Sunday, 28 April 2013

The Truth, according to SJ

A guest post for you today, from Sarah Jane Crosse, otherwise known as SJ. She's been pleading with me to let her write a guest post for this blog, and finally her agent, Della Galton, agreed that she could. I take no responsibility for the post which follows, but I do advise you not to sip any kind of a drink while you read it, in case you end up spluttering all over your keyboard.

The Truth About What Happened at my Parents’ Ruby Wedding Anniversary

By SJ Crosse, currently starring in Ice and a Slice by Della Galton

Hello everybody.  I can’t quite believe I’m here.  Am I really going to be writing something – on my own – with no interference from Della Galton, who shall hereby be known as Teetotaller Big Knickers. (TBK for short.) Ha!

 Am I really here? (Pinches self to check) Ouch! Did that too hard!  (note to self to pinch lighter in future, or somewhere it doesn’t hurt, or …)  Never mind, where was I?

                Ah yes, I get the chance to go on a posh blog - they told me that your blog is particularly posh, Kath, can I call you Kath – are we on first name terms? Come to think of it, you’ve read all about the stuff TBK says I got up to in Ice and a Slice, haven’t you? So I think we’re quite intimate already.

                I hope you didn’t believe it all! I’m not as bad as she makes out, you know. (nowhere near) In fact I hardly ever drink as a rule. And all that stuff she said I got up to at my parents’ Ruby Wedding Party. Well it’s nonsense, of course. Or at best, grossly exaggerated. I mean, I’m sure you didn’t believe a word of it, did you J

                For a start I did NOT wreck my niece’s chances of a bit of how’s your father with her boyfriend. (Am I allowed to talk about how’s your father on your blog? Will it be going out after the nine o clock watershed? Is that how blogs work? I’m not particularly up on this blogging lark, you know. )

                Did I mention this is the first guest blog I’ve ever done?  Hurrah!

                But it won’t be the last – oh no – I’m going to hack into TBK’s blog soon, and then I’ll be able to tell you all the TRUTH about the PARTY. Ha!

                My version of it, I mean – shall I tell you now?

                OK then, I will. Well, basically, I took Tom to meet my sister (didn’t want to do that – as you know, Kath, and you know WHY! Basically – off the record - she’s a cow).

                Anyway, we went, and it was all very lovely, and everyone got on frightfully well, and we all sat around and ate egg and cress sandwiches and drank lovely cups of tea. (I love tea).

                And there was no drunkenness (apart from the darts players – their wives were the worst – oh and my aunt Evie – she’s an old soak!). And there was no lying down under the fridge (certainly not by me). And that pea story that TBK told you – you know about the escapee pea – there’s a pun there somewhere, escapee pea - escapea – da daaa. I’m a whizz with words, you know. I teach poetry and a pint on Wednesday evenings, and we have such fun. And we all sit around reading poetry and drinking pints of – um – tea.

                Anyway, where was I? Ah yes the party, well all the stuff TBK wrote about what I did in the book. It’s all complete nonsense.  Actually, I’ll let you into a secret, shall I? It’s TBK who’s the drunk, not me. You should see her when she gets going – dances on tables and everything. (And she can’t dance either, but she thinks she can.)

                I’m practically teetotal – did I mention that?

                Ha! So stick that in your pipe and smoke it, TBK Galton.

                (Oh – and if you want to read TBK’s version of events – then you’ll have to buy the book. Ice and a Slice it’s called.) Click here to check it out. Bits of it are quite good. The bits that show me in a good light like when I’m – um – helping people with their charity work. 

                But bear in mind – the party bit is all lies, lies, lies. Complete nonsense. I shall be doing more setting the record straight very soon. Watch out for me in blogs around the country!  Oh, and if you want to book me, you’ll have to go through my agent, TBK (Della Galton), or you could just sneakily get in touch via my Facebook Page, Ice and a Slice (which she’s not allowed on). Or email me at Or tweet me @SarahJaneCrosse. Look forward to hearing from you very soon.

Bye for Now. SJ xxx  


Friday, 26 April 2013

Guest Post - Hillary Corby

As promised a couple of posts back, here's a guest post from Hillary Corby, an English writer living in Florence (oh, now we are all so jealous! Hubby took me there for our 5000-days anniversary, and I loved it). Hillary writes historical fiction set in Rennaissance Italy - what a great setting that is!

Hillary has a signed copy of her book to give away. I'll put the names of everyone who comments on this post by 6pm Friday 3rd May in a hat and the first one picked wins the book.

Meet the Author: H.A. Corby - Writer of historical and contemporary Italian crime fiction.

When did I prefer Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot stories to hunky men and voluptuous risk-taking sirens in romance novels? A morbid fascination sent me hurrying to the library on a monthly basis voraciously consuming books on true crime, which I tempered with my other passion; all that stuff that happened hundreds of years ago.

I visited Rome for a milestone birthday and was barely off the plane when I trudged into the Coliseum. The brittle crumbling stones of this ancient theatre breathed life, offering a glimpse of another world. I heard the throngs cheering the mock sea battles, the dramas, or muscular gladiators in chest-baring and somewhat sexy gear. By the time I had seen the Trevi Fountain twice, I was hooked on the glory, history, and thrill of a majestic ancient land.

After two years in Sicily, I moved to Florence. I spent Sundays in the centre weaving in and out of the hordes of visitors trying not to appear like a whacko as I stroked the rough stones of the Medici homes and other palazzos with my eyes closed trying to absorb their memories through my fingertips. I didn’t walk with my head down because I felt shy; staring at the road permitted me to block modern life and imagine da Vinci or Michelangelo bustling from studio to patron on those very streets, Botticelli throwing tangible genius onto
the fire and the end of Savaranola’s madness by the hangman. The ancient rhythms of this magnificent city had embraced unconditionally. I could travel back to a city fulfilling its glory and relive the past anytime I wanted.

Relaxing under a full golden moon, ideas flooded my mind. I had the means to take others along on a journey to a time and place in history that chiselled the future forever, and I was excited. Writing became a spiritual, cathartic almost magical experience. I hardly went anywhere, and the social life diminished along with the regular exercise regimen as I hardly noticed the hours passing. I wrote and researched then wrote some more. I did not write for more than four months after I left Florence. Brain drain had set in, and some life
obstacles had dampened the inspiration and the wolf was at the door. It returned in La Serra, a small medieval village overlooking the sea in the mountains north of Tuscany. Walking the sandy cove, Golfo dei Poeti (Golf of the Poets), I passed the houses that D.H. Lawrence and Lord Byron had sought refuge in and I knew the time had come to finish. Staring out at the turquoise waters that Lawrence and Byron had seen, I resurrected the intimacy with my characters. Finally, in November 2012, When Angels Fall A Benedetti Renaissance Mystery was born!

“Race along the passageways of love, murder, betrayal, and treachery as a previously unknown evil wraps its feathery arms of death around the women of Florence.”

Cin Cin

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Woman's Weekly Fiction Workshop

Very quick post, because I'm just off out...

Woman's Weekly are holding a fiction workshop in London on  7th June. If you're keen on writing for this magazine, whether serials or shorts, it'd definitely be worth getting yourself booked onto this. Details here.

Also that free ebook The Showman's Girl by Julia Douglas's I mentioned a couple of posts back - there was a delay getting it published. It's now free to download from iTunes for the next month - here.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Good blogs

A few links for you today - firstly a couple of blogs whose owners have been kind enough to host me while I wibble on about Ghost Stories and How to Write Them.

On Sally Q's blog I talk about how I came to write the book in an obscenely short length of time. She kept interrupting me while I wrote this post, as you'll see.

And on Edith O'Nuallain's lovely blog I sit beneath a glorious picture of Glendalough, Ireland, while she interviews me about my writing background and habits.

Edited 24/4/13
And today I'm on Della Galton's blog talking about what's to gain from writing classes.

I've recently discovered Elizabeth Dulcie's blog, where she has several posts on tax and finance and all those horrid things authors shy away from but which are essential to understand if you are trying to make a living from writing.

And finally, as a complete contrast and for no better reason than to look at stunning wildlife photos, take a look at this blog by a brilliant photographer. Eases my soul, that one does.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Enticing free book

Fancy a Renaissance murder mystery romance set in Florence, anyone? Free as a Kindle download today and tomorrow. Sounds right up my street! Hoping the author Hillary Corby will provide us with a guest post in the near future.

When Angels Fall

Thursday, 18 April 2013

News round up and interesting links

Various bits and pieces for you today.

Did you know that Saturday is World Circus Day? To mark the occasion, Douglas McPherson, writing as Julia Douglas, is giving away his ebook, circus romance The Showman's Girl, on iTunes over the weekend. Amazon may well match the zero price as well, so keep an eye on it.
I will add links to the book as soon as I have them.

Writer Cara Cooper is doing a series on her blog on how to write serials for magazines. Serials are probably one of the hardest things to get right - each episode must be the right length and end on a cliff-hanger. But they pay well and are a good stepping stone between writing short fiction and full length novels. Definitely worth taking a look at Cara's blog linked above to find out tips of the trade.

Fans of Kate Long's books might like to find out how she got her big break - see her Author Spotlight post on Morgen Bailey's excellent blog, here. And don't forget - there is still chance to enter the draw to win Kate's latest novel, Bad Mothers United. Just leave a comment on her guest post (scroll down about 2 posts). You've got till 5pm BST Friday to comment. Actually, make that 6.30pm as I think him indoors and I will be going to the pub at 5pm (to celebrate the start of the weekend!)

Excellent post on Della Galton's blog here on issue-led fiction. As her latest novel Ice and a Slice (only £1.94 at the moment!)  is about alcoholism she's had plenty of experience of writing this kind of thing. It can be incredibly powerful, and yes, the women's mags do take stories with strong themes.

Della's also running a workshop at Bournemouth's Festival of Words at the end of May. Take a look at the link there for the programme and competitions. If you're down south, come along!

If you're not down south but would like to do a writing course, try Sally Quilford's online course. Next one starts in mid May. Details here.

Think that's it for now - if you have anything you'd like me to publicise on this blog, do get in touch via the Contact page above. As long as its of interest to writers of short fiction I will consider it!

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Ghost Stories and How to Write Them

Those of you who are my friends on Facebook already know about this, but it's time I mentioned it here - I have published an ebook - Ghost Stories and How to Write Them. It is, as its title suggests, part anthology and part How To book. It contains 10 of my ghost stories, most of which have been previously published in women's magazines. It also contains my musings on what makes a good ghost story for the women's magazine market, and discussion of each story. I'm hoping it'll appeal both to readers and writers - something for everyone!

Click here to buy from or here to buy from It only costs £1.53 (or $2.35) which one lovely writer friend described as a bargain. Hope you like it - if you do, tell everyone. If you don't,  tell me!

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Guest Post from Kate Long

Kate Long has been a guest on this blog before, and always has something to say which we can all learn from. Here, she talks about the joy of preparation and research, and how spending a few minutes Googling is well worthwhile. Read through to the end for a chance to win a copy of her latest book. 

The Joy of Spadework

All novels require preparation, even if it is just hours of thinking time, and there are probably as many ways of preparing your ground as there are novelists. I always kick off with a timeline on which I jot seven or eight sentences outlining the main events of the story; that way I can judge the pacing from the start. Next come the character studies, two or three pages of detailed notes per person describing life histories, flaws, preferences and aims. From this I create a more detailed timeline, this one showing what happened to my characters before the novel begins. It will include specific dates so that I can cross-reference the action – Greg started secondary school in 1976, which was the after year Angie got married and two years before Albert died. I might also at this stage sketch out a family tree or two.

When I came to write my latest book, Bad Mothers United, much of that background was already in place. 22 year-old single mum Charlotte and her boyfriend Daniel, and Charlotte’s mum Karen along with her ex husband Steve, had already established themselves in The Bad Mother’s Handbook. I know huge amounts about their backgrounds and motivations and formative experiences. The setting too was one with which I was very familiar. No need to rack my brains over what kind of home they lived in or what their accent might sound like. The Cooper family abode was an ex council house in a Lancashire village, half way between Bolton and Wigan. I knew where they shopped and where they went for a drink and who they were likely to bump into on any given excursion. I knew about the pets they’d owned, the kind of neighbours they had to put up, the layout of their garden front and back.

Therefore, you’d think, there’d be minimal preparation involved. Except that even if you’re describing folk you know from a place you yourself grew up in, it turns out there’s an astonishing amount of research to be done. In a cavalier moment at the end of book one I’d sent Charlotte off to do her degree in York. That necessitated my taking a weekend break there, plus continual emailing of a friend who’d once resided on the outskirts of the city. I had to Mapquest the route Charlotte would drive across to Yorkshire, and search for images of the motorway service station where she’d take a break (Hartshead Moor, since you ask). Her boyfriend Daniel Gale is a scientist, so I needed information on his research interests, especially in the area of genetics. How lucky, then, that one of my best friends happens to be a professor at Warwick University working in that very field. And Charlotte’s little son is coming up to three, so I had to check child development books for what he’d be able to do at this stage, and ask the lady next door if I could record her toddler’s speech whilst he played.

Then there was the matter of when the novel was set. The action of The Bad Mother’s Handbook took place in 1997, and I wanted the sequel to pick up three years later – in other words a Millennial novel. That suited the theme of the family trying to make a fresh start. But very recent history’s slippery to deal with because it’s all too easy to assume contemporary details. Were people using text messages then? Were CDs still the norm or was music mainly accessed via computer audio files? I had to ask the reference team manager at the British Library how someone in 2000 would access archived newspapers; a lady from the CAB sorted me out with what housing benefits were available then, and a Twitter friend found me some old copies of the Disability Living Allowance booklet. Without kind people like this I’d have been scuppered, and it’s with pleasure that I put them in my acknowledgements.

Not that I ever resent this kind of groundwork. As well as being interesting in its own right, a serious fact-finding mission helps build up your own confidence in the world you’re creating, confidence which should spill over into the reader’s experience. More than that, investigating a particular topic can throw up ideas for plot refinements and sub-plots, for character detail, for narrative resolutions. It’s an opportunity to approach your work from an oblique angle.

So I’d say to all writers, Google with abandon and follow your line of enquiry where it wants to lead. Pausing half way your daily word count to hit search doesn’t have to mean you’re procrastinating. It may be that the little nugget you’re about to unearth will be pivotal to your story.

Thanks Kate! A fascinating post. I love the photos of your research notes, and am pleased to see they're almost as unreadable as my own notes. Research certainly pays off. When I read Bad Mothers United I felt I was completely immersed in Charlotte and Karen's world.

For a chance to win a copy of Bad Mothers United, simply leave a comment after this post. All those who've commented by 6pm Friday 19th April will be entered into a draw, and the first to be picked will win a signed copy. 

For more words of wisdom from Kate, see her guest post on Sally Q's blog, here

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Guest post by Frances Garrood

Today's moving guest post is by Frances Garrood, who's written several books and who knows how many short stories. She writes about the 'story behind the story' of her tale A Horse Called Rosie, which you can find in the current issue of Woman's Weekly. 

A Horse Called Rosie
This story is important to me because it combines the themes of young widowhood and a love of horses.
I have been a horse-lover all my life, but because of pressure of life and finances (horses are very expensive to ride and to keep!) I only came back to riding about thirteen years ago. There's is something about horses; their gentleness, their tolerance, their smell, and, funnily enough, their understanding. When I fractured my spine a few years ago, my horse at the time (rather a lively one) was incredibly gentle with me when I first started riding again, almost as though he knew I wasn't myself. After a couple of sessions, he obviously decided I was better, and returned to his usual bouncy self, but I was grateful to him for taking it easy and giving me time to get used to him again. I have heard similar stories from other people. I now have a huge bay horse called Fairfax (shortened to the unlikely name of Fairy, which doesn't suit anyone his size!), and he is lovely. I am very lucky to have a horse, and never forget what a privilege it is to own one.

As regards the other inspiration for the story, I was widowed in my forties, so that theme is close to my heart. I know about the grief, the despair, and the (often odd) expectations of other people. I don't think anyone who hasn't been through it can begin to imagine what it's like, so I won't try to describe it (and besides, it's different for everyone), but grief can be like a kind of illness, and takes a lot of time to come to terms with. Bereavement isn't something you ever "get over"; the best description I've heard is that, over time, it turns from a wound into a scar; i.e it never goes away, it always leaves its mark, but it does eventually fade and become manageable. Part of my novel The Birds, the Bees and Other Secrets, which describes a tragic accident, was written from my own experience of bereavement. I was fortunate enough to re-marry - a lovely man who helped me on my return to "normal"- but my life is still divided into two parts:  before and after the death of John. I think that anyone who has suffered a bereavement will understand what I mean.
I didn't own a horse at the time my husband died, but I know that had I had one, (after my friends and family) it would have been the horse to which I would have turned for comfort.

Thanks Frances. You've had some terrible experiences in life. I think we can all relate to the comfort that animals can bring those who are suffering. What a beautiful horse! 

Frances blogs here and her website including links to her books is here

I'm off on holiday tomorrow - Lake District for a week. When I get back there'll be another guest post, from Kate Long, followed by I hope some exciting news of my own... watch this space!

Monday, 1 April 2013

Guest post - Sally Quilford

I suspect to most of you, Sally Quilford needs no introduction. Her blog is probably the one I've linked to most from here. She and I have been friends for 10 years now, and she has never ceased to amaze me with her writing output and endless enthusiasm for each new project. Her latest ebook, Lonesome Ranger, is to be published tomorrow. It's set in the Wild West of the 19th century, so I asked Sally for tips on how to write a story set somewhere the author has never visited. 

Travels of the Mind 

My new ebook, Lonesome Ranger is out on 2nd April, and is/will be published under the brand new Pulse imprint. Lonesome Ranger is a western romance (previously published as Sunlit Secrets by My Weekly Pocket Novels and Ulverscroft), and my lovely friend Womag has invited me to her blog to discuss writing about a place I have never been.

Obviously I’ve never been to 19th Century America, but I’ve never been to modern America either. It’s on my bucket list, but I need a bucketful of money before I can go.

Lonesome Ranger is my second foray into the Old West. I began my imaginary travels out west with Bella’s Vineyard. I had a hankering to write a western romance, but I wasn’t interested in ranches and cattle. I wanted a pretty setting for my heroine. I remembered the old 80s series, Falcon Crest being about vineyards and decided that would be the perfect setting, but not in the 80s. I wanted to go back to the 19th Century. I googled vineyards in America and found out that the foothills of the Sierra Nevada was chock full of vineyards and had been since about the 1850s. So I searched some images to give me an idea of the landscape. I also researched the history of winegrowing in America, and turned up some interesting facts about Chinese winegrowers who were pushed out for the Europeans who came along. These facts are represented in my character, Shen.

When I mentioned all this in my (tongue-in-cheek) Cheats Guide to Writing Western Romances I followed a link back to a site where some Americans were mocking me for my ‘alpine grapes’. I was only a bit smug as I pointed them towards the Sierra Wine and Grape Growers Association…

As for the rest, the town of Milton came from a list of English towns, on the basis that many American townships are named after the European places where many of the immigrants originated. After that, I just used my imagination. I’d seen enough westerns in my time, so I knew what a generic western town would look like, with the hotel, the cathouse, the blacksmith and the church. Then there would be barn raisings and local celebrations of somesort. The women would wear gingham or pretty silk dresses, and the men would be dressed in leather chaps. And finally I added the big bad guy who wanted to control the town through its
water supply.

I figured that whilst they may be clichés, they would be clichés that the reader would automatically recognise so they could create a picture of the town in their mind. As I was writing a western romance, I didn’t really need the same gritty realism as films like The Forgiven. I was allowed to romanticise the setting.

Moving forward a year or so, I decided I wanted to write another western romance. Once again I looked around for a pretty setting, and that finally came from my template for the hero. In Lonesome Ranger, the hero is inspired by drop dead gorgeous 80s mini-series king, Peter Strauss. Whilst I was erm… researching … pictures of him, I found out that he now owns a citrus farm in a place called Ojai in California. Ojai is particularly famous for its pink sunsets. How could I resist?! So Ojai became Ocasa (which is Spanish for sunset), and my English heroine moved to a town where citrus trees dotted the landscape.

Then once again I fell back on the tropes of westerns, and created the town as I wanted it to be – a border town that was just becoming civilised, and with a mixture of American and Mexican residents. I put an old timer on the porch outside the local store, and had a pretty little school, and a bandit terrorising the area, a la Eli Wallach in The Magnificent Seven.

These were all things that the reader would recognise as being part of a western landscape, so it saved me a lot of time having to find out everything about growing oranges and lemons or even exactly what elements a town like Ocasa might have had.

The point is that you don’t have to visit a place to be able to write about it. Of course you have to do some research to get a feel for the place or the time you’re writing about, but you don’t always have to write what you know. You can write about what you’ve found out. And after that, you use your imagination, and maybe take shortcuts that people will recognise, such as the old timer on the porch, or the stagecoach bringing the hero or heroine into town.

If your story has a modern setting, Google Earth is a fantastic way to see the streets you wish to write about. You can research the rest online too, so you know roughly what size a town or city might be, and what its history is. In the end, all anyone wants is a story. There may be the odd person who is a real expert who says ‘that’s not right’ but the average reader is only interested in the story you’re telling.

As long as you get some things right, and you don’t make any glaring mistakes like putting the Eiffel Tower in Moscow, then you don’t have to worry about the stuff you make up.

Thanks Sally! So it isn't just 'write what you know', but 'write what you can research'. Some great tips there for all of us. I will add a link to the book as soon as it is published tomorrow. 
Edited 3/4/13 - Here's the link!