Guest Post from Jenny Kane: Christmas Pick ‘n’ Mix

Hello again, Jenny! Lovely to have you here this Christmas!

Jenny Kane’s Christmas Collection: Stress at Christmas?

jennykanes-christmas-collectionI’m delighted to be visiting today, as part of a blog tour celebrating the launch of my seasonal anthology, Jenny Kane’s Christmas Collection.

Personally I adore Christmas. I love the extra rushing about and cooking and secret gift buying, but let’s face it; for many Christmas can be something of a mixed blessing. While it means families and friends come together, gorgeous food, rather more alcohol than is strictly wise, and a certain joyous throwing out of the diet plan- it can also mean excessive spending, stressed out arguments over who said what to ‘Our Cheryl’ during last year’s Christmas dinner, and total exhaustion- not to mention arguments over whether to have a real tree or an artificial one- and a colossal electricity bill in January as a result of all those extra festive lights…

Within the confines of my festive stories I try and toe the middle line. It would be foolish to pretend that Christmas was never stressful, to make out that snow always fell with Christmas card precision when it was supposed to, and that an overcooked turkey couldn’t cause a minor domestic meltdown. On the other hand – this is fiction! I’m supposed to be providing light entertainment- a cheerful moment of escapist hope and happiness amongst the chaos of wrapping present and making mince pies. Consequently, while the three novellas that make up Jenny Kane’s Christmas Collection, do touch on the extra pressures that the Christmas season can bring, they are basically stories of friendship and smiles. Tales that I hope will provide some Christmas warmth, whatever the winter weather.

My Another Cup of series began some years ago with the full length novel, Another Cup of Coffee. I enjoyed writing that novel so much, that when I was asked to write a Christmas follow up, I was only too happy to oblige. I had no idea then that I would end up writing three Christmas novella’s and a further novel (Another Glass of Champagne) before the series came to an end.

Those seasonal stories began with the Another Cup of Christmas, followed by Christmas in the Cotswolds in 2014, and then Christmas at the Castle last year.

Blurb for Jenny Kane’s Christmas Collection

jennykanes-christmas-collection-5starThere is something very special about Christmas…
Jenny Kane’s Christmas Collection combines all three seasonal shorts from Jenny’s best-selling Another Cup of … series in one festive anthology.
In ‘Another Cup of Christmas’, we return to Pickwicks Coffee House in London, the setting for Jenny’s bestselling novel Another Cup of Coffee. Together with old friends Kit, Amy, Scott and Peggy, we meet new Pickwicks waitress Megan, who’s in charge of organising a charity event for the local hospital…is romance as well as seasonal goodwill in the air?
‘Christmas in the Cotswolds’ sees Megan, now an established face at Pickwicks, travelling to the beautiful Cotswold countryside after an emergency call from her friend Izzie. Can Megan help Izzie pull off the perfect Christmas at her Arts and Crafts Centre – and save the business from disaster?
Kit Lambert, Pickwicks’ writer-in-residence, takes centre stage in ‘Christmas at the Castle’. Already nervous about appearing at her very first literary festival, in the grounds of a magnificent Scottish castle at Christmas time, Kit suddenly finds herself co-organising the whole thing – and trying to repair old friendships – with the deadline fast approaching…

One of the most important decisions I make when I’m about to write a story is where to locate the tale. When, I wrote Christmas in the Cotswolds, I thoroughly enjoyed taking Pickwicks’ waitress, Megan, away from her workplace in Richmond, on an artistic adventure in the lovely Gloucestershire countryside. So when the time came to write the fourth adventure for the characters from Pickwicks Coffee House, Christmas at the Castle, I had no fears about taking regular customer, and writer in resident, Kit Lambert, on her travels as well.

I only ever write stories based in places I know well. The Deeside area of NE Scotland, where Christmas at the Castle is based, was my home for three years at the turn of the century. I lived in the beautiful village of Banchory (and worked in the branch of WHSmith’s you can find on the High Street). It was in Banchory – in a coffee shop that might look very similar to the one mentioned in Christmas at the Castle– that I wrote my very first published story!

While I was there, I was a frequent visitor to all the local castles, including the breathtakingly stunning Crathes Castle. From the moment I set foot in the castle grounds back in 1998, I fell in love with the place.

Owned by the National Trust for Scotland, Crathes Castle, with its thick whitewashed walls, incredible ceiling paintings, and atmospheric rooms, remains one of my favourite buildings in the world. Complimented by a mix of formal grounds and woodland, no matter what, or much, I write about Crathes, I will never be enough to do it justice.

Crathes is as much a character in this festive novella as Kit, and her fellow literary festival planners, Alice and Charlie…

Extract

Cameron Hunter rocked back on his desk chair and stared out across the estate grounds of Crathes Castle. From where he sat he could see the sweep of the formal gardens that huddled neatly around the foot of the sixteenth-century tower house, and on to the woodland beyond.

He still couldn’t believe he’d managed to land a job in one of the most picturesque places in the country. On crisp winter mornings like this one, when the fallen russet leaves crunched underfoot and the evergreen leaves shone with the spidery touch of Jack Frost, it seemed madness that he’d actually hesitated before applying for the estate manager’s post.

Returning to the pile of paperwork on his desk, Cameron’s gaze fell on a stack of ‘Christmas at the Castle Literary Festival’ flyers. It had seemed like such a good idea at the time. The chance to impress his new boss and attempt a “kill or cure” technique on the ghost of his former relationship at the same time.

Cameron often wished he’d never set eyes on Alice Warren. He hated that he couldn’t stop loving her, even when she made it clear that their time together had just been a bit of a fling.

He thought he’d be safe taking a job back in the area now that Alice was living in Edinburgh. Yet on his very first trip into Banchory after taking the job, he’d seen her chatting to another girl outside the newsagents.

On his return to the office, unable to stop himself, he’d found himself searching for Alice Warren on Google. Telling himself that this wasn’t stalking, but that he was merely acting in self-preservation, Cameron had discovered that his ex was running Warren Premier Events, a successful event management business in Edinburgh.

Seconds later, he’d come up with the idea to get her to organise an event for him. That way his lingering obsession with her would either be shot stone dead and he could get on with his life, or Alice would realise she’d made a terrible mistake and that she loved him after all.

Pushing the sleeves of his thick Aran jumper past his elbows in annoyance at himself, Cameron absent-mindedly signed three documents. Even though he knew he was behaving like a lovesick teenager, he couldn’t help but hope it would all work out.

Contacting Alice via the Warren Premier Events website, Cameron had asked her to help for old time’s sake. Trying not to feel pathetic, he justified his actions to himself with the thought that, whatever his reasons, there could be few better places for a literary festival than in a castle at Christmas time…

***

You can buy Jenny Kane Christmas Collection as a paperback or download from-

Amazon UK- https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jenny-Kanes-Christmas-Collection-Short-ebook/dp/B01M0ICD7A/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1474386377&sr=8-2&keywords=jenny+kane%27s+christmas+collection

Amazon.com-  https://www.amazon.com/Jenny-Kanes-Christmas-Collection-Short-ebook/dp/B01M0ICD7A/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1474387008&sr=8-1&keywords=jenny+kane%27s+christmas+collection

Many thanks Laura,

Jenny xx

Bio

jen-and-abis-house-1Jenny Kane is the author the contemporary romance Another Glass of Champagne, (Accent Press, 2016),  Christmas at the Castle (Accent Press, 2015), the bestselling novel Abi’s House (Accent Press, 2015), the modern/medieval time slip novel Romancing Robin Hood (Accent Press, 2014), the bestselling novel Another Cup of Coffee (Accent Press, 2013), and its novella length sequels Another Cup of Christmas (Accent Press, 2013),  Christmas in the Cotswolds (Accent, 2014), and Christmas at the Castle (Accent, 2016). These three seasonal specials are now available in one boxed set entitled Jenny Kane’s Christmas Collection (Accent, 2016)

Jenny’s fifth full length romance novel, Abi’s Neighbour, will be published in June 2017.

Jenny’s first medieval murder mystery, The Outlaw’s Ransom will be published in December 2016 under the pen name, Jennifer Ash

Jenny is also the author of quirky children’s picture books There’s a Cow in the Flat (Hushpuppy, 2014) and Ben’s Biscuit Tin (Hushpuppy, 2015)

Keep your eye on Jenny’s blog at www.jennykane.co.uk for more details.

Twitter- @JennyKaneAuthor

Facebook -https://www.facebook.com/JennyKaneRomance?ref=hl

Jenny also writes erotica as Kay Jaybee

Advertisements

In The Future Will Everyone Be Crowd-funding? Guest post by Erinna Mettler

Fifteen minutes flyerI’m pleased as punch to introduce my fellow Beach Hut Writer, Erinna Mettler. Erinna is stupendously talented; her stories are perceptive, thought-provoking, laced with subtle humour. Magical.Over to you, Rin.

I write short stories. My first book, Starlings, was what is known as a daisy chain novel, which is a set of interlinking short stories with characters and settings in common. My second book, In The Future Everyone Will Be World Famous For Fifteen Minutes, is not a novel but a collection of short stories themed around fame and that’s as far as the connection goes. In the UK, short story collections are not looked upon favourably by agents or publishers. This is not the case in the US, India or even Ireland.  A handful of companies do consider collections but to be honest you have to either be a best-selling author or have won a major short story prize to get past the slush pile. I haven’t got an agent and with this second book I didn’t really try to get one. I half-heartedly sent it off to a few US publishers until somebody suggested I try the innovative crowd-funding publisher Unbound.

Since the company was established in 20 Unbound has gone from strength to strength. Their catalogue includes books by Jonathan Meades, Terry Jones, Kate Mosse and a Booker Prize listee (Paul Kingsnorth with The Wake).  In the promo video Unbound states that, ‘authors get to write the books they want to write and readers get to read real books, that in a crowded, celebrity obsessed market place might never see the light of day.’ This statement really appealed to me. I have not forgotten my rejection from a high profile literary agent a few years ago telling me they just weren’t in  love with my writing on the very day they announced a 2 book deal with Martine McCutcheon. She only wrote one and that went into bargain bins straight after it was released. I submitted my manuscript to Unbound. They accepted it within a month.

The thing with crowd-funding is that everything moves at a super-fast pace. I got the email from Unbound Digital on a Friday asking for a biography, an extract, photos, a cover and a short promotional film by Sunday! If you are thinking of submitting to them I would suggest you have all of this ready to go at a moment’s notice. They give you around 90 days to raise the funds to get your book published, which works out at about 350 £10 pledges. When you are fully funded you are assigned an editor and then, about a year later, you get the full marketing and distribution you would from any major publisher.

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

I have quite a large social media network but it has been very hard to gain pledges. I blog weekly, I post daily on Twitter and Facebook, I’ve done events, press releases, radio and sent out emails to everyone I know and still each pledge has to be eeked out. As I reach the end of my 90 days I am spending several hours a day marketing and no time actually writing, luckily for me I have the book finished and ready to go. When someone does pledge I want to shout their name from the rooftops. One thing that has worked for me was getting a short film made by Brighton’s Latest TV. This has been like a visual press release and I have gained many pledges since it went live. Wish me luck, I have 150 pledges still to get and time is running out.

Fifteen Minutes of Fame? No Thanks!

 

Guest post: Coffee, Christmas, and Romance by Jenny Kane

Many thanks for inviting me to share a little of my latest Christmas novella, Christmas at the Castle with you today, Laura. My pleasure! It’s delightful to have you back and get us in the Christmas spirit.

Christmas at the CastleOnce again I have returned to the Pickwicks Coffee House in Richmond, the home of my Another Cup of Coffee series, to start this festive tale. This year however, rather than stay amongst the English cups of tea and coffee, I have taken writer, Kit Lambert, on an adventure northwards, to the beautiful Scottish Deeside.
Blurb
Christmas at the Castle is a seasonal treat from Jenny Kane, featuring much-loved characters from her bestselling novel Another Cup of Coffee.

When hotshot businesswoman Alice Warren is asked to organise a literary festival at beautiful Crathes Castle in Scotland, her ‘work mode’ persona means she can’t say no – even though the person asking is her ex, Cameron Hunter.

Alice broke Cameron’s heart and feels she owes him one – but her best friend Charlie isn’t going to like it. Charlie – aka famous author Erin Spence – is happy to help Alice with the festival…until she finds out that Cameron’s involved! Charlie suffered a bad case of unrequited love for Cameron, and she can’t bear the thought of seeing him again.

Caught between her own insecurities and loyalty to her friend, Charlie gets fellow author Kit Lambert to take her place. Agreeing to leave her London comfort zone – and her favourite corner in Pickwicks Café – Kit steps in. She quickly finds herself not just helping out, but hosting a major literary event, while also trying to play fairy godmother – a task which quickly gets very complicated indeed…
***
Introducing new characters to the Pickwicks cast, that has now been established for some years, is always great fun; especially at Christmas. In Another Cup of Christmas, young waitress Megan found the man of her dreams, even though she hadn’t actually met him! In Christmas at The Cotswolds, Megan helps her friend Izzie overcome the fickleness of nature, when a storm threatens to ruin her chance to host a famous choir in her Cotswolds Arts Centre. This year, Kit faces the biggest festive challenge of them all in Christmas at the Castle- she hasn’t just got one couple to steer towards a happy ever after, but two. Which would be fine, but Kit doesn’t really ‘do’ happy endings!

Christmas in the Cotswolds200Here’s a short extract for you-
Charlie pushed open the door of The Deeside Bookshop.
Instead of being greeted by John, she was surprised to see a much younger man behind the counter. Having never known the shop without John in it, Charlie was immediately concerned. ‘Um, hello, I wondered if I could speak to John, is he OK?’
‘He’s very OK, thank you. Soaking up the sun in New Zealand in fact.’
‘Oh.’ Not sure what to do, Charlie decided she’d dive straight in anyway. If John trusted this man to run the shop in his absence, then he must be alright. ‘Could I have a quick chat about the literary festival at Crathes? I know Ms Warren has already approached the shop, but I…’
The man, who Charlie guessed must be in his late thirties, ran an exasperated hand through his short hair. ‘I already told your colleague I can’t help. What Ms Warren is asking of me is not cost-effective. Although I wish you luck with the festival, the tactic of sending her prettier colleague to get me to change my mind is not going to work!’
Prettier colleague? Charlie felt thrown. No one ever thought she was prettier than Alice.
‘I assure you no… tactics are in play. I’m only helping out today because I’m a friend of one of the other organisers, and I have a more sensible and, I think, more realistic proposition for you than Alice did. I will tell you about it if you would like to hear it; if not, I’ll leave you in peace to stare around your customer-free shop!’
Rather taken aback by the edge to her tone, the tension in Charlie’s shoulders unknotted a little as, to her amazement, the man began to laugh.
Placing the books he’d been holding on the counter he said, ‘I’m sorry, forgive me for being abrupt. My name is Gervase Potter; I bought John out a few weeks ago. This little empire is now mine.’
Tilting his head to one side, giving Charlie the impression he was enjoying the view, he added, ‘I would very much like to hear your proposal. How about we discuss it tonight over a drink at Scott Skinner’s? I haven’t made it there yet, and I hear it’s a nice pub.’
With her brain privately grappling with the concept of being asked out for a drink by a handsome man who liked books, Charlie replied, ‘It is nice. I often go to Skinner’s to write when I need a change of scene from my desk at home. Oh, I’m Charlie, by the way. Charlie Davies.’
‘I’m pleased to meet you, Charlie. So, you write?’
‘Yes.’ Charlie pointed to the bookshelves, ‘I’m over there somewhere.’
‘You are? Who are you, then? I mean, who else are you?’
‘Erin Spence.’
‘The Unbrave Heart Erin Spence?’
Charlie’s pulse started to beat faster. He didn’t immediately connect me with The Love-Blind Boy. ‘Yes. Yes that was my first novel.’
‘I love that book.’
‘You’ve read it?’ Charlie was shocked. ‘Forgive me, but you don’t look like you’d be into women’s fiction.’
‘I’m not as a rule, but my ex-girlfriend had the audiobook and we played it on a long journey once or twice. I enjoyed it. You have a very perceptive view of the male side of things.’
‘Really?’ Charlie could feel herself blushing, ‘Thanks. It’s kind of you to say so.’
‘Not at all. That drink tonight, then? Eight o’clock? With a meal as well, maybe?’
‘To talk about my idea for the festival?’
‘I’m making no promises, because I think I’d rather talk about you.’
Charlie’s head buzzed with contradictory thoughts. Had she been right to agree to go out with Gervase? Only this morning she’d been thinking about how she felt about Cameron being back, and now she was going on a date with someone else. A part of her knew she’d only said yes in the hope that Alice and Cameron might see them. But so what if they did? Cameron isn’t going to be jealous, and I don’t want him any more anyway. And Alice wouldn’t notice in her current mode if I walked around naked with a pineapple on my head.
A new thought entered Charlie’s head. Was there any point in going out with another man until Alice had gone home? Gervase would only have to see them standing next to each other, and it wouldn’t be her that he wanted to take for dinner anymore.
Suddenly, Charlie stopped moving. She knew she was being ridiculous, but somehow the thought of how Alice was always going to be there to eclipse her wouldn’t shift…

***
ACOChristmas- New 2015If that mini extract has whetted your appetite, you can buy Christmas at the Castle from –
http://www.amazon.com/Christmas-at-Castle-Jenny-Kane-ebook/dp/B015J87DTI/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1442603723&sr=1-1&keywords=christmas+at+the+castle

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Christmas-at-Castle-Jenny-Kane-ebook/dp/B015J87DTI/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1442588560&sr=1-2&keywords=christmas+at+the+castle

Thanks again for letting me drop by.
An early Merry Christmas to you all,
Jenny x

Bio
Jenny Kane is the author the contemporary romance Christmas at the Castle (Accent Press, 2015), the bestselling novel Abi’s House (Accent Press, 2015), the modern/medieval time slip novel Romancing Robin Hood (Accent Press, 2014), the bestselling novel Another Cup of Coffee (Accent Press, 2013), and its novella length sequels Another Cup of Christmas (Accent Press, 2013), and Christmas in the Cotswolds (Accent, 2014).
Jenny’s fourth full length romance novel, Another Glass of Champagne, will be published in 2016.
Jenny is also the author of quirky children’s picture books There’s a Cow in the Flat (Hushpuppy, 2014) and Ben’s Biscuit Tin (Coming soon from Hushpuppy)
Keep your eye on Jenny’s blog at http://www.jennykane.co.uk for more details.
Twitter- @JennyKaneAuthor
Facebook -https://www.facebook.com/JennyKaneRomance?ref=hl
Jenny also writes erotica as Kay Jaybee.

Together the People Event #Brighton #Bookie Events

11873463_1141573805858130_6494183470167534546_nThis weekend, 5th and 6th Sept, myself and other Beach Hut Writers are appearing on the Soapbox at the Together the People Festival in Preston Park, Brighton.

Each evening at 6.15pm six authors will read a short extract from their work followed by a brief interview. We’re a diverse bunch, writing short stories, crime, literary fiction, women’s fiction, YA and more. Do come along to the soapbox stage if you fancy it. P.s. There are some fab bands appearing too, including Levellers, Super Furry Animals and Billy Bragg!

10500339_850556648310411_4468794841131379224_n

 

Guest interview: Shirley Golden

Award-winning short story writer Shirley Golden has a collection out, Exposing the False Moon, and, despite being shy and private, she agreed to pop over and take part in my occasional, slightly frivolous, interview series. I adore Shirley’s work and Exposing the False Moon is an absolute treat. I’m including my review after our chat. So, thank you for being here, Shirley.

Describe yourself in seven words:

False MoonFanatical about fiction, nature, history and science.

Why short stories?

I like the intensity of reading and writing a short story.  Like a passionate fling, I want to emerge the other side, moved, and perhaps a little wiser.

Novellas or novels – to read and/or write?

I enjoy reading both but sometimes find my concentration falters, which is why I tend to read more short stories.  And as an add-on to the simile above, writing a novel or novella feels more like a long-term relationship.  I have to fall deeply in love with my characters to stay committed to it.

What should readers expect from your stories?

Expectations are difficult to predict as people tend to see different, and sometimes, unforeseen things in a story.  As a generalisation, I think my short stories fall into a no-man’s land between mainstream and literary fiction – perhaps a bit too odd for mainstream, but a bit too obvious/accessible for ‘literary’.  My novels are an even lighter read.  To me, they are adventure stories, which I hope contain interesting characters and plots that entertain.

In ‘Exposing the False Moon’, stories are populated with quirky characters and, in many, a sense of loss.  Where do you think this comes from?

Well, quirky seems to be an inherent part of my nature.  I’m attracted to difference, so I guess it’s inevitable that my characters aren’t going to do the expected.  Yes, loss is a recurrent theme.  I’m very resistant to base my fiction on anything remotely autobiographical.  But it’s impossible to separate imagination from experiences entirely.  My mum died when I was in my early twenties.  I carry that with me.  It leaks into my stories.

What inspires you?

All sorts: images, snippets of conversations, historical characters and events, reading about technological developments, other stories, and sometimes news items and documentaries.

ShirleyYour favourite place to hang out online?

Really, it’s my only place: Twitter.  It’s fast and furious and appeals to me because it is perhaps better suited to introverts.  It’s easy to get lost, and feels less personal than Facebook.

Best thing that’s ever happened to you?

The realisation that it’s okay to be quiet (one of the best things, other than a more conventional answer).

Top Tip for aspiring short story writers?

Keep the language focused, and remember that if you’re writing short stories, your aspirations have already been met!

Thanks, Shirley. Exposing the False Moon is out now to buy from Amazon. Here’s my review, and remember to support  #ReviewWomen2015:

If you enjoy stylish, provocative and downright quirky short stories then you’ll love this anthology from award-winning short story writer, Shirley Golden.

Thematically, the stories in Exposing the False Moon are about exploring new ways of being, whether it’s the disgruntled wife in Kite Flying, who literally and metaphorically, takes off on her own, the grieving mother in Tense learning to live with guilt and finding redemption from an unexpected quarter or the brother and sister learning to love in Outside the Atmosphere (possibly my favourite tale, though I might well change my mind tomorrow; there are so many good ones).

Stories are peopled with battered wives, mute teenagers, girls with tails and shadows too big for their bodies, old men who want to live like a rodent or in tree house. Although many of the characters are troubled – Golden excels at capturing the rage, confusion and ennui of youth – the narratives are delivered with such wit, such lightness of touch that you’ll be knocked sideways by the emotional punches delivered thereafter. There are laugh out loud moments too – in Resting Place a grieving old man lets loose a ‘trickle of relief’ and in the end ‘pissed everyone off’, and in Fabricate a Future ‘we’re a happily-ever-after tale that finished the night before’ and  a lie is an ‘invention … creative sounds better than deceptive’. Golden has a talent for the perfect word or phrase; her prose is lean and muscular and her observations spot-on.

It’s not often that I devour short stories. I had thought I would read a story a night, perhaps two, but in the end I read this fantastic collection in two sittings. Stories moved me, made me think, made me laugh. What more could a reader ask for? Go buy and enjoy.

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.

Life, death, faith and joy

MSFeel free to slap my wrists for my neglect of this blog over the past few weeks; I’ve been busy, though this is a hopeless excuse because I’m pretty much always busy. The honest explanation is that I lost another friend recently and it’s knocked me off course. He was in his 40s, so way too young, and although I’d not seen much of him in recent years he was a man I spent a large chunk of my early adulthood with, along with a gang of others. We hung out together – lived in each in others’ pockets – the way you do when you’re young and responsibility free.  He was a man who lived on the edge, and when he was good, he was amazing. His death is a reminder that life is short, and precious, and not to be wasted.

It has been particularly hard because his death comes fast on the heels of another –the most generous-spirited and kind woman I am ever likely to encounter and who brought sunshine into the life of all those she met – and because my current work in progress is about love and death and faith and forgiveness. I feel as if I’ve been plumbing the depths a bit and it’s been tricky to feel light. I’ve reached the 30,000 word mark in the WIP; the point where I print out the MS and read it through, checking that the characters are taking shape and the plot has forward momentum. It’s written from three points of view, which is new to me (I’ve only written from two up till now), and I am enjoying the challenge, as well as tearing my hair out. I’m wracked with doubt about it, as usual, but reading it through has helped – for now. I need to keep the faith.

And there has been plenty of joy too.  An event at the Feminist Library and the chance to meet and work with Dr Katy Shaw, the leading expert on the literature of the Miners’ Strike, and news of a short story that is to be included in Unthology 7 in spring 2015. The Unthology collections are published by Unthank and are widely regarded as at the forefront of literary short stories. I am so flattered to be included amongst the cream of short story practitioners.

Holiday FlingFinally, I have a story in this anthology, Holiday Fling, from the fabulous award-winning independent press, Accent, who also publish my novel, Public Battles Private Wars. Again, I am thrilled and flattered to be in such illustrious company and I hope that some of you will rush out and download a copy. It’s free at the moment, so what’s stopping you! Buy here.

This post is dedicated to Joanna Thompson and Adam Lewis.