Category Archives: Book Launch

Don’t Give Up

I began my serious journey from scientist to writer close to fifteen years ago. Eleven years ago  I saw my first short story published. My mission to seek an agent and have a novel published took writing four novels (it’s a thorough learning process) until one was deemed good enough to find a home with a publisher in 2013. An agent (after several near misses) followed in 2014 after my move back to Essex. I did the dance…

I had hoped then to finally see some of the other novels, including the new ones that followed, seek homes but it is not always as simple as that. My agent moved to a big agency and while she took me with her, her focus then shifted to non-fiction and I found my submissions and my plans slowed right down. That is not to say I was not writing, and I have had something published every year since that first short story was published — amassing over thirty short story successes. I have still won or been placed in competitions so that was keeping my belief alive. But it can feel as if you lose your momentum when nothing happens with the novels. You feel as if you are writing into a void. We all need to know we are heading somewhere.

As some of you know my life has undergone some significant personal changes over the past couple of years with meeting the new love of my life and then, of course, my focus was the wedding last year. While I did have some excellent feedback from my colleagues at Cornerstones about one of the novels and was empowered when I did the screenwriting course last year because my lovely tutor felt I was on the brink of a breakthrough, I was still uncertain of my next steps. Which novel to develop first.

So, I wrote a list of what I wanted to achieve in 2019. Apart from getting married, I decided I wanted to finally publish a collection of my short stories and that is now all put together. I will do a cover reveal soon 🙂 It is set for a July launch! Thank you Bridge House Publishing. Dancing 😉

I also said I needed to get a new agent. It can be demoralising thinking about starting again when you have already been through all of that. However, if you want something enough you do whatever it takes, right? And I was going to do just that. Luckily for me, I had a serendipitous meeting with an agent while attending an event that was part of the Essex Book Festival with friend and amazing writer, Fiona Cummins.  It was what I would call fated, happenchance perhaps… and lead to a request to look at my work. That lead to a meeting in London last week and… on Friday I signed a contract with the amazing top London agent Camilla Shestopal formerly of PFD but now with her own agency! We met at the Chelsea Art Club and two and a half hours just melted away. We connected. It was exciting, for both of us. Inside I was doing the dance again. It felt right, that’s all I can tell you.

So I announced the news from our weekend getaway in Brighton where we celebrated with cake (as you must… an ENORMOUS piece of cake for ENORMOUS news!) and now I feel as if I finally have a focus and begin edits today. I will not say which novel we are working on first, suffice it to say, I could not be more thrilled or excited.

So, writers: the message is clear: never lose sight of the goal even when life changes. Accept that life is change and there is no rush. Sometimes what happens is exactly what is supposed to happen. Oddly for me, good news always seems to come when I look the other way. It just kind of happened. We do not know what will come next but all I can say is I have a great feeling that this is the right time. I feel like a real writer again.

Validation is everything.

So, stay strong… and keep writing. Keep learning. Don’t give up.

My new pen pot bought in Brighton… nice eh?

Humming bird pen pot

Oh… and I am doing the dance! Dancing like no one is watching 😉

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When the Leaves Drop

I love this time of year.  I love the chilled air and the crispy leaves. I love that feeling of the seasons changing, I embrace it. What about you?

It’s been a strange but exciting year of change for me. I am still writing but the focus has changed a little. After ten years or more or less full on then, I guess, we do need times when we make other things priority. Right?

I’ve still had some short stories published and been working on the British novels, but unless you pursue it with undying passion then not a lot happens. Don’t we know it. But life is good and as we approach five years since the release of my debut (yikes!) I am getting itchy feet. I need to see another novel out there. So I guess my mission after my wedding for 2019 will be just that. I am ready.

I think it helps at times to have distance and to rethink purpose. I love that saying that ‘being a writer is like having homework for the rest of your life’. So true. Right now I feel as if there is something I am supposed to be doing but I am not! Like I am not living my dream. Then I have to stop and remind myself: I am a writer but life changes. That is life.

And good things will happen, it just needs ‘life to happen’ to have something to say about it.

So come on the journey with me and let’s see where it takes us next.

So what am I reading? Bereft by Chris Womersley… have been reading a lot this year and enjoying it 🙂 This is great writing.

So… have an amazing week and enjoy the change. Embrace it.

Autumn

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Four Years On…

A lot has happened in the last four years since my debut novel was published. No more novels are out yet and that is a shame, but it is not that novels have not been written, just that things have slowed down since I was signed by my agent. I am hoping that 2018 is the best year ever by seeing progress in getting that second novel out there. So watch this space.

Well, today sees the 54th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination: the event that inspired, first the short story and then the novel While No One Was Watching. So it seems right to slip in another quick blog post for the rare few that follow this blog that did not buy the book, with a blatant plug! I launched it on this day at the same place I will be launching the Canvey Writers book this Friday. November 22nd, 2013 was, in fact, a Friday and we showed the famous news clip announcing Kennedy’s death at almost the exact moment it broke some 50 years before!

I did see that the book Kindle version is only 99p today so do download it if you haven’t yet and the paperback is also on offer too!!!

So here it is… !!!

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Being a Writer :)

Logo Leicester Writes

 

Well, it looks set to be a busy second half of the year, with short stories to appear in no less than four new collections!

It starts this weekend when Mum and I will be travelling to Leicester to be part of The Leicester Writes Literary Festival! The winners’ anthology from their competition will be launched tomorrow and if anyone fancies it you can still get tickets! Here’s the link:

Winners’ Anthology Launch

I will be reading from my story We Went There. This is a new one of mine about a woman taking her dad, who suffers from dementia, to a home when she uncovers a secret… is he who she thought he was? Is she? And now she knows what will she do?

As I have so often said, writing does not have to be a lonely experience. But of course, a huge part of it is sitting alone in front of your keyboard tap-tap-tapping away! Successes are something to be celebrated since we all know how hard it is to have them, and so when you get the chance to celebrate them alongside other writers then you must!

I will be in good company with the other writers including winner C G Menon and second place Siobhan Logan, me as a humble third place 🙂 Also joined by highly commended Lynne E Blackwood and worthy runners-up: Karl Quiqley, Jack Wedgebury, Katherine Hetzel, Asha Krishna, Matthew Rhodes, Bev Haddon 🙂

Read what the judges had to say about the stories here: LINK

Judges were: writers Rebecca Burns, Divya Ghelani, Nina Stibbe, and Grace Haddon as well as bookseller, Debbie James.

It is a real honour to be part of this line-up and to have my story published by Dahlia Publishing, and edited by fellow writer and friend: Richard Sheehan. Can’t wait to meet everyone and celebrate our success! The book looks great; I have seen the proof and will read as many of the stories as I can before the event tomorrow!

We set off in the morning (so no Blog tomorrow) and then celebrate tomorrow night at the event, home Saturday afternoon. Can’t wait!

 

Leicster Writes

Do come along if you can… I will blog about it next week!

Have a great weekend everyone!

WHOO!

 

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Who Will Be My Friend?

Dreams never die and my dad is a testament to that! Some of you will know he is a Walt Disney artist (one of only a couple back when he started approved to work for Disney) and has illustrated many children’s books and comics over the years. He was a co-creator of the BBC’s Poddington Peas when he brought Paul Needs’s characters to life, some of you might remember.

I worked with him when my little press published The Jet-Set books at Paws n Claws for Born Free helping him to realise the dream of writing as well as illustrating his own characters.

Well I am thrilled to announce that he had another picture book of his illustrations and stories published this month by Chapeltown Books and how lovely this is for its illustrations and beautiful message that in today’s political climate is just what we need.

 

Who Will Be

The book is available on Amazon; here is the UK link! Dad will be doing talks in schools and has some planned at local libraries next month; this Saturday in Benfleet!

Do please spread the word… Dad taught me that age is no limit and if you have a dream… never give up!

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In The Spotlight: Amanda James

Mandy James April 2017

 

I have great pleasure in welcoming the very talented Amanda James back to my blog to share her latest writing news… and to interview the protagonist of her fantastic new novel Behind the Lie that was out for Kindle on Friday.

This is part of Amanda’s busy blog tour so I am delighted she found time to pop over to mine!

Look where she’s been and where she’s going!

Blog Tour Mandy James

I met Amanda through Bridge House Publishing when we published her short story in our charity book for Born Free. It’s a collection of wild animal stories, and of all our collections remains a landmark success. We launched at the Hay Festival in 2010 with the wonderful Virginia McKenna. What a day. Amanda got to read at the festival. I have since followed Amanda’s career as she has gone from success to success.

Friday (just gone) saw the release of another novel and so I asked her to do something a little different. So we have an exclusive over here today. But first let me tell you a little more about Amanda.

 

She lives in Cornwall and is inspired every day by the beautiful coastline near her home. In fact, three of her novels are set there, Somewhere Beyond the Sea, Summer in Tintagel and the new one Behind the Lie – April 2017 published by HQUK ( HarperCollins).

So in an exclusive, I asked Amanda if she would interview her protagonist, Holly, for me and this is what happened…

So to set the scene… a beach house overlooking a windswept beach in Cornwall. We are on the balcony drinking tea and watching the Atlantic waves hurl themselves at the shore. We are huddled in thick sweaters, because even though it is spring, the wind is Arctic.

So, I thought we’d have a little Q&A session, is that okay? It will be fun. Please tell me your name?

The young woman sitting opposite gives me an incredulous look, her eyes reflecting the blue of the ocean.

Humour me.

You know my name, but okay, I am Holly West.

Tell me what you’re most afraid of?

Holly sighs and takes a sip of her tea. She watches at a kite surfer but I can tell she sees something else. She wrests a strand of golden hair from the wind and tucks it behind her ear. Eventually she looks back at me.

People thinking that I’m not telling the truth, that I am still the woman I used to be.

Why so sad? What has happened to you?

There is no hesitation this time.

So much has happened in such a short time …When my childhood sweetheart left for the army, I left too. I moved from my village in Cornwall to be a model in London. Caught up in everything that goes with such a glamorous life, I was lost, alone…disgusted with the person I became. But then I met Simon and he helped me turn my life around. I was so happy when we married and I fell pregnant with twins but then my son died. Well, that’s what they told me, but I know he’s alive.

What do you want most from the world?

A sad little smile turns up one corner of her mouth.

That’s easy. To find my boy, make a life for us all back in Cornwall and to just live an ordinary life.

What will happen if you don’t get it?

Her expression grows dark and the clouds roll over the sun.

I can’t think about that… I won’t think about it.

Is there something about you the reader never finds out about you, Holly?

There are secrets about me that only you know, Amanda…

 

 

Want to know what happens? This is it…

Behind the Lie Cover

Holly West has turned her life around. She’s found a successful and loving husband in Simon and is expecting twins. She is definitely a woman who has taken back control of her future.

Until she gives birth, only for one twin to survive. Holly can’t let it go.

Holly’s world is in a tailspin and suddenly she can’t trust herself or anyone else. No one believes her, not her husband or her best friend. Because she thinks she knows the truth…her son is still alive and she won’t stop until she finds him.

Buy me! 

Amanda can usually be found playing on the beach with her family, or walking the cliff paths planning her next book.

Author links – Amanda’s blog – http://mandykjameswrites.blogspot.com/

Twitter  @akjames61

Facebook mandy.james.33

 

I don’t know about you but this has certainly whet my appetite… so do download a copy… thanks, Amanda, and we wish you great success with this! Thanks for being in the spotlight today!

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Finding Your Rhythm With the Short Story Form

 

Click to go to website

The pitter patter pitter patter pitter patter is back,  rain dancing on conservatory windows; tapping thoughts gently into my head as I begin another week.

I will be blogging this week about my experiences at the London Short Story Festival which has got all sorts of creative urges, urging. It is no secret my feelings and love of the good short story; a good literary, makes you think, changes something you feel about the world short story. I was treated to plenty of those by some incredible writers on Saturday and I can’t wait to do it again next year. I love this idea of daring to be bold, of using the short story form as a playground for experimenting creatively, something I have always seen it as. For me, it begins with a short story.

Short stories are different things to different people and come in many forms. For me they find a rhythm inside me and once I start writing a new one they grab me and hold me down until I write and rewrite and keep on writing until it is as near to perfection I can find; if perfection is ever truly attainable. But it’s in that search I find my bliss.

After listening to a fabulously talented panel of writers May-Lan Tan , Laura Van den Berg and Jon McGregor talk to the also highly talented Paul McVeigh about the short story and people they read I have more books to buy. It’s like my appetite has suddenly been whetted again and I think I know what my next project after Chutney needs to be, some short stories, possibly getting together a collection. I want to experiment with the form and challenge myself again. And who knows I now want to talk and be a guest at the London Short Story Festival.

I wasn’t a guest but was close to it as we saw the launch of a collection I have a new story in at the event.

It was also wonderful meeting fellow Unthologists as Saturday also saw the release of Unthology 7. These collections are a unique and interesting place to showcase what can be done in the short form. Unthank Books have now published me twice and I fully intend to submit again.

One thing I did listen to with great interest over my day at the festival was the rhythm of language and I heard some writers talk about how they used music for mood as they wrote sometimes. I only ever did this with one story interestingly; one I have yet to write in a form I want but I will. It’s about a woman finding, after all these years, the brother whose hand she let go of when she went to Auschwitz. Music plays a big part in that story because she survived because of her musicality; she played for the officers. In fact I remember having to write a memory of her playing the ‘Radetsky March’ as her best friend plodded past with heavy footsteps to the gas chambers; and she knew she had to keep playing. Keep playing. Don’t stop. Just keep playing. It wasn’t that I listened to that music, my own heart beat made that inside me, no I listened to the score of Harmony, the Manilow musical about the Comedienne Harmonists as Germany drew closer to the holocaust and there are some songs in that that evoke something powerful and enabled me to find that dark place and sustain it as I wrote. I know when I return to that story the music will instantly take me back to that place.

I liked to play in that story with the musicality, which I will revisit. Language has its own rhythm and can be explored in a musical way and I want to do more of that experimentation. When I edit it’s quite hard to explain to people the need to use rhythm but it’s in listening to other great writers, we find that rhythm and I believe that’s where you will find your true voice.

What I find interesting as well as using music as place, is using music for establishing character; I would love to use that device overtly in some form, how characters represent a certain piece of music. I think this is something that can helped deepen characterisation.

Recommendation for today:  Laura Van den Berg. I was so moved by the new story  she read on Saturday I have to try out her collections, and she has just released her first novel.

 

The way

 

Isle

 

Find Me

 

Find on Amazon

 

Tomorrow I am talking more about the short story and differences between America and the UK in how the short story form is used as a platform to debut new writers…

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