Showing posts from 2011

The Headteacher's Lesson in Love

That's the title of my entry for the Mills and Boon 'New Voices' competition I mentioned below.  Luckily I get to enter even though I'm a published writer, because I don't have a full-length book out.  'Desperate Bid' is a nice easy read of a novella, at 37,000 words slightly shorter even than a typical Mills and Boon.  My entry is not exactly a typical Mills and Boon, but then at their talk at the RNA Conference they invited authors to try overturning some of the typical conventions, and I knew immediately that I wanted to try writing one with a hero who was both junior to, and slightly younger than, the heroine.  I'd love it if you'd hop over to Mills and Boon's New Voices and see if you think I've pulled it off.  You'll need to register there if you want to vote and comment, but if you don't feel like registering you can always pop back here and post your comments below. Thank you!

The Joy of Competitions

My success in the Yorkshire Ridings competition has reminded me how much I love writing competitions.  Writing to a strict brief can be challenging, as I wonder how to fit a whole story into just a thousand words, or what location is best suited to showing the romantic side of this beautiful county.  Yet, in other ways, it's a relief to have clear boundaries, otherwise it's easy for the creative side of my mind to spiral off, moving further and further from the original project I had in mind.  So, after hearing that I'd won the first prize in the Yorkshire Ridings short story competition, I decided it would be a good idea to look around for another competition to focus my attention.  And then a friend reminded me of this : It's a fantastic opportunity for anyone who hasn't got a full-length romance out, to work with Mills & Boon editors, gain a wider audience, and perhaps even be published with the most successful romance publisher of all time.  And even

Yorkshire Romance

After a break from blogging over the summer, it's nice to return with some good news.  And what news!  My story 'Top of the World' won first place in the Yorkshire Ridings magazine romance story competition .  From the moment they announced the competition, I felt it was made for me - I live in Yorkshire, love Yorkshire, and read and write romance - but I still didn't quite dare to hope for the winning place.  I'd have been happy to be shortlisted and have my story featured in their beautiful, glossy magazine.  I'm told the winning stories will appear on their website , though as I write this I can only see the winners of 2010's ghost story competition, so to read my story you'll have to buy the magazine.  It's available on the shelves in WHSmiths in Yorkshire, and on subscription through the website (at the time of writing, it's a bargain at £10 for 12 shiny, fun-packed issues).  My story is set in one of my favourite spots in Yorkshire, the

Amazing Arvon

Yeah, so... I haven't been posting much lately.  Partly because for a week I've been out of the Internet loop courtesy of Arvon 's beautiful, and Internet-free, writing house.  I had a great time learning (by doing) about writing musicals.  The tutors and participants were brilliant, the food superb, the scenery lovely, and all in all the hardest thing about the course was coming back to reality afterwards.  I know I'm not doing justice to the whole Arvon experience, but believe me, the only real way to understand it is to experience it.  If, like me, your some of your favourite things in life are writing and meeting cool people, there's really nowhere better.  Go on, try it... you know you want to.  The picture below is Lumb Bank centre, once owned by Ted Hughes.  I'm told the other centres are equally lovely.

Three of a Kind: Sci-Fi for Easter

I know, science fiction and Easter aren't exactly a usual combination, but I've been thinking about it recently because of rediscovering Colleen McCullough's extraordinary novel, A Creed for the Third Millenium .  Colleen McCullough is better known for writing The Thorn Birds , but she's an extraordinarily varied writer and Creed is a kind of futuristic retelling of the Easter Story, centring around psychotherapist Joshua Christian (the symbolism of the name is obviously intentional).  Joshua accidentally hits upon the cure for a condition he calls 'Millenial Neurosis', and in his quest to bring the cure to the world, he finds himself thrust into a prophetic role which sits uncomfortably with him and his family.  Two other science fiction stories which loosely retell the story of Jesus' life are Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein, and Behold the Man , by Michael Moorcock.  Stranger was one of my favourite books for a long time, and I'm still

Editing with Barnsley Writers

Another thing that's happened during the past few weeks is that I ran a workshop on editing and rewriting for Barnsley Writers Group .  There were some great questions ranging from the very philosophical - 'What is a book?' - to the much more practical - 'How do you manage the pace of scenes?'  They're clearly a very dedicated and talented group of writers, and I always enjoy meeting other people who share my fascination with stories.  The handouts (available from the Barnsley Writers blog) only scratch the surface of what we covered, but one of them lists useful resources to follow up, so if you want to find out more, grab that one and pick out the books that interest you.

Some Great Events at Hull: Kate Mosse

Now that I'm back online (I hate BT, did I mention that?), I thought I'd let you know about some of the great things that happened during my forced absence from the computer.  Thanks to a suggestion from a new friend from the RNA , I went to hear Kate Mosse (the author, not to be confused with Kate Moss, the fashion model) talk about her bestselling first novel.  The book is called Labyrinth (not to be confused with the film Labyrinth , which is one of my favourites, or the film Pan's Labyrinth , which I've never seen).  I wanted to ask her whether sharing her name with a fashion model, and having a book which shared its title with a popular film, helped or hindered her marketing, but I didn't quite dare! Kate Mosse was speaking at Hull University as part of a series of events, and was great to listen to, despite some problems with the sound system, which meant that the interview went something like this: Interviewer: hmmmm mmm fmmmm bmmmm gaaaa? Kate: It'

Why I love my publisher.

I've been away from my blog for a few weeks, for a few reasons, both technical and otherwise.  What better to return with than a celebration of my wonderful publishers?  The Wild Rose Press is about to turn five years old - a ripe old age in the still-fresh world of e-publishing. There are e-publishers and e-publishers, and The Wild Rose Press is definitely an e-publisher to be proud of. Not only do the folks at The Wild Rose Press publish great stories (and no, I'm not only saying that because they published my e-book, Desperate Bid and made it available on Amazon too - they publish loads of great romances, including some by the wonderful Rachel Brimble and Rae Summers ). They also make a point of giving lots of help and feedback to new writers.  Their blog Behind the Garden Gate is a must-read if you write romance, or are curious about what goes on behind the scenes at a publisher.  Oh, and they're really nice people too.  This post about Agonising Over Rej

Three of a Kind - Troubled Families and Silent Children

This week on Book It I'll be reviewing Diane Chamberlain's ' Breaking the Silence .'  I found it particularly interesting that my picking up this book about a troubled family and a child whose response to emotional turbulence is elective mutism coincided with a very interesting discussion at academic romance blog ' Teach Me Tonight ' about speech difficulties in popular fiction (which mentions, in passing, The King's Speech as part of this phenomenon). Up until this point, I hadn't given a lot of thought to speech difficulties as a theme, but once it was mentioned, it seemed to crop up everywhere. First I happened again across a book I'd read a few years ago, ' Overheard in a Dream ' by Torey Hayden, the best-selling American author of a whole series of books on troubled children, including several elective mutes.  Although the novel was a compelling and moving story, it didn't quite seem to me to retain the power and simplicity of h

Read an E-Book Week - My Favourite E-books

Now that, thanks to the ubiquity of the Kindle, e-books are finally coming into their own here in the UK, I thought it would be fun to share a few of my favourites.  I'll admit that this is a rather biased list, since it is chosen only from those books which I happen to have read in electronic form, but still... here, in no particular order, are my favourite five e-books.  If you're thinking about taking the plunge into reading e-books by contemporary authors, or you're just looking for something new to read, any of these is a great place to start.  Slightly Foxed, by Jane Lovering A deliciously light, funny read, which I loved even more than her first, 'Reversing over Liberace', because this one happens to involve a heroine who loves books, works in a bookshop, and falls in love with dead poets. Fire and Shadow, by Imogen Howson I ummed and aaahed for some time over which of Imogen Howson's books to include, because I love them all, but ultimately the win

Read an E-Book Week - Free Books

My lovely publishers, The Wild Rose Press , have some great giveaways for Read an E-Book Week .  I've just downloaded half a dozen to add to my electronic to-read pile.  If your computer/e-reader isn't already groaning under the weight of your wish list, you can access eight fabulous free e-books at: Unfortunately, my book ' Desperate Bid ' isn't among the freebies, but it is only $4.25 at full price.  And if that's too much of a stretch, there's 50% off my two short story collections at Smashwords (full details are in my earlier post ) making them just $0.99 each. So there's an e-book for everyone, whatever your budget.  Happy reading! And thanks to everyone who's shared their experiences of e-books with me this week in honour of Read an E-Book Week.  If you haven't done so yet, feel free to comment below. I'd love to hear your experiences, especially as after years of happily

How to Become a Book Magnet

I've posted several times about prizes, and in particular books, I've been lucky enough to win. The most recent book I mentioned winning was The Italian's Blushing Gardener by Christina Hollis - a fresh take on the whole Mills and Boon millionaire thing, with a lovely, reclusive landscape gardener for a heroine, a refreshingly rural setting and of course the requisite sexy hero with dark shadows in his past. Since, then I also got lucky in an online contest for a copy of Sky Purington's Heart of Vesuvius and a $10 ebook voucher - enough to buy several novellas I'd been drooling over for a while. Having reviewed several of the books I won, it struck me the other day that blog readers might be just as interested to know how the heck I do it. Just why do I keep getting lucky where books are concerned? And it generally is books, although in the past I have been lucky enough to win a pair of jeans... oh, and a holiday, in a writing competition. But mostly, I win bo

Read an E-Book Week

Did you know it's ' Read an E-Book Week ' this week? I love e-books, although I don't think they'll ever replace print books. I love to hold real pages in my hands, but my luggage allowance doesn't love carrying a holiday's worth of reading, so I think it's fantastic that I can load dozens of books onto my mini laptop, which I'd be taking with me anyway. It's also a great way to try out new authors as e-books (at least from most specialist digital publishers) are much cheaper than print books. With Sony readers and Kindle readers and the free software ' Kindle for PC ', it's easier than ever to read books electronically, and in honour of 'Read an E-book Week', I'm making two mini story collections available as e-books through Smashwords. They'll be around for some time to come, but if you buy them this week, you can enter the code 'RAE50' and get them at a 50% discount . Click on the links below to view them,

Three of a Kind - Media Novels

Have you ever suddenly and unexpectedly found yourself reading a sequence of books on the same theme? I don't mean when you deliberately seek out books on a topic that interests you, but when you pick up a book to read and find yourself thinking, on page 3 or page 30, 'Well, hang on, haven't I been somewhere like this before?' The first time I can remember it happening was with a spate of books about book clubs a few years ago, and all three books had been published at around the same time. This time it was more unexpected, as not all the books are recent, although I suppose the topic is one of perennial interest. It started with Toby Young's How to Lose Friends and Alienate People , which I picked up because the title intrigued me, echoing as it does Dale Carnegie's famous self-help book. I enjoyed the glamorous setting and ironic humour for a few chapters, but soon found myself losing sympathy with the main character (or with the author - it's hard to

Going Visiting: Find me at Kelly Moran's blog.

Today I'm visiting author Kelly Moran at her blog. She has some interesting questions for me about my life and writing, including what it's like being a UK author writing for the US market, and what are some of my favourite books now, and from my childhood. There's also a chance to win a pdf copy of 'Desperate Bid' (you don't need an e-reader to enter, as it can also be viewed on an ordinary PC, so if you're reading this, you'll be able to read the book!). If you enjoy book chat, come and visit with me at And thanks again, Kelly, for inviting me! It's always fun making connections with writers on the other side of the pond!

'Love Cuts Deep' - A Radio Play

Thanks to the lovely people at Sine FM and Doncaster Little Theatre , my first ever radio play has been performed and broadcast. It's a fun science fiction space opera, although its origins are in a rather older story. If you missed it when it was first aired last week, you can now listen here - start from the beginning if you want to hear Sheila North (presenter of ' Book It ') interviewing me about writing the play, or jump in at 7 minutes if you just want to hear the play. Thank you again to Sheila, David, the actors and the folks at Sine for all their hard work in bringing my play to life. For a fiction writer, it's an amazing experience hearing your characters take on voices!

How to Attract Traffic to your Blog

Yesterday I came across a link to this excellent article: The timing seemed apt as until recently I hadn't paid attention to my blog statistics, and when I did, I was in for a big surprise. The top two countries of origin for visitors to my blog are, not surprisingly, the UK and US. But the third... I expected Australia. It's an English-speaking country, it's a big place, and I have a number of friends and acquaintances there. But it's way down the list at number eight. Number three is in fact The Netherlands. Why? I have no idea! Less surprising was the fact that February, despite being a short month, scraped in as the month with most blog hits ever. In February I guest posted on Michelle Zurlo 's blog as part of her Valentine's week romance promotion (strategy #8) and was more than usually active in reading and commenting on other blogs (strategy #7). But the biggest change

What is it about 'The King's Speech'?

I loved 'The King's Speech', but then that's to be expected. I'm British and my friends sometimes tease me for being 'posh'. I take an interest in public speaking and I'm quite an admirer of Colin Firth (and not just for 'that' moment in 'Pride and Prejudice' either). On the face of it, though, 'The King's Speech' is not a film you'd expect to strike a chord with huge numbers of viewers from completely different backgrounds, and even some of the cast admit they have been surprised by the extent of its success. So why has it been such a hit with audiences all over the world? I don't pretend to have the whole answer, but I do have some ideas. Firstly, of course, there is the star-studded cast: Mr 'Wet-Shirt' Darcy, the hugely glamorous Helena Bonham-Carter, and the very talented Geoffrey Rush. Then there's a script packed with witty observations about the British class system, the monarchy and what happe

Another wonderful story - In the Shadow of the Volcano

It's not often I find myself teary-eyed over a short story - it usually takes longer to build up characters and a situation that I care so much about - but this story by romantic novelist Imogen Howson had my eyes decidedly moist. It's set in the same world as her Volcano series from Samhain, and it's the heartbreaking yet hopeful story of how one woman learns to live with a gift that could kill both her and those she loves. Another definite recommendation!

A story I wish I'd written

I'm getting back into sci-fi at the moment, with my short story 'Tomorrow's News' appearing in this week's 'Book it', and a post-apocalyptic love story in the final stage of edits. So this story came just at the right time for me. It's a fairly quick read, beautifully evocative, and just made me wish I'd come up with the idea. If you like science fiction or love stories, I thoroughly recommend Alone by Janette Dalgleish- available for free on the 'Literary Mix Tapes' blog, and as part of an anthology in aid of the Queensland floods. Great stories for good causes... what could be better?

Why we love romance

It's coming up to Valentine's Day and love is in the air - so no wonder it's getting steamy at Michele Zurlo's blog. Every day this week, she's visited by several romance writers talking about what love is and why they love romance. Today's views include ' love is being able to hold your partners hand as the years go by, looking into their eyes, and telling them that there is no one else in the world for you but them.' (Jenika Snow), and ' Someone you can live with, laugh with, love with and get through the rough patches of life with. Someone who's not afraid to see you grow and spread your wings, who'll support you in anything and everything.' (C R Moss). Beautiful. Tomorrow, on 'Happy Ending Tuesday', I'm one of the visiting writers. Come and find out why I write romance at:

Penguin's 52 must-reads of 2011

It's the time of year for lists, and I was intrigued by Penguin's '52 books to read in 2011'. While the books are sorted into categories - 'must read' fiction, healthy, wealthy and wise - very few of the choices are conventional self-help books. The 'wealthy' section includes the lessons to be learned from the life of a drug lord. Not quite what I expected from the normally staid publishing house. Why not check out the list and see what you think? Get the 52 books to read in 2011 widget and many other great free widgets at Widgetbox ! Not seeing a widget? ( More info )

Desperate Bid on the Radio

Exciting news! Desperate Bid has received its first radio review, on Book It - a show on our local station, Sine Fm, presented by my friend and fellow Doncaster writer Sheila North. The review is the first item, so you don't have to listen far to get to it, but I've uploaded the whole show and it's well worth listening on as it also includes a very interesting interview with Joanne Harris (author of Chocolat and Blue-eyed Boy), following a seasonal story by Sheila. Yes, really. I'm on the same radio show as Joanne Harris. Woo hooooo :-) Oh, and if you liked the show, why not listen to this week's Book It ? Every week features an interview with a guest author, a review, and a piece of original writing, as well as songs chosen by the guests. Enjoy!