Monday, 18 July 2016

North Wales (via the Lake District)

It seems ages now since I was away on our short holiday to Wales, via one night at the Lake District, especially since it’s more than a week since I came back from the RNA Conference! But the memories linger as always.

On the way down, we stopped over at an area of the Lake District new to us and were very happy to have found interesting accommodation for the night. The Whitewater Hotel, which is a converted mill, sits nestled at the edge of the river with great views from the bedroom window. Husband and I love steam trains so we made a point of taking the short trip along the nearby steam railway to Lakeside. Unfortunately, the rain lashed down on the one day we had in the Lakes so viewing was a bit restricted.
Whitewater Hotel 
View from window
Fortunately, the hotel has an excellent restaurant where all the diners were happy to watch the rain from our comfortable seats while enjoying scrumptious food. There is a very good leisure complex attached to the hotel by an enclosed walkway so swimming would have been on the menu had we stayed there longer. At least it gave us a good resting place between Scotland and Wales and we even managed a short visit to Ulverston in the morning.

We’ve been to North Wales many times over the years and have the perfect excuse to visit since my sister-in-law and her husband live there. They’ve now moved to a more coastal part near Colwyn Bay so we got the chance to explore a few different places. First, we revisited one of the picturesque little villages, Betws-y-Coed, and this time we all walked right round the beautiful river with its ups and downs over rocks and stones to the old miner’s bridge and the steps up to the town. Needless to say, lunch was our reward!


As well as other lovely walks and areas there are two particular visits that I really enjoyed for their fascinating stories. I’ll write a separate post for the second one next week. The first, Gwydir Castle, was a labour of love to the couple who now own this ancient building whose first owner died in the 14th century. After being rebuilt several times, it has seen illustrious visitors through its doors throughout the centuries including Charles I, and King George V and Queen Mary while still the Duke and Duchess of York in 1899.


Peter and Judy Welford acquired Gwydir in 1994 when it was more or less a ruin. Since then, they have made it their home, while gradually restoring the castle to some of its former glory – an incredible feat. The gardens, too, have undergone some renovation while maintaining the historic features and trees, some of which are hundreds of years old. Two of the original Cedars of Lebanon, brought back as saplings from Spain in the 17th century, still flourish along with oak trees from the late 19th century. Peacocks strut about all over the gardens and one even followed us to where we had our picnic lunch, hoping that its patience would be rewarded (it wasn’t as I don’t think feeding them would be encouraged!).

Although not allowed to take photos inside the house, visitors are allowed to wander around the interior for a small fee. This is no National Trust type venture - it is only open at certain times of the day and the caretaker lets visitors inside the huge wooden entrance at a ring of the bell. A handsome peacock came to welcome us on the stretch of road at the gate! It’s unbelievably atmospheric inside and so ancient that my imagination was working overtime. The few rooms open to us that had been renovated (some are private quarters) looked surprisingly welcoming and I could picture a warm fire burning in the enormous grate.

With a reputation for being one of the most haunted houses in Wales (not a modern phenomenon), I was keen to walk along the corridor between the Hall of Meredith and the Great Chamber. One 19th century room behind the panelling was called the ‘ghost Room’ and of course I peeked inside. Evidently at times people have reported a drop in temperature, a touch on the shoulder and a strange smell along there but I didn’t get to linger long enough to see, feel or smell anything untoward. I was probably the most imaginative amongst our small party of sceptic realists and the others talked their way along, whereas I would have stood and observed!

As part of their on-going restoration and a means of adding to the funds, two bedrooms at Gwydir are open for visitors requiring bed and breakfast. With names such as The King’s Room and the Duke of Beaufort’s Chamber, furnished with antiques but with modern en suite facilities and beautiful garden views, it’s a tempting idea. They also offer weddings and holiday lets in a cottage in the grounds.

Look out for another fascinating venue in North Wales next week!

*** If anyone is interested in my tween book, Summer of the Eagles, which is set on a Scottish island, it will be on Amazon countdown at 99p (99c) from Tuesday 19th to Sunday 24th July!***

Monday, 11 July 2016

RNA Conference 2016

Well, what a lovely RNA weekend conference at Lancaster University! I'm not only tired out after all the chatting, late nights, early mornings and concentrating on the excellent talks, but I've also developed a humdinger of a head cold since last night. Thankfully, it wasn't before the weekend and no doubt the changeable British weather played its part. Plenty of hot drinks and sleep now called for over the next couple of days.

I really enjoyed this conference, not least because once again I got to meet in person some of my long-time blogging friends or fellow authors attached to the same publisher as I am. And the good thing is, they were all recognisable from their photos! The campus itself has a lovely rural setting, although there was quite a walk between the accommodation and the main RNA hub. One plus was the fact we stayed at the hub for the whole working day once the sessions began. Breakfast and dinner were served in the Barker House Farm building which was only a hop, skip or jump from our comfortable student rooms.

On the Friday after our not so far train journey, my friend Joan and I had an hour to kill so we strolled through the campus to the very acceptable Costa for a much needed coffee and cake. The students are very lucky at this campus as it's quite self-sufficient, with Post Office, shops and a Health Centre - I think I even heard someone mention a Spa! The danger is they might not want to leave for the big wide world at the end. We passed this lovely lilypond with goldfish on the way and it's one of the few photos I managed this year as I was enjoying the talks too much to remember to take any.

These are the sessions I attended to give you a flavour of what was on offer:

Liz Fenwick and Brigid Coady
Author Marketing - brand, plan and goals: Liz Fenwick and Brigid Coady

I learned a few new things here, or at least a reminder of what is possible, including using key words around our writing, keeping the essential essence and values of the author across all platforms and social interaction, using consistent brand on book covers. Much of it was about this idea of brand and knowing how to describe our own type of writing. Much to read over and digest.

Building your Writing Career: a panel with Carole Blake, Iona Grey, Freda Lightfoot, Felicity Trew and Alison May

I didn't take many notes during this session as it was more a case of absorbing the discussion points, including the possibility of changing an author name for a new start, learning from failures and believing in ourselves.

Writing a Commercial Novel: Kate Bradley (Harper Fiction) and Aex Brown (one of their authors)

I really enjoyed this talk and came away quite inspired and encouraged when I heard that fiction with older heroines is now popular, as is vintage/cosy fiction at the moment. Kate mentioned that sagas were even beginning to come back but the location was important. Harper also have their digital first imprint, Harper Impulse, and they are actively seeking submissions.

The Business of self-Publishing: Tracy Bloom, Katy Haye and Ian Skillicorn

Another interesting discussion about the growth and respectability of self-publishing, including the importance of studying other books (covers in particular) promotion through book bloggers, Facebook Ads, proper keywords on Amazon. They also mentioned Public Liability Insurance and Indemnity Insurance (check the Society of Authors for their offers now and then).

Friends Joan and Gwen
RNA Open Discussion: Janet Gover and Nicola Cornick but open for all comments

Always good to hear about current or future plans and members' opinions.

Film: Love Between the Covers: Directed by Laurie Khan

I was looking forward to watching this documentary style film about mostly the American romance market, authors and readers and I really enjoyed it. In fact some of the authors' stories were so moving that I welled up a few times and it made me proud to be a romantic fiction author. Most of the women showed how empowered they became when their work started to be published and, as you would expect in the USA, the readers were incredibly supportive of authors, not to mention the number of books they consumed!

Reaching the Top in Commercial Fiction: Clio Cornish and Charlotte Mursell (HQ)

Another fascinating talk by two of the editors from the huge Harlequin stable - now part of Harper Collins with their vast number of sales people! They covered positioning your book by genre and audience, the one-line pitch sell, what makes it unique, the necessity of the main character's journey, connecting with readers on social media (use hashtags), the submission process and some of their preferences - includes Psychological suspense, a dash of speculative fiction, commercial literary fiction, older characters/wisdom, but it sounded as though they cover everything.

Murder Investigation - fact or fiction: Stuart Gibbon and Steve Wade

I was looking forward to this as it was a great change from purely romance and was delivered by an ex DI (who also works with authors) and a crime historian. In the event, it was excellent, with lots of details that could be incorporated into romantic and historical fiction as well as crime novels. They also provided links and book lists for further reading. One of my favourite sessions.

The Importance of Cover Design: Jane Dixon-Smith

Since I now self-publish a couple of books, I was most interested in hearing more about the importance of design. Very useful, although I already knew the theory of some of it and now need to learn how to actually do it a bit better! It covered typography, colours, communicating correct message and good quality images.

Me, Gwen and Joan at Gala Dinner
The final session I attended on Sunday was the panel discussion about the many faces of publishing and once again I just listened as it was really a mixture of things I'd heard before, although the very pleasant Dominic Wakeford added a bit of interest with being a commissioning editor for Piatkus - and I had a 1:1 with him before going home! He was very complimentary and gave me wise words of encouragement and advice about my submission.

One of the advantages of being further north this time was the quicker journey home by train and I'm so pleased I managed to attend. I also got to meet the new Publishing Manager at Magna Large print in a wonderful moment of serendipity and being willing to speak to strangers (in a welcoming way). So lots of ideas, things to do and encouragement to keep going in this uncertain but exciting writing world.


Monday, 4 July 2016

Letterbox Love Stories

I’m now back from a lovely holiday to North Wales, with an overnight at the Lake District on the way, but I’m not quite back to work yet. Looking forward to the RNA Conference in Lancaster this coming weekend, then I’ll need to get organised. More about the holiday later.

Meanwhile, I’m delighted to welcome talented fellow author Helena Fairfax to the blog. Helena is one of a group of international authors who have produced an interesting collection of short stories set around Europe which all feature a letter. Great idea and my copy is now downloaded!

Welcome, Helena and thanks for providing such a lovely post.

Letterbox Love Stories – an anthology of European romance

A few months ago I had an email from American author Gemma Juliana asking me if I’d be interested in taking part in a new, international group of authors, with the aim of putting together a series of anthologies. I’ve collaborated with Gemma before on a Christmas anthology (Exquisite Christmas came out last year) and it was great fun to do…so of course I said yes!

In total we are now nine authors who live in America, Austria, Spain and the UK, and our first ever anthology has now been released. It was very exciting working on this venture, right from thrashing out our first ideas for a theme, to the final release. First of all, we were all clear that the setting for all our stories should be Europe – but what else should unite them? We talked about and discarded several ideas for something to bind our first anthology together until finally we hit on a theme that excited all of us: what if you received a letter that changed your life forever?

With that one simple idea, we went away and worked on our own individual writing. The imagination is a great thing – and we each came up with a completely different story, each in our own genres, set in vastly different places and times in Europe, but all based on this one simple premise.

Here are the blurbs for Letterbox Love Stories:

MORE THAN WISHES by Rose Anderson
Raised on a sailor’s tales of adventure and eager for her own, Stella Cunningham answers an advertisement for a traveling companion to the Orient. There she purchases an ancient bronze lamp with a secret. In the land of flying carpets and genies, Stella is about to have the adventure of a lifetime.

ALL OR NOTHING by Denysé Bridger
Casino Coranthos is a playground for wealthy, bored people, but for some, it’s also a place where dreams and promises change lives forever. When a letter becomes part of an unexpected inheritance for Ryann Thomson, her aunt’s past brings her face to face with Ariston Katsaros, a man haunted by loss and driven by anger. As the attraction between them sizzles and grows, can Ryann convince him she isn’t looking to rob him or his father, or will she become a casualty of Ari’s vengeance? In this dangerous game of all or nothing, her heart and future happiness are at stake.

In 2084, time travelling detective, Tandi Reynolds, tipped off by a letter, needs to stop an assassin before he kills a newly elected leader. When she finds him in 1874, Vienna, it’s clear a cold blooded killer is only one of her problems. Time is fleeting, so falling in love with her contact, the charismatic Count Leopold Radetzky von Radetz, is a bad idea, but keeping her feelings in check is not easy when she relies on him for her every need.

COME DATE ME IN PARIS by Helena Fairfax
When a letter arrives telling Alice she's won a place on a TV blind date show, she should be excited - only trouble is, the show involves cooking for your date...and Alice can't cook. Forced to throw herself on the mercy of her chef neighbour, Edmond, Alice asks him for lessons. But will she be cooking up a romance...or cooking up disaster?

What do a reality TV star and a Sardinian billionaire have in common? Sophie Hayes buys and sells the contents of abandoned storage units. When an invitation arrives out of the blue to personally deliver an antique desk to an exotic island, she decides on a whim to spend what would have been her honeymoon with the famous Rico di Carlo. Can Rico convince Sophie in one short week to stay forever?

SONS OF THE WIND by Marie Laval
Provence 1826. Ten years after her brother disappeared in the marshes of the Camargue, Venetia Rigby receives a letter suggesting he is alive. Will Philippe Dantès, half-gypsy master of Terres Mortes, help her find him when he has his own demons to fight?
A letter inviting Chloe Decker to curate the art collection of the wealthy DiMarco family of Ravello, Italy, lets Chloe begin to picture a new beginning for herself after a tragic loss. But she hadn’t included her employer’s sexy grandson, Matteo DiMarco, in that portrait. Chloe’s not ready for a relationship, even with a fine Italian masterpiece of a man like Matteo, but can he convince her to paint a new life that includes him?

PLAIN HARRY by Lindsay Townsend
Recovering from a brutal marriage, Esther is living quietly as a widow when a letter from her brother Sir Stephen destroys her contented life by ordering her to marry Sir Henry—but who is this “Plain Harry” and how will he treat her? Set in medieval England when women had few rights, this story shows how love can flourish between the unlikeliest of people.

In 1936 a band of students went off to Spain to fight in the Spanish Civil War. Only one came home.

* * *

As you can see from our blurbs, every story is different – and they all have an intriguing premise!

We’re very excited to say that Letterbox Love Stories is available now on Amazon and will be available from other ebook retailers soon.

Buy Links

And if you’d like to find out more about our World Romance Writers group, please visit our website, where you can find out about my own story here on our blog.

Helena Fairfax Links

If you’d like to get in touch, or find out more about my books, writing, and photos of my settings or the Yorkshire moors where I live, please follow my newsletter by subscribing here:

All new subscribers to my newsletter will receive a FREE copy of Palace of Deception – a romantic suspense novella

You can also visit me on my website, or on Facebook, or Twitter 

* * *
Thanks so much for hosting me today, Rosemary!
It’s been a real pleasure, Helena!

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Time for a Break

I'm winding down from social media for a while as I always do at this time of year. It's good to get away from the computer and interact in the real world, enjoying days out and seeing husband's family for a change. Then I'll have the RNA Conference to look forward to in July.

This morning when out for a short walk beside the river, we caught sight of the famous paddle steamer, The Waverley, sailing serenely down the Clyde, although it gets up quite a speed! I've photographed it many times over the years so I wasn't too disappointed it was a bit far away and I only had my mobile phone camera. This is a previous shot of it.

If you get a chance to pop over to the Writers Helping Writers blog, you can still enter their Rock the Vault fun to celebrate their new two Settings Thesaurus books.

Hope you're all having a good summer so far. If it's anything like here, you'll have sun one day and rain or wind the next but it's one of the reasons I like the British weather - all the seasons in one week!


Tuesday, 14 June 2016

The Setting Thesaurus Books Are Here: Help Becca And Angela Celebrate!

It is a writer's job to draw readers into the fictional story so completely that they forget the real world. Our goal is to render them powerless, so despite the late hour, mountain of laundry, or workday ahead, they cannot give up the journey unfolding within the paper-crisp pages before them.

Strong, compelling writing comes down to the right words, in the right order. Sounds easy, but as all writers know, it is anything BUT. So how do we create this storytelling magic? How can we weave description in such a way that the fictional landscape becomes authentic and real—a mirror of the reader's world in all the ways that count most?

 Well, there's some good news on that front. Two new books have released this week that may change the description game for writers. The Urban Setting Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to City Spaces and The Rural Setting Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Personal and Natural Spaces look at the sights, smells, tastes, textures, and sounds a character might experience within 225 different contemporary settings. And this is only the start of what these books offer writers.

 In fact, swing by and check out this hidden entry from the Urban Setting Thesaurus: Police Car.
And there's one more thing you might want to know more about....

Becca and Angela, authors of The Emotion Thesaurus, are celebrating their double release with a fun event going on from June 13-20th called ROCK THE VAULT.

At the heart of Writers Helping Writers is a tremendous vault, and these two ladies have been hoarding prizes of epic writerly proportions.

A safe full of prizes, ripe for the taking...if the writing community can work together to unlock it, of course.

Ready to do your part? Stop by Writers Helping Writers to find out more!  

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Newsletter and New Book

My summer newsletter should have arrived in inboxes last night. If you subscribe to it and didn't receive one, please check your spam folders! I've reduced it to every couple of months now so you're not too inundated with them - besides, I don't always have enough news to share.

I'm giving away a signed copy of one each of my short story collections, Beneath the Treetops and End of the Road in the little prize draw - only to newsletter subscribers. If you want to see how to enter, you can still sign up for the newsletter by adding your email address in the little box at the side of the blog. The draw ends on Sunday evening.

Meanwhile... my latest news which I can now share on here too is that I've just published a new collection of short stories on kindle, Two of a Kind and Other Stories. This one contains fourteen stories, many of them previously published in magazines and some of them shortlisted in competitions. They're mostly light-hearted romance and heart-warming relationships.

At the moment it's only available as an e-book on Amazon UK and Amazon US but I hope to have print copies eventually. They might as well have a new lease of life and maybe a few new readers!


Saturday, 4 June 2016

Inspiring Days Out

I've had another lovely week in between the writing, with two inspiring days out with friends. The first was last weekend, when Paisley Abbey had a Medieval Day around the area beside the River Cart. My good friend Catriona and I went along to enjoy the afternoon sunshine while absorbing some of the sights. The 12th century abbey is one of my favourite buildings and is always worth a visit.


Although not as lavish as one several years ago, it was especially fun for children with the mock sword fights, a man in the stocks, puppet show and various birds of prey. We enjoyed listening to the young man playing a harp (a replica of one from the past) and singing soulful medieval ballads. A few of the outside stalls were interesting, especially observing how the women cooked the food over the open fire and the type of utensils they used. Needless to say, we spent some of the time sitting chatting over a cup of tea and cakes!

On the Tuesday, I was off with three friends to another interesting venue which was new to me. Myra had the clever idea of treating Joan, Sandra and me to Afternoon Tea as a birthday treat instead of gifts this year (two of us have birthdays later in the year). Ocho is a lovely little cafe at Speirs Wharf, right by a small stretch of the Forth and Clyde Canal. I didn't even know this area existed, or that the old whisky warehouses are now fabulous flats.

I loved the quirky little corner of the cafe with its miniature shop, trunk and various pictures. It was a cute, old fashioned kind of tea, with different designs of china cups and saucers and a cake stand made from floral patterned china plates, topped with a cup! The sun shone the whole afternoon and after a delicious tea with sandwiches, scones and cakes, we wandered along by the canal, glad to be away from our desks for a while. I'm sure both days will provide much writing inspiration at some point.


In between, I've been putting together another collection of short stories - more about that when its ready!

Meanwhile, my latest Aphrodite and Adonis novella from Tirgearr Publishing - The Aphrodite Assignment - is on a special kindle promotion at only 99p (99c) all this week, if you fancy some romance and mythology on Cyprus!

Have a good weekend,

Friday, 27 May 2016

Garden Delights

Over the past week, we've had our annual writing group end-of-session garden party at a friend's lovely home. It's always an enjoyable occasion as we all bring different types of food for the buffet lunch and then socialise in the sunny garden, or indoors if it's typical Scottish weather. This year, the sun shone off and on so it was a 'real' garden party.


I usually take the photos for the writing group blog but somehow manage to get into one of them! My friend's garden is absolutely delightful, with an abundance of flowers and plants and a most enticing swing seat in a shaded corner in the lower area of the garden. As you can imagine, this day is a highlight of our writing group year when we can lay the pens and computers aside and enjoy chatting to each other over an alfresco lunch.

It was my gorgeous wee granddaughter's fourth birthday last week and I don't know where the time has gone. Although I take lots of photos of her, we don't post any online now as her parents are teachers and they tend to stay away from social media. We had great fun out on the decking for a while - we have to grab the sun when it appears. Then she showed me her sweet little fairy garden.

As well as having a few small items to amuse the fairies, they've planted herbs and flower seeds in it and a sun flower seed just behind it. Vikki bought her two beautiful little fairy doors which have still to be added. Now, my granddaughter waits in hope for the fairies!

Hope everyone is having a little sun now and then where you are.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Reading and Writing

I'm a bit behind with the blog this week although I've still been checking FB and Twitter regularly and I must admit I'm enjoying Instagram now and then as I love photos. I've also been catching up on various things at home - at the moment I'm clearing out another lot of drawers and trying to get writing notes organised (again!). 

At the end of the week, I'm speaking at a writing group so I'm enjoying preparing for that, especially so I could legitimately sit and read all the stories in recent copies of Take a Break Fiction Feast, Woman's Weekly Fiction Special and The People's Friend Special. Although I've long known the different types of stories they publish, it's a while since I've read these magazines right the way through. A fascinating and very enjoyable exercise, since many of the writers are lovely blogging friends. I even finished writing a short story of my own that I'd started ages ago!

It convinced me again how important it is to read as much as possible - not only for enjoyment but for inspiration and a little more understanding of what editors of magazines or publishers of books are accepting. As for books, I always have two on the go at a time - one on kindle for reading in bed and a paperback for reading downstairs, usually two different genres!

In my clearing out, I came across this interesting Idea to Release Writing. I hadn't taken note of where it originated so you may have come across it before. 

'Explore using your non-dominant hand for writing practice as it stimulates and strengthens the creative right brain hemisphere, freeing untapped fluency.' 

And here's a quote from American Brain Specialist Leonard Shlain:

'The right hemisphere is the realm of altered states of consciousness where faith and mystery rule over logic. It allows for spirituality, for musing, dreaming, imagining. Without it we would have no poetry.'

I love that quote! Happy writing.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

The Power of Social Media

No doubt we all have different views on the various social media outlets available to writers these days, but I have to say I've mostly found it a positive benefit in this digital age. I've often said that authors who are mainly published in e-book, no matter who is publishing the books, need a good online presence. Many of us don't have the luxury of seeing our books on book store or library shelves so we need to let readers know we exist in some way. Yes, it's a balancing act and most of us would rather not have to promote our own books but the online world isn't going away, so we might as well jump in and have fun where possible!

I've met many lovely people on Facebook and Twitter and I do try to engage with people as much as possible, but occasionally the power of social media becomes even more evident without seeking it out. Here are three occasions that worked for me recently.

The RNA (Romantic Novelists' Association) has a weekly tweet/retweet day every Tuesday. All RNA members on twitter can take part and we basically send a tweet of our own news with the hashtag #tuestnews @RNAtweets then retweet any others with that phrase. It means that we are all tweeting at different times of day to hopefully different people. Sometimes, I'm not sure if I want to be retweeted that much in case it looks like spam, but Tuesday is a recognised news sharing day on twitter and I try to make mine different each week. It obviously works on some levels because last week two people said they were going to download my book and I always gain new followers on a Tuesday. I don't often promote my books in between so I don't feel so bad doing it on a Tuesday.

On another occasion, I got into a short chat with an American book reviewer on twitter. The upshot was that she offered to mention my new novella, The Aphrodite Assignment, (and the other two) on her blog. She had too many reviews to get around to but she really did start promoting my book now and then on twitter! Needless to say I was extremely pleased, especially when the offer had come from her.

Much to surprised one day, I received an email out of the blue asking me if I would like to answer some interview questions about my writing for the Tiger Pens blog. He had seen me mention how much I enjoyed writing with pen and paper while out and about and wanted to interview me. I'm not sure whether he saw my comment on twitter or on my blog but I was intrigued. The first thing I did was to google the company to make sure it was genuine - it was! 

I duly did the interview as it was also going to promote The Highland Lass and he sent me a link to their sales page so I could choose a cartridge pen as a thank you gift. The interview is on the Tiger Pens blog and the photo shows my beautiful little gift. I chose a dinky one in this lovely egg shell blue colour and have now tried it out. Excuse the writing as I usually scribble everything now when not typing!

These are just a few instances of how effective social media can be and I'm sure there are many more. Please share any of your own as it might encourage those who haven't made the leap yet.


I've just seen this morning that daughter Victoria's novel, Follow Me, has had a wonderful new review on the Paisley Piranha blog!