Sunday, 29 October 2017

NEOS what a week !!

The Black Mount, Glencoe
My last post I spoke about the upcoming week of North East Open Studios(NEOS). The usual nerves and self doubt reared there ugly heads prior to first weekend of the event. However, once the room was set up those nerves and doubt faded as I looked at the collections of work offered by myself and fellow exhibitors. Between the four of us we managed to fill the whole space.

The first weekend was fantastic as the number of people that came specifically to see my work was amazing. It was also a wonderful opportunity to meet some of the supportive people who take time to follow and comment on my Facebook page. By the end of the weekend I was hoarse with talking, although I wouldn't change that. Due to work commitments my time was limited, luckily Audrey was able to step into the breach.
Loch Assynt
The week flew past with a staggering amount of visitors which for a newbie NEOS member was simply fantastic, so much so that before the week was out we'd booked the location again (The White Horse Inn, Balmedie) for 2018. So now I know what is required I am already planning ahead for next year. Preparing prints and frames as I go rather than leaving it to the last minute.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Not a Love Story...

Would you? Image from Blind Date With a Book
 Blind Date With a Book 
My husband is not a man for a blind date, of any kind, but even he was tempted but the latest book marketing ploy. It’s a blind date with a book. 

I don’t know whose idea it was, but it’s a cracker. A book sitting on a supermarket shelf, wrapped in brown paper and tied with string, tempting you with just five phrases. And he bought into it. ‘Shall I?’ he asked, turning the top one over in his hands and dropping it in the basket without waiting for the reply. 

Sold, in just seven words. Inheritance. Romanovs. Secret diary. Revolution. Love lost.

I won’t say the excitement was mounting as we drove home. That would be a little bit of an overstatement. But when we’d unpacked the shopping and he’d picked up his little treasure and untied the string, I was hovering at his shoulder to see what he’d brought home. 

If it had been a real blind date, it would have been an unmitigated disaster. He’d have hung on out of politeness and endured a terrible evening, leaving the restaurant vowing never to date again . He’s a reader of suspense and history. He loves Nordic noir and Robert Harris, historical detective stories set in Berlin and in the alternative history of Western Europe. What he got was touted itself as perfect for readers of Kate Morton when he’d have preferred something for readers of Philip Kerr. 

The book in question is Gill Paul’s The Secret Wife. Neither of us had heard of it before and it looks, in fairness, a very good book. It has rave reviews. But it isn’t the book for him, nor even for me. 

What went wrong? I think if you’re going to sell a book in a poke, you really have to get the description right — and the missing thing is the genre. Okay, you can say that ‘love lost’ suggests a romance, but does it? He didn’t think so and neither do I, and in fact I don’t know that the description really helps very much. 

The concept might work a little better if the genre is clear, and it might not matter if you’re someone who enjoys reading outside your comfort zone or whose comfort zone is admirably broad. But for me there’s no substitute for browsing before you buy. The Silent Wife is sitting on a side table in the living room, waiting for me to get fed up and read it so that the money wasn’t wasted. maybe I’ll enjoy it, maybe not. 

I'd try this kind of blind-dating myself, I think, and I'd recommend it to an adventurous reader. But I'd pay more attention to the five key phrases. 

Would you? 

Saturday, 14 October 2017


Writing can be a solitary business and so when offered the opportunity to meet like-minded souls at
the inaugural Society of Authors Scottish conference – #ScotsWrite17 – it was a ‘yes’ from me.

Each speaker – a selection of experienced authors, agents, publishers and more –generously offered precious nuggets of useful, encouraging advice which I've shared and hope you find inspiring and helpful too. 


Joanne's modern day fairy
tale, inspired by a visit to Skye
Joanne Harris – author of an impressive canon of fourteen novels and two cookery books including Chocolat (the bestselling novel turned into an Oscar –nominated movie) opened as a keynote speaker, reminding the audience that playing with words is the closest thing to magic a writer can do. Setting the tone for a magical conference weekend.


Jane Johnson making time for everyone at
her busy book signing
Jane Johnson – historical novelist (her latest release - Court of Lions is out now), children’s author and Fiction Publishing Director for Harper Collins, encouraged everyone to follow your passions in life. Explaining 
  • That writing is largely an engineering process. Work can always be taken apart and put together again.

  • Flexibility is crucial for a writer. An editor is there to make the writer think again and to explore their work.

  • That finding an agent, someone who will fight your corner, is important. Learn as much as you can about the industry and read, read, read…

Reading encourages us to dream bigger.
  • 90% of what happens to your book is luck – Does it land on the editor’s desk at the right time? Does it fit their list? Have they just signed someone who’s written something very similar?

I also attend Jane’s fantastic breakout session where she donned her editor’s hat sharing what an
Latest historical fiction by Jane Johnson
editor looks for in a submission.
Here’s some of what I learned -

  • Look to surprise your readers
  • Trust your imagination
  • Don’t tell the reader everything that’s going on – know there are things you’re not going to tell
  • Include unexpected imagery, which doesn’t get in the way of the story. She quoted from Stuart MacBride – describing a character’s hair looking as if they’d sellotaped a cairn terrier to their head. (Who doesn’t love a cairn terrier?)
  • Characters are what makes your work tick – create light and shade in characters
  • Editors are always looking for an excuse to say no – don’t give them that excuse. Make your manuscript as polished as it can be
  • Do research and be confident in your writing – keep the writing as authentic as possible
  • If you’re boring yourself, you’re probably boring the reader – do not submit that 20 pages
  • A reader loves to be educated (to learn something). Learn your craft and write as well as you possibly can 

Things to consider when pitching – 

  • What is at the heart of your book?
  • Write your pitch as simply as possible
  • What about your book do you love best?
  • Share the main characters’ motivation


The latest action packed teen
adventure from Charlie Higson
Charlie Higsonauthor and writer for radio and television delivered the Penguin Random House keynote on the subject of Diversification. Here are only a handful of his great suggestions.

  • Make use of Twitter – find him @monstroso – writing’s a lonely occupation and Twitter can be a fantastically helpful research tool. Throw a question out on Twitter and within minutes, someone will come back with suggestions
  • Make a Spotify playlist for each novel/ screenplay you’re working on. Listening can help unlock that special voodoo place, where the writing starts to flow
  • When stuck novel writing, try writing a section as a script, which is a good way of opening up other pathways in the brain
  • Spot the good idea amongst all the other ideas you might have. And hang onto that good idea, which sometimes can become lost in the process
  • Catchphrases can be useful for characters
  • Create vivid and interesting dialogue. It doesn’t have to be real but it does need to be sparkling
    Charlie Higson and me!
    and alive

My teenage sons, both avid fans of Charlie’s Young Bond series, couldn’t quite believe I’d had the good fortune of meeting their writing hero. Here's the proof!

Dotted between the keynote speakers was a fantastic selection of breakout sessions including this one:


Crime author - Denise Mina
 Denise Mina – multi-award winning crime novelist, comic book writer, playwright and regular contributor to TV and radio, on shared a frank and funny review of the ups and downs of
Winner of the 2017 McIlvanney Prize
for Scottish Crime book of the Year
writing for a variety of media. But whatever the form, she encouraged writers to:
  • Induce a sense of recklessness in your writing. Are you being too safe? Do you need to dig deeper?
  • Remember that just because it sells, doesn’t mean it’s good. Publishers pay for placements in WHSmith.
  • Chop up work into paragraphs and chapters to increase narrative pace
  • Give the reader work to do by leaving things out. That way the reader invests in the story.


Joanna Pennhugely successful podcaster (I’ve may have mentioned I'm a massive fan of The Creative Penn podcast on this blog before!) and indie writing guru shared an absolute ton of tips in the final keynote speech of the weekend.

My precious signed copies...
I’ve shared some of what I jotted here, but in all honesty Joanna offered so much that if what you read here whets your appetite, then I highly recommend all of the following - How toMake a Living From Your Writing, TheSuccessful Author Mindset, How toMarket A Book and more…

Here’s an extremely potted version of what she shared:

1) Are you an entrepreneur?
  • A book is a intellectual property asset
  • Made once, it can be sold over and over again – think E-book, Print book, audio

2) Focus on the Customer
  • It’s about the reader
  • What do they want?
  • Only 5% of top selling books include literary fiction
  • Which sub-categories are your competitors selling in?

3) Make the most of your intellectual property
  • Understand your contract
  • What rights have you sold? What can you still exploit?
  • Look at territory/language/format/length of time before rights revert back to the author

Joanna's key message was that if you wish to be a successful author then you need to write more books.
  • Try other genres – write both fiction and non-fiction
  • Write a branded series and get readers hooked (may be linked by character or theme)
  • Go short – write a novella (less than 40,000 words long)
  • Go long – with box sets (great value for the customer)
  • Re-invigorate your backlist by re-branding, re-titling, re-covering

Here's Joanna Penn and me with crime author and organiser
extraordinaire, Wendy H Jones
5) Attract an audience
  • Be yourself
  • Share what you are interested in

Finally Joanna shared a hand written note she keeps by her writing desk – have you made art today? A mantra I’ve been happy to steal!


In addition to the packed writing weekend, we were also treated to a gin tasting session, sponsored by Botanist gin, tried Tia Chia, enjoyed a formal dinner and ceilidh evening, caught up with old friends and made new ones along the way.

All in all, a fantastic conference for writers, conceived and generously pulled together by writers, led by Linda Strachan. Thanks to the team who so kindly gave of their time including, Wendy H. Jones, Merryn Glover, Caroline Dunford, Chris Longmuir, Philip Paris, with apologies to those I've missed.
Cheers! Happy Writing x

Sadly, I can’t cover everything that went on but to see more photographs or discover more fantastic quotes head to Twitter and the #ScotsWrite17 hashtag.

Happy writing!


Saturday, 7 October 2017


Tuesday was a Double Book Publication Day for me! Yaaayy!
The Thief's Daughter was released as a paperback and The Captain’s Daughter was released as an eBook.

The publication day is the day a new book is launched. For me, the day passed in a bit of a blur as I immersed myself into the social media world to spread the news. But the launch of my new books didn't begin on Tuesday morning or end on Tuesday night. As many writers will know, the publication day is just one day of several events organised to launch a new book. So whereas the publication day itself may last only 24hours, the launch of a new book starts far earlier and lasts quite a bit longer.

For me it started on the day I received my advance copies of The Thief's Daughter in paperback. My experience will differ from other writers and their access to various promotional opportunities will vary depending how well known and successful they are. I can only share mine, so pull up a chair and I will share with you my experience ...

I think most writers will agree that the moment they see their novel in print for the first time is a very special moment. I captured my moment on video just so I could relive it when I wasn't in such a state of shock. I was also relieved they had arrived as I had a book launch event to plan.

Having never been to a book launch myself, I had no idea what it entailed and if anyone would even come. Thankfully it all turned out okay and I sold all of the advanced copies I had brought with me. 

As both novels are about women who face (and overcome) difficulties in their lives, I thought it was fitting to donate a portion of the proceeds from the event to a charitable organisation whose aim is to develop a girl’s potential in order to make a difference to the world – my local Brownies & Guides.

The day before the publication day, I received a lovely review of The Captain's Daughter from writer, reviewer and blogger, Jo Lambert, on her writer's blog. It was just what I needed as the nerves had started to set in. American novelist, Luanne Rice once said, "After 30 novels, release day is still a thrill. It's also a little bittersweet too." I understand what she meant as the books are now out in the big wide world, a bit like a child going to school for the first time. It is also about to be read by other people whose opinions really matter.

Publication Day finally arrived and I spent much of it celebrating the event online. Lots of friends, bloggers, readers and fellow authors sent congratulatory messages and helped me to spread the news. The "book world" is a lovely community, where friends are made and good news is shared. Writing can be quite a solitary career and this online community really helps to make one feel part of something very special.

Although publication day was over by the following day, the launch of the books continued. The day after I was heading for Truro to appear on the Debbie McCrory Show on Radio Cornwall. I have been a guest on Debbie's show once before and when she invited me back to talk about my next release, I jumped at the chance.

Two days after publication, I was hurtling down the road again in my second-hand Honda Jazz to the seaside town of Penzance to appear on Coast Afternoon with John Pestle on CoastFM. This radio program was a first for me, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself. John and the team put me at ease and the 30 minute slot flew by. Thank you to CoastFM for allowing me to use their photograph.

The online blog tour had already kicked off by the time I was sitting down behind a microphone. It's a challenge to keep guest posts fresh and interesting, so I decided to talk about some of the important elements of writing a novel, choosing a particular one for each blog, with the odd fun blog post in-between. Here is the blog tour, if you would like to follow it.

Linda's Book Bag 05/10/2017
The perfect hero

Choc Lit 6/10/2017
The fourth character

Jaffareadstoo 11/10/2017
The perfect heroine

Morton S.Gray Blog 16/10/2017
The heroine of The Captain's Daughter sharing her secret thoughts

Jera's Jamboree 18/10/2017

Portobello Book Blog 23/10/2017
The perfect antagonist

With Love for Books 30/10/2017
Talking about prejudice against the past

So the past few weeks have been busy and I look forward to putting up my feet. In the meantime, perhaps I should tell you a little about each book.

The Captain's Daughter

The Captain's Daughter was inspired by the kitchens and servants' quarters of Lanhydrock House, which is a National Trust property in Cornwall. I was also inspired by my visits to Bodmin's historic jail and court house. Both are wonderfully atmospheric buildings with a vast history behind them.

Book Blurb

Sometimes you need to discover your own strength in order to survive …

After a family tragedy, Janey Carhart was forced from her comfortable life as a captain’s daughter into domestic service. Determined to make something of herself, Janey eventually finds work as a lady’s maid at the imposing Bosvenna Manor on the edge of Bodmin Moor, but is soon caught between the two worlds of upstairs and downstairs, and accepted by neither, as she cares for her mistress.

Desperately lonely, Janey catches the attention of two men – James Brockenshaw and Daniel Kellow. James is heir to the Bosvenna estate, a man whose eloquent letters to his mother warm Janey’s heart. Daniel Kellow is a neighbouring farmer with a dark past and a brooding nature, yet with a magnetism that disturbs Janey. Two men. Who should she choose? Or will fate decide. 

Available to download from all eBook platforms.
Coming to audio at a future date.

The Thief's Daughter

The Thief's Daughter was inspired by Bodmin's debtors' prison and a rocky inlet on the North Cornish Coast, called Pepper Cove. The cove was named after the large quantities of spices smuggled into Cornwall during the 18th and early 19th century. It provided the perfect backdrop and plot for my characters to live through.

Book Blurb

Hide from the thief-taker, for if he finds you, he will take you away …

Eighteenth-century Cornwall is crippled by debt and poverty, while the gibbet casts a shadow of fear over the land. Yet, when night falls, free traders swarm onto the beaches and smuggling prospers.

Terrified by a thief-taker’s warning as a child, Jenna has resolved to be good. When her brother, Silas, asks for her help to pay his creditors, Jenna feels unable to refuse and finds herself entering the dangerous world of the smuggling trade.

Jack Penhale hunts down the smuggling gangs in revenge for his father’s death. Drawn to Jenna at a hiring fayre, they discover their lives are entangled. But as Jenna struggles to decide where her allegiances lie, the worlds of justice and crime collide, leading to danger and heartache for all concerned …

Available to download from all eBook platforms.
Paperback available to order from Amazon and all good bookshops.
Coming to audio at a future date.

Thank you for my publisher, Choc Lit, and the Choc Lit Panel and Stars for bringing my novels to publication.
Also thank you to all the bloggers and reviewers who helped make the book launch a success. Finally, thank you to you for sharing in the celebrations of my double book launch by reading this post. I have enjoyed sharing my novels and book launch preparations with you.

Now where is the wine and soft fluffy socks? It's time I put those feet up for a rest!