The Saturday Secret by Linda Huber

This world sometimes feels like a very harsh place to be, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by how much anger and general nastiness there seems to be out there. It’s good, therefore, to escape to a place where happy endings are guaranteed. Sometimes, you just need to pick up a book and lose yourself in a story that makes you feel warm, happy, and optimistic again.

The Saturday Secret is such a book – packed with short stories that are pure feel-good entertainment.  It’s extremely easy to read, and although I planned to just read one or two stories at a time I actually read it in two halves. The first half was read some weeks ago and then, thanks to real life intruding, I had to sacrifice reading time for a while. I picked up the book again today – call it my Mother’s Day treat! It was lovely to slip back into that cosy world, and find that the second half was just as good as the first.

The stories are delightful, featuring children, babies, elderly people, kittens, dogs, loving couples, affectionate families and lots more besides.

My personal favourites were We’re Having a Baby! The Cat’s Whiskers,  After Rebecca, and the short – but incredibly poignant – Corrina’s Big Day.  The short story that gives the book its title also made me smile. I won’t give away what The Saturday Secret actually is, but let’s just say it gave me hope. 🙂

A really gorgeous collection of short stories by a writer who clearly has a gift for capturing those precious moments in a person’s life and weaving a wonderful tale around them.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it to those looking for an escape route into a happy place!   5/5

You can buy The Saturday Secret here, and, as an added bonus, profits from this lovely book are being donated to Doctors Without Borders.

Fur Coat & No Knickers by Adrienne Vaughan

Oh, I really adored this book! I have read Adrienne Vaughan’s full-length novels and loved them all – The Hollow Heart, A Change of Heart, and Secrets of the Heart, highly recommended! – so I was a bit worried, if I’m being really honest, about reading her collection of short stories. Could someone, so clearly gifted at writing novels, transfer that talent to the craft of short story writing? It’s not as straightforward as many people suppose. Full-length books and short stories are different beasts and take different skills. Could Adrienne do it?

Well, of course she could! And so she did. This collection is absolutely wonderful. It’s a series of snapshots – peeps into the lives of a varied assortment of characters. Each and every one of them is interesting, but for different reasons. Some are poignant, some hilariously funny. My favourite stories were: The Messenger, a longer short story, absolutely gripping, with some beautiful characterisation; Fur Coat and No Knickers, which is really witty and amusing; the gentle story of The Adventuress; and the heart-rending A Visit at Christmas.

But the book doesn’t just showcase Adrienne’s talent for short story writing. It also shows off her poetic skills. I loved the variety of poems, sprinkled between the short stories, signalling a change of mood, or heralding a forthcoming story theme, or simply providing a breathing space before plunging the reader headlong into the next tale. Among my favourites are A Pink Day, Friends in Graveyards, Marco – My Eldest (bliss!), Southsands September, and Middle Aged Crush.

When I started reading this, I really did think it would be the sort of book that I would be able to dip in and out of, reading a story here, a poem there…Little did I realise how addictive the contents of this book would be! I read it all in two sittings, and it would have been one sitting if it wasn’t for the annoying matter of the pesky day job!

In conclusion, all I can really say is, try this book for yourself. It really is a delight, and I hope Adrienne releases another volume of short stories and poems soon. Well, as soon as she’s published her next novel, please. 🙂 5/5

You can buy Fur Coat and No Knickers here.

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Why I Need Those Happy Endings More Than Ever

Two things happened this week which made me think about the value of books, the pleasure of writing and inventing new worlds and new characters, and the delights of escaping into the fictional landscapes that other writers have created.

The first was watching a video doing the rounds on Facebook. It dates back a few years, to when JK Rowling made a speech at a Harvard graduation ceremony. The short clip I saw concerned failure. (You can watch the full speech here.) She told her audience about the time she’d reached rock bottom, and was considered, by all conventional measures, a failure. Her marriage had broken up, she was a single parent, unemployed and poor. All she had was an idea. She had no way of knowing how long she would remain in that dark tunnel before she would glimpse some light, and indeed, could only hope that there was some light at the end. There may not have been. Yet, she considers that time a gift. She discovered who her true friends were, learned to treasure the good things she had – not least her precious daughter – and realised that, having faced the worst, she was capable of dealing with anything else that life could, and would, throw at her. She took her idea and went with it, and against all the odds, she turned her life around.

I watched the video, and was moved to tears. I could relate to it so well, as someone who has been at rock directory-466935_1280bottom on several occasions. There were times in my life when I couldn’t see any way out of the darkness. Times when I felt alone in a crowd of people, knowing that I didn’t belong with them, feeling a failure because I wasn’t like them. I tried desperately hard to fit in, to be what they wanted. It never occurred to me, back then, that maybe I shouldn’t even try to fit in – that I didn’t have to be like them. I was unemployed, my marriage was in tatters, I was a single parent, struggling to cope. I had depression, severe anxiety, social phobia and chronically low self esteem. I was so full of self-hatred that I wouldn’t even step outside into my back garden, in case the neighbours saw me. I felt so ugly, so full of self-loathing. I was completely lost, with no idea of where I belonged, let alone how to get there.

cb13During those times, I would escape into books. They’d always been my consolation. During difficult times in my childhood and adolescence, books kept me sane and safe. Those fictional worlds were my refuge, and I will be forever grateful to the authors who created such reassuring and wonderful places. As a troubled adult, books were no less vital to my sanity. If I hadn’t been able to get away from real life for a few snatched hours every day, what would have become of me? I dread to think.

Throughout my schooldays, I used to write stories of my own, but life had become hectic and scary. I stopped writing. It was something else that I would never be any good at. Something else I would fail at. So I put away the notebooks and pens, and ignored the stories that swirled around my head, for years and years.  Until one day, on a journey to Somerset, three characters popped into my mind and absolutely refused to leave. Arriving at our holiday destination, I bought a notebook and began to jot down the people I could see, and what I already knew about them. Those characters became Will Boden-Kean, Lexi Bailey and Joe Hollingsworth, the first characters I created for what would become the Kearton Bay series of novels.

It took me a while to find the courage to start to write. Then much longer to be brave enough to show my writing to anyone. Each step I took gave me a little more faith, and led me a little further along the path to where I find myself now – a published author with three full-length novels, a People’s Friend pocket novel, and two short stories in print. More than that, those steps led me to new friends, a writing group, an online community, a growing belief in myself and a gratitude for everything I’d been through. Because all those awful times led me here, to this point, to a place where I’m happier than I’ve been in decades, and where I can look back and appreciate the people I’ve met along the way, and the lessons I’ve learned from my epic “failure”.

I will never achieve the dizzy heights that JK Rowling has managed, but it doesn’t matter. Through writing, I can heal old wounds, write myself the happy endings that I never got in real life, work out sadness and pain that I never exposed in reality, but can share and cure in the pages of my novels. Writing has given me back my sanity, it’s brought me new friends, new understanding of myself, and self-acceptance. It’s saved me.

The second thing that got me thinking was the tragic murder, on the 16th of June, of Jo Cox, the Labour MP who did so much to try to heal the divisions in our communities. No words can express how horrific this is, nor how desperately sorry I feel for all her friends, family and colleagues – particularly her husband and young children. Her death left me reeling. I was already feeling pretty low about the state of this country. There seems to be so much anger, hatred and bitterness everywhere, and I genuinely fear the direction in which we seem to be heading.

When the world seems too bleak to contemplate, and real life is too much to bear, I need the happy endings I find in heart-81207_1920books. I need to escape to a place where I know there will be a positive outcome, where good will triumph, and where people are kind and caring and full of love. I once read an article in which a journalist dismissed romance novels as a waste of a good writer’s talent. I strongly disagree. In a world of political mud-slinging, prejudice, ignorance and fear, books that remind us that people are capable of loving one another are more essential than ever. I can’t drown out the negative forces that attack me every single day. I can’t ignore the state of the world. I can’t pretend that things out there aren’t pretty damn dire. But I need to believe that in this world, there is still hope, there is still beauty, there is still kindness, there is still love. The fact that people still write of such things, and that people still want to read them, is proof that we’re not lost yet. There are good people out there. Deep down, I know that. I just need reminding every now and then.  That’s why I need those happy endings.

I hope you all have a wonderful week. xxx

R is for Readers and Reviews

Ris for readers and reviews, and the eternal question, how on earth do you get them?

Since publishing There Must Be An Angel, it’s become clear that making your book stand out among the millions of others that are vying for attention is no easy task. Aside from constantly tweeting and posting on Facebook, “Buy my book, buy my book!” there doesn’t seem to be a way of attracting that attention and, frankly, I’m not prepared to bombard the general public with those sort of pleas. I’ve been on the receiving end of them myself. It’s not attractive, is it?

Besides, the more someone nags at me to buy their book, the less likely I am to even look at it. I don’t think I’m alone in this view. So what’s the answer?10557168_1419733644995613_2322906802217758091_n

When Angel came out I had a launch party on Facebook. It was terrifying and every time I thought about it I felt sick. I’d had a bit of experience in that field, having taken charge of the Facebook launch party for Winter Tales. But then, I’d had nine other Write Romantics backing me for that. I was guaranteed some guests, and I was assured of some comments at least. For Angel, it was just me, and I was scared stiff that no one would come.

As it turned out, I had an absolutely fantastic time. Loads of people dropped by and we had a lot of fun. I’d got some prizes together and set some questions, posted music relevant to Angel, added photos of celebrity “guests” and food, drink and cake, and generally had a great afternoon. Many of the guests joined in – answering the questions, adding their own pictures of food and drink, showing off their party clothes and bringing their own guests!

I don’t know how much it affected sales of There Must Be An Angel, or if it even helped at all, but at least I did something proactive and the book title was out there on Facebook, popping up on people’s feeds.

The problem is, what to do next? I’ve been lucky to get some great reviews and I’m very grateful for them, but I need more. And to get more reviews I need more readers.

I was never expecting huge sales from day one. I was never expecting huge sales full stop. I’m in this for the long haul, and I still think the best advert for a book is another book, and another, and another…The more work I have out there on Amazon, and/or other platforms, the better. So my plan, really, is to keep writing. Finish the Kearton Bay series, write the next series I have in mind, the stand alone novel, the novella that I’m currently working on, and the next two short stories. Hopefully, when I have a reasonable body of work, people will start to notice, and readers who enjoy one book will look for more. That’s the theory anyway, and I’m hoping it works for me the way it’s worked for so many others.

The truth is, I could post to Facebook and Twitter all day, but it’s doubtful it will win me any readers. The books must stand and fall on their own merit, and they must direct readers to the others I’ve written.

11072050_768298186620756_8236897633283154950_nI read a post once about free books, and why it was pointless to give your book away for free, as so few people who downloaded it would read it. I could see the sense of this argument, as I’ve downloaded loads of books myself that I’ve liked the look of but wouldn’t necessarily buy – maybe because I hadn’t heard of the author before, or wasn’t quite intrigued enough to pay money for it – and nine times out of ten those books are still sitting on my Kindle unread. It’s not that they’re no good – I wouldn’t know. It’s simply that I haven’t had time to get round to them with all the other books clamouring for my attention – books that I’ve paid out for. I was reluctant to add to the growing pile of unread novels on someone else’s Kindle. However, now that my book is “out there” I can see that it may be worth taking the chance. I’m a new and unproved author. People will be reluctant to take a chance on me. Offering them Angel to read for free may be the only way I get them to read it. If even a small percentage of them read and enjoy it, it will be readers I wouldn’t have reached before and they may like Angel enough to want to buy Rose when it comes out in September.

It’s a tough world out there for authors – especially new authors. I worked for three years on Angel, trying to make it the best I could manage. To give all that work away for free is hard to do, but I have to look at the bigger picture. There Must Be An Angel is, therefore, currently free for Kindle up to and including 23rd April. Click on the image in the side bar to get your free copy!

All publicity is good publicity, they say, and I was lucky to get a mention in Yorkshire Life this month. If you read my post, A is for Art of Mallow, you’ll remember why there is 10999593_768298183287423_8954625750848729002_na connection between that lovely gourmet Yorkshire marshmallow company and There Must Be An Angel, and you may recall that I said Philippa Quayle, who runs the company, had contacted Yorkshire Life to tell them about that connection, and our connection to their magazine. Philippa has a great feature in May’s food and drink supplement of the magazine, and she very kindly explains all about me and my book! I’m really thrilled as Yorkshire Life has a wide readership and, who knows, one or two people may be tempted to investigate Angel further. Very exciting to see my name in a magazine I’ve read and enjoyed for a long time, whatever happens!

So there you have it. I’m at the start of a – hopefully – long and rewarding adventure. My basic plan is to write, write and write some more. So I’d better get writing!

Have a great day xx

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N is for Novels, Novellas and New Ideas

Nis for novels, novellas and new ideas. The trouble with me is, I like order. My husband, looking at the state of our house at the moment, might give a hollow laugh if he were ever to read this, but it’s true. At least, in theory. And this is reflected in my writing schedule, because I have made a commitment to complete the four Kearton Bay books before I write anything else, and although it seemed a pretty easy commitment to make at the beginning of There Must Be An Angel, I now find that’s it’s really not that simple.

Of course, I made an exception for The Other Side of Christmas. The Write Romantics needed me! It was for charity! Of course I wasn’t going to say no, especially as the two charities it was supporting, The Cystic Fibrosis Trust and The Teenage Cancer Trust were so close to my heart. I took time out and wrote my short story and it was included in the Write Romantics and Friends’ anthology, Winter Tales.

Anyway, back to the Kearton Bay books and after completing Book Two, A Kiss From A Rose, I was all set to start work on Book Three. Except…All the way through book two I’d been nudged, quite ferociously at times, by ideas for different books. I’d jotted down the ideas and even some titles, but that’s as far as I’d got, refusing to be swayed from writing Rose’s story. Now, with that out of the way, the stories were positively shrieking in my ear, which would be absolutely fine if they were short stories, but they weren’t. They were novels. And I just couldn’t bring myself to write them before I’d completed the series. The trouble is, with those ideas shrieking at me, I couldn’t seem to settle down to write Book Three either! What a dilemma.

So I came up with a solution. I’ve started to write a novella. A novella doesn’t count, right? It’s not quite a novel so it’s not in competition with the Kearton Bay books.  Novellas are a thriving market, at the moment. Their shorter length makes them very popular with the modern, busy reader, and they are ideal for the ebook market. They’ve been on my to-do list for ages, but I tend to write loooong so I knew they were going to take some real discipline. Then I had the idea for a story, and it just seemed perfect for a novella. I’m not sure how, or if, it will work out as I’ve never done this before, but it’s a new experience.

I was also inspired to write two short stories, and no one could be more surprised about that than me. I used to write short stories a lot when I was a teenager, but I hadn’t written them for years until I was asked to contribute to the anthology. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed writing The Other Side of Christmas, but I really thought that was that as far as the shortie went. So I was stunned to wake up one morning with an idea for  another one burning away in my brain. I went straight to my computer and, without so much as a cup of tea to fuel me, I wrote the first draft of it down. It needs fleshing out, but the bare bones of it are there.  There’s also another one which is very different to the first. I’m rather fond of it, actually, and I may have to do something with it one day. I’d quite like to write a lot of short stories. They take so little time compared with novels, and they’re really enjoyable and not half as terrifying to write as I thought they would be.

But I still have the idea for three books in a completely new series to work on, and a new stand-alone novel, which came to me the other day when I was busy folding prescriptions at work. Don’t ask me why – it’s hardly the most inspiring of jobs.

So many ideas and so little time…N should really stand for Needing to focus and prioritize. In the meantime, I have more blog posts to write!

Have a great day xx

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