A novel going for a song? 99p for Public Battles, Private Wars

publicb99p promoI’m not sure of the origins of the saying ‘going for a song’ but I like it. It’s something my grandma used to say and it has a cheerful, optimistic feel about it and why not? Throughout February my last novel, Public Battles, Private Wars, a story of friendship, love and overcoming adversity, is available for Kindle for just 99p.If you’re unfamiliar with my work and would like to give it a go, there’s little risk here.

And if you like it, you might like to follow the read with my latest, Redemption Song, hardly a rip-off at £2.99!

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2015: A Writer’s Year

In a 12 month period during which I have seen no new publications of my own work, you’d be forgiven for questioning my post title. But with a new novel set for imminent release – Redemption Song on 28th January – and a new edition of my debut, Bloodmining, set for the summer, it’s been a writing year rammed with re-writing. And as we know, writing is rewriting.

Work on Redemption Song followed a traditional publishing journey with a draft submitted to my editor Greg in February, followed by substantive comments after a London Book Fair meeting in April, the copy edit in the late summer, more copy-editing in September (naughty me) and proofs in October. And a sparkly new book very soon *an excitement/fear stomach flip combo*. 2016 promises to be a year of fabulous fiction – for starters Jo Cannon’s debut The Trouble with Goats and Sheep is published on the same day as mine – and who knows if my book will be remembered in amongst so much good work? I can only keep my fingers crossed and keep on keeping on.Redemption Song Final

Alongside the work on Redemption Song I redrafted my very first novel. Me-oh-my what an interesting (ahem) experience that was. Proof positive of how much I’ve learned in the past four years. I feel extremely privileged to have had this opportunity: to put right all that was lumpy and bumpy in the first edition. It still isn’t perfect – what is? – but I am much, much happier with it. I’ll keep you posted once I have an exact publication date.

Despite the absence of a new book, 2015 was full of appearances too. So many that I had to consult my diary to recall many of them! It began in January with a talk at the University of Hertfordshire literary festival, and another at the University of Kingston. In March there was a reading with other Brighton authors at the Oxfam bookshop to celebrate International Women’s Day, and more local readings at Together the People Festival, and in the Tinker Box at the Brighton Festival in May. To top it all I was invited to two events at the Shoreham WordFest; one running a short story workshop at Ropetackle and an in-conversation with organiser Morag Charlwood and fellow author, Ed Hogan. We spoke to a packed crowd on a wet and wild Monday evening and it was such a pleasure I get a lovely warm feeling thinking about it again now – in direct contrast to the hideous weather that night.

August was spent at the glorious Gladstone’s Library in Hawarden, North Wales, working on another novel with a working title of The Bad Buddhist and Me. I have blogged extensively about my time there so won’t repeat it. Suffice to say, it was a truly incredible experience. I love that place! I want to go back!

11705357_10153295090155817_6347792843615633973_nAnd then there were the talks to writers groups at libraries, and my mentoring and coaching work with emerging writers; work I enjoy enormously. It’s such a delight to journey with other writers, see their work develop. And I was lucky enough to edit some fantastic books, including Sarah Rayner’s Making Friends with the Menopause – a self-help book in the same family as her amazing bestselling Making Friends with Anxiety. I’ve read some incredible books too; you can read about my favourites here.

2015 has been a good year, for me, and right now it’s hard to believe 2016 could be better. But the great thing about the future is that we don’t know what it will bring, what plot twists, thrills and spills will be thrown our way. We can only endeavour to make the most of the ride, learn from the challenges and bad times, and appreciate the good. And remember those for whom life has not been so kind, and when possible, do something about it; extend the arm of friendship and support; money when necessary and if you can afford it. I’d love to know if 2015 has been kind or mean to you, and hear about your plans and dreams for 2016.

In the meantime: Happy New Year dear readers – journey on, loving and learning.
Laura x

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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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#Giveaway: The Beginning of the End

public battles draft30 years ago today, miners all over the country went back to work after a year long strike; the battle to save their jobs and their communities was over, lost. For some pit towns closure was swift, for others it took up to a decade. Only a few survive and today we import our coal from Eastern Europe and beyond. Their world, and ours, was transformed, forever. And while there were losses, there were also personal victories, as my novel, Public Battles, Private Wars, explores.

To mark this anniversary – celebration is quite the wrong word – my publishers have set up a giveaway over at Goodreads. Click below for a chance to win a paperback copy of my novel. Good luck and for those who win, I do hope you enjoy the read.

Goodreads Giveaway!

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.

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!

North Wales’ Best Kept Literary Secret?

Edinburgh-Aug 2014 115Of late, I’ve been a bad blogger, irregular and erratic with my posts. However, I’ve had some splendid guests and I hope you’ve enjoyed their wisdom. This month I’m busy with literary festivals and here I’m going to talk about a new(ish) festival in Wales in a library that more should know about.

First off, why such a slack blogger? Summer is the trickiest season for me, when the Gingers are off school. Mornings are work time and afternoons are fun time, but this puts a time squeeze on work-related activity – I even have to curb my social media addiction. Gasp, horror. I’ve been scribbling away on my latest novel – a story of love, faith, forgiveness, and bats set in a Welsh seaside town – and I’ve also done a fair whack of editing jobs – three in total. One was for Sarah Rayner. Sarah has written and published a fantastic e-book, Making Friends with Anxiety, and it is perfect for any of you who are prone to an over-whelming sense of panic, or a mild sense, to be honest. It’s beautifully written – like chatting with a mate – and is full of brilliant tips and advice. And this summer I had to prepare a workshop for a literary festival, GladFest.

Edinburgh-Aug 2014 106I travelled up to my home stomping ground – North Wales – at the weekend, with the boys in tow to take part in the festival.  2014 is only the second year GladFest has been running at the stupendously gorgeous Gladstone Library, but, boy, you’d never know it. What a brilliant festival. A dazzling array of well-respected authors at the top of the game (and me). Authors like Salley Vickers and Stephen May – his debut TAG is one of my all-time favourite books. He was there to talk about his latest, the fantastic Wake Up Happy Every Day. There was a menu of workshops to attend and the festival was very well-attended. This was also down to the wonderful organisation and publicity, and the hard work put in by all the staff at the library. Everyone was made to feel so welcome. Gladstone’s is a unique place; a residential library that connects a wide range of writers and thinkers, runs courses and events and is a haven for creative thinking and reflection.

My workshop, Spit & Polish, was all about the vital art of self-editing your MS. It was a sell-out and if I say I was taken aback by this you should imagine me lying on the floor of the library fanning myself. I was nervous but the reception was great and the feedback better than I could ever have hoped for.

Gorgeous festival bag & programme

Gorgeous festival bag & programme

Festivals are great for authors and readers alike. They connect one to the other and though a disadvantage of working at a festival is that you don’t get a chance to see and do as much as you’d like, there are many, many advantages. You meet readers and potential readers, you meet new authors and others known to you, the exchange of ideas and creative energy at a festival like GladFest is nigh on priceless. So, if you’re reader or writer and you live in the North West do find out about the range of events held at the library. Scratch that. Wherever you live check out the Gladstone Library. I’m taking some time out and working up there for a couple of weeks next year, and I cannot wait.

Next stop on the festival tour is Richmond Boots and Books. I’m talking at the library on 22nd, 7pm, about Public Battles, Private Wars. What’s not to like about a festival with a name like that!

 

I’m finishing with another photo of the library and the great man himself, simply because I can!Edinburgh-Aug 2014 116