Thursday, 24 July 2014

Debut Author Spotlight: Joan Fleming

I am so delighted to welcome my friend and writing colleague, Scottish author Joan Fleming, to my blog today. Joan’s first novel, What the Future Holds, was released by Tirgearr Publishing a few weeks ago and it is already receiving lots of great reviews. I'm not surprised, since the writing, the setting of the Isle of Mull and the enjoyable story are all so appealing. Joan has kindly answered some questions I put to her, but first a little about the story.

A warm welcome to the blog, Joan – hope you’re managing to keep cool in this unaccustomed heat!

What the Future Holds

Anticipating a relaxing holiday in her idyllic holiday cottage on the Scottish island of Mull, 29 year-old Amy Wilson realises her plans will be ruined by a letter she finds when she arrives. It contains a proposal to build a holiday complex directly in front of her cottage.

The application is in the name of a member of the McFarlane family who are distant relatives of Amy. In their youth, Amy and Sandy McFarlane spent holidays on the island together as part of a larger group of young people.

Whilst she has no wish to enter into a conflict with Sandy, Amy nonetheless determines to fight the plan. This sets in motion a chain of events which changes her entire life, not only in Mull, but also in Glasgow where she works as an accountant and lives with her partner, Matt.

She is about to lose control of the steady pattern of her life, and has no idea what will replace it, what the future holds...

What the Future Holds is available in all e-formats through Tirgearr Publishing and on Amazon Kindle in the UK and US and all other countries.

Firstly, Rosemary, thank you so much for inviting me onto your blog.

It’s a pleasure, Joan!

I know you had a good career as a language teacher, Joan. Please tell us a little about how you became a writer.

Like many writers, I have always scribbled. When the time came to start work again after the early years staying home with my children, I had a decision to make. The education service was crying out for women to return to teaching in certain subjects, one being modern languages.

Around the same time I entered a serial story competition in The People’s Friend. I didn’t win, but I was asked to attend an interview with an editor in the Central Hotel in Glasgow, which I did. She suggested I make a few alterations – and they would publish the story.

My plan was to take the teaching job, and write in my free time! But the free time never materialized. I still scribbled, purely for my own enjoyment. But The People's Friend did publish a short story when I eventually began writing in earnest.

You also write short stories and articles, and now novels. Do you have a preference – and why?

Once I’m started on a novel, I like to carry on, but I sometimes break off, to do one of the exercises set by my writing group, Erskine Writers. If it’s a short story or an article, I get carried away by that. Then it can take me a while to relax into the novel again.

So the answer is: I like them all, but with the encouragement of publication, I’m on a novel roll at the moment.

And a very good roll it is!

Your debut novel is largely set on the lovely Isle of Mull which you describe beautifully. What made you set your story here?

I know and love the island. My father-in-law came from Mull, and we visited regularly as a family. I have a fascination for all the Scottish islands, but Mull is the one I know best.

I love islands!

Did you have to do much extra research for What the Future Holds?

Not really. My main challenge was the names of my characters. The story and the characters are entirely fictitious, and I didn’t want the names of any real people mentioned in the book. A friend who lives on Iona even lent me a book of Mull names!

I did look at maps to judge distances etc. Even so, my lovely editor at Tirgearr Publishing picked up a couple of factual mistakes for me.

What is the most difficult part about starting a new book?

Sitting in front of my computer screen and typing in the title. By that time, I’ve made the decision to write this one, rather than one of the others swirling around in my mind.

Sounds like a good way of doing it!

Do you have a favourite writing place?

It’s very traditional: in my tiny study. I prefer a desktop computer and a QWERTY keyboard and mouse. The small window faces east, but my view of the West Highland Way is on the west side, so I’m not distracted.

How do you promote your book and does it work?

I’m on Facebook and Twitter, I have a blog and a website, but these are all part of a learning curve for me at the moment. It’s hard to say if it works, as it’s only three weeks since my book was published.

Do you find time for other interests?

I enjoy walking, travelling, listening to all kinds of music. I also have a keen interest in the life and work of Robert Burns. And, of course, reading – but that’s the other side of the writing coin.

What are your current writing plans?

I’m in that decision-making period of where I go from here. It will be a novel – but which one? I’ve still to type the title.

Any tips for new writers?

Someone once said that the world takes you at your own evaluation of yourself. If you write, you’re a writer. Believe in yourself.

That’s great advice! Thanks for the interesting answers, Joan, and wishing you lots of success.

I was born and educated in Edinburgh. After graduating in Modern Languages at the University of Edinburgh, I became a teacher of French and German, mainly in schools in the West of Scotland. Since leaving teaching, I now have more time to devote to writing.

I’d been writing for pleasure for many years, and decided to join Erskine Writers, a supportive group which has members at all stages of their writing development – from published novelists to complete beginners. This group is affiliated to the Scottish Association of Writers. I am a member of the Romantic Novelists' Association (RNA) and also of the Society of Authors.

I write short stories, children’s stories and articles, some of which have been published. I’ve written several longer pieces, including full-length novels, which I submitted to the New Writers’ Scheme of the RNA. In the light of advice I was given, I revised my manuscripts, and in December 2013, I was offered a contract by Tirgearr Publishing to e-publish one of my shorter novels, What the Future Holds, which appeared at the beginning of July 2014.

You can connect with Joan on her Website; Blog; Facebook and Twitter: @Joan_Fleming

Monday, 21 July 2014

Article in The Highlander

Every now and then, I enjoy going back to writing articles and short stories as a change from longer novels. That's how my writing career started out many years ago and it's great see new work being published. I've always liked the immediacy of short pieces, and the quicker payment!

One of the magazines I occasionally write for is The Highlander in the USA. This is a lovely magazine full of historical articles about Scotland and famous Scots or events from the past and I've had quite a large number published there over the years - a couple of my friends also write for them sometimes. It's very photo led so they like plenty of good photos to illustrate the articles if possible.

My latest article in the new issue is 'Inchmahome: the Priory on the Lake' - this is one of my absolute favourite places to visit every year or so. All lakes are called lochs in Scotland, apart from the one on which the Priory is situated, the Lake of Menteith. I won't replicate the article here as I've been paid for it in the magazine, but I wanted to share a couple of my photos, which you may have seen after our last visit there (can't remember if I put them on this blog!). I also provide all the photos for my own articles in the magazine and it's an added pleasure seeing some of them being given a half page each.

The Priory is mainly a ruin, with only the Chapter House intact but it has a great history and it's easy to imagine it during the 13th century and the subsequent years until it fell into disuse. Being on a small island, there's an amazing sense of peace once we've taken the tiny boat across the short distance, even on the busiest days. I can't wait for another visit soon.


Monday, 14 July 2014

RNA and Blists Hill

What a fabulous Romantic Novelists' Association weekend conference at the Harper Adams University Campus near Telford! I was lucky enough to take part in the historical authors event at the Blists Hill Victorian Town at Ironbridge on the Friday morning, a wonderful recreation of Victorian times. We were given the Goods Shed in which to set up our displays and books and most of us had dressed in some kind of costume according to the period in which we write. Some were stunning and very authentic (like Christina's) and it all added to the fun and interest for visitors.

Victorian clothes

Draper's Shop

Christina Courtenay
I adapted a dress and various items from home and brought my parasol and fan. A friend, Myra Duffy, had kindly allowed me to display her fold-out Victorian Dolls' House which attracted some admiring views and I had a wooden cup and ball game to keep any children amused. The displays were all so attractive and conveyed a lot about different historical periods. I also made sure to see some of the Victorian town while there and wasn't disappointed!
Dentist's Chair

Baker's Shop
Friday afternoon saw the official beginning of the conference and from then on, it was a whirl of interesting talks, chatting, eating, drinking and much fun and laughter, plus receiving the famous goody bag filled with books, promotional material and chocolate! A highlight for me this year was to meet up with lots of online friends in person at last and they did indeed feel like friends. I also made some new ones this year. On Saturday evening, we were treated to a wonderful gala dinner and, as always, all the glam outfits and gorgeous shoes attracted lots of attention. 

There's nothing like a gathering of like-minded people and professionally delivered talks to send us home inspired to get on with writing - once we recover from the lack of sleep and the travel home. I now have pages of notes to absorb and lots of ideas to develop or finish, plus a renewed sense of what is possible for authors these days. Roll on next year in London!


Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Preparing for RNA Conference

I do love a good writing conference and I'm really looking forward to this year's RNA Weekend Conference at Telford, near Shrewsbury. Apart from all the interesting workshops and speakers, I'll be getting the chance to meet up with many online friends in person at last. I tend to forget I have a Scottish accent (though not a broad one) until I'm down in England, and our voices will add another dimension to our online persona.

This year, there's the added excitement of taking part in the RNA 'Love of the Past' at historic Ironbridge on the Friday morning. I've always wanted to see the Blists Hill Victorian Town and we're being given the use of the Goods Shed in which to display our historical novels, games and posters - from all the different periods in which we write. As I write both Regency and Victorian, I'm delighted to be able to get involved since I'm going down a day early. We've even to dress up if possible - and, yes, I will be doing so! Hope to post some photos afterwards (possibly). I'll be taking along the fan in the above photo.

The rest of the weekend will be on the University Campus and if it's anything like the two I attended at Penrith, it will be exhausting with all the listening, absorbing and chatting! Hopefully, I'll be able to share some of the highlights on here next week. If anyone reading this is going, please come and say hello in case I don't see you in the busyness - I believe this is one of the biggest conferences so it might be easy to miss a few people!


Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Second Newsletter

A quick post to say that my second newsletter is now available and has been sent to subscribers. As well as news, it includes a couple of opportunities. If anyone else would like to sign up for it, you can put your email address in the box on the side of the blog.

Trying to get everything organised for the RNA conference at Telford in just over a week. Really looking forward to it, not least because I'll get to meet up with lots of my lovely blogging friends in person! I'll tell you more about it later.

So pleased that my friend, Joan, has her d├ębut novel, What the Future Holds, released today by Tirgearr Publishing. An exciting time for her and I'll be featuring Joan on the blog after the conference.


Thursday, 26 June 2014

Busy Redrafting and Publishing

I've been neglecting both my blog and visiting other people's since last week as I've been redrafting my very first full length Regency novel, Dangerous Deceit, since getting my rights back. Not only did I change it back to British English but I found my writing had improved since this first novel - as it should do! Must say this is still one of my favourite books - and my daughter agrees it's one of her favourites.

I also did the new cover myself and have now uploaded the novel to Amazon but I only previewed it this morning on my kindle and I think the spacing is a little wide between sentences, although the chapters begin on the correct new pages, so I might change that later. Happy to see I was told there are no spelling mistakes (they kindly give you that information on the Amazon page after uploading).

So that's my little bit of news for now! Must find a way of retrieving all the great reviews I had on Amazon for the first edition of the book.

POSTSCRIPT: I've now changed the spacing and daughter says it looks fine. And Amazon are now showing all my lovely reviews from before!


Monday, 16 June 2014

Time Out in Fife

We've just come back from a great few days away in Fife in the east coast of Scotland (we live in the west). It's been one of our favourite venues over the years and we love the particular hotel we stay at, Keavil House, which is like our own perfect retreat. The swimming pool is just a short walk across the path to its lovely leisure centre and it was wonderful to get back to swimming again after the full days exploring and walking.

Keavil House
It was also our anniversary at the weekend - a complete coincidence we chose that date! It's amazing how restful three days can seem away from the computer and all social media. The hotel had access to the Internet and a computer in the lounge for guests' free use but I only checked my email a couple of times and didn't reply to any while away. Instead, I had pen, paper and my camera and enjoyed taking time to notice everything around me. I even found a beautiful poppy field on our way to the coast, although it was beside a busy road and difficult to capture properly, or safely! But I also spotted many poppies growing at the side of another road.

                                                                                              Poppy Field
We were very near to Dunfermline with its ancient Abbey and the medieval Abbot House. I've been there so often that husband can't believe I never get tired of exploring them and taking new photos each time, but the sense of history always gets inside me and the Abbot House is the best place to have coffee and cake! 

Dunfermline Abbey
Abbot House Garden
Back of Abbot House

We usually take a drive to the little fishing villages long the East Neuk and this time stopped in Pittenweem, which is still very much involved in the traditional fishing trade.

Pittenweem Harbour
South Queensferry, at one end of the magnificent Forth Road Bridge, is steeped in history and I discovered there's a boat trip out to a nearby island Abbey - a pleasure to keep in hand for our next visit. We even managed a trip up to St Andrews, famous for its golf, but it was a disappointingly muggy day and the sands weren't particularly appealing this time. But we did manage to have a nice lunch there!

Forth Rail Bridge
It has certainly recharged my batteries being away. Sometimes, we don't know how much we need a break from the usual routine until we're actually away and I'm now quite happy to get back to it all again!


Monday, 9 June 2014

Talking Romance

The first online Romance festival seems to have been a great success over the weekend, taking place on Facebook, Twitter, Harlequin blog and Google hangouts. All the posts and interviews I managed to read or watch were so inspiring and there was ample opportunity to ask big-selling authors questions. I was still talking about some of the posts to my long-suffering husband on the Saturday evening!

If anyone wants to try and catch up with some of the highlights, here are a couple of the best places.

Video interview with two of the huge best-selling US romance authors, Bella Andre and Barbara Freethy - one of the most inspiring author chats I've ever heard, although it's quite long!

Lots of interviews and information on the Romance Festival Facebook page, including one about Kobo which now allows authors to put their work on Kobo themselves.

There was also a huge amount of interesting information for aspiring romance writers on their official blog but that seems to have hit a problem this morning and I can't find them now. Wish I'd copied some of the advice!
STOP PRESS - it's now up and running again here!

I still haven't heard official news about the short story. I also had a rather bizarre experience of being interviewed for a radio programme during the week - same day as announcement of the Baileys Women Prize for Fiction. All very off the cuff and unprepared - think it was a student radio programme but I haven't found out details as I don't want to hear it!


Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Being Interviewed

Now that I have a new book out, The Adonis Touch, I need to let people know about it, especially since it's in e-book form and fighting against thousands of others on Amazon kindle! It's also available in all other e-formats from Tirgearr Publishing which helps a little. But, like many British writers, I'm not so keen on constant promotion.

So I'm delighted to be interviewed by the lovely Helena Fairfax today, where she asked the type of questions that made think - and one of them brought back lovely memories of my childhood. If anyone has the time or inclination to visit, you can find the interview on Helena's Blog.

I'm hoping to have other exciting news regarding one of my short stories but would prefer to wait until I have definite confirmation that the few hundred words I added to the story are acceptable! Watch this space...


Thursday, 29 May 2014

Catching Up and Maya Angelou

After the great fun at the launch party for The Adonis Touch, on here and Facebook, I'm now trying to catch up with other bits and pieces in between the necessary ongoing promotion. I'm also working my way through my very first full length historical novel, Dangerous Deceit, to change it back into British English, now that the rights have reverted to me. It's tedious but very rewarding as I'm also tightening some of the original sentences in light of further experience! Hopefully, I'll be able to reissue it with a lovely new cover in June sometime.

I was saddened to hear of the death of wonderful author, poet and human rights activist Maya Angelou, whose autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), made her the first African-American woman to make the Best Seller List in 1970 . Besides her powerful writing, Maya Angelou has uttered so many meaningful quotes that I have some of them in my collection. The world has lost a unique voice. Here are a few of my favourite quotes:

'Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us. We need hours of aimless wandering or spates of time sitting on park benches, observing the mysterious world of ants and the canopy of treetops.'

'Sunsets and rainbows, green forest and restive blue seas, all naturally colored things are my siblings. We have played together on the floor of the world - since the first stone looked up at the stars.'

'You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.'

'I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.'

'Try to be a rainbow in someone's cloud.'

There are many more such words of wisdom and I'm sure you'll have your own favourites.