Monthly Archives: March 2014

Leigh Russell – Blog Tour

Today is my stop on Leigh Russell’s Fatal Act blog tour.

Here Leigh tells us what it was like writing her first book.

 

Writing My First Book

 

It seems a lot longer than seven years since I wrote my debut, Cut Short, which came out in 2009. Since then so many exciting things have happened, I can’t believe it! Not only being published, but winning awards, hitting bestseller lists, including the #1 spot on kindle, seeing my books translated into different languages around the world… the list goes on. But none of that comes close to matching the excitement of writing. 

 

It amazes me now that I discovered my passion for writing so late in life. An idea struck me one day – you could it a moment of inspiration – and I started to write the story down. Since that day, I haven’t stopped writing. It was like turning on a tap. I wrote compulsively whenever I could, at the weekends, and in the evenings after work, sometimes writing until the early hours of the morning. My family were bemused by my constant scribbling. Yes, ‘scribbling’, because to begin with I wrote everything longhand in pencil before typing it up. With experience, I cut the handwriting stage, and now write directly on a keyboard, which saves a lot of time. I rarely even scribble notes for myself any longer, which saves me even more time trying to decipher them.  

 

Finally, after six weeks, I sat back and thought, ‘I’ve written a book!’ And that, I thought, was the end of it. With no expectation of hearing back, I printed out my manuscript, as we did in those days, put it in a brown A4 envelope, and sent it to three publishers. You can imagine my astonishment when I received a phone call two weeks later from a lady who is still my editor at No Exit Press, the crime imprint of Oldcastle Books. They have published seven of my books so far, with two more due out before the end of this year, another three under contract, and more to come. 

 

Six years after Cut Short was published I am a full-time author, earning a decent living writing fiction. It’s a lot of hard work, but I enjoy every minutbe of it, because it means I can write every day,  still sometimes until the early hours of the morning…. My career took off very quickly, but that isn’t typical. These days it’s far more difficult to secure a publishing deal than it was in 2009 when Cut Short came out. Publishers are increasingly cautious about taking a punt on an unknown writer, and the competition is fierce. With thousands of aspiring writers chasing very few offers, it’s increasingly hard for a writer starting out. You have to stay focused and keep your self belief. With multiple book deals I can’t afford ‘writers’ block’. The best cure for it is a publishers’ deadline! If you don’t have such external deadlines, set your own. Challenge yourself to write a set number of words each day. This could two hundred or two thousand words, whatever number works for you. The details will be unique to you, but the principle is the same for all of us. 

 

I was fortunate that a publisher read the first draft of Cut Short, saw the potential for a series, and offered me a three-book deal – the first of four such deals so far. I hadn’t written the story with a view to being published, I just started writing and found myself carried away by the narrative. I think that may be the real key to my success. If you’re writing with a view to being published, you need to rethink. Stop worrying about finding a publisher. Just write what you enjoy writing, and hopefully one day your manuscript will be read by someone who has the power to transform your story into a bestselling book. It happened to me, it could happen to you! 

 

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Author Biography:

Leigh Russell studied at the University of Kent, gaining a Masters degree in English. For many years a secondary school English teacher, she is a creative writing tutor for adults. She is married, has two daughters, and lives in North West London. Her first novel, Cut Short, was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger Award in 2010. This was followed by Road Closed, Dead End, Death Bed, Stop Dead and Fatal Act, in the Detective Inspector Geraldine Steel series. Cold Sacrifice is the first title in a spin off series featuring Geraldine Steel’s sergeant, Ian Peterson.

Author links:

@LeighRussell

leighrussell.co.uk

noexit.co.uk/leighrussell

facebook.com/pages/Geraldine-Steel-British-detective/713349595357054

 

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“The Sixth and Latest DI Geraldine Steel Mystery

A glamorous young TV soap star dies in a car crash. Returning for her sixth case, Detective Inspector Geraldine Steel is baffled as the driver of the second vehicle miraculously survives – and vanishes. Another young actress is murdered and, once again, the killer mysteriously disappears. Geraldine unwittingly risks her sergeant’s life in their struggle to track down a serial killer who leaves no clues.”

Extract:

“All she wanted to do now was get home safely. She drove slowly, looking out for a side road she could turn into. With luck she could slip away before her pursuer realised what she was doing. She passed a turning on the right, displaying a no entry sign. She braked abruptly. Her phone flew off the passenger seat. The van slowed down behind her. Worn out and stressed, she couldn’t even remember why she had been so angry with Piers. It had been a stupid argument in the first place. She wished she was back at home, away from the road at night and its wildness. Leaning forward to retrieve her phone from the floor, she punched Piers’ speed dial key. His phone rang, but there was no answer. She glanced in her mirror and glimpsed the other driver, his face a black mask in the darkness.

Book details:

Genre: Mystery & Detective; Women Sleuths; Suspense; Crime

Published by: No Exit Press
Publication Date: 29th May 2014
Number of Pages: 320pp
ISBN: 978-1-84344-204-2
Series: DI Geraldine Steel #6; Stand Alone

 

 

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Stop Dead by Leigh Russell has been nominated for
The People’s Book Prize
Do please take a couple of moments to visit this People’s Book Prize link and cast your vote in support.

Don’t miss a stop on the blog, check out the rest of the tour dates here:

Fatal Act by Leigh Russell
Blog Tour 2014!

 

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Guest post – Julie Shackman – Holding out for a hero

Today on the blog Julie Shackman, author of Rock My World published by Not So Noble Books.

Here, she discusses romantic heroes.

 

I’ve read a lot of romance novels and like you, have probably fallen for a few of the heroes portrayed

by many of these talented writers.

 

Jack Wolfe in “Who’s Afraid of Mr Wolfe?” by Hazel Osmond is so alpha male, he makes Rambo look

like Mr Bean. He’s also tall, dark and dangerously attractive.

 

Heathcliff in “Wuthering Heights” is passionate, tortured and seething with pent-up emotion.

 

Rhett Butler in “Gone With The Wind” is self-assured, capable and dynamic.

 

When I was writing my debut contemp romance “Rock My World”, I wanted to create two male

characters who would sweep the reader off their feet, like the aforementioned gents did to me.

 

I imagined my 80s rock singer Stevie Vee, with a passionate soul; a waterfall of big, curly hair and a

big heart to match.

 

He possesses an incredible, raspy rocker singing voice and loves life until it is cruelly snatched away

from him…

 

With Matt Jardine, my sexy, arrogant journalist, I wanted readers to feel the inner turmoil he

experiences about his own life – proud, overly-confident at times having the Jardine newspaper

empire name – exasperated by it the next.

 

When I was drafting appearances and characteristics, I imagined Matt to have wolf-like, grey eyes

that Ruby, my protagonist, finds unnerving – and also compelling, much to her annoyance.

 

He’s said to have a touch of the “Bradley Cooper” about him – the lupine smile and slight swagger

(Sorry. I think I got distracted there for a minute!)

 

I hope that the problems and conflicting emotions Stevie and Matt wrestle with, add to their appeal.

 

Ok, they are rather lovely eye-candy, but it’s their vulnerability and flaws which make them who

they are too.

 

When you read “Rock My World” (and thank you!) I hope you experience the excitement I did

writing about these two compelling men every day.

 

Now, back to the day-dreaming…..!

 

About the author:

 

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I trained as a journalist but writing romance has always been a dream of mine. When I’ve not got my head in a book or drafting one, I write verses and captions for greetings card companies. Writing at home seems to be incredibly difficult for me – I usually require coffee, music and noise.
“Rock My World”  is my first contemporary romance novel . I have just finished writing my second novel and am polishing that at the moment whilst beginning to do some research for my third. These are also contemporary romances with a good dose of humour (hopefully!). I’m married, have two sons and live in Scotland.

https://twitter.com/G13Julie

https://www.facebook.com/julie.shackman

http://julieshackman.wordpress.com/ (Blog address)

Rock My World

Ruby Cameron is an ambitious reporter for a local paper where she is fed scraps of news, and lives with a man whose “idea of living dangerously is to leave the heating on when we pop out to the shops”. But after catching her squeaky clean boyfriend in flagrante delicto she ups sticks and moves into her own small home, only to discover the ghostly presence of a cheeky rock star who becomes her confidant as the dynamics of her small town, and her feelings about her dashing new boss, begin to throw up more questions than she can answer. Will Ruby discover who she really is, and perhaps more importantly, who she wants to be?

 

Published by Not So Noble Books: http://t.co/RvLGJMdWkr

 

You can buy Rock My World here:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00ICRU3J6/

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00ICRU3J6/

 

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Nick Alexander – Q&A

After such  fabulous response to his last visit I’m pleased to welcome back Nick Alexander to the blog. Here Nick answers some of my questions.

1. Your latest book Other Halves was released on 12 December 2013 on ebook (paperback will be available from 5 June 2014). What is it about?

I sometimes think that if you go to the heart of anything, then it becomes about everything.
While Other Halves is, on the surface, at least, a fairly simple tale about what happens when a couple of fifteen years (with an eleven year old son) divorce, it’s also meant to be a novel about the relative nature of truth. We generally know one side of most stories, one aspect of most relationships: for our own relationships, our personal point of view (our partners remain mysterious), and for those of our friends, only what the person we talk to decides to tell us.
Very occasionally, we end up with both partners on the phone, each telling us entirely different versions of the story (this often happens with parents!) and at this point we realise that for every situation, for every argument, there are two, often shockingly different versions of truth.
Because Other Halves swaps back and forth between Hannah and Cliff’s points of view, we’re able to see this in all it’s glory, and hopefully have our hearts and allegiances wrenched back and forth from one to the other as the book proceeds. It’s hopefully a novel experience to find ourselves feeling compassion for someone who only minutes before, we were cursing.
Finally, beyond endings lie new beginnings, so Other Halves is also a story that asks, who are we beyond the scope of our major relationships, and what do we want from our lives? If the chance to start afresh came, who would we really want to be? Many marriages began before people even knew who they wanted to be, so a mid-life divorce might not only be cause for regret. It might also be a chance to reinvent one’s self completely, and the story follows that process on both sides of the divorce, follows both Hannah and Cliff as they head towards very different experiences of fulfillment.

2. Other Halves is a follow-on to The Half-Life of Hannah. How different is it to write a sequel rather than the first book?

In one way, it’s easier because so much has already been defined by the first book. The start point will be (pretty much) the end of the previous novel, and the characters and their backstory will be a known quantity. Sometimes it turns out to be challenging getting every detail from previous volumes right and remembering every birthday and every food preference for every character can involve a lot of bits of paper pinned to the cork board! But because all of that legwork has already been done (and hopefully, seeing as you’ve decided to write a sequel, has been successful with readers) you get more time and space to develop the characters. So I think that sequels tend to also be more intimate, which generally proves to be more satisfying both to write, and for readers too!

3. Are you a plan-it-all-first kind of writer or do you just sit down and see where the story takes you?

I’m very much a plan-it-all-first person. I look at maps before I set out in the car, and I work out where I’m going and how I’m going to get there before I start to write as well. Otherwise I generally find myself lost in some labyrinth or trying to turn around in a cul-de-sac. Sometimes I get to the middle of a novel and realise that one of the characters simply wouldn’t do or say what I had planned for them. It’s always a little spooky to realise that they have their own lives and desires which simply won’t meld to my original plan. So then I have to stop writing and change the second half of the plan before I can continue!

4. What sort of books do you read, can you give an idea of favourite authors or genres?

I’m a big fan of American fiction, Michael Cunningham, T.C. Boyle, Jonathan Franzen… There’s an energy in American fiction that I enjoy. But I also love Iris Murdoch, Lynne Reid Banks, Iain Banks, Fay Weldon, Jenny Eclair, Virginia Woolf… I tend to hop around from one genre to another.

5. Can you tell us anything about your next novel – or is it all top secret for now?

I’m about halfway through writing a family drama which revolves around a series of long hidden secrets. The idea is to explore how we view our parents and compare that with their own ideas of who they are. Again, as in Other Halves, I’ll be using multiple points of view to explore how we imagine their lives to have been versus their own experience of all of this (including some major skeletons in the closet they may have decided to hide from their offspring!).

6. You must have answered a few of these Q&As. What question have you not been asked that you wish had been and what is the answer?

Perhaps it would be, “What’s the most difficult thing about writing novels?”
Most people seem to assume that it’s coming up with a good idea (which leads many people to state that they have a novel “in them”.) In fact, good ideas for a novel seem to pop up fairly often. What’s hardest of all is finding the determination to sit down, alone, day after day, and concentrate on writing for the 5,000 hours or so that it takes to plan, write and edit a 100,000 word novel.
The willpower involved is surprisingly like going to the gym and I reckon there are as many unused gym membership cards out there as there are unwritten novels. We can all come up with a vision of the kind of body we’d like to have, but getting it requires more than vision. It requires hours and hours and years and years of simply “doing it” which is why I sadly don’t look like an Olympic athlete. I think we maybe do all have a novel “in us” just as we all perhaps have a gymnast “in us.” But choosing to actually do either takes a certain kind of madness.

About Nick Alexander:

Nick Alexander is the bestselling author of ten novels, including The French House and The Case of the Missing Boyfriend. He lives in the southern French Alps with two mogs (Paloma-Paquita & Leon-Pedro), three (nameless) goldfish and a complete set of Almodóvar films.

 

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The Half-Life of Hannah and Other Halves are available from Amazon.co.uk and Apple, and all major ebook retailers.

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Susan Buchanan – How hard is it being a translator?

Today I’m please to welcome Susan Buchanan to the blog. Susan has is an author and has just set up her own translation company Perfect Prose.

About Susan:

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Susan Buchanan lives near Glasgow, Scotland and is the author of three novels, as well as being  a proofreader, editor, and translator. She has an MA in French and Hispanic Studies from the University of Glasgow, although ironically her most fluent language after English is Italian.  She has lived in both Spain and France and worked for 15 years in European and international sales, using her  languages daily, as well as proofreading, editing, and writing copy in various fields, including IT, electronics, electronic components, and the water industry. She also speaks French and Portuguese.

Twitter -@perfect_prose

Here Susan tells us all about translation, what she loves about it, and what she doesn’t like so much

“Every year many of us buy books, sometimes by authors whose native tongue isn’t English (although clearly for those living in non-English speaking countries, this is the norm). We buy those books in translation. I particularly like the Nordic crime writers: Camilla Läckberg, Henning Mankell, Jo Nesbo. I’ve also read many authors over the years in translation, including many classics, sometimes as a dual text (where it appears in the original version and in English) – Macchiavelli, Boccaccio, Flaubert. But do you know the names Laurie Thompson, Steven T Murray, and Don Bartlett? No? I thought not, but if it wasn’t for them, you wouldn’t be reading the Nordic writers’ works in English. As a languages graduate and a linguist, I know just how much work is involved in translating books. It’s not just a case of ‘working out’ what it means in English, but also remaining true to the author’s voice and style, whilst also capturing all the subtle nuances of English, and ensuring you don’t mistranslate.

Neither is it just a case of simply translating what you see? What if you are translating a 14th century text into English from Italian? Dante’s La Divina Commedia for example. You’d have to know the language of that era and be a student of the language of the time to be able to do the translation justice. Likewise, if you’re translating Mexican Spanish or Brazilian Portuguese into English, you need to bear in mind that many words have completely different meanings from their European equivalents. It can be quite a minefield – and that’s why I love it!

I actually started writing novels as, 25 years ago in high school, I was told that if I wanted to translate books (languages other than English were my first love back then)I’d have to be a published writer before I would be considered as a book translator. Naively I believed this. In the end, that wasn’t why I became a novelist, but I still harbour a desire to translate a full-length novel and I’m sure that I will do it at some point. I used to translate sections of novels just for fun, as I read in Italian, French, Spanish, and Portuguese. Yes, my book-buying habits are not restricted only to English!

Yet translation clearly isn’t only restricted to translation of books. For more than 15 years I worked in European and international sales, and I was called upon regularly to translate instruction manuals, press releases, website content, media articles, product flyers, presentations, and trade show information packs. In the business world, translators are often chosen by specialism. It has been my experience that those who do well are those who specialise in a particular sector or have a technical area of expertise. For example, from a technical translation perspective I focus mainly on Manufacturing and Environment . Other key sectors often looking for translators include Life Sciences, Legal, Oil and Gas, Medical, Financial, Public Sector, and Financial Services. Very specific terminology is used within each niche industry, as well as a lot of jargon which a layman is unlikely to know. Therein lies the need for someone with that specific knowledge to ensure a flawless translation.

Although you should be a native speaker if translating into a language, or bilingual if translating professionally from and into the given language, just speaking the language doesn’t automatically make you a candidate for being a good translator. In the same way as not all English speakers can write English well, this is also true of other nationalities. I have lost count of the number of times I’ve proofread a translation done by a well-meaning native-speaking employee, into their mother tongue, and discovered a whole array of spelling and grammatical errors. Hence, hiring a professional really is the only way. I only translate into Italian and Spanish at the moment, as

although my French was fluent when I lived in France and my Portuguese is pretty good, I just don’t feel they are currently of an elevated enough standard for professional translation.

As someone who reads in five languages, I’ve read some great translations and some by which I wasn’t quite so enthralled. I’ve witnessed the practice on job auction sites where translators are requested to bid for a quarter of a book. How does that work? With language being so fluid, one person’s interpretation of a clause or sentence might be phrased slightly differently from another’s. Some words have more than one direct translation in English. How do they ensure consistency? They can’t. I’ve seen this firsthand when working in industry when a translation agency we’d employed had two translators working on the same piece of material. When I read the translation, I spotted straightaway it wasn’t the work of a single person, as later in the piece of work, there were different translations for the same word used in the first section. I can only imagine how annoying this would be in a full-length novel.

However, my favourite part about translation, aside from simply knowing I’ve nailed it, is when I come across an absolute howler. These examples all happened in the same week: someone referring to a lawyer used the term ‘avocado’ instead of ‘abogado’ , ‘cobra’ for ‘cabra’ , (goat) and my favourite one of all was ‘me duelen mis osos’ , trying to say ‘their bones were hurting’, but actually saying literally ‘their bears were hurting them’. Images of being chased by a grizzly bear abounded. Now that’s what I call a mistranslation!”

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Tilly Tennant – Hopelessly Devoted to Holden Finn Blog Tour

Today Tilly Tennant is stopping by the blog as part of her blog tour.

About Tilly:

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Tilly Tennant was born in Dorset but now lives in Staffordshire with her slightly nutty family.  Tilly is married to Mr Tennant (not that one, though a girl can dream). She likes nothing better than curling up in a quiet corner with a glass of wine watching the world go by, but can more usually be found taxiing her daughters to parties or taking them on emergency shopping trips. After a huge list of dismal and disastrous jobs over the years, including paper plate stacking, shop girl, newspaper promotions and waitressing, she began working as a temporary secretary in a hospital to boost her income whilst doing a degree in English and creative writing. This job lasted nine years. Not terribly temporary. But it does mean that she knows just what it’s like to make monumental admin cock-ups, spend the month’s wages in the hospital coffee shop and fall in love with all the doctors. As she’s a smug married, however, it’s fortunate that the doctors in question don’t usually feel the same way.

Tilly is represented by the wonderful, gorgeous Peta Nightingale at LAW.

Here Tilly tells us all about her Hopelessly Devoted to Holden Finn playlist…

Hopelessly Devoted to Holden Finn Youtube playlist

 When I was first asked to put together a playlist for Hopelessly Devoted to Holden Finn I must admit I was slightly concerned.  What music had inspired the book?  None, really, or at least, I couldn’t think of anything other than a single One Direction song that had planted the seed. And I certainly didn’t listen to any whilst writing it because, having the attention span of a gnat, I have to write in absolute silence.  But once I started to poke around on YouTube I found that there were actually loads of brilliantly apt songs. The list kept growing and growing and finally I had to stop myself from adding on to it to infinity! 

 I hope you like the choices. I think that they, in part, reflect Bonnie’s journey through the story, and, in part, they’re just songs I thought suited the mood of the book.  Some of the choices will make you smile (including one or two in-jokes for people who have already read the book) and some will take you down memory lane (for those with extremely long memories!).

 The link to take you to the videos is here:

 http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLQPv4-2et_s5rbe2_1DvHFMiTInKwbFsc

 The songs I have chosen:

 What Makes You Beautiful – One Direction

Teenage Dream – Katy Perry

Driftwood – Travis

Haven’t Met You Yet – Michael Buble

Magic – B.o.B feat Rivers Cuomo

Lightning – The Wanted

Dance with me Tonight – Olly Murs

Holding out for a Hero – Bonnie Tyler

Greatest Day – Take That

Walking on Sunshine – Katrina and the Waves

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“There’s only one man for Bonnie, and that’s Holden Finn. The problem is that Holden Finn is a twenty-three-year-old pop megastar with his boy band, Every Which Way, who doesn’t even know she exists. Not only that, but half the women of the world want to be Mrs Finn, including Bonnie’s teenage daughter, Paige. But the real men in Bonnie’s life only let her down, and a man that you can never have can never let you down… right?  When Paige wins a radio competition to meet Holden and his band, it seems all that is set to change. Bonnie is about to find out that you should be careful what you wish for, and that happiness can come in the most unexpected shape…”

Hopelessly Devoted to Holden Finn is out now and you can buy it here:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00HYC45SK?ie=UTF8&at=aw-iphone-pc-uk-21&force-full-site=1&ref_=aw_bottom_links

 

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Lucy Lawrie – Debut feature

Today on the blog I’m pleased to have Lucy Lawrie, who’s debut novel Tiny Acts of Love, published by Black & White Publishing is out now.

About Lucy:

“Lucy was born in Edinburgh, and gained an honours degree in English Literature from Durham University before going on to study law. She worked as a lawyer in Edinburgh for several years, specialising in employment and pensions law.

When Lucy was on maternity leave for her first baby, she unearthed a primary two homework book in which she’d stated, in very wobbly handwriting: ‘I want to be an AUTHOR when I grow up.’ To appease her six-year old self, she began writing her first novel.”

 

Here Lucy tells us what it’s like becoming a debut author.

When preparing for my debut book launch recently, my publishers and I knew that several children would be coming, so we set up a playroom next to the room where I’d be speaking. We filled it with hundreds of lollipops (sorry, parents!) colouring sheets, two big street playmats, and two huge boxes of Lego.

It reminded me of being a little girl – very shy – who loved to escape into her own imaginary worlds. I had sprawling towns of Lego all over my bedroom floor, with complicated dynasties of plastic pigs who inhabited the homes I’d built. These homes were of questionable quality – I did my best but there was only one oven, one television, one tap and three chairs between about seven houses. In such straitened circumstances, it was hardly surprising that feelings ran high in Pig Town, with conflict erupting on a daily basis.

It wasn’t until I was 30 that I started creating characters again, and this time writing down their stories. But something unsettling happened when I’d finished my first novel, Tiny Acts of Love. I got bitten by the bug of wanting to be published – a very troubling malady indeed.

To start, with the manuscript simply wasn’t good enough. It took several drafts, and the patient input of a number of writer friends and critiquing partners, before it started to look like the book that it was meant to be. Even then, the publishing world proved to be a hard, unyielding place, full of daunting requirements like synopses, pitches, blurbs and cover letters. I knew brilliant writers who had never managed to get their work published. All the odds seemed stacked against me. But I couldn’t give up on my book.

Then two things happened. I found my literary agent – or rather, incredibly, she found me through an online writers’ forum. And after some painful rejections from publishers, the book found a home with Black & White Publishing, based just a few miles away from me in Edinburgh. In the space of a five-minute phone call in January last year, everything changed. As an unpublished writer I’d been on the outside, looking in to where I wanted – needed, desperately – to be. And now I was on the other side of the glass, because a handful of (very lovely!) people at Black & White believed in me.

Getting a publishing deal was a strange thing. People (not all, but some) looked at me differently from before. Small talk at dinner parties suddenly became easier. I was a soon-to-be-published author rather than a stay-at-home mum who awkwardly confessed to doing ‘a bit of writing’ (if she mentioned it at all). People were interested to hear my thoughts about writing and the world of books. 

All the time, there was a little voice in my head, saying this is great, but I’m no better a writer than I was before. My ideas were no better, my words were no more shiny, my characters no more alive. The publishers who’d said no to my book had still said no, for all the same reasons. How had I ended up on the other side of this peculiar divide?

The insecurity, always there from the moment you type the first words in your first novel, doesn’t go away when you get a publishing deal. It merely shifts. All writers I know say the same thing – that you go from worrying about getting a deal to worrying about sales, then if the sales are acceptable you’ll worry about whether you’ll be able to pull it off again with the next book. And the next . . . and so it goes on.

So what can you do? There’s only one thing you can do – keep writing. Because being published, or not being published, has nothing to do with that dark, underground place where new shoots unfold and grow towards the light. Where characters are born. Where they start to talk to you, where they laugh and cry and where their stories unravel.

You need to let that happen, let your plots, settings and characters emerge and then play with them. Just see what they do. I remember the feeling I had as a child when I got home from school. That surge of warmth and excitement as I’d run upstairs to see what was going to happen to Pinky, Edward, Hamlet(!) and the rest of the pig clan. On a good day, that’s exactly how writing feels.

Getting published has been wonderful. It’s been like having an exciting new job, one that I love. I’ve learned new skills and met some amazing people. I’ve been pushed further outside of my comfort zone than I ever thought I could go. At my book launch I stood up in front of dozens of people and read from my book, and talked about the deeply personal experience of writing it. I was terrified beforehand. I’m a stay-at-home mum, not a public speaker. But as soon as I started speaking my nerves disappeared, and I loved every minute of it. I’m finding out things about about myself that I never knew.

It did cross my mind – what would my little-girl self have thought of it all? Would she be impressed with me, for standing up in front of that crowd? Would she be pleased, or embarrassed? Would she laugh, or want to run and hide?

It’s more likely that she wouldn’t be paying any attention at all. She would be through in the back room with the other children, probably on her third or fourth lollipop already, playing with the Lego, and all its infinite possibilities.

 

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Tiny Acts of Love

“Juggling marriage, work and motherhood has never been easy – but between domestic misunderstandings and work-related disasters, never has it been so seriously funny!

Arriving home with her new baby daughter Sophie, employment lawyer Cassie is horrified to discover that her overexcited husband has emailed a detailed account of her labour entitled “48 Stitches Later”, with an attached photo, to everyone in her contacts list – including her clients.

This is just the beginning. Amid the mood-swings, the post-natal hypochondria, returning to work, and the side effects of the email, Cassie is struggling to hold it together, and Jonathan doesn’t seem to understand. And then who should saunter into her life again, but her sexy, exciting, heartbreaking ex-boyfriend Malkie – the one who got away, and who now wants a second chance.

Between advising a funeral director on ghost protocol, possible acts of hotel spa fraud, and extreme competitive parenting at Babycraft meetings, Cassie’s on an emotional rollercoaster as she tries to navigate her first year of motherhood. Are she and Jonathan strong enough to face the challenges their new life throws at them?

And will tiny acts of love be enough to help Cassie cope with it all?

In her impressive and beautifully plotted debut, Lucy Lawrie perceptively portrays the rawness of motherhood, the challenges of love and the powerful lure of paths not taken.”

Tiny Acts of Love is available in ebook or paperback http://www.amazon.co.uk/Tiny-Acts-Love-Lucy-Lawrie-ebook/dp/B00H6V0C9U/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1395043675&sr=1-1&keywords=tiny+acts+of+love

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Volunteer – Gary McElkerney

Write Path NI Limited

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3 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

“Chris Johnston, a 22 year old university student from Belfast, signs away another summer to lead a team of young volunteers as they travel to Ethiopia to build houses for charity. After an argument with the other leaders, Chris abandons the team and travels north to work for Medical Aid Africa in a clinic close to the Eritrean border. He agrees to join their make-shift ambulance crew in a bid to find the excitement he’s been searching for on the frontline, but finds life very different off the beaten track. Consumed by fear, he is terrified and experiences the true horrors of war as his dreams of heroism and adventure turn into a nightmare. Volunteer is laced with humour, heartbreak and horror and Chris’ journey will leave you questioning your own life, your achievements. If faced with the same situations, what would you do? And if the mental scars of war were carved into your memories, who would save you?” (Synopsis taken from Amazon)

Chris Johnston is a 22 year old from Belfast, volunteering to help build houses in a leper colony in Ethiopia. He’s a veteran volunteer, having already worked in Nicaragua and Hungary. He sees volunteering as an adventure, a way of escaping his boring life at home and his parents

I have to admit I didn’t really warm to the character of Chris. I found him to be a selfish, and on some occasions annoying, character. His motives for volunteering were not really altrusitc, he wanted an adventure and a free holiday so thought volunteering in Ethiopia. He decides on a whim to leave the group he had travelled with to help as a medic in a remote outpost. This was decided after the other leaders in his group ignored his advice so came across to me as a childlike reaction to rejection. He goes into a war zone and although he does want to help the injured he comments about how he can be seen to be a hero at home, or should he die, how he will have died a hero’s death.

When faced with a horrifiying incident he impetuously decides to take matters into his own hands, morphing from charity worker to fighter, angry that he hasn’t got his kill. All of these aspects didn’t make his character any more appealing to me. However, it did not take away from the impact of what was happening around him and I was keen to find out what was happening to the locals and how he would extract himself from the situation.

This is a well written and often moving book. The descriptions of an ignored war are vivid and thought-provoking. We may not all react as Chris does to the situations he faces but how do we know what we would do if faced with the atrocities he sees? It brings to light that when the cameras and fund raisers are gone and the famine ‘cured’ the people in nations such as Ethiopia don’t always live happily ever after.

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Catharina Ingleman – Sundberg – Q&A and Giveaway

Today on the blog I’m pleased to host Catherina Ingleman-Sundberg who is answering a few questions about her new novel The Little Old Lady Who Broke All The Rules.

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1) The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules has sold to 20 countries so far and has been published under several different titles. Can you tell us what the other titles are and what they mean?

The original Swedish title is Kaffe med Rån which translated means ‘Coffee and Robbery’. Some countries have followed the Swedish title, i.e. the Icelandic version Kaffi og Rán. The German title is Wir fangen gerade erst an (We’ve Only Started Now), the Italian title is La banda degli insoliti ottantenni (You Cannot Trust the 80 year olds), the Norwegian title is Svindel og multelikør (Crookery and Cloudberry liqueur), the Spanish title is La Bolsa o la vida (The Money or Your Life) and the Dutch title is very much the same – Je geld of je leven.

I love the English title, The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules because it says exactly what the book is all about. A group of elderly people who break all the rules – with Martha as their leader. And then I identify with the title personally as well!

2) How does it feel to have written an internationally bestselling novel?

Absolutely fantastic! I am so happy with the response I have had from readers.

3) Who is your favourite character in the League of Pensioners?

Actually, I love them all. Martha is my central character, of course, and I identify with her, but I like Brains very much, too, as well as Anna-Greta, Christina and Rake. So, you see, it is difficult to single out just one of them . . .

4)  Can you tell us anything about your next project?

Yes, I have already written the next book! The League of Pensioners are up to their old tricks again but this time in Las Vegas!

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“The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules is an incredibly quirky, humorous and warm-hearted story about growing old disgracefully – and breaking all the rules along the way!

79-year-old Martha Andersson dreams of escaping her care home and robbing a bank.

She has no intention of spending the rest of her days in an armchair and is determined to fund her way to a much more exciting lifestyle. Along with her four oldest friends – otherwise known as the League of Pensioners – Martha decides to rebel against all of the rules imposed upon them. Together, they cause uproar with their antics protesting against early bedtimes and plasticky meals.

As the elderly friends become more daring, they hatch a cunning plan to break out of the dreary care home and land themselves in a far more attractive Stockholm establishment. With the aid of their Zimmer frames, they resolve to stand up for old aged pensioners everywhere – Robin Hood style. And that’s when the adventure really takes off . . .

Perfect for fans of The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.”

Translated by Rod Bradbury.

GIVEAWAY – UK ONLY

For your chance to win a copy of The Little Old Lady Who Broke All The Rules, courtesy of Pan Macmillan, keep a lookout for my retweet competition on Twitter today. For an extra chance to win leave a comment saying how you’d break the rules. All names will be placed in a hat and the winner will be announce on Friday 14th March at 9am.

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Northanger Abbey – Val McDermid

Borough Press

Publication date – 27 March

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4 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the publishers in exchange for an honest review.

“A modern re-imagining of the Gothic Classic Northanger Abbey by the bestselling crime author Val McDermid. The second book in The Austen Project.

Seventeen-year-old Catherine ‘Cat’ Morland has led a sheltered existence in rural Dorset, a life entirely bereft of the romance and excitement for which she yearns. So when Cat’s wealthy neighbours, the Allens, invite her to the Edinburgh Festival, she is sure adventure beckons.

Edinburgh initially offers no such thrills: Susie Allen is obsessed by shopping, Andrew Allen by the Fringe. A Highland Dance class, though, brings Cat a new acquaintance: Henry Tilney, a pale, dark-eyed gentleman whose family home, Northanger Abbey, sounds perfectly thrilling. And an introduction to Bella Thorpe, who shares her passion for supernatural novels, provides Cat with a like-minded friend. But with Bella comes her brother John, an obnoxious banker whose vulgar behaviour seems designed to thwart Cat’s growing fondness for Henry.

Happily, rescue is at hand. The rigidly formal General Tilney invites her to stay at Northanger with son Henry and daughter Eleanor. Cat’s imagination runs riot: an ancient abbey, crumbling turrets, secret chambers, ghosts…and Henry! What could be more deliciously romantic?

But Cat gets far more than she bargained for in this isolated corner of the Scottish Borders. The real world outside the pages of a novel proves to be altogether more disturbing than the imagined world within…” (Synopsis taken from Amazon)

I’ll start by saying I love Austen’s Northanger Abbey. It is in my top three favourite books of hers and one I often re-read. I am always wary of re-workings of Austen novels as there have been mixed successes in the past.

I enjoyed Val McDermid’s modern day re-working of this classic. Moving the story to Edinburgh works well. The Gothic atmosphere of the old city is an excellent backdrop to fuel Cat Morland’s vampire fuelled Gothic romance fantasies. Henry Morland retains his charm and sense, Bella is as vacuous and self-centred as always and the General as conceited and rigid as he should be.

Cat has retained some of the annoying traits that are evident in the original, she holds on to the ridiculous notions of vampires and murder in a way that you wouldn’t expect someone who is nearly 18 to still retain. Some of this is explained by her somewhat sheltered childhood being home schooled. The childishness of this belief in fiction is grating, somewhat more than it is in the original as it would seem more likely that such believes would be held for longer in an age when the abundance of knowledge and the easy availability of it has rendered some superstitions and horrors obsolete. I think this is probably one of the difficulties to be overcome when re-writing classics in the modern age and isn’t any reflection on the author. However given it is part of Cat’s character and a driving force of the story it would be hard if not impossible to remove this aspect of Cat and the story-line and so has rightly remained.

This is a well written, fun take on a classic work of literature. The charms of the original shine through. If you’ve read Austen’s Northanger Abbey, give this modern version a go and see what you think for yourself. If you haven’t I’d recommend you read both. You’ve nothing to loose and hopefully the discovery of the joy of Austen to gain.

 

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Other Publishing Company – Press Release

PRESS RELEASE

The Other Publishing Company rebrand short story imprint from Lit Bits to Cracked Eye, after further angel investment funding.  

After securing further investment from angel investors, and as part of their mission to bring the best short stories from new and established authors to keen readers around the world, The Other Publishing Company are rebranding their short story imprint from Lits Bits to Cracked Eye, focusing on new ways their content can be accessed.

London,  3rd March, 2014: 2013 was a great year for Lit Bits. They launched the imprint and have quickly established themselves as a force within the wonderful world of short stories. They’ve been featured widely online, run the hugely successful Lit Bits Weekend Challenge and continue to commission stories from bestselling established authors and exciting emerging talent.

Their stories are read by keen readers around the world but in 2014 they’re setting the bar higher.

This year they’re on a mission to become the leaders in short-form fiction. They’ve successfully secured more funding from angel investors to push on and create something exceptional. To do this they’re investing in commissioning more short stories, producing audio and visual versions of those short stories, novel serialisations, a new website, and finding inventive ways for people to access their content.

Because of their focus on short fiction, in whatever form that may take, they felt the name Lit Bits restricted them. They have grand plans for the imprint and needed something fresher, something that could come to stand for inventive ways of storytelling. Lit Bits has gone through a stage of metamorphosis, and has been reborn into something bigger, bolder, and more beautiful. From now on they’ll be known as Cracked Eye – nothing will ever look the same again.

 

Cracked Eye is an imprint of The Other Publishing Company, a small press publisher based in Farnham, Surrey, UK. They publish both established and new authors who have a fresh perspective and unique voice – http://www.otherpublishingcompany.com/Cracked-Eye.html.

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