Thursday, 16 November 2017

The RNA Winter Industry Award Party and Me

I went to the library yesterday. Not to borrow some books but to attend the RNA Winter Party and industry awards in London. This delightful venue was in Birdcage Walk and inspirational - being surrounded by books was certainly a fitting way to pass a few hours in the company of other authors.

I went to the party with my good writing friends, Liz Smith (who writes under the name of Liz Eeles) and  Susan Griffin - my partners in crime at this year's conference. To say the evening started eventfully would be an understatement. First, my train ticket wouldn't open the barrier. Luckily, there was a man in a little box (well he wasn't really in the box but that's just the way my brain works) who told me to show my him my ticket. I waved my ticket in front of his face on the screen only for him to say, when he guessed what I was doing, "No, show it to the camera, not my face." It transpired that the barrier hadn't opened was because I'd used my return ticket by mistake.

At last was got on the train - only Liz and I had been talking so much, it was the wrong one!

A change of trains later and we were on track again (excuse the pun) and joined up with Susan for the last leg of our journey... only we weren't out of the woods yet. Our taxi route from Victoria (remember I don't do tubes) came to a halt when we found the roads around St James' park barricaded off. We had to ditch the cab and walk so it was a good job I wasn't wearing my high shoes.

Eventually we arrived. The place was packed, the noise level was high and I stood there feeling, as I always do, slightly overwhelmed. I needn't have worried though as very soon, I spotted someone I knew and from then on the evening went in a whirl.

Me (right) and Kath McG
But it wasn't all socialising. An important part of the evening is the industry award ceremony. Congratulations to all the winners! I was particularly thrilled to learn that the publisher I write for, D C Thomson, was runner up in the category Publisher of the Year. You can find all the winners here.

I'd like to tell you that I was brave enough to introduce myself to Agent of the Year winner Broo Doherty, who has the first three chapters of novel two, and runner up Rebecca Richie who favourited my twitter pitch for novel one in the recent #TellAMH twitter pitch contest and has the first three chapters.... but it didn't happen! One day I'll stop worrying about what people think of me and just do it.

As always, I only managed to speak to half the people I would have liked - but never mind, there's always next time.

In other news, I am delighted to have recently had two sales to The People's Friend and today I found out that novel two has been long-listed in the Flash 500 novel opening and synopsis competition... keep your fingers crossed for me. Congratulations also to writing chum, Tracy Fells, who joins me on the list.

Finally, I'll leave you with a picture of my story in the People's Friend Annual 2018 (which is out now) called Where the River Leads.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Just So Stories - editing out those banned words

Having recently published Silent Night, my new collection of short stories (you can read my post here) and spent time coming up with ways to market it (Book Marketing for Dummies) I've embarked on a new project - or rather gone back to an old one.

Anyone remember the romantic mystery novel I was working on a while ago that was set in Greece? This novel has been on a long and eventful journey with me (it even got me an agent for a while) and I now have two completely different versions of it - one in a single viewpoint and one with a dual narrative. For ages, I've been itching to go back to the original dual-narrative version and add in some of the better parts of the second version but, with the new novel I've been writing taking up most of my time, I've not been able to.

Now that novel two has been submitted to agents, I've been able to go back to reworking my special first book and I'm pleased to say that it's almost finished. Version three is, in my opinion, the best yet and I'm super excited to soon have two novels to offer agents and publishers (or to publish myself, if I go down that route).

It was only on reading through the manuscript again that I picked up on the fact that I'd used the phrase for a moment rather frequently (on checking, it was 28 times!) I could hardly believe it. With this in mind, I turned to Facebook to ask what words other authors knew they overused. I'm happy that people were not shy in coming forward with the words they knew were for the chop.

This is the list I came up with using their answers (most common first). See how clever I was with the title of this post!

just (mentioned by the majority)
a little
all at once
blood (an interesting one!)
not for the first time

That's quite a list and I'm going to be busy checking out all these sneaky little words that creep in when our backs are turned... I may be gone some time!

Have you got any favourites you can add to the list?

In the meantime, I'll leave you with a picture my latest story in The People's Friend called, Next to Me.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Book Marketing for Dummies

As many of you will know, two week's ago saw the publication of my Christmas short story collection, Silent Night. It's been exciting seeing my third collection hitting the Amazon shelves but books don't sell themselves... oh no.

You can read about my launch here.

I knew that if I wanted to make Silent Night visible to readers, I would need to take action. That means using the M word. Yes, you know the one... marketing. As anyone who has tried to publicise their book knows, without it, you might as well just print the pages out and read them to yourself. Particularly if a) the book is self-published b) it's a collection of short stories c) your book baby is coming out in the two months before Christmas along with everyone else's!

I am by no means an expert in marketing (hence the title of the post) and it's difficult to know what things work without publishing a control book on the same day and doing no marketing, but I will try to help a little.

Below, are some suggestions for those starting out, based on what I've done and learnt so far.

1. Say "Pretty please" to book reviewers

A few weeks before publication day, I put out a request on the fabulous Book connectors Facebook group (if you don't belong to it, you're missing out) asking whether any lovely, kind book reviewers would be willing to take a look at Silent Night. It was a nail-biting wait after I'd clicked 'post' as I know that I'd left it very later to ask and most of the reviewers have a toppling pile of novels waiting to be read from traditionally published authors. Imagine then my delight when several reviewers said they'd be happy to have a read. Who knows, maybe they thought my thirteen short stories would be a quick and easy read after a 90,000 word manuscript. Whatever it was, I was very happy.

Of course the risk is that the reviewer might not like your book (that's the price you have to pay for requesting an honest review) but I'm delighted to say that the first reviewer, Rachel Gilbey from 'Rachel's Random Reads', really enjoyed my collection, commenting that Silent Night is 'a great showcase to Wendy Clarke's writing talents'. How lovely! You can read the rest of  Rachel's review here.

I've also had a review from across the pond. This time from Kathryn at Book Ink Reviews.
She said, 'Within a few pages, you become attached to each of her characters'. You can read the rest of her review here.

I'm looking forward to reading what the other book bloggers have to say when the reviews come in. Next time I won't leave it so close to publication date to ask (I'm aware that Christmas publications have a short shelf life).

2. Don't be afraid to ask to guest on someone's blog

Again on the Book Connectors Facebook group, I asked if anyone would like to interview me on their blog or have me write a guest post for them, linked to something in my story collection. Having hosted over fifty guests myself on Wendy's Writing Now, I didn't feel bad asking and it was lovely how many people were happy to oblige (especially authors and bloggers who have been guests on my own blog). What a lovely supportive bunch writers are.

Here's where I've been so far - many thanks to all of them. Why not pop over and have a read. I love the variety of questions I've been asked.

Brook Cottage Books  (interview)
Clare Flynn                  (interview)
Lynda Stacey               (guest post - Christmas through the eyes of different characters)
Angela Petch                (interview) 
Books and Wine Gums   (interview)

...and last but not least, a huge thank you to Jessie Cahalin from the amazing Books in My Handbag blog. Considering Jessie and I have never met either in real life or on social media before, she has given up an inordinate amount of time to voluntarily promote my book. 

First there was the picture of my collection in her handbag gallery linking to my Amazon page and then a short interview and extract from my book which can be read here. She has also tirelessly tweeted and promoted on Facebook and twitter, going above and beyond what I'd expect and I can't thank her enough.

Here's a picture of Silent Night in my handbag.

I have more guest posts lined up in the next weeks.

3. Learn how to do it properly

A bit late I know but a few days before publication, I went up to London to take part in the Neetsmarketing Social Media for Writers course, run by the fabulous Anita Chapman. Anita has got masses of great advice on her Neetsmarketing blog and you can read the guest post she wrote for me here. I'm pretty good with social media but there's always something new to learn. After attending this course, I came back determined to do numbers 4 and 5 below.

4. Set up a Facebook Author Page 

I've only ever had a Facebook profile page, as I joined Facebook after I started writing and the only 'friends' I had were other writers. However, with a new collection to publicise, I knew I was stepping on thin ice using my personal profile for marketing so decided to bite the bullet and set up an author page so I could put up an Amazon link every now and again without being thrown into Facebook gaol. What I've since learn, though, is that unless you pay to 'boost' your post, very few of the people who 'like' your page actually get to see your post. Grrrr.

If you wish, you can find and 'like' my author page here.

5. Try out a new social media

After going on Anita's course, I decided to try a new social media - Instagram. To be honest, I had absolutely no idea what it was or how to use it. I do now... and it's so simple! Basically, you post pretty pictures (after making them as good as you can by using the different filters) then adding relevant hashtags. That's it. Simples. So far I really love it but how does it work with book marketing? Every now and again, I've put up a picture of something book-related (my book cover, or the bookmarks my husband has made for me)

Then I've added appropriate hashtags and mentioned the link to Amazon that's in my bio (you can't add live links to your photo). It's too early to say whether this is working but it gets your book info in front of a new and diverse audience.

6. Make some good adverts

This is one I made earlier. It's my favourites and I think it deserves a Blue Peter Badge. It's a Twitter banner which I made on my ipad using Canva. I just love this site. The trick is to make several different ones and change them around frequently. I also try not to bombard people with 'buy me' posts but slip them in amongst other things.

7. Don't be scared to mention your book

I took my bookmarks and a sample copy of Silent Night to my choir practice. Many of the ladies are in the age bracket who read the magazines I write for and have bought my other collections. I've had several paperback sales already. These ladies may not be on social media and if I hadn't told them about Silent Night it would have been a market I'd missed. Think about who goes to your pilates/badminton/swimming club - might they like a book like yours?

And that's it... so far. 

The only marketing tip I've left to try is the Amazon Countdown price drop (I've used this promotion for my other collections with varying degrees of success). It will be happening very soon... watch out for it.

So, if you're a dummy at marketing like I was, why not try giving some of these things a go. They might not get you into the best-seller list but at least you'll have fun trying.

If you have any marketing ideas that have worked for you, please feel free to put them in the comments.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

An Insider's Guide to a Blog Tour - Guest Post Vivien Brown

Blog tours go hand in hand with publishing a book but what is it really like going on tour? I asked author Vivien Brown this question as Wendy's Writing Now is the final stop in Vivien's tour to promote the paperback publication of her novel, Lily Alone.

 Over to you, Vivien.

When I hear the words ‘going on tour’ I instantly think of rock bands and roadies, packed into a bus with a mound of guitars and being pursued by screaming groupies! I am glad to say that, when it comes to books, a tour is a very different thing altogether. I had heard a lot about blog tours over the last year or so, particularly since becoming a novelist myself, but I had very little idea of how they worked, so planning and promoting one of my own has been quite an experience!

There is a lot more to launching a novel than just writing it and then sitting back waiting for sales. From as soon as my book ‘Lily Alone’ was given an e-publication date, I have had to talk about it on social media and in every conceivable forum, until my potential readers are probably sick to death of the very sight of its (rather lovely) cover. But now it is has been published in paperback too, things seem to have stepped up another gear and the search is on for more readers and, crucially, more reviews.

The best way to make a real splash, I was told, was to organise a blog tour, whereby I and my book would feature on a series of bloggers’ sites, travelling from one to another during the days leading up to, and soon after, publication. At each stop, I would provide photos, answer interview questions, perhaps offer free copies as prizes, or write a post that in some way links to the book. If I was lucky, some of the bloggers might review and recommend the book too. But, where to begin?

I am a member of the fantastic Facebook group known as Book Connectors, a friendly and very active community of readers, writers and bloggers who enjoy talking about, promoting and reviewing books, and all without a penny changing hands! So, I boldly asked if anyone there might like to include me in a possible future tour, and I was flooded with enthusiastic replies. Having taken a look at all of their blogs and talked about what they would like me to supply, I was able to select the ones that I thought best suited my book, and after several emails passed back and forth as we juggled available dates, I ended up with eight who were happy to ‘host’ me, one each day (apart from Sunday), starting two days before publication and ending up right here, after a much needed day’s breather, with my friend Wendy’s super blog as my final stop. Then I designed a poster, put all the dates in my diary, and waited for it all to begin.

So, what was the hardest part? It had to be making sure that I didn’t give exactly the same information to each blogger. People interested in books may well read more than one of my interviews and will soon tire of reading the same replies. It helped that each blogger had their own unique way of doing things, varying the questions asked, trying to include more imaginative and unusual questions, and often providing a longer list than was needed, so I was able to pick and choose which ones to answer. I was also conscious of having too many identical photos of me floating about the internet, so I tried to send a different one each time. Okay, so in some I am probably five years younger than in others, but I think they are all just about recognisable as me!

And the best bit? Well, I have been overwhelmed by the level of response. Of course, I shared the blog posts on my own Facebook and twitter pages as each one appeared, but then friends, other reviewers and bloggers, and total strangers, started to like, share and comment on them too. It helped that a short story I had written to tie in with the book appeared in My Weekly magazine on the second day of the tour, so that generated a lot more interest and even more retweets. And then the RNIB tweeted on day three to announce that the book was now available as a talking book, which produced even more ‘traffic’ from its followers and beyond. I looked up the voice artist, Penelope Rawlins, and found she had also narrated books for such great writers as Jo Jo Moyes and Maggie O’Farrell. I tweeted a thank you and she replied that my novel had been ‘an absolute joy to narrate’ –Wow!

Hitches? There were one or two. One blogger lost my email replies, and the poster that my publishers made for me on day two to replace my home-made effort was great, but it was only after sharing it just about everywhere that I spotted it had an error in it (the date of this final blog was correct but it said it was a Wednesday instead of a Thursday!) But these were just minor blips in an otherwise hectic, but highly enjoyable, exercise.

But, after a week and a half ‘on the road’, has the blog tour actually resulted in extra sales or reviews? Well, my Amazon rankings certainly went up day by day. Not astronomically so, but then not all sales are via Amazon, and not everyone buys a book the moment they first hear about it. And reviews tend to follow some time later, as I have to give readers time to actually read what they have bought before they can voice an opinion. So, only time will tell. But, overall, I’m sure such intense promotion can’t have done any harm, and it was certainly fun!

Amazon paperback:

Amazon ebook:

BLURB: What sort of mother would leave her daughter alone? Would you leave a very young child at home on their own – knowing that terrible things can happen in the blink of an eye? Lily, who is not yet three years old, wakes up alone with only her cuddly toy for company. She is hungry, afraid of the dark, can’t use the phone, and has been told never to open the door to strangers. In the flat downstairs, a lonely and elderly woman keeps herself to herself but wonders at the cries coming from upstairs. Lily’s grandmother frets that she can no longer see her granddaughter since the child’s parents separated. Lily’s father hasn’t seen her for a while. He’s been abroad, absorbed in his new job and his new girlfriend. A young woman lies in a coma in hospital – no one knows her name or who she is, but in her silent dreams, a little girl is crying for her mummy… And for Lily, time is running out.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Merry (Christmas) Publication Day to Me!

At last it's here! Publication day for my Christmas short story collection, Silent Night.

Yes, I know it's only October but unless I launch my collection into the wide world now, Christmas will have been and gone in the blink of an eye and no one will have read it.

Thinking about Christmas when it's not (if you see what I mean) is nothing new to me. All thirteen stories in this collection have been published in national women's magazines (The People's Friend and Take a Break Fiction Feast) so were written in the middle of summer - some as early as June!

So, how do I go about writing something Christmassy when the thermometer is showing 27 degrees, I'm skulking in the shade and the thought of a crackling log fire might just send me over the edge? Well, imagination is the key. I don't play Christmas songs, read A Christmas Carol or stare at Christmas cards hoping for inspiration. Instead, I close my eyes and take myself back to my childhood, remembering the excitement of waking up to a stocking on the end of a bed or the smell of a turkey in the oven. Don't get me wrong, not all my stories are written from a child's point of view - in fact, the stories are seen through the eyes of many different characters: male, female, young and old. It's just that this is my way of capturing that special Christmas feeling. A feeling that can be woven through every Christmas story I write, even if I know that very soon I'll be jetting off on my summer holidays.

Putting this collection together hasn't been as easy as I thought it would be. I wanted Silent Night to be around the same size as my other two story collections, Room in Your Heart and The Last Rose, which meant thirteen stories. It was trying to choose the thirteen from the thirty published that was the problem. In the end, my husband said, 'Why don't you just pick your favourites?'

So that's what I did. 

The next few weeks will be exciting - as you read this I shall be busy writing guest posts and answering interview questions. I'm very grateful to all the people who have invited me onto their blogs and I can't wait to start visiting. I've got so used to being the blog host that it makes a lovely change to be the guest.

Let's crack open the bubbly and I'll leave you with a short extract from the story, 'On My Own'.

I wake to a weak light filtering through the curtains. Looking at my watch, I’m surprised to find that it’s nearly ten. My morning is usually dictated by Ryan’s morning routine so to lie in bed and know that the day ahead is my own, gives me a delicious thrill. As I lean across and pull open the curtains, I gasp. The sky, yesterday a battle-ship grey, is now a clear winter blue and seems to go on for ever and, in the distance, is the sea view I had been promised.

Christmas Eve. The thought fills me with excitement as it did when I was a little girl. I run down the stairs two at a time to make a cup of tea to take up to bed. As I enter the living room, I see the half empty bottle of Chablis and the tree jauntily displaying its home-made decorations: silver fir cones, golden flower heads and white cut out snowflakes shimmering with glitter. It’s a far cry from the white and pink baubles we bought in Selfridges. It wouldn’t look out of place in a primary school but I love it.

If you'd like to purchase a copy of Silent Night, it is available on Amazon HERE as an ebook or
paperback (perfect for popping into a Christmas stocking)

Sunday, 1 October 2017

What NOT to Do When Self-Publishing - Guest Post Alison Morton

Interested in self-publishing? If you are, you might want to read this - a warts and all guest post from Alison Morton, writer of the acclaimed Roma Nova thriller series. It's about what NOT to do if you are thinking of going down this route. In Alison's words, 'highlighting some of the difficulties brings a sense of reality to the whole business of self-publishing'.

Over to you, Alison.

Self-publishing?  Please don’t do these things

I’ve published eight books – six novels, two non-fiction – via the indie route since 2012, but in the preceding three years I learnt writing techniques: structure, plot, dialogue; how to delete adverbs, adjectives and over-writing. Then came techniques needed in the publishing world: proposals, submission packages, approach letters and etiquette in approaching agents and publishers; and how the publishing industry worked, who was who and how to make and use opportunities.

I attended conferences, courses, fairs, seminars, I read how-to books, joined writers’ groups and associations and talked to other writers, tutors, assessors, publishing experts and mentors. I brought in my business skills: time management, networking, project management, accounting, cost analysis, pricing, marketing, PR and negotiating. And I listened.

Along the way, I’ve learnt a great deal including some essential dos and don’ts.
Contrary to the jolly cheerleader ‘you can have it all’ approach, I’m going to be negative, and possibly crushing, because there are a lot of things you shouldn’t do if you want to succeed as an indie author.

1. You are not entitled to inflict rubbish on readers just because you can
In this glorious age of democratisation of publishing anybody can publish a book. Being honest, 80% of them shouldn’t. Grammar, punctuation, gripping prose, a rattling good story edited by a competent experienced editor and a fabulous book jacket are minima. If you DIY publish, learn how to do it properly: read ‘how to’ books, go on courses, research online and read guides, join specialist forums, learn from the experts.

2. Don’t whinge
The world is unfair. You learnt that in the playground. If you have a plan, work hard, research thoroughly and cultivate people, you will increase your chances of success astronomically.

You will see others get breaks, seem to prosper, receive plaudits, win prizes. Admit it, you’re left feeling a little envious. A secret – they’ve been in exactly the same place, but they slogged on. If you need to whinge, talk to the cat/dog/your critique partner. But don’t do it in public or you’ll be seen as needy. And nobody likes to be seen supporting a needy whinger…

3. Don’t diss others in the food chain
True in life and true in writing and publishing; it’s a village. Be friendly to all whether they’re a stellar bestseller or the newbie in your writing group. Of course, there are people we don’t warm to – the bumptious, the snobby, the unctuous and the darnright obnoxious. They have their own problems and really, we have to feel sorry for them.

As an indie, you have the benefits of freedom, control and the ability to be fully flexible in your PR and marketing. But please don’t sneer at mainstream authors or regard them as ‘sold out.’ They have chosen their route to publishing as you have yours. Remember we are all writers, especially if we share a genre.
Alison with TV presenter Sue Cook at
the launch of INCEPTIO
4. Don’t be a pest 
It’s hard, really hard, when you’re clutching your sweated-over manuscript or self-published book to your chest and you see your dream publisher/agent/endorser twenty paces from you not to rush over and gabble about your treasure in a demented ├╝ber-pitch.

Nobody is more passionate about your book than you. That’s how it should be; you have immersed long hours in it and probably part of your soul. But rein it back and think strategically. Approach people in the terms they find acceptable, be gradual, wear your sensible hat and exert your brain, not your emotions. Publishers and agents outline their requirements on their websites – study them in detail and send what they ask not what you think.

Endorsers and reviewers are often very busy and/or fighting deadlines. Approach politely and if they don’t have time or don’t wish to read your book, thank them and withdraw gracefully. Ditto if you decide to approach agents and publishers and your book is rejected. And please don’t send unreadable files (silly fonts, midget type, badly formatted) to anybody at any stage.

5. Don’t expect to be the great breakthrough author, nor to be rich beyond dreams
More books = more income, but in the ferociously competitive book world, you’re statistically unlikely to become one of the ‘big beasts’. However, with hard work (that expression again), you can enjoy a supplementary, even comfortable income.

And as you mature as a writer, people will ask for your opinion, read your blog, ask you to speak and, as long as you produce good content and information, come to regard you as an expert in your field. You may not win the Booker Prize, but you’ll probably be eligible for, and even win, some well-regarded indie ones.

Harsh? Probably. Realistic, certainly.

But being a writer, although creative, is a job. As an indie writer, you just have to show you’re also a professional.

Alison Morton writes the acclaimed Roma Nova thriller series featuring modern Praetorian heroines. She blends her deep love of Roman history with six years’ military service and a life of reading crime, adventure and thriller fiction.

The first five books have been awarded the BRAG Medallion. SUCCESSIO, AURELIA and INSURRECTIO were selected as Historical Novel Society’s Indie Editor’s Choices.  AURELIA was a finalist in the 2016 HNS Indie Award. SUCCESSIO was selected as an Editor’s Choice in The Bookseller. The sixth, RETALIO, came out in April 2017.

A ‘Roman nut’ since age 11, Alison has misspent decades clambering over Roman sites throughout Europe. She holds a MA History, blogs about Romans and writing.

Now she continues to write, cultivates a Roman herb garden and drinks wine in France with her husband of 30 years.

Social media links
Connect with Alison on her Roma Nova site:
Twitter: @alison_morton

Buying link for RETALIO (multiple retailers/formats):

RETALIO book trailer: 

Early 1980s Vienna. Recovering from a near fatal shooting, Aurelia Mitela, ex-Praetorian and former foreign minister of Roma Nova, chafes at her enforced exile. She barely escaped from her nemesis, the charming and amoral Caius Tellus who grabbed power in Roma Nova, the only part of the Roman Empire to survive into the twentieth century.

Aurelia’s duty and passion fire her determination to take back her homeland and liberate its people. But Caius’s manipulations have isolated her from her fellow exiles, leaving her ostracised, powerless and vulnerable. But without their trust and support Aurelia knows she will never see Roma Nova again.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Greece is the Word

September wouldn't be the same without my annual post about my holiday in Greece (sorry, no writing post today).

As many of you will know, if you've been following my blog for a while, Greece and its islands are my favourite place to holiday (apart from the Lake District). We try to go every year, picking somewhere new each time - although we are finding it harder and harder to find new places to fit our tough brief: quiet, scenic, green, little harbour, pretty beach.

To date, I have holidayed in Stoupa, Kardamilli and Parga on the mainland along with the islands of Corfu, Thassos, Kefalonia, Samos, Skopelos and Ithaca. All lovely. 

This year's choice was Paxos, a little island off Corfu, and what a delight it was - although at one stage we weren't sure we were ever going to get there. Due to the inefficiency of the long term car park staff at Gatwick (resulting in a wait of 50 minutes to hand in our car keys) we missed our flight. This also meant that by the time we'd caught another, at five in the evening, we'd missed our hydrofoil connection and had to stay overnight in Corfu Town. Not a great start to our holiday. Anyway, we got there in the end and it didn't spoil the rest of our beautiful week.

We stayed in a house just outside the harbour village of Loggos on the side of an olive-clad hill. This is the view of our pool.

The position was perfect, just fifteen minutes walk through the olive groves to Loggos and ten minutes to a choice of four small pebble beaches.

This is one of them. September is the perfect time to visit as the summer crowds have left and when we walked down to the beach for a swim at six o'clock, we had the beach practically to ourselves. What a treat. We're quite used to pebbly beaches, so the lack of sand didn't bother us. In fact, it's nice not to have sandy towels and feet!

Of course, as usual, we ate much too much. When we first holidayed in Greece we'd buy our lunch and eat it at wherever we were staying but in recent years we've found we can't resist the lunches in the tavernas: tatziki, tiropita (cheese pie) Greek salad, fried courgettes and saganaki (fried cheese) washed down with some Mythos beer. No wonder we always come home heavier than we arrive! I'd better not mention the bakery in the village which sold orange or walnut cake steeped in Greek honey and the best baklavas ever.

In the evenings, we were spoilt for choice as there are several lovely tavernas. In fact we never had a bad meal and after we'd eaten, we'd wander along to a bar on the harbour front for coffee and baklava and to watch the world go by.

I'm home now and my week in Paxos has given me the motivation to work on my first novel which is set on a Greek island. It's been put away while I wrote my second novel but now it's time for an airing... I can't wait!

If any of you have any recommendations for our next Greek holiday, do let me know.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

The Death of Her - Guest Post Debbie Howells

It's exciting when a debut author comes onto my blog but it is equally exciting to have an author visit whose previous two novels have been highly praised and who has earned a seat on the coveted Richard and Judy sofa! This is Debbie's second visit to Wendy' Writing Now and she is here today to tell us a little about her third psychological thriller, The Death of Her.

Over to you, Debbie.
The Death of Her is my third book.  It’s set in North Cornwall, along a stretch of coast I know well and takes in the sweeping countryside and some of the more secluded, wilder coves.  And of course, the waves…

Nothing is by chance.  A wave is the culmination of many factors.  There’s the swell, the wind, the shape of the coastline, the ocean floor.  It shows the divine timing to all things, because you can’t hurry the perfect wave. He’s taught me the need for patience as you see a set coming, the importance of relying on your judgement. The perfect wave will come when the time is right.

I stand there watching him as he deftly rides a wave to the shore then, instead of paddling out against the tide, catches the rip.  Its powerful flow is an easy ride out past the waves, when you understand the forces at work, as Rick does.  When you don’t, it’s an easy way to die.

One of the themes is the reliability of memory.  We’ve all heard someone recount a sequence of events that we remember quite differently and while I was researching this, it fascinated me to learn how easily memory can be suggested or false memories implanted.  There are a number of studies I read about, in which the subjects were convinced they’d been involved in an event in their childhood which hadn’t happened, even to the point of embellishing their memory of it.  It makes you think…

Back to my book… A young woman is found battered and left for dead in the Cornish countryside.  When she’s airlifted to hospital, she remembers two things – her name, Evie, and the name of her three year old daughter.  But as the police investigation gets under way, there is no evidence her daughter exists.    

As more of Evie’s memory comes back, she appears convincing, but it soon becomes apparent that her memories are at best fragmented.  Not only that, but vital pieces are missing.  With no-one to back up what she’s saying, it’s impossible to believe her.
But from the darkest place she’s ever known, Evie knows her daughter’s voice, her chameleon eyes, every precious hair on her head.  But the police remain unconvinced – unaware that on the fringes of Evie’s life, there’s someone else.  Someone hiding, watching her every move, with their own agenda and their own twisted version of reality.

I don't know about you, but I can't wait to read this new book of Debbie's which is already receiving 5 star reviews on Amazon.

You can find out more about Debbie here
You can buy The Death of Her here

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Unfamiliar Territory - Guest Post Sonja Price

Most of the guests I invite onto my blog are people who I know but, a few weeks ago, I received an email request from someone whose name was new to me. It was an email that was so lovely and engaging that that I just had to say yes. That someone is Sonja Price and she's going to tell us about her novel, the Giants Look Down, and about what it's like setting a novel in a place you've never been to.

Over to you, Sonja. 

At an Arvon Creative Writing workshop Jim Crace, Booker Prize shortlist candidate, gave me some invaluable advice about depicting places I’d never been. You see, I decided to set my novel THE GIANTS LOOK DOWN in Kashmir, which was unfamilar territory for me. He told me not to write it like a travel report, but instead to take some aspect of the landscape and show its familiarity. So I described the image of the old women’s face playing on the rocks created by the moonlight:

We lived in one of the finest houses in the foothills, built of stone with a sweeping view of the valley from the veranda. From my bed I could see the Gilgul pass and the rock face that looked like a woman’s face with snow white hair. She used to smile at me when the moonlight fell on the stone. In early spring the scent of mulberry blossoms filled my room so that in summer I would climb and harvest basketfuls of berries from the tree outside my window for Sabri our cook, who made delicious chutney from them. With plenty of food in store winter never posed a problem. We always had a taste of summer in the house even when we were snowed in for days. I loved those days, when even Pa couldn’t get away. A blizzard would be raging outside as we gathered around the fire to listen to stories of what Pa got up to as a boy.

Writers go where their imaginations take them, and mine was ignited by a report on the car radio of the Great Earthquake in Kashmir of 2005. I discovered that the region, specifically the Vale of Kashmir, is breathtakingly beautiful. Majestic snow-covered mountain ranges, among the highest on this planet, cradle a valley lush in sycamore woods and fields of saffron interspersed with a pearl necklace of lakes. Wular Lake is all of 100 square miles and full of carp and trout; houseboats moor amongst the reeds, and on Dal Lake gondola-like boats called shikara laden with fruit and vegetables meet to form a floating market. As if the scenery were not spectacular enough, the vale boasts a rich history of maharajas, princes and princesses. But this paradise has been the centre of political strife over the past 70 years since Kashmir lost its independence with the Partition of India. Although its population is overwhelmingly Muslim, the Vale of Kashmir chose to become part of its Hindu neighbour, India. Two wars have been fought between Indian and Pakistani over it and both armies still stand their ground on the highest battlefield of the world, where avalanches claim more lives than armed conflict.
There must be a story in there somewhere for me, I thought to myself. What would happen if a 10-year-old Hindu girl called Jaya decided to become a doctor much to the chagrin of her mother and the patriarchal society of 1960s Kashmir? And how would she react to being transplanted to Scotland? I had my doubts about evoking Kashmir on paper but bolstered myself with the fact that Elizabeth George got away with basing her first published book in England before ever crossing the Great Pond and Andy Weir didn’t need to go to Mars to write THE MARTIAN. Well, publication brought relief when the reviews, including some from Indians, praised the authenticity of my portrayal of Kashmir. One reader even thought that I must have lived there for years! Well I did conduct some intensive interviews with Indians, but it’s amazing how helpful books, especially picture books, travel blogs and endless online resources such as google maps can be.

One Kashmiri journalist understandably questioned my intentions and asked me how I could deal with the conflict so superficially. Given the complexity of the situation, it was a reasonable question. But I countered that I was simply endeavouring to tell a story: nothing more, nothing less. My aim was solely to entertain and amuse the reader; I did not want to take sides nor deliver a message, yet at the same time I still tried to depict the situation as sensitively and genuinely as possible. Drawing attention to the plight of Kashmiris could surely not be a bad thing in itself, I added. Well, he seemed to agree and printed my interview in full together with a picture of yours truly with her book:

Going to Kashmir, if only in my mind has been a wonderful journey that started in my car!
You can find Sonja on Facebook
You can find out more about Sonja on her website here
Twitter: @PriceSonja
The Giants Look Down can be bought here

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

The End of the Fairy Tale?

This was not the post I thought I was going to be putting up today but, sadly, life doesn't always go the way you'd like it to.

After the post about finishing my novel called Not Giving Up and the one following that about my glowing RNA New Writers' Scheme report, A Small Step closer, I had hoped that the next post I wrote would be giving you good news.

Sadly, it's not to be.

This afternoon, I had a telephone call from my agent. Imagine my excitement! But she wasn't ringing to tell me how much she loved the novel... or about the next step... or even that there was work to be done together. Instead, she was ringing to say that, due to changes within the agency creating greater workloads, they would no longer be able to give the time needed to work on a debut novel. In other words, with regret, they would be having to let me go.

After feeling so elated at having finished the novel, and after having had such positive response from my RNA NWS reader, you can imagine how disappointing this was to hear. It's also sad because I got on well with my agent. It doesn't seem five minutes ago that I was writing the post in which I told you how my submission had been picked out of a slush pile of 10,000 and how it felt like winning the lottery.

But I refuse to be disheartened and this is why:

  • I now have TWO novels to offer a new agent
  • I have the fabulous words of my RNA NWS reader to give me the confidence to start the whole process again
  • I will now be able to self-publish more collections of my magazine stories

I know it's not the news you wanted to hear but it's not the end of the road... just the beginning of a new journey.

One that I hope you'll continue to travel with me.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

A Small Step closer...

This is a short follow-on post from last week just to let you know that, since posting, I have received my novel critique back from the RNA New Writers' Scheme (NWS). When the email came in, it took a while to pluck up the courage to go online and download my review then, in my haste, I forgot to put this year's password in and couldn't understand why it wasn't there. Luckily, the lovely NWS organiser was very patient with me and explained what I'd done wrong.

This year, I asked to have the same reader as last year (all critiquing is anonymous so I had no idea who it was but for ease of reading I shall call my reader 'she'). The reason I asked for the same person was my submission last year, for my first novel ,elicited a critique (of several pages) that was so astute that I just nodded in agreement at what had been written. She loved my writing and enjoyed my novel but knew it wasn't working on a few levels. I trusted her opinion and thought it might be interesting for her to take a look at my new project.

I stared at the screen... What would she think? Would it be another, I love your writing, but...

Eventually, I opened the file, expecting another several pages of suggestions but, instead, there was only a page and a half of writing with an apology for its brevity... it’s because there’s really not very much I can say that would improve it.

As I continued to read, I felt a warm glow inside - she loved the plot and thought my characters tremendous and believable. She also said I built up the tension wonderfully, every scene raising the stakes. My agent had asked me to write a suspense and it seemed I had managed to do it.

There were also small suggestions on how to increase the pace of the first few chapters and some queries about some plot devices I'd used (which I will definitely look at) but, overall, she loved it... hurrah! One tiny step closer on the long path to publication.

Of course, it's my agent who I really need to love it but at least now I know I haven't written a great big pile of rubbish (sometimes you can't help wondering if you have).

So now all I have to do is be patient and wait.... which I can guarantee won't be as easy as it sounds!