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Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Appearing at Crimefest, Bristol

Crimefest is going to be a different experience for me this year.

Last year was my first time in attendance and I went as a reader, a fan, and a soon-to-be-published-author. I had a brilliant time - I enjoyed meeting some people I'd only ever known via social media, and I was overcome with excitement when I met long-admired authors. I think I spent my time there in a constant state of hyperactivity. You can read my write-up of 2016 HERE.

But, what about this year? Will I be less hyper? Probably not. But this time, I feel I am going under a slightly different guise. This year, I can now say I AM a published author. One book is already published and the second is a matter of months away from being unleashed.

Not only that, but at Crimefest THIS time, I am TALKING. 
In front of people. 
I have a Spotlight session to deliver. This is both an exciting and an anxiety-inducing prospect.

My chosen topic is - When Murderer Becomes Muse: Inspiration from working with prisoners. 
Of course, I could talk forever on this subject, I have three years of experiences that I can draw on - but I only have 20 minutes. I hope I am able to convey just how interesting my job role had been in that short time!

If you're free at 11.20 a.m on Friday 19th May - please do come and find me. I'll also be around in the Book Room following my session to sign Saving Sophie.

I'll be around for the entire 4 days of the festival, so please do come up and say hello.

I've even had my nails painted to match the cover :) 

Saturday, 11 March 2017

What a year!

A little over a year ago I travelled to London, and with my nerves shot to pieces, I entered the very impressive News Building -where HarperCollins publishers is housed. (You can see my write-up about my book deal moment and visit to HarperCollins HERE).

There, along with my brilliant agent, Anne, I met my editor and some of the team from Avon (an imprint of HarperCollins) and my dream of becoming a novelist took a huge turn towards becoming reality.

Just five months later, my debut novel SAVING SOPHIE was out in the world. 

Authors often liken writing, then publishing their novel, to 'giving birth to their baby'. For me, the process was less than the 9 months it took to birth my actual babies - and with that speed also came shock! Of course it was utterly fantastic to be in this position - it's what I'd been dreaming of - but I can't say I was totally prepared for it. This year has been a steep learning-curve. 

But I've enjoyed (almost) every minute of it, and I'm thrilled how well SOPHIE has done. With ebook and print editions combined, it has now sold over 100,000 worldwide! 

Just over the year - and I've now written my second novel and it's waiting to be unleashed! 
BAD SISTER will be published in October, and with this comes the 'second-book-nerves'. Will people buy it? Will it be as well received as SAVING SOPHIE? 

Only time will tell. And in the mean time, I have book 3 to write...

It really has been an amazing year - and I thank everyone who has been involved in it. 

Here's to the next!
(And I do have more good news to share soon...) 

Friday, 10 March 2017

Author interview - Cathy Cole

I'm thrilled to introduce another debut author to my blog - 

Cathy Cole's book Where There's Smoke is published today by Fireborn Publishing.

Please join me in congratulating her and wishing her a very Happy Publication Day!

I 'virtually' met Cathy on a writers forum in May 2015 and we then connected on Twitter. It's been great to share the road to publication together, and it means a lot that Cathy agreed to do this Q&A for me!

So, over to you, Cathy!

How long did it take to write Where There’s Smoke?

Quite a few years. I started it back in 2003, working on and off for about a year. At that point I was only really playing at being an author, then a close family member died and I had a cancer scare ... it hit me then that if I didn’t do this now I would never do it. After that, I settled down and wrote the whole thing in a couple of months.

Editing took a whole lot longer!

What was your first draft like?

It was pretty well organised, but rough. Having other people read it gave me a fresh perspective. Beta readers really are worth their weight in gold.

Can you tell us your journey to publication?

In the beginning, I wasn’t that bothered about getting the book published, I was just happy to have finished it. It wasn’t until a few beta readers told me how good it was and that I should definitely try publishing it, that I decided to do something about it. Being a total newbie, I started subbing to publishers, having no idea I should try and get an agent first. I had a lot of rejections and a few requests for fulls, which kept me going. When nothing came from the fulls, I shelved the book for a while. Then, last year I decided to start subbing again. I immediately got two offers of contracts, and the rest, as they say, is history.

I've no idea why, after so many rejections, the book finally started to get offers. Maybe it was timing? I am a member of a couple of writing sites, and the writers there helped me craft and refine my query and cover letter until they were the best they could possibly be. That’s the thing about most writers, they’re generous with their time and advice - not many professions can say the same.

What do you need in order to write?

I definitely need my own space. I can't work if I'm stuck in the middle of somewhere noisy - unless I'm people watching, then I love crowded places, they're a writer's smorgasbord. My oldest son moved out a few years ago and I was able to turn a small bedroom into an office. It’s nothing fancy, but I love the freedom of being able to leave my stuff out when I'm working, and having everything neat and tidy when I'm not. I work with background noise only - TV and/or music – and I mainline coffee. And snacks. I love snacks, especially of the chocolate variety.

What’s your favourite stage of the writing process?

Oooh, good question. I have to say I like all stages - even editing. But if pushed for an answer I'd have to say the first idea. Getting that initial idea down on the page, fleshing out scenes and characters...there is no feeling like it. It’s like starting up a brand new friendship with someone you know is going to be very important to you.

What’s your least favourite?

Finding out right at the end that you have an enormous plot hole. That happened to me with this book and it took me ages to figure out how to rewrite the story.

Why do you want to write – what’s your motivation?

I think, like most writers, I began at a very early age, putting my ideas down on paper, hoping to be the next Enid Blyton. (I loved her books as a child.) Later, when I took up writing again, I was doing something similar - trying to empty my mind. I had to give up work because of my AS (Ankylosing Spondylitis) and found the days very long. Being able to write stopped me going mad. Or maybe it was just being able to put my madness on the page that helped.

What are you most looking forward to as a published author?

Seeing my book in print. I got such a buzz from seeing the cover art when it was first done – thanks Sheri McGathy- I still do every time I see it. I can't wait to hold that physical book in my grubby little hands.

Five things you can’t live without…

My family – who have always been there for me, my friends - who were there when I needed them most, books – they kept me sane on many a dark, lonely night, writing – murdering people on the page is so cathartic, and last, but by no means least, chocolate and Chinese food - although I do draw the line at eating them together.

What’s next for you?

My next book - The Hungry Ghost - is out with Beta readers, so I shall have a lot of editing to do soon. I'm also working on a new novel. It's still in the 'idea' stage, so it's a first flush love affair at the moment.


Thanks so much, Cathy! 

Now, here's the blurb for Where There's Smoke:

     Firefighter Jo Woods is struggling to hold onto her job and her sanity. Banished to the backwater town of Mourne Lough, she vows to stop making waves, admit her family's death was an accident, and that the guilt she feels is plain old survivor guilt.
     Then she finds the roses and everything changes.
     The killer hasn't stopped. He's here. In the same town. Stalking her. And once again, no one believes her.
     After seven years of avoiding family and friends, Jo is alone and friendless in a strange town. In order to survive and, more importantly, bring the killer to justice, she must overcome her fears and embrace her new life. And she must do it quickly, because the killer has his sights set on her and he's willing to kill anyone who gets in his way.
     Enter Ian "Coop" Cooper, who sets Jo's pulse fluttering and her antenna into overdrive. Does she dare trust him?
     One thing Jo is clear about: this killer destroyed her life once before. No way is she going to let him do it again--no matter what it takes.

To buy Where There's Smoke - here are the all-important links - just click!

Fireborn Publishing:

It can also be purchased from:
Smashworlds, Barnes & Noble and Bookstrand

Here's more about Cathy:

Cathy Cole lives in Northern Ireland with her husband, two sons, and Dexter, a dog who thinks he’s her third son. Her debut novel Where There's Smoke—published by Fireborn Publishing—was inspired by the bravery of firefighters everywhere, but especially by those who gave so much on 9-11. Cathy has drawn directly upon her family's experience in the fire brigade in order to bring realism to her story.

You can connect with Cathy on Twitter: HERE

Good luck with the novel, Cathy - and thanks again for joining me!

Monday, 6 February 2017

Author Q&A - Diane Jeffrey

Being a newly published author is a huge deal - and one that brings with it a whole host of emotions! It's an amazing accomplishment and I love sharing in the excitement and nerves with other writers.

Today, I'm delighted to have Diane Jeffrey on my blog! 

She's talking about her publication journey, the ups and downs, her writing process and what's next for her.

Diane's debut psychological thriller, THOSE WHO LIE 

has just been published by HQ digital and is already climbing the charts and gaining fabulous reviews.

So, over to Diane:

How long did it take to write Those Who Lie?
It took me a year. I'm an English teacher and I'd applied for a year's study leave. My application was accepted. So, I had a year off during which I studied Spanish (a bit.) I had a lot of free time, so I wrote the novel during that year, and then it took me another year to rewrite it several times and get it into some sort of presentable shape.

What was your first draft like?  
It was organised, but it didn't read well. The language was stilted, it wasn't suspenseful enough and, as a few agents pointed out with their rejection letters, the "voice" needed work. This prompted the rewrites. 

Can you tell us your journey to publication?
I'd tried to get books published before. The first time it was a Chick Lit novel, which I wrote while my son was a baby. At the time, submissions had to be sent out by post, and from France that was complicated! My parents sent me loads of stamps for the return postage! Then I wrote the texts for a couple of children's picture books. I was unsuccessful in getting those published, too. In the end, as I read a lot of mystery and crime novels, I decided to try writing a psychological thriller.
     When I first sent it out to five or six agents, it was unanimously rejected, but two of the agents took the time to give me feedback instead of just sending back the standard rejection emails. When I'd gone through the manuscript and edited and amended heavily, I sent out the sample chapters and synopsis again, and more or less the same thing happened. This went on for a while... 
     Finally, I rewrote the first three chapters, changing the tense in two of them - the chapters that take place in the present day. I changed quite a lot of other things, too, as I felt that I could really hear my main character's voice in my head when writing in the present tense. Then I tried one more time and sent out to another five or six agents and HQ / Harper Collins. I got three requests for the full manuscript! But I'd only rewritten the first three chapters and needed to change the tense for over half of the book!
     So, I went on holiday to the Lake District last summer, armed with Mac (my laptop), got up early every day and spent about two hours every morning rewriting the book yet again! In the evenings, I got another one or two hours in while the rest of my family were watching the Olympics on replay! When I came home (to Lyon, France), I sent off the manuscript and about ten days later, "the call" came from HQ. 

How do you fit your writing around your family and work commitments?
Hmmm. I haven't managed to yet. I've written down notes and the plot for another psychological thriller, but I'm working full-time this year and so with work and looking after my three kids, I haven't managed to squeeze in much time for writing. So far, I've written the prologue and about half of the first chapter! That has taken me about three months! I also do about 5 hours of sport a week, so I have to fit writing around that, too. The problem with being a teacher is that there is often work to be done in the evenings... I might make progress during the Easter and summer holidays!

What do you need in order to write? 
Ideally, a clean house! I do the housework before I sit down to write if it's not clean and tidy! (Terrible OCD!) Peace and quiet, tea, coffee, chocolate. And my dog at my feet and sometimes my cat on my lap. In the winter, I like to work at the table by the log fire in the living / dining room. If my family are at home, I now work at my desk in my bedroom. The desk used to be in my office, but it's one of the few rooms in the house in which I've never worked(!), so when I was editing Those Who Lie, my husband and son took my desk upstairs with the printer and all my dictionaries and reference books and I'm much happier working in my bedroom. I can spread out pages all over the bed and no one disturbs me up there!

What’s your favourite stage of the writing process?
The best bit was the Author Amends. I was dreading it. I'd had two rounds of edits. That was very satisfying because my editor's comments were spot on and I could see the book improving as I went through them. But it was extremely hard work and stressful working to a deadline. I thought the Author Amends was going to be more of the same. But the copy editor was brilliant, too, and amazed me with the things she picked up. I really just had to agree or disagree (she was invariably right, so that was easy). Then I had to add the author bio and the acknowledgements. And that was it! I would never have to read my book again! That was such a great feeling!

What’s your least favourite?
The rejection emails were soul-destroying. I'm very grateful to the agents who took the time to give me personalised feedback. Without that, I might have given up. I think when you write to try and get published, there is a lot of self-doubt. And when you receive rejection upon rejection, the message you tell yourself is: my best isn't good enough. It is very hard to shine your way out of the slush pile and I took every single rejection very, very badly. On the bright side, I hope this has prepared me to a certain extent for the bad reviews! 

Why do you want to write – what’s your motivation?
I've always wanted to be a published author. When I was at school, I wrote for fun or to enter competitions, but being a published author was my childhood dream. If it hadn't worked, I would still be writing, though. Short stories, silly poems for friends, emails, letters of complaint... anything! It's just something I've always done and enjoyed.

What are you most looking forward to as a published author?
I've arranged to meet a few authors I'm in touch with online later this year and I'm soooo excited about that. And I'd love to meet my editor and the team at HQ.  But other than that, right now it's all very recent and I'm just enjoying the moment. 

Five things you can’t live without…
My family (my husband, our three children and our dog) - they are my world, chocolate, beer and sport (swimming, mainly, and a bit of running) and, of course, books!

What’s next for you?
At some point, I'll knuckle down and write this second book and see if it's any good, and my dream would really come true if one day I could hold one of my novels in my hands as a paperback. Well, I say hold in my hands, but I would probably strap it to my stomach and walk around it with it under my T-shirt during the day and sleep with it in on my pillow next to my head at night...

Thanks so much, Diane! It was great to find out more about your journey. Good luck with Those Who Lie - here's hoping it's as successful as it deserves to be. And, get going on that second novel! I'll look forward to chatting to you about the second-novel syndrome - haha!

You can link-up with Diane on 
Twitter - here
Facebook - here

THOSE WHO LIE is available to buy - here

Monday, 30 January 2017

My first book signing

Seeing a display of my novel in my local Waterstones was an amazing moment! The manager, Jodie, had organised my signing and I was delighted with her enthusiasm and support on the day, as well as bookseller, Sam, who kept an eye on things.
Waterstones Manager, Jodie

I was due to begin the signing at 12 midday so went for breakfast at the wonderful Country Table first. I don't think even my driving test was as nerve wracking - and I sat in there feeling anxious and convinced not one person would want a book. I'm very grateful to my family as they said they would pop in so at least I had someone there!

But, I needn't have been so stressed out. At twelve, I sat at my table and had no time to wait before my first reader came up to me. 

As I finished signing the book, I looked up to see a queue of people out the door. The relief was huge! After that, I settled into this new experience and enjoyed meeting everyone. It was such a joy to chat to people who either were interested in Saving Sophie or the writing journey. As I'm local to the area there was also much discussion about the setting of the novel - various places I mention that people knew well.

My friend Emma who travelled from Cheltenham 
 Here are some pictures from the day.
Again, a huge thank you to those who came and supported me, and Waterstones for hosting the signing. 

Book blogger Claire Hill

All gone! 

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Happy New Year - catch up time!

I'm very late with my New Year wishes! I seem to be taking ages to catch up with myself following the Christmas festivities! I hope everyone had a fabulous time and wish all my readers a happy and healthy 2017.

What a year 2016 was! In every way possible, it was a bit mad. Personally, it was one of the best years ever - my debut novel, SAVING SOPHIE was published in ebook on 12th August, and paperback and audio on 15th December. 

Seeing the paperback on the shelf was a proud moment, and one I won't forget.

I had a small celebratory evening with some of my friends and family on paperback release day, which was fantastic. I'm very lucky to have had amazing support from everyone. 

Oh, and my lovely son bought me this to help celebrate the paperback release - bless him :) 

Saving Sophie also sold to Poland in 2016 and is released there today! It's titled NEXT GIRL, and I love the cover!

It has been a whirlwind and I'm still not sure it's all sunk in. I feel extremely blessed to have had such a good year - and there's so much more to come in 2017 - another novel for starters!

A big thank you to all those who've supported me and to those who have already bought my book! 

To kick off the New Year, SAVING SOPHIE ebook is at the special price of just 99p!
Click HERE to get for 99p

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Final day of the SAVING SOPHIE paperback blog tour!

The tour is coming to an end today - it's gone so fast!

The wonderful Katherine, Bibliomaniac, is up first, you can check out her post HERE - her review is A-MAZING :) A huge thanks for taking part.

And then to close - we have the uber-talented and lovely Kaisha Holloway who put this whole tour together. I think you'll all agree she's done a stellar job - thanks so much, Kaisha!

Kaisha's blog, The Writing Garnet, has a guest post where I list some of my advice to aspiring writers, AND an extract from SAVING SOPHIE - pop along to see it HERE

I hope you've enjoyed the tour - I owe a massive thank you to all the bloggers who have taken part over the seven days - they've all worked so hard and been amazing. Such a lot of time and effort goes into reading, reviewing and blogging and I am so very grateful for all of your support.

You can get Saving Sophie as ebook, paperback and audiobook HERE

I love hearing from readers, so please drop me a line!

Tomorrow I'll be posting some of my favourite pictures of the launch of Saving Sophie :)