Friday, May 26, 2017

Madalyn Morgan: Foxden Hotel

Welcome to Madalyn Morgan who visits the RNA blog as her novel, Foxden Hotel is published.

Thank you for inviting me to talk about my latest novel, Elaine. The nearer I get to the publication of Foxden Hotel, the more excited I get. Today I proofread the digital copy of the novel, which is already on Amazon to pre-order.  

The war is over. It is time for new beginnings. Celebrating the opening of Foxden Hotel, New Year’s Eve 1948, an enemy from the war years turns up. He threatens to expose a secret that will ruin Bess’s happiness and the new life she has worked so hard to create. Bess’s husband throws the man out. So is that the last they see of him? Or will he show up again when they least expect? Bess had hoped fascism was a thing of the past, buried with the victims of WW2. Little does she know the trouble that lies ahead, not only for herself, but also for her family.
Foxden Hotel is the fifth novel in The Dudley Sisters Saga. Each novel has taken a year to produce - five months to research, six months to write, and a month to proofread and format. As an Indie author, I want my novels to be as well written and as professionally produced as a traditionally published novel. To make sure of that, I have the book critiqued, proofread and formatted to Kindle and paperback. Then the Tweeting begins. My novels are Print on Demand, so the more I Tweet - and Re-Tweet other authors - the more sales I get.

About Madalyn:
I have been an actress for more than thirty years working in Repertory theatre, the West End, film and television. I present a radio show and have written articles for newspapers and magazines. At twenty-four I gave up a successful hairdressing salon and wig-hire business for a place at E15 Drama College, and a career as an actress. In 2000, with fewer parts available for older actresses, I taught myself to touch type, completed a two-year correspondence course with The Writer’s Bureau, and began writing. After living in London for thirty-six years, I returned to my home town of Lutterworth, swapping two window boxes and a mortgage, for a garden and the freedom to write.
    I began writing about WW2 after my mother told me about her life during the war. I was fascinated. Since then I have successfully published four novels - Foxden Acres, Applause, China Blue, and The 9:45 To Bletchley. Set in WW2, the novels tell the wartime stories of the Dudley sisters. Bess Dudley, in the Land Army, Margot, in a West End theatre, Claire is recruited by the SOE and works with the French Resistance, and Ena is a factory girl making components for Bletchley Park. Foxden Hotel, post-WW2, begins ten years after Foxden Acres and brings the Dudley sisters together. It was going to be the last in the saga, but having written three endings - none of which worked, there will be more books about the lives of the Dudley sisters.


Thank you for such an interesting blog post, Madalyn.

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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Anne Harvey: My Path to Publication

It has been a delight to welcome Anne to the RNA blog and read about her path to publication. 

My path to publication has been a long and winding one. The thought of being a writer never
crossed my mind until the early 1960s when I started work as a typist for a popular newspaper in the area where I then lived. I loved working there and got a real buzz when the printing presses started up. Naively, I decided I wanted to be a journalist. Sadly, it didn’t happen because I didn’t have the
necessary qualifications. Still, I was able to write snippets for a feature called Town Topics and I still treasure those cuttings. The features editor said my writing had 'a warmth and cadence some journalists lacked.'
Occasionally, over the years, I managed to get the odd article published in national magazines or articles about my family history research, though they were limited to family history society magazines. It wasn’t until I took early retirement that I started writing seriously, first with an article in a newly published national genealogy magazine back in 2003. I went on to write many articles for them, all commissioned, so at last I could call myself a writer. About that time, I started writing what was to be my debut novel, A Suitable Young Man. I know now that first draft was dire!

In 2010, I joined the RNA through the NWS and I went to my first meeting where a whole new world opened up to me, being able to talk to and learn from other writers. I learned even more as A Suitable Young Man went through the Scheme, rewriting and editing according to various Scheme readers’ suggestions. I tried sending the MS out to various agents/publishers but with no success. I decided, in the end, to self-publish. I wasn’t getting any younger and I didn’t feel I had time to wait around for an agent to accept my book then tout it round various publishers.
With the MS having gone through the Scheme, I knew that it was of a reasonably high standard so in December 2014, I published A Suitable Young Man with Kindle Direct Publishing and, a little later, as a paperback version with Createspace.  A family history contact who sends out a genealogy newsletter to some 90,000+ followers, gave it a wonderful review and sales, not just in this country but in the USA, Canada and Australia, soared. In March 2016, I released the follow-up novel Bittersweet Flight and, although sales have been steady, it hasn’t reached the heights of its predecessor. Both books have been a Do-It-Yourself projects on a limited budget, the major expense being the covers designed by the talented Berni Stevens, to my brief.
I’m proud of what I’ve achieved, even if I haven’t reached best-seller heights. I’ve decided I prefer the independent route to publication. It gives me overall control and I’m not under pressure to produce one to two books a year. And best of all, it’s enabled me to join the RNA as an independent member!

Short blurb for the books
A Suitable Young Man and Bittersweet Flight are nostalgic tales of family, friendship, love, loyalty and loss set in a small Lancashire mill town in the 1950s, centering round the Roberts family. Book three is my WIP where I bring together all the characters from both books to reach a satisfactory conclusion. The working title is In The Thick Of It.

Author bio
Anne started her working life as a weaver in a Lancashire cotton mill before taking shorthand and typing lessons. Although she never really fancied office work and was rubbish at shorthand, she ended up spending most of her career in secretarial work. After living in various parts of the country for one reason or another, she has finally settled in Derbyshire with her third (yes, you read that right!) husband and loves it. Latterly, health problems have prevented her getting to any RNA events but hopes that situation will improve eventually.

Twitter: @annelharvey.1

Thank you, Anne and good luck with your next project.

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Monday, May 22, 2017

Carol Cooper: Making your self-published book as good as it can be

Who wouldn’t like to make their book as good as it can be? We welcome Carol Cooper to the blog to tell us how it can be done.

I’m delighted to brag that my second novel, Hampstead Fever, finds itself in bookstores alongside the
best in the business - right next to David Nicholls on a table in Waterstones, and in a front-of-store promotion in WH Smith travel shops.

People often ask me how that can happen to a self-published book. My answer? Produce a book that won’t disgrace itself in such company.

Compared with my current novel, my fiction debut One Night at the Jacaranda should have hung its head in shame and quietly slunk out of the back door when I first published it in late 2013. Its cover alone exposed it as a gate-crasher into the publishing party. I’d imagined that a photo of red suede heels, accompanied by a lipstick tossed nonchalantly onto a carpet, would scream, “Sexy story about relationships”. In reality it screamed, “Amateur!” As did a lot of the contents, because I had also made poor editing choices.

I can distil much of what I’ve learned since then into half a dozen tips.

Tip 1. Self-publishing doesn’t mean doing it all yourself.
It can be a solo operation, but just because something’s possible doesn’t make it a good idea. To look professional, a book needs professional editing and proof-reading.Yes, beta readers can help shape a manuscript, but it’s almost impossible to edit your own work. Shop around before you commit to an editor or proof-reader. Many of them will gladly mark up a short sample of MS to give you an idea of their work.

Tip 2. Whether you’re indie or not, always check the page proofs yourself.
I see no end of trade-published books with elementary mistakes, but publishing is not what it was, and a lot more work is farmed out, with fewer people around to take the time to check its quality. The reality is that anyone can miss things. After no fewer than three proof-reads, my Hampstead Fever still had four typos. But I had the luxury of another print run for the WH Smith promotion, so went back and got rid of them.

Tip 3. Be realistic about your abilities.
A great cover is possible using Createspace or other templates, but it’s a lot harder, especially if, like me, you have no discernible artistic talent. That’s why I commissioned a professional designer for the cover of Hampstead Fever, as well as for the reissue of my first novel. I’m thrilled with what Jessica Bell came up with. Even then, however, it took a few goes to get right. Apparently I’m fussy (who knew?). The final cover is a little different from most contemporary fiction or romance, but it’s eye-catching, suggests a summer read, and is a good indicator of what’s inside.

Tip 4. The book must look and feel like a quality product.
Print-on-demand can be excellent, but, if you want your book to be up to publishing industry standards, then think about paying a bit more. I used Clays, who’ve been printing in Bungay, Suffolk, since long before I was born. Established over 200 years ago, Clays print some 170 million books a year, including those for leading publishers, and luckily they now offer short-run printing that doesn’t break the bank. Spend a little time deciding on the format of the book, the type of paper, and the finish of the cover. Maybe you even want to add a little bit of embossing or foil to the front? They’re far from essential, but many popular fiction covers now have these embellishments.

Tip 5. Be obsessional about how it’s shaping up along the way.
This book is your baby so of course you love it and think it’s wonderful, but try to be objective about its flaws. If you’re trade-published, work closely with your editor as much as you possibly can, and be open. One of my recent non-fiction books had several style inconsistencies and other annoyances, plus I didn’t think the doctor pictured on the cover should be shown wearing nail varnish. There’s always a way of expressing honest opinions in a pleasant manner. Or so I’m told. I just haven’t found it yet.

Tip 6. Keep learning.
A commitment to improvement is essential in making any book as good as it can be. That’s ultimately what helped me create something that could earn its place on a shelf of the best offerings from the Big Five.

And you can do that too.

About Carol:
Hybrid author Carol Cooper is best known as a doctor, journalist, and president of the Guild of Health Writers. She contributes to The Sun newspaper, broadcasts on TV and radio, and has a string of trade-published non-fiction books to her name. Now she writes and publishes novels, the latest being Hampstead Fever, a contemporary tale of urban life.

Blurb for Hampstead Fever:

Ex-con Dan has it all. The perfect job and a new baby with his dream woman. So why is he still an outsider?
Laure had baby Jack late in life. It’s only natural she’s a little over-protective. Motherhood is terrifying.
After surviving serious illness, Sanjay’s got his life back. Now he wants adventure. Where does that leave girlfriend Harriet?
Karen’s love life is reduced to casual sex with the football coach. As a divorcee with four kids, romance is on her to-do list, just below the laundry.
Doctor Geoff’s relationship with actress Daisy is bound to be a bit dramatic. But why all the mystery?
A slice of contemporary multi-cultural London life to make you laugh, cry, and nod in recognition.

Twitter: DrCarolCooper
Amazon author page: Carol Cooper
Hampstead Fever on Amazon: Hampstead Fever

Thank you for a most informative article, Carol. You’ve certainly given us some interesting tips. Good luck with your next publications. We will be watching with interest.

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Friday, May 19, 2017

Book Bloggers and Reviewers: Linda Hill – Linda’s Book Bag

Ellie Holmes brings us another in her excellent series, Book Bloggers and Reviewers.

We are delighted to welcome Linda Hill to the RNA Blog’s monthly series where we speak to book bloggers and get an insight into their world. Welcome Linda, tell us a little bit about yourself and your blog.
I'm a blogger over at Linda's Book Bag. I used to be an English teacher and local authority adviser
before I went over to the dark side as an independent consultant and OfSTED inspector but I loved that as my work took me all over the country and to Jersey, Paris and New York to work.
 I live with Steve, my husband of almost 34 years, in the Lincolnshire Fens where it can feel like being in a Tupperware box at times with vast grey skies. I adore cats and used to have four at one time, including a diabetic one we had to inject with insulin twice a day, but have none now as we go away so much.
 I'm mad about Bryan Ferry, having met him twice and been to 21 of his concerts and you won't find me more than a few feet away from chocolate, fudge or toffee and preferably all three.
When I'm not blogging or reading I'll be planning a holiday! Thanks so much for inviting me to appear on this wonderful blog.

What made you start to review/blog?
 I've always been a bookworm - or rather, I was once I got glasses at the age of almost 8 and realised those strange smudges on a piece of paper were actually magical words that could transport me somewhere else. I loved inspiring youngsters to read for pleasure when I taught English and then when I left teaching and became an Educational Consultant I was asked by Hodder to read and review KS3 aged children's books with a view to them being used as class readers. Imaging my delight at being paid to read!
After that I looked for online reading groups and found Love Reading who were looking for review panel members so I applied and was taken on as one of their reviewers. At the same time, I retired (life is too short to work!) and joined my local University of the Third Age (U3A) reading group where the members encouraged me to share my thoughts. It suddenly dawned on me in 2015 that I could actually blog and so Linda's Book Bag was born.

What’s your review policy?
I don't have one! I've thought long and hard about it and whether I ought to have one and although I avoid anything offensively sexual, racist, homophobic etc, I'll consider most things for review. I don't much like horror as I'm a wimp and don't like being scared. If an author would like me to consider a book for review I'll always do a bit of research and see if I think it's for me.
 Trouble is, the TBR is now huge so my current 'review policy' is that I have to decline an awful lot as I know I'll never get to the books.

I saw on your blog that you won the Best Book Review Blog Award 2016. Congratulations!  Tell us a little bit about how you came to be nominated and what it was like to receive the award.
I'm not sure how I came to be nominated and it was a complete shock to me and even more that I actually won! A few people since have told me that they nominated me and I'm so grateful. I was in a field at Burghley House waiting for Bryan Ferry to perform (which is why I wasn't at the award ceremony) when I got a Facebook message from fellow blogger Shell Baker telling me I'd won. I was so thrilled.

How many times a month do you blog?
 It varies. I'm trying to cut back as I spend too much time blogging and not enough time reading. Last year which was so awful for me personally meant I didn't have as much time as I would have liked, but I still blogged most days.
 Unless I'm on holiday, or taking a break as I did in April this year I rarely have a day when I don't blog and many days have two posts.

What’s the best and worst thing about running a blog?
 After the sheer joy of reading, the best thing has to be the people. I have made real and virtual friends including other bloggers, authors and publicists. We all try to support one another and it is a delight when I get to go to events and meet these people face to face.
The worse thing is the time it takes up and the occasional lack of understanding about what goes in to setting up a blog post that some people seem to have. I wrote a bit about that when I explained my reasons for going AWOL in April and I'll be doing the same and being absent in August too.
This week, for example, I didn't receive the extract I was supposed to have for a blog tour on the Monday, even though I'd reminded the publisher to send it. I really didn't have time to read the book but I didn't want to let down the author so I got up at 5 on Sunday morning and read solidly for five hours to be able to write a review so that I had something to post. If I'm honest, I was very annoyed and could just have posted a spotlight but I felt it wasn't the author's fault and they still deserved as much coverage as possible.

You are a Netgalley member – can you tell us a little about that.
 Honestly? I try to avoid Netgalley if I can. Partly it's because I always seem to get in a pickle when posting reviews and feedback but mostly because I tend to forget I have e-books. I have over 900 physical books that have been sent to me unsolicited and awaiting review so I rarely request a Netgalley book unless I have been sent a specific widget for a blog tour.

What do you like to do in your spare time when not reading?
I love to be outside. I love walking and I garden as much as I can and have an allotment so I can grow our own fruit and veg. I run a local U3A gardening group. I write a little bit and have a novel lurking in the background. However, my biggest passion is travel, especially if it combines with wildlife. One of the most exciting things I've ever done was snorkeling with sharks in the Galapagos. My husband and I have been all over the place from Antarctica and Australia to Zambia and Zanzibar. We are going to Uganda in the hope of seeing gorillas and India to look for tigers in 2018 and I haven't quite decided what we're doing this year although we've already been to Wales (very exotic), Lapland and Spain.

We often ask agents and publishers what they consider to be the next 'big thing' - what do you hope to see in 2017?
I'd like to see some of the quiet books that get overlooked picked up more. One of the books I've really enjoyed this year so far is The Words in My Hand by Guinevere Glasfurd as it is exquisite but I've hardly seen it mentioned.

Thanks for having me Ellie. I've really enjoyed taking part.


About Ellie
Ellie Holmes writes commercial women’s fiction with her heart in the town and her soul in the
country. Ellie’s debut release was The Flower Seller. A member of the RNA and the Alliance of Independent Authors, Ellie’s latest book The Tregelian Hoard, set in Cornwall, is the first novella in her Jonquil Jones Mystery Series


Thank you, Ellie and Linda for such an informative interview.

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