I'm blogging for Author Sound Relations today about the RNA Conference 2015 at

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Guest Post: Lindsay Debout Talks About Writing Warming Stories...

Warming Stories
Today I'm welcoming an old friend of mine, Lindsay Debout. Lindsay has just self-published a book for the first time. That's an exciting and nerve-racking time in anyone's life, and Lindsay's here to tell us a bit about it.
I'm pleased you invited me to drop by, Christina. Thank you! I juggle a full time job in computing with home and family life, so writing is very much an occasional pastime for me. At the beginning of the year I had an idea for a short story, and Christina persuaded me to write it down. More stories followed, until I had enough for one volume and the beginnings of a second. It's that first volume, Warming Stories, which I've just self-published on SmashWords. 
Tell us about Warming Stories...
Warming Stories is a collection of erotic short stories for an adult audience. Each one is centred around a different female character and her reaction to the situation in which I've put her. Although I classify my stories as 'erotic', sex isn't the main focus of most of them; as in real life, sex is an important part of the journey but not the only part.
I've done some sexy scenes in my books, but not to that extent. Is the sex very explicit in Warming Stories?
Depends on what you mean by 'explicit'.  I wouldn't call it hard-core, but there's no doubt what's happening.
So, on the scale from vanilla to kinky, where do your stories fit?
I'm not sure these days anyone would call any of it 'kinky'. My stories are more about the relationship between the individuals rather than what they're doing to each other. If my readers want anything at all extreme, they should look elsewhere. None of my stories feature drugs, children, animals, cruelty, or anything like that. 
How can we find out more?
Warming Stories is free to download here It's in the Smashwords Premium catalogue, so it is available through several outlets including Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and it's in some libraries as well. I might charge a small amount for the second volume, but we'll see how popular Volume 1 is first.
Why did you want to write in the first place?
I loved writing the first one so much, I got wrapped up in the whole idea of telling more stories. I hope people will enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them.
I'm sure they will, Lindsay! Your first volume of Warming Stories is already available free here,  so how about giving us a taster of your current work in progress?
I'd love to. These are the opening paragraphs from my next short story, 'Skater Man':
Pippa gazed up at the misty San Francisco sky. What just happened?
Mentally she reran the last few seconds. I was walking towards Fisherman’s Wharf. There was a clang behind me, then a shout, then something hit me in the back and spun me around.
She was lying on a very lumpy mound. Strange. It’s all pavement and benches around here. An arm lifted and waved in the air. I’m not wearing anything yellow. And I don’t have tanned hands.
Her brain finally connected the dots and she hurriedly rolled sideways. The figure she’d been lying on grunted and sucked in a lungful of air. “That didn’t go well,” he gasped.
No doubt about it, he was a local. Rollerblades, knee and elbow pads, helmet, disgustingly healthy teeth and the fashionable amount of sun tan. He was probably tall, probably fit and probably healthy, but right now he was sprawled full-length on his back. The impact and then Pippa’s weight on his chest had knocked the wind out of him.
Pippa scowled down at him. “What the Hell do you think you’re doing?”
“Trying to breathe,” he wheezed. “Give me a minute.”
Slowly he eased himself up onto his knees. Pippa parked her indignation for the time being and helped him clamber to his feet. Between them they got him to a bench and he took off his helmet.
“Sorry about that. I was trying a reverse slalom around the bollards and I got the timing wrong. Are you okay?”
He was definitely tall – she’d found that out when guiding him to the bench. The T shirt stretched over the unmistakeable shape of a muscular torso.  His hair was curly. At a guess he was early thirties. Not quite Greek God material, but definitely in a pantheon somewhere.
Pippa’s analysis was interrupted by his raised eyebrow. “Oh! Sorry. I think I’m all right.” She gave herself a quick once-over. “It feels like my hand smacked the ground and my dress must have got caught somewhere.” She sighed as she inspected the rip. “Looks like I’ll be making more dusters.”
“We can sort that out. Can I buy you a coffee? It’s the least I can do.” Without waiting for her answer he stood up and offered his hand.
Pippa hesitated for a moment. He’s a complete stranger, and a hooligan on skates. Why on Earth should I trust him? And yet… I don’t get the feeling he’s making a pass. I think this is just his way. She took his hand and he pulled her to her feet.
“There’s a restaurant right across the street. I can recommend it. I often eat there.” He led her across the boulevard. Pippa followed – not that she had much choice. He hadn’t let go of her hand, and she hadn’t tried to pull free. For some reason it felt fine.
Anyway, it’ll be more interesting than what I had planned for the day. So long as I’m sensible, what can possibly go wrong? Don’t answer that.

Thanks for visiting my blog, Lindsay. Best of luck with Warming Stories!

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

The Most Writing-Related Fun I've Had With My Clothes On—The RNA Conference, 2015

One Of The Peaceful Places To Write...
I've belonged to The Romantic Novelists' Association for years, but it was only when my local chapter (the Marcher) persuaded me to attend the annual conference on a day-ticket last year that I realised what I'd been missing. After that, I made sure I signed up for the whole three days of the 2015 adventure as soon as the list opened. This year's conference was held over a long weekend, 10th-12th July. I got back home yesterday, and my brain is still 100% Conference Custard.

This year's conference was held at Queen Mary's University, Mile End, in East London. Delegates could stay in student accommodation on the campus. The rooms were perfect for a short stay–clean, functional and within yards of the campus shop, laundry, cafe and bar. Oops—I nearly forgot. The residential blocks are all handy for dropping into the lecture theatres, too! I'm not sure how the students manage for whole terms, though. The racket echoing around the concrete canyons of the campus from revellers straggling back from the pub each night made it impossible for this country mouse to sleep with the window open. The double glazing shut out almost all the noise, so with the window closed I managed some writing until it got too hot inside the room. At first light there were some peaceful places around the campus for working. Luckily most of my stay was cool and cloudy, but for a couple of sultry nights I didn't get any sleep, or any writing done either, as there was no rest from the racket! 

Jan Jones, Roger Sanderson, Jenny Barden and their RNA team plan these events years in advance, so the strike of London Underground workers called for 9th July was a real pain. It was the day when most people would be arriving at the campus. Worse still, mainline trains running from the west of the country into London were cancelled, too. People like me who live right out in the shires hadn't a hope of getting to the university, as the total lack of parking space there meant bringing a car wasn't an option. I went up to London a day early to avoid the problems, and spent the extra time helping distribute complimentary tea, coffee, milk and sugar around the delegates' accommodation. 

Canary Wharf From The Green Bridge
On Thursday, while other people were battling their way to the university on foot, in taxis or by bus, I went for a long walk in an oasis of calm called the Jubilee Greenway. At Mile End, it's been formed from previously derelict land. I particularly liked the Green Bridge, which goes over the main A11. I'd walked straight across it before I realised I was crossing only a few feet above a busy arterial road! Traffic sounds are muffled by plantings of gorse and birch trees on the Green Bridge. Its greenery supports a lot of warblers, wrens and other birds, while crickets sizzle in the grass beneath the plants. 

I was already having a whale of a time, and the conference hadn't even started! Friday was an industry special. There was a panel of agents discussing their part in an author's career, and talks by editors, publishers, mass book buyers and reviewers. 

Workshops on character development, finding your writing voice, how to promote yourself, your brand, and your book filled the rest of the weekend. You could learn to punctuate with confidence with Jenny Haddon and Elizabeth Hawksley, experience the intricacies of dressing like a Geisha with Pia Fenton and Sue Moorcroft, or  discover the ins and outs of Victorian clothing with Mireille Weller. 

John And Friends (with champagne!)
Saturday Evening's Gala dinner gave the 300 delegates a chance to dress up and glitter. Everyone looked fantastic. The heels of Christina Courtenay's beautiful stilettos were exclamation marks of elegance. John Jackson, star of Twitter, the New Writers' Scheme, RNA Blogs and much more, came dressed for the Duchess Of Richmond's ball. If that wasn't heroic enough, he brought all sorts of wonderful things with him and created champagne cocktails (the best I've ever tasted) right there in the university's sun-drenched plaza. Actually, it might have been pouring with rain— John's cocktails stop you noticing the weather. They are that good. Believe me. 

The Gala Dinner was held beneath the spectacular vault of books contained in the university's grand Octagon library. Putting faces to the names of people I've only met online, or on the cover of their books, was amazing. 

My Souvenir!
I loved every second of the conference, so picking a favourite session is almost impossible. Two, though, stand out in my memory. Jane Wenham Jones did a workshop based around her book Wanna Be A Writer We've Heard Of? which was full of tips and wrinkles for promoting your work. To put them into practice you've got to look confident and outgoing (even if you aren't). This is where Janie Millman's session Present Yourself was a real help to me. Among other things, I learned to project my voice by jumping up and down and grunting like a Neanderthal. Doing this along with thirty other people—most of whom I'd never met before—was a crash course in shedding inhibitions. 

In the penultimate session I went to, Alison May urged us to get out of our comfort zones. Normally I shrink in my seat when anyone says that, but this time Alison was preaching to the choir—I'd already left my inhibitions back in Janie's session, the day before! 

One of the many important things I learned from the RNA conference is a fancy trick with Amazon links, which you can do via Booklinker. If you click on this link: you should see details which work for all Amazon stores, in whichever country you live. That sounds like magic to me. Could you try it out for me, and let me know if it really works? Thanks!

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

RNA Conference 2015—A Writing Holiday

Find out more at
I'm off to London today as the Romantic Novelists' Association Conference starts at the end of this week. I'm going to be incommunicado for a while, as I don't have any designer gadgets, or even a smart phone, so I'm going to use the time away from my desk as a writing retreat—at least until the conference fun starts in earnest on Friday afternoon.

I'll miss chatting online, but I hope to meet lots of you at the conference!

Monday, 29 June 2015

This Writing Life...Summer Inspiration

With a heatwave forecast, I'm trying to get out of the office as much as possible. I've been taking some pictures around  the garden. What do you think?

High summer is hard on the flowers. The roses hang their heads in the heat, and the petals soon drop, fluttering through the air like confetti. As we've had lots of weddings in the village this year, we know all about that!

The lily in my greenhouse sends up two spikes of flowers like this (below) every year. I was sent a packet of seeds as part of the RHS seed distribution scheme, and sowed them carefully in a pot, following all the instructions. Eighteen months later, I got fed up of lavishing care on a pot of bare compost with no sign of any seedlings, so I tipped the compost out on the greenhouse border.

The following spring, an unusual weed popped up. As birds and insects are forever importing unusual plants into our garden, I give every weed a chance to turn into something I can identify. You never know when an ugly duckling will turn into a swan. It's not often I get something as beautiful as this lily, though. This is only a common Lilium Regale, but I grew it myself from seed (or rather, it grew itself) so that makes it more precious to me than any expensive variety from a plant nursery.

The only problem is, this lily is in a really inconvenient place. it's right by the greenhouse door,  and so close to the path you have to brush past it to go in and out. It's growing so well in that spot,  I'm afraid to move it. With this lily, like a lot of plants, studied neglect works better than tender care. It's dong fine, and I don't want to upset it.

When I open the greenhouse door each morning the gust of warm, richly perfumed air is a real treat. In hot sunny weather like we're having at the moment, the flowering time is only a couple of days before the individual flowers fade, but in cool cloudy weather each one can last for over a week.

I'm working on the next book in my Princes of Kharova series for The Wild Rose Press (you can see more about the first two titles, His Majesty's Secret Passion and Her Royal Risk here) at the moment, so I'm taking a holiday from the indoor keyboard to write outside. It's a shame to waste this beautiful weather when the English Summer is usually nothing more than "Three fine days and a thunderstorm"! I'll be chasing shadows around the garden, as with our climate we always get too much of a good thing.  A few years ago, our house was cut off by snowdrifts from the main road half a mile away. I couldn't get my car out of the garage for three weeks. Now we've got some sun, we don't know when it will rain again. We have water butts collecting the run-off from every roof here at Tottering Towers, so we can usually water the garden whatever happens, but the runner bean plants can never seem to get enough to drink.  In a drought, I have to save all the washing-up water to pour onto them, as well. Our collection of potted blueberries gets first call on the "soft" water from the rainwater tanks. Their containers stand in troughs, to save every drop of water. Blueberries are originally bog plants, so they need all the rainwater they can get. The runner beans aren't so fussy, and will drink anything.

My summer newsletter will be out soon. You can sign up for it here, and to keep up to date with my writing news, tips and lots more, you can "like" my author page on Facebook, here.

Monday, 22 June 2015

This Writing Summer.

Sun Behind The Heel Stone, by Andrew Dunn
It's high summer here on the border between England and Wales.  The 21st June is the Summer Solstice, and for the next day or two the days will be longer and the nights shorter than at any other time of the year. That means different things to different people. 

While Druids, hippies and others gather at Stonehenge to celebrate, I'm busy putting the last of my tender plants out in the garden, and looking forward to the first baby vegetables of the season. 

I'm already enjoying the lovely Turkish delight fragrance of the rose you can see further down this page, Louise Odier, and honeysuckle Graham Stuart Thomas as they drape round my favourite fine-weather writing spot in the garden. Their scent is particularly powerful at dawn, or after a shower.

The trouble with all these extra hours of daylight is that it's not only the fruits, flowers and vegetables which get growing. The weeds have eighteen or more hours of daylight to stage their takeover bid, so it's hard to keep on top of them while I'm writing all day. When I leave the office, I have to catch up on all the cooking and washing before I can get outside and start weeding.

We're usually eating new potatoes fresh from the garden by early June. The old saying that you should plant your early potatoes on Good Friday comes from the time when working people had hardly any paid time off, so they had to do all their chores on public holidays such as Easter. I was so busy with the release of His Majesty's Secret Passion  and Her Royal Risk this year, I didn't get a chance to plant ours until much later. You can't stop a potato growing, so they're trying hard to catch up but it'll be a while before we'll get to eat them. You're supposed to sow parsley seed on Good Friday too, and I missed out on doing that too, this year!

Right now, I'm working on a Christmassy short story. Publishing schedules are a bit like gardening— you have to think months in advance. If you'd like to help me choose the cover art for my next release, you can join my mailing list here.

Monday, 15 June 2015

How Much Money Is Your Writing Making...

By Antonio Litterio
...For Other People?

It used to be almost impossible to get published. Hardly any publishers would look at unsolicited manuscripts. Unless you had an agent, you couldn't get anywhere. Agents had such a huge pool of talent to fish in, they could pick and choose whether or not they even answered your enquiry.   If you were desperate to see your work in print, the only other option was vanity publishers, who wanted a lot of money from you, then delivered very little.

The explosion of self-publishing and the huge presence of Amazon has changed all that. Getting your name on the cover of a book is practically obligatory these days, and to upload your work in the hope your blog (or ebook) goes viral costs nothing. Or does it?

I'm not talking about the cost of stationery, computers, writing courses, and subscriptions to group such as The Society Of Authors, The Romantic Novelists' Association, or the Romance Writers of America. All these are vital, practical, tax-deductible, and in the case of stationery and local group meetings, recreational. (I'm a kid in a sweetshop when it comes to browsing round anywhere like Staples.)

It's the little extras that add up to big deductions. The 2014 Digital Book World and Writer's Digest Author Survey discovered that over three-quarters of writers earn less than £600/$1,000. If you can bear to see the painful facts, read more here. When you consider that even big publishers expect you to spend money (or at least plenty of time, which comes to the same thing in the end) on publicising your book, you'll see it's important to spend carefully.

If you go the route of conventional publishing, all the editing, production and artistic costs should be covered by the firm. Some tiny independents may ask for a sub. This doesn't necessarily mean they're a vanity outfit—they may just be keen to get some help with costs, which will secure your devotion to their cause. Get your contract checked by The Society ofAuthors or a literary attorney, to make sure.

If you decide to self-publish, join a group such as The Alliance Of Independent Authors, and do plenty of research. Spend money on getting your work professionally edited, and in hiring a good cover artist but beyond that, think carefully about whether you really need all the dozens of other lovely services on offer. Always remember, the definition of an expert is only a person who knows 3% more than you do! Keep your eyes and ears open: word of mouth is as good a way to find reliable editors and artists as it is to find good books.

And don't think that once your book is out in the public domain all you have to do is wait for your £600 to come rolling in.  Not only are there sharks circling before you publish, the virtual high seas are full of pirates. Philip Pullman put it perfectly when he said "Stealing music and books online is like picking pockets". You can read more of what he said here. It's not a happy article but as they say on the true crime programmes, "don't have nightmares". Writing's the best job there is. Look on anything you earn as a bonus (but make sure you hang onto as much of the money you get as you can!).

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Midsummer Dreams...

What a beautiful cover!
In celebration of the e-launch day for Alison May’s brand new romantic comedy, Midsummer Dreams, I’m posting today on the theme of all things dream-related.

I had a dream…about living in the countryside miles from anywhere, just OH and me. We'd grow all our own food and live the good life, while I wrote all day long. Quite a few years, children, weather events and structural emergencies later, I'm still dreaming. It's a good life though, and I can honestly say—

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:

as Shakespeare wrote in A Midsummer Night's Dream. 

Not to mention all our snakes with double tongue (though I haven't noticed any spotted ones so far. Just "V" markings, and stripes) although "thorny hedgehogs be not seen" since the number of badgers here increased mightily, and ate them all! We do have plenty of newts and blind-worms, although no Philomel (nightingales)—they're a few miles away at the RSPB's Highnam reserveThe multitude of other birds here keep all the weaving spiders, beetles black, worm and snail under control.

The View From My Kitchen Window

I had a nightmare…a few weeks ago when the woman who came to service our central heating discovered squirrels had broken into the roof space and chewed a big hole in the underfelt. You could  look up and see daylight through the tiles! William Shakespeare will have only known  red squirrels, not the pestilential greys that destroy trees, fruit, plants, and burgle far more birds' nests than native Nutkin, who was a red squirrel, ever did. Even squirrel-proof bird feeders don't stop the greys—they love hoovering up the nuts and seeds that falls to the ground.  

My dream for the future…is that nobody forgets the simple fun of getting out and about and enjoying the natural world. You don't have to go mad. Just take a few minutes to stand and stare. Gazing up at a starry sky, or out at a beautiful view recharges your batteries. If you really want to experience something magical, revisit your childhood and buy a packet of seeds. Cress will grow on damp tissue, and give you enough for a sandwich filling within a week. Pots of herbs from the supermarket can be kept going for months if you add a drop of plant food to their water every ten days or so. 

Something I Do When I'm Not Writing Books...
Once you're hooked, have a go at the foodies' best kept secret—home grown tomatoes. They taste totally unlike anything you can buy from a supermarket, because commercial growers grow them hydroponically, in nothing but flavoured water. Supermarket tomatoes are picked while still green ("vine ripened" only means they're picked on the stalk while still green, and ripened at the growers convenience—not yours). When you eat a tomato you've grown yourself, which has ripened on the plant and is packed with the real flavour of sunshine, you'll think you're the one who's dreaming!

Don't forget to check out Alison May's new release, Midsummer Dreams. You can download the kindle edition here: 

About Midsummer Dreams

Four people. Four messy lives. One party that changes everything …
Emily is obsessed with ending her father’s new relationship – but is blind to the fact that her own is far from perfect.
Dominic has spent so long making other people happy that he’s hardly noticed he’s not happy himself.
Helen has loved the same man, unrequitedly, for ten years. Now she may have to face up to the fact that he will never be hers.
Alex has always played the field. But when he finally meets a girl he wants to commit to, she is just out of his reach.
At a midsummer wedding party, the bonds that tie the four friends together begin to unravel and show them that, sometimes, the sensible choice is not always the right one.