Saturday, 31 October 2015

Book Review: Girl on the Run by Rhoda Baxter


Rating:



About the Author:

Author of Please Release Me, Doctor January and Girl on the Run, Rhoda is a former scientist who now works in the field of intellectual property.


www.rhodabaxter.com


@rhodabaxter

Book Summary:

The story follows Jane, the ex-girlfriend of a famous musician, as she tries to flee from the lime light and create a life of her own after she catches him with another woman.  However one celebrity gossip magazine just won’t let her go…

Review:

The insertion of snippets from the magazine that’s determined to find her and the use of texts and emails through the story was and interesting and clever idea. I was a little apprehensive about reading emails in the middle of a story at first, but I have to admit it worked really well.  It was carefully balanced so it wasn’t overdone, but it was sufficient to give the reader an insight into what was going on beyond the characters verbal conversations.

It’s a great story with a strong cast of characters.  It covers friendships, family (I love the relationship between Marsh and Stevie), the pitfalls of fame, as well as office rivalry and the perils of office romances.  What more could you want?

I raced through the book desperate to find out if Jane’s identity would be revealed and how her new friends and colleagues would treat her if they knew it was her in pages of the magazine they all loved to read.  But most importantly I desperately wanted to know if Jane could be the woman that tempted Marsh to risk another office romance…



Monday, 26 October 2015

The Writing Class: Voices

‘Find your voice’ is advice that all new writers will hear, but what does it really mean?

This week’s writing class gave us the opportunity to ‘try on voices’.  We mimicked the voices of other authors by identifying the qualities that make up those voices and in the process learned a little about finding our own.

In many ways the concept of a writer’s voice is one of those things that we all instinctively know and yet struggle to define. So here’s my attempt to provide a little clarity.

Everyone has their own outlook based on their personal experiences and emotions. This outlook is unique to us. It’s at the core of who we are as individuals.

Our outlook is influenced to some extent by people and events. Our parents, siblings, teachers and friends will guide us. Our studies, work and lifestyles will challenge and change us. But even though we may share the same experiences or have friends in common, how they affect us and what we draw from them will be different.

We have our own likes and dislikes. Our own hopes and fears. Our own quirks and eccentricities. We have our own personalities.

It seems to me that finding your voice is essentially about finding the ability to convey who we are on the page. It’s about not being afraid to dig deep and express genuine emotion. It’s about being willing to allow people to see a glimpse of us in our writing.


Our ‘voice’ is the ability to express our individual personalities in our writing and create something that’s not only fresh and unique, but also authentic because it is an extension of ourselves.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Guest Post: Louise Marley - The Ghosts of Conwy

With Halloween just around the corner I'm welcoming Louise Marley to the blog for a spooky themed post...


The Ghosts of Conwy

by Louise Marley


A tale of ghoulies and ghosties, and four-leggedy beasties …

And a monk who likes a pint in the night …


There was once a Cistercian abbey here in Conwy, which had to be moved to make way for Edward I and his new castle. But despite Edward I’s best efforts at relocating the monks, it appears some of them might have never actually left.

The Abbey of Aberconwy was founded in the 12th Century and built on land donated by Llywelyn the Great. It became the burial place for many of the princes of Gwynedd, including Llywelyn and his sons, but after Edward I conquered Wales and built Conwy Castle, the abbey was forced to relocate to Maenan in the Conwy Valley – and they took Llywelyn’s remains with them! So if anyone was going to haunt the town, Llywelyn would surely be a prime candidate – his revenge for not being allowed to rest in peace. But as it turns out, Llywelyn is just about the only spirit who doesn’t haunt Conwy.

The most famous ghost story centres on Plas Mawr a 16th century town house built by Robert Wynn. There are several different versions of this tale; a few even ascribe the haunting to the castle itself. The story goes that while the master of the house is away (sometimes it’s Robert Wynn himself, sometimes merely a descendant), his heavily pregnant wife and young child take to going up the narrow, twisting steps of the watch tower to look out for his return. You just know this isn’t going to end well and, sure enough, one evening the lady suffers a terrible fall while carrying the child, and both are mortally injured. A doctor is sent for but says he can do nothing to help them. A servant, worried what the master will say, locks the doctor in the room before he can leave. When the master returns, and the servant finally unlocks the door, the woman and her child are both dead and the doctor has vanished. The master, distraught with grief, kills himself. His ghost can still be heard pacing up and down, trying to find the missing doctor.

This story, in various forms, appears in several ‘true-life’ ghost books, particularly in the latter part of the last century. And because it doesn’t appear in any of the records much before the early 1900s, it’s a bit of a clue this story may have been, shall we say ‘embellished’; OK probably completely made up. Sorry!

However, while Plas Mawr has one very famous ghost (possibly two; there’s a theory the poor doctor perished while trying to escape up the chimney!), Conwy Castle is practically overrunning with them. It withstood a siege in 1295, and another one during the English Civil War in 1649, so it’s hardly surprising it should be home to a few disgruntled ghosts. Visitors have reported the distinct scent of incense in the castle chapel, and the silhouette of a man wearing armour looking out through one of the castle windows – backlit by flickering candlelight. A cloaked figure has been seen stalking the battlements and the ghost of a monk likes to watch the tourists walk around the castle.

Down by the quayside ghostly monks have also been spotted at The Liverpool Arms pub (insert your own joke about spirits here), which backs onto the medieval town walls. Another monk (or possibly the same one?) enjoys walking along the quayside and through the churchyard at night. Slightly randomly, the churchyard is also home to a ghostly cat.

A second ghostly cat haunts the neighbouring Castle Hotel – apparently he likes to make himself comfortable on the beds. No one has ever seen him, just felt him walk over their feet … And the hotel is also home to the spirit of a chambermaid, upset at being buried in the churchyard rather than taken back to her home village on Anglesey. Even after her body was relocated, she continues to haunt the hotel …

Happy Halloween!

Louise Marley


About Louise

Louise Marley writes romantic comedy and romantic suspense. She lives in Wales, surrounded by fields of sheep, and has a beautiful view of Snowdon from her window. Her first published novel was Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, which was a finalist in Poolbeg’s Write a Bestsellercompetition. She has also written articles for the Irish press and short stories for UK women’s magazines such as Take a Break and My Weekly. Her latest book is Something Wicked.



Website: http://www.louisemarley.co.uk/

Blog: http://www.louisemarleywrites.blogspot.co.uk/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LouiseMarley @LouiseMarley




Something Wicked


Evil can be tempting …



Katrina Davenport has opened a coffee shop and bookstore at the notorious Raven’s Cottage, once the home of a 17th century witch known as Magik Meg. The locals have told Kat stories, of how the cottage is haunted by the witch and her demon lover, but Kat doesn’t believe in witches, or ghosts, or anything going bump in the dead of night. Every strange occurrence must have a perfectly logical explanation.



Unfortunately it doesn’t really matter what Kat believes, because something wicked has returned to Raven’s Cottage …



And this time it’s come for Kat.



Amazon UK:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00R4HDZMW



Amazon USA:

http://www.amazon.com/Something-Wicked-Louise-Marley-ebook/dp/B00R4HDZMW



The Joys of an Open Plan Office

Usually my working day is accompanied by the low hum of the air conditioning system.  On a good day, when it’s working properly, it’s reminiscent of being on an airplane, and I daydream of being whisked off to somewhere more exotic than yet another spreadsheet.  When it’s malfunctioning though it has a tendency to sound like a spaceship about to land on the roof. Of course this could just mean I’ve been looking at said spreadsheets just a little bit too long…

There’s also the usual office noises, which helps to distract me from thoughts of invading little green men. Phones ringing.  Impromptu meetings at the surrounding desks. The random burst of applause coming from the next section as another leaving presentation is made. Or on rare occasions an eerie silence befalls us.  At which point we become accurately aware that everyone can hear our conversations.

Last week though there was a new sound to add to the list; the irritating tap-tap tap-tap of table tennis in the next section. I have to admit it’s a strange problem to have in the office.

To be fair it was just for one day.  It was part of the company’s programme to encourage us to get more active and promote sports.  From the laughter and cheering that was going on in the next section I’d say they had a great time joining in the fun. 


And in case you’re wondering what my department did for this event…  We all joined in a group wide activity of muttering under our breath at every cheer that drowned out the person on the other end of our phone calls.  “Could you repeat that please, I couldn’t hear you over the table tennis game,” was an interesting phrase to find yourself saying.  Repeatedly.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

The Writing Class: Autobiographical Novels

This week’s writing class was all about autobiographical novels. These are novels which have been based on personal experiences, but fictionalised until the line between fact and fiction blurs beyond recognition.

For a writer one of the most important skills is to create deep and believable characters. Using our own experiences can help us do this. Fictionalising those experiences can (sometimes) make them more interesting and help protect us and others from being exposed in our work.

The strongest characters will have emotional credibility. Where better to look for the inspiration for their emotions than within ourselves? As my tutor pointed out, we need to be able to feel what our characters are going through. If we can’t, then how can we expect our readers to?


In many ways my characters are an extension of me. Not an exact replica (thank goodness), but an exaggeration of a tiny part of me. An emotion, a hope, a dream, or a real experience can be built upon, exaggerated, changed and placed into an entirely different setting. The end result is a character and situation that is completely different to me and my life. However, if you look deep enough, right to its core, you might still find a teeny tiny distorted reflection of me.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Guest Post: Heidi Swain - The Do's and Don't of Social Media


Hello Elaina. Thank you so much for inviting me to feature on your lovely blog and write an indulgent few words on something I am particularly passionate about. I must admit I thought long and hard about what I could wax lyrical about and I’ve settled on… social media.

Now I can hear some of you groaning already but love it or loath social media is here to stay and for us authors it now forms a huge part of our marketing and promo experience so I urge you to get to grips with it, embrace it and above all, enjoy it!

Personally, as a relentless chatterbox, I love the online author experience and blog, tweet, post to Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram on a regular basis. The opportunity to engage and network with authors all over the world from the comfort of my sofa is fantastic but even more thrilling is the chance to make that connection with readers!

My debut novel, The Cherry Tree Café, was published this summer and as you can imagine I was jump up and down excited to finally secure that deal, bag myself a world class publisher, stunning book jacket and fizz filled launch party however, exciting as all that was, reading reviews and readers’ comments and experiences has surpassed all expectations.

The thought that my novel is someone’s bedtime read, holiday read, even a welcome distraction on a monotonous journey is an absolute joy and the fact that these fabulous readers are prepared to tell the world about it through the means of social media is even better!

However, even though this is all hugely exciting it is important to remember to play by the rules if you want to make the most of your online presence. No-one is interested in a continual hard sell, the whole ‘buy my book, buy my book!’ frenzy simply drives me and everyone else on the planet to distraction and it doesn’t work to boot.

Of course around publication time you need to be promoting and sharing but what about the person behind the pages? That’s who readers and the world in general is, in my experience, really interested in. Who is the person behind the keys? What makes them tick? Social media gives us the opportunity to form relationships with people we quite probably wouldn’t have any chance of meeting in ‘real life’ so set up that account, share crazy cat pictures, gardening triumphs, craft projects and bake fails and prepare to make friends and have your horizons broadened!

Here are a few handy do’s and don’ts for authors new to social media:

DO - Remember to say ‘hello, how are you?’ when someone new interacts with you
DO – Always say thank you for a comment, retweet or review
DO – Share and Tweet news of fellow authors, cover reveals, 5 star reviews etc
DO – Post images of pets (cats especially) in ridiculous poses
DO NOT – Follow an author or potential new reader and bombard them with dm’s and links
DO NOT – Pitch to a publisher, agent or other via social media. I know, but it does happen!
DO NOT – Continually post about your book – if someone likes you they will probably go and find it

Well I guess that’s it. I hope my few words have encouraged you to make the most of the online author experience. I look forward to connecting with you soon!

H x


Heidi Swain Author Bio




Although passionate about writing from an early age, Heidi Swain gained a degree in Literature, flirted briefly with a newspaper career, married and had two children before she plucked up the courage to join a creative writing class and take her literary ambitions seriously.

A lover of Galaxy bars, vintage paraphernalia and the off bottle of fizz, she now writes contemporary fiction and enjoys the company of a whole host of feisty female characters.

She joined the RNA New Writers’ Scheme in 2014 and is now a full member. The manuscript she submitted for critique, The Chery Tree Café, is her debut novel published by Simon and Schuster in July 2015.

She lives in Norfolk with her wonderful husband, son and daughter and a mischievous cat called Storm.

Links Twitter: https://twitter.com/Heidi_Swain
Blog: http://www.heidiswain.blogspot.co.uk/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WriterHeidiJoSwain?ref=hl



The Cherry Tree Cafe



Blurb:

Cupcakes, crafting and love at The Cherry Tree Cafe...
Lizzie Dixon's life feels as though it's fallen apart. Instead of the marriage proposal she was hoping for from her boyfriend, she is unceremoniously dumped, and her job is about to go the same way. So, there's only one option: to go back home to the village she grew up in and to try to start again.

Her best friend Jemma is delighted Lizzie has come back home. She has just bought a little cafe and needs help in getting it ready for the grand opening. And Lizzie's sewing skills are just what she needs.

With a new venture and a new home, things are looking much brighter for Lizzie. But can she get over her broken heart, and will an old flame reignite a love from long ago...?


For everyone who loves settling down to watch Great British Bake-Off, the Great British Sewing Bee, or curling up to read Milly Johnson or Jenny Colgan, The Cherry Tree Cafe is a coffee-break treat.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

The Writing Class: A New Year

I arrived at the classroom a full 30 minutes early. I take not wanting to be late on the first day to a whole new level.

We’re in the room next door to last year’s classroom.  It’s laid out in the mirror image, so it feels a little backwards.  It’s like stepping through the looking glass into a world that’s similar but not quite the same.

It’s not just the room that’s different, but the people too. There are only five of us continuing on from last year, so it has a completely new vibe.

I’m not very good with change.  I like familiarity and consistency.  I knew that it would be different and yet somehow it was a shock that it was. I knew, but I’d tried to overlook it in the hope that it wouldn’t be true. Perhaps I am spending too many hours writing. Because I can change a characters situation to be what I want just by writing it down, I seem to think that the same works on reality just by hoping.  It doesn’t.

By the end of last year I’d just about settled into a state of uncomfortable acceptance with the idea of reading my work out to the group. I was going into the new year with the confidence that I could do it, because I already had. I didn’t like it, but I could do it.

My confidence completely evaporated the moment it was my turn to introduce myself to the group.  The fact that I already knew the tutor and a few students was absolutely no help.


Over the summer I’ve had 2 stories published and a couple of other pieces accepted for publication.  I’ve had my novel reviewed by the RNA New Writers Scheme and I’m three quarters of the way through a rewrite.  Yet all I managed to tell the group as they waited with baited breath was that I like to write stories.  Duh!  

Saturday, 10 October 2015

The Writing Class: The Long Days Of Summer

I don’t know what happened to the summer. Did we have one? Did I miss it? I don’t just mean in terms of the weather, I mean the whole thing.

I had all these plans for what I would achieve over the summer.  However, October’s arrived and guess what? My plans are still just that. Plans.

I don’t know why I thought I would achieve so much in July to September.  Did I somehow overlook the fact that I have a full time job and it doesn’t come with a term time only working arrangement?

It seems that the notion of my elusive summer of productivity stemmed from the fact that I wasn’t attending my weekly writing class during that period.  Sadly I failed to consider that my class is only 2 hours once a week, so not going to class only freed up one evening for a few weeks.

When I look at it that way perhaps I wasn’t as unproductive with my ‘summer off’ as I thought.


Monday, 5 October 2015

Guest Post: Rhoda Baxter - My Journey to Publication

Today I welcome Rhoda Baxter, author of 'Girl on the Run' and 'Please Release Me'.


Like most writers, I’ve been writing in one form or another for as long as I can remember. Becoming a novelist was always the big dream, but I am, at heart, pragmatic. I didn’t study English Lit as I’d wanted to. I took my father’s advice and did science, so that I could get a ‘real job’. During the long years at university, I put my writing on hold – apart from the odd film review for student publications. When I got my first job, I went back to writing. At the time, the BBC ran a forum called BBC Get Writing. I learned an awful lot from haunting the Get Writing boards. The three most valuable lessons I took away from it were:
  1. Write often. I used to try and do their 8pm flash challenge at least four nights a week. It was good discipline to sit at the computer every day at the same time and just write about something. Anything.
  2. Good criticism is not the same as ‘I like it’. If someone tells you that something doesn’t work check and see if you agree. If TWO people tell you the same thing is wrong. Fix it. Yes, it’s hard to take. Suck it up.
  3. Submit. You’ll never get your work out to anyone if you don’t SEND it to them. If they reject it, refresh/reprint and send it out to someone else.

When the BBC Get Writing site closed (waaaah! I still miss it!), I did a couple of creative writing courses, which didn’t teach me much, but did link me up with Jen Hicks, who has been my critique partner for over 10 years now. Jen and I both have a gloves off approach to critiquing. We can be quite blunt to each other, but I love her work and I hope she still likes mine!

The next step change came when I joined the RNA. It was like I’d stepped off a sleepy country road and found myself on the dual carriage way. I learned a lot from lurking on their message loop. I still do. The publishing industry was just starting to change back then (around 2007). Ebooks were on the rise in the US, but weren’t considered to be ‘real books’ the UK yet. The indie publishing phenomenon hadn’t even begun.

The things I learned from the RNA were:
  1. Above all else, think about STORY. If your story is dull and flabby, all your lovely ‘literary’ sentences are just navel gazing. That’s not to say there isn’t a place for literary books with… um… less obvious…storylines. It’s just harder to sell one of those.
  2. Network. People are more likely to look favourably on a manuscript submitted by someone they’ve met, or even heard of. So network. Go to events. Join in the conversation on social media. Get out there.
  3. Learn about contracts. Know what you’re signing away.
  4. You’re going to write more than one book. Think of it as a career, not a big splash. This only works if you actually write more than one book. So… write more books.

My first contract was with Uncial Press, a small ePublisher in the US. They had a respectable track record and offered me a very reasonable contract. Their editorial input was superb. I learned a lot from working with Uncial and they are some of the nicest people I’ve ever worked with. My first book, Patently in Love was published in eBook format in 2012. I really wanted to be published in
print, but bearing in mind this is a long game, I decided ebook was good enough for me. That was then. Now ebook is the norm. What a difference 3 years makes!

Choc Lit started up around the time I was first submitting Patently in Love. I bought the first book Choc Lit published (The Importance of Being Emma by Juliette Archer) and decided that THIS was the publisher I wanted to work with, but Patently was too short (65K) for their submission guidelines.. More and more friends from the RNA signed up with them. I talked to them. I stalked Choc Lit on Twitter. I read and reviewed nearly every book they brought out. I joined their newsletter. By the time I wrote a book long enough to submit to Choc Lit (Doctor January), they already knew of me. Doctor January came out in ebook and print soon after. I finally had a book in print!

The things I learned since becoming a published author:
  1. Promotion is important. No one can buy your book if they don’t know it exists. Publishers will do a bit of marketing, but the bulk of it is up to you. Print bookmarks, give talks, talk to book bloggers and readers (I don’t mean bombard them with stuff about your book, I mean TALK to them). Be nice to people and they might buy your book because they like you. With any luck, they’ll like the book enough to buy the next one.
  2. The making of a bestseller requires a huge marketing budget, hard work or a huge dose of blind luck. Possibly all three. If the only one of those you can control is the hard work bit. Do that.
  3. Most novelists don’t make a huge amount of money. Don’t expect to give up the day job.
  4. Write the next book.

Please Release Me

My latest book, Please Release Me, came out in September 2015. It’s had some great reviews so far. A large part of the story is set in a hospice and deals with fairly heavy themes like grief and bereavement. Because I didn’t want to deal with such sensitive topics and get it wrong, I spoke to some people at Martin House Children’s Hospice. It seems only fitting that I’m donating half my royalties from Please Release Me to the hospice.

My website: www.rhodabaxter.com (@rhodabaxter on Twitter)

Buy Link for Please Release Me: myBook.to/PleaseReleaseMe




Blurb:

What if you could only watch as your bright future slipped away from you?

Sally Cummings has had it tougher than most but, if nothing else, it’s taught her to grab opportunity with both hands. And, when she stands looking into the eyes of her new husband Peter on her perfect wedding day, it seems her life is finally on the up.

That is until the car crash that puts her in a coma and throws her entire future into question.
In the following months, a small part of Sally’s consciousness begins to return, allowing her to listen in on the world around her – although she has no way to communicate.

But Sally was never going to let a little thing like a coma get in the way of her happily ever after …