Editor? Proofreader? What’s in Your Indie Budget?

Brilliant post, great advice!

Take Five Authors

So you’re hot on language, your grammar is impeccable, your style puts Strunk and White to shame and like Akeelah you could win any old spelling bee. Why would you, as an indie author, need to pay for outside help? Well, you only have to read a few Amazon reviews to know that readers can be an unforgiving bunch, quick to spot a typo or a missing space between paragraphs. As an indie author you have to make some difficult choices about how much assistance you can afford to enlist. We wrote a whole post on the importance of a good book cover and we still feel that unless you’re amazingly hot stuff at art, you’re probably wiser to leave that to a professional. But here’s Ellie Campbell’s take on things.

 

Having a good editor is brilliant. Our first editor, Emma at Arrow Books, was instrumental in whipping How…

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A brief history of our favourite Christmas traditions

christmas-baubles

Well, here we are, December is already upon us, and for those who celebrate it but have failed to notice, Christmas is well and truly on its way. Traditionally popular for gift buying, December is the month Christmas shopping begins in earnest. It is also a time for other traditions; the trimming of trees, the hanging of lights, the writing of Christmas cards, letters to Santa, turkey and mince pies, absurdly silly knitwear and mistletoe and woe in soapland.

Therefore, as a writer and lover of history, I thought it would be interesting to explore some of our Christmas traditions and where they originate.

Medieval times brought us the Holly and the Ivy. The tradition of decorating the home with evergreens is an ancient one stretching back to pagan times. Evergreens were valued for their ability to retain life in the middle of winter and holly, traditionally thought to be masculine and ivy, feminine, were believed to bring stability to the home.

holly-and-ivy

Elizabethan times brought us sugar and spice and all things nice. ‘Eat, drink and be merry’ epitomised Christmas in Elizabethan England. Spectacle was of great importance and those households that could afford it, would indulge in a Christmas feast concluding in a banqueting course of sweet and colourful delicacies. Beautifully decorated sweetmeats were accompanied by hot drinks including ‘lambswool’ – made from hot ale, cider or sherry, apples and spices, which, when hot, would explode to create a ‘wooly’ top.

xmas-punch

Victorian times brought us the Christmas tree and the Christmas cracker. The image of a glittering tree, it’s branches illuminated by twinkling lights and decorations, is one of the most powerful and recognisable images of a ‘traditional’ Christmas. The introduction of such is said to be credited to Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband – both great advocates of Christmas – however, he simply popularised an already existing custom originally introduced to England much earlier.

christmas-background

The story of the Christmas cracker is down to one man’s ingenuity; Tom Smith, a confectioner’s apprentice working in London in the early 19th century. After a trip to Paris in 1840, he admired the French sugared almond bon-bons wrapped in coloured tissue paper, and introduced them to London. Some years later, after watching logs crackle on a fire, he imagined a bon-bon with a bang. Adding a strip of paper – infused with chemicals which, when rubbed, created enough friction to produce a noise – inside a coloured paper wrapper containing mottoes and poems, the Christmas cracker was invented.

christmas-cracker

The Christmas Promise – my book review

the-christmas-promise

Originally posted in The Fens – A FREE lifestyle magazine with the heart and soul of the Fens (for further information follow the link here), this is my review of The Christmas Promise by Sue Moorcroft, published by Avon.

‘Hats off to Ava Bliss.’ The Christmas Promise promises, and delivers, a lovely Christmassy read with a little more to boot. Curl up with your favourite hot drink, or better still – a glass of wine, and settle down to the ups and downs of Ava Blissham in this modern, romantic festive tale.

Ava Blissham, milliner by trade, is struggling to make ends meet with her fledgling, bespoke hat making business. Christmas is fast approaching and as an only child, with both parents now retired and living abroad, Ava isn’t particularly looking forward to the festive season. Luckily Ava has a couple of good friends and a night out with them sees her being introduced to a possible love interest. However, the path to true love never runs smoothly, especially when there is a vengeful ex-boyfriend on the scene. Throw a spotlight on the pros and cons of the ‘instant sharing’ world of today’s internet based society, add some cyber bullying and revenge porn, not to mention the dazzling world of celebrities, including Ruby, the savvy wife of a famous footballer, plus an interesting insight into the cut and thrust world of viral marketing campaigns, and The Christmas Promise makes for a very modern day romance.

Set between London and the fictional Cambridgeshire town of Middledip, the narrative flows at a steady pace as does the storyline. As well as the two main protagonists, Ava and Sam, the author also introduces some other lovely, well-rounded characters, and Wendy was, without a doubt, one of my favourites – her strength of character and eternal optimism, despite the dark cloud hanging over her, at times reminded me of my own lovely mum.

Clearly well researched, The Christmas Promise also provides a fascinating insight into the craft of hat making. Add to that a liberal sprinkling of festive good cheer, despite Ava’s obvious dislike for Christmas (she has her reasons), readers will not be disappointed with a tale about romantic love, of family love, of friendships, old and new, and most of all, hope. A modern day cautionary tale gift wrapped in a traditional love story.

PS – if you’re lucky enough to have a current copy of The Fens (thanks to Sue and her lovely publisher) you can win a FREE signed copy of The Christmas Promise. Just turn to page 44 and follow the instructions. Good luck!

Mothers & teenage Daughters: the amusing facts and figures.

Mothers & teenage Daughters: the amusing facts and figures.

mother-daughter

Photo courtesy of Pixabay Free Images 

Originally posted in the (current) November 2016 issue of The Fens – A FREE lifestyle magazine with the heart and soul of the Fens (for more information see here) – here are some amusing facts about mothers and teenage daughters.

As both a mother and stepmother of teenage daughters, I had plenty of inspiration to draw from at home when writing my debut novel, 183 Times A Year – a humorous observation of contemporary family life. However, like most writers, I also carried out a great deal of research. These are just some of the interesting and amusing facts I discovered about mothers and their teenage daughters.

About teen girls and power

It is suggested that the mother-daughter relationship is so powerful it affects everything from a woman’s health to her self-esteem. Dr Christiane Northrup, author of the book Mother-Daughter Wisdom (Hay House), says, “The mother-daughter relationship is the most powerful bond in the world, for better or for worse. It sets the stage for all other relationships.”

Their need to separate

While most 5 year-old girls love their mothers with an unshakeable conviction, it’s often a different story by the time they reach their teens. The once-adored mother who rarely put a foot wrong is suddenly always doing or saying embarrassing things. Teenage daughters often feel torn between wanting to remain close to their mothers and wanting to separate.

The facts and figures

According to a survey posted in The Telegraph in May 2013 studying the relationship between teenage daughters and their mothers, the Facebook/Tweeting, selfie-taking, music and mobile phone obsessed teenage girl will, during a year:

  • Cry over boys 123 times
  • Slam 164 doors
  • Have 257 fights with brothers and sisters
  • Fall out with their friends 127 times despite spending 274 hours on the phone to them.
  • Guess what they do 183 times a year!

Hang on in there!

It is estimated that by the time a woman reaches the age of 23, she finally starts to acknowledge and appreciate everything her mother did for her. Most daughters are grateful for their mother’s guidance throughout the tough times, even though they failed to realise it at the time.

 

**Blog Tour** Her Last Breath by J. A. Schneider

her-last-breath

I’m very pleased to be taking part in the Blog Tour for Her Last Breath, the second psychological thriller by J.A. Schneider,  released on October 21st and described as…

A chilling psychological thriller about a woman caught between two men…
Mari Gill wakes to horror in a strange apartment next to a murdered man, and can’t remember the night before. Accused of murder, she feels torn between her husband, a successful defense attorney, and a mysterious, kind man who wants to help. Can she trust either of them – or even her friends? Detective Kerri Blasco battles her police bosses believing Mari is innocent…but is she?

Here, Joyce writes about how and where she writes and I totally understand her need for peace and quiet and the hectic days of raising small children! 

How and Where I Write

 by J.A. Schneider 

First, disclosure: my children are grown. As any author with young kids knows, that makes all the difference. I remember entire days never taking my jacket off, dropping off, picking up, driving to lessons, waiting trying to write in the car, or making a mad dash to the supermarket and then running back to pick up again. And always, in the scrambled-brains head, trying to figure the next page, the next sentence. I wrote in the oddest places! Once I got a whole two pages down in a pediatrician’s waiting room, filled with yelling, bawling, sneezing, coughing kids. “A contagion ward,” my husband called it when I got home. Oh yeah, I came down with strep thirty-six hours later. Couldn’t write or do much of anything for days. 

Frustrating times, end of disclosure. I was, and am, a good mom, but I’ve never forgotten those early, hard days of writing, the feeling of struggling against chaos. 

Which is why I now love as few distractions as possible…and sameness, predictability. Writing Fear Dreams and Her Last Breath, I tried to work daily from noon to six, give or take, in the same small room usually lying on my back on pillows with my laptop on my knees. It was pretty much the same writing my Embryo medical thriller series. The curtains stay closed, because if I look out I’ll fret that there’s weeding that needs doing or quick – move the car, it’s blocking the driveway, or no end of things. Even with the blinds closed, a gorgeous, glowing shaft of light will squeeze through and start slowly sweeping across the rug, and I’ll stare at it. Two minutes pass – it’s moved, the earth is turning faster than we realize, it’s like watching an ancient timepiece. Concentrate, self, I’ll think. Focus

Writing is incredibly hard, and it never gets easier. Thinking is hard. That, plus what I consider the hardest part: the first draft, the weeks and months of the daily blank page. For editing, after I’ve gone through all the tough, early drafts and I finally know what my story’s about…then I could work in Starbucks, or while waiting somewhere to pick up a loved one, or even standing in line at the supermarket, going over a familiar page in search of typos. 

But that’s when the story’s down, the hardest mental lifting part is over. For the weeks and months preceding that, I practically need a monk’s cell to do the job. And even then, I’d notice the spider spinning her web and become fascinated, or hear a bird and want to run to see it. Once, on a windy November day, I heard the most delicate thump against the window, and I had to run out and see. A little sparrow had broken its neck, and for the rest of the day my heart was broken. What do you do with a poor little dead sparrow? I got busy, it found is final resting place under a blue hydrangea, but I felt too depressed after that to work. 

Friends have suggested that I use earphones and listen to music. “It’s terrific,” they tell me. “Shuts out the world!” 

Wouldn’t work with me. I’d be constantly tempted to switch to Bob Seger, wake up my sleepy head with his “Roll Me Away,” or “Centerfield.” I love music. Have no need for earphones, actually, music often goes through my mind as I write. There are some Beethoven concertos that also help. 

But those daily six hours in my “cell,” argh, headache. Once, writing Her Last Breath, I decided to give my smart NYPD Detective Kerri Blasco a headache she had to force herself through. It worked. The scene got written because I made the character feel what I felt. 

Eureka! Writing that scene was my first taste of a new kind of progress – give my problems to my characters, let them slog their way through it. A lot of writing got done that day of Kerri’s headache. Maybe I won’t need that monk’s cell after all… 

Her Last Breath is available to purchase here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
 
J.A. (Joyce Anne) Schneider is a former staffer at Newsweek Magazine, a wife, mom, and reading addict. She loves thrillers…which may seem odd, since she was once a major in French Literature – wonderful but sometimes heavy stuff. Now, for years, she has become increasingly fascinated with medicine, forensic science, and police procedure. Decades of being married to a physician who loves explaining medical concepts and reliving his experiences means there’ll often be medical angles even in “regular” thrillers that she writes. She lives with her family in Connecticut, USA.
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Cover Reveal for Her Last Breath by J.A. Schneider

I’m very pleased to share with you the cover for Her Last Breath, the second psychological thriller by J.A. Schneider, is due for release on October 21st.  #HerLastBreath is the second thriller – after Fear Dreams – featuring highly intuitive NYPD detective Kerri Blasco. Here’s the blurb to whet your appetite…

A chilling psychological thriller about a woman caught between two men…

Mari Gill wakes to horror in a strange apartment next to a murdered man, and can’t remember the night before. Accused of murder, she feels torn between her husband, a successful defense attorney, and a mysterious, kind man who wants to help. Can she trust either of them – or even her friends? Detective Kerri Blasco battles her police bosses believing Mari is innocent…but is she?

It begins in horror…

Mari Gill’s hand felt sticky.

That was the first thing to trouble her, still clinging to the safe, solid darkness of sleep. Next came pain in her head, a different kind of pain from the other thing, so she squeezed her eyes shut, dreading the day…

…but the stickiness bothered.

Involuntarily, she felt her fingers open and close.

Something was wrong there, in her hand. She squinted open; peered at it. 

Red.

Her palm was smeared dark red.

She blinked. Saw more red smear on her forearm, then the torn cap sleeve of last night’s black dress, then the sheet under her arm, stained with…

“Huh?” Her eyes grew wide before her mind processed it.

Thrashing onto her back, Mari saw bloodied sheet reaching halfway up the torn front of her dress, and then saw an arm. A man’s arm, faintly blue and blood-smeared – and with a cry her whole body practically flipped from the bed. “Oh God!”

She hit the floor hard and then scrabbled back up, gaped wildly and saw him. Her shocked vision jumped and saw two then one then two of him on his back, eyes closed, mouth open dribbling caked blood. She froze; gasped. Couldn’t take in air seeing his black hair, his chest hidden under a tent of bloodied sheet. 

“Mister?”

A high, involuntary whisper. Mari’s heart rocketed but she felt compelled; jerked out a hand and pulled away the sheet.

Under it a knife, its handle long and black, protruding from his chest. 

“Oh God!” Her scream got it out but used up breath as she spun on her knees, recognizing the new trouble. Where was her handbag? What was this place? Who was that guy?

Her bag, her bag…she crawled over hardwood and a man’s flung jacket and hit a cold, metal pole. Something crashed down on her, crashed to the floor but she crawled more, over broken shards with her breath coming harder, wheezing high like a small, dying animal. 

Where, where…? She gasped and scrabbled. 

There.

Her bag, way under a desk. How could it be under a desk? She was always so careful to keep it close but no time to think, she was upon it, fingers fluttering getting it open, her cries a child’s high mewling as she dug past her phone – no time to call – found her inhaler, got her fingers around it then saw it fly from her and skitter through an open doorway.

“No…”

Wheezing harder she crawled toward it, the little white plastic thing that meant life or death to her. Her chest heaved, and heaved again. Her vision blurred and she couldn’t pull in air. She made it through the door onto a wider floor, was inches away with her hand reaching desperately. 

Then her vision darkened and she collapsed, crying; lay her cheek down on the polished cold hardwood. From far away she heard a crash. Her eyes closed. She lay, her fingers stretched futilely toward the inhaler. Her desperate wheezing stopped. 

Running feet. Someone’s hands on her, strong hands. “Lady! Omigod, lady!” 

From deepest, dying sleep she felt herself raised up; heard a voice, urgent, telling her to breathe, breathe – “Please, lady!”

She felt hard plastic pushed through her lips. Felt the little blast of life, then a man’s warm stubble press his lips on hers. He was breathing her. Two good breaths and then holding her, rocking her. 

Her eyes stayed closed as she heard him call 9-1-1…

*****************

So…are you ready for the cover reveal? Here goes…

her-last-breath

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
 
J.A. (Joyce Anne) Schneider is a former staffer at Newsweek Magazine, a wife, mom, and reading addict. She loves thrillers…which may seem odd, since she was once a major in French Literature – wonderful but sometimes heavy stuff. Now, for years, she has become increasingly fascinated with medicine, forensic science, and police procedure. Decades of being married to a physician who loves explaining medical concepts and reliving his experiences means there’ll often be medical angles even in “regular” thrillers that she writes. She lives with her family in Connecticut, USA.
joyce-schneider