A novel first birthday – and a #Giveaway

public battles draft

Public Battles, Private Wars is one year old today and this small anniversary gives me an opportunity to show my gratitude to all those people who have read, talked about, shared and generally supported my novel. Thank you, it’s been an amazing journey and it’s thanks to you guys.

As authors, it’s easy to lose sight of why we do what we do when we are caught up in the creation of characters, stitching up plot holes and developing theme, and that’s all before we begin the sticky business of publicity and promotion. It is only when a book is out in the big wide reading world that we come out of our self-imposed solitude and make connections with the very people we do this for: that’s you, dear reader, yes, you. The story doesn’t belong to me, the writer, anymore, it belongs to you, to make of it what you will.

Accent Press and I want to show our gratitude and celebrate your involvement with a giveaway. There are two paperback copies of Public Battles, Private Wars up for grabs over at Goodreads, and I will send out one ebook and one signed paperback to readers who make a comment here on the blog before the end of play on the 31st. Please say if you would like an ebook or a paperback. Ginger2, my youngest son, will pull two names out of a hat – or sock, or beaker, or whatever we have handy – once I’ve written names on paper.

So that’s 3 paperbacks and one ebook available – two here, two at Goodsreads. You’ve got till the 31st March. Thank you and Good Luck!

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What’s the story 2014?

It’s been an especially good year for great fiction with the release of cracking debuts and stunning works from more established authors. You can read my personal pick of the best here.

photo by Sarah Smith

photo by Sarah Smith

And 2014 has been a good year for me personally. So much to celebrate and enjoy, and lots of hard work too; I find the two are often connected. Where to start? In classic chronological style perhaps? *listen to the sound of me opening my Mslexia diary*

March 2014 saw the release of my ‘miners’ strike’ novel Public Battles, Private Wars (in fact, it’s about complex friendships, rivalry, love and finding the best of yourself in difficult circumstances – oh, and lots of cakes!). Publication coincided with the 30 year anniversary of the landmark strike and as a result I found myself appearing on radio, newspapers, blogs and e-zines all over the shop, including BBC Radio, the Western Mail, and the Yorkshire Post. My publicist at the super-fabulous Accent Press worked extremely hard for me – as did my wonderful editor – and I am so grateful to the entire team for their faith in me and the book. Reviews have been terrific and out-performed my expectations.

Edinburgh-Aug 2014 115This year I was fortunate enough to be offered appearances at literary festivals too, starting with a reading at Grit Lit in my home town, Brighton.  Then an all-day event at the Feminist Library in London on a baking hot June day. I spoke alongside Dr Katy Shaw of Brighton University, a leading expert on literature of the miners’ strike. Thanks to a friend, I was also a last minute speaker at The Big Book Club in the Barn event – 19 Sussex book groups (about 120 people) in a barn gathered to talk books and drink wine – my idea of heaven! Later in the summer, I appeared at GladFest – a dynamic festival in north Wales at the stunning Gladstone Library. My workshop sold out, much to my amazement.

WH Smith Show Card with author (3)After this came the Richmond Books and Boots Festival (Yorkshire, not London) where I spoke to a group of 25-odd readers at the town library about the novel. The reception was wonderful. In amongst these events, I have spoken with a number of local book groups and I did my first ever book shop signing at WH Smith Cardiff in the autumn. Lots of travelling, lots of talking, lots of fun.

2014 wasn’t all about the novel either. A short story, Deep, Dark and Dangerous, made the final ten of the inaugural Brighton Prize competition. Delivered by spoken word organisation Rattle Tales, it has a prize of £400 so worth looking out for in 2015. The winners were announced at a live event – there was champagne and roses for all the shortlisted writers too.

Resized cover imageSpring saw the launch of a special anthology of prose and poetry from Blinding Books, an independent publisher spearheaded by Richard Penny. I was thrilled when Richard approached me and asked if the collection, My Baby Shot Me Down, might include two stories of mine: The Whispering Wall and Buried. Another story, The Difference Between Us, appears in Accent Press’ summer anthology: Holiday Fling. If you’re feeling cold and dreaming of long hot days this might transport you there right now.

Holiday FlingAnd as if 2014 couldn’t get any better regarding my short fiction, I was over the moon to discover that another story had been selected to appear in an anthology of Gothic fiction published by Parthian Books. It contains work by some fine, fine writers and I am flattered (and astonished) to be included. The collection was launched at an event in October and the paperback of A Flock of Shadows will be available in good book shops in February.

OK, so this review isn’t exactly chronological but life is full of unexpected twists and turns, no? And because life can’t be wonderful all of the time – nor should we wish it to be so – we should savour the beautiful moments – little and large.

Right now, as I look back over the year and at what has been achieved, I cannot imagine 2015 being as hectic, though a part of me hopes that it is. Already, there are some special things lined up – a writing retreat at the Gladstone as part of a sponsorship for one thing – and early in 2015 there’ll be an exciting announcement (at least for me). I’ll keep you posted.

All that remains is to wave 2014 goodbye – it was good knowing you – and wish everyone a Happy, Healthy and Productive 2015.

Do you like my sheep pencil? I'm part Welsh, you know.

Do you like my sheep pencil? I’m part Welsh, you know.

Freebies, Events and an Anthology

Yet again another blog post with a three-pronged title. Next time, I promise it will be different

Resized cover imageSo, from today (22nd) until Saturday (25th) Blinding Book’s brilliant anthology My Baby Shot Me Down is FREE for Kindle. If you’ve not taken a peek at this interesting and diverse collection, now would be a good time. As you may know, I have two stories in the anthology.

This Saturday, 25th October, between 11.30 and 12.30 I will be at WH Smith in Cardiff – the Queen Street branch – talking about, and signing copies of, my novel, Public Battles, Private Wars. It would be lovely to see some of you there if you’re local. If not, perhaps you could let friends and family know. I will have chocolates – not that I bribe or anything.WH Smith Show Card with author (3)

And again for the South Wales, West Country based amongst you, I’d like to invite you to the launch of a special anthology from another fabulous Welsh publisher, Parthian. A Flock of Shadows is a collection of short stories with a Gothic flavour and I am absolutely thrilled to have a story included. The paperback will be available in the shops in February, with the e-book available sooner. Of course, if you can make it to the launch you’ll be able to snaffle a copy there.GothicAnthology_LaunchPoster_web

That’s all for now, folks.

Laura

Books and Boots and High, High Heels – and Pride

Sept 2014 011Books and Boots is the fabulous name of a walking and book festival held in Richmond, North Yorkshire. The festival is the brain-child of Anne Wicks, former owner of the Castle Hill Bookshop – a gorgeous independent shop nestled at the foot of the castle in this ancient town, which has been serving book lovers in Richmond and the surrounding Yorkshire Dales for over 30 years. The bookshop works with a community initiative and Gillian Howells creative consultancy to run the festival, and this year was its 10th anniversary.

As the name suggests the festival boasts a diverse programme of walks and talks and bookish events in and around the town. From ghost tours to mountain hikes to literary discussions there’s a lot to see and do, and in between there’s the town itself to explore (an absolute treat) and you can explore the dales independently too, of course. Now, I’m not a hiker – take a look at the shoes I bought while I was there – so I was all about the books and I was there as a guest. (OK, the heels aren’t sky scrapers, but they’re high enough for me.)

Sept 2014 007On Monday evening, I spoke with a group of book club members in the library, all of whom had read my novel, Public Battles, Private Wars. The audience were warm, attentive and had loads of brilliant questions, and two hours passed by in a flash. To my surprise they even wanted me to read from the book – not just one extract but two.

I felt privileged to part of this festival, because it really is very special and yet it’s not as well-known as many I can think of. Do check it out next year and if you’re in the area do visit the town – it’s stunning – and Castle Hill Bookshop which is a delight to browse around. It’s only small but feels much, much larger; it has a Tardis-like quality.

In other news this week, once back from the festival I had chance to hoof it down to my local cinema and catch the movie, Pride. What a treat that was too. Wonderful. Funny, touching, sad in places, it’s a great British film. The attention to period detail was brilliant – right down to the ‘angry’ theatre company van the LGSM group use to travel to the valleys of south Wales. Readers at a book group I talked with in Brighton a couple of weeks ago likened Public Battles, Private Wars to the film, and now that I’ve seen it I am truly flattered. I’ll also add that I agree with those readers – if you’ve enjoyed Pride you’ll probably get a lot out of my novel.

Shoes I bought in Richmond!

Shoes I bought in Richmond!

Budget food 80s style, Part 9: Baked Stuffed Hearts

Not a baked heart! But made with love!

Not a baked heart! But made with love!

On this, the 30th anniversary of a defining moment in British history and the strike – The Battle of Orgreave – immortalised by artist Jeremy Deller, author David Peace and poet Helen Mort. I’m sharing another offal recipe – Baked Stuffed Hearts. Why? Because the strike was full of passion and my novel, Public Battles, Private Wars, has been described by book blogger Tracy Terry at Pen and Paper as a novel with a big heart.

You will need:

4 calves hearts

Pork Sausage Stuffing

50g/2oz of butter

3 tablespoons of stock or water if you’ve no stock

To prepare:

Wash hearts well

Remove veins and fat. Dry thoroughly

Cut through centre divisions to make 1 cavity in each heart

Fill loosely with stuffing

Transfer to casserole dish

Dot with butter. Pour in stock water

Cook, tightly covered, in the centre of a moderate oven (160C/325F or Gas Mark 3) for an hour and a half

Baste well

Continue to cook, uncovered, for a further 30 minutes (or until tender)

Serve with Creamed Potatoes, Brown Sauce and Redcurrant jelly.

On the 18th June 1984 striking miners clashed with riot police, many with shields and on horseback, in the fields outside the Orgreave coking plant in South Yorkshire. In 1991 South Yorkshire Police force paid out over half a million pounds in compensation to miners arrested during the struggle.

Oh, What a Night!

Early June, in a Sussex barn – you can hum along to the old tune if you can remember it – seventeen book clubs, fun, food and wine, what a venue, what a night…

The Big Barn (photo by Sarah Rayner)

The Big Barn (photo by Sarah Rayner)

To explain. Last night, along with three other authors – including the wonderful Sarah Rayner whose latest novel Another Night, Another Day is a blinder – I had the privilege and pleasure of talking about my novel Public Battles, Private Wars to members of 17 different book groups in an enormous 400-year-old barn in rural Sussex.

Yes, 17; there were around 100 people present. Added to this was food and wine and representatives from East Sussex Library Service and a book stall selling our wares. The Big Book Club Bash in the Barn is the brainchild of and organised by Diana Carsons, a powerhouse of a woman with a serious passion for reading. Originally, she hails from Rhyl in north Wales, not far from where I grew up, so she has more than one thing to recommend her. Book club members come along with food and drink (and their own chairs) which is then laid out for all to share. After grub and chat, they listen to authors speak about their work and then representatives from each group talk briefly about their favourite reads of the year and those they found more challenging. They share ideas and tips, and as authors we get the opportunity to connect with readers, many of whom might not have been previously familiar with our work.

Diana sandwiched between me and Sarah

Diana sandwiched between me and Sarah

It was an incredible night. I spoke to many gorgeous people and sold all the copies of my novel that I’d brought. I stepped in at the last minute and had no time to get a decent stock, so admittedly this wasn’t too many. But given that I didn’t expect to sell any (I was speaking with best-selling novelists who’ve been around much longer than me) it was the icing on the cake of what was an exciting and memorable evening. Author heaven, I’d say.

Thank you to Diana and Sarah for inviting me. And to the book groups members for listening so attentively and, more importantly, for loving literature. Keep reading.