Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Radio, Magazines and an extract from When Dreams Come True

Hi everyone

I have been away for a couple of days but I wanted to share a couple of things that happened yesterday. First of all, I was catching up on reading my copies of Writers' Forum magazine, which I subscribe to but rarely have time to read at home. I started on the June issue (I was on a sun lounger near a jacuzzi, if I need to set the scene!) and I came to an article about Writing Competitions by the lovely Sally Quilford. I had to read a certain paragraph three times before it sunk it, as Sally quoted me in it. It was ironic really, as about five minutes earlier, I was thinking 'wow it must be so amazing to see your name in this magazine'.

I then took myself off to find a part of the spa which had wifi (believe me they are limited) to send hubby a note about this. As soon as the wifi connected I received an email from him saying Radio Oxford had been in contact to invite me onto another show this morning (to discuss 'Back To School' shopping!). I had to decline as my children are all here and it's lucky I did really as just at the time I would have been on, they started scrapping with each other in a "right you're back, we want your attention" sort of way. But it was lovely to be asked.

While I was away I received some lovely reviews for New Beginnings on Amazon, which made my day on Sunday. Thank you to lovely Talli and Anne.

And finally, I have added a new page to my blog today. It's an extract from my second book, When Dreams Come True. I'd love to know what you think; feel free to let me know by commenting on this post or via the "contact" form.

Thanks for reading xx

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Book Review: English Slacker by Chris Morton

I first discovered Chris Morton on the Authortrek website. When I had read a couple of short stories by him, I remember thinking, 'Please let this writer have a book'. And sure enough, he has.

A brief synopsis of the book:
Chambers is an eighteen-year-old student living in the small town of Bracksea, England. Fresh from his final college exams, he is now ready for what is to be his last summer of freedom, which involves going to parties, smoking dope and getting drunk with all his friends. However, what begins as a seemingly innocent and routine set of social events soon turns into a nightmare for Chambers as a suppressed memory – which may or may not be related to the recent disappearance of his best friend Colin – begins to surface. The more Chambers immerses himself in the distractions around him the more he begins to find that he is losing his whole sense of reality…

The book is like no other book I have read. The protagonist is obviously eighteen so the point of view is very different to a lot I have read recently, and his character is also very different to mine; he swears a lot, does a lot of drugs, and quite frankly seems to be having a bit of a miserable life. However, despite all of this, I could not put this book down. I found myself caring about Chambers, wanting him to turn out ok, and constantly keen to know what happens next. Definitely the sign of a good book.

It seems I am not alone in enjoying this book, as English Slacker has been shortlisted for the Not The Booker Prize 2011. Because of this, you lucky, lucky things, you can currently get a free pdf download of the book via the Punked Books website.

And now a plea. Please do download English Slacker, but please also read it asap. The voting for the Not The Booker Prize will re-open shortly and I would like to enlist a bit of help with this. There are a number of reasons, pick any one of them to suit you  ;o)

1. Chris Morton is a brilliant writer.
2. English Slacker is a unique book and deserves to win. It's a fine example of how a high quality piece of writing does not have to sit with an enormous publisher to be wonderful.
3. (This is where I get a bit shameless) Punked Books also publish my book New Beginnings, as well as books by two friends of mine. Any help Punked Books get in the way of publicity, is going to help all of us. Team Punked!
4. Please?

Please 'Like' the Punked Books Facebook page to be kept up to date when the voting starts.

I hope you enjoy English Slacker.
x x x

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

New Beginnings, New Experiences, A New Me

Exactly two months ago, a delivery driver almost got the shock of his life as I got mildly hysterical about him delivering my first box of 50 author copies of New Beginnings to my house. That was the first of many firsts.

There was my first direct sale, my first book signing event, my first appearance on BBC Radio Oxford. My first sighting of my book in a book shop, my first Amazon sale, my first review, all these firsts seem like amazing things. Each and every one as special as the last.

Of course, the main worry when you have a book published is, will people want to buy it? The devil whispering in my ear made me wonder if I would sell more than three copies, (Mum, sister and aunt). But I'm pleased to say my definite sales figure (ie the ones I know about) is 90 to date. The majority of those being direct sales. Not bad for a book that isn't officially published yet!

Two months on, my Amazon reviews are now in double figures. It's such a thrill that people actually want to buy my book, but when they take the time and effort to review it as well, it is appreciated so much, especially as my first ten reviews all have five stars.

I'm quite proud of my achievements with marketing and publicity as a first-timer. I have got quite a lot of reviewers waiting to read the book nearer to the official publication date, I've had numerous bookshops say they will stock the book, and people saying they will take part in my publication date (23 January 2012) websplash. It has amazed me how much I have achieved, just by building up the courage to ask.

New Beginnings has changed me as a person. I now have no qualms at all about calling myself a writer for a start. For the first time in my life I am actually starting to have a bit of self confidence. I'm having such an exciting time at the moment, and if you are reading this, thank you for being a part of it.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

My First Radio Appearance (BBC Radio Oxford)

Today, I was on the radio, as part of the book club feature of Jo in the Afternoon on BBC Radio Oxford.

This morning I was a bit nervous. I took two of my children over to my parents house (by 9am, quite a feat in the school hols) as they were going for a day out to the seaside.

Later, I took my four year old to a friend's house, stayed for coffee for an hour which was a nice distraction. Then I went home to "plan" but being at home on my own sent me into a spiral of nerves so I popped out to one of my favourite haunts to buy some bits and pieces and came home and then distracted myself again with some lunch and a flick through the Children's Writers' & Artists' Yearbook 2012.

I started listening to BBC Radio Oxford online at 1pm when the show started. It was as the show began and I heard the presenter saying they would be talking to me by name, that the nerves turned into excitement.

I had no idea what I was going to be asked, but I kept telling myself to listen, pause, answer, but I must admit I did have a couple of things I wanted to mention (apart from New Beginnings, obviously) and luckily Jo asked questions which enabled me to mention most of them.

The chat flew by, and by the end I was hoping it would go on for longer. It was a great experience and I hope it won't be the last time I am on the radio.

Many thanks to BBC Radio Oxford, who kindly sent me a copy of the interview to keep & share.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Me, on BBC Radio Oxford

Tomorrow, at approximately 1.30pm (UK time) I will be on BBC Radio Oxford as part of their monthly book club feature.

I will be talking about New Beginnings as well as discussing books in general.

You can listen live on the BBC iPlayer or you can "Listen Again" via the website.

I would also like to thank the following shops in and around Oxfordshire who are now stocking New Beginnings:

Blackwell, Oxford
Chalgrove Post Office
Cole's Books, Bicester
Cotswold Bookstore
Jaffe and Neale, Chipping Norton
Little Milton Village Shop
Mostly Books, Abingdon
The Book House Summertown
The Book House, Thame
The Wallingford Bookshop

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Review of my First Book Signing Event

Yesterday I did one of those things I am sure everyone does from time to time: I Googled my own name and the title of my book. In doing so, I noticed this gorgeous write-up of the book signing event I was lucky enough to hold in one of my favourite writing spots, the Village Shop & Cafe in Little Milton.

This piece was in the Little Milton village newsletter but I have also taken a screen shot, so click on the image to see the full size version.

I really do love this place for writing, there is a cafe down one end of the shop and along one side of it there are floor to ceiling windows. I can only write if I have a view outside, so this place is absolutely perfect and it's where I did a lot of writing and editing for New Beginnings and it has also inspired several of my #fridayflash stories, including Autumn Days.

You can even add them on Facebook and find out in advace about any future events. I will definitely be having another book signing here when my second book is published!

Me, at the book signing

Friday, 12 August 2011

Friday Flash: Three

There have been years when I’ve longed for March to pass. All the talk of new life and fresh starts would make my stomach turn. It’s hard to feel joy when the time of year only reminds me of unexplained, sudden loss.

Six years ago, in an instant, my dreams of a future as part of a family of four disappeared like blossom on the breeze. After the beauty of that dream turned to dust, he walked away. I never saw him again.

I refused to let my dream fade to nothingness. I’d always set thirty-two as my cut-off point.

I stand, feeling the tentative rays of a practising sun caressing my skin. For once I don’t imagine the spring flowers are turning away from me in shame or fear.

The procedure had worked first time. I’d worried the first few months away. But now, as I pocket my keys and the taxi driver helps me with my bag, I feel a thud on either side of my abdomen. I heave myself into the taxi, smiling. I can’t wait to meet them.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Book Review: Losing The Hate by Simon Palmer

As an author who writes for children, I have to state: 
This review and the book are not suitable for children.

Recently I have only read books by people I have got to know online. This wasn't a conscious decision, it was just that I was interested in reading books by so many of my online friends that I didn't have time to select anything else.

This morning, however, I checked my 'followers' list on Twitter and discovered a new follower, @Syepal.  I clicked to look at his profile, as I always do with new followers, to see if I want to follow them back. I clicked on to his website and what I read there made me download his book to my iPod Touch, and read it on the Kindle app this afternoon while my children were scampering around a soft play centre.

Losing The Hate is a powerful memoir of child abuse, from the point of view of the victim.

This book is a painful reminder that there are people in the world who should not be trusted, some of them even in positions which they should not be allowed to be in. It had me reading on while at the same time hoping that the inevitable wasn't going to happen.

It seems that the author is not writing to gain any sort of sympathy; on the contrary, he even questions whether his less-than-perfect behaviour as an adult can be attributed to his treatment as a child. The book is, however, a powerful lesson to readers, that you can never be certain about people, and you should always be on your guard.

I used to work in the council offices, where I read reports about children treated in ways similar to how this author was treated. These children who have had reports written and cases discussed, have had someone to talk to about all of these events. This memoir, on the other hand, feels like the author is telling you personally about his experiences. It's a raw and frank tale, and one that left me feeling incredibly sad, and more than  little angry.

From a reader's point of view, the book is hard to read as far as the subject matter is concerned and yet I was unable to stop reading. The writing is incredibly good, with detailed descriptions of some very personal and terrifying events. The book also contains poetry that shows so much emotion it could only have been written by someone in such a situation.

The author repeatedly states that he regrets the perpetrators of the events in the book may have been able to shatter other young lives. By writing this book, it is possible that he will raise awareness of situations that some may not even imagine possible, and prevent cases like this happening in the future.

I have no idea how the author managed to write all of these experiences out, but I sincerely hope that it has helped him in some way.

You can download this book to your Kindle now, via Amazon. The paperback is to follow.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Writer/Mum Part 2 - One Year On

On 1 August last year, I wrote a post called A Day In The Life of a Writer/Mum which was basically a bit rant about how difficult it is to write during the school holidays. This post has been one of the most visited posts on this blog, so I am guessing people can relate!

This year, I decided early on that things had to be different. I didn't want to feel that frustration again, the dreadful resentment of the lack of writing time, and especially the guilt for not spending more time enjoying the time I have with my children.

I told myself this year would be different. And it has been.

A lot has changed since last summer. I've been published several times, for a start, and New Beginnings is making me very proud at the moment as the sales and reviews keep on coming. I am so grateful to everyone who has bought a copy and also to the lovely people who have left reviews on Amazon and Goodreads about the book. This really does help so thank you very much.

I finished and self-edited my second novel, When Dreams Come True well in advance of the school summer break this year. That is the main thing that is different this year, my timings have all been brought forward. It feels wonderful. Instead of wondering about piles of edits, I am spending the odd bit of time I do have on promotion and social networking. It's lovely to catch up with my friends and it's amazing to see the results of my marketing efforts. I am enjoying this part of the process greatly.

As for the writing? It's on hold. The ideas are there, they're gently simmering away, but I won't be writing them out until the school term starts.

And now? I'm off to play some games with my children.

Have a great summer xx

Friday, 5 August 2011

Interviews, Radio, Bookshops, Auctions and More

What a busy week! I am actually astonished at the amount I have achieved this week, despite it being the school holidays.

I have been asked to be a part of BBC Radio Oxford's Book Club feature on 17th August at approximately 1.30pm. So tune in if you can, to hear me umming and erring my way through the slot. I'd love to know what you think after the event!

Since hearing about this, I have called the majority of Oxfordshire's bookshops asking if they are interested in stocking my book. So far the responses have been very positive and I have only stopped my calls as I have now run out of copies (all 106!) and had to order some more from my publisher. Every single one of the independent bookshops I have called has said they will stock my book. Waterstones and Blackwell are still pending a decision, so we shall see.

My second novel, When Dreams Come True is out with my beta readers. I am awaiting feedback before I can do any final tweaks to that.

So this morning I was left wondering what to do. I have set up some auctions on Ebay as a result. Thought I may as well do something useful! You can find them all here. You may be able to grab yourself a bargain, or even get your hands on one of the mugs I have had made up to help market New Beginnings.

Have a lovely weekend! And don't forget the book giveaways running in the following sites:
A copy of New Beginnings over on Emma Kerry's blog.
A copy of New Beginnings on Goodreads.
A copy of The Green King by Stephanie Parker over on my other blog.
All of these giveaways finish next week. Good luck if you enter!