Saturday, 28 November 2015

Life imitating art by Jennifer Young

Image is a screenshot from BBC News
I’ve been hugging myself with glee as I read the news this week, most inappropriately. It’s not because I find the news — any of it — particularly cheering, because who does right now? But one story has just got me gripped.

I’ve blogged before about the problems of researching my current work in progress, a story about a woman who discovers that her anarchist ex-boyfriend is really an undercover policeman — but not until she’s fallen in love with one of his colleagues. This week the news story that’s taken my attention reflects the situation from which I began. It’s the story of the Met Police apologising and paying compensation for having allowed, routinely and over a period of decades, some of their undercover officers to seduce female activists in order to infiltrate ‘undesirable’ organisations.

I wanted to jump up and down and shout ‘yes!’ because although the story hasn’t helped very much in terms of my research, it did serve to validate a lot of my thinking. The actual workings of undercover policing are as elusive as before, as evidenced by a remarkably po-faced reply from the College of Policing to a not-particularly-sensitive information request that ‘in the interests of security we can neither respond to nor comment on your questions’. But the news has exposed the feelings of those who were targeted.

That was what I was trying to get to. Once my heroine, Bronte, learned the truth about her ex-lover Eden, she was unable to let him go, no matter how much she knew she should, how much it might cost her in terms of both her new relationship and possibly even her life. She had to challenge him, find out how he could possibly treat her like that. For her own peace of mind she had to make him understand that what he’d done wasn’t just about two-timing her with another woman (because like so many of the real-life officers he also had a wife and family back home) but had left her feeling betrayed and violated. And as I wrote I wondered just how believable that was.

The stories of some of the women to whom the police have now issued an unreserved apology are heartrending. "He was my closest friend, my partner and my confidant for most of my thirties," said one (quoted on the BBC website). "It has had a profound traumatic effect on me. I have had difficulty forming relationships ever since. It was a deception perpetrated, overseen and supervised by the state." 

"I … discovered he was married with children throughout this time. I loved him very deeply and have suffered significant psychological damage from the experience of suspecting and then proving he was an undercover police officer," said another.

It turns out that the reaction I invented for Bronte is not, after all, so different from that of the real-life victims of undercover policing. The nuts and bolts of the undercover operations detailed in the plot may be, as I envisage them, inaccurate. The human response is not.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Location, location, location - by Jenny Harper

I've been thinking a lot about location in the past week or two.

Of course, we all know that a novel's setting can contribute to the overall 'feeling' of the book, and of course a book's success will depend on dozens of key factors: story, characters, pace and the general skill of the author, to name but a few.

However, I've been wondering – is the setting in itself a key factor in sales?

St Ann's Place, Haddington (the basis for Hailesbank).
Photo MJ Richardson, Wikimedia Commons
By placing my Heartlands series in a little-known corner of Scotland, for example, is it less attractive to readers than, say, a remote Highland glen ... London ... Cornwall ... New York ... the Riviera etc etc?

Further to that, does the fact that my East Lothian town is imaginary attract readers or discourage them?

Cornwall seems to have been – and remains – hugely popular. Is this because of writers such as Daphne du Maurier, Winston Graham and Rosamund Pilcher, or because the area has great beauty and a shadowy and romantic history?
Mousehole, Cornwall
Photo Waterborough, Wikimedia Commons

Is New York popular with British readers because we think it's 'cool'? Do American readers love the Highlands of Scotland because they see our misty glens as deeply romantic (and populated by 'men in kilts')?

Many of my readers tell me they love being able to visualise my locations (even though Hailesbank and Forgie are made up places, they sit in a recognisable context). My forthcoming book, Between Friends, is set in Edinburgh. Will this make it more successful than my Heartlands series, or less? If it's more successful, will it be because of the location, or because it's a better book? Or simply that my time has come? (I don't even want to think about the possibility of it being less successful...).

Edinburgh on a cold winter's evening
Photo Stablenode, Wikimedia Commons

Naturally, a great storyteller will spin a yarn set in a graveyard, or a cottage or a castle. But do some places have more appeal than others?

What do you think?

Find me here

Friday, 13 November 2015

Choosy Bookworm Holiday Extravaganza by Mary Smith

Here’s something a bit different from me this month – bringing you the chance to win some amazing prizes including books, gift cards, and there are two $250 cash prizes to be won as well. Thirty authors from eNovelAuthorsAtWork have teamed up with ChoosyBookworm for a Rafflecopter which runs throughout November so every day you have a chance to enter and win.

Have a go - go on, you know you want to. Good luck to all who enter.

Choosy Bookworm has partnered with eNovel Authors at Work to bring you a month long celebration with great books, great book deals, and let's not forget the great giveaways! 

Check out today's featured authors and books, then head on over to the event page and enter to win one of two $250 Amazon Gift Cards or Paypal Cash!

Be sure to check out the featured books and the awesome author sponsored giveaway below!

Fooling Around With Cinderella
by Stacy Juba
Series: Storybook Valley, #1
Genre:  Chick Lit/Romantic Comedy

What happens when the glass slippers pinch Cinderella's toes? When Jaine Andersen proposes a new marketing role to the local amusement park, general manager Dylan Callahan charms her into filling Cinderella’s glass slippers for the summer. Her reign transforms Jaine’s ordinary life into chaos that would bewilder a fairy godmother. Secretly dating her bad boy boss, running wedding errands for her ungrateful sisters, and defending herself from the park’s resident villain means Jaine needs lots more than a comfy pair of shoes to restore order in her kingdom.

Goodreads ~ Amazon US ~ Amazon UK
Barnes & Noble ~ iBooks ~ Kobo
On sale for $0.99
November 1 - 30

Meet Stacy Juba

Stacy Juba has written books about ice hockey, teen psychics, U.S. flag etiquette, and determined women sleuths.  She has had a novel ranked as #5 in the Nook Store and #30 on the Amazon Kindle Paid List.  She is currently writing the second book in the Storybook Valley series.

No More Mulberries
by Mary Smith
Genre: Women's Fiction/Romance

Scottish-born midwife, Miriam loves working at a health clinic in rural Afghanistan but she can no longer ignore the cracks appearing in her marriage. Her doctor husband has changed from the loving, easy-going man she married. When an old friend appears, urging her to visit the village where once she was and her first husband had been so happy. Miriam finds herself travelling on a journey into her past, searching for answers to why her marriage is going so wrong.

Meet Mary Smith

Author, poet and journalist, Mary Smith lives in Scotland. She spent ten years in Pakistan and Afghanistan and, wanting to share those experiences, picked up her pen and wrote about them. As well as her novel, No More Mulberries she has written a memoir Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni.

Deadly Misfortune
by Dianne Greenlay
Series: Quintspinner Trilogy, #2
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Tess and William have survived a vicious pirate attack and a shipwreck, managing to stay together, drawing strength from each other in this fierce new world that they find themselves in.

However, one false step in the dark does what the other calamities have not been able to do, and they are torn from each other’s grasp. Before they can find one another, frightening circumstances spin out of control, and devastated by such a turn of events, each believes that the other is likely to be dead. Unknowingly, the only thing that they now have in common is that, in their quest for proof, they are about to be thrown into the path of a psychotic killer.

Meet Dianne Greenlay

Born and raised on the Canadian prairies, Dianne Greenlay is the author of multiple award winning novels QUINTSPINNER – A PIRATE’S QUEST and DEADLY MISFORTUNE, Books One and Two in a fast-paced adventure series, set in the 1700's, in the pirate-infested waters of the West Indies. Straying into the genre of humor/comedy, Dianne is also the author of THE CAMPING GUY, (Winner of Best One Act – Theatrefest) which is available as both a one act comedy (live theater script) and a short story.

Greenlay is also a playwright, producer, and Creative Director of the long-running community theater group, Darkhorse Theatre. She is fluent in at least her mother tongue and she thanks her fierce English teachers for that. More of her thoughts on life can be found at

Head on over to the
Choosy Bookworm
Holiday Extravaganza
event page to learn more and enter to win one of two $250 Amazon Gift Cards or Paypal Cash!

Saturday, 7 November 2015


'It was a dark and stormy night'. Was there ever a book opening as derided as this one? Actually, I don't see what the grumble is all about - I mean, it sets the scene doesn't it? Edward Bulwer-Lytton who wrote those words also coined other catchphrases - 'The pen is mightier than the sword', 'the great unwashed', 'the pursuit of the almighty dollar'. But it is for this novel opening line that he is best remembered. And it's got me thinking. Do we make use of weather in our own writing enough? I know I'm probably guilty that I don't, although I do make an effort to say it is raining sometimes and not constant sunshine for my heroines.
So how can I rectify that? After all, weather can be important in a novel when, say, it is part of the setting. Or when it affects character - and aren't most of us affected in some way by the weather? Weather can also affect the plot, can it not? Think on this - a wedding spoiled because of rain in some way; a drought playing havoc with a character's entry to the horticultural show; fog or snow disrupting travel, or causing an accident.
And weather can be symbolic and can be used to show how a character is feeling inside. If, say, your heroine is waiting for her husband/son/father/lover to return from golf or wherever and he is a bit late, when the wind picks up she is, perhaps, now mildly concerned. But as the the wind gets higher and higher and the rain heavier and heavier and the garden furniture begins to be thrown around the garden and he is still not back she is almost in panic mode now, isn't she? The seasons, too, have their own weather - or at least they used to although they all seem to be merging into one these days. But even that can be used effectively in our writing. It is so British to talk about the weather, isn't it? And I don't think there's anything wrong with that because it will get strangers talking in a queue or at a football/tennis/golf match when it starts to rain or is unseasonably hot whereas without the weather element they might never have spoken at all. And couldn't a woman - in fiction or in real life - find the love of her life in just such a situation? And I for one should write about it more, too. Hmm, I feel, if not a novel, then a short story coming on. But perhaps I'll leave Edward Bulwer-Lytton to his iconic opening.......