Pleased as Punch!


Well, come on, I am the Queen of Cliche ;)

Seriously though, I am sooo pleased! :) Why? Because a friend and fellow writer has just released his debut novel earlier this week! *grins*

I’ve known Tony for a couple of years now (we initially met through Nano) so I’ve been hearing about this story from its first draft and I’m so thrilled to finally see it in “print” :) It’s been really interesting hearing Tonys adventures in “indie” publishing first hand at our writing meets, so I thought you guys might like to hear what he has to say… let me introduce Author (YAY’S!) Tony Benson…

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What made you decide to be a writer?
First off, thank you Vikki, for having me here on your blog. I’ve always kept journals and written stories. During my career as an engineer, strangely enough, much of my work involved writing of one kind or another. I’ve written more technical documents than I could ever count, but very little was ever published for general distribution, since it’s generally written for use by customers.
When I moved on from corporate life I found myself undertaking more ambitious creative writing projects. I started with a complete non-fiction manuscript, which will probably never see the light of day, then I went on to write more fiction. That was when I began to consider publication.
I enjoy the creative process, and to see my own work, complete and published, is exhilarating.

What genre do you write?
An Accident of Birth is dystopia. I also have manuscripts at various stages of completion for crime, science fiction and fantasy. I’m currently working on a crime novel, which will be my next release.

What inspires you?
I find inspiration easily. Sometimes perhaps too easily. I’ll be inspired by a news-item, an overheard conversion or some random idea that comes into my head. Almost anything can trigger that Aha! moment. I always carry a notebook, and when an idea hits me I write it down, otherwise I’ve moved on to something else and the idea is lost.
Also I read widely from pretty much all genres, and that keeps the imagination ticking over nicely.

Tell us about your début novel An Accident Of Birth
An Accident of Birth is a speculative story which confronts the question What would society be like if most people were not fertile?
It portrays a dystopian, polluted society in which fertility is rare, and being fertile is dangerous. The government holds twenty-year-old Francesca captive, forcing her to breed children for the infertile masses. Her boyfriend Dominic has failed to rescue her in four long years. By hiring Baron Drake to spring her, Dominic learns nobody is more dangerous. The handsome, charming, and fertile baron vies to win Francesca’s heart, and he’ll stop at nothing – not even mass murder – to expand his criminal empire.

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What made you decide to go down the “indie” route?
Indie can mean two different things. It either refers to one of the small press publishers, or it refers to an author publishing their own work. I chose the latter path.
When I had a completed manuscript, and my critique partners and beta readers had all made their contributions, it was time to publish. I reached this point at an interesting time in publishing. Indie publishing was really picking up, and there was a lot of rhetoric in the press about how bad that was and how good it was.
I found myself torn. On one hand the kudos of having my manuscript accepted by an agent and a publisher felt like a worthy goal. On the other, the case for self publishing was very compelling. I started down the road of seeking an agent, but soon I realised that I was wasting valuable time in an endeavour which would lead me to sign away the rights to my own work. In the end, I realised that my main reason for wanting to go down the traditional publishing route was to seek validation. It’s just not a good enough reason.

Any advice for anyone considering going “indie”?
Where to begin? Bear in mind that only a few days ago I published my first novel, so I’m not an old industry pro, or a well practised professional. There are, however, some things I have found to be crucial.
The big thing to remember with indie publishing is that publishing is a profession, and anyone who’s not willing to become a professional should be shy of indie publishing.
First things first, though. Like they all say, the whole thing will fail if you don’t write a great story. That’s the core to any publishing success. Once you’ve written that great story and been through it with all your critique partners and beta readers and worked on their comments, you’ve got a draft manuscript. You’re now ready to put on your publisher’s hat.
It’s crucial to have the manuscript professionally edited. Professionally produced cover art and formatting are also a must. With that done you’ll need a great cover blurb which makes people want to read your book.
The rest is logistics, promotion and marketing. The logistics are time consuming and require plenty of thought. Promotion and marketing is your job. Whether you’re indie publishing or traditionally published you’ll need to spend time and thought on marketing. It’s not easy, and you’ll constantly need to find creative new ways to market your work. The worst thing you can do is keep asking people to buy your book.
Indie publishing cannot be done without cost. Someone has to pay for editing, cover art, formatting and all the other sundry costs. An author who publishes solo bears the whole cost themselves and hopes to make it back in sales. There are, however, other creative ways to fund the project such as working with a small press publisher, crowd funding or working with one of the companies which are springing up with new business models specifically aimed at indie publishers.
There’s never been a better time to choose the indie route.

Tony can be found through his website, blog and author page on Facebook and if you’d like to download An Accident of Birth, it’s available through Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk I’ve downloaded it and started it last night :)

Ahhhh, yeah, marketing *gulps* I don’t know about you but if I go down this route I think that’s what I’m going to find most difficult, I wouldn’t know where to start! Lol… Sooooo, anyone willing to share some marketing tips? ;)

CONGRATULATIONS Tony! When you’re a HUGE success I can brag and say I had many a writing session with you :)

Must Do’s 18th to 24th March


Firstly, thanks to everyone for their comments on Janes Saturday post….personally, I still can’t make my mind up ;)

It’s been a good week, the highlight being meeting up with Pauline Conolly (who was visiting from Australia) and Madalyn Morgan for lunch at The British Museum followed by cake at The Cordon Bleu Cafe :)

So here’s what I managed to achieve last week:
1. Faber homework. There wasn’t any lol. Tonight’s session is with an agent.
2. Add/do 1000 words on Still. Well, I didn’t do 1000 words, but it was about 500.
3. Do the 250 word synopsis. I now have 95 words lol
4. Catch up with blogs and emails. This is such an ongoing thing that I’m not going to add it in future. Just be aware that I am always behind :(
5. Have a play with Scrivener. Well, I did open it, did start reading the guide, all 539 pages of it! *gulp*
6. Finish my book. Epic fail :( But only because I’ve done quite a bit of writing this week. I’ve gone back to basics and been handwriting every day. It’s worked with getting me inspired again. I’ve been using the prompts to write scenes for the novel :)

Must Do’s for this week are:

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I really must make a start on the research for the A-Z challenge!

What are your writing plans for the week?

Jane Ayres Asks What if?


Food for thought from my fellow blogging friend Jane Ayres which I found very interesting considering my WIP is all about the consequences of choices ;)

What if? What then? Problem solving for writers.

Writers are constantly asking “What if?” And after we have answered this question, it then follows, “What then?” This got me thinking about the choices we make, as human beings and as writers. One aspect of writing fiction that I love is that of problem solving. We create a situation for our characters (or vice versa) and as the narrative unfolds, we have to work out how to develop and resolve subsequent events. There will be questions to pose and answer and obstacles to navigate before a satisfactory conclusion is reached. We create a series of problems which we then have to solve.

I’ve been reading a wonderful collection of essays by journalist and screenwriter Nora Ephron (who sadly passed away last year) called I Feel Bad About My Neck and Other Thoughts on Being a Woman and one of the essays, The Story of my Life in 3500 Words or Less, relates a story told by film director Mike Nichols, which he uses to make a point about a conversation they have.
I’m going to do my own version of the story (there will be many versions), but with the same outcome as the original. At the end is a question.

My version of the story:
A couple live in a remote location. The husband goes off to work and his wife takes a bus journey to the nearest town to see her secret lover. (Her husband has the car). After her illicit assignation, it’s late and she misses the last bus home. Desperate to get back before her husband discovers her gone, she pleads with a taxi driver to take her home. Exploiting the situation he demands triple the normal fare, which she doesn’t have. So she starts to walk home and is attacked and killed by a stranger.

The question is, whose fault is it? Who is responsible for her death? The woman, her husband, her lover, the taxi driver or the killer? All of these? None of these?
It’s not a trick question and there is no right or wrong answer. Everyone will respond differently. When I first saw this, my answer was immediate, my judgement instant. Then I began to think about the way choices lead to consequences. How much more information, if any, do we need to consider our response? The process of answering these questions (and the reasons we give for our answers) is both a valuable springboard for our own creative narratives, and offers an insight into how and why we engage with characters in fiction.

If you get stuck writing your short story or novel, go back and see what would have happened if your character/s had made different choices. Which in turn might change another aspect of the story. Why are they motivated to behave the way they do? What would you do if you were them? If the story then ends differently, would it have started at a different place or point in time?
Is that why we write? Because we can’t help asking questions? What if we stopped exercising our imaginations? What then?

Footnote: I’m curious – who do you think was to blame for the woman’s untimely end? Would the response change if the characters and situations of the husband and wife had been reversed?

Jane’s recent e-book, Coming Home, is available from Amazon.co.uk and .com with all author royalties going to the charity Cats Protection.

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Guest Post – Devon Ellington


Today’s blog guest is the wonderful Devon Ellington who’s blog, Ink in My Coffee I’ve been reading for a while now :)

A full time writer who publishes under half a dozen names in fiction and non fiction her plays are performed all over the world. Devon’s work has appeared in numerous anthologies and she has had hundreds of articles published over the years. She also works as a fiction reviewer, freelance business writer and teaches online, with students across the globe.

Devon’s most recent publication, Old Fashioned Detective Work was released on March 4, 2013 by Solstice Publishing. A follow up to Hex Breaker it sees Jain Lazurus continuing her adventure.

Detective Wyatt East finds himself the primary suspect when hex breaker Jain Lazarus disappears after their romantic weekend in Vermont. In spite of the suspicions, Jain’s boss, Maitland Stiles, hires Wyatt to track her down, forcing him to face aspects of his own painful past and revealing more about hers.
Saddled with two rebellious runaway paranormal teens, he’s embroiled in a shapeshifter pack disagreement, and must learn to work with both a caustic dragon and a cantankerous mermaid to not only find Jain, but help her help an old friend who’s in over his head. Wyatt learns he is not without psychic abilities of his own, although he prefers old-fashioned detective work.

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Visit the Jain Lazurus site

Visit Billy Roots blog

Jain Lazarus Adventures on Facebook

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I got the opportunity to ask Devon a few questions….

Vikki:YOU PUBLISH IN SEVERAL DIFFERENT GENRES, WHICH DO YOU ENJOY WRITING THE MOST?

Devon:I like writing in all of them, which is why I keep shifting! ;) I think the story and characters have a lot to do with what genre I choose at a particular moment. If the characters and story are served best by mystery, then it’s mystery; by fantasy, then fantasy, and so forth. I think you can tell emotional truths clearly in fiction — in non-fiction, it often comes across as being on a soap-box, while in fiction, you’re demonstrating the cause-and-effect of choices.

Vikki:WHAT OR WHO, WAS THE INSPIRATION BEHIND JAIN LAZARUS?

Devon:The scene where she defends Nick and Billy from the zombie and the scene where they’re chased at night all came to me driving back from my own work on set (two different projects, two different nights). The scenes came fully formed, but I wasn’t sure about the context. Slowly, Jain kind of emerged from the mists, so to speak — here’s someone who’s good at her paranormal job, but she still works union wardrobe jobs to keep her health insurance! Working in theatre and film is all about creating magic and illusion anyway, so it was fun to lay paranormal/urban fantasy experiences over the practicality of creating illusion on set.

Vikki:DO YOU HAVE ANY OTHER BOOKS PLANNED FOR THE SERIES?

Devon:There will be seven books in the series. I’m almost finished with CRAVE THE HUNT, the third book in the series. It alternates from Jain’s POV and Billy Root’s POV. It’s really Billy’s coming-of-age book, where he finds himself and his path. He got a truly loyal fan following from HEX BREAKER, and I think they’ll be thrilled with how he evolves. Book three is a turning point for him, and although he’s a supporting character again in future books, I think his fans will continue to enjoy his growth. Book 4, LOVE AND FURY, is where everything Jain and Wyatt haven’t directly dealt with in their relationship comes back to bite them in the butt. I haven’t titled books 5-7 yet, but they’re in rough outline. There’s also room for some other characters to explore their stories, especially some of the supporting characters in CRAVE THE HUNT, should they capture readers’ imaginations.

I’m also juggling a bunch of other projects, so it’s a case of what is contracted when and the deadlines. My new play, MURDER “SEALS” THE DEAL, will be performed as a benefit for the National Marine Life Center on April 7 in Buzzards Bay (www.nmlc.org) and another play of mine, SEVEN OF SWORDS, will be read at Tilden Arts Center on March 1. So I’m in rewrites and rehearsals, and I’m juggling a couple of other novels and working with my agent on some interesting non-fiction proposals, too.

Vikki:WHO ARE YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHORS AND WHAT ARE YOU READING RIGHT NOW?

Devon:I have many favorite authors. Harriet Beecher Stowe, Louisa May Alcott, and Shakespeare continue to be top influences, always. I’ve been gorging myself on Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series lately — she’s the only contemporary writer I can think of who successfully uses third person omniscient without making the reader motion-sick. I enjoy Yasmine Galenorn, Juliet Blackwell, Donna Leon, John Dunning, Marc Fitten, Kevin Hearne, Nicole Peeler, Carol Shields, Thomas Mallon –the list goes on and on. I’m about to dive back into Emerson’s journals for a good long time.

Vikki:WHAT METHODS OF PUBLISHING HAVE YOU USED AND WHICH DO YOU PREFER?

Devon:I’ve mostly gone traditional publishing routes (although both print and digital), and I’ve got some of my shorter and more cross-genre work out independently. Both have their positives and negatives. I like the outside eyes that working with a traditional publisher provides, the editor (I’ve had some wonderful editors, I’m blessed), but they need to partner more in the marketing instead of dumping 90% on the author — we can’t sell it if we don’t have the breathing room to write it. I think that’s why so many authors are going independent — if the bulk of the work is on our shoulders anyway, why not? But if one is going to go independent, there still needs to be a schedule and the time and space to do good work and get outside eyes on it before it releases. That’s often next to impossible, for both financial and scheduling reasons.

Writers have the RIGHT to earn a living with their skills. We have bills to pay, and our skills are unique and viable, as much as any doctor or plumber. So this attitude that we should always do everything for free, that we don’t deserve to be paid for our WORK, has to change. No matter how much we love it, writing is still skilled work. We shouldn’t be punished because we love our jobs.

Vikki:ANY ADVICE FOR ASPIRING AUTHORS?

Devon:There’s no such thing as “not time to write.” Writing is a choice. Not writing is a choice. If you “don’t have time” to write, you don’t want it badly enough. Books don’t write themselves. If you want to write, put your butt in the chair every day and WRITE. No excuses.

Devon was kind enough to send me a couple of excerpts from the books and I have to say they’ve definitely pricked my interest :)

Thanks again Devon, good luck with the new book and i will definitely be following your advice! :) So what excuses do you come up with for not putting your butt in the chair? If you’re anything like me (the Queen of procrastination) just look what we’re missing out on! ;)

A Guest, A Give-Away and A Recipe!


You lucky lucky people :)

I don’t normally post on Wednesdays (apart from the IWSG) but, today, I have a very special guest for you :)

Nicky Wells writes fun and glamorous contemporary romance featuring a rock star and the girl next door. A signed author with U.S. publisher, Sapphire Star Publishing, Nicky is in the throes of publishing her Rock Star Romance Trilogy. Nicky loves rock music, dancing, and eating lobsters. When she’s not writing, Nicky is a wife, mother, and occasional teaching assistant.

Originally born in Germany, Nicky moved to the United Kingdom in 1993, and currently lives in Lincoln with her husband and their two boys. In a previous professional life, Nicky worked as a researcher and project manager for an international Human Resources research firm based in London and Washington, D.C.

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Visit Nicky on her blog where you can find articles, interviews, radio interviews and, of course, an ongoing update on her work in progress. You can also follow Nicky on Twitter and find her on Facebook. Nicky is a featured author on the innovative reader/author project, loveahappyending.com and has joined the Romantic Novelists Association. Nicky also has author pages at Sapphire, Amazon and, of course, Goodreads.

Her newest publication, Sophie’s Run was published earlier this month, the follow up to Sophie’s Turn which was published last September.

Her famous star remains her rock while life takes her on a little detour…
Who says that the road towards true love is straight and even? Sophie is certainly discovering that it is anything but.

So she has finally found the man of her dreams! Well… she knows who he is, even though she hasn’t actually quite met him yet. But she misses her opportunity, and then her life goes crazy. Rock star and ex-fiancé, Dan, keeps getting in the way of her new romance—even if he is just trying to be helpful. A fire, an impromptu mini-trip with Dan, and a dreaded wedding later, Sophie is still struggling to meet the love of her life. Then, just as she is getting it together with her perfect man, best friend Rachel commits an act of unspeakable betrayal.

Sophie has had enough. Confused and distraught, she decides that it is time for radical change. Surprising herself and shocking her friends, she embarks on a secret journey and eventually gets her life back on track.

Sophie’s Run is now available from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk You can also get the paperback at Barnes & Noble, or download Sophie’s Run onto your Nook (coming soon).

Come dine with Sophie and Dan: Today’s treat is… Fabulous Drunken Prawn Pasta!
Sophie’s Run Blogtour 2013

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Hey, you! My name is Sophie, and I’m so excited you’re visiting me here today at Vikki’s blog. I’m the heroine (God, that sounds weird—I still blush when I say that) in the Rock Star Romance Trilogy by Nicky Wells. Nicky and I, we’re currently taking her second book, Sophie’s Run, on tour, and we’re taking you to all the places and sharing all the food that features in the books. My love of seafood is legendary ever since Sophie’s Turn hit the shelves…

“And for mains,” Dan announced, “Sophie will have the seafood platter.” He winked at me over his menu.
“I will?” I said, astonished.
“She will?” Jack and Mick asked at the same time, also astonished.
Dan hesitated for only a second. “Sure.

(Excerpt from Sophie’s Turn)

… See? I had so many people commenting on my seafood consumption in the first book that Nicky toned the seafood references down just a little in Sophie’s Run, the second book… lest people think I’m obsessed. However, my essential shopping list remains the same:

At some point, I got hungry and did a mercy-dash to the supermarket by the Tube station, stocking up only on essentials for now. Milk, bread, butter, honey, chocolate, crisps, wine, a bottle of cava, pizzas, prawns, pasta…

(Excerpt from Sophie’s Run)

Prawns and pasta… oooh, a favourite combination and one that only takes minutes to make! Plus, it can be a healthy dish too—if you go easy on the crème fraiche and the wine, LOL!

For Fabulous Drunken Prawn Pasta (for two) you need…

~200 grams Spaghetti or Linguine
~200 grams of King prawns (raw or cooked)
~200 grams of white fish (cod, haddock, coley)
~1 garlic clove, crushed or chopped
~1 small onion, finely chopped
~a tablespoon of butter
~a sprinkling of fresh chopped parsley
~a big glass of white wine
~a couple of spoonfuls of half-fat crème fraiche
~salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste
~a handful of rocket (arugula) to serve (optional)

And here’s what you do. It’s quick and 100 percent foolproof!

Cook the pasta. Bring a large pan of water to the boil, add salt, put your pasta in, make sure it all submerges, and add a glug of olive oil (this may help stop the pan from boiling over). Follow packet instructions regarding cooking time!

While the pasta is boiling, fry the onion in a big frying pan in a knob of butter until it turns glassy. Add the fish (fresh or frozen; if frozen, fry until fish is just starting to flake). Add the prawns and cook until they turn pink (if cooking from frozen) or warm through (if pre-cooked). Don’t forget to keep an eye on your pasta pan!

When the fish and prawns are about ready, add the white wine, parsley and crème fraiche. Season with salt, pepper and a dash of lemon juice to taste. Turn down the heat but leave on stove until ready to serve.

If desired, shred some rocket (arugula) and distribute over two plates. Drain the pasta, then put it back in the pan and pour the prawn sauce over it. Stir through until the pasta is coated in the lovely, gooey, creamy, drunken sauce and spoon out over the two plates. (If you’re me, you’ll have to count out the prawns to ensure there’s fair shares!).

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And now you’re all dribbling, here’s the giveaway!

Sophie’s Run GIVEAWAYS

1) Standard Giveaway
Nicky Wells is giving away one delicious chocolate gift to a lucky winner in the UK or North America!

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The small print: This Gift prize is a product of Unique Chocolate. The Gift prize is subject to availability in your country. If the Gift prize is not available in your country, Nicky Wells reserves the right to offer a substitute gift prize of a similar nature at her discretion. Nicky Wells will require the winner’s postal address for shipping purposes.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

2. Bonus Giveaway
Nicky Wells offers a giveaway of one Amazon gift voucher worth $20/£15 for one lucky winner. To enter, simply share your thoughts on Sophie’s Run with Nicky. Email your comment to nickywells@sapphirestarpublishing.com and your name will be entered into the draw. Competition closes 1 May 2013.

CONGRATULATIONS Nicky! :)

I’m looking forward to reading it! Do enter Nickys free giveaway….you never know, you might just win!

Today…..An “Author” Is Born!


Today is the official publication day for Foxden Acres, the book written by my friend and fellow writer Madalyn Morgan. Maddie has thrown her heart and soul into this book, deciding to self publish via Kindle. I’m so pleased for her….she is an inspiration!

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So before she gets all rich and famous, I’ve had the opportunity to ask her a few questions about her experience of self publishing and the book that will turn her from writer to author…

Where did the idea for Foxden Acres come from?

It was a combination of things. My mother inspired me to write about the Second World War. The year before she died, mum said she’d like to give back a brass airplane to the young Polish pilot who had made it for her in 1940. Unfortunately, he had died, but I found his son. He was delighted to have the plane because it was a Wellington Bomber, which his father had flown in the RAF. It was this, as well as stories she told me about her siblings and the groom’s cottage she lived in on a country estate. She told me about the work she did in a factory, the RAF aerodromes, Bruntingthorpe and Bitteswell, the music she liked and the village dances she and her friends cycled to. I found it all fascinating.

I called the book (and the estate) Foxden, after a fox’s den. I was brought up in a pub called, The Fox Inn, and the first book I ever read was, Gone To Earth, by Mary Webb. I like Foxes. I hate foxhunting.

It’s the first part in a quartet isn’t it? Where will the story be going?

Foxden Acres is the first of four novels about the lives of four very different sisters during the Second World War. Each book is carefully time-lined with the events of WWII, as well as the other stories in the quartet. However, each book will stand alone and can be read in any order.
Foxden Acres is Bess Dudley’s story. On the eve of 1939, twenty-year-old Bess Dudley, trainee teacher and daughter of a groom, bumps into James, heir to the Foxden Estate. As children, Bess and James played together as equals, but now James is engaged to the socially acceptable Annabel Hadleigh. Bess takes up a teaching post in London but when war breaks out and the children are evacuated she returns to Foxden to organise a troop of Land Girls. Traditional barriers come crashing down when Flying Officer James Foxden falls in love with Bess. But by this time Bess has come to know and respect Annabel. Can she be with James if it means breaking her best friend’s heart? Besides, Bess has a shameful secret that she has vowed to keep from James at any cost…

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The second book, Applause, is about ambition – and is Margot Dudley’s story. At the beginning of the war, Margot leaves Leicestershire to live with her husband in London. Fiercely ambitious Margot works her way from being an usherette in a West End theatre, to leading lady. However, she soon finds herself caught up in a web of deceit, black-market racketeers, Nazis, drugs and alcohol.

The third book, China Blue, is about love and courage – and is Claire Dudley’s story. While in the WAAF Claire is seconded to the RAF’s Advanced Air Strike Force. She falls in love with Mitchell ‘Mitch’ McKenzie, an American Airman who is shot down while parachuting into France. At the end of the war, while working in a liberated POW camp in Hamburg she’s told Mitch is alive. Do miracles happen?

The fourth book, working title, The Bletchley Secret, is about strength and determination – and is the story of Ena, the youngest of the Dudley sisters. Ena works in a local factory. She is one of three young women who build components for machines bound for Bletchley Park during World War II. The Bletchley Secret costs her the love of her life. Some years after the war has ended, Ena, now happily married, is running a hotel with her husband when she encounters someone from her past.

So what made you decide to go down the self-publishing route?

I have submitted Foxden Acres to eighteen literary agents, and come close to getting representation three times. In between the second – who was very helpful – and the last agent, who kept me exclusive for five months, and still hasn’t committed, I met Jonathan Lloyd of Curtis Brown, at Foyles. I asked Jonathan if CB would consider representing a writer who had self-published their first novel. The answer was an unreserved, yes! “Self-publishing is very much part of the future and we need to embrace it. There are some great writers out there and we want them.” So, rather than wait another five months, with no guarantee that the agent will take me, I decided to go it alone. Having said that, I edited and proofread, edited and proofread, and when I felt the novel was ready for publication, I sent it to the professional proofreader that you recommended, Alison Neale, The Proof Fairy. It is being professionally uploaded to Amazon – books and Kindle – by Rebecca Emin and will be available on February 16th. Many books out there have not been edited, proofread, or formatted. Foxden Acres will not be one of them.

What Lessons have you learnt along the journey to publication?

Gosh! There are so many. Research is one. I don’t believe you should write about what you know, but I do believe you should know what you’re writing about. In other words, you must research your subject. I learned the importance of research when I chose to write novels set in the Second Wold War. Another lesson was learning to take criticism. Rejection I was used to. It’s an occupational hazard for an actress to be too tall, too short, too big, too small, but criticism… However constructive, criticism is hard to take, but it’s necessary if you want your writing to improve. Then there’s time. Learning to manage your time is another hard lesson. I was working long hours to pay the mortgage, while I was doing a writing course, and didn’t think I had time to read. “Then make time,” my tutor said. And she was right. It wasn’t long before I realised the importance of reading. So, managing your time is a great lesson to learn. There are many lessons to do with story and characterisation, but one of the most important is, plot. If you’re going on a journey you plan the route. So why would anyone think they can go on a journey through life without a plot? It’s only my way of working – and half way through the novel the plot will probably change – but that’s all right. Lastly, keeping character descriptions and notes. If you don’t, the jeans you so lovingly describe as midnight blue when she enters the restaurant, will come back to bite you on the bum, when you say she leaves the restaurant in black jeans.

What’s the best piece of writing advice anyone has given you?

Read, read, and read. Read well written books. There are millions of good books to choose from, why read rubbish.

Thank you soooo much Maddie, some great advice there, and CONGRATULATIONS! Honey!!!! I wish you every success :)

Foxden Acres will be available through Amazon – Books and Kindle – and Lulu from today.

Please drop in to the virtual launch party and say hello, anytime between 9am and 11pm (GMT) today. There will be a raffle and giveaways :)

Professional Editing?


I recently attended a talk by Journalist Susie Steiner (at Faber) who told us that she had used the services of a professional editor to go through her novel before she started to send it out to agents. She urged us to do the same saying that she was confident that it was one of the reasons her novel had ended up in a bidding war between a handful of the top London Agents. She believes that it is a small price to pay to appear professional and serious about publishing your novel. I tend to agree. Why not try to make your novel the best it can be before submitting it to agents and publishers?

So today’s blog guest to continue our editing theme is The Proof Fairy AKA Alison Neale.

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I’ve known Alison for a few years now (going back to our BookCrossing days!) and have watched her start her own business and build up her clients. Alison has written me a short article which, I think, is very interesting, especially to those of you who are considering going down the Indie route :)

A Quick Guide To Editing For Self-Publishing Authors

It seems strange, but only a few years ago it was difficult to become a published author. There were two routes – you were lucky enough to be picked up by a publisher, or you paid a dodgy company to “vanity publish” your book.

Now, of course, it’s different. The introduction of e-readers – especially Amazon’s Kindle – makes it easy for anyone to be an author. All you have to do is write a book, upload it and wait for the sales to roll in, right?

Wrong.

Many self-publishing authors cut corners by missing out the editing and proofreading stage. The result? Thousands of books out there with fantastic plots and characters that make very few sales because they are badly written. If only those authors had employed an editor, it could have been a different story!

Part of the problem is not everyone understands what editing involves. It’s not just about checking the spelling – it goes a lot further than that. In fact, there are three distinct stages of editing:

Content Editing
A content editor will “sanity check” your book by looking for plot holes, inconsistencies and inaccuracies. Many self-publishing authors use “beta readers” for this stage of the editing and that’s probably the best way to go about it. Call on a dozen trusted friends to tell you – honestly – what they think of your book. Take on board their feedback and make the appropriate changes. Your book will be all the better for it!

Copyediting
A copyeditor reads your book line by line looking for spelling and grammatical errors, clunky text and more. A good copyeditor will create a style list that includes particular phrases, character names and locations – for example, whether you use OK or okay – to ensure styles are used consistently throughout. They’ll also raise any queries with you.
In mainstream publishing you’ll normally receive your manuscript back from the copyeditor, make changes and then send it for proofreading – but many copyeditors also proofread as they go along.

Proofreading
A proofreader inspects the final page proofs to check there are no missed typos, the formatting is consistent, page numbers are in sequence etc. However, proofreading can actually happen alongside copyediting, making the process quicker and less expensive. Bear in mind that you need to have your book (or parts of it) proofread every time you make changes, as it’s easy for mistakes to creep in.

Don’t be fooled into thinking editing is something you can do yourself. By the time you’ve planned, written, rewritten and edited your book, you will be so familiar with the plot and the characters you’ll overlook even the most obvious mistakes. For example, I once proofread a novel where a character’s name switched from Tracey to Tracy and back again from chapter to chapter. The author knew what the character was called but just didn’t spot the change in spelling – because he was too close to the book.

There are thousands of self-published books out there and you want to stand out from the crowd. Editing may be an expense you don’t feel you can justify – but when it makes the difference between a handful of sales and a best seller, it’s an expense you shouldn’t avoid.

Alison Neale, AKA The Proof Fairy offers professional proofreading and editing to authors and business owners. Based in Oxfordshire, she reads anything she can get her hands on! She is currently partway through writing her own book, about parenting a child with ADHD. Away from the office she loves football, food and family – not necessarily in that order!

Take a look at some of the books Alison has worked on.

Have you ever used or considered using a professional editor?

Almost Perfect – Editing Advice From Joanne Phillips


Today’s ‘Editing Advice’ comes from Joanne Phillips who’s blog is excellent for advice and tips on eBook publishing. Back in May Jo published her first book through Kindle, called Can’t Live Without which has an average of 4.9 stars on Amazon and 4.11 stars on Good Reads.

Jo has recently published a selection of short stories, A Life Unpredicted and is currently preparing her 2nd novel for digital publication, The Family Trap.

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I recently listened to an interview with Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Carole Shields, who said she enjoyed writing poetry because it was possible to get a poem just about perfect. But not a novel. Novels, she said, are too long to get completely right. When Vikki asked me to write a post about editing, this was the first thing that sprung to mind. I think the best place to start is by accepting you will probably never get it absolutely perfect. And go from there.

So, if you’ve just finished Nano and have a good 50,000 words sitting in front of you, or if you’ve some other unpolished, unedited or generally rough draft calling ‘Look at me!’ from your computer, here are my top tips for the editing process – from as-rough-as-they-come to almost-perfect.

1. First, read it in a different form. I like to quickly format my first drafts for Kindle and read them on that, but anything that is different to the form in which you wrote the draft will work. If you have to read it on your computer screen then at least save it as a pdf. This does two things: it enables you to see the story in a different way, and it stops you making changes as you go along. At this stage just read it. Make notes. What do you enjoy? What bores you? Try to go macro not micro – focus on the bigger picture. This is probably the hardest stage: not the hardest work-wise, but the hardest psychologically. You’ll probably think it’s rubbish. If you get any external feedback at this stage you might be put off it for life. But remember, you can’t edit until you have something to work on, and you’ve already put in the time to get this far. No matter what you think, keep going.

2. Plan your first re-write. Next I make up a kind of scene-by-scene list, describing each scene (not chapter) in one sentence. This is a technique I learned from the excellent Roz Morris, whose book Nail Your Novel is full of great editing advice. If you can, get the whole book on one or two sheets of paper. Then get out the red pen and make any structural changes. This is the structural edit, where you might move things around, make a scene from the middle the start of the novel, or cut or add an entire subplot.

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3. Don’t re-write yet! At this stage I write my blurb. I try to get it perfect. Imagine what will end up on the back of the book, or your pitch to an agent. Once you get it right – and remember you are describing the kind of book you want it to be, not the kind of book it is right now – pin it up where you can see it. It will help keep you focused when you start re-writing.

4. Now I start re-writing, following my new plan, and ironing out any other problems – typos, spelling, inconsistencies etc – along the way. This can take a long time, and depending on the book and the changes you decide to make, can involve two or three more run-throughs of the process above. As you get closer to the overall structure you want, begin another read-through – this time in Word – focusing more closely on the language, atmosphere, setting etc. Really get inside the text, analyse each sentence, make sure every word is the right one for the job. This is the line-by-line edit, and this is the most fun. (I think so, anyway.) J

What can you do if you get stuck? If you read your work and just hate it? Should you give up and start something else, or just keep plugging away? In my opinion, writing – even the hard work of writing, which is what re-writing and editing is – should be fun. If you’re not enjoying it, then maybe put the book aside for a while and start something else. But if you have a contract or a deadline this might not be possible. Then you have to find a way to fall back in love with your book.

Often, once any structural problems have been sorted out, what most people end up with is a sense of flatness. Rarely do people struggle with editing because their novel is too exciting or pacy. Here are some tips for injecting life into a lifeless manuscript:

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Think contrast. Contrast is good for the reader. Try to make sure you regularly change between settings, viewpoint characters (if multiple viewpoint), fast paced and slow paced sections, dialogue and description. Inject some humour, even in a sad scene, or add a sense of sadness to a funny scene. Contrast characters with each other – give your heroine a friend who acts as counterpoint; make your characters as different from each other as possible. Contrast speech patterns in dialogue.

Surprise yourself. If you think a scene is boring, throw something into the mix. Stuff happens, even during arguments (the electricity suddenly cuts off, the postman knocks at the door, the neighbour’s dog starts going crazy), and it can lead off in a different direction and provide (you guessed it) contrast.

Go with the senses. Everyone says this, but you’re bound to have one or two senses you lean towards in your writing. I’m visual and auditory, but rarely does it occur to me to describe how something smells or tastes. This can add telling detail and bring your work to life.

So, be brave, take a deep breath, and jump right in. Editing does not have to be scary. And it doesn’t have to be perfect. But it will be hard work. And it will definitely be worth it.

Thank you so much Jo! Some great advice there. I hope you all found it as helpful as I did. :)

Yes, senses….I am so guilty of not thinking about sound and smell. Which of the senses are you guilty of forgetting?

Dealing With Negative Reviews – J. Keller Ford


I’ll do my Faber post tomorrow, because today I have a very special guest :)

J. (Jenny) Keller Ford is a quirky mother of four, grand-mother and scribbler of young adult fantasy tales. She has an insatiable appetite for magic, dragons, knights and faeries, and tries to weave at least one into every story she conceives. Her muse follows her everywhere and talks incessantly, feeding her ideas for stories 24/7.

When she’s not torturing her characters mercilessly, J. Keller enjoys living in sunny Florida, listening to smooth jazz, collecting seashells, swimming, bowling, riding roller coasters and reading. Her most loyal fans (beside her family) consist of two Australian Shepherds, a mixed-breed hippy dog, and a precocious orange cat, all of whom believe J. Keller is their slave. She thinks they might be right.

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Jenny has recently been published in the Make Believe Anthology and today, is talking about…..

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Dealing With Negative Reviews

Actor Anthony Hopkins once said, “My philosophy is: It’s none of my business what people say of me and think of me. I am what I am and I do what I do. I expect nothing and accept everything. And it makes life so much easier.”

It’s a philosophy that has taken me a little time to realize, but I finally got it.

I think it’s important to understand I’ve always been someone who craved approval. I need it, even now. It must be the Leo in me coming out. I’m a perfectionist. I have to have things certain ways and I need to know I’m appreciated. It’s a part of who I am.

It’s no wonder then that I craved approval when I first started writing. I was actually terrified to throw my work out to the public, frightened by what they would think. Self-doubt and I became great friends, until the day Desire knocked on my back door. Next thing I knew, I joined an online critique site. Talk about a rollercoaster ride. Some critiques gushed with praise. Others seemed to trash everything I wrote. Self-doubt told me to stop. Desire screamed, “Do it again and again! Don’t you dare give up!” I joined other writer sites, other blogs. I met up with some fantastic beta readers who weren’t afraid to show me the flaws in my writing while keeping me motivated and focused.

Then one day this past Spring, it happened. I got my first offer of publication. I was elated. All the hard work, all the dedication, all the long hours of honing the craft of writing finally paid off. A publisher wanted MY story.

The next few months were dedicated to heavy doses of Marketing 101 and I was still riding high on the publishing wave. Then the end of November came and the ARCs (advanced reader copy) went out to various readers and reviewers. A new visitor came to see me: Anticipation, and I found myself wondering once again if ‘they’ were going to like it.

Anthologies are a double-edge sword as they contain a review of the anthology itself, and then individual reviews. MAKE BELIEVE has garnered at least twenty reviews and has phenomenal ratings. I think I can speak for all six authors when I say we’re thrilled to see the anthology so well received.

As for my story, The Amulet of Ormisez? Well, let’s just say it hasn’t been one of the ‘better’ received stories. Everything I tried so hard to do right turned out so wrong. Self-doubt cackled and sat her big rear-end on top of me and wouldn’t move…that is until I got a few virtual smacks along with a few stern words from my beta readers and my daughter. They reminded me that my publisher, who is VERY picky about what they publish, believed in my story enough to publish it. It took my daughter to remind me that a lot of people HATED Harry Potter and many reviewers claimed there were plot holes all over the place. “Ha!” she said. “Do you think Rowling cares what they think?” Another friend reminded me that even Stephen King is not a stranger to bad reviews, but does that stop him from writing? The kicker came when a friend said to me, “Stop caring about what other people think. The only opinion about you that matters is your own.” Something clicked.

So, here I am, a published author and stronger and wiser for the wear. I’ve weathered the ‘review’ storm of my first published piece, and you know what, it wasn’t that bad. Some people loved my story. Some didn’t. That’s okay. My writing isn’t going to appeal to everyone nor should it. As the incomparable Anthony Hopkins said, “It’s none of my business what people say of me and think of me. I am what I am and I do what I do. I expect nothing and accept everything. And it makes life so much easier.”

Amen, Mr. Hopkins. Amen.

Thank you so much Jenny, I really enjoyed that. And like you say, even Stephen King gets bad reviews! Are you dreading that first bad review? Have you had one? How did you deal with it? I seriously think I will cry lol, my critique at Faber was bad enough!

Check out Jenny’s Excellent Blog (I’ve been a follower for a while now) and if you’d like to purchase a copy of Make Believe its available now on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk as a download for Kindle. I’ve already added it to my wish list ;)

Editing A Novel – Tips From Della Galton


Continuing our theme of editing this month I have a very special guest today *grins*

Today’s blog guest is the wonderful Della Galton who is a working writer (just tap her name into Amazon!!!) and agony aunt for Writers Forum Magazine. She has had over 1,000 short stories published in national magazines in the UK, and throughout the world.

Editing A Novel
So you’ve written a novel at top speed – what now? Package it up and send it out to all the publishers and agents in the Writer’s Handbook? Hold on just two ticks. Here are my top five editing tips.

Tip One
Put it to one side for at least a fortnight, preferably longer, a month is good. Then you can go back to it with your cool editor’s head, not your passionate writer’s head.

Tip Two
Read it through in its entirety. Make some notes based on these points.
Does it begin in the right place?
Is it in the right viewpoint?
Does the plot work?
Is the main character really the main character?
Is the middle saggy?
How is the dialogue – good, bad or indifferent?
Can you tell the characters apart?
Does it end well?

Tip Three
Rewrite, based on your notes.

Tip Four
Repeat Tip One.

Tip Five
Edit again, as follows:

Cut Repetition
For me, the number one fault in first drafts is repetition. I often repeat myself when I write a first draft, both in meaning and with words. I don’t know whether it’s they way my brain works, but I’ll very often find that I’ve repeated a word either in the same paragraph or in the one below. It’s almost as if my writing brain is saying, that’s a good word, we’ll have another one of those, shall we?

I also have favourite words. You’ll have your own, but these are some of mine: just; quite; suddenly; that; and bit. I sometimes use the word search facility to go through and delete these words in my final edit.

Another way of repetition is to say the same thing in a different way.

And standing there in the sun, on that dusty afternoon Pam realised she’d never felt quite so happy in her life, which wasn’t all that surprising when she thought about it. Pottering around a car boot sale was one of her favourite ways to spend a Sunday morning.

These two sentences are both telling us that Pam is happy. Only one of them is needed, although in the end I discarded both in favour of showing Pam being happy rather than directly telling the reader.

Check for overused punctuation
I’m also rather fond of dashes – I litter them through my work – and it’s a difficult habit to break. You’ll find plenty besides the two in this paragraph that I’ve put in deliberately.

A good rule is that less is more. Be sparing with exclamation marks. They tend to be very visible.

Watch for telling when you’ve already shown

This is effectively another form of repetition. There is no need to show the reader something and then tell them as well.

i.e. Tears streamed down Laura’s face. She was very unhappy.

Cut adverbs
Fashions change, but I am of the opinion that adverbs should be used sparingly. They tend to weaken writing, rather than strengthen it. If possible use a strong verb instead. For example, instead of saying, he ran quickly, try he raced.

Cut clichés
Most clichés came into being because they were the perfect way to say something. So why change them? The answer to this, I think, is that anything we hear too often is less meaningful – after a while it loses its meaning, and hence its impact, altogether.

They will certainly not make your writing original.

These are two good reasons to try and avoid them.

And finally, is it possible to over edit?
At the risk of contradicting myself, then I’d say, yes it is. Our first work tends to be a splurge of words that pour out – well they pour out on a good day! On a bad day it might feel more like pulling teeth with no anaesthetic. First drafts have a rawness about them and hopefully a sparkle. And I think that it’s possible to take this sparkle out with too much editing.

I’ve seen writers who have actually managed to polish all the sparkle away from their original piece, leaving a final draft that is flat and rather emotionless. Please be careful – but in the final analysis you’ll have to trust your instincts about when enough is enough. This gets much easier with time and experience.

Thank you so much Della, some great tips there!

If you found that useful, (i know i did!) nip over to Amazon where you can download Della’s eBook The Short Story Writer’s Toolshed – Your Quick Read, Straight-To-The-Point Guide To Writing and Selling Short Fiction (Writer’s Toolshed Series)

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Originally written as a series for Writers’ Forum Magazine, this snappy, no-nonsense guide has been expanded, amended and updated. Using new examples from her own published short fiction, Della Galton takes you from ‘story idea’ to ‘final edit’, and demonstrates how to construct and polish the perfect short story, ready for publication.

Ahhhh, yes, repitition lol….I have a HUGE problem with that. Did any of those tips strike a chord (CLICHE ALERT lol) with you? ;)