourite travel destinations as Liz Harris tells us hers and she definitely prefers a hotter climate:-

Looking towards Todi

Looking towards Todi

When writing Evie Undercover, I’d have been hard put to say which had come first – the sudden desire to write a romantic comedy or my fervent wish to set a story set in the place I’m drawn to every year – Umbria in Italy. Maybe the setting had a slight edge. Umbria is one of my favourite travel destinations. It has everything I could wish for in a place and I never tire of going there, whether to escape from real life and write, or merely to relax.

It has beauty. The countryside is stunning. My favourite time of day is in the evening, sitting outside on the loggia, drinking a bellini while watching the sun set over the hills.

The ancient washhouse seen from beneath a bridge leading into Bevagana

The ancient washhouse seen from beneath a bridge leading into Bevagana

It has history. Throughout Umbria, small towns sit atop hills, each with narrow cobbled streets that lead from a central piazza and open on to a lovely view. To sit outside a café, drinking coffee while watching the world go by – what could be more relaxing? Three of my favourite towns are the medieval walled town of Bevagna, Montefalco, famous for its wine, and the Roman town of Todi.

Yes, Umbria, unspoilt by tourism, was the inspiration for my rom com. I had the setting so all I then needed was a man and a woman – yes, I was really on the ball! First an engaging heroine for whom no hurdle was too great, and enterprising Evie Shaw was born. And then a hero. Enter handsome libel lawyer, Tom Hadleigh.

A cobbled alley opening on to a lovely view

A cobbled alley opening on to a lovely view

Tom had bought a 14th century Umbrian house on a whim. Nearing the end of the house’s restoration, Tom’s input is needed. But alas, he doesn’t speak a word of Italian and his Italian surveyor doesn’t speak a word of English. It just so happens, though, that Evie, whose father was Italian, is fluent in the language. What a happy coincidence!

Alas, the path of true love never runs smooth. And especially not when Evie is being forced to work undercover in order to keep her job on the gossip magazine, Pure Dirt – the only job in journalism she’d been able to get. And especially not when the beautiful sister of Tom’s Italian surveyor, Eduardo di Montefiori, sleek and gallant in a Mediterranean way, is staying with her brother. Trouble most definitely lay ahead.

Thank you, Liz!  Umbria sounds fantastic and Italy is definitely on my list of places I want to visit next!

Evie Undercover is out in paperback on 7th July. Available on Kindle and for pre-order.

Visit Liz at her website www.lizharrisauthor.com

Follow her on twitter: @lizharrisauthor

Please come back tomorrow for the final post in this series when we hear from K C Abbott!

 

 

Travel Destinations – Kirsty Ferry

We’ve heard about some truly wonderful destinations this past week and today I welcome Kirsty Ferry to tell us about her favourite, which is a bit closer to home but just as lovely:-

Kirsty photo 1I would have to say my favourite holiday destination is Norfolk. We’ve been going to the same cottage every couple of years for almost two decades and it was the first place we took our son on holiday. He was 18 months old and I still remember him quacking at the ducks on the lawn.

Kirsty photo 2‘Our’ cottage is a beautiful converted coaching inn which is practically on the banks of the River Waveney, in a little village called Brockdish, near Diss, on the Norfolk Suffolk border.  It’s a home from home and so lovely to know that when we get there we can just kick back and relax and walk down to feed the descendants of those ducks every night on the riverbank. Even the journey to Brockdish is filled with landmarks we look forward to seeing  and we actually love travelling past the pig farms as we see all the piglets in their little metal tents!

Kirsty photo 3We’re going again  this year and I can’t wait. My latest book is set in Suffolk so it’s definitely an area full of inspiration as well. Plus there’s a very poor Internet connection in the cottage so there’s no excuse for not writing a little bit on the evenings if I get the chance! 

That does sound beautiful and very relaxing – thank you, Kirsty!

 

Kirsty coverKirsty’s novel Some Veil Did Fall is set in Whitby, another fabulous UK travel destination which I’d love to visit soon!

Please come back tomorrow to hear from Liz Harris, who likes her holidays hot!

Travel Destinations – Kathryn Freeman

I’m loving all these travel tales on the blog (in honour of the exotic setting of my novel The Jade Lioness) and today it’s Kathryn Freeman‘s turn to tell us about her favourite travel destination:-

Waikiki

Waikiki

Hawaii –  I blame it on the TV series Hawaii-5-0. Not the old one, though I enjoyed that too, but the new series on Sky. That’s when I became hooked on visiting Hawaii. The scenery looked stunning – and I’m not just talking about Steve McGarrett (played by the gorgeous Alex O’Loughlin).

In real life it didn’t disappoint, either. Just as well because getting there took a twelve hour flight to LA and another six hour one to Honolulu (umm, it’s not just off the west coast of America as I’d imagined. It’s nearer to Japan!).

Kathryn sealThough we didn’t come across the Hawaii-5-0 cast, there was no shortage of amazing sights and experiences. I’ve not been anywhere else in the world where you can experience so much in one place. On Ohau, the main island, there was history (Pearl harbour), culture (the Polynesian centre), glamour (Waikiki beach) and of course a spectacular coastline, complete with the occasional dozing monk seal.

Kathryn lavaThen came Big Island and a helicopter ride over one of the most active volcanoes on earth, a walk through craters and scalded forests and a massive zip wire over valleys and waterfalls (the scenery was so stunning I forgot to be scared).

Finally it was to the more peaceful Kauai (Garden island) with it’s green turtles, incredible snorkeling and Na Pali coast line, where Jurassic Park and Pirates of the Caribbean have been filmed.

Kathryn turtleAs a writer, I love words, but I have to admit photographs do Hawaii more justice than any descriptive words I could pen. It’s a holiday with bit of everything, that will please both adults and children – even my teenagers. It is just like the TV series – but without the violence.

Thank you, Kathryn, I totally agree!  I’ve only been to Oahu so will have to try and get to the other islands some time – it all looks wonderful!

Kathryn coverKathryn’s latest book is  Do Opposites Attract? where the heroine heads to South America, another interesting place.  Here are the buy links:-

UK – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Do-Opposites-Attract-Choc-Lit-ebook/dp/B00KRJLFZ8

US – http://www.amazon.com/Do-Opposites-Attract-Choc-Lit-ebook/dp/B00KRJLFZ8

Please come back tomorrow to hear from …

 

 

Travel Destinations – Anna Belfrage

Most of us love to travel and visit new places and we all have favourites.  To celebrate the e-book publication of my new novel The Jade Lioness, I asked some of my fellow authors to tell me what their favourite exotic (or not so exotic?) travel destinations are and to recount some of their travel tales (good or bad!). Today Anna Belfrage reflects on what travelling means to her and where she prefers to end up:-

To travel is to expand your mind. There is a saying that “he who travels has a story to tell” – which is true enough, even if these days places all over the world are becoming depressingly similar in some aspects. No matter where one sets foot on this world of ours, chances are there will be a McDonalds, and I’m not sure this is a good thing. At all.

Through my work I travel a lot. I have the privilege of landing in new places, meeting new people, on a regular basis. And yes, I have fallen in love with some of those places, such as Istanbul, Treviso in Italy, Chicago and Taipei. My first loves, however, remain the same: London and home.

Anna photoFor some people, “home” is a defined place on Earth. For me, due to an itinerant childhood, “home” has been something I have constantly been looking for, a little corner in the world in which to sink my roots. It took me a very long time to find this place, but since some three years back, an old farm in the middle of nowhere has become home – with a capital “h”.

The house is only a century old or so. It nestles into the stony ground on which it is situated, one side facing the lake, the other the surrounding woods. The farm as such is even older – the ancient foundations of the barn, the impressive stone walls, date back to the 17th century when this part of Sweden was Danish. It gives me a strong sensation of continuity to run my hand along these walls, touch timbers so old each individual adze-stroke is easily discernible. My adopted place. Home.

So when I am out travelling, it is always the inbound journey that fills me with joy and expectation. It is when we turn down the last little lane that I can’t stop myself from grinning, all of me filling with warmth at the sight of the yellow house, the two huge red barns. I imagine my protagonist in The Graham Saga, Alex Graham, feels the same whenever she sees her 17th century homestead rise out of the Maryland woods – a house built in larch that snuggles into the protective hillside beyond. In fact, I know she feels the same way, and over the divide of time and imagination, she meets my eyes and smiles. Home – the best place on Earth.

Thank you, Anna, it does sound like a heavenly place indeed!

Anna coversAnna Belfrage is the author of the successful and acclaimed series, The Graham Saga. Set in 17th century Scotland, Virginia and Maryland, The Graham Saga is the story of two people who should never have met, not when she was born three centuries after him. But as Anna says, “there you are, sometimes impossible things happen, and had they not, Alex would never have met the man fated from the very beginning to be her other half, her companion through life.” For more information about Anna and her books, why not visit her website, her blog, or her Amazon page.

Travel Destinations – Georgia Hill

There are so many wonderful places to visit in the world and to celebrate the e-book publication of my new novel The Jade Lioness, I’ve asked some of my fellow authors to tell me what their favourite exotic (or not so exotic?) travel destinations are and to recount some of their travel tales (good or bad!). Today Georgia Hill is going to tell us about a rather unusual journey:-

I love train travel. The journey across the Cotswolds from my home in Herefordshire to Paddington is wonderful if a little leisurely. I’ve been lucky enough to take the Orient Express from Venice and hope, one day, to travel across Canada by train. I’m even a bit of a steam train geek and get childishly excited whenever I can go on one. Soot smuts and all.

Travelling on the Trans-Siberian Railway in the winter of 1989 was a whole other experience. Gorbachev was in power and the old Soviet system was just beginning to crumble. It was an exciting time to go. I travelled with a group of other westerners (it was the only way possible back then; independent travel wasn’t permitted) some of whom claimed were making a documentary for television. They had caused us all sorts of problems at border control, where their enormous cache of film equipment raised alarm and suspicion in the customs officers. Glasnost may have been at its height but it hadn’t filtered through to old-school Soviet bureaucracy!

We boarded the train in Moscow and were headed to Irkutsk and a hard-frozen Lake Baikal, the most easterly point we were allowed. A journey of four or five days. The sleeping compartment was comfortable enough, even though my boyfriend and I had to share with two strangers. The washing and toilet facilities were pretty basic – but even the Orient Express doesn’t do ensuites!

As westerners, we were treated with an equal measure of reverence and suspicion. One or two hardier members of our group strayed to second class to chat with the Soviet passengers but it was futile as the language barrier proved impossible. A young, broad-faced female guard sat at the end of our carriage, dispensing hot chai from an ornate, silver-plated samovar. We drank it from glasses in equally glamorous holders. It was a welcome distraction and broke up the long, boring days.

Food was a bit of a lottery. It began well but three days into the journey, meals depended on whatever supplies could be had at the remote stations at which we stopped. One lunch, which consisted of a bowl of watery broth with a whole boiled egg sitting at the bottom, stays in the memory. Goodness only knows what the less favoured passengers in second and third class ate.

The scenery passing by was monotonous. It was exactly the same day after day. Forest upon snow-covered forest of pine trees, only enlivened by the odd dacha or wooden house. I’ve never felt the sheer scale of a country in quite the same way.

The train was extremely hot. Despite it being the depths of a Russian winter, it remained a steamy 30C or so. Hot, quarrelsome and more than a little stir-crazy, we took to jumping off at stations and running around in T-shirts and jeans, indulging in snowball fights. We recorded a low of -32C at one point, so the novelty of breathing fresh, cold air soon waned and we returned to our stuffy cabins.

One morning, as we were queuing to get back on, feeling the cold freeze the hairs on our bare arms and faces, we heard a knocking sound from underneath the train. Further investigation proved it was our trusty samovar girl. She was hammering at something underneath the rudimentary toilet facility. Turned out whatever went into the toilet simply came out onto the track below. Only, in the sub-zero Steppes, it froze onto the bottom of the train, blocking the toilet. In between serving us delicious, hot chai, her other job was to keep the toilet clear.

After that, funnily enough, we weren’t quite so keen to visit her samovar.

Wendy coverWhat became of the film makers? The leader of our group who suffered a heart attack? The arrest in Samarkand? The sinister men in black who shadowed us? Well, that’s an entire novel! One I intend to write some day.

Love,   Georgia x

Thank you so much, Georgia – so glad I wasn’t on that train with you, doesn’t sound like my cup of tea! 🙂

Georgia Hill’s non train-based novel, While I Was Waiting, is out in July with Harper Impulse.  And you can find her here:-

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/georgiahillauthor?ref=bookmarks

Twitter – https://twitter.com/georgiawrites

Website – www.georgiahill.co.uk

Pinterest – https://www.pinterest.com/georgiawrites/