Friday, 18 June 2021

What a Year – Its Strange Effects, Also Reflections on the Generosity of Authors


First things first! Leah Fleming, old friend, RNA member and reader of this blog pointed out that The Oxford Concise Dictionary of Quotations is a brilliant source of titles! And, of course, she is right.

So back to it!

This has surely been a year like no other – apart from 2020. The more things change the more they stay the same.

For me, the worst part of lockdown has been the physical isolation from family and friends, especially from my writing friends. At the time of writing, we have just had Covid restrictions extended for another month. It will be almost two years before we can see our younger daughter. At least we can see her sister and our granddaughter and hug THEM. When you are a grandparent, it takes extraordinarily little to keep you happy, and there IS light at the end of the tunnel.

Hopefully, my brain fog will lift, too. It’s probably part of advancing age and decrepitude, but we also find ourselves anchored inside a small circle of activities, and for both of us, all our energy has disappeared. We are both remarkably keen on a nap in the afternoon nowadays!  Still a change will be as good as a rest (surely). It may help stop the feeling of life being sucked from our brains!


July 1st is the middle day of the year, and also Canada Day, and my birthday. Also last year it was the day that the 2020 version of “Children in Read” was announced.

For those who have no idea what this is, it’s now a major charity fundraiser for the BBCs Children in Need appeal. Last year, it attracted about 600 contributing authors and raised almost £22,000. It was founded by a Liverpool businessman, Paddy Heron, who continues to organise and drive the event forward from year to year. Now in its seventh year, it has raised increasingly larger amounts each year.

Paddy normally “opens the shop” to donations in early July. Most authors are only too happy to donate a book. Children in Need, and Children in Read are both excellent causes to be associated with and have the highest approval of almost any charity in the UK. Last year I got involved and approached Jo Rowling and Philip Pullman, among others. Jo Rowling donated a copy of The Ichabod, and that went for £800. Philip Pullman donated three signed bookplates, and they went for about £350. Members of the Romantic Novelists Association seem to have taken the event to heart – about 200 members donated one or more books.

Once they are open, to donate a book is so easy! Just email Paddy Heron at or Tweet (DM) to him (and Follow him) at @ChildrenInRead and tell him you would like to donate a book. All genres and all age-groups are welcome,  BUT NOT YET! 

What does Paddy need? Your name, with a “head shot” photo, your book title and a “cover shot” photo, your bio, and the “book blurb”. He also needs your Author web page and Twitter address. BUT NOT YET!

After the Auction, on November 13th, Paddy and the team will contact you with the details of the winning bid.  You then sign a copy of your book and post it to the winner!

Could it be easier, or more worthwhile? I don’t think so! 

Apart from being a great charity (Children in Need is arguably the best-known charity in the UK) I also see this as an outstanding promotion for ALL participating authors. To be there, on display, on an equal footing with the great and the good from ALL levels and genre of authors in the UK, is fantastic for “putting yourself out there”.  The auction website also comes with “share buttons” for Facebook and Twitter, making it extremely easy indeed to publicise your own generosity, and both the Charity and the Auction.

The costs for this are derisory – for me that works out at around £10 for the cost of a book, an envelope and UK postage. You would be mad not to!!!

And for Readers? You see the widest choice of books in ALL genres, waiting for YOUR bid. From Kate Mosse to Lucinda Riley and Tom Kerridge, and of course, JK Rowling and Philip Pullman!

If your bid wins, you receive a signed and usually dedicated copy of the book – and ALL the money that you bid at auction goes straight to Children in Need!

On the hedgehog front we are having regular visits every night from what I think are two “boars”. No sign of any hedge-sows or hoglets yet, but we live in hope. Hedgies are very much solitary animals, and certainly “do not play well with others!” Their main reactions to each other are pushing and shoving matches, usually ending with the smaller hog assuming the “ball” position until the coast is clear.

And to close - remember, Carpe Diem!! Life sucks, but it's still better than the alternative, 
and I will let you know as soon as Paddy opens the Auction.



Saturday, 12 June 2021


Over the past year I’ve focused on flash fiction writing, completing how-to courses and entering competitions. One piece of advice that is repeated over and over is to choose your story title with care. This makes sense with flash fiction as competition entries usually sit around 250 to 500 words, some pushing the writer even further by allowing only 100 words. With such little material to play with and perhaps hundreds of entries to read, it’s understandable that judges prefer a title that shines. 

And much the same goes for a short story or novel. A title must be memorable, unique, intriguing, genre-appropriate. One that says to the reader ‘pick me, pick me.’ If this all sounds a touch daunting, never fear, as a quick internet search revealed some creative and quirky ways to come up with imaginative and winning story titles… 


The first thing I stumbled across was a list of random story title generators. Who knew such things existed? Most are FREE and they are more sophisticated than you might at first think, with different generators focusing on specific genres - Romance, Fantasy, Horror, Non-Fiction, Crime, Mystery, Children's and Comic Book titles. Even if they don't provide the perfect title for your piece, it's still helpful to have a go and hopefully find some inspiration along the way. Click on the link to discover a list of the Best Book Title Generators 2021, shared from the Kindlepreneur blog… FIND YOUR NEXT STORY TITLE HERE!


If your protagonist is a strong character, worthy of attention, then why not be bold and use their name as the title. My latest book group read was Angel by Elizabeth Taylor (the 20th century novelist, not Elizabeth Taylor the actress). The plot, as well as a cast of minor characters, revolved around Angel, so it made perfect sense that her name should be on the cover. Other examples that spring to mind are Oliver Twist, Jane Eyre, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Rebecca, A Man Called Ove. Daniel’s Daughter by team member, Victoria Cornwall is another fine example. 

Use a character name...


One purpose of the story title is to offer a hint as to what is to come, so it can be useful to consider the content and entice the reader with an attention-grabbing statement.  Excellent examples of this include The Hunger Games, The Devil Wears Prada, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, The Book Thief. Not forgetting great reads by our own team members including The Witness by Terry Lynn Thomas, and The Girl I Left Behind by Andie Newton 

Entice with attention-grabbing statements...


One of the joys of reading is being transported to another time or place and it can be useful for readers to know where they are headed. One of the easiest ways to do this is to signal the location in the title. Who could resist being swept away by the following; A Passage to India, The Paris Library, The Mermaid of Black Conch. We also have two fantastic examples from team members Kathleen McGurl (The Daughters of Red Hill Hall) and Linda Mitchelmore (Summer at 23 The Strand). 

Transport the reader to a fab location...


Still need inspiration? Then try reading some well-loved poetry or favourite song lyrics. All the following titles began life in a poem; The Lovely Bones, Of Mice and Men, Far From the Madding Crowd, I Know Why A Caged Bird Sings. Our own John Jackson's, Heart of Stone shares its title with both a beautiful poem and popular song.

Turn to poetry for inspiration...

So, if you are a writer, how do you choose a title? Do you have tricks or tips not already shared?  

I hope these pointers are handy, but most of all I wish you fun creating a whole stack of winning story titles.

Rae x


Saturday, 5 June 2021

Basic Instinct - friend or foe?

Instinct: the way people or animals naturally react or behave, without having to think or learn about it

Cambridge Dictionary

I read somewhere once that instinct is a subconscious lesson learned which surface to keep you from making the same mistakes. I know, from experience, that instinct plays a large role in our day to day lives. It can be helpful, it can be protective, but it can also be crippling. Perhaps I should add a disclaimer here - I am not a mental health professional, just a writer musing on life in general and with a blog post to fill. I am also vaguely familiar that there are many categories of instinct such as herd instinct. I am going to concentrate on that internal gut voice that inwardly communicates with you when you didn't ask it to. Now back go my blog post...

What has instinct got to do with creativity?  

There have been many times when I have been writing a scene and my instinct kicks in. I have a growing sensation that the scene is not going in the right direction. I know, instinctively, that I need a little more passion or a twist to add more energy to the plot. I did not plan the plot this way, but as I write my instinct tells me that this chapter just isn't right. I have never taken a creative writing course in my life, so it is not a lesson I have learned, but I know where I 
subconsciously acquired this instinct and it began on the day that I picked up my first novel to read.

It developed gradually, but mainly during my negative reading experiences when I have grown to dislike the hero or heroine, the plot direction or how the book is written. I have wasted countless hours reading a book I dislike just so I can finish it (I can't give up on a book, I have to finish it).  This is a good example of turning a bad experience to good use.

However, in my opinion, if negative experiences can develop an instinct that can be used in a positive way, negative experiences can also develop an instinct that, although trying to be protective, can have negative outcomes. For example, if you have received several rejections for your manuscript, your instinct might be to not submit the manuscript again. You have subconsciously learned rejection is painful and that you are not good enough to get published so why bother and be hurt again. This instinct is protecting you from future hurt and rejection... but I am not sure this instinct is always a good instinct to follow.  People say that every journey is made of small steps and that failure is a path to success. Sounds daunting and not much fun to tread.

It is not always easy to fight against our instincts. It is not always easy to know when to fight against them or when to follow them. I guess all we can do is consider the possible outcome and ask ourselves this question... will this situation put me in harm's way? If it won't, than perhaps we should question why our instinct is telling us to flee/reject/avoid/ignore and is there anything we can do to improve the outcome and be braver/more adventurous/more determined. 

Every event is a learning experience and can be positive and negative. Your instinct is there to help you and we must learn to let it help us... but we must also learn to not let it control us. After all, changing our thoughts and how we deal with our negative experiences could change our lives for the better.

What are your thoughts on instinct? Can you think of a circumstance when it has helped or hindered you? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Saturday, 22 May 2021

The Great Scrivener Debate

Hands up if you’ve used Scrivener.

(Barely raises hand)

Starting a new novel is always exciting. I’m writing my fifth historical now, and I’ve never used Scrivener. I always tell myself… next time. Next time I’ll use it, figure it out, give it a try! Now that “next time” is here, and guess what? I gave up in like 2-seconds flat. Actually, it was after two days.

I’ve been researching the content for my novel for weeks! I’m sick to death of the research, I have to tell you. I have my outline done. I even did something new (to me) and wrote out an entire chapter timeline on butcher paper and marked all the major events. It’s a roll of paper and I hooked it on a hanger and have it hanging in my kitchen on the sliding door curtain rod. I’d show you, but then I’d have to kill you because all my novel’s juicy bits are on there. But I look at it every day, and remind myself… this is what I’m following.

But back to Scrivener. I registered for the free 30-day trial. 30. Days. That is pretty generous, I think. Anyway, my first mistake was sitting down to figure it out the moment I was ready to start drafting chapters. Silly rabbit!

I found it awkward to navigate, but in the same breath I watched the tutorial videos and… WOW! There are a lot of handy features. The notecards look like an amazing feature. If only I can figure out how to use them myself. Or even start a new chapter after I click the scene tab.

Perhaps I’m just resistant to change? I am pretty set in my ways. My desk is full of notebooks, and when I can’t reach one, I scratch ideas on napkins, sticky notes and even on the back of envelopes (I love to write ideas on bills). I’ve created a messy filing system that up until now has served me well.

(Not my real desk, but pretty close)

But I know there is a better way, and maybe Scrivener is the answer. According to the tutorials, Scrivener takes all these note scratches, research, outlines, character sketches and all the rest of it and complies it into a nice digital notebook. Wouldn't that be nice?

I’m giving it another try this weekend.

Have you used it? What was your experience?

Friday, 14 May 2021

The Book Launch That Wasn't

On April 23, my book The Witness made its way out into the world. This was my eighth published novel, but the release of this book was completely different than those which came before. I’ve been a published author since 2015, when my first novel, The Spirit of Grace, was published by Black Opal Books. For my first book I was able to do a talk at my public library, sit for a five minute segment on my local news channel, and with the help of a couple of friends, have an actual party where I practiced my book talk in front of people who I knew wouldn’t laugh at me if I messed up. I practiced, rehearsed, and worked my tail off, so I could bring my first book child out into the world in a professional way.

As the years went by and future books released, I developed a readership and figured out what worked best for me. By the time House of Lies, the third Cat Carlisle made its way out into the world, I HAD A SYSTEM! Namely, I would flood my schedule with Facebook Live events, blog tours where I provided content, and a handful of author takeovers on various social media pages. Believe me when I tell you this schedule was a wonderful, exciting, flurry of bookish celebrations that left this writer totally and utterly enervated.

And then came Covid… No need to spend a lot of time belaboring the state of the world since March of 2020, when everything came to a screaming halt as countries far and wide dealt with the blow after devastating blow resulting from the global pandemic that still affects us today. Although my family and I were lucky enough to be able to hunker down at home, stress and exhaustion as we tried to navigate new waters have definitely taken their toll. I had notes in my calendar in February and March to reach out to social media influencers to book events for my release. I ignored them, and The Witness released with little fanfare. And you know what? I’m totally okay with that. People who read this book seem to like it, and – most importantly – I had the best time writing it! At the end of the day, as we writers worry over covers, marketing, reviews, and the dreaded Amazon algorithm, we must all remember why we signed on for this crazy making career: because we love to write and love to tell stories. That’s what is important. Everything else is gravy.

I have another book releasing in November. I’m not sure what I’ll do on launch day. And that’s okay with me.

Do you have a book coming out this year and if so what do you have planned? Drop a comment below and let me know how the pandemic has changed things for your writing life.

All the best,


Saturday, 1 May 2021

Putting My Head Above the Parapet

A couple of months ago, I got the shock of my life (almost) when an invitation arrived from the lovely Rae Cowie asking if I’d like to join the Not-So-Secret Seven. This is the team that produce the consistently good Novel Points of View blog.

I must have hummed and hawed for ages – possibly as much as two milliseconds before deciding to accept! The phrase “with alacrity” comes to mind.

The Not-So-Secret-Six-plus-Me are all fellow romantic novelists and fellow members of the Romantic Novelists Association.

Being asked to join such a team carries its own responsibilities. Luckily, the group generates its own strength. To tell the truth, I was sincerely flattered to be asked to join.


So a bit about me. I’m male, large, old, a former sailor, and write historical novels based around a singularly colourful bunch of characters in my family tree. These include:

Robert Rochfort, Earl of Bellfield and of Belvedere. A complete and utter bastard.

Jane Rochfort, his daughter, Lady Lanesborough and who was one of the “Faro Ladies.”

John King, her second husband, who seems to have been a dodgy Jewish moneylender. He wasn’t.

Henry Dumaresq, my Great-great-grandfather, who joined Wellington’s army in 1808 as an ensign and finished up as Lt. Colonel at Waterloo and aide-de-camp to General Byng.

Stephen Harvey James and his son, also Stephen, opened up the Crown Mine at Botallack. Stephen, his son, was also the mine’s last Purser.

ALL of them and more have stories to be written about them, their lives and their loves. I’ve done the first, and I’m working on the second. All of them are worth Googling. All of them are usefully dead, so they can’t sue, too! Should I live long enough there are absolutely LOADS more, too. No one properly famous, but all interesting!

By the way, it’s worth remembering that about one-third of the UK population can claim descendancy from King Edward III. This includes Danny Dyer, so on that basis, at least 2 of the others in the Not-So-Secret-Seven must be related to me. I wonder which two?


Apart from writing, I also do a fair bit of back-office work for the RNA, including setting up the Author Profiles on the RNA Webpage. This has been and continues to be quite fascinating.

Some people take full advantage of their “profile space”. They write something about themselves and their writing that will be attractive to readers old and new, while others prefer a sparse listing. There are even some who don’t want a profile up at all! I find this a little odd, as this is free advertising for you and your books. It is also very much part of your “brand” and will say much the same as on your Amazon page or your website.

After doing over 1000 profiles, it’s still fun to put them up for people. Here are the profiles of three of my fellow bloggers.



And now, a word about hedgehogs!

We retired to a small village just north of York (Old York, in the UK) a few years ago. Access to our garden is relatively open plan. It backs on to what was an old orchard full of fruit trees, which now forms the large back garden for one of the original farmhouses in the village.

In our second year here, we were sat out one warm summer night when we saw our first hedgie, just bumbling around in one of the borders.

The following day I put a hole in the fence to the old orchard, and we started to put food out for them.

Then our daughters bought me a trail cam!

Ever since, and about 5 cameras later (they don’t last forever), we have both been finding hours of entertainment from them. Every year, they have come back to the garden, where they do great work eating garden pests.

We have had as many as 5 in the garden at once! This year they are back. Just two of them so far, but the hoglet season will be upon us next month.

It’s easy to see why they are Britain’s favourite animal, and as it happens, this week is Hedgehog Awareness Week!

Enjoy! And don't forget to subscribe and share!








Saturday, 24 April 2021



The rise in social media means now there's a 'day' for everything, and when World Earth Day (focusing on how to preserve the earth's resources) and World Book Night (celebrating reading for pleasure) fell during the same week, it got me thinking about my reading habits, how environmentally friendly (or not) they are, and how they've changed over the years.

World Earth Day and World Book Night


As an aside, World Book Night is offering a collection of Stories To Make You Smile for FREE, which includes pieces by Katie Fforde, Dorothy Koomson, Veronica Henry, Richard Madeley and more, which is available to download in e-book here... STORIES TO MAKE YOU SMILE

A free collection of uplifting stories for World Book Night...

Back to my bookaholic tendencies, and just how environmentally friendly are my reading habits?


When thinking about e-books, I felt quite virtuous. I wasn't amongst the first to adopt an e-reader but, once I had one, quickly converted to buying more e-books than paperbacks. A quick audit shows I currently have 523 on Kindle. Number read - 119. Given I read around 50 books per year, it will take me 8 years to complete my Kindle collection. I was shocked! I comforted myself that these numbers were less wasteful than if I'd bought paperbacks.


Time to confront my paperback addiction... I always buy my monthly book club read in paperback form, as well as having a favourite list of authors I love to see on my bookshelf. Then there are the novels I know I'll wish to share with family, with friends. Also, I prefer to read shorter fiction in paperback  - short stories, flash fiction, poetry. And non-fiction too.

Last week, I invested in yet another bookcase. The Rose Metal Press Field Guild to Writing Flash Fiction arrived whilst writing this post! I didn't dare count the paperbacks dotted in stacks around the house, but a rough estimate of ones still to be read sits around 150. Again, using my 50 books per year reading rate, this will take me 3 years to complete.

So far, I have enough reading material to keep me occupied for the next 11 years!


Over the past year, the most dramatic change in my reading habits has been the increased number of audiobooks completed. I use a variety of platforms, which made it difficult to work out how many I own. However, I can say with confidence that I have 36 still waiting to be read. Given it takes me a fortnight to finish an audiobook, this means I have enough listening to last well over a year.


It would be fair to say I suffer from tsundoku, the Japanese word for purchasing more literature than I have time to read.


I suspected my book buying habit was hefty, but even I was surprised by the stats and know I can do better - particularly as far as my teetering paperback piles are concerned. That said, I wish to continue to support authors, but my book audit has highlighted that I need to be more thoughtful about the format I chose, and speed up my reading!

So, have your reading habits changed over the years? Do you suffer from tsundoku? How do you decide which format is best when purchasing a book?

Also, remember to bag your FREE e-copy of Stories To Make You Smile... 

Happy reading!

Rae xx