Monday, October 31, 2011

All the Magic in the World

It's Monday, and since the clocks changed here last weekend, I was all bright-eyed and busy-tailed this morning. Now... not so much. Still, it's Hallowe'en and I may rouse myself to buy a cupcake in celebration. One needs one's sweets!

This week, I'll be busy putting the finishing touches on Build a Man before sending it out to reviewers next week. Yay! I've already imposed on many of you, but if you or your nearest and dearest would like an e-copy in any format that suits for review, just let me know in the comments or drop me an email (talliroland AT I know how busy everyone is, so any help is ever so greatly appreciated.

Right, now on to today's post! In honour of Elizabeth Mueller’s release of her debut novel Darkspell, I’m supposed to finish the phrase ‘If I had all the magic in the world, I’d…’

Well, hmm. First of all, who'd want all the magic in the world? Can you imagine the responsibility? How many people would be bugging you, all the time? It would be a nightmare. But for the purposes of the question -- and ending poverty and such aside -- I'd give everyone a Kindle and fill it with all their favourite reads. Why? Because in my humble opinion, lots of people are too quick to dismiss e-readers without really giving them a try. Don't get me wrong; I do like paper books. But I also love my Kindle as a fast, convenient and cheap way of reading. I've bought and read more books this year than ever before, and I suspect many other e-book readers are the same. 

Advert over! Just call me the benevolent Kindle Fairy Godmistress. 

What about you? What would you do with magical powers?

Review from YA Book Babes:
Winter Sky believes she is everything ordinary…until she is kissed by Alex Stormhold.  As seer of the Stormhold Coven, Alex is sworn to be Winter’s protector against the darkness that hunts her.  Violently thrust into a magical realm she always thought impossible, she stumbles upon a disturbing secret of her own.

Darkspell doesn’t fit into a typical YA genre box.  As a matter of fact, it’s one of the most original books I’ve read this year.  A richly woven drama unfolds as young Winter Sky meets two handsome and mysterious neighbors, both fighting for affection. 

But one boy, the boy of her dreams—literally—has already won her heart.  But in short order her life is turned upside down as she enters the Stormhold world, a coven of magic users (I’m hesitant to use the world witch/wizard here.  This is really something very different) where she is being hunted by the Shadoweaer.  Suddenly everything is in jeopardy as she searches for her gift and fights to keep the boy she loves.

Elizabeth Mueller gives a great story, full of normal teen angst without tipping the scales to be annoying, she keeps us guessing, dropping nuggets for us throughout the story, but never tipping her hand.  Combine that with the fantastic use of illustrations that give it almost a graphic novel feel as we read, and this is easily a five star read.  I can’t wait to pick this up in paperback and you should too!  Mueller is a great addition to the YA world and I can’t wait to see what comes next from this talented writer!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Everyone Says I Love You... Except to Me

It's Friday! I don't even know where this week has gone, but I'm happy to report I'm slowly catching up on things, phew. 

Today, I'm pleased to have the wonderful Cally Taylor on my blog. Cally's second novel, Home for Christmas, is due out shortly. I've recently finished it, and it's a fantastic, heart-warming, perfect holiday read with characters everyone can easily relate to. I'd definitely recommend it. 

Over to Cally!

Everyone can remember their first kiss and most people, unless they were particularly drunk, can remember when they lost their virginity. But how about the first time a boyfriend or girlfriend said 'I love you'? How old were you? Fifteen? Eighteen? Twenty? Older?

 I had to wait until I was twenty-three to hear those precious three little words for the first time. It wasn't that I hadn't had boyfriends - I'd had three by that point, but none of them had ever told me they loved me.
 First was Casper*. We were 15, at different boarding schools and would sneak out at night to meet on the Malvern Hills for elicit snogs. Casper was astonishingly handsome and very intelligent but when he sent me a beautifully eloquent letter over Christmas holidays, telling me how much he enjoyed our time together, I freaked out that he was getting too 'heavy' and finished things. He never said‘I love you’ (hardly surprising considering..).

 Next up was Jake. I was 18 and spending my gap year sharing a house with a bunch of strangers in Worcester while I did a secretarial admin course. He was a friend of one of my housemates - 23, a chef and rode a motorbike. I fell hard and fast and so, it seemed did Jake, initially at least but as we approached the fateful 3 month mark (what is it about 3 months and make or break moments in relationships?) he started to pull away. When he finished with me he said it was because I was going to uni that autumn and he didn't want to get hurt. He never said I love you.

 My third relationship was with Ben. I was 21, had spent my 3 years at uni single (apart from the odd dalliance) but was still hanging around Newcastle, helping out at Drama Society while I tried to get a job. Ben was a second year stats student who was in the Music Society with a friend of mine. She was convinced we were perfect for each other and set us up on a blind date. We got on stormingly and were together for 3 months (there's that time frame again!) when Ben decided to give up his course, move back to Sussex and wave goodbye to our relationship at the same time. He never said I love you.

 Not long after Ben and I split up I moved to London and got a job. The years rolled by and, before I knew it, I was nearly 23 and still hadn't heard those three little words. How come everyone else I knew had been told 'I love you', but not me? Just like Beth in my novel 'Home for Christmas' I started to worry that maybe there was something intrinsically unlovable about me.

So, what would you think if I told you that the Internet was directly responsible for me FINALLY finding love just a couple of months after my 23rd birthday? Would you judge me if I told you I flew to the Netherlands, without telling anyone, to spend the weekend with 20 year old Frank, a man I'd only ever talked to online? And that, 48 hours after we first hugged hello, he told me he loved me (and I said it back)? And that he spent Christmas with my family and we dated for nine whole months before I realised that...
But that’s another story! 

How about you tell me about the first time you were told 'I love you' instead...
*All names changed to protect the guilty innocent

Talli says: How's that for a cliffhanger? I want to know more about Frank! Thank you, Cally. Here's more about Cally's book:

Beth Prince has always loved fairytales and now, aged twenty-four, she feels like she's finally on the verge of her own happily ever after. She lives by the seaside, works in the Picturebox - a charming but rundown independent cinema - and has a boyfriend who's so debonair and charming she can't believe her luck! There's just one problem - none of her boyfriends have ever told her they love her and it doesn't look like Aiden's going to say it any time soon. Desperate to hear 'I love you' for the first time Beth takes matters into her own hands - and instantly wishes she hadn't. Just when it seems like her luck can't get any worse, bad news arrives in the devilishly handsome shape of Matt Jones. Matt is the regional director of a multiplex cinema and he's determined to get his hands on the Picturebox by Christmas. Can Beth keep her job, her man and her home or is her romantic-comedy life about to turn into a disaster movie?

‘Home for Christmas’ by Cally Taylor will be published by Orion paperbacks on 10th November and is available for pre-order from now. Cally can also be found on her blog, Facebook, Twitter or website.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Why I'll Never Say a Book is Crap

How about that photo to get your day started on the right track? Ha! Well, it's Wednesday, it's raining, and I've just awoken from a tiny nap. Hope your week is going well!

If you read enough Amazon reviews, chances are you'll come across phrases like 'I don't know how this book got published', 'load of dross', 'could have been written by a three-year-old' and so on.

While I'm the first to say that every customer is entitled to their own opinion, I would never decry any novel as 'crap'. Why? Well, if there's one thing I've learned over the past few years, it's that readers'  tastes vary widely. What's rubbish to one person may be 'the best book ever' to the next. What's boring as all get-out to someone might be the most exciting story known to humankind to another.

I feel the same way about genres. Although many types of books don't appeal to me, I'd never say one genre is more worthy than another. That would be like me saying vegetables are a waste of supermarket-shelf space just because I don't like them. Silly, eh?

What genre would you like to see gain more appreciation or shelf-space? And do you like veggies? :)

Monday, October 24, 2011

I'm All Out of Love

Yes, it's true. After a heady weekend at the Festival of Romance, I'm definitely not feeling the Monday love this morning. However, it's all worth it, because it was such a nice weekend. A Regency county home, lots of lovely  writers, a ball with chocolate, wine and jazz... honestly, can one really ask for more?

Helen Hunt gives the first session of the conference, a very informative hour on writing short stories. 
Friday kicked off sunny and cold, and the short journey north of London flashed by in a hangover-induced haze. Note to self: do not drink with Twitter pals the night prior to a conference! I managed to rouse myself to take part in a self-publishing panel that morning. Several fascinating panels and one chocolate-tasting session later, and the day was done.

Festival Goers! Back row: Celia, Nell, Fiona, Sarah, Liz. Front: Catherine, Sue.
Saturday dawned not quite so hungover, thank goodness. Although I tried my best to get out of the author fashion show (Marilyn, anyone?), the MC was a tough taskmaster and a few hours later I found myself parading in front of a packed room in full Marilyn gear. Thankfully, I was joined by fellow authors dressed as chickens to waitresses, and we were all very well received!

The short-list for Best Romantic Read: Carole Matthews, Fiona Harper, Sue Moorcroft, Me!, Juliet Archer
Later that evening, we all dressed in our finery for the Ball and awards ceremony. A big congrats goes out to Sue Moorcroft, who won Best Romantic Read, and Jean Fullerton, the winner of Best Historial Read. I was honoured to have been short-listed.

Sunday, I crawled home and collapsed on the sofa. And I'm still in recovery! Excuse me while I go lie down... Have a great Monday, everyone.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Results Not Typical

FRIDAY! And I'm not here, actually -- I'm out and about being romantic at the wonderful Festival of Romance! I can't wait to wear my new dress. Yes, I'm that shallow. I admit it.

Today, Irish author and blogger Catherine Ryan Howard is holding down the fort. Catherine has successfully self-published her non-fiction travel memoires, and has recently released her first novel. Known for her tell-it-like-it-is, down to earth personality, Catherine's here to bust a few self-publishing myths.

Take it away, Catherine.

Five Misconceptions About Self-Publishing

1. It’s easy.

Oh yeah, sure it’s easy, if by easy you mean twelve-hour stints, week-long formatting migraines and at least one moment per day when you feel like you’re drowning in the depths of a black abyss where no one is ever going to buy a single one of your books again... Well, maybe that last one is just me. But self-publishing is not easy – at least, it’s not if you do it right. I have encountered hundreds of self-publishers since I started on this misadventure and I can say with some authority that all the successful ones have something in common: they take it seriously. They treat it like a business they’re starting up; they’re an entrepreneur and the book is their first product. And what would you expect to have to go through to get a business off the ground? Long hours, caffeine-induced insomnia, stress, pain, tears, blood – you get the idea. When you hear of someone uploading their book to Amazon on Friday and buying a house in cash on Saturday, read beyond the headlines – you’ll usually find via the author’s blog that this “overnight” success actually took five years. As the physicist Richard Feynman reportedly said, “If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don’t understand quantum mechanics.” Well, I definitely don’t understand quantum mechanics but I do know this: if you think self-publishing is easy, you aren’t doing it right.

2.  It’s a get-rich-quick scheme.

Somehow I’ve managed to drag myself away from polishing my gold-plated Louboutins and counting my many millions to write this paragraph... oh, wait. I’m almost 30 and I live in a bedroom the size of a telephone box at my parents’ house. Yes, we’re all very proud. You can make money self-publishing but if you do a) you’ll be one of the lucky ones and b) it’ll take a lot of hard work to get to that point. Keep in mind that every minute of every day someone is self-publishing their book – maybe even every second of every day. (Maybe  even every nanosecond...) And how many self-publishers can you name who have sold enough books/made enough money to work their way into the news? My dear point, I believe I just made you.

3.  “It’s Only Camping!” Syndrome or The Idea That Crap is Acceptable at 99c

Some years ago I had the misfortune of working as a campsite courier on the south-west coast of France. Part of our job was to clean the customer accommodation – large tents, mobile homes and chalets for which people paid vast sums of money to stay in and pretend they were roughing it. Whenever anyone complained about a stain on the floor or  dusty window, we’d shrug and say, “What do they expect? It’s only camping!” Unfortunately, some people have adopted a similar attitude about self-publishing. I mean, you’re only charging 99c for your novel, right? So you’re hardly going to spend a couple of hundred on a professional design, and you’re definitely not going to spend four or five times that getting your book edited, copyedited and proofread, right? That’s just crazy talk! People aren’t expecting much for 99c, are they? Well, um, yes, they are – they’re expecting a book. And books generally come correctly formatted, in English that makes sense and with a cover that doesn’t look like several house pet enthusiastically vomited upon it during the production process. If your book is poop, you might well sell a few thousand copies of it – but you won’t sell anywhere near as many copies of your second book, if you manage to sell any at all. When I hear self-publishers protesting that they “can’t afford” to get the basics done, I need to sit on my hands to refrain from strangling them. (And I’m a nice person, generally-speaking). If you can’t afford to self-publish, don’t self-publish! Skipping a professional cover design, editing and proofreading will, in the long term, be the most expensive thing you ever do because it will cost you sales. It might even nip your self-publishing career in the bud right at the start.

4.  99c e-books only sell because they’re 99c.

Do you need to pay your phone bill? Well, all you have to do is sit down for a few hours, poop out (by way of your keyboard; keep it clean, people!) 70,000 - 100,000 words, upload it to Amazon, set the price to 99c and then sit back and wait for the phone bill money to come a-rolling in, my friend. I mean, that’s how it’s done, isn’t it? Upload, set at 99c, sell millions, repeat as required. Yes, somehow people have got the mistaken impression that 99c equals #1 bestseller. They either express this in a derogatory way (“Well of course he’s sold a gazillion books – he’s only charging 99c for them!) or put a positive spin on it (“My novel is so great that people will be exploding from the joy induced by getting it for a mere 99c!”) but whatever way they say it, they’re wrong. A low price can help sell a book, but it won’t do it all by itself. To confirm this, just look up some 99c self-published novels on Amazon and check out their sales ranks. Or, publish one yourself. You’ll soon find out.

5. You have to do it because all agents and editors are horned demons who meet once a month to drink pig’s blood and entertain each other with stand-up based on our worst query letters, and if there’s any chairs spare they sell tickets to Amazon, chain bookstores, Apple, etc.

There are many different reasons to self-publish. I self-published because I had a book that didn’t have an existing market, but I was able to make one; it’s the kind of book that even if it was traditionally published today wouldn’t do well on the shelves, but I’ve sold over eight thousand copies of it. Talli is self-publishing her next book because she’s recognised that she has the ability to replicate the success of her previous books on her own, and so doesn’t need the traditional model for it to do well. My blogging friend Roz Morris self-published one of my favourite writing books, Nail Your Novel, because it was too short to be a traditionally published book. I think these reasons reflect that we’re smart, bright, organised women who know a thing or thirty-six about selling our own books, and are as hard-working as we are realistic. (Ladies, you can pop those fivers in the post now...) We make, if I may so and I think I will, very good self-publishers. But if you’re getting into this because you can heat your house for winter by burning your rejection letters, or because you’ve taken a business decision personally, or because and at least three literary agents have a restraining order out against you and you want to SHOW THEM ALL, you’re not going to succeed. Spite doesn’t sell books, and bitterness doesn’t make me want to read your blog. Plus, you scare me a bit. So stop wasting your energy hating on an industry staffed by lovely people who love books (just not yours – oooh, burn!) and put it into being a good self-publisher instead. Simples.

 About Catherine:

Catherine Ryan Howard is a 29-year-old writer, blogger and enthusiastic coffee-drinker. She currently lives in Cork, Ireland, where she divides her time between her desk and the sofa. She blogs at

About Results Not Typical:

The Devil Wears Prada meets Weightwatchers and chick-lit meets corporate satire in the debut novel from Catherine Ryan Howard, author of the bestselling memoir Mousetrapped: A Year and A Bit in Orlando, Florida. Through their Ultimate Weight Loss Diet Solution Zone System, Slimmit International Global Incorporated claim they’re making the world a more attractive place one fatty at a time. Their slogans “Where You’re Fat and We Know It!” and “Where the Fat IS Your Fault!” are recognised around the globe, the counter in the lobby says five million slimmed and their share price is as high as their energy levels. But today the theft of their latest revolutionary product, Lipid Loser, will threaten to expose the real secret behind Slimmit’s success...The race is on to retrieve Lipid Loser and save Slimmit from total disaster. If their secrets get out, their competitors will put them out of business. If the government finds out, they’ll all go to jail. And if their clients find out… Well, as Slimmit’s Slimming Specialists know all too well, there’s only one thing worse than a hungry, sugar-crazed, carb addict – and that’s an angry one. Will the secret behind Slimmit’s success survive the day, or will their long-suffering slimmers finally discover the truth? Available now in paperback and e-book editions. Buy from Amazon UK or .

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What Colour Scarf Are You?

Happy Wednesday, lovely people! The sky is a brilliant blue in London today, the air is crisp, and it's one of those days that makes you want to don a long russet-coloured scarf, shiny leather boots, and skip down the street on the crunchy leaves. I might do just that later today! If I can find a russet-coloured scarf.

Since I'm lazy and feeling rather lax ce matin (and yes, I quite enjoy lapsing into foreign languages randomly), I thought I'd give you a little update on what I've been doing.

Edits for Build a Man are almost done (yay!), and you can check out the first chapter here. I've also been busy tidying up my novella, Miracle at the Museum of Broken Hearts. It's for a Christmas anthology I'm doing with American authors Tonya Kappes, D.D. Scott, and L.A. Lopez, and I'm pretty excited about pairing up with such great writers. Due out American Thanksgiving, here's the blurb for my little tale:

When chief romantic Rose Delaney scores her dream job at London’s quirkiest new attraction, The Museum of Broken Hearts, she thinks she’s got it made. Sure, it’s a little depressing dealing with relics of failed relationships each day, but Rose is determined not to let it break her ‘love conquers all’ spirit. After discovering the museum’s handsome curator is nursing a broken heart of his own, Rose steps in to fix it. Can Rose heal the rift in time for the holidays, or will this Christmas crush her fantasies forever?

And, last but not least, you can enter to win a copy of Watching Willow Watts and read about what makes me laugh over at Chick Lit Central

Have a fabulous day, everyone. What coloured scarf would you wear to go dancing down the street on a lovely autumn day? 

Monday, October 17, 2011

The C Word

Ah yes, control. (Which C word were you thinking of?) :) Today, I've divided myself in two and I'm at Pauline Barclay's blog and over at Phillipa Ashley's, talking about one of the main reasons I've decided to go it alone. I love being in control! Pop over if you get the chance.

Hope everyone had a great weekend. Mine passed in a blur of theatre, wine, films and dance. It was quite the cultured couple days, I must say. Can I ask you to spare a thought for Mr TR, who starts directing his new film this week? It's a massive undertaking and he could do with a few good vibes sent his way.

I'll keep this short and sweet, as this week is as manic as the last. Have a great Monday, all!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Friday! Get in the Culloden Spirit!

Where on earth has this week gone? Mine has passed in a blur of art galleries, dinners out, hair dye (yes. It's now R-E-D! My scalp will thank me later, and it was time for a change), theatre and editing. I'm exhausted!

Thank you for bearing with me; I've been trying to get around to visit as many people as possible in the meantime. And next week, I have a wonderful writer pal from Spain visiting, then it's off to Hunton Park for the Festival of Romance. I've purchased a new dress for the Ball and awards (The Hating Game is short-listed - wish me luck!).

So, with all of this going on, I hope you'll forgive me for being brief today and head over here, where I'm in the Gulf News! Gosh, I get around.

Today is Matt from the QQQ's Pay it Forward Blogfest. All you need to do is choose three blogs, and encourage others to pop off and follow. Mine are India Drummond ('coz she's given me loads of support and her posts always make me laugh) and Help! I Need a Publisher, for invaluable advice.

Number three is for writer Anita Davidson. I've known Anita from when I first started blogging under a different name, and she's beyond lovely. Her latest is called Culloden Spirit.

Carrie Gordon's season in her native York was an unqualified success, until the young man who paid her so much attention married someone else. When her family takes a summer trip to her father’s ancestral home in the Scottish Highlands, her handsome Scottish cousin, Duncan McRae, takes an immediate dislike to Carrie, mainly due to her father’s plans to refurbish Cair Innes castle which is in need of extensive repair beyond the means of its present owner and resident, Iain McRae.

Carrie feels the vacation will be a disaster until she discovers a strange young man while exploring the derelict castle, However, she soon learns Ruairi McRae is not what he seems, and the battle he intends to fight was lost by his clan a hundred and fifty years before.

Will Carrie be able to accept that she cannot be part of Ruairi’s world? And when the Roma arrive to camp on Bucks Meadow as they do every summer, who is the beautiful gypsy girl Duncan won't talk about?

Sounds fab, doesn't it? Happy Friday everyone, and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

21st Century Dodos!

How's that for a blog post title? 

Happy Wednesday, everyone! Today, I'm delighted to have Steve Stack (aka Scott Pack) here to talk about his new book, 21st Century Dodos. Scott is the publisher of The Friday Project (HarperCollins) and also blogs over at Me and My Big Mouth. Dodos provides a look at extinct or soon-to-be-extinct aspects of the British way  of life, and as someone who hasn't grown up here, it's fascinating. 

Before I turn it over to Steve, just a quick link to give you: yesterday, I was over at The Writer's Guide to E-Publication, wondering about the divide in sales between and Pop by if you get the chance!

And now, over to Steve!

The lovely Talli has invited my on to her blog but on the condition that I mention shoes.
I should probably explain. A couple of weeks ago there was a bit of a debate on Twitter about some press article or other that dared to suggest that all women’s fiction, the author probably called it chick lit, was about shopping and shoes. Quite rightly, Talli and other writers of fiction aimed at a female audience were up in arms and keen to point out that the genre, such as it is, covers the whole spectrum of human existence and isn’t just about shoes and shopping.
And then I piped up to point out that shoes do actually get mentioned quite a lot.
Which is why I have to mention shoes while I have here. I have now done so twice.
Hopefully that now buys me a few paragraphs to plug my new book. A book, I hasten to add, which contains not one mention of footwear. It does have 134 entries on other things though. It is a collection of (hopefully) humorous pieces about the many inanimate objects, traditions, experiences and other stuff that are in danger of becoming extinct. I call them, and the book, 21st Century Dodos.
Given that Talli is someone who has come to our shores from abroad and has adopted the UK as her home, I thought this entry about the playing of the national anthem in cinemas might be quite apt.
Talli, you must stand until the end of this blog post.
Right up until the late 1970s, the national anthem was played at every screening in cinemas up and down the land. Patrons were expected, but not actually forced, to observe the anthem by standing throughout. Originally, it would have been played at the end of the film, but that tended to lead to a frantic rush for the exits while the credits were rolling (if you’ve ever seen that Dad’s Army episode, then you’ll know what I mean). It was later moved to the beginning so that unpatriotic scallywags would be immediately identifiable by their insistence on staying seated. Cue lots of tutting from older cinema-goers.
I am guessing that the tradition came to an end when the number of people sitting through the anthem far outnumbered those standing to attention. Or perhaps when multiplexes started popping up in out-of-town shopping centres. Or when most people stopped giving a tinker’s toss about royalty and the fine heritage of this great nation. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t happen any more.
See? Fascinating! Thanks, Steve. If you'd like to follow along on the blog tour, yesterday Steve was here and tomorrow he'll be here.
What disappearing aspect of your culture/ daily life would you like to hang on to?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's weekends like this past one that I really miss being back home in Canada. Today is Canadian Thanksgiving, a time of the year when the leaves are glorious and it's usually the perfect weather for a family gathering. Sigh!

Here are a few photos of my homeland, from last autumn.

(The last one is my Mum, Dad and Mr TR trotting along the Skyline Trail in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.)

I have a very busy next couple weeks with friends visiting and a conference, so although I'll be posting as usual, I may not be blog-hopping quite as much! Bear with me; I'll be back with a vengeance come the last week of October.

Happy Monday, everyone!

Friday, October 07, 2011

Renovation, Ghosts and Boy Bands

Phew, it's Friday! What a week. I'm thrilled today to have the wonderful Nell Dixon here, talking about her new novel, Renovation, Renovation, Renovation. As someone with a mini-crush on Phil Spencer and all things property, I have to say the title intrigued me instantly. Nell is a fellow RNA member and a generally lovely person!

Take it away, Nell. 

Renovation, Renovation, Renovation is a contemporary romance with a twist. One of the residents at Myrtle Cottage, a fifteenth century house is a rather mournful ghost called Mary Ann. She was resident during a turbulent period of English history when Oliver Cromwell was coming to power and civil war raged throughout the country. Mary Ann’s story becomes entwined with that of Kate, the current owner bringing glimpses of the past into the present.

I’ve always been interested in old houses and the human stories they tell about past residents. My great, great aunt Lizzie was a renowned medium in Victorian times – apparently she was famous for her skills at reading tea leaves – and all the women in that side of my family are very sensitive to extraordinary happenings. This, combined with the present economic catastrophes affecting property sales was the catalyst for the book. 

As part of my research I was lucky enough to be invited to a séance and cleansing of an ancient cottage. I got to watch the mediums at work and talk to the owner of the cottage. It was fascinating stuff and hopefully added authenticity to the story.

Here's an excerpt for you:

A movement in the undergrowth outside caught my eye and the sight of my cat, Mr Flibble making his way through the long grass towards the orchard at the side of the house bought a smile to my face. Mr Flibble was the one good thing that had come out of my seven-year relationship with Steve. Seven years, thirteen houses and all I had to show for it was a broken heart, a half-ruined house and a one-eyed cat I’d rescued from a dumpster.
A theatrical cough from the direction of the kitchen door alerted me to Steve’s presence in the kitchen.
I didn’t bother turning round. “Is there any hot water left?”
“The tank’ll fill up if you give it half an hour.” Steve sauntered past me crossing the neutral zone to reach his red-labelled cupboard. His hair was still wet from the bath and he hadn’t bothered to dress before coming downstairs. Instead he had wrapped one of the dark blue bath towels that my mother had given us as a gift two Christmases ago around his waist.
“You could get dressed before you come down here.” As soon as the words were out of my mouth I wished I could take them back. It was pointless saying anything like that to Steve. He’d do it all the more if he thought it would annoy me.
Back in his boy band days I would have found seeing Steve half-naked sexy, and we would have made love amongst the dust and debris of the kitchen. Thousands of screaming teenage Danger Line fans would have killed to take my place. Now having him roam around clad in only a towel was just one more of his annoying habits.

Overworked, over budget and just so not over him! Kate would like an engagement ring from Steve but instead he's lumbered them with a thirteenth renovation project, and doing up Myrtle Cottage disturbs a ghost from the English Civil War who has romance troubles of her own.
Available from Amazon UK  and  

Thanks, Nell. So, over to you! Have you embarked on any massive renovation projects, in life or in building? 

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

What I've Been Reading

A big thank you to everyone who commented on my post on Monday. It was a big decision for me, and I was thrilled to have loads of people chiming in with their support! I was also on the Writer's Guide to E-Publication yesterday, talking about my decision-making process. It's a great site for anyone wanting to learn more about the world of self-publishing. Check it out if you have an interest -- I'll be there every Tuesday.

And if you're looking for a new blog buddy, head over to Coffee with Marcie and say hi! She's new to the blogosphere.

It's been a while since I've done some book reviews here, so I figured I'd do a little update on some books I've read recently.

  Following the Whispers - Creating a life of inner peace and self-acceptance from the depths of despairFollowing the Whispers - Creating a life of inner peace and self-acceptance from the depths of despair by Karen Walker
With a frankness and honesty, Karen Walker details her life from childhood to adult, revealing how she overcomes great obstacles to reach personal acceptance. Told in a clear, matter-of-fact manner (no self pity anywhere to be seen!), one can't help but be pulled into this brave and forthright memoir. Definitely worth a read.

InvisibleInvisible by Jeanne Bannon
Written in a fresh and fun voice, 'Invisible' by Jeanne Bannon tells the story of overweight misfit Lola, who has the uncanny ability to become invisible at any given moment. The story moves along at a swift pace, and I enjoyed watching Lola learn to accept herself -- and deal with the temptation of revenge. A very enjoyable read.

The ArrangerThe Arranger by L.J. Sellers
'The Arranger' is my first LJ Sellers novel, and given how impressed I was with this futuristic, fast-paced narrative, it certainly won't be my last!

I was fascinated by Sellers' creation of a national competition called The Gauntlet, kind of a ramped-up version of a military obstacle course. Add one ex-cop who's older and tougher than the other competitors and throw in a lot of intrigue, and you have the makings for a fantastic thriller.

Can't wait to read more of Sellers!

Backpacked: A Reluctant Trip Across Central AmericaBackpacked: A Reluctant Trip Across Central America by Catherine Ryan Howard
I read and loved 'Mousetrapped', so when I heard Catherine had a new book out, I couldn't wait to dive in. I wasn't disappointed -- Catherine takes the same dry wit and self-deprecating humour along for the ride in 'Backpacked', the story of her travels through South America. From nearly falling off a horse on a vertical volcano ride to a a bevvy of eccentric -- and sometimes downright threatening -- characters along the way, reading this travelogue made me feel like I'd gone on the journey myself. Highly recommended for anyone who loves reading about the extremes of exploration without actually having to endure the discomfort.

'Clockwise' by Elle Strauss is a fun, fresh read. Featuring an awkward teenage girl who accidentally time travels, the novel follows her adventures as she struggles to cope with both the past and the present -- and drags her crush along with her! The narrator's voice is sharp and witty, and you can't help identifying with her insecurities. A fantastic read for anyone, adolescent or adult.

House of DiamondsHouse of Diamonds by Karen Jones Gowen
House of Diamonds follows two sisters. One is on her way to achieving her dream of being a writer, despite the chaos in her busy household and her frequently absent husband. The other is struggling to keep it together whilst her newborn clings to life in the hospital. Author Karen Jones Gowen plunges readers into the daily details of each household, holding us at close range and never letting go. The intensity of emotion -- from frustration and fear to joy and faith -- is palpable throughout. Although generally I'm not big into 'faith' novels, Gowen weaves this into the narrative in a natural and subtle way, and it added to the fabric of the families' life.

Have you read any of these? Have a great Wednesday, everyone!

Monday, October 03, 2011

My Next Novel, and Why I'm Publishing It... Myself

Happy Monday! It's been a glorious summer weekend in London -- over 30 Celsius! Sunny! Joy!

So, I've got some news. Some rather big news for me! First of all, I have a new novel, Build a Man, coming out on December 7th as an ebook, and in paperback in the new year. If you're on Goodreads, you can add it here.

I'm really excited about this one, because it's told in first person (a departure for me from the first two novels), and because I absolutely love the main character, Serenity, and Jeremy, the man she 'builds'. Also, having worked in a spa with many wealthy clients about, well . . . I feel I had a very good grounding to accurately portray the setting. And look at the lovely cover India Drummond custom designed for me (If you're looking for a great designer, she's your gal.)

Here's a bit more about Build a Man:

Slave to the rich, rude and deluded, cosmetic surgery receptionist Serenity Holland longs for the day she's a high-flying tabloid reporter. Unfortunately, every pitch she sends out disappears like her clients' liposuctioned fat, never to be seen again. Then she meets Jeremy Ritchie -- the hang-dog man determined to be Britain's Most Eligible Bachelor by making himself over from head to toe and everything in between -- giving Serenity a story no editor could resist.  
With London's biggest tabloid on board and her very own column tracking Jeremy's progress from dud to dude, Serenity is determined to be a success, even going undercover to gain intimate access to Jeremy's life. But when Jeremy's surgery goes drastically wrong and Serenity is ordered to cover all the car-crash goriness, she must decide how far she really will go for her dream job.

But the truly exciting bit for me is that I'm self-publishing this.  It's a decision I've thought long and hard about over the past few months, and I've come to the conclusion that for me, this is the right option. Brace yourself for a rather lengthy explanation!

I finished writing Build a Man about a year ago, but put it on the back-burner to release The Hating Game with Prospera Publishing, a small independent publisher. Between launching my first novel and getting started on Watching Willow Watts (also under contract with Prospera), I finished up edits on Build a Man. I wasn't sure exactly where I wanted to go with the MS, but I'd met some lovely agents along the way and submitted the novel to them. There was interest, revisions . . . time passed, but ultimately I was told the chick lit market in the UK was saturated and publishers weren't taking on many (if any) new authors for that genre.

I had a decision. One: I could submit Build a Man to Prospera, who might publish it. Two: I could submit to another small publisher directly. Three: I could continue submitting to agents, in hopes of getting a big publisher. Four: I could go it alone.

One: Prospera has been brilliant -- I had a great editor there who was very easy to work with, supportive and understanding. I would never in a million years regret working with them, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them. But as the majority of my sales are on Amazon -- and in ebooks -- I didn't see why I couldn't hire a cover designer and a professional editor (in this case, the wonderful Caroline Smailes, a bestselling novelist herself) and keep all my profits.

Two: Any small press struggles with bookshop distribution, and I already had a very good situation at Prospera. One of the things I'd decided was that I wouldn't leave Prospera for another small press.

So, that left two decision points: try to get an agent and hopefully a big publisher, or go it alone.

Three: Let's say I was lucky enough to get an agent. Would they be able to sell my novel? How long would it take? And if they did sell it, how long would I have to wait until it was published? All things considered, the fastest would probably be a year -- if I was super fortunate. In one year, I could write three novels and have them bringing in revenue. Not only that, I've already made off one e-book (The Hating Game) what big publishers might offer me as an advance for two or three books. The financials just didn't add up.

So, that left going it alone as the logical choice for me. I can control my output. I can build up my readership on my own timeline. And I can keep the revenues! I truly believe readers don't care who or what has published a novel, as long as it's an engaging, high quality story. That's what I'm looking forward to delivering.

 Have I abandoned my dream of being published by one of the biggies? No, and I'm certainly not one to say that traditional publishing is dead, and self-publishing is the only way. It's different for everyone, and this is the choice I've made. I have learned there is more than one way to achieve a dream. Right now, my dream is to have as many readers as I can, as quickly as possible. And for me, that means self-publishing.

Is it a risk to walk away from a very good relationship with a great publisher? Yes, of course. But business is business, after all, and I need to think of my writing as a career. I've never been one to stick at a comfy job just because it's comfy. I like the element of moving forward; trying different things. And we parted on amicable terms, so who knows what the future holds?

Things are changing fast in publishing. It's exciting for everyone, and I can't wait to see what's ahead!