Friday, 20 December 2013

Christmas Wishes

Christmas is just round the corner – the mince pies are in the oven and a large slice of stollen is beckoning me.

I’ve had a lovely early Christmas present – an invitation to participate in the Edinburgh International Book festival in August next year. I’ll know more in the New Year.

So wishing all my blog readers a very merry Christmas. I hope you all gets lots of lovely books!

See you all in 2014.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Books For Chrismas

It’s that time of year again. Everyone is running around wondering what to buy for nephews and nieces, parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles. And what better presents to buy than books.

Now obviously I’m going to say – “buy my book”. Red Rock would be the perfect present for your child or grandchild, nephew or niece. An exhilarating adventure set in an all too possible future. You can find out more about it here.

But even if you’re not buying for children there’s a wealth of books available to suit all tastes.

Perhaps you are looking for something for your mother or aunt? Then why not buy them Ninepins by Rosy Thornton, a beautifully evocative fenland tale, or anything by Natasha Solomons for old world charm.

Buying books for men can be so much harder – so how about something by Brian Clegg, a prolific author of some excellent popular science books, or if you know someone attuned to nature either of Neil Ansell’s books would go down well.

Another gem of a novel I discovered this year was The Universe versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extense, and if you’re buying someone a kindle and they like a bit gothic horror then why not load it up before hand with By the Sea by Henry Gee. Or, if you like a bit of romance with your zombies try Waking up Dead by Emma Shortt.

So buy everyone books this Christmas – make everyone happy – including your local bookshops and the authors.

Do have any books you would like to recommend this Christmas? Do let me know in the comments below – I still have a few presents left to buy!

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Guest: Self Published author Sue Yockney

Please Welcome Sue Yockney to my blog. Sue is a friend from a local writers group and she has just self published a dystopian romance, ‘Happy Deathday’ on kindle. Sue has kindly agreed to come over to my blog and tell us a bit about her book and the self publishing process.

Q. Hi Sue. Could you start by telling us a bit about yourself and your writing?
I was born in London. After studying art at Central St Martins, I went on to qualify as a librarian, eventually becoming a School Library Advisor for Dorset. I currently live in Somerset. My interest in writing began with plays and, as a member of an amateur dramatic group, I wrote three murder mysteries. Since then, I have concentrated on short stories in a variety of genres. In 2012, I left my job to concentrate on my writing and two years later, I completed my debut novel, a dystopian duology, Happy Deathday and its sequel, Resurrection. I enjoy reading, films, contemporary jazz and travelling and have been to Alaska twice, New Zealand, Peru and driven the Dempster Highway, up to and beyond the Arctic Circle.

Q.  Tell us about Happy Deathday.
Happy Deathday is set in an underground breeding colony constructed to save the Human Race from extinction, by a gamma ray explosion that destroys the Earth’s ozone layer. The story is told by the two main protagonists, Jonathan and Sarah in a dual narrative. Both of them have had their eighteen years in the Colony and their Deathdays are fast approaching. One is born every day; one dies every day. That is the way of the Colony. Like Jonathan, Sarah has successfully completed her breeding programme, a soulless clinical procedure and is ready to re-join the Colony and prepare for her Deathday - a time of celebration when, the contribution each colonist has made to its mission, is fulfilled. It’s all they have. This is your destiny. That’s what they’ve always been told.  

The novel starts with a seemingly innocuous accident, where Jonathan loses a week’s supply of the Supplement, he’s been required to take since he was nine years old and that he believes contains only vitamins and minerals. Without its influence, he begins to experience all the signs of puberty. He starts noticing things that he’s never noticed before, in particular Sarah. With his body no longer under his control, Jonathan struggles with his attraction to her and his growing sexual awareness. He also notices Zack, a Security Response Unit officer and two things become apparent. One that Zack is becoming an increasing threat to the Colony. And two, Zack has designs on Sarah. Fuelled by love, jealousy and the hormones his body’s been denied for years, Jonathan takes him on. The third main, ever present, character in the novels, is Time itself.  It’s there at the beginning of each chapter, reminding us of how little of it, Jonathan and Sarah, have left.

The Happy Deathday duology is a crossover novel targeted at the 15+/ Adult age range and can best be described as, ‘Logan’s Run meets Lord of the Flies’.

Q. What inspired you to write this book?
Three things came together that sparked off the idea for the novel. The first, was a workshop that you ran, Kate, on the Science Fiction genre for the writing group I’m a member of. If you remember you set us a task at the end, to sketch out the plot for a science fiction story. This was when I came up with the idea of an underground breeding colony set up because of an impending global disaster. I hadn’t, at that stage, chosen what the disaster would be! At the same time, I heard something on the radio that grabbed my attention. It was concerning the fact that every year there is a date that is the anniversary of your future death, but you don’t know what that date is. You could call your deathday. I then went away and wrote a short story called Happy Deathday and entered it for the Yeovil Literary Prize 2010 and it was Highly Commended. This gave me an enormous boost of confidence and convinced me that I did, indeed, have a good idea that I could develop into a novel.

Q. What is it about dystopia that interests you?
I think it’s the idea that a society can be set up, often with logical and altruistic intent but it all goes horribly wrong because the human condition is not taken into consideration. They often start off as utopias but end in a dystopian nightmare. I’m fascinated by the way that humans adapt to these societies, in the first instance, but then their humanity leads them to revolt against the lack of freedom of expression.

Q. Which are your favourite dystopian novels?
I have been a Sci-fi fan since my teens and devoured everything I could get my hands on. The books that have had the biggest impact on me are the classics Brave New World (Huxley) 1984 (Orwell), We (Yevgeny Zamyatin), Fahrenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury) and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Philip K. Dick). I also really like The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood), The Road (Cormac McCarthy) and Never Let Me Go (Kazuo Ishiguru).

Q. Why did you decide to self-publish?
By the autumn of 2012, I had written Happy Deathday and, realising that there was too much material to fit into one novel, I decided that I had to make it a duology and wrote a plot outline and synopsis for the sequel, Resurrection. I then set about trying to find an agent. Three months later, I hadn’t been successful. Feeling discouraged, I stopped writing, thinking that this was the end of the road. It was my husband who encouraged me to go down the self-publishing route. I contacted an American, who has written a best seller on how to go about getting a book on Kindle and asked him a question that hadn’t been covered in his book. I told him that I was writing a two-part novel and asked him how much of a gap I should allow between publishing each title. His answer was, an unequivocal, ‘none’, they should be published simultaneously. He told me that people would be unlikely to buy the first part of a debut author’s duology because the second part might not materialise. So I forgot about agents and got down to finishing Resurrection. The idea of self-publishing paperback versions, came later.

Q. How did you find the self-publishing Process?
I think the expression, ‘steep learning curve’, covers it to a certain extent but not completely. There were times when the curve was, so steep, I needed grappling irons! It’s probably one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life but now I look back on it and feel proud of myself that I kept going despite the numerous potholes on the way. The problem I had was that I had to do every process twice, because I had two titles. I jokingly say that I could write a book about the whole experience but, I really could! Self-publishing has its pros and cons. The main pro is that it gives you freedom and control. But this comes at a price which is that you have to do everything yourself. One thing’s for sure, it will all be a lot easier next time…

Q. In mainstream publishing there is a whole team of people working together to produce a book, could you tell us a bit about how you handled the various aspects

1. Editing (both structural and line edits) & Copy Edits
In the writing and publishing of my novels, I discovered that three members of my family possessed skills that were to be invaluable to me. Several people read and commented on my novels and suggested edits. My sister, Jackie, was one of them. She turned out to have the most incredible eye for detail and spotted plot inconsistencies that nobody else did. She’s also hot on spelling and grammar. The novels have a complicated setting, structure and plot and my husband, Rob’s experience as a systems engineer was very useful in sorting out the technical side of the whole project.
2. Formatting and layout
Formatting needs to be different for all the publishing platforms e.g. Kindle and/or Smashwords for the ebooks and CreateSpace or Lulu for the paperbacks. I learnt to fear the might of Word formatting. It is the one single factor that can completely scupper the process. You have to strip your novel text down to the bones and work from a ‘clean’ version. I did this by putting it into Notepad and starting from there. There are lots of guides out there to help you along the way but, in the end, it’s just down to hard slog and gallons of tea!
3. Cover design

Now to the third talented member of my family, my son Justin, who is a freelance photographer based in Bristol. He was the obvious choice to do my author photos for me but he also agreed to tackle the cover designs. Like me, Justin has an arts background and studied sculpture at University of Northumbria. The great thing about the two of us is that we are both on the same wavelength. I only needed to outline the concept I wanted for the covers and he went away and produced exactly what I was thinking.

4. Pricing
In self-publishing, pricing is a mine field and a moveable feast. You can set whatever price you want with the ebooks from Free, to as much as your customers will accept. If you are a famous author you’re ebook versions are at the top end. I went for the recommended starter price of $2.99 (£1.93). I can adjust it any time. With the paperbacks, you’re bound by production costs, so a minimum price is set based on the number of pages, colour content etc. Again you can change this whenever you want as long as it stays above that minimum setting.
5. Publicity and marketing
My nemesis! Like a lot of authors, all I want to do is write. But you have to get out there and market yourself. I think most authors, conventionally published and self-published, find this a challenge. I was always taught, as a child, that unless I had something sensible and worthwhile to say, I should remain silent. Well, that concept had to be thrown out the window! I’m learning as I go and seeking advice from other authors who I’ve found are very encouraging and supportive. I recently attended a Self-published Authors event at the Sherborne Literary Festival and met up with a great bunch of independent authors, only too willing to share advice and ideas with me. I suppose that’s what I am now - an independent author.
Thank you Sue, and good luck with Happy Deathday.

Available from

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Celebrating UKYA

There’s a whisper among the kids and a buzz around the internet. Something exciting is happening in the world of children’s literature. A new phrase is on the tips of everyone’s tongues. It is gaining momentum. It is UKYA.

For too long the Young Adult market has been dominated by the big hit bestsellers from across the pond. It still is and it probably always will be. But there is a huge and often untapped resource of British Young Adult books – books that bring something fresh to the genre, books that are often quite special and quite unique.

And it is these books we want to celebrate – British authors, often a British setting – there are amazing books out there just waiting to be discovered!

And it’s already started.

A really good starting point is the UKYA website. Here’s you’ll find details of a huge range of UKYA books, as well various Top Ten lists. Browse the shelves. Do you see something that takes your fancy? I bet you will!

And then there’s this initiative – Project UKYA. Its new, it’s exciting – a celebration of all things UKYA.

You can also find a number of UKYA authors over at Author Allsorts. Yes I’m one of them. Can you guess which one is my mascot? Look for the green eyes!

And there’s going to be a big UKYA event next year in London. I’ll be keeping an eye out for that!

So let’s keep the buzz going. Let us celebrate all things UKYA!

And while you're here - there's still time to enter the Red Rock Alliteration Giveaway - see post below!

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Red Rock Alliteration Giveaway!

Have you had a chance to read Red Rock yet? Do you like the way both the title and my name are examples of alliteration?

So in order to celebrate the fact that Red Rock has now been out for almost 2 whole months I thought I would organise a giveaway – an alliteration giveaway!

A signed copy of Red Rock and one of these gorgeous Red Rock pendants could be yours. And to enter this giveaway couldn’t be easier.

All you have to do is think of a two word review to describe Red Rock using alliteration – something like “Amazing Adventure” for example. You can post your entry on my facebook page, or tweet me @gabbrogirl or leave a comment on this blog. You can also enter by e-mail redrocklaunch[at]gmail[dot]com if you prefer. You can enter as many times as you like. Shares and re-tweets (or any other means of spreading the word such as blogging) will bias me in your favour if we’re finding it hard to choose a winner!

So spread the word – and let me see your alliteration!!

Entries will close at midnight GMT on November 29th and the winner will be announced on November 30th and will be contacted for an address to send the prize to.

Good luck!

(Open UK and Europe)

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Bridport Story Slam 2013

Last night I was at the Beach and Barnicott in Bridport for the 2013 story slam, organised by Frances Colville and Kathy Hallsworth, where I had been invited to be one of the judges.

If, like me, you’ve never been to a story slam before, I’ll explain to you what happens.

The format is very straightforward. Authors register to take part and their names are put into a hat and drawn at random. Each then has five minutes in front of the microphone to read their short story.

The five minutes was strictly enforced and if you are taking part in one of these events I would strongly advise you to make sure your story stays within this time frame. Several over-ran which was a shame because we never heard the ending and, so often with a story this length, ending is everything. You final line is your moment to wow your audience, to leave them with the resonance of what you have just read.

The stories we heard were amazing. We had so many varied themes and wonderful settings. Fabulous characterisation and daring story structures. But in the end one stood out for us all as the clear winner. A delightful story called Denial by Gill Smith. This really was a perfect example of how to write a short story!

The second and third places were harder to choose because we all had our favourites but in the end we selected Ged Duncan in second place for his bold story structure and vivid scene setting, and Maya Pieris in third place for a piece that was almost poetic, every word packing a punch, with sinister undertones!

The venue was cosy and informal, the turnout really good, and it was a sheer delight to see so many people embracing the spoken word.

And of course it was great exposure for Red Rock!

Here are my fellow judges, Julie Musk of Roving Press and short story writer Gail Aldwin, ready to start judging.

And a big thanks to the organisers for making the event such a success.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Tips for Writers: A three Point Checklist.

I hear many authors bemoaning the fact that they are collecting nothing but piles of form rejections. They wonder why this could be. Sometimes they blame the publishing industry.

So I thought I’d share with you my three point checklist – three elements your submission has to have if it’s going to stand out from the slushpile. Of course there’s more to it than just these – but it’s a starting point.

And be honest with yourself, you may think you meet all three – but do you really?

1. Voice: Voice is so difficult to define. It’s more than just good writing – it’s that special something that makes your prose stand out. When people can read something you’ve written and know it’s by you then you know you have voice.

2. Character: Your characters need to be interesting, engaging and well rounded. The reader does not necessarily have to like your main character but they do need to empathise with them. There’s a big difference.

3. Idea:  A strong original idea, or a unique twist on an old one. Don’t follow trends – those that are on the shelves now will have gone out of fashion by the time your book is published. Something new will be causing a buzz. Be that something. Break new ground.

Keep an eye out for more tips to follow.

Monday, 7 October 2013

The Post Publication Whirlwind

The past few weeks since Red Rock hit the shelves have passed in a blur of excitement. I don’t think my feet have touched the ground and I’ve barely had time to breathe. There’s been so much happening I hardly know where to begin.

I’ve been taking part in so many author events – I’ve already blogged about the Yeovil Literary Festival but I’ve also been in to a couple of schools and last week I was back up in Yeovil where I was on the panel at their annual Booker Debate.

I was allocated ‘We Need New Names’ by NoViolet Bulawayo to review. I’ve no idea how I managed to make the time to read it but somehow I did – helped by the engaging prose and fascinating subject matter. I don’t think it will win but I do recommend it.

And there’s more to come. This Saturday I’ll be doing a book signing in Dorchester Waterstones so if you’re in the vicinity do call in and say "Hi." And then there's the Story Slam - an open mic event in Bridport at which I'm judging - and yet more schools to visit....

But as things start to calm, like seas after a storm, my thoughts return to other ideas, and new characters start nagging in my year – “Tell my story.” “Hear my tale.” And I know that I need to sit down and get to know them – I need to get writing again.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Yeovil Literary Festival

Last weekend was the Yeovil Literary Festival, and I was part of it, in my capacity as a newly published author.

I participated in one panel event – past winners of the Yeovil Literary Prize. There have been quite a few success stories now from this internationally renowned competition, and Red Rock is one of them, an earlier version having been Highly Commended back in 2010.

I also gave a workshop to a fabulous bunch of kids – we went on a journey to Mars, smashing into asteroids and battling aliens.

But for me the real highlight of the festival was going with the family to see Michael Morpurgo, Private Peaceful the Concert. It was absolutely superb - a blend of reading and music, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that there wasn’t a dry eye in the theatre.

So all in all I think the organisers deserve a big round of applause for such a successful event! Roll on Yeovil Literary Festival 2014!

And look what I spotted in the window of Yeovil Waterstones….

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Let’s Talk about Cli-Fi

In recent months there’s been quite a buzz developing about Cli-Fi. The term Cli-Fi – short for Climate Fiction, was first coined in 2007 by the journalist and blogger, Daniel Bloom to describe a sub-genre of fiction which has the climate as its focus.

Although I didn’t deliberately set out to write a book about climate change it is certainly one of the main themes in Red Rock – the ice caps are melting, sea levels are starting to rise. It doesn’t need much of a sea level rise for the effects to be devastating – just look at countries like the Netherlands where large areas are below sea level – reclaimed land, the sea held back by dikes, or northern Germany – only a few metres above sea level. It doesn’t take a huge stretch of the imagination to imagine a world where this has already happened.

And I’m not the only author thinking this way. There has been a recent upsurge in Cli-Fi themed books hitting the shelves, and I’ve been watching this trend with interest.

Something exciting is going on here and it’s wonderful to be a part of it.

So do check out my post over at SFX magazine on the Rise of Cli Fi, my guest post over at the Scottish Book Trust on Cli-Fi in teen fiction, and, also at the Scottish Book Trust, my list of 9 Cli-Fi novels for teens.

So what Cli-Fi books have you read recently?

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Red Rock is Published!

Today is the day – it’s Red Rock publication day! Red Rock is now available from Amazon and from all good bookshops – Waterstone’s, Foyles, Blackwells, Smiths…. So no excuses for not picking up a copy. It is also available as an e-book if you prefer that format.

To celebrate I am over at 14kidlit and AuthorAllsorts answering questions about the book, and I also have a guest post up at SFX magazine on the rise of cli-fi – do check it out and tell us what you think about the topic.

Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be guesting on a number of blogs - I’ll keep you posted – and do keep a special eye out for the giveaway over at Girls Heart Books!

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Countdown to Publication

There is only one week to go until publication day for Red Rock and there’s so much to do!
I’m busy organising a book launch party in my local village hall, so I’m planning activities and a competition, co-ordinating my kind helpers, and trying to work out how much wine to buy and how many cupcakes to bake!
I’ve been busy writing guest blog posts, completing book birthday interviews and putting together the talks I will be giving at schools and festivals. Press releases have been sent out and the publicity machine is in full swing.
There’s going to be a really exciting giveaway over at Girls Heart Books, not only for copies of the book – but one of these lovely Red Rock pendants will be up for grabs! So keep and eye out for that one!
And much much more….

Oh – and look at my lovelies that just arrived in the post!!

Monday, 26 August 2013

Comino Caves

Over at the Allsorts blog we've discussing our favourite character or place from our books, and I've picked Comino - that tiny rocky island in the Malta archipelago, between mainland Malta and Gozo.

That's me in the pink mask at Comino Caves, feeding the fishes.

Ah - but how does Comino feature in Red Rock - and what is the significance of those caves?

You're just going to have to read it to find out!

Monday, 19 August 2013

Festivals and Story Slams

There are a couple of exciting events coming up this autumn, both of which I’m delighted to say I’ll be participating in.

The first of these is the Yeovil Literary Festival which will be taking place from the 19th – 22nd September this year. The brochure has just been made available and there are some very exciting events in the line-up. I’ve already booked my tickets to see Michael Morpurgo and if you are a budding writer yourself I can strongly recommend Margaret Graham’s writing workshops.

I’ve been booked up for three events. The first is on Friday 20th at 11am where I will be on a panel of past Yeovil Prize winners. We will be reading from our books and talking about how the Yeovil Prize has helped us on our journey to publication. This is particularly timely for me since Red Rock won the Western Gazette Award in 2010 and at the time of the festival will be in its first week as a published book!

The second and third events both take place on Sunday 22nd and will both be events for children. The first will be an interactive workshop at 11am – The First Manned Mission to Mars, when I will be taking the audience on an adventure to the Red Planet, and in the afternoon at 2pm I will be giving a talk on Cli-Fi – (Climate Change in kids fiction) and how my own experiences in the Arctic inspired the world I created in Red Rock.

You can find the brochure online here:

I’m really excited by this – it will be my first Literary Festival as a published author. I can’t wait.

The second event is the Bridport Story Slam, taking place on Wednesday 16th October as part of the Bridport Open Book Festival. I’ve been invited to be one of the judges and I’m really looking forward to meeting other local authors and listening to the contenders stories. It sounds like it’s going to be a great evening of literature. More details and information on how to book a slot are available here:

And in other nail biting news advance copies of Red Rock are now being sent out to reviewers. Danni, Gracie and Isaac are no longer just mine – they belong to everyone. And that is quite an overwhelming thought!

Monday, 5 August 2013

Exciting Books Coming in September!

There are some really exciting looking books coming out next month – Books that I might just have to pre-order through my local  branch of Waterstones!
Two of them share the same launch date as Red Rock. One of them shares the same publisher, and the third one shares a Cli-Fi theme.
But one thing they all have in common – they all look really really good!
Amber by Julie Sykes (Curious Fox 12 September 2013)

How do you live by the rules if you don t know what they are? Amber has lost her memory and the only clues to her identity are a mobile phone in her pocket and a beautiful amber necklace around her neck. This intriguing and surprising novel for teenage girls will have readers gasping with disbelief as the truth about Amber is revealed...

Saxon’s Bane by Geoffrey Gudgeon (Solaris 12 September 2013)

Fergus's world changes forever the day his car crashes near the remote village of Allingley. Traumatised by his near-death experience, he stays to work at the local stables as he recovers from his injuries. He will discover a gentler pace of life, fall in love and be targeted for human sacrifice. Clare Harvey's life will never be the same either. The young archaeologist's dream find the peat-preserved body of a Saxon warrior is giving her nightmares. She can tell that the warrior was ritually murdered, and that the partial skeleton lying nearby is that of a young woman. And their tragic story is unfolding in her head every time she goes to sleep. Fergus discovers that his crash is linked to the excavation, and that the countryside harbours some dark secrets. As Clare's investigation reveals the full horror of a Dark Age war crime, Fergus and Clare seem destined to share the Saxon couple's bloody fate.

The Elites by Natash Ngan (Hot Key Books 5th September 2013)
'There is a rumour that the Elites don't bleed.' Hundreds of years into the future, wars, riots, resource crises and rising sea-levels have destroyed the old civilisations. Only one city has survived: Neo-Babel, a city full of cultures - and racial tension. Fifteen-year-old Silver is an Elite, a citizen of Neo-Babel chosen to guard the city due to her superior DNA. She'd never dream of leaving - but then she fails to prevent the assassination of Neo Babel's president, setting off a chain of events more shocking and devastating than she could ever have imagined. Forced to flee the city with her best friend Butterfly (a boy with genetically-enhanced wings), Silver will have to fight to find her family, uncover the truth about Neo-Babel and come to terms with her complicated feelings for Butterfly. Packed full of adventure, romance, exoticism and the power of friendship, The Elites is a highly compelling and beautifully written novel from a supremely talented debut author.

Monday, 29 July 2013

People of the Green Mounds

We raced to the top of the hill – to be the first to stand on top of the fairy mounds.

They say that if you listen carefully on a calm summer’s evening you can hear the fairy music playing.

They also say that should you fall asleep on the mounds the fairly folk will steal you away and you will never be able to return to your own world.

But we know it’s a tumulus – one of the many Iron Age burial mounds that line the hills in this region; the last resting place of someone who once lived and roamed this land – but is now forgotten.

Yet they were deemed worthy of a memorial to last millennia. And I can’t help wondering who they were.

This is what fascinates me about lost civilisations – a handful of artefacts and the rest is guesswork. And for a civilisation like that of the ancient Celts who had no writing but an oral tradition instead – when they were gone their words were lost.

What other civilisations have come and gone without our knowing?

Monday, 22 July 2013

The Once and Future Island

I stood, looking up at Glastonbury Tor from the Somerset levels. This flat coastal plain has been drained since the Middle Ages – a patchwork of water meadows and drainage canals, which, before, was a fenland landscape of reed swamp and willow.

Glastonbury itself has been inhabited since the iron age, and the tor is believed by many to be the Isle of Avalon of Arthurian legend, rising from the wetlands in the days before the fenlands were drained.

But being so low lying these meadows are vulnerable to flood. The whole region is only slightly above sea level and, in the past, frequently flooded during high tides. Sea defences, built in the early 20th Century have stopped these floods – but for how long? How much will the sea level have to rise before these defences are breached? I fear it may not need much.

3000 people drowned during the flood of January 1607. Farmland was destroyed and livestock swept away. In the world of Red Rock this whole region would be under several metres of water, and Glastonbury Tor would once more be an island.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Mixing and Mingling

One of the best things about being a writer is all the wonderful people I’m starting to meet – not just in the virtual world – but in the real world too.

Yesterday I headed up to London for the AM Heath summer party. What was so lovely was meeting many of Julia’s other clients – people who I know only via social media or through reading their books – not to mention so many other interesting people!

We sipped champagne in the garden as the sun dropped behind the trees, and talked about books. What better way to spend an evening.

But now, back to work. There are only two months until Red Rock hits the shelves and there is much to do; blog posts to write, a launch party to organise – and, hopefully some school visits.

And I will be participating in the forthcoming Yeovil Literary Festival. I’ll let you know more when they finalise the schedule.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Joining Together

Sometimes bloggers work best as a team. There are a number of really interesting collaborative blogs out there, and being a collective definitely has its advantages.

For instance these blogs are updated regularly – sometimes every day – something which is not possible for a lone blogger – I’m lucky if I manage a post a week – way below what is recommended for a successfully blog. These blogs also have the advantage of being able to reflect a range of perspectives, and to keep themselves fresh as new contributors join.

Over the past few months I’ve been lucky enough to get involved with a number of such projects.

The first one of these is Seamagic. A collaborative blog set up by Phillipa Francis. This is a blog that celebrates all things maritime and it is an absolute delight to be part of it.

The next two collaborative blogs I’m now a member of are more focussed on writing. One Four Kid Lit is a group of YA and Children’s authors who are debuting in 2014. They also include a few, like myself, who actually debut this year but missed out on joining the 2013 group. Most of the authors are American.

However, the other group I’m a member of, Author Allsorts, are all British YA and Children’s authors, some well established – others, like me, just starting out.

Do check out these blogs, you’ll find them interesting and vibrant. But for me the best thing about these collectives is the wonderful people I’m getting to know.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Guest: Gillian Hamer of Triskele Books

Hello Gillian and welcome to my blog. I’m right in the middle of reading The Charter and I’m loving it, so could you tell us a bit about yourself and your writing?

* Firstly, I'm glad you're enjoying The Charter! I've been writing, seriously, for about fifteen years now. I've always loved reading even as a child and must have gradually moved into story writing. I dabbled in a variety of online writing sites for a few years and seemed to absorb skills like a sponge. Then I got to a stage where I thought I was pretty good at it, so enrolled on a distance learning creative writing course which was invaluable. Since then I've had two agents, numerous near-misses with publisher, completed an Open University Forensics course, and moved on to setting up Triskele Books. I've published a further two books through Triskele since The Charter - Closure and Complicit - and like my debut novel they are all set around the area of North Wales that I love and all have an extra cross-genre thread running through the crime thriller.

Triskele Books is a really interesting publishing model. Could you tell us a bit more about it and how it came into being?

* As I said, I've been lucky enough to have two agents and have come close numerous times to getting a publishing deal, but there always seemed something getting in the way that was outside of my control. Also, my agent was only ever interested in my straight crime detective novels, not my paranormal thrillers. And then the recession hit, and it seemed you had more chance of winning the lottery than getting a major publisher to take on a new author. I knew of two other writers who were in similar circumstances, facing the same random excuses from publishers that I'd faced, so we decided rather than leave the manuscripts gathering dust on our hard drives, we would do something about it and over a posh Christmas tea in a Park Lane hotel, Triskele Books was born. I have to be honest and say I'd always been really sniffy about self publishing, worried about the stigma and the lack of quality out there and I guess I wanted better for my own books. But I trusted my fellow writers, and we made a pact from the outset that quality and professionalism would be our trademark - and we've stuck to that and I'm thrilled with the results.

Your books are produced to a very high standard. Can you tell us a bit about what is involved in producing such a quality product?

*    We are really blessed that Jane Dixon-Smith (JD Smith Design) is one of our Triskele group and is also a wonderful creative graphic designer who supplies us not only with brilliant covers that make people stop and stare but also deals with all of our formatting and website issues. She is a miracle - and has also just released her first fiction novella under Triskele! On top of that we use the combined talent of the Triskele writers, who are all of publishable standard, who each read every manuscript, both for creative and editorial input, so in effect the book has gone through at least four sets of independent eyes before it's then passed onto a proofreader for a final edit. We want to maintain a top quality image, and although we can never guarantee the odd typo won't slip through the net, we want out books to look and feel the best they can before reaching the reader.

A quick internet trawl and I found The Charter listed on all the major bookshop websites. So how hard is it to get your books on the shelves and how do you handle the marketing and distribution side of things?

*    In terms of distribution, it's actually relatively easy - ebooks kind of sell themselves. Just load them up and away you go. Paperbacks aren't huge sellers for me personally, but I use Lightning Source and have been very pleased with their service. I can order and deliver to wherever needed, and they supply to most of the major suppliers direct once you've registered your ISBN. Marketing is a little more laborious, another case where having many sets of hands is a big help. I've not had a great deal of luck with local bookshops, basically because the independents are so thin on the ground and Waterstones have a non-indie policy at the moment (which I hope will change) so everything is really internet based. We do seem to be attracting more and more attention through the rise of quality independent collectives, so hopefully that will increase marketing opportunities in the future too.

So what next for Triskele Books?

*    We have just had our latest launch (June 1st at Foyles Bookshop in London) and have a second round of books due for release in November this year. We try to keep two launches a year, with a minimum of three books per launch. At the moment between all of the writers, we have enough new material to keep us going until the end of 2014, and then we may look to expand and take on new writers. It's an interesting time to be involved with indie publishing and I'm excited to see how Triskele grows and develops in the future.

For further information on any of my books or Triskele Books, please visit or

Thank you Gillian, for dropping by and answering my questions. And now… a giveaway!
Gillian has kindly offered an e-copy of her latest release, Complicit. To enter the giveaway all you have to do is leave a comment on this post. The contest will stay open until midnight GMT of Thursday 4th July. The winner will be chosen at random by Gillian on Friday 5th July and I’ll announce it here.


Thursday, 20 June 2013

RED ROCK Cover Reveal

I’m delighted to share the cover for Red Rock with you all today.

I’m absolutely thrilled with it. I love the broad sweep of the sea and the distant shadow of the town, and I love the rock and the way it is held so tenderly. It really captures the essence of my book and I couldn’t be happier.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Ants in the Woods

We sat in silence among the trees, hoping to spot an elusive red squirrel. There were traces of their presence all around – fresh gnawed pine cones – but the squirrels were hiding from us.
We did see a sika deer, a young stag who ventured close, rising up on his hind legs to browse the newly bursting spring foliage.
And further on we found the wood ants.

We came across a number of wood ants’ nests in the woods that day, but this one was particularly impressive.

The surface of this mound of pine needles, twigs, and other woodland debris, was covered with worker ants – the whole nest appearing to seethe. The smallest of creatures, working in unity.

Definitely the highlight of my day.

Friday, 24 May 2013


Looks like my attempt to stop the badger coming into my garden and digging up my vegetable plot has failed!

I have the feeling that for every hole I block he’s just going to dig another one!

Any suggestions?

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

The Countdown Begins

There are only four months to go until Red Rock is published, and for now all is quiet. But I know it won’t stay that way.

There’s a lot of waiting in the writing business, stretches of time when nothing much happens. But when things do start happening it can all be a little crazy.

For the first few months of this year things were hectic. I signed my contact, I met my editor, I started work on my edits with a deadline to meet and I went up to London for my publisher’s launch party. It was all very exciting.

And I know that in the autumn, when Red Rock finally hits the shelves, things will start to get crazy again. I’ve yet to find out what sort of promotional activities I’ll be involved in, but I can’t wait. I’ll update my Events page as things come in.

But for now, I’ll enjoy the respite. I can start writing something new, mulling over different ideas, inventing new characters and situations.

And I’ve still got the cover to show you – I’m just going to make you wait a little longer!

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Rockfall at Durdle Door

There was a massive rockfall along the coastpath between Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove on Monday night. So yesterday I popped over to take a look and here are some pictures.
The rockfall as viewed from Durdle Door.

Close up so you can see where the footpath has disappeared. It's a good job this happened during the night - it's a popular tourist destination and the path is usually teeming!
And just to give you an idea of how unstable the cliffs can be around here - this used to be the path down to the beach!

Durdle Door looking particularly lovely in the evening sunlight.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Arachnid Massacre

We stumbled out of the woods and into this scene of carnage.

They’re plants, stems bent and broken by winter snows and countless frosts, leaves dried and crumpled like old rags.

But for us they were so much more.

Here lie the remains of the arachnid hoard, cut down on the battlefield and left to bleach in the winter sun; legs broken at angles, brown bodies cold in their slaughter.

They lie just outside a rather fine gothic pile – and we decided they must have attacked in the dead of night, creeping in the moonlight out of the forest and over lawns, sweeping and trimmed.

But who thwarted their attack?

Was it the gargoyles and grotesques that line the roof - watching - protecting the house from invaders? Or was it something else?

And there, in the dining room, lying on a table between the cutlery and candelabra - a clue…. A sonic screwdriver!

Monday, 15 April 2013

The Big Cat Mystery

Okay, so this is a picture of a very small cat, and that is because I have never been fortunate enough to spot one of the famous Dorset Big cats. But there are plenty of people who claim they have.

In fact there was a sighting only a couple of weeks ago where one was spotted in a field near Dorchester by a passing lorry driver.

Dorset is by no means the only place where big cats have been seen – we’ve all heard of the Best of Bodmin – and there have been sightings in many other places too.

Now it’s very easy to dismiss these sightings as mis-observation, especially after the Essex Lion turned out to be a rather large tomcat. But the fact remains that many people have seen something out of the ordinary – so unusual in fact that they have risked ridicule in order to report it.

When we visited Exmoor Zoo we saw black panthers and the keeper spoke to us about the big cat observations on the moor. There was no doubt in his mind that big cats were living and breeding wild in the UK. Where they came from though is the question.

There is one line of thought that when the Dangerous Wild Animals Act came into force in 1976 people who did not wish to hand their pets in, or have them destroyed, let them loose. And these were the ancestors of the big cats that are seen today.

There is another line of thought that they are creatures from the spirit world that pass across occasionally into ours; the rationale behind this theory being that the cats described by witnesses are so variable in appearance.

This in itself is interesting. Maybe there is more than one species of big cat living wild in our countryside, or maybe it’s down to the way we perceive and our minds interpret the unusual. And these witnesses certainly saw something unusual.

I find this whole thing fascinating. It seems unfeasible that a whole sub species of big cat could be living among us and yet be unknown. But at the same time it would be wrong to dismiss what perfectly rational people believe they have seen.

Panthers or demons? What do you think?

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

The Greenland Vikings

We think of Greenland as an inhospitable place – a land of ice and rock. The only inhabitants are the Inuit (their lifestyle finely tuned to their environment), men who plunder the land for valuable resources such as rare minerals, and explorers and scientists braving those icy wastes for the greater good.

But once there were settlements and farms. And these settlers were Vikings.

Greenland was discovered by Eric the Red back in the 10th century. He named the place Greenland to make it sound lush and encouraged his countrymen to move there and settle. There were a number of settlements, all located in the South.

It seems strange now, to think that anyone could survive there, let alone make a living from farming. But this was a time when the climate was warmer than it is now. This was known as the Medieval Warm Period. In Britain vines flourished, and here in Greenland farming was feasible. The settlements thrived and the population grew to 3,000 - 5,000 people.

But it was not to last.

The Medieval Warm Period gave way to the Little Ice Age. In Britain the Thames froze solid. Here in Greenland the crops failed and the trade routes were cut off by ice. In the 14th century the colony went into decline. The last written record is a wedding solemnised in 1408, but after that – nothing.

And so the Greenland Vikings became victims of climate change.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

On Top of the World

This is an ancient landscape and if you look you will see the traces of past civilisations – from the tumuli that form grassy mounds along the skyline, to the roman roads that run straight and true and, often, are still used to day.
For a long time the flat topped hill you can see in the picture, Pilsdon Pen, was throught to be the highest point in Dorset. But a few years ago it was re-measured and its neighbour, Lewesdon hill, was found to be a couple of metres higher. It is from this second hill that the picture was taken.

But both are part of the ancient landscape of which I speak, for both were Iron Age settlements. This was an area on the border between two of the tribes of that ancient world, the Durotriges to the East and the Dumnonii to the West. What ancient battles did these ramparts see? What lives were lives out on these hills?

The fortifications are better defined on Pilsdon Pen, rampart and ditch, and I stood, on one of the few sunny days this winter, staring out at a landscape that stretched below me.  I thought of the people who stood here over millennia past, and looked at this same view, as the landscape changed from forest the field. Did they stand here and watch as the Romans came? Are they watching now?

Monday, 11 March 2013

My Top Ten Martian Tales

Sticking with the Martian theme I thought I'd share my top ten Martian tales. So there they are - in reverse order:

(10) The Martian Way by Isaac Azimov  - No SF list would be complete without Azimov, so here he is.

(9) Voyage by Stephen Baxter - an excellent alternate history where mankind is already out exploring space.

(8) The Outward Urge by John Wyndham - Not a writer normally associated with hard SF but this is an exception to the rule.

(7) Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson - okay, so this is really three books, but they deserve a slot of their own - Martian terraforming in all its glory!

(6) We can remember it for you Wholesale by Philip K Dick,  which you probably know as the film Total Recall - the first one that is - the latest one isn't set on Mars, which I think spoils it.

(5) Captain Scarlett and the Mysterons - I just had to include this - well, just - because :-)

(4) The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut - because he's one of my all time favourite writers!

(3) Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A Heinlein - an all time classic in my opinion - that stayed with me long after I'd finished the last page!

(2) War of the Worlds by HG Wells - The original Martians and probably the best!! (And I have to mention here the Jeff Wade album by the same name which I love)

(1) The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury - Both the book and the TV series - I loved these stories! Really original Martians too.

So what would be on your list?

Thursday, 28 February 2013

The Real Mars Mission

My novel, Red Rock, is set just after the return of the first manned mission to mars; a mission with a special connection for Danni, because her aunt was one of the astronauts.

Mankind may not yet have set foot on the red planet, but there have been regular missions to mars over the years.

It is a world full of surprises. The first images of ancient river channels sent back by Mariner 9 set the world ablaze, and since then the search for water and for evidence that there may once have been life on that barren world continues.

At the moment the Curiosity rover is up there, sending back data, revealing more secrets and raising even more questions with every day that passes.

I was lucky enough to see it in Florida, a few days before the launch.

Who knows – maybe one of my readers will become the first man, or woman, to set foot on Mars.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

The First Foxes

Last week the first titles from Curious Fox were launched, and I’ve been following their progress with a great deal of interest.
The titles are:
Hyperspace High by Zac Harrison
 (The first two titles in this series are now available – Crash Landing and Frozen Enemies)
When John Riley gets on the wrong coach, he ends up at an elite academy on an enormous space ship, where his classmates are aliens, the food is disgusting, and the penalty for failing exams is harsh. Can he show that he deserves a place at Hyperspace High?

The Diamond Thief by Sharon Gosling
No-one performs on the circus trapeze like 16-year-old Remy Brunel. But Remy also leads another life, prowling through the backstreets of Victorian London as a jewel thief. When she is forced to steal one of the world s most valuable diamonds, she uncovers a world of treachery and fiendish plots, and makes friends with a policeman.

So far I’ve spotted the Hyperspace High books in my local branch of Smiths and I’ll be keeping an eye out for both these titles in various other outlets – such as my local Waterstone’s.

The Diamond Thief has been getting some very good reviews and appears to have generated quite a bit of online buzz – and with good reason – it’s a really good read.

Both books are available in print and e-book formats, so if you have kids who are looking for something new to read why not check them out.

Friday, 8 February 2013

A Change of Perspective

We all know that different people can watch the same event and yet perceive things differently. That is what makes us such unreliable witnesses.

And that got me wondering about my characters. They each have their own view of events - they each see the world in their own way.

So I wondered what would happen if I took an old story of mine - one that hadn't quite worked out but was still gnawing away at me not to ignore it - and told the story from a different perspective?

How different will that story become?

One chapter in and I can already see it is a very different beast. This is going to be an intriguing experiment.

Monday, 28 January 2013

A Floor of Bones

Near where I grew up in Devon is a wonderful old National Trust house called Killerton. And in the grounds of this house is the Bear Hut - an old summerhouse tucked away among the trees. It is wonderfully rustic, wood and thatch and a ceiling of fir cones.
It is called The Bear Hut because in the 1860's it was used to house a black bear brought back by one of the family from Canada.
But one of the strangest things about this hut is this section of the floor. It is made up entirely of the knuckle bones of deer. Weirdly macabre - and looks like a lot of deer to me!

Saturday, 19 January 2013

The Curious Fox Launch

Last Thursday I headed up to London for the Curious Fox launch party which was held at Dr Johnson's house - a wonderful old building tucked away among offices of glass and steel.

It's a while since I've been to London and the city looked amazing. I headed from the station out over Waterloo Bridge, lights reflected in the Thames and from one angle Big Ben was framed by the London eye. But what struck me most was the number of bicycles, racks and racks of them by the station and fleets of them moving along the roads.

And then to the party, fizz and canapés, interesting people and great conversation. My fabulous agent came along, and it was lovely to see the Curious Fox team again and to meet the other authors. The MD gave a speech and introduced our books and they had a big banner made up with the covers of all our books on it! It was such a thrill to see my book there among the others!

There were games to spark our curiosity, and fascinating people from all over, but all with a shared passion for books. There were lots of photos taken and I'll post a link should any come online.

The evening flew and it felt all too soon that I was heading back over Waterloo Bridge to the station, and to my friend's where I was staying. And when I looked inside my goody bag on the train back I found a lovely copy of Sharon Gosling's The Diamond Thief which will be one of the first Curious Fox titles to launch!

I woke the next morning to a white world, driving home through snow and spray. But by the time I reached the New Forest the snow had stopped. I passed oak trees, jagged branches etched in white, and patches of heath and gorse where the snow covered the vegetation in lumps. Every so often it fell from the trees as I passed underneath in a flurry of ice shards.

I reached home, still buzzing. Back to those edits.....

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Weird Weather

As 2012 has drawn to a close there has been a lot of discussion in the media about the extreme weather we have seen.
The weather in this country has always been unpredictable.  Extreme weather events are certainly not unheard of, but this year has been a year of particularly extreme rainfall - and not on just one occasion.
This is a picture of my garden after the most recent downpour, shortly before Christmas. My garden never flooded before this year - for starters we live on a hill and our soil is quite sandy and normally drains really well. But this year the ground was so saturated  and the rain so intense that it just couldn't drain away fast enough.
And back in the summer the downpour was even heavier, and my garden even more of a pond. Water was bubbling up in the road from drains that were unable to cope, and the river, backed up by a high tide burst its banks and flooded the town.
This is the footpath through the marshes a few days after the rain had stopped. The saddest thing to hear were the cries of the terns, their nests and chicks washed away. Although one brave man from the RSPB swam out with inflatable rafts for them and some were saved.
They say that extreme weather events like this will become more common as global temperatures increase. This is certainly the case in the world in which Danni, my heroine in Red Rock, lives. Britain has become a colder, wetter place.
I fear that the world I imagined when I was writing her story may soon become a reality for us all!

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Signing my Contract...

What better way to welcome in the new year!


2013 is going to be a big year for me. It is the year I am going to be published. At the moment I'm in the middle of the edits. Exciting stuff!

I've also set myself up a facebook page, as well as a profile on Goodreads, which you can find by following the links to the side of this page.

So Happy New Year to all my blog readers, and thank you for joining me on my writing journey. And extra special good wishes to anyone else who has a book coming out in 2013.