24 December 2013

Seasonal Greetings to All My Friends

Well, I don't cut it much finer than this, but the house is sparkling - with polish as well as tinsel - the food is in, the presents are wrapped, the drink is chilling...

All that remains is for me to wish all my readers the most glorious Festive Season. May the New Year bring love and gifts to you and yours, and the insight to reciprocate with twice as much.


25 November 2013

My Writing Process - Blog Tour

Today is Blog Tour Day where authors answer questions about their writing process. Lindsay Townsend, historical romance novelist, posted last week, and I thank her for my invite. Check out her writing process at http://www.lindsaytownsend.net

As for mine, well do come in. Step over the files on the carpet, push the maps off the spare chair and make yourself comfortable. Untidy office? You think all these photos of pristine writing spaces aren’t staged? Research needs to be to hand. Drink your espresso and luxuriate in reality.

What am I working on?
Ah, this needs a three-fold answer.

I am well into the last lap of The Bull At The Gate, the second in the Torc of Moonlight trilogy. The novels have three core characters: Nick who carries the stories, Alice his girlfriend, and a Celtic water goddess who has no intention of fading into the obscurity of history. Threading through each contemporary book is a different period of history with strong ties to the setting. Click the Trilogy page at the top of this blog for more info and/or sign up for a Newsletter shout when the ebook becomes available.

As the finishing line approaches, elements for the untitled third novel start waving flags. I already know where it’ll be set, Durham, so I’m gathering research material for the area. However, my alter ego is stomping around in a hissy fit because I promised him a Western novella to re-charge my own batteries, so I can foresee a bout of mental fisticuffs around New Year.

I’m also promoting/marketing. Or trying to. It just goes with the writer’s territory these days, no matter if you’re taken on by a mainstream or small publisher, or you’ve kicked both into touch as I have and are going it alone as an indie author. If a book launch is on the horizon groundwork needs to be laid.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Because I’ve eschewed publishing houses I am not writing within genre limits – which may sound strange to readers but I can see novelists nodding already. Please cut the history to a minimum… in a historical novel; …please cut the length by 10,000 words to fit X imprint… when I thought I was writing for Y imprint. Enough. Suffice to say that my novels now turn out the way I want not the way an accountant dictates for the benefit of the company’s balance sheet. Readers will always get a full-bodied read.

Why do I write what I do?
I like to push genre boundaries, even if just gently. For instance, Beneath The Shining Mountains has no “civilising” European characters in it – and who would have thought that would have created such a stir? Give me a moment while I roll my eyes. The trilogy’s genre is recognised as paranormal romantic thriller, but the books are written in gritty realism set in existing places that readers can visit. To reflect the character set each has three main storylines, three being a Celtic sacred number, hence trilogy rather than series, and the storylines obliquely reflect one another giving a resonating back-beat. Am I writing about the resurrection of a pagan goddess? Sure, but in truth I’m exploring perceived realities. …but that is too literary a concept for the genre… [cue eye-roll]

How does my writing process work?
The premise comes first; sometimes it comes as a lightning bolt, more often it takes years to coalesce. The trilogy is a single premise; the Native American came from a what if? while reading a biography, the Western by turning a short story of mine on its head. Then I research around the premise, and as other elements drift in I research those – think spider’s web. When possible characters start appearing as ghostly apparitions I begin to plan them in tandem with general research. The main-character planning is actually more important than the background research which can be added to while the writing is on-going. The characters need to be fixed indelibly because altering a character’s traits/foibles mid-write destines any book to disaster.

I don’t write about my characters, I become my characters and write. Actors act on stage, I act on paper, embraced in a cloak spilling the full set of senses that character would notice at that time under those conditions. Hence, I rarely describe my characters and never ‘in full’. All that information stays on that character’s information sheet among my research papers.

Deciding which character needs to step into the story first, and at which point, can take a good amount of juggling; it will all depend on the first frame I want the readers to step through, because that frame – tone and atmosphere as much as information on setting and character – determines how the unfolding novel is perceived.

Then I write. Yes, for so much pre-planning there is scant forward plotting. I know where to find The End, I may even have that scene drafted in my head, but I never plan portions of the book because I work organically, and slowly, giving my subconscious time to simmer. A look, or a pause in a dialogue exchange, can sprout an entire subplot. I always ask why? and keep asking why? until the character reveals his/her motives. I don’t live in a bubble and neither do my main and subsidiary characters.

Because I write slowly I edit as I go, making full use of my software’s Comments facility to make notes in the margin. Once the book is written and the Comments addressed, unless I’ve found a major hole it is on to the spit & polish stage before being read and commented on by trusted beta readers. Then I go through it again. By this stage I am already putting in place marketing/promotion, and future projects are baying to be heard. And so the whirly-gig turns.

Thanks for stopping by. Do leave a comment or ask a question; I’ll be pleased to respond. Explore the tabs at the top of the blog, too. If you want to read the start of any of the books, click on the covers and you’ll be able to ‘Read Inside’ via Amazon no matter the country you’re based in.

Monday 2nd December there are three very different UK authors explaining their writing process: Penny Grubb, Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger winner and much, much more; Sylvia Broady who writes historical women’s fiction set in and around World War II; and Stuart Aken who writes everything from Fantasy to Erotica, all at high speed.

Penny Grubb – Penny writes crime novels but also has a couple of writing-related day jobs, one of which involves teaching writing techniques to university students and the other a lot of fighting (for writers’ rights, fair pay and so on). She will go almost anywhere in pursuit of research for her novels but tries to draw the line at criminal activity and very high roofs.

Sylvia Broady – Sylvia first wrote short stories and a serial for radio, and short stories for magazines and anthologies, before moving on to write novellas and then full length novels. Now published by Robert Hale in hard back, large print and audio, her latest novel, A Time For Peace, is out on 29th November.

Stuart Aken – Stuart was born against the odds to a widowed mother in a neighbour’s bed and raised in an old railway wagon perched on a crumbling cliff. He’s currently engaged in finishing the third volume of an epic fantasy trilogy, the first book of which, A Seared Sky: Joinings, is due to be published later this year. A writer who refuses to be handcuffed to any one genre, he’s written in the field of romance, thrillers, sci-fi, humour, erotic lit and, of course, fantasy.

19 November 2013

The Bull At The Gate excerpt

I've just passed the 85,000 word mark on the w-i-p The Bull At The Gate, which means that I am on track for hitting The End at around the estimated 100k target. Although I do a lot of research planning, I don't plan out my chapters to any great degree as my workflow is organic and relies heavily on the nuances of previous scenes. I'll be talking more on this on the 25th when it's my turn to explain My Writing Process as part of a blog tour.  

But part breather, part celebration, I thought I'd share some of the last scene written. The novel is the second in the Torc of Moonlight trilogy, and each novel has three main strands, one of which is historical. This exercept is part of the Roman strand set in Eboracum, modern York, where contempory threads are set.

It'll take half a blog to set the scene properly, so I'll won't bother. Vibius, retired centurion with the Sixth Legion Victorious, is the viewpoint character. Enjoy.

Looking down at her wrapped form stretched along the lid of the sarcophagus, his memory superimposed the dishevelled Luna priestess lying prostrate on the temple floor. She’d been throwing water from the shrine pool over her head, lamenting the loss of Luna’s benevolence, Vibius had thought. But was it more? Driving her ox-led biga across the night’s sky, Luna was a constant in the heavens as was Sol Invictus. Had the priestess truly sent away the temple acolytes because of the Christ-men’s fetid approach, or had the Lady used their thieving guile to send away an anointed rival, a usurper for her role? What had she thought when she’d seen the strange garb and those starlit, night-sky eyes? He wondered if she would be there when he returned to tell of their salvation through her acolyte. Or would the ash-faced Christ-men have visited her with more than eggs?
He did not wish to think of it at this time of contemplation, but Marcus Caecidius’ warning kept repeating in his head, and the way he’d been deserted by the temple officers rankled anew. He should not have to face this alone. He was the Keeper of the Temple, he was not the Pater.
But, as it had been when he’d worn the colour, his vow was his life. Sol Invictus would have his Consort. The name of his life-friend would be spoken and the spirit of Tetricus would rise up to feast with Mithras at the gods’ table.
And if the ash-faced Christ-men ventured near, then he would use his gladius to offer up on the altar more blood than the sacred stone had ever carried.
Three guesses where he and the, er, drugged acolyte are? 
Do drop by on 25th for an in-depth look at how I tackle my writing.

10 November 2013

Remembrance Sunday

I'm watching the television programmes marking the march by the Cenotaph in London, listening to the ladies who worked long hours at Bletchley Park deciphering code during WW2, to men and women coping with combat stress after the Falklands, the Gulf War, and all the rest, to the young men with missing limbs determined to build a new life for themselves. And I think of the local families grieving for their loved ones.

I wanted, too, to remember the young men who, in 1944, left in a Halifax from an airfield close by my home and came down in a field not far away.


24 October 2013

Beware the Glitter of #NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo is prepping to go. Are you signing on for the wild ride?

NaNoWriMo is the shortform for (Inter)National Novel Writing Month which takes place annually. The intention is, within the 30 days of November, to write 50,000 words making up a dirty draft of a novel. It is as much a test of planning skills and endurance as it is of literary endeavour, but there is a lot of help at hand on the NaNoWriMo website, and participants often make lasting writing-goal friendships on the forums. I doff my hat to every one.

The problems can arise in early December when participants get their breaths back and look at what they have. The dirty draft reads quite well in the circumstances. In fact, with a few tweaks and a bit of a polish…

And herein lies disaster.

In a previous life I critiqued fiction, and three NaNoWriMo scripts passed before my eyes. Each had shallow characters, major holes in the storyline, and read as if enhanced film scripts. Was I unlucky? I doubt it.

Each had been written as a dirty draft, except the writer could no longer see that because it was written; it was a whole; it was done. Seeing problems in your work takes insight that beginner novelists in particular lack through dearth of experience.

I know only one selling novelist who starts with a premise and then hits the dirty draft as fast a possible. Once written she identifies the main thread and its theme, the main and subsidiary characters, and excises all non-supporting tangents. Next she researches and plans in full the characters and settings, and only then, with the theme sitting front and central in her mind, does she rewrite the novel without sight of its original incarnation.

This is what dirty drafts are for, to see if the premise holds what is needed. It is not an end in itself but a step along the way.

This year the self-publishing company LuLu is teaming up with NaNoWriMo ‘to help more authors than ever before realize their vision’. Amazon KDP, Createspace, Kobo, Nook Press, Smashwords, iBookstore… all offer writers a way of bringing their work to the floodlit global stage as a digital download or a print-on-demand paperback.

Don’t rush to publish before Christmas. As a writer you owe it to yourself to not just do it, but to do it right.

18 October 2013

Author Spotlight - Felicity Heaton's Passionate Paranormals

Today I am welcoming prolific paranormal writer, Felicity Heaton, to give readers a taste of something different. Take it away, Felicity!

It’s wonderful to be here at Linda’s blog to talk about my new book, Her Wicked Angel, which is the sixth in my Her Angel romance series.

I’m going to be sharing an excerpt from the book with you today, but I also wanted to let you know that I’m celebrating the release by giving away the first book in the series, Her Dark Angel, for FREE at selected Amazon Kindle, Kobo Books and Apple iBookstore sites.

FREE EBOOK: You can find all the links for the Her Dark Angel free ebook offer (and two other free paranormal romance ebooks) at:

Here’s more about Her Wicked Angel, including an excerpt from this long angel romance novel.

Her Wicked Angel - Felicity Heaton
The King of Demons and the Devil’s right hand man, Asmodeus is a dark angel born of evil and created for destruction. When his master orders him to venture into the mortal world and retrieve a female for him, he seizes the chance to leave Hell for the first time, uncaring of what the Devil has planned for her… until he sets eyes on the most beautiful woman he has ever seen—a female who awakens new feelings within his black heart, unleashing passion so intense that it controls him and desire he cannot resist.

He will not let his wretched master have her. She will belong to him.

Liora is a witch with a bad reputation and an obsession with fighting demons. A mission gone wrong sees her sent to Paris to cool off, but when a dark and deadly warrior with a gaze of golden fire lands in her life, she ends up burning hotter than Hell for the wicked angel. Nothing will stand between her and the immense, forbidding male. Not her cousin. Not Asmodeus’s sworn enemy and twin, Apollyon. And certainly not the Devil.

Caught up in a tempest of danger and soul-searing passion, can they survive against the odds and seize their forever after?

Her Wicked Angel is available from Amazon Kindle, Kobo Books, Barnes and Noble Nook, Apple iBooks stores and many other retailers. Also available in paperback. Find the links to your preferred retailer at: http://www.felicityheaton.co.uk/ebooks.php?title=Her%20Wicked%20Angel

Her Wicked Angel – Excerpt

   “Why do you stare at me?” Asmodeus said and Liora tapped into her power, channelling it into him in the hope of discovering whether his awkwardness was real or an act.
   She could sense no falseness in him. Her staring genuinely confused him.
   “I’m trying to figure you out.” There was no point in hiding her intentions. The more honest she was with him, the more liable he was to be honest with her.
   “And?” A playful edge entered his eyes and she wasn’t surprised to find the corners of his lips curling into a wicked smile.
   "I’m getting nowhere.” She cocked her head to one side and narrowed her gaze on him. “Are you evil?”
   A very blunt and honest answer. “Evil because everyone expects you to be evil… or because you really are that way?”
   He frowned at her and then switched his focus back to the skies ahead of him. “I was born evil.”
   “I know the story,” she said and he flicked another glance at her, a touch of surprise in his eyes now. “You’re everything evil in Apollyon… blah, blah, blah… but I’m not convinced that you’re only evil.”
   His golden eyes darkened and crimson edged them. She was pushing his buttons again. He didn’t like her mentioning Apollyon or comparing them in any way. She could understand why. She hated it whenever her coven mentioned how she should strive to be more like Serenity—all good and graceful. Serenity had never lived through hell as she had. Serenity had no reason to have darkness and hatred inside her.
   Liora looked down as he glided around the top of the beautiful white domes of the church of Sacré-Coeur with her and then brought them down in the square below. She expected at least a bump as they landed, but it was smoother than any touch down she had ever experienced.
   He carried her to the iron fence edging the square and stared out over the city. Dusk turned the elegant stone buildings and the ribbon of the river pink and gold, making them more beautiful than ever.
   Asmodeus gently set her down.
   “You’ve really never left Hell?” she said while watching him absorb the view of the city with wide eyes.
   He looked like a man who had never witnessed such a view. She had asked Apollyon about Hell. His answer had been that it was black and grim, and that the only colours in the bleak landscape were the boiling rivers of lava.
   “Never.” Asmodeus narrowed his golden gaze and shifted it down to her. “Have you ever left the mortal realm?”
   She shook her head, the loose tangled waves of her chestnut hair brushing her shoulders. “Never… what’s it like where you live?”
   “I have a castle I built.”
   “A home.” She looked out over the city, enjoying the view even though she had come here often during the first two weeks into her stay with Serenity and Apollyon. It was nice to escape them sometimes, finding her own space so she could think and be herself.
   “I do not think of it as a home.”
   Liora frowned and looked across at him. He stood with his profile to her, his eyes drifting over the city, the sinking sun bringing out their colour but not warming them. They were cold and empty again. Where had his thoughts taken him?
   The more she looked at him and thought about what he had said, the more she felt he was lonely but didn’t realise it. He had never left Hell and he refused to view his castle as his home.
   Did he have no love and light in his life?
   “So what are your friends like? Are they all bad-ass demons or are you mates with the Devil?”
   Asmodeus’s gaze locked on a distant point and then flicked straight to her. “I have none.”
   He had no friends.
   He had no home.
   What sort of lonely life was he leading in Hell? She was beginning to wonder how there was even a sliver of good in him. He had no reason to feel that or any positive emotions at all.
   Liora placed her hand over his on the black metal railing and he looked down at them, his eyes slowly widening in that way that made her feel that there was something about Asmodeus that would surprise everyone who saw him if they knew about it.
   He had always been alone.
   No one had ever shown him compassion or care.
   No one had ever touched him like this, as a friend would, offering comfort and support.
   He was a clone of Apollyon, everything evil distilled into its purest and most vicious form, but he was a product of his environment too.
   He had been starved of good and driven to do bad. He had never been given a chance to be anything else. The Devil had moulded him into this man before her and for some reason she wanted to be the one to show the world that they were wrong about Asmodeus, and he could be something more than they believed him to be.
   “Do you have no companions at all?” She looked up into his eyes, her eyebrows furrowed and a tiny flicker of hope in her heart.
   He lifted his gaze to lock with hers and his thumb brushed hers, causing her heart to leap and race.
   He swallowed hard and hesitated, and she thought he wouldn’t answer as he averted his gaze, fixing it far below them at the base of the hill and the street there. His eyes tracked something, turning distant at the same time. She looked down and frowned when she saw an old woman walking two miniature poodles.
   “I have Romulus and Remus,” he said in a gruff voice and she raised her eyes back to his. He looked at her out of the corner of his eye. “They are not quite like those canines. Hellhounds are larger, and live far longer.”
   He had dogs. Companions. Hellhounds were an evil angel’s best friends.
   “What are they like?” She couldn’t picture hellhounds at all. Images of Cerberus, the three-headed hound sprang into her mind. “Do they only have one head?”
    He smiled and her heart lifted at the sight of it and the way the cold edge left his golden eyes. “Yes, they only have one head. They are black and very large, coming to stand with their shoulders around here.”
   He held his hand palm down just above his hip and Liora’s gaze disobeyed her direct command and drifted across to the taut ripped muscles of his stomach and the sexy dip of his navel, and the dusting of dark hair that led her eyes downwards. Her pulse picked up again and it took all of her will to drag her gaze back to his hand.
   It was trembling.
   Her eyes shot up to his and he looked away again, but she caught the flicker of desire that still darkened his gaze.
   “What do they look like? Are they hairy?” Curse her voice for shaking. She had been around men she felt attracted to before and had never reacted like this whenever they had flirted with her or shown their interest. She sidled closer to Asmodeus and butted her hand up against his to measure their height against her own body.
   According to his measurements, these hellhounds would reach shoulder height on her if she included a modest addition for their heads.
   “Hell is hot and rather filled with fire. Hair is not a good thing in that sort of environment. They are shorthaired and somewhat resemble a canine of this world… a Great Dane. Do you know of it?”
   “Scooby Doo? You have demonic Scooby Doos?”
   “Scooby Doo?” He frowned. “I am not familiar with this Scooby Doo.”
   “He’s a cartoon… like moving drawings with sound.” She wasn’t sure he knew what a cartoon was. She doubted you could pick up satellite or cable in Hell. “But he’s brown. The right breed though…”
   She measured Asmodeus’s guide height against her again.
   “I’m guessing yours are bigger than our version.” She waved her hand around the height she imagined them to be.
   “And broader… and they have red eyes.”
   “I could have guessed.” She really could have. It didn’t surprise her at all. Even Asmodeus had red eyes whenever he was losing his temper.
   When coupled with the way she could feel his power rising or ebbing with his emotions, she had a barometer for Asmodeus.
   At least she could tell when he was about to unleash Hell on the poor unsuspecting population of Paris. 
   “And I can talk to them.”
   That, she hadn’t guessed possible. “They talk?”
   Asmodeus casually shrugged, causing his black wings to shift against his bare back. “They communicate with each other in their own language using telepathy, but I do not have that ability so I have taught them to understand me and I can understand their responses. They are clever creatures and picked up an understanding of the demonic language quickly.”
   So he could communicate with his two hellhounds. Romulus and Remus. Who no doubt lived at the castle that wasn’t a home.
   Something came back to her, something she had heard Apollyon say to Serenity when she had been listening in on them and Serenity had asked why Asmodeus had given him information he could use against the Devil.
   Asmodeus was complicated.
   Liora stared at him.
   Complicated and gorgeous, and she wanted to unravel the mystery that he wore like a protective cloak.
   She wouldn’t stop until she knew the truth of Asmodeus.
   Until she knew the real him.
   The one he was fighting to hide from her.

Her Wicked Angel is available from Amazon Kindle, Kobo Books, Barnes and Noble Nook, Apple iBooks stores and many other retailers. Also available in paperback.

Find all the links, a fantastic 6 chapter downloadable sample of the book at: http://www.felicityheaton.co.uk/ebooks.php?title=Her%20Wicked%20Angel
Books in the Her Angel romance series:

Find out more about the Her Angel series at Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/series/54822-her-angel

About Felicity Heaton:
Felicity Heaton writes passionate paranormal romance books as Felicity Heaton and F E Heaton. In her books she creates detailed worlds, twisting plots, mind-blowing action, intense emotion and heart-stopping romances with leading men that vary from dark deadly vampires to sexy shape-shifters and wicked werewolves, to sinful angels and hot demons!

If you're a fan of paranormal romance authors Lara Adrian, J R Ward, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Gena Showalter and Christine Feehan then you will enjoy her books too.

If you love your angels a little dark and wicked, Felicity Heaton’s best selling Her Angel series is for you. If you like strong, powerful, and dark vampires then try the Vampires Realm series she writes as F E Heaton or any of her stand alone vampire romance books she writes as Felicity Heaton. Or if you’re looking for vampire romances that are sinful, passionate and erotic then try Felicity Heaton’s new Vampire Erotic Theatre series.

In 2011, five of her six paranormal romance books received Top Pick awards from Night Owl Reviews, Forbidden Blood was nominated as Best PNR Vampire Romance 2011 at The Romance Reviews, and many of her releases received five star reviews from numerous websites.

If you want to know more about Felicity, or want to get in touch, you can find her at the following places:

11 October 2013

North Street, York - Past, Present & Fictional

I’ve always loved maps, and the various Ordnance Survey maps of Britain have been a source of fantastic research detail for a lot of my fiction. I’m currently writing The Bull At The Gate, the second in the Torc of Moonlight trilogy, set in modern and Roman York, and managed to get my hands on a map which superimposes Roman finds on the street detail of modern York. Manna from heaven.

One particular road caught my eye – North Street – in what would have been the Roman town of Eboracum sitting opposite the fortress across the river. Why would a street that runs more or less east-west on the south side of a river be called North Street?

At its western end the road junctions with Tanner Lane – yes, there were Roman tanneries in the area – but this lane was once twice its width, being the main Roman road from the fortress, across its piered bridge, cutting through the colonia of Eboracum before striking south to Calcaria (Tadcaster).

The river was wider then and although modern North Street was lapped by water, the later site of All Saints’ Church was not. There doesn’t seem to be any records of a religious house prior to this Norman-built church, so it’s difficult to ascertain what is beneath its foundations.  As well as having spectacular stained glass windows detailing ‘The Pricke of Conscience’, it has two fragmented Roman columns helping to support a roof that was extended at the end of the 12th century. 

All Saints' Church, North Street, showing the different columns detail

Do I take from this that Roman masonry was still lying around to be recycled? The columns are only slim, nothing of the size of the column from the fortress found beneath York Minster and now re-sited outside its southern door, so they could have come from a small temple or a private dwelling.

For the novel I needed to site a fictionalised Temple of Luna close to the river. What better place? To find that the current All Saint’s Church has a shrine to St Mary and, before the Reformation tore it down, an anchorhold for a visionary anchoress who dispensed wisdom… what more could I ask for?

And who knows? There's an awful lot of 17-19th century York sitting on top of unexcavated Eboracum. A Temple of Luna may yet turn up. I wouldn't like to lay a bet against it.

Often the best place to start research for a novel is with a map.

29 September 2013

NaNoWriMo - and those who [don’t] can’t

For reasons I won’t go into – it’s a lengthy list – I’ve been nearly three weeks away from applying a keystroke to The Bull At The Gate. This is not good. Especially as I am well within its last quarter.

Not only have I lost the emotional surge of the main character that went with cranking up the ante, but the quiet tapping from the shaky structure of one of the three intersecting storylines has changed into a bass echo from the abyss.

So today I have spent a good amount of time updating the written chapter outline – when, where & with whom; harvested seeds sown and sown seeds for harvesting later; conflict & motivation; atmosphere; mental tone of the viewpoint character; and all the rest of the small fry that most readers glance over but together become Big Fry. I wanted this detailed overview to see if I was worrying unduly (unfortunately, no) and to help put together a plan to SORT IT.

Into this, like the timely Irish fairy that she is, came into my Inbox a blogpost from Catherine, Caffeinated on the length of time it takes her to write, punctuated by what passes for a certain amount of gnashing of teeth. Apart from soothing my own fevered brow – writers always think they are alone when these sinkholes appear – she asked for readers’ solutions in the Comments.

Oooh, some of them are very instructive. Do go look. If you’ve ever found youself in a bind, it may well prove a writing-process-changing moment.

[Note: for those who’ve never heard of NaNoWriMo, it’s the (Inter)National Novel Writing Month of November organisation where plucky individuals sign themselves up to write 50,000 words of a dirty draft in 30 days. No pondering allowed. As I intimated at the top, not much point me signing up then.]

17 September 2013

Home again, Home again, clickety-click

Except it’s not quite that simple. Is anything?

Just returned from a great holiday in the Austrian/Swiss Alps where we travelled on the Bernina Express (three spectacular glaciers) and the Glacier Express (but saw no glaciers on the Davos-Andermatt section). Okay, so I’ve got a thing about glaciers. There are worse things to be awed by.

Like Microsoft.

Yep, I returned to find Windows 7 had updated. For reasons too complicated to get embroiled in, I still use Word 2002. Hey, if I’d had the choice I’d never have abandoned WordPerfect, but we all have our crosses to bear. Windows 7 comes with Word 2010 Starter. I tried it when I bought the new laptop. It attempted to wreck the formatting of my then work-in-progress so I installed good ol’ 2002.

But due to the recent updates my system will not recognise Word 2002, only Word 2010, and my files are a sea of orange icons – Argh!! It’s enough to send me into the arms of Apple. If Microsoft would stop “acting in my best interests” and merely work I wouldn’t be spending all tomorrow uninstalling and reinstalling software.  

Any odd sounds detected could be a gnashing of teeth.

27 August 2013

How do I upload a book to Kindle?

Oh, so simple a question, yet the answer is so fraught with difficulties.

Having been faced with this question three times in as many weeks, I decided to write a short piece that I could attach to an email and send if asked again - but of course there is no short answer for so many elements depend one on another.

What I ended up with is longer than even I anticipated, so long in fact that I've given it its own Page on this site. If you really want the answer have a look. It will probably put you off for life.
Going Indie With An Ebook?

15 August 2013

Guest Blogging Today

I don't know about guest-blogging, I should concentrate on my own. Where did the month go to? Well, for a start, I had a holiday: a river cruise down the Rhine from Cologne (Koln) to Strasbourg. I was very good and took with me my Notebook, current chapter and short-term outline. I was even better than good and never opened any of it. There are times when a break IS a rest, and much needed. I've written two chapters since I returned, to which many writers would raise a disparaging eyebrow, but for me it is decent going.

Today, though, I am guest blogging on the paranormal romance blog owned by the industrious Felicity Heaton, The subject is The British have always embraced the Paranormal. Well, we have. From MR James and Charles Dickens back to 'Nessie' the Loch Ness Monster, to King Arthur and the Lady of the Lake. And even now, just because we 'don't believe in that sort of thing', doesn't mean that we don't believe in that sort of thing.

Do drop by. You'll see what I mean in the comments.

Use either  http://bit.ly/15JBBxN   or


19 July 2013

Fame - A Double-Edged Blade

Which writer doesn’t occasionally dream of acclaim - or at least fantastic sales? Of sitting at a book signing running out of ink for your pen, or taking eager questions for an hour after a half hour talk?

Fame, however, is not all it’s cracked up to be.

It’s been quite a week. In a scene that could have come from one of her own Crime novels, writer Val McDermid saw her ink-attacker convicted of assault. The person had harboured a grudge for years due to a line in one of her novels.

She’s not the only well-known writer to fall foul of a reader. Peter James, another Crime writer, seems to collect them, as does JK Rowling.

JK Rowling recently had published her first Crime novel (ahem… I notice a dangerous pattern developing) under the name of Robert Galbraith. Despite puffs from some of the illustrious names in British Crime, it sold somewhat meagrely, ie in figures normal for most debut writers – until the author was unmasked, when sales soared.

Amid howls of ‘conspiracy’ and ‘publisher marketing ploys’ it would now seem that the lawyer did it, m’lud. Her lawyer in fact, or at least one from the firm she uses. Or perhaps, did use.

So why the subterfuge, the anger at being unmasked?

Writers write, period. Yes, they prefer to eat as well, hence the need for good sales, but the bottom line is that writers want their work to receive acclaim, not themselves personally. JK Rowling seems to have few true writer friends, or one of them would have told her in words of one syllable that it ain’t gonna happen, love.

And not just to her; it doesn’t happen to any of us. Take a look on Amazon at any novel carrying a lot of reviews. Along with the 4 and 5 star there will be smattering of 2 and 1 star, and if the writer is particularly unlucky a vitriolic attack on the writer about wasting the reader’s time.

Moral 1: you cannot please all of the people all of the time, so it’s better to please yourself.

Moral 2: never trust a lawyer.

7 July 2013

Goodreads Giveaway Complete!

I was both amazed and humbled that 1058 people put in for the Goodreads draw for a paperback copy of Reading A Writer's Mind: Exploring Short Fiction - First Thought to Finished Story. Thanks to everyone who took the trouble to enter.
All copies are now winging their way to the twelve lucky winners, and I am very pleased that I decided to throw caution, and funds, to the wind to open up recipients to most of the world. Two winners were from Britain, four from the USA - as expected due to the percentage of membership - Denmark, Norway, Spain, New Zealand, India and Canada. Winners have been notified.

If you lucked out on the draw, or ran out of time to enter, the book is available both in paperback and ebook. Or why not do something out of left field... walk into your local library and request the paperback be ordered, then it'll be available for others too. 

Oddly enough I've done just that with a title, and donated a couple of mine. I reckon that's a win-win from every angle.

29 June 2013

Pirates Ahoy - Phishing in Progress

Just as a friend’s Twitter account was hacked by what looked like Eastern European “lovelies”, I found my Native American Beneath The Shining Mountains had been pirated.

‘Heck,’ said Hubby, ‘they must think it’s good!’
I won’t dwell on my response to that, suffice to say that he’s recovering. I’ll just muse that perhaps up to now I’ve been lucky.

I determined to send a take-down notice via the site’s contact form which helpfully offered If you want to remove your books, please contact us with the form below… Except, of course, the contact form went nowhere when I hit Send – or appeared to, which is when my ‘oh shit’ antenna started twitching. And yes, a quick search of the Net, which I agree I should have done first, pulled up the suspicion from various sources that my novel was being used, with many others, as bait in a Phishing scam. After all, what site offering free ebooks needs to litter its pages with images of credit and debit cards?

While I wait to see what comes through in the way of spam, consider what the naïve site user may be facing. Whatever your financial situation $2.99/£1.99 from a reputable ebookstore really is amazingly cheap for an eight hour read.

1 June 2013

GoodReads Giveaway: 'Reading A Writer's Mind...'

As part of the launch initiative for the paperback of Reading A Writer's Mind: Exploring Short Fiction - First Thought to Finished Story, for the whole of June the title is entered into the GoodReads Giveaway.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Reading a Writer's Mind by Linda Acaster

Reading a Writer's Mind

by Linda Acaster

Giveaway ends June 30, 2013.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

12 copies are on offer and a lot of territories are covered, from USA and Canada, most of Europe, across to Australia and New Zealand - and of course its home turf of the UK. If you are member of GoodReads (if not, why not?) and want to discover how short fiction is produced, either because you're a reader who is interested or a writer wanting to hone your skills, go for it. It won't cost you a penny, or cent, or whatever - yeah, even the postage.

Here's the direct link in case the widget does not work for you:

26 May 2013

Fantasy Spotlight - Torc of Moonlight

It's all go! Quite by chance I've found myself, or at least Torc of Moonlight, featured on Andrew Butcher's Butcher's Blog. He's just started a listing for all subgenres of Paranormal Fantasy and the novel is one of his first.

There must be something in the air as this comes hard on the heels of a cracking review just listed on SantsRants:
"...Torc of Moonlight is no light snack it's a gourmet meal. Acaster weaves rich descriptive language into the plot. She seasons with diverse and interesting historical detail. Spice is added with an arrogant and ancient spirit hell bent on revenge.... An intelligent, interesting and well researched novel that was a pleasure to read."
Thanks Darren. And Thanks Andrew.

22 May 2013

Guest Blogging at Southern Writers

As part of the Reading A Writer's Mind... launch, today I'm guesting at Southern Writers Magazine talking about creating characters of depth and how to put this across in the subtext of the fiction these characters inhabit.

Drop by and leave a comment or ask a question. If you need it, the full link is:

See you there.

19 May 2013

Launch Day! "Reading A Writer's Mind..." Paperback

Yay! It's launch day for the paperback edition of Reading A Writer's Mind: Exploring Short Fiction - First Thought To Finished Story. It joins the ebook which has been out some time.  

As you may have guessed, the book does what it says in its title. Here's the blurb:

From initial idea, through the story itself, to a commentary explaining the decisions made during its creation, this book leads the reader through the detailed thinking behind the writing of ten stories across a range of genres:

  • Lyrical narrative v terse dialogue (Mainstream)
  • Characterisation through deed and thought (Horror)
  • A calendar structure using the Tell technique (Women's Fiction)
  • The importance of pacing (Twist in the Tale)
  • The use of alliteration, rhythm and subliminal detailing (Romance)
  • Using the Show technique to elicit a reader response (Drama)
  • Building fiction with an unsympathetic narrator (Crime)
  • Working with parallel storylines via past and present tense (SF)
  • Conjuring the weird from the everyday (Fantasy)
  • Writing for performance and sound effects (Historical) 
  • Editing: ten common problems explored.  

The recommended price is £8.99 / $13.99 but it is enjoying the benefit of discounts:
Amazon UK ¦ Amazon USA ¦ Barnes and Noble USA
Book Depository for free worldwide shipping
Signed copies from Fantastic Books Publishing

...a fascinating insight...            ...great coaching advice...
 For those who prefer to e-read, the ebook of Reading A Writer's Mind has been updated to match the contents of the paperback and is available for £2.00 / $2.99:
Amazon Kindle UK ¦ Amazon Kindle USA ¦ Nook ¦ Kobo ¦ iBookstore ¦ Smashwords

If you are a reader who has always wondered how a writer produces a short story, or a beginner writer desperately trying to decide how best to proceed, this book is for you.

7 May 2013

A Need to Read for Pleasure

"Reading for pleasure at the age of fifteen is a strong factor in determining future social mobility..." - so starts an article by Jonathan Douglas, Director of the Nationl Literary Trust in a recent edition of the Telegraph Weekend.

The bottom line is that those who read for pleasure, rather than due to the goad of education, are nurturing an inherent human inquisitiveness, a willingness to learn, that will be carried throughout their lives and spill over into aspects of their work environment - hence the social mobility angle.

I agree with this. Feeding an engagement with an abstract world pushes back barriers, opens up horizons.

I meet such readers in bookshops each time I support a signing. Usually they are wide-eyed and dumb-struck by being faced with a writer of novels who actually speaks to them. Despite my not writing for their age group, I ask their opinions on story ideas; ask if they, themselves, write stories. Usually it is the parents who answer, because the children are ten or eleven or twelve. And I talk to them now because I can almost guarantee that by the age of fifteen they won't be reading for pleasure at all, especially the boys.

Point to hormones if you like, point to computer games and peer pressure, but I point to school, the academic need not only to tick boxes but tick boxes dictated by academia for the good of the child.

In the UK we move our children from primary to secondary education at eleven years old, where tales of adventure and enthusiasm are suffocated beneath worthier texts which must be read. In my day that meant Dickens, Austen and Hughes - at eleven, twelve and thirteen - 19th century novelists writing for a contemporary adult audience, not even children of their day.

Did my son fare better? Not much. What could I say to books thrown across the room accompanied by '...explain how a rocket can land next to a house and an old grandad can climb aboard and travel to the moon...' when he had never known a time without manned space flight. 

My family has no third generation going through today's schooling, but from reading Jonathan Douglas' article there seems to be the same sort of hand-wringing over literacy there was in my day. Perhaps my four minute conversation with a young voracious reader in a bookshop is a mere drop in the ocean, but oceans fill due to individual drops of rain. Sprinkle a raindrop today. In fact, sprinkle several. They're needed, if the comments beneath the article are anything to go by.

4 May 2013

Interview: Native American historical

My interview with Lisa Mondello is live, and we are discussing the story behind the story of Beneath The Shining Mountains, set up in Montana and Wyoming.

Americans tend to find it amusing, if not decidedly odd, that a Brit would have an interest in Native American historical lifestyles. I recall having just this conversation with a Cheyenne lady on duty at Old Bent's Fort near La Junta, Colorado.

The adobe fort was primarily a trading post and replenishing station on the Santa Fe Trail, and ran from 1833-1849. The fort isn't the original, but was rebuilt in 1976 to the specifications drawn up by a recuperating army surveyor who wintered there and made it his project to stave off boredom. And let's all be thankful for that.

So what did that Cheyenne lady, who was working in costume feeding horses, think of a Brit having an interest in the period? "Visiting Europeans mostly have more knowledge - sometimes more than me!"

Well, visiting Europeans are going to Fort Bent for a reason. And I know many Americans who have a sight more knowledge of the English Regency period than I do.

Do drop by the interview. You may well be surprised.

19 April 2013

CAMRA Beer and Roman Lamps - Can't be bad!

Yesterday was the start of Hull's Real Ale and Cider Festival, now in its 35th year, which again was held at Holy Trinity Church in the 'old town' of the city. 

Needless to say, there is a need for a designated driver, so while I can't speak for the 160 beers, real ales, ciders and perries on offer, I can say that the peanut butter muffin I bought in aid of church funds was decidedly delicious, and the tea - "make us a donation" - most refreshing.

The line of barrels shown, the gravity ales, are in the north aisle of the choir on the other side of the screen. There was another line the same size in the south aisle, all hand-pumped, with the ciders and perries, and a few world beers, scattered around the area.

The place was not as deserted as it looks. In fact it was heaving, and I had to wait ages for the picture above. 

 So what did I do after I'd dropped off the imbibers? Well, the 'old town' - yes, it did at one time have walls - is home to the Museum Quarter, so I made straight for the Hull & East Riding Museum.

The Celtic and Iron Age galleries provided a lot of input for Torc of Moonlight, but this time I was heading for the Roman area as the period features strongly in The Bull At The Gate

The city of Hull has mediaeval roots, but a few miles further down the River Humber is Brough, which was the Roman Petuaria. The museum gallery has been laid out to give a semblance of a street from the town, but unfortunately its a low-light area so taking photos wasn't easy.  

On display are some of the best preserved mosaics in the country, all excavated from villa remains in the area. The partial shown is from Rudston and is a Seasons mosaic. The bull in the foreground is for spring, and the inscripton reads "Taurus - Mankiller". I was particularly taken with the crescent on a stick, as both feature in the second in the trilogy.

What I wanted to hunt down, though, were household items, particularly Roman lamps, and I wasn't disappointed. In fact I was rewarded - there was an entire case of them - and the dark one in the centre held a bull motif.

There were all sorts of lamps on display, including one in the shape of a foot. I was looking through the glass case at it when I heard the ominous clomp of male footsteps, footsteps which were not slowing for their owner to view the exhibits. As the footsteps grew louder I started looking, not at the exhibits but at the glass for reflections, seeing a dark shape pass from one to another.

Set out as a series of Roman shop-fronts, the gallery is a warren of alcoves and doorways. Was I in a CCTV blindspot? Probably. To move, or to stay put? As the footsteps neared I drew further into my alcove waiting for the footsteps, and the man, to pass me by. 

They stopped. I straightened. A head popped round the corner. A face beamed. 'Madam, just wanted to make you aware that we are closing in 15 minutes.' Obviously I'd been watched on CCTV. In fact, considering what I'd been doing, crawling about on hands and knees and taking pictures, I bet I'd been the subject of some interesting exchanges, and that particular museum assistant had pulled the short straw.

Mind you, I still reckon it would make a good scene for a novel. And no, you can't borrow it.

15 April 2013

Newsletter out - What next?

The Newsletter is finally winging its way. I hope recipients enjoy it, and the attachments. There are times when I like fiddling with technology, and discovering how to add in pdf downloads was one of them.

Next up is proofing the textblock for Reading A Writer's Mind... The revamped cover, ready for the paperback, has been with me a week and the textblock should have been waiting for it. Alas, I have not yet managed to clone myself and I was too immersed in the current chapter of BatGate to give it the uninterrupted time it needs. 

I also need to make notes on a damned good idea that came as I dragged myself into the light this morning. The genre is Crime and it has to do with clocks. Oh dear, another parallel universe beckons. If I Google 'how to create a clone' do you think.... eek! There is. That is too weird, even for me.

7 April 2013

Sign up for Enticing Goodies!

As well as revamping the pages of this blog - writers' resource links still to come - I am about to send out my bi-monthly Newsletter.

With this issue recipients will be able to download an illustrated tour of parts of Mediaeval and Roman York used in the forthcoming The Bull At The Gate, book 2 in the Torc of Moonlight trilogy, as well as the promised opening chapters. Intriguing, or what?

These pdf downloads will not be offered elsewhere. They are a personal Thank You to my loyal subscribers. To receive these, and other goodies during the year, become a subscriber by following this Newsletter link.

You're not asked for your soul, only your name and email address, which are guarded by a fire-breathing dragon across at Mailchimp for your security.

Looking forward to seeing you there!


Full Newsletter link: http://eepurl.com/gQUqP

31 March 2013

What are you writing about?

Some questions are easy to answer and some questions are easy to answer but a little more difficult to understand. I was asked recently what I was currently writing – The Bull At The Gate, the second in the Torc of Moonlight trilogy. See, easy on both counts.

Then came the follow-up question which, in truth, no author should wait to be asked: What’s it about? Ah well, following on from the first novel, Nick, the main protagonist, has moved to York, and Alice…

Except that isn’t what the novel is about. I’m writing about alternative realities. What the characters do, how they act and react to the trail of plot points I lay down for them, is the fuel that powers the vehicle that tracks through my exploration of… alternative realities.

Very often this term is accepted as a substitute for parallel universes, but I consider that overblown. I live an alternative reality to someone in Syria at the moment, or living on the streets of Moscow in the worst winter for 50 years, or the person in the next road who has just opened the door to a police officer bearing bad news.

Alternative realities are far closer to home than SF or Fantasy, or Quantum Physics, would have us believe, but just as we each inherently deem our individual reality is true and everyone else’s is an alternative, so do the different characters in The Bull At The Gate. The only thing for certain is, the term is never mentioned in the novel.

Reading or writing a fiction? What’s it about?

19 March 2013

Arrived! Torc of Moonlight Paperback

They've arrived! Okay, I shall calm down. I'm an indie ebook writer, yet it is still a huge thrill to open a carton and find paperbacks looking up at me.

My test buys have arrived, too - Amazon UK, and Book Depository for inclusive world-wide postage. With print-on-demand it is always a good idea to do a test buy when possible as different printer's machine settings produce slightly different results within a variable.

So if you live in the UK and would like a **signed copy** drop me an email. For a limited time I'm price-matching Amazon & throwing in free postage.

Torc of Moonlight: Book One £8.99
Beneath The Shining Mountains £7.99

Ooh, the Kindle could get jealous.

4 March 2013

Read an Ebook Week - 50% Discounts!

It's that time of year again - Read An Ebook Week. Not all distributors take part, but Smashwords does, providing ebooks in all formats, from Kindle to Nook to Kobo to iPad.

I'm offering all mine at a 50% discount, except for my ebook of short fiction which equates to a FREE read. The discount code is applied at the checkout. But don't delay - Read An Ebook Week finishes on 9th March!

What better way to pick up Book One in the 'Torc of Moonlight' trilogy. Or if you've already got that one, links to all my ebooks are offered in the left column of its Smashwords page.

28 February 2013

How do you like your Crime?

Weeks pass when it is head-down at the keyboard and not enough happens to link to a blog - then out of left field...

Last week I received a call from Fantastic Books Publishing: would I be interested in..? Today there's a video of me in the bowels of their HQ answering questions on the elements of Crime I slot into my novels. It's part of their first Crime Spotlight event.

Don't be taken in by the cosy setting - the fireplace, the chintzy lamp, the warm mug of tea - out of shot there are chains hanging on the walls and some stains I daren't investigate. Oh-er... I was just pleased when my blindfold was removed and my car keys handed back to me.

I wonder how the others fared... I'm sharing billing with Penny Grubb, Nick Quantrill, Danuta Reah and David P. Perlmutter. Off to watch their videos now.

24 February 2013

Wot, no Vampires?

Today, under this title, I'm bogging at Lindsay's Romantics about why a paranormal doesn't always mean vampires, and explaining the enduring nature, and different guises, of Celtic water goddesses down the millennia - Beowulf, Aqua Sulis, Our Lady of Walsingham... Do join me!

31 January 2013

The Delights of Indie Publishing

A few days ago Amazon announced that 23 of its indie ebook authors had sold over 250,000 units last year. Just to be clear about this, that's over 250,000 each, not combined. Much to my surprise I find that I'm sharing a forum with three of them, and it's been celebrations all round.

I might not frequent such dizzying ebook numbers, but I'm sitting here in my own warm glow. Today I uploaded the print version of Torc of Moonlight to Createspace, downloaded the digital proof, tinkered with widows & orphans, like you do, and re-uploaded. In less than five hours it's been vetted by a person and I've just ordered a physical proof to be delivered to my door.

When I started with ebooks I thought I'd waved farewell to paperbacks - I like reading on my Kindle, and it's always my first option for new purchases - but having a big smiley lapel badge "Ebook Author" doesn't quite hit the spot when I'm giving talks. Participants are happy to take my postcards sporting the book covers, blurbs and buying info, but they still yearn for a physical book, duly signed, from an author they've met.

When I uploaded Beneath The Shining Mountains late last year this wasn't in my mind. As an ebook this is my biggest selling title, mostly to USA readers, yet I'd noted from various forums that authors offered both digital and print. My ebooks are offered in both ePub and Kindle formats, so why not print as well? All it was going to cost me was an updated cover and time to absorb the formatting learning curve, which wasn't as onerous as expected. Since the paperback went live I have been pleasantly surprised as to sales. Long may it continue.

I expect Torc of Moonlight the paperback to go live on Amazon in about ten days, and become available from Barnes & Noble, The Book Depository, and others, in about a month.

Don't you just love modern publishing?