Monday, 6 February 2017

Common Ground

I’d always thought of writing as rather a solitary pursuit. It was just me and my notebook. No-one I knew would have understood. My friends went home after a long day in the office to watch TV and unwind, not spend hours at a computer typing. Sure they enjoyed a good book or film, but did they ever think about what went into writing them? Probably not. They didn’t need to.

Then I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association and everything changed. That solitary pursuit that had once made me feel like somewhat of a recluse, became the key to a world of sociability. People brought together by their common quest to create a story so compelling that it just has to be read.

People like me.

Of course it didn’t happen overnight. It started slowly. I joined the RNA facebook group and met Morton S Gray. She was the first fellow Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers Scheme member I knew. In one of those ‘isn’t it a small world’ moments, it turned out Morton was part of the Birmingham RNA chapter that I was thinking of joining. I headed off to that first meeting reassured that no matter how out of place I felt, there would at least be one friendly face there. It turned out there were many.

I went back for the next meeting, and the next. I went on courses, attended conferences and pitched my novel to agents and publishers. Being part of the RNA opened doors to events and opportunities that I would never have had otherwise. But mostly, being part of the RNA led me to create friendships that gave me the courage to not let those opportunities pass me by.

I’ve never known a group quite like this one. We’re all striving towards the same goal, yet there’s no undercurrent of rivalry or jealously. Published writers share their wisdom and advice with the newcomers. Writers dreaming of publication critic one another’s work to help each other edge just that little bit closer to making that dream a reality. And we all celebrate when one of us makes it, because we know better than most just how much work went into making it happen.

I’m delighted that Morton, my first friend in the RNA, has made that journey from hopeful dreamer to published writer. Her novel, ‘The Girl on the Beach’, won the Choc Lit Search for a Star competition last year and we have all been eagerly waiting for it to be published.


‘The Girl on the Beach’ is out now and I’m thrilled to be able to share my review.

Book Review: The Girl on the Beach by Morton S Gray




Rating:


About the Author

Morton S. Gray is a writer from Worcestershire, U.K. A member of the Romantic Novelists' Association, she recently graduated from their excellent New Writers' Scheme. Her debut novel, ‘The Girl on the Beach', was the winner of the Choc Lit Search for a Star competition and was published in January 2017. Morton writes romance stories with a mystery to solve.

Website and blog www.mortonsgray.com

Facebook author page : Morton S.Gray

Twitter : MortonSGray


Book Summary:

When Ellie Golden meets Harry Dixon there’s something familiar about him. He reminds her of someone she used to know. There’s just one problem; he’s dead.

Right from the beginning The Girl on the Beach is full of mystery and intrigue. We follow Ellie and Harry from their first meeting, as Ellie tries to figure out why Harry seems so familiar, and Harry wonders why a woman he’s never met seems to know him.

Review:

Morton’s easy to read writing style kept me turning the page eager to find out more about who Harry was and how the gentle and sweet Ellie could have been part of the dark and troubled world that he was fleeing.

Morton has a knack for creating multi-layered characters, not just for the two main characters but for the friends and family that surround them. Ellie’s son, Tom, is a typical moody teenager, but at the same time he’s trying to cope with the memories of what he witnessed as a child. Nicholas is the tough misfit, yet Morton cleverly gives us a glimpse in to his harsh life and enables him to grow with Ellie’s encouragement.

I loved the contrast between the beautiful idyllic seaside town that Morton created, and the suspense and intrigue of her storyline as Ellie and Harry’s shared past catches up with them.

Congratulations on your fantastic debut novel, Morton. I can’t wait to read your next!


Sunday, 29 January 2017

Foyles Blogger Brekkie

What better way to start the day than surrounded by books?

This morning kicked off the first of Foyles monthly Blogger Brekkies in Birmingham's Grand Central bookshop.

We spent an hour before the store opened chatting about books and blogging over cups of tea and croissants. Does it get any better?

Well, possibly...

Over the coming months Foyles events team are planning to have guest bloggers and authors attend the Blogger Brekkies to share their wisdom and tips. Something tells me I'm about to start spending a lot more time in Birmingham...

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Guest Post - Alison May - The Secret To Christmas Shopping

Today I welcome Alison May, author of Midsummer Dreams and Sweet Nothing. Alison tells us a little about her festive book; Christmas Kisses, and shares her secrets for how to do Christmas Shopping the right way.

- - -

Having written three Christmas novellas you’d think I’d have written every possible Christmas related scene by now, and, to be fair, I’ve done a good few of them. I’ve written turkey dinners with all the family. I’ve written a Christmas wedding, and Santa’s Grotto. I’ve written a heroine desperate to get away for Christmas and a hero equally desperate to get home.

But one thing I realise I’ve not written very much about is Christmas shopping, which is a shame, because Christmas shopping is an area where I have views. There is, without question, a correct way to approach it, and, equally without question, all three heroines in the Christmas Kisses stories would do it wrong. Holly, from book one, would be someone who hates Christmas shopping. She would complain about the queues and the expense and the consumerism of the whole thing. Intellectually she would be making a lot of good points, but still she would be Entirely Wrong.

Cora, from Cora’s Christmas Kiss¸ would be someone who is used to just throwing money at the problem of Christmas shopping. Her usual gifts would be stylish, elegant, beautiful and probably selected by a high-end personal shopper on her behalf.

Jessica, the star of the third book, would be a little ball of Christmas shopping stress. She’d hate the thought of not getting the right thing and would work herself up into a great anxiety over the whole present-buying process. And, like the other two, she would also be Very Very Wrong.

To Christmas shop correctly you need the following things:

  • Time
  • Excellent administrative procedures; and
  • A partner-in-crime.

With these three things Christmas shopping ceases to be a source of seasonal stress and becomes one of the highlights of the festive season. The first key requirement is downtime in the schedule. If you have two hours after work to buy presents for everyone you’ve ever met, then you’re going to end up stressed. It needs time, and that time needs to include cake stops, and, if possible, a half-day spa session. Instantly shopping becomes a leisure activity rather than a chore.

The second requirement is good admin. Lists are your friend. Lists of everyone you have to buy for. Lists of things they might like. I don’t mind if you’re a notebook person or a spreadsheet aficionado, but good administration is your Christmas shopping ally. It’s saved me from falling into a retail frenzy and buying more than one present for the same person on at least one occasion.

And finally, you need a shopping buddy – someone to keep the mood up when you’re starting to flag. I can heartily recommend my sister for the role, but unfortunately for all of you, she’s booked for Christmas shopping duties so you’ll need to make your own friend. It’s worth it – if you make a good one, you’ll get use out of them all year around.

So there you go – Christmas shopping – I didn’t put it in any of the Christmas Kisses books, because those heroines would just have done it wrong. Fortunately they do lots of other things right, so if you’re looking for something to read during that Christmas shopping spa session you’ve just booked, then why not check out Christmas Kisses for yourself?




About Alison May


Alison is a novelist, short story writer, blogger and creative writing tutor who grew up in North Yorkshire, and now lives in Worcester. She worked as a waitress, a shop assistant, a
learning adviser, an advice centre manager, a freelance trainer, and now a maker-upper of stories.

She won the RNA’s Elizabeth Goudge trophy in 2012, and her short stories have been published by Harlequin, Choc Lit and Black Pear Press. Her romantic comedies, Sweet Nothing, Midsummer Dreams, and the Christmas Kisses series are published by Choc Lit. Alison has been shortlisted in the Love Stories and RoNA Awards. She also runs novel-writing half-day, one-day and weekend courses.

You can find out more about Alison at www.alison-may.co.uk, on facebook at www.facebook.com/AlisonMayAuthor, or by following her on Twitter @MsAlisonMay


About Christmas Kisses



Three girls, three kisses, three gorgeous Christmas stories.

Holly hates Christmas with a passion and can't wait to escape it - but then the flight to her once-in-a-lifetime holiday destination is cancelled.

Cora has had the year from hell, and faces a bleak Christmas working in Golding's department store - in the most unflattering reindeer costume imaginable.

Jessica is in denial after her husband's betrayal, and can't help but think back to when her life still seemed so full of hope and promise ...Three years from hell, three sets of broken dreams, three girls in desperate need of Christmas spirit.

Is the perfect Christmas kiss all it takes?

Includes Holly's Christmas Kiss, Cora's Christmas Kiss and Jessica's Christmas Kiss

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

A New Job

I have a new job!

I'll be the accountant for a library. I think that's about as close as my day job and my writing can get, at least until writing becomes my day job anyway. A girl can dream, can't she?

However it's been a while since I changed jobs; 7 years in fact, and the thought of moving on is utterly terrifying. So terrifying that I almost talked myself out of going for the interview. Then again, it could have been the requirement to make a ten minute presentation (with visual aids) as part of the interview that was increasing my nervousness.

The presentation went well in the end, (even if my PowerPoint slides did get out of sync with my speech as a result of my inability to remember to press the button at the appropriate time). Which is fortunate given the topic I was tasked with presenting is not only a real project, but will be one of my first pieces of work when I start my new job.

Negotiations have now commenced for my start date in my new role. As it's all part of the same organisation, it's effectively one giant game of tug of war between my current boss and my new one. But whilst it's incredibly flattering and a real boost to my self-esteem to be fought over, I'm not sure that this game will go in my favour.

With my current boss unwilling to let me go until they find a replacement, and my new boss eager to get me to start as soon as possible as their last accountant has already left, at present it looks like I will be doing two jobs until the 1st of March.

This isn't quite what I had in mind when I told the interview panel I was looking for a new challenge.

Still, as my mother always says; 'it'll all work out in the wash'. There are after all far worse problems to have. Though if someone could work out how to add a few extra days in the week...

According to my friends however, my career move is really just a sneaky way of getting my novels onto the library shelves. Perhaps I should get that added into my contract...

Monday, 10 October 2016

Social Media For Writers

photo courtesy of Anita Chapman
On Saturday I set off on my writer related travels again. This time to London, for NeetsMarketing's Social Media Course for Writers, run by the lovely Anita Chapman.

It seems fitting that I met Anita through social media. After learning lots of useful tips from her NeetsMarketing blog I invited her to be a guest on my blog back in March, and she wrote a fantastic post for me on Taking Twitter to the Next Level. We finally got to meet in person at the RNA conference in July and caught up with one another again at the HNS conference in September. But it was great to attend one of her courses and learn from her in person.

Saturday's course covered twitter, facebook, instagram and blogging. Whilst I've been blogging and using social media for over a year it was amazing to discover there was still so much that I didn't know. Anita was full of handy tips that were like little light bulb moments, as I discovered there's a much easier way of doing things than my long winded self taught approach.

Thanks to Anita's guest blog earlier this year I had already discovered TweetDeck and the time savings it can bring from being able to schedule my tweets. Her course on Saturday showed me the importance of creating an author brand across my social media platforms and helped me to figure out what that should be, and how to be more effective at communicating it.  My author brand will focus on things that interest me. Writing obviously tops my list, but with more emphasis on my novel set in the American old west. Hopefully the rest of my new brand will start to become apparent in the next few weeks...

You may have noticed my blog has a slightly new look this week. My logo is now in the header. I have added a twitter button and lots of other new things down the right hand side. Things I didn't know how to do until Anita's course.

Before:

After:





Here's just a few of the things that I learnt on the course:

  • how to embed a tweet and facebook post in my blog
  • how to use facebook groups
  • how to create facebook adverts - using boosts and ad manager
  • an introduction to crowdfire
  • how to use instagram
  • how to customise my blog

Thanks to Anita for such a fun and informative day

Monday, 3 October 2016

Guest Post: Ros Rendle - Fumsup


FUMSUP or TOUCHWOOD CHARMS FROM THE VICTORIAN ERA

A ‘fumsup’ may also be known as a ‘touch wood’ and as the name indicates they were for good luck. They first appeared at the end of the 19th century and were very popular during the beginning of the 20th century. There was a surge of interest during World War 1 when many were given to soldiers to take abroad as a charm hanging from a button or to be worn on a watch chain. It was suggested during this era that the name comes from the Roman era when an emperor would give the thumbs up sign to save someone during a battle of mortal combat. On the box of one of these little charms there is a poem to suggest the Victorian’s believed this to be the origin:



When Romans fought

With sword and knife,

The sign – thumbs up –

Meant – spare a life.


Some historians believe this not to be the case but for the charms to have a registered design number as they do, on the back, they would have needed a name and so ‘fumsup’ was created. Inside the original box lid of these small charms, on a card, is the following poem.


FUMSUP and TOUCH WOOD CHARMS



Behold in me the birth of luck, 
Two charms combined TOUCH WOOD-FUMSUP. 
My head is made of wood most rare 
My thumbs turn up to touch me there. 
To speed my feet they’ve Cupid’s wings, 
They’ll help true love 'mongst other things. 
Proverbial is my power to bring 
Good luck to you in everything. 
I’ll bring good luck to all away, 



Just send me to a friend today.


The charms are made of either brass, silver or gold with a little wooden bead head, said to be holy oak. The eyes might have been precious stones but are more frequently

coloured glass or white glass with a tiny, black pupil. The arms are articulated and can rise to touch the wooden head. On the forehead is an imprint of a four-leafed clover. The word ‘fumsup’ is usually engraved across its little round tummy. There are tiny wings on the ankles to speed the owner home.

Another design was also created around this time. These were a round wooden beads with a face. Arms come from that and bend to touch the top of the head. Legs also come from the same bead. Sometimes they have a flat back with a nationalistic image behind glass. This may be a popular leader of the time such as General Kitchener, Field Marshal Sir John French, First Earl of Ypres or Admiral Jellicoe. It may be the union flag. Very occasionally it’s possible to find a fumsup with female clothing or a version called ‘Lucky Luce’ which has a glass head.

There is a version called ‘OI you get in line’ supposed to have been produced for the Second World War and in the 1950s a new set of touch wood charms became available. Again the round wooden bead was central but silver head and legs were added in the shape of various animals or figures such as a lucky gnome holding a bag of money.


In my collection I also have a little, bisque doll, a children’s brass rattle and a counter advertising display model all in the shape of the fumsup charm with the distinguishing features for good luck. Postcards and Christmas pudding charms were also produced.

Much more recently others have added a form of touch wood charms to their collections. Notably Vivienne Westwood produced an acorn with its cup and her distinctive logo in silver being attached to the wooden bead.

I have a wide variety of these charms in my collection. I love the thought that presumably the owner was guided home having received the good luck from a loved one upon his, or rarely her, departure.

One features in my recent novel, ‘Flowers of Flanders’. Rose buys one for herself to remind her of a happy family holiday time just as WW1 is declared. Later in the book she gives it to Michael. Does it bring him the good luck he needs in France fighting on the Somme? Well . . .