Exciting News …

My 2018 diary is already filling up with various talks, and there are two very special events I would like to share with you.  Firstly, I am thrilled to announce that I have been invited to take part in Hull University’s 3 day English Literature Festival organised by The National Collaborative Outreach Programme. The Festival starts on the 6th February 2018 and is aimed at raising aspirations of students aged 13-18 across the Humber region by increasing their knowledge of careers in writing, publishing, illustrating, marketing, public speaking and much more.  A selection of panels and workshops are planned and full details will be available shortly on the website: www.force-higher.co.uk and on the Twitter feed @Force_HE  #ELFHumber2018.

Secondly, Bradford UK Indie Literature Festival is returning for a third year on the 28th July, and is once again being held in the fabulous Kala Sangam in the centre of the city.  This is a free event, with 40 authors in attendance, so there is sure to be a book to suit all tastes.  Details on where to obtain a ticket are on the UKindieLitFest website.

As it is the holiday season, I have reduced the price of the Kindle version of my romantic suspense novel, The House on the Shore, until 3rd January 2018.  You can download a copy from Amazon for only 99p/99c instead of the usual price of £2.99/$2.99.

The audiobook versions of The House on the Shore and Ring of Lies are garnering good reviews.  If you have never listened to an audiobook and would like to do so, I have a six vouchers available for a free download from Audible.co.uk, and Audible.com on a first come, first served basis. If you would like one, just send me an email via the contact form on my website stating which recording you would prefer.

 

 

2017 is nearly over, so I would like to thank everyone who has attended an event or purchased a book, a very Happy Christmas and a healthy and prosperous New Year.  I hope to see you again in 2018.

 

Research …

With winter is just around the corner,  there is no better time for me to knuckle down and work on a manuscript. But, before I do, there was just time to squeeze in a holiday before I dig out the winter woollies from the bottom of the wardrobe and hibernate until spring.

As many of  you will know, I lived on a croft in rural Aberdeenshire for many years and have long considered Scotland my second home. So, it probably comes as no surprise that my destination of choice was Scotland and in particular, Dumfries and Galloway. I love the Highlands, the rugged beauty of the mountains, but the Scottish border country also has a special place in my heart because it is the home of Scotland’s National Book Town.

Wigtown is home to at least seven bookshops and is a haven for book lovers with over a quarter of a million books to choose from. Each year holds it holds a book festival. With 200 hundred events and workshops for adults and children.  The festival takes place over ten days, with such speakers as Ian Rankin, Professor Iain Sinclair, Mairi Hedderwick, Denise Mina, and Gavin Esler, I decided to take some time out of our holiday to attend a few of the events.

I have long held the desire to write crime. So, when I read in the Festival Brochure that Denise Mina, winner of the McIlvanney Prize 2017 for Scottish crime book of the year, I knew that was one event I could not miss. Ms Mina is a Scottish novelist and playwright, and her latest book, The Long Drop is the true crime account of Peter Manuel, a serial killer who operated in Glasgow in the 1950s.

 

 

Now, I have a confession to make, although I have seen Ms Mina’s books in the local bookshop, I had never read one until this week. More than just a crime story, The Last Breath, kept me up all night wondering what would happen next. As soon as I finish this post, I shall be scouring Amazon for more of her novels.

Not only am I determined to finish the romantic suspense novel I’m working on, but also to try my hand at writing a crime novel. Watch this space!

Penistone Literary Festival

It’s been a while since I posted, I know. I can’t even use working in the garden as an excuse, because on the whole, the weather has been cold, grey and rather miserable.

But I had some very good news this month – I’ve been invited to speak at the 1st ever Penistone Literary Festival on Sunday 20th July! Ceri Worman and Edana Guest, are working hard to bring the event together.

There’s a stellar line up of writers and poets including, Simon Armitage, Barnsley’s best selling novelist Milly Johnson, Michael Fowler, and Andrew McMillan. There are events for children and even a poetry walk.

 

Penistone Literary Festival 2014

I feel very honoured to have been asked to take part and am looking forward to meeting everyone who attends. Once the full programme is announced, I’ll put the link up on this site.

So, if you are in Penistone on Saturday and Sunday, 19th and 20th July, you really should treat yourself and pop along to St John’s Community Centre for a chance to hear about their work.

I’ve also been invited to talk to Springfield Ladies, a local group based in Hoyland, in May.

The audiobook version of Ring of Lies, has received a number of 5star reviews on Audible.com. Yay!

And finally, I’m planning to turn The House on the Shore into an audiobook, if I can find a narrator who can perform an authentic Scottish accent and who’s not afraid to try pronouncing or learn a few Gaelic words! So, if you or someone you know has what it takes to be a voiceover artist and can speak Gaelic, why not sign up to Audiobook Creation Exchange and submit your audition?

More details to follow!

A fun filled day!

As some of you may know, Milly Johnson and I held a crash course in novel writing on the 17th June. I must admit that, for a short time at least, I had a few sleepless nights about picking a date that coincided with Father’s day here in the UK.  Fortunately, I need not have worried at 50 people turned up to our event.  The feedback we have received has been very positive, but don’t take my word for it.  Here is a copy of an article that appeared in the local press.

 

 

 

World Book Night 2012

World Book Night is now in its second year,  was celebrated in the UK, Ireland, Germany and the USA by tens of thousands of people gifting books. This year it fell on the 23rd April which also marked the birth and death of Shakespeare.

Thomas Rotherham College
World Book Night 2012 - Thomas Rotherham College

The college had been chosen as a giver and had copies of Kazuo Isiguro’s ‘The Remains of the Day’ to give away to ‘A’ level English Students and their guests.  I had been invited to take part in the celebrations and to give an introductory talk about novel writing.  After refreshments we settled back into our seats for readings from staff and students of various texts including Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’ and ‘As You Like It.’

I would like to thank the Staff and the students for a very enjoyable evening and wish them all good luck in the forthcoming examinations.

Writers conferences – how to get the best literary nourishment.

In July I was fortunate to attend the Romantic Novelists’ annual conference in Caerleon, South Wales. This is the first genre specific conference I’ve attended, and while I’m no expert on the conference scene, I was keen to mingle with my fellow romantic suspense authors, listen to industry professionals and agents.
My conference pack offered a cornucopia of workshops, agent appointments, and industry panels, and I was hard pressed to choose which suited my needs best. Was my time best spent listening to a published author share techniques for developing your story hook? Or would it be better listening to a lecture on time management? All of which made me think what advice I would give to a first-time conference attendee.

Often when you sign up for a writers conference, which let’s face it, aren’t exactly inexpensive, few details, other than the venue and date, are available. The name of the keynote speaker and details of the workshops and agent appointments are sent with the conference pack after you have paid the fee. Personally, I find this a little disconcerting. After all, you wouldn’t order dinner in a restaurant without first looking at the menu or go to the movies without knowing what was showing.

So, when attending a writing conference whether genre specific or not, you need to focus carefully on what’s available. If you have any doubts on whether the conference will be suitable for your style of writing and genre, contact the organiser before you pay the fee. He or she should be able to give you some more details, even if the some of the speakers are yet to give details of their workshops. Select the sessions that fit your needs. For example, if you’re struggling with the plot of your novel, your time is best spent in a session dealing with the technique rather than pitching the idea for your as yet unwritten novel. Know the content of each session before you arrive at the conference venue.

Conferences, especially those in the USA, are filled with editors, agents, publishers and booksellers. Take time to talk to them, although I don’t recommend accosting an agent in a lift and pitching your book. But do listen to what they say. These are industry professionals. They know how the market works and what is selling and what is not. Ask any well thought-out question and note down the answer. Many presenters offer hand-outs, a list of key points from their session.

Take time to meet your peers and identify a potential mentor/critique partner. He or she can give you feedback on your writing and help you when your plot stalls. A good mentor will not write your book for you, but should give you constructive criticism.

Don’t be afraid to approach published authors and ask them how they did it and where they get their inspiration. Many are willing to share such information when asked politely, but again, pick your moment with care. No one wants to be cornered in the ladies room!
Avoid comparisons. Comparing your writing progress with that of other delegates serves no useful purpose and will only depress you. Remember, every published author was once like you, only dreaming of seeing their writing in print. And besides, just because someone boasts about their completed a manuscript there is no guarantee that it will be accepted for publication.

Finally, enjoy yourself. Most conferences present opportunities to socialize and make friends.

Vacations and Presentations

While on a vacation in Florida in December, I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to promote my latest novel, Ring of Lies and give a presentation to the members of the Suncoast Writers’ Guild, chaired by Edwin Ellis, the director of the Guild.

After my presentation was over I signed copies of my novels and spent time chatting to the members. As everyone was very complimentary on the content of my presentation, I’ve decided to put my notes for the event here, so that any members who couldn’t attend can have access. I hope you find it useful.


Why all books need strong protagonists.

We’ve all read books and been disappointed when the characters fail to meet the demands of the plot. My job as a novelist is to get you totally absorbed in the story from page one to such an extent that you feel as if you are standing in the corner of the room witnessing the action.

So how do we, as writers, achieve that?

The magic key is character development – the one element that can define a book as a success or a failure.

Every work of fiction needs a hero – he may be a detective in a crime novel, an astronaut battling the alien in a science fiction book, the war hero in an historical, or in the case of romantic suspense, he’s the guy the heroine finally falls in love with.

Regardless of the genre, they all have something in common. They have to be someone you, the reader, can identify with. Someone you will care about. Moreover, it’s not just the main protagonists who need to be interesting, the villains should be compelling too. Otherwise, I’m pitting tough, intelligent protagonists against stupid villains which lead to a dull, contrived plot.

The romantic hero or protagonist differs from other heroes in fiction in that he must evolve from being self centered with a closed heart to loving fully, in other words, he must learn to commit.

At one time, he was required to be single, sexy, sweet (although that might not be evident at first), smart, and of course, solvent. But tastes have changed over the years. We no longer want the classical tall, dark and handsome hero of Jane Austen or Charlotte Bronte. Although, that said, my heroes do fit the stereotype to a certain degree, only because I’m short and never had much luck with blond haired men.

Bonnie Tyler’s song ‘I need a hero’ sums up the modern romantic hero perfectly. He’s strong, intelligent and somewhat larger than life. Not only is he a good ‘people reader’ and able to see through everyone’s lies, he also has to be human, make mistakes and learn from them as we all do. He’s the guy we want on our side. The one who’s a little bit dangerous, the one our mother warned us about when we first started dating.

His strengths are the qualities that make the heroine and the reader fall in love with him.

But how do I create this desirable male?

Like many novelists, I write a short biography for each of my characters, other authors prefer to use a chart such as the one to be found on this website : http://www.epiguide.com/ep101/writing/charchart.html I include physical attributes, such as height, weight, hair and eye colour, whether they have any tattoos or scars. I also include such things as whether they had a college education, can drive and own a car, what their employment is. Some novelists I know write two or three pages on each character, but I would suggest you add as much or as little detail as you are comfortable with.

But you need to know more than your character’s background. You have to place them in conflict with each other and give them goals.

So what do I mean by goals?

The external goal is usually something simple and obvious – catch the killer or thief, solve the mystery and find the priceless antique. The villain’s goal, on the other hand, might be to exact revenge on the police officer who put him in jail or destroy the small town that shunned him. It is the external goal that drives the plot forward, and obviously, the protagonist’s goal is going to directly conflict with the antagonist’s external goal.

For example, in my latest novel, Ring of Lies, Grace Elliott’s goal is to discover her dead husband’s true identity and find out where the money to purchase the beach house on Gasparilla Island came from.

The internal goal is usually an emotional goal, hidden in the hero or heroines psyche, something which reveals an area of vulnerability. For example, a female police officer’s goal might be to catch the criminal, but her internal goal is to win the approval of her colleagues and family.

For example, in Three Weeks Last Spring, Walker’s external goal is to catch whoever is poisoning the fish in Puget Sound. His internal goal is to overcome his fear of commitment because every woman he’s ever dated has walked out on him when she learns how often he is working away from home.

Whatever the internal goal, the hero and heroine have to change and evolve during the course of the novel and become better persons through their relationship with each other.

The key is to create characters that are strong in their ideals and values, but who are prepared to listen, and if necessary change during the course of 100,000 words. After all, you don’t want to be three chapters into writing your novel only to realize you hate your characters. If you don’t like them, neither will your readers.

But internal and external goals and inner conflict isn’t the only trait characters need. To create tension and excitement, something must impede both the protagonist and antagonist achieving their goals. Without it, there is nothing to make the reader keep turning the page. Every major character must have something to lose as the book reaches the final climax.

It’s the combination of all these factors – believable characters and a realistic plot which makes a novel an enjoyable read. If I can achieve that, then I know I’ve done my job well.

Vanilla Heart Publishing announces Book Club VIP Program

Are you a member of a book or readers club? Then consider signing up for Vanilla Heart’s Book Club VIP Program.

VHP Book Club VIP Program

Book clubs and their members play an important part in the enjoyment and excitement of reading terrific books. Here at Vanilla Heart Publishing, we appreciate the passion and enthusiasm book clubs generate when reading and discussing books!

VHP is pleased to offer book clubs the opportunity to join our VHP VIP Book Club Program at no cost or obligation to you or your members.

Vanilla Heart Publishing authors across the United States and in England can give your book club an exciting presentation – in person, by phone, or via forums and group chat on the internet. Our authors are skilled in creating unique programs tailored to your book club and your membership!

Sign up for our exclusive book club newsletter (we never sell, rent, or abuse your trust by sharing your signup information) at VHPVIP@VanillaHeartBooksAndAuthors.com to receive:

  • Quarterly VIP club newsletter, with specials, new releases, excerpts, author interviews, and more
  • Special advance notice and private invitations to online launch activities and local and online launch parties!
  • Exclusive book club discussion starters for each ordered title
  • A generous discount on VHP VIP book club book selection orders when ordered directly from the publisher – free shipping on orders over ten copies
  • Preview many of our novels for free on our Free Samples page or watch the book videos, then contact us for book club orders and information.

Subscribe to the VHP VIP Book Club and get instant updates and news…

Joan Hessayon Award

The House on the Shore is a contender for the 2009 Joan Hessayon Award presented by the Romantic Novelists Association. The Joan Hessayon NWS Award is presented to the best debut novel each year to have come through the specialized and highly selective New Writer’s Scheme and been accepted for publication by a recognized publisher.

Distinguished winners have included Marika Cobbold, Norma Curtis, Linda Taylor and Donna Hay. Many other popular authors owe their start in the industry due to this (unique amongst professional UK writers’ associations) facet of the RNA.

The award is generously sponsored by Dr David Hessayon, in honor of his late wife Joan, who was a longstanding member of the RNA and a great supporter of the New Writers’ Scheme.

The Winner will be announced on the 13th May 2009.

March is Small Press Month

What exactly is a small press? The term is used to describe publishers who have annual sales below a certain limit, or who publish a limited number of titles each year. Small presses make up half the market share of the book publishing industry, and present an opportunity for new writers to break into publishing. They should not be confused with vanity publishers or subsidy presses who require their authors to pay for the privilege of having their book published. Small presses make their profits by selling their books to consumers and not to their authors.

What are the advantages of being published by a small press?

1. Small presses have more freedom. They are not restricted by the same economic values and constraints as the large publishing houses.

2. They can take advantage of modern technology and publish a comparatively smaller run of copies, a practice deemed too costly for the large houses, who must sell large numbers of books in order to earn back their advances.

3. They can specialize in specific genres, such as historical non-fiction, poetry, romance, and erotica.

4. One of the major advantages of working with a small press is that an author can expect to be fully involved in the publishing process, from advertising the book, to deciding on a cover.

5. Small presses respond more quickly and often accept unsolicited manuscripts, whereas larger publishing houses will often only consider manuscripts recommended by an agent.

6. Sometimes it is easier to have a manuscript accepted by a small press than it is a larger publishing house, and for a new writer, that has to be good news.

Can small presses compete with the big houses?

Admittedly, it can be more difficult for a small independent publisher to obtain shelf space in bookstores, partly due to the fact that the larger houses often pay for prominent displays for their top of the list authors. But that’s not to say that it’s impossible.

There are many distribution networks willing to fill the needs of the small press, such as Baker and Taylor’s Distribution Solutions Group, Small Press Distribution and the Publishers Marketing Association. There is nothing to prevent small presses signing up with Neilson Book Data or Gardners Books here in the UK. The Internet is also an effective marketing and sales too.

So come along and help celebrate small press book by visiting your local bookstore, or better yet, take a look at Vanilla Heart’s website.

www.vanillaheartbooksandauthors.com/VHP_Bookstore.html.

You might be pleasantly surprised at the range and number of titles available.