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Friday, 7 July 2017

HarperCollins Summer Party

I was thrilled last year when I received my first invitation to the HarperCollins summer party at the Victoria and Albert Museum - it was one of the most exciting things that had happened to me as a writer! But at that point, my debut novel, Saving Sophie, was yet to be published. I was so nervous it was ridiculous, and although I knew names of other authors, and followed some on social media, I hadn't met any in person. Thankfully my agent, Anne Williams, was with me and she took me under her wing.

I had an amazing time, drank too much, met some fabulous authors and spent a lot of time with the editors from Avon, who publish me. But I remember feeling a bit awkward, embarrassed even when I was asked who I was, what I'd written. I felt almost apologetic in my response: 'Oh, I'm not published yet, my book is out in August.' That kind of thing...

This year's party invite! 200 years celebration!

Charlie Redmayne CEO of HarperCollin giving his speech
But this year was different. Saving Sophie is published, Bad Sister is due for publication in October, I actually felt like an author at the party this time! As I stood with Anne listening to Charlie Redmayne's wonderful speech, we clinked glasses to celebrate over 100,000 sales of the ebook of Saving Sophie and when he talked about 'authors' I was thrilled and proud to know I was one of them.

I met so many brilliant, talented and lovely authors on Wednesday - and I was among friends. I am lucky to be a part of HaperCollins and really hope that my journey with them lasts a long time!

I didn't take very many photos - I've included the few I managed to take. (I have got a fab one of myself with Charlie Redmayne, but it was the end of the evening and, well, I won't be sharing that one here...)

SAVING SOPHIE is currently in the UK kindle summer sale at just 99p - please do grab a copy HERE.

Friday, 9 June 2017

My Advice For Aspiring Writers

As a writer, you often get asked for your top writing tips. I’ve compiled the ones I’ve given out so far in one handy list:

·         Search for information online 

There’s so much advice readily available for writers! I spent a lot of time online searching for tips and ‘How To’ books, and I attended some workshops which were really useful.

·         Get social media savvy     
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I find social media a Godsend. It’s an amazing source of support that I would advise writers to tap in to because writing can feel a lonely process at times, particularly when you’re first starting out.

·         Join a writing group
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This can be beneficial as gaining feedback is invaluable. I would say, however, that you might receive a lot of differing advice, so in the end it’s about learning what will work for you and what won’t – I think there’s an element of trial and error here!

·         DO NOT rush to submit your work to agents

It’s so exciting to have finished a novel, so much so that it can be hard to hold back! But agents receive so many submission packages you don’t want to give them an easy reason to reject yours. Make sure you read the individual agent’s requirements, have a strong covering letter, a succinct synopsis to the length they ask, and make sure your opening chapters are polished, polished, polished! I DID send my work too early and received a number of rejections quite quickly. Then I was lucky enough to have my work edited by a newly qualified editor and afterwards I began getting requests for my full manuscript. It can be costly, but personally I think it’s worth it.

·         Enter competitions

I entered my opening chapters of Saving Sophie (then titled Portrayal) into the CWA Debut Dagger award and was longlisted. It was an amazing feeling to have my work recognised. Being placed in a competition validates you as a writer and gives a huge boost to your confidence. Even though my agent was already interested in my writing, I believe that being able to tell her I’d been longlisted was a factor in her decision to sign me.

·         Learn the art of patience

You’ll need a lot of it (although I’ve yet to master this myself!)

·         Learn to take constructive criticism
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But also know that a dozen people could read your MS and each one of them might suggest a different way to ‘improve’ it. You have to try and be subjective, sit back, think about the comments you’ve been given – if there are similarities, then it’s likely that part of your MS is an issue that needs reworking. But DO NOT change your MS after each and every bit of feedback. You’ll end up in a mess. If you can, get a professional editor, or use a manuscript assessment service. I was lucky to have an editor who had just qualified and was taking on work in order to gain experience. I realise this was great timing – and a lot of people won’t get such good luck. But money spent at this stage could prevent a lot of heartache later down the line when the rejections roll in!

·         Tell yourself every day that you are a writer 
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Act like one, and you will be one! Grit, determination and self-belief are key.

·         Get organised and make time to write

Although I’m giving this tip – I am the world’s worst and need to heed my own advice. When people ask ‘So, you write full time then?’ and I answer ‘yes’, I’m sure they think that I do nothing other than sit at my keyboard and hammer out page after page of a novel. But there is so much more to being a writer than that. You might like to visit a blog piece I wrote on fitting everything in: (HERE) The key, I think, is to have a schedule that fits around your everyday life – and do your best to stick to it!

·         Don’t forget to eat properly, drink and exercise!

I have been known to get to 4pm and realise I have only consumed coffee and chocolate bars. Add the sedentary lifestyle of sitting for hours at your desk, and you have a very unhealthy writer! Take regular breaks.

·         Write what you love to read

 Coming up with around 90,000 words will be far easier if you are enjoying it. Your readers will be able to tell if you are bored, and they will be too. Skip the boring parts.


You can purchase SAVING SOPHIE on Amazon from
UK - Here
USA - Here

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!