Saturday, 25 February 2012

Two more fabulous competitions (one flash fiction/one chicklit)

The first is a flash fiction competition to win a place on a short story workshop run by Vanessa Gebbie (if there's anyone who knows short fiction it's Vanessa. Not only has she had an anthology published, she's edited a non fiction book on the subject AND won more competitions than you could shake a stick at) at Anam Cara writing retreat in Ireland. It's a fabulous place, I've been twice (and blogged about it here) and got LOADS done (it's magical like that) and Sue the owner makes the yummiest food. Then there's the scenery - utterly breathtaking.

Anyway, if I've wetted your appetite you HAVE to enter the competition run by

Here's the blurb:

Write us a 250-word short fiction piece (and email it in by midnight 22 March) and you could win a place in the Anam Cara "Short Fiction: So Much More Than It Seems..." workshop retreat led by Vanessa Gebbie, award-winning short story writer, scheduled for the week of 9-15 June 2012.

More details here:

The second competition is being run by excellent women's fiction review website Novelicious and it's a search to find the next great chicklit author with some money can't buy prizes.

They want the first 3,000 words of your chicklit novel. The closing date is 3rd April

Full details here:

Good luck!

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Wednesday, 22 February 2012

A Spooky Interview with Kathryn Brown

I'm delighted to welcome Kathryn Brown to my blog today. Kathryn is a prolific blogger over at Crystal Jigsaw where she blogs about her life with her husband and austic daughter Amy on a working farm in Northumberland.

In her other blog, Marvellous Mable, Kathryn shares spooky real life paranormal stories (including one of mine). And if that wasn't enough she's also written a novel. The fabulous 'Discovery at Rosehill' - a paranormal romance.

When Kathryn asked for people to host her blog tour I stuck my hand in the air because I just KNEW she'd be a fascinating interviewee. Here she is:

1. Your debut novel, 'Discovery at Rosehill' is a paranormal romance; could you tell us more about it and what inspired you to write it?

The book is about medium Camilla Armstrong, who is introduced by her deceased grandmother to the country estate known as Rosehill. Camilla is a complex character having lived a somewhat lonely existence, yet she is strong and determined to rejuvenate the house to its former glory. Realising the house is filled with the spirits of previous occupants, she begins to unravel the mystery that surrounds the Georgian residence. With the help of passed descendents, she is able to discover more about her own life, and learns of the sinister circumstances that surround her past.

There is also a love story incorporated into the plot, where Camilla begins a relationship with the village priest, Marcus Calloway. Controversial and difficult to maintain, their romance faces many obstacles, not least because Marcus has his own secrets and beliefs. Camilla however, helps him to open up and rid himself of the burden he has carried for many years.

Inspiration came from two corners; the first was my father who passed away in July 2001. After moving to my own dream home shortly after his death, I realised he had only left us in human form yet was still very much with us from the spirit plane. Being sensitive to the spirit world myself, I have had many experiences since moving into my own Georgian farm house in Northumberland, and many of these have been fictionalised and included in the book. Camilla was based partly on me, though I don’t share her romantic interests with a village priest!

2. Have you read many paranormal romances before? Have you got a favourite?

I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t, apart from the wonderful Heaven Can Wait written by the one and only, Cally Taylor! My book shelves are mostly filled with paranormal reference books though I do love to read a variety of fiction, including mystery, chick-lit and rom-com.

3. What made you decide to publish 'Discovery at Rosehill' as an eBook rather than go down the traditional agent/publisher route?

When I finished the final edits of Discovery at Rosehill, I spent a few weeks submitting to agents. That was a full time job in itself due to the amount of varied work involved; for example, most agents have different requirements, some ask for the first three chapters, some just want the first chapter, others ask for a query letter and synopsis, and so on. To get these submissions just right, I put aside a day for each one in order to ensure I hadn’t missed anything or skipped a guideline. After waiting a few months, I received six rejections but still haven’t heard from any others to whom I submitted. As it had taken me three years to research, write and edit the book, I decided it was time to publish it regardless and so went ahead and self-published. It is available in paperback as well as an eBook, but the reason I am re-launching it now is because I feel I didn’t promote it enough last year and didn’t work hard enough getting it “out there”. EBooks have become immensely popular over the last 12 months and it is becoming quite common for a self-published author to offer their book in this format at a very low cost. After hearing of many authors who have enjoyed successful sales through publishing this way, I felt it was time I did the same.

4. Your blog Crystal Jigsaw is hugely popular. What do you think is the secret of successful blogging?

I’ve been blogging since May 2007 and I thoroughly enjoy it. The minute you stop enjoying it is the time you need to sit back and ask yourself why you blog. Crystal Jigsaw is popular because I work hard to maintain my readership. I read and comment on many blogs, and follow a massive amount. I also promote blog posts via my blog and support new bloggers as much as I can. Building up a following and interacting with other bloggers all helps to increase your blog readership; this is something I have worked particularly hard at over the last four and a half years.

I also feel strongly that a well-written blog post goes a long way to a successful blog. I’m a stickler for typos and grammatical errors, perhaps that comes with being an author, but it does make a difference when reading a blog post.

5. Do you think blogging helps increase book sales or do you agree with recent mutterings that people are getting bored of writing, and reading, blogs?

I’m a bit mixed on this question; blogging has certainly helped my book sales – I have a link and a picture of the book cover, together with an information page about the book, placed on my blog so that anyone who lands on it can see my book. However, since Twitter became huge phenomena, I do believe blogging has started to slide. Twitter is a great place to promote your blogs, but I have definitely noticed a decline in my comments as people tend to just tweet their response. I would much rather a comment be left on the post, but I guess we have to accept progress.

6. You've got another blog where you feature people's paranormal experiences (including mine!) What prompted your interest in the paranormal?

Yes I have, and a particularly interesting experience it was, too! Should anyone be interested in reading it, here it is: Cally Taylor

I have always been interested in the paranormal. I encountered my first experience when I was ten years old; a perfectly rounded shape that I can only describe as a full moon moved from one side of my bedroom to the other. It happened in the middle of the night and even though it was 32 years ago, I can still remember that event like it was yesterday. I remember running into my parents’ bedroom and my mum realising I was scared. I don’t remember anything else happening after that until I was 22 and had just got married to my first husband. My grandmother had passed two years previously and I decided to visit a medium. She gave me some very personal information and described both my grandmother and grandfather to me, exactly as they posed in a black and white photograph I had in a frame on my fireplace. From that day on, I realised I needed to pursue my fascination with the paranormal. I had several readings after that, all giving me the same details about my grandparents, together with very personal information that no one else knew about. But it wasn’t until my dad passed over in 2001 that I started to feel the presence of spirits around me.

7. What's your most interesting/scary (you choose) paranormal experience?

I’ve had so many I could be here all week! However, the majority of experiences I’ve had since moving to the farm have been welcoming and friendly, and absolutely nothing to be scared of. One in particular was when I felt something heavy resting on my bed and thought it was the cat. Upon sitting up, I noticed she was actually lying next to me, whereas the sudden movement was at my feet. Without further ado, I got up, put on my dressing gown and went downstairs to the drawing room. I knew I was following someone as I heard footsteps other than my own on the stairs. It wasn’t until I sat on the sofa and cried whilst talking to my dad, that I realised he had visited me. I wrote about this experience in more detail in the book, obviously from Camilla’s point of view.

However, one scary experience that I will never forget happened a few years ago whilst I was working on Discovery at Rosehill. I was sat at my desk when I suddenly heard someone downstairs in the hallway. It was a very distinct sound of someone shuffling about as though wondering whether to walk upstairs. For some reason, I was particularly scared. After grabbing a crystal vase from a shelf thinking I needed to protect myself, I slowly went onto the landing outside my room and quietly approached the top of the stairs. My daughter was at school and my husband was working on the farm. But what I didn’t think about at the time was the fact none of my excellent guard dogs had barked, so looking back, it couldn’t have been an intruder. After what felt like hours, but was probably only five minutes, I relaxed and went back into the room, replacing the vase on the shelf before sitting down to continue my work. I still don’t know who was in the house, but I suspect they won’t be returning!

8. What's next for Kathryn Brown?

I’d love to win the lottery... but I guess I’ll settle for another book being published. I’m currently working on my second novel called Hideaway. It’s a murder mystery about a woman who thinks she has the perfect marriage until she discovers her husband has been having an affair. The story focuses around a murder investigation, a fugitive and a rebound romance. The first draft was completed last November and I’m now in the process of doing the first edit. I’m not sure at this stage whether I’ll self-publish, but I will be submitting to agents once it’s been edited to within an inch of its life. I’d love to be traditionally published one day.

Watch the trailer for 'Discovery at Rosehill'...

Discovery at Rosehill – available at Amazon

Blog: Crystal Jigsaw

Paranormal Blog: Marvellous Mable


Twitter: @CrystalJigsaw

Facebook: CrystalJigsaw

Monday, 20 February 2012

Competition: What will life be like in 2025?

What a fabulous short story competition...

Imagine what the world will be like in 2025, write a short story about it (under 3000 words) and enter it into the Guardian Futurescapes competition to win a Sony tablet and ereader. Closing date 15 March 2012.

More details here:

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Sunday, 12 February 2012

Workshops, flashes & self-publishing

Life is hectic right now - 90% baby wrangling, 5% sleeping when he sleeps (hello sofa we meet again) and 5% writing - so just a brief blog update.

First of all I'm delighted to announce that my flash 'Dear Universe...' has been chosen to go into the anthology (which may or may not be called 'Juke Box Stories) that Caroline Smailes is putting together for the charity One on Four (see previous post for details). Caroline had over 350 stories sent in and only 100 made the cut so I'm very chuffed.

Talking of Caroline get yourself over to her Blog to read Mel Sherratt's inspirational tale about being rejected by multiple publishers and making it to the Kindle top 10 when she decided to go it alone and self-publish.

And while we're on the subject of talented women my good friend Helen Hunt is running some more short story workshops. Helen knows her stuff and comes highly recommended. See below for details...

Insight Into The Women’s Magazine Fiction Market – 3 March 2012

This workshop will look at writing for the increasingly tough and sadly shrinking women’s magazine market. So if you’ve been writing for a while and want to find out more about this market, this workshop could be for you.
Lunch and light refreshments are included. The cost of the course is £35 which also includes a critique.

Moving On Short Story Workshop – 31 March 2012

This course will be practically based and will help participants work towards the first draft of a story for their chosen women’s magazine market. They will receive a critique of their story once they have had a chance to finish it after the course.
Lunch and light refreshments are included. The cost of the course is £40 which also includes a critique.

New for 2012
Day Retreat For Writers – 28 April 2012

Come and spend a day with fellow writers being inspired, exercising your writing skills and sharing your work in a supportive atmosphere at Delapre Abbey. I’m a short story writer, but all writers are welcome to come to this one and benefit from meeting other writers in a supportive atmosphere.
The cost of the retreat is £22. Lunch is not included but you’ll be able to purchase refreshments from the Abbey Tea Room.
All these courses are held in Northampton and full details are on my website

Online services
For anyone who can’t make it to a workshop, I now offer the totally flexible Hop On Hop Off online course (details here ) and a critique service (details here ).

So what have I been up to? Well I mentioned at the top of this post that I can only dedicate 5% of my time to writing at the moment so I am thinking very hard about what novel 3 should be about before I start writing it. My deal with Orion was a two book deal and now those 2 books have been published there needs to be a conversation about what happens next. Maddy, my agent, and I need book 3 to be my best book yet before that conversation happens so I've been drawing up synopsises and sample chapters for her and we've been discussing their strengths and weaknesses via email. Sounds scary? It is really. I'm back in the same boat as everyone else chasing a publishing contract although I've now got a track history (unfortunately not one on the bestseller list or I'd be a lot less nervous! ;))

So yes, apologies if the blog is quiet for some time. I've got a lot on my plate at the moment (and some of it looks like carrot puree ;))

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