The Writer’s Year with Carol McGrath

Another episode in the year of an author.  Today I am pleased to introduce you to Carol McGrath. Carol’s year has been fantastic. The travel, the successes, and her trip to India.  This is a ‘must read’. Please give Carol a vote on this page.


C McGrath 004

Carol’s passion has always been reading and writing historical fiction. She lives in Oxfordshire with her husband and family. She taught History in an Oxfordshire comprehensive until she took an MA in Creative Writing at The Seamus Heaney Centre, Queens University Belfast. This was quickly followed by an MPhil in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London.
Her debut novel, The Handfasted Wife, first in a trilogy about the royal women of 1066 was shortlisted for the RoNAS, 2014 in the historical category. The Swan-Daughter is second in the trilogy. This novel was published exclusively for amazon kindle in July 2014 by Accent Press. It will be on general distribution in bookshops on 11th December 2014. It is a stand- alone novel as well as second in the Daughters of Hastings trilogy. She is writing the third and final novel of the Daughters of Hastings trilogy, The Betrothed Sister.


Here is the story of Carol’s year.

Writers are always busy. At least, this has been my discovery. Since The Handfasted Wife, the first book in a trilogy which tells the story of The Norman Conquest from the point of view of the royal women, was published by Accent Press in 2013, my life has not just been about writing historical novels. It has involved author social events and promotions, and, of course, I would not have it any other way.
I began writing The Swan-Daughter, the second book in the trilogy, Daughters of Hastings, in October 2012. By October 2013 I had completed the first draft. It takes me a year at least to write an historical novel. This is a conservative estimate because these books do require much research. The Swan-Daughter is about King Harold’s daughter Gunnhild. She eloped from Wilton Abbey with a Breton knight who fought at Hastings and was cousin to William the Conqueror. As these books are complex, much time has been spent in the Bodleian Library Oxford delving into what was written about events in Chronicle and the analysis of the period by latter-day Historians. Even after a first draft is completed I continue researching life during the eleventh century, looking for new snippets to integrate into the world created for the story. During October and November, I went through The Swan-Daughter, again and again, over and over, checking it for different things each time I revised the manuscript. This might be language or character or it might be information or something that is structurally not quite right. Moreover, I read everything aloud for flow and tone. I look at each word to decide if it is right. That was October and November of last year. At last, in December, I was ready and I sent the manuscript to my editor. I was in a queue as she is not only very good but very busy, and she is always worth the wait.


The Swan Daughter
I took a few weeks off writing during Christmas and New Year when my husband and I spent three weeks in India. India is a great place to gather material for stories and for articles. I have many articles about India on my blog. This was my fourth trip there. We travelled to Hyderabad, Goa and Mumbai with my writer’s notebook tucked into my hand luggage. In it, I wrote snippets of descriptions and character impressions that some time will make their way into stories, not necessarily about India. The highlight was staying in the Mumbai Taj where there had been a terrorist attack in 2008. This hotel was recently featured on a television documentary. Did you see it? I find travelling inspirational and will return to why later in this article. Meantime, I discovered that The Handfasted Wife, my debut novel, was shortlisted for the RoNAS in the Historical Category. Now, that really is exciting.
Until last January, I only had a blog which I called where for years I regularly posted short articles with an historical content. I still try to post at least one article a month. These, generally, are full of photographs and they take time to organise and write. I post travel articles here and very occasionally book reviews. However, now that a world of readers was discovering me, I discovered that I needed a web site. My son in law provided this for me during January and by February I was busy updating it. It is useful as I found out when I was shortlisted for this wonderful RNA competition. Readers can find out more about you. They can contact you. You can provide a short monthly events diary and information about your books. Simply, readers can discover the person behind the book. The web site really is useful.
My web site is really simple. As I write articles for Historical Fiction Writers as well as my own blog and also occasional reviews for a Review Blog found via Facebook, I can consolidate this and link them to a page that I have called My Blogs.
In February I began work on my third novel. I had been planning it since I completed work on The Swan-Daughter. In fact, I wrote the first sentence for The Betrothed-Sister in the middle of winter, and I am still working on a first draft ten months later. This work is a complex process of planning characters and narrative, though I have not stayed religiously to my outline. The story does take over. The characters possess me. It is painstaking work. Writing takes time. I cannot rush it. This group of novels have little paratexts, each one a nod to something literary from the eleventh century. I hunt them out. They occur to me as I write and often after I have finished the book’s first draft. For example, in The Swan-Daughter I paralleled Gunnhild’s love story with aspects of medieval romanz, particularly the medieval Tristram and Isolde. In The Handfasted Wife I used Anglo-Saxon poetry, riddles and little Chronicle extracts for many of the chapter headings. In The Betrothed Sister I am integrating Russian folk tales into the text. I have a delightful book of Russian proverbs and one or two may find their way into the story.
The Betrothed Sister is the story of King Harold’s elder daughter who married a prince of Kiev and who called their first child Harold-I wonder why. Princess Gytha, who in the novel is named Thea, is betrothed for much of the story, itching to meet her prince and anxious to escape four jealous Danish princesses. Thea remains an exile in the Danish king’s court until, at last, she is summoned to a very turbulent Russia. During February and March, I spent hours in The Department of Slavonic Studies, Oxford researching, reading The Russian Primary Chronicle and other sources.
At last in March, my edits came through from my editor. I stopped writing the new novel in order to address these. There are always three lots of edits that go to and fro until the novel is as good as we hope we can make it. They take time. We edited through April. The first lot are mostly structural edits whereas the second group of edits address characters, details and so on, narrative really. And, at last, that necessary copy edit. It is thorough.
The RoNAS in March were fabulous. The Handfasted Wife did not win but to be there and to be shortlisted was a thrilling experience. I think the publicity generated is fabulous and my interview on Radio Oxford was great fun. Most importantly, I felt my work was validated. I felt like one of the princesses whose stories I write. The crème de la crème was certainly the Awards Ceremony held in central London in the Overseas Club. It was a deliciously posh event. I got to wear that little black dress and my highest of heels! I walked on them as if on air. I felt I had arrived. I was an author.


I said that I would return to writing and travel. This deserves its own place as part of my writing year. We have a rented house in the Greek Peloponnese. It is in the area known as the Mani. This is a very old world, a little like Donegal in the west of Ireland, but with better weather. Everything is slower. It is a wonderful place to write. We set off in our old Volvo estate through Europe to Italy in late March stopping in Milan, en route, to this house. We have a solid surface company of which I am a director so we went to the Milan Design Fair on the way south. It is always a great event and we often stay in medieval Pavia. Out came the camera and the notebook. A writer never rests. There are too many new impressions to record in pictures and words.
We spent Easter in Greece. In fact I had many notebooks and texts with me so I was able to spend five months there this summer. This is a great chunk of my writing year. My husband was there some of the time and at other times various writing friends visited. In May, writers Jenny Barden and Charlotte Betts visited. In August, writers Liz Harris and Sarah Bower came out. Meantime, I set up a writers group in a mountain village called Neohori. There are artists and writers living there, escaping the world. It has been a great success. We are four core members and others who visit are invited to participate. The three writers living there permanently are very accomplished. One of them has taught in further education and has written plays for small theatres. And I should add that an inspiration is Patrick Leigh Fermor who lived close by since the nineteen fifties until his death a few years ago.
In July, I returned to England for a month. This was my ham and salmon month. I had been invited to two weddings and I gave a power point presentation on Medieval Women and Marriage at the RNA Conference at Telford. One of the best parts of this conference was the Blixt Hill Event. Historical writers organised and presented their period and their novels dressed in appropriate costume. I think Jenny Barden was a brilliant organiser. It was an inspiring and superb conference.
In August, I coordinated, from my Greek eyrie, the HNS Conference 14 short story competition. The fifty plus entries were of a high standard and the winning story called Salt which is about women who gutted herrings during the First World War in Grimsby, was fabulous. It was moving and beautifully written. I reviewed several novels for the Historical Novel’s Society glossy review magazine during my writing year!
One of the things I have enjoyed most since returning in October from Greece has been the theatre. Last week we went to the RCS productions of Love Labour’s Lost and Much Ado About Nothing. When you have been theatre deprived for months you doubly appreciate the RSC. It is also another aspect of my writing year because if you are ever looking for idea for plots and brilliant dialogue the theatre is a source of inspiration.
And now another October is indeed ending. And I should sign off before I ramble on and on. As I reflect on my writing year I think, yes, I did accomplish much. The Swan-Daughter was published on 24th July. It is an e publication until 11th December when it goes into general distribution and paperback. Last Friday, I received a lovely gift from Accent Press, a box of advance copies of The Swan-Daughter. What a perfect way to close this writing year. It looks fabulous. In fact, I think I must read it. No, best not, I say to myself. Carol, always remember, you are only ever as good as your last book. It is time to get back to The Betrothed Sister. Hopefully, readers are waiting for it and when the first draft is finished, this is when the hard work really does begin.
And may I say thank you to, Lin, for hosting me here. It is such a pleasure to visit.


My Links
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The Writer’s Year


Tanya Crosse, author of ten novels.

My guest today is the lovely Tanya Crosse. We met earlier this year at Morwhellam Quay in Devon. With other romance writers I am compiling the experiences of my author colleagues whom I invited to take part in ‘The Writer’s Year.’ I hope their stories will inspire others to keep going.  Here, Tanya provides an insight into life as an author.  I am presently reading her first book Morwhellam’s Child which portrays life in a Devon mining town. I have to say after reading what Tanya describes as her tragic year, I can truly empathise with her about the ups and downs of being an author.  I found this a fascinating story.

Tania told me she had always yearned passionately to be a writer of historical novels, particularly of the Victorian era. Having penned three novels in the 1990s, she was told by all the agents and publishers she approached that she had the talent but the era was wrong. Then she visited Morwellham Quay, the restored Victorian copper port and major tourist attraction in Devon, and was inspired to write a dramatic saga illustrating the port’s history. Knowing how incredibly difficult it is to get published, and having a direct sales outlet, she decided to have the book printed herself. It sold like hot cakes at the quay’s gift shop, but also sold in local bookshops and other tourist outlets such the National Trust. The first print-run sold out in weeks, and the following year, due to demand, she reprinted double the original amount.

In the meantime, Tania had fallen in love with nearby Dartmoor whose rich and fascinating history was going to provide an abundance of inspiration for further novels. She was half way through writing the first of these when her husband secretly sent a copy of Morwellham’s Child and her then work in progress to Pan Books, and consequently signed a contract with them for both stories in 2003, with publication following in 2004 and 2006 respectively. Since then she has completed a series of ten historical novels based on the history of the area. I wish her every success with her latest book Teardrops in the Moon. Read on now for Tanya’s story about her writing year.

Tanya's latest book Teardrops Under the Moon

Tanya’s latest book  ‘Teardrops in the Moon’


When Lin first asked me to write a blog based on my previous year’s writing, I wasn’t sure it was something I could do. The reason for this was that, due to unforeseen and tragic circumstances, this past year has been utterly untypical for me in writing terms. But after due consideration, I thought that my story might just inspire new writers to keep going. Just because I have ten traditionally published novels under my belt, doesn’t mean to say that my writing life is without its problems.

To begin at the beginning, I was unable to write for most of 2013 owing to problems with my elderly mother. I had struggled to complete Teardrops in the Moon by May, much later than I would have liked, but my publisher and my agent were very understanding. Teardrops was the tenth and final instalment of the Devonshire series I had planned back in 2003 when I had let my imagination loose on the amazing history of western Dartmoor and the surrounding area. Including Morwellham’s Child, there were originally to have been seven books – five set in the Victorian era and two during the Great War. One of the Victorian sagas was too long, though, and had to be split into two, so if you ever read Cherrybrook Rose, you must follow on with its sequel, A Bouquet of Thorns. Then, when I was part way through writing the Victorian stories, my agent, the lovely Dorothy Lumley, secured me a contract for two 1950s sagas set in the same area. As there is a thread that links all my earlier books, I decided to make Lily’s Journey and Hope at Holly Cottage part of the network by making some of the characters descendants of the Victorian families.

So, over the years, I have written about farming and mining on the moor in the Nineteenth Century, Dartmoor Prison in Victorian times which was just as barbaric as you might imagine, the isolated gunpowder factory at Cherrybrook, the building of the Princetown Railway and the second railway through Tavistock, life at the isolated quarries, the Great Flood of 1890 and the Blizzard of 1891 as they affected both Tavistock and the moor, and Tavistock’s workhouse. For the 1950s novels, I drew from the many changes on the moor at the time, when industries were long gone and workmen’s cottages were being condemned. The Princetown Railway met its demise, people’s lives had been altered irrevocably by the Second World War, and young men were doing their National Service. Yet Dartmoor still held its secrets, both ancient and more modern.

I think that gives an idea of how I find the inspiration for my books. I find an interesting subject, research it in depth, and then just allow my naturally vivid imagination to envisage exactly what it would have been like to live through that particular set of circumstances. Of course, you have to develop gripping personal stories, realistic characters your readers will become emotionally entangled with, and all the other trimmings expected of a modern novel. Characterisation, dialogue and structure all have to be spot on, and although you have to hold your reader spellbound, your story must be utterly believable.

So, getting back to the year in question, it began with a most devastating event. Although I knew Dorothy had been unwell, I wasn’t aware of how serious her ill-health had become, and it came as a huge shock to me when she passed away at the beginning of October last year. She was so kind and understanding, and helped so many aspiring writers to establish their careers, my own included. Although I had already achieved publication before I signed up with her, my career would never have flourished without her representation. You could sit down and discuss things with her; she always listened to your point of view and put forward suggestions with such tact; although she taught me so much, she never bullied and I always felt I was working with her rather than beneath her. She was one in a million and is missed by so many.

Her death also, of course, left me without an agent at a time when I really needed one. Having completed the Devonshire series, I was ready to move on to something different. I had various ideas which I had previously tossed about with Dot, all of which she liked and which we had planned on playing around with once I got back to writing, which I knew wasn’t going to be until the New Year. City based sagas, though, seemed to be the main way forward. I spent the first five years of my life in south west London and have strong memories of that time, and so it seemed the logical place to start. It was quite an industrial area, and so I am using the same method as I did with the Devon based books.

So it has been trips up to London to refresh my memories of my early childhood, hours spent in local studies libraries and researching online, and, of course, building up the first story in my head. Some authors, I know, plan out every scene before they start writing the actual book. I might do a half-page plan. I know my characters instantly. I suppose I must have a natural intuition for them, but also find I have it for time and place as well. Perhaps the key is that I carry out such detailed research first that my characters and their storylines just grow out of it. All I know is that I just sit down and write, and feel my way through the story with all its twists and turns and the subplots that wind themselves around the main plot.

Now, in October 2014, having completed most of the research for this new venture, I have penned almost half of it. This might not sound much, but I have also researched and written a substantial partial for another idea I had been discussing with Dot. And then earlier in the summer, Teardrops in the Moon was released. As I have built up a substantial readership in the South West, I concentrated my publicity campaign there with several exciting events which, if you are interested, you will find listed on my website. One of the things I was asked to do was to give a talk, dressed in my crinoline, at Morwellham Quay’s first ever literary festival, and to present the prizes for their short story competition, which I felt was a great honour. Now, all these events take an enormous amount of planning, but it is all part of being an author, to say nothing of standing up in front of an audience to talk about one’s latest release. And I don’t just like to talk. I like to give a performance that will keep the audience entertained, interested and inspired to buy a copy!

Because of the 1950s sagas, Teardrops in the Moon is not the final novel chronologically in my Devonshire series. But, as explained above, it was originally meant to be the final instalment, and I believe still feels like the last one emotionally. It brings together all the characters from the Victorian series so that fans can see what has happened to them in the intervening years. There are four main families involved, and relationships have developed between children and grandchildren. The outbreak of the First World War sees each one of them involved in the war effort or the war itself. Dartmoor might seem isolated from the rest of the world, but it in fact had a huge role to play, as well as giving up its sons to the fighting. The heroine of the story is Cherrybrook Rose’s younger daughter, Marianne. Just as spirited as her mother in her youth, Marianne eventually enlists as an ambulance driver with the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry in war-torn France. Her earlier secret vow is challenged beyond imagining, and it takes all her courage and strength to face the horrors of war. And who is the stranger from her mother’s past who seems hell-bent on destroying the family even when the war is over? I also had the brainwave of a poignant epilogue set in the summer of 1939, when war was on the horizon yet again. This also provides a link through to the 1950s sagas, bringing the series full circle.

As I write this, I am looking forward to taking part in the Tavistock Heritage Festival at the end of this month. There are all sorts of events taking place over the weekend, all based on the town’s fascinating history from medieval times onwards. My own event, though, is the only one representing the First World War. I am going to be chatting to people on a very informal basis about the role of the town and the surrounding area in the conflict, based on my two Great War novels.

Released in Spring 2013, Wheels of Grace was the fictional account of the Dartmoor village of Walkhampton during that terrible time, centred on the wheelwrights at the hub of this tiny, close-knit community. The war leaves no one untouched as its evil tentacles reach everyone in the village. Later on in the story, the heroine goes to work as a Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse at Tavistock’s Mount Tavy Hospital for injured soldiers, which specialised in shellshock. This is now an independent preparatory school, Mount House, where last November I gave a talk about the time it was a hospital. The school’s lectures are open to the public, and I was concerned about pitching to an audience with an age range of seven to eighty! I shouldn’t have worried. By keeping to the point, I kept everyone interested, and the children asked some most amazing questions – most of which I was fortunately able to answer!

Anyway, because of this connection, for my event, Tavistock’s amateur dramatic society is lending me a nurse’s uniform from their production some years ago of Oh, What a Lovely War! This will all be adding to the atmosphere as people drop in for a chat. I have a CD of original First World War music which will be playing in the background, and heaps of Union Jacks and Kitchener posters. So if you happen to be in Tavistock on 25th October, do call in to see me at the Subscription Library.

So, looking back over the past year, I suppose I have achieved a great deal, even though I haven’t been firing on all cylinders writing-wise. I do hope, though, that this has given an idea of what being a writer is really like. It isn’t just a case of meticulous research, writing the perfect novel and getting it published in one of the many ways that are open to us all nowadays. You must get out there to know your audience, whether it be through social media or in person – or preferably both. I don’t know what the future holds for my career, but what I can say is that I’ve had a ball along the way!

If you wish to know more about Tanya please visit her web page.


If you would like  to take part in The Writer’s Year please send me an author photo, a cover picture of your book and no more than 2,500 words about your year between 2013-2014.  I will also need a brief introduction about you.


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When Your Publisher Changes Tack…

Okay, I may not have posted on my blog for a few weeks, but I have been trying to sort out a change of plan.  My publisher informed me they can no longer supply me with a print version of my book. The company had changed their policies and were moving on to digital only, under a different  side-step guise in Germany.   Yes I was disappointed, downright annoyed when first I heard about it, but life goes on and sometimes disappointments can change into something better.  You have to move on. I admit, however,  it has felt as if I was a first time writer looking for a publisher all over again and I was left wondering what to do next.

Due to the fact that my novel has sold in excess of  around 700 copies now, it is still very popular in Cornwall.  The story is set on the Isles of Scilly and due to this popularity, I decided to purchase as many copies as I could so that I could sell them myself until such time I found a new home for the book.  I particularly wanted a paperback version because that works for me.  If anyone would like a copy I am happy to post one to you, signed by me, the cost of the book £7.99, incl postage, please ask if you would like one.

I met a lady in Devon last week during my holiday.  She was in the laundry on the campsite and we got chatting and it turned out that her mother was at my book launch last year on the islands.  Another lady I phoned, out of the blue, for bed breakfast told me she has bought a copy of Goodbye, Henrietta Street and had attended  my book signing event on the island of Tresco in 2013.  I have to admit I felt a little bit famous for a few minutes. It was for this reason and the fact I was one of the finalists for the Joan Hessayon Award which has kept me feeling positive.

I really do enjoy being part of a team of authors and prefer to go for mainstream publishing rather than being self published.  I love going out to the people and meeting folks and talking books,  discovering their likes and dislikes in reading.  I am not prepared to sit by the computer and let the book (hopefully) sell itself purely with a digital version.  I feel my own hard work and determination made those sales and I have to keep going. I want the benefit of the experience of a good publisher.

So where did I go next?  What happened when the contract ran out?  I took a long well-deserved holiday and was recommended to write to a few more publishers, names of which sound positive.  I have now submitted to them on a strong recommendation, so perhaps soon I will get some answers.

No matter what the result may be, I have another plan.  Very soon my new novel The Tanglewood Affair will be ready for the final edits and with my colleagues at Cornerstones Literary Consultancy, I have managed to get all the support I could ever wish for.  They have been great and my editor is one of the best, so I am lucky to have found her.  I know she will do a good job and have a lot of confidence in her to help me make this next book a really good one.  After this time, I have another book in progress relating to a romance during World War II.  I shall never stop.  I met author, Tania Crosse, a few weeks ago at Morwellham Quay.  She has written numerous books and if it wasn’t for her husband’s support and the fact that he submitted her book to Harper Collins without her knowledge, she might have still been thinking she was a hobby writer and nothing more.  Life has a habit of knocking you down and then handing you a cheque when you least expect it.  I enjoyed meeting Tania she was very inspirational and gave me a lot of hope for the future.

Another change of plan, I hope to move house within the next 9 months, possibly even sooner if I can find the right house.  I want to live in Devon I have found it to be a perfect retreat for an author.  After all, the journey to Penzance from Okehampton is only 1.5 hours and then a trip over the sea to Scilly.  I can go to London easily for conferences and also anywhere in the country to help me improve on my writing abilities.  I am so looking forward to leaving Holland and meeting with my writing friends.  Holland holds no opportunities for me and the sooner I have moved, the better.  I am only there because of my husband’s job.  So things are changing – oh yes, and I look forward with gusto to a new life as an author in the future.

Please do comment and I will reply – no photos this time, but I will keep you informed how it all turns out.






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The Coolest Mayor in the World.


Neil Tungate recently retired Mayor of New Milton

Occasionally, I like to take a side step from the author side of my blog and link up with people who are doing good things for the community.

I would like to introduce you to a family friend, Neil Tungate, Mayor of New Milton Town Council in Hampshire. Last week Neil retired from his post and has just returned from taking a well-deserved break following in the footsteps of his family roots in the Black Forest in Germany.

I invited Neil for interview and he kindly accepted. Enjoy the read from someone who has done the community proud over the years.

Welcome Neil to my blog.
What is your working background?
I started work in the defence sector with The Plessey Company when I left Portsmouth Polytechnic in 1974 with an HND in Electrical & Electronic Engineering. I remained with the business until my retirement 2 years ago, although we did have a couple of changes of ownership along the way concluding as a part of BAE Systems.

What made you decide the take the political road in life?
I became friendly with a couple of local councillors socially, and thought that there were far too many accountants and solicitors involved. When a local councillor died and New Milton Town Council wanted to co-opt someone to fill the vacancy I was happy to step in. That was 19 years ago, and I’m still there!

Tell me about your role in the town council before you became Mayor of New Milton?
I have been a member of the Finance Committee since my original co-option, and was chairman of it for the 10 years before my colleagues elected me to be Mayor in 2012.

When you were elected two years ago, how did that make you feel? Was there a lot to be done in the town?
I felt very honoured to be chosen by my colleagues to represent the whole town. I had been asked before, but refused because I was still in full-time employment and knew I would need the time to do the job properly. There are always ongoing projects, but it was an especially good time to be Mayor as we were embarking on building our recently opened Performance Pavilion.

At the time you were elected, what did New Milton need most?
That’s a hard question to answer. I’m not sure there was anything specific required, but I do think that the town has developed a better community spirit during the past few years.


Neil tungate and Laure McMenemy

Neil Tungate with Laurie McMenemy and local dignitaries at the opening of the Performance Pavilion.

What is the role of Mayor and what would be a typical day/week for you?

There are two aspects to the Mayoral role. Firstly, the Mayor is the senior councillor, a bit like the chairman of the board if you like. So that involves chairing meetings of the full council, meeting with the committee chairmen to discuss strategy or specific problems, and with the Town Clerk on a regular basis. Secondly, he represents the whole town and is therefore in demand at many external functions. These can vary from attending the opening of a charity shop, to service organisation events, to school events. I have been delighted to meet so many wonderful people doing amazing things in our town – many on a voluntary basis too.

Do you feel that you and your colleagues have achieved most of your aspirations for New Milton before your retirement?
I think I have had a successful two years. I didn’t really have any specific aspirations, but I think I have managed to demystify the role of councillors a little. It was nice to open our new Performance Pavilion as my last engagement before handing over to my successor.



The choir, Crescendi, performing at the new Pavilion.

The choir, Crescendi, performing at the new Pavilion.


If there was one single thing where you feel you have a made a difference what would you choose?

I think I have shown many of our local residents, especially the youngsters, that councillors do not have to be stuffy and distant. When it was appropriate, I would attend engagements dressed informally which clearly helped people to realise I was no different to them. Many young people now recognise me around town and I have been referred to as “the coolest mayor in the world”!

As a writer and author, I have noticed your flair for writing is extremely interesting and I wondered if you might ever consider writing a book now that your term of office has ended?
I have often though about writing a book, but have never had that germ of a story to start. I do enjoy writing, although I am not consistent – sometimes it’s easy and other times I cannot get started.

If you were to write a book which genre would you choose?
My successful writing has always been practical – I’m not a story-teller. It would be lovely to write fiction, but my mind just doesn’t seem to create stories. So maybe something related to food, one of my great loves.

In this world of political disdain, if you could make a difference to the world, what would it be?
I would love to make all politicians honest and honourable. If I can do it, then so should the others.

What is your favourite music genre?
That’s impossible to answer. I have such wide-ranging tastes I really cannot choose a single favourite genre. The Grateful Dead is one of my all-time favourite groups, but their work alone spans rock, blues, bluegrass, country, jazz and folk. I’m sure you can see why this question gives me a problem!

Who is your most revered politician?
I don’t think I’ve ever revered a politician. I admire those who appear to be honourable but, sadly, far too many seem to be in it for themselves.

You have lived in the New Forest area all your life. How has the New Forest changed for you over the years? Has it been a positive experience?
We now have the National Park Authority, about which I’m fairly ambivalent. It’s a bit of a thankless task for them, trying to manage the tourism aspects whilst not upsetting local residents. I think they’ve got it about right though. Other than that, I do notice the ever increasing numbers of tourists, but it’s a bit like the gradual changes to ourselves as we grow older, which you only notice occasionally. But we locals all know of places we can go to spend some time in peace, and those places still exist.

Have you decided what you might like to do next?
I’m going to the back benches for this year at least, allowing Betty and I to spend time together doing what we want. But I’ll still be mugging people for donations to my favourite local charities – Autism Wessex, Helping Older People (HOPe), Oakhaven Hospice and Common Ground – so watch out!


Photo: Giving the gong to my successor, David E Hawkins :)

Neil Tungate hands over his mayoral duties to his successor David E. Hawkins.

Good luck Neil with your future, I feel you will carry on achieving good things for your community, despite your mayoral retirement. I look forward to reading more about you next time.

I wish Neil Tungate and his wife Betty every success in their new life.





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May 28, 2014 · 1:13 pm

Not the Oscars, but I Might Have To Make a Speech


‘You Won’t Do Anything Unless You Try’

When I first wrote my novel Goodbye, Henrietta Street, I never expected  my efforts would be published, still less being a contender for an award.

It all started at school I suppose; I used to enjoy writing essays. As I got into my twenties, I travelled around the world and wrote a journal about my travels.

Unfortunately, during my time in the maternity hospital having my first child, my husband took it on himself to tidy out the loft. I could have kicked and screamed when I discovered that the black bin liner where I had kept my journal, was considered rubbish and thrown out. I suppose it was my own fault for keeping it in that way. I regret having lost it and all the moments of my past life were gone at some council rubbish tip. It was like losing a part of me. You can imagine the blue conversation afterwards. I suppose at that time I didn’t ever think I might need it again.

Years later, we laugh about it, but all those moment in Singapore, South Africa, Australia and the rest of the world were lost and sadly, much of the information has been forgotten. Lesson learned— don’t keep your journal in a bin liner!

Writing, for me, is very satisfying and therapeutic. I have enjoyed being an author and working side by side with the Romantic Novelists’ Association. Their new Writers’ Scheme is the best way to go if you want to be published as a romance author. They were most helpful in showing me the way forward and I have made many new friends through attending conferences and networking parties in the association. It has been fun to mingle with names you see in the bookshops and all of them are great and helpful people.

This year is special.  There are 17 contenders for the Joan Hessayon Award. A prestigious award for new writers. The Award is generously sponsored by gardening expert Dr. David Hessayon OBE, in honour of his late wife Joan, who was a longstanding member of the RNA and a great supporter of its New Writers’ Scheme.

Everyone on the list below has had a book published in the last year or so. I feel this shows that with the right support, you have every chance of winning prizes, me included.
The following authors are strutting proudly in London on 22nd May 2014.
• Celia J Anderson Sweet Proposal, Piatkus
• Elaine Everest Gracie’s War, Pulse
• Helena Fairfax The Silk Romance, MuseItUp
• Sue Fortin United States of Love, Harper Impulse
• Kathryn Freeman Too Charming, Choc Lit
• Jessica Gilmore The Return of Mrs Jones, Harlequin Mills & Boon
• Laura E James Truth or Dare?, Choc Lit
• Jennie Jones The House on Burra Burra Lane, Harlequin Australia
• Alison May Sweet Nothing, Choc Lit
• Teresa F. Morgan Plus One is a Lucky, Number Harper Impulse
• Jane O’Reilly Once a Bad Girl, Escape
• Helen Phifer The Ghost House, Carina UK
• Jill Steeples Desperately Seeking Heaven, Carina UK
• Jo Thomas The Oyster Catcher, Accent Press
• Lin Treadgold Goodbye Henrietta Street, Safkhet Publishing
• Susan Willis Yes Chef, No Chef, Endeavour
• Jennifer Young Thank You For the Music, Tirgearr
If you would like to see the book titles and the authors please visit:


I am looking forward very much to meeting with all my friends again.  It has changed my life and I am having a thoroughly wonderful year.
And finally…

If you want to become a writer,  do ensure that you mingle with all the right people to help you make it. Ask an author to point you in the right direction. They are very approachable people and love to help new writers succeed. We are all in this together.


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Don’t Listen to Old Wives’ Tales

My blog has been dormant for a while, but I have a good excuse as I have been in hospital having a knee operation. Recently, I seem to have interviewed everyone else and not paying enough attention to my own promotions. The problem is, when you are in a lot of pain, sitting down at the computer for long periods, it becomes tedious. I won’t say I am back to normal again, but let’s hope with the onset of Spring and Summer, life will once again take a new turn and the pain will subside; I am improving.

Living in the Netherlands has not been easy for me. I attended the RNA Winter Party in 2013, I visited my daughter in York a few weeks ago, and now I shall be going to the UK again for the RNA Summer Party, a first for me.  However, I do expect that within two years, the cost for all these visits will be saved and my life will change. This week we put our house, in The Netherlands, up for sale. I have lived here for the last thirteen years and due to my husband’s retirement, we shall return to live in England once again. Book signing events in the UK will  be much easier when I return.

Safkhet Authors in York






Sakfhet authors meet at York, (L) Marilyn Chapman, Angela Welford, (that’s me on the right) Rear, Irene Soldatos.

The life here in Holland is interesting. I now speak Dutch and enjoyed learning about the culture, but there are things we miss. I was born in North Yorkshire and the moors and hills are part of my life.  Holland is very flat and the scenery seems to go on forever without interruption. We miss having a cup of coffee with a neighbour and meeting up with an old friend in town.  The Netherlands is very different when you live here. It is time to make some positive changes and return to the old country to speak our own language. I look forward to being able to have the freedom to catch a train to a meeting or avail myself for radio interviews and so on.

My next book is in progress and I hope before the end of this year it will be ready for submission. The Tanglewood Affair is a fast-paced romantic saga and  soon I shall be able to tell you more about it. The story is  set in Dorset and is probably the place to which I shall retire. Unfortunately, I have no  family left in Yorkshire.  My daughter will move in the future and we will live our retirement in the south of England and have a completely new lifestyle.

I enjoy writing; it is most therapeutic. It has taught me a lot about the person I would like to be. I have also found a routine for writing a book and it seems to work well. It’s very simple really. I start at a given point; it doesn’t matter if it’s awful, you can take out the awful bits, but when you do, you should have something to build on. Many writers find it hard to ‘begin’. I don’t pay too much heed any more about what I write and how I write it and where it starts. I can always fix it through editing and build on those ideas. I allow my subconscious to tell the story. It’s surprising what’s inside that brain of mine!

Writing is all about enjoying yourself. All the rules and regulations I read on various web sites, forums, where well meaning people place their comments about writing and say what you should or shouldn’t do. It’s a bit like listening to old wives’ tales and it can scare you to death. New writers need a lot of confidence building which can take many years. I came from a business background and learned through my training what to listen to and what to dismiss.   For me it’s a ‘letting go’ exercise and building on my inner thoughts and feelings and past experiences and allowing the brain to speak for itself. I think it’s what makes the best stories. Be yourself and let your characters lead the way and tell the story. I tend to become the character and stay in his/her head all the way through a chapter. Once the story is written I can then go on to check the show/tell concept and the usual grammar errors.  I also have  excellent editors who help me though the areas I couldn’t ‘see’. I don’t try too hard and I fit in my writing time whenI feel like it which is usually in the daytime when the brain isn’t tired. I think you shouldn’t rush your story and be as real as possible in your dialogue; don’t make it hard for yourself.

Your copy of Goodbye, Henrietta Street can be ordered in paperback and e-book.  Enjoy your holiday read about Pippa and Sven’s friendship on The Isles of Scilly. A forbidden romance with all the beauty of island life.  Will one kiss change everything?

Pinterest see below

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An Author in Two Worlds

An Author in Two Worlds

 As my part of my Around the World book tour, I want to introduce you to Author, Anna Jacobs.

 Welcome Anna to my blog.


It seems you are a bit of a globe trotter. You have a life in Australia and another in the UK.  What a great idea, you get the best of both summers.  Would you like to share some of your experiences with travelling in this way. What are your personal benefits?

It’s a great lifestyle and a surprising number of older people are adopting it. As you say, we don’t get winters. That doesn’t matter too much in Western Australia, where the winters are quite mild most of the time, but I’m so glad to avoid the UK snow and this year, floods.

The best things we get from our travel are interesting people and stimulating experiences. My husband and I both have siblings in England, and it’s lovely to see them every year. Letters and phone calls were never enough.

The other interesting people were something we didn’t plan. We bought a house in a leisure village attached to a golf club, where we found ourselves with globe-trotting neighbours who are as nice as they’re interesting. What a bonus!

There are some downsides to this lifestyle. It takes several days to prepare a house for leaving. You can’t just walk out for 5 months and hope it’ll be OK. Among the many tasks, you have to clear out fridge and freezer, clean everything in sight, divert mail, arrange house surveillance, and make preparations for returning ie emergency food. As well as organise the travel. And then there’s the flight itself, from Oz to UK. Ugh! It’s horridly long, even in business class. It takes me two and a half novels (on average) to fill in the time, since I can’t sleep on planes.

I hear you have a new book coming out soon Anna, how exciting! Would you like to tell us more?



With three books a year coming out from three publishers, I’m always looking forward to either a new book or a new edition of a book (eg paperbacks come out a few months after hardbacks). I enjoy that.

At the moment I’m very excited and yet a little sad that ‘The Trader’s Reward’ Book 5 and final in my Traders series, will be coming out in April. The series is set in Western Australia, Singapore and in England or on ships going between these countries in the late 1860s and early 1870s.

My favourite situation among the many fascinating events in that series is the opening of the Suez Canal in ‘The Trader’s Dream’. That was so interesting to research. In fact, the whole series was a pleasure to write.

After that, the next book is about July, ‘Mistress of Greyladies’, the second book in the Greyladies series set just before and after World War I in Wiltshire. I avoid taking my characters to the trenches in the war, because I think that’s been done to death. My heroine is a VAD (Voluntary aide Detachment) who is a sort of trained nurse’s helper. But VADs also acted as drivers or did any jobs necessary, mostly in the UK, though some went overseas. Greyladies is a spooky old house with a long history in the same family. It’s as much a character as the people in the books.

 How long have you been writing and what is your genre?

 I’ve been published since the 1970s, when I had several French textbooks published. My main genre is historical fiction, UK style sagas (with a poor woman facing and overcoming the odds, and a big cast of characters) and I’ve written some historical romances as well. I also write modern novels, and in the past I wrote fantasy novels as Shannah Jay. My old historical romances and fantasy novels are all available now as ebooks, and the romances as trade paperbacks.

 How many books do you have published and which was your first?

 I have 65 novels published. My first was a Jane Austen style historical romance (Persons of Rank) which won a $10,000 prize and publication in Australia in 1991. It was such fun to write that I did a second one (The Northern Lady). This was first published as Forbidden Embrace, a title the publisher gave it which I never liked it, so changed it back to my original title when I got the rights back and republished it.

After that I found my own writing style and didn’t write any more regency romances. I write warm books with happy endings (whatever bad things happen in the middle) and no overt sex or gruesome violence. I call my characters ‘people’ and they are, to me. They walk through my dreams as I’m writing.

I’m writing three novels a year and really enjoy what I do. Luckily I was born without the housework gene and pay someone else to do that.

 What research have you found most difficult for your books?

 I enjoy doing nearly all research but the most difficult thing is when two sources give different views of the same event. For instance, Sylvia Pankhurst wrote a book about women’s lives on the home front in WWI, and paints a terrible picture of women working in munition factories. I also found the memoirs of a woman who did that job and went on to become a union official (very advanced for those days). She found a spirit of camaraderie and the experience helped her after the war. I chose to believe the woman who’d actually worked in a munitions factory.

 Are you a member of a writing association and what benefits do you gain from being a member?

 I’m a member of several different writing organisations, the Romantic Novelists’ Association of the UK, the Romance Writers of Australia, Novelists Inc and the Australian Society of Authors. They’re all wonderful, supportive groups and I wouldn’t be without them.

 Novelists Inc isn’t well known but it’s an international organisation (based in the USA) for multi-published authors. There are authors there with over 100 or even over 200 novels published, and a wealth of information to be shared. You can find them at:

 Do you prefer to read a paperback or a Kindle?

 When I’m reading a good story, I don’t care which form it’s in, though I prefer paperback for my favourite authors, whose books I’m likely to keep and re-read. I don’t trust electronic devices to last as long as paper books. I’m still re-reading Georgette Heyer books I bought in the 1960s, or using research books published in the 19th century. Where will the Kindle be in 50 years’ time?

I read three novels a week – what can I say, I’m addicted to stories? Kindle has the advantage of allowing you to download another book by a particularly good author, or try a story by an author you’ve not read before.

 How did you learn to be a writer?  Did you attend creative writing classes or have you always loved writing from leaving school – Tell us more

 I’ve never attended creative writing classes or courses. When I started writing, there was no Internet and few writing classes. I just wrote, wrote and wrote some more. You learn to tell stories (which is how I think of it rather than as ‘writing’) by doing it, ie telling stories, just as athletes learn their skills by practising and training. You couldn’t learn to throw a javelin by going to a class and watching someone else do it, could you?

I was always good at telling stories, but didn’t settle down to do it seriously till the most important business in my life was completed ie finding and marrying my wonderful husband, and starting a family. I wouldn’t be without my daughters and their ‘attachments’ for anything. And it’s important for my writing to understand the cycles of life, I feel.

I did use a few how-to books in the early days, and picked out of them the advice that helped me. There is no single way to write. You have to experiment till you find the way that’s best for you. And no one in the world can tell you that you must do it one way. You do it your way.

The proof of the pudding for a would-be novelist is a publishable story of a professional standard. And that takes longer to reach than today’s ‘instant’ generation realise. I truly believe it takes years and several books written to make a good writer – unless you’re a genius and there are few of those. I was told half a million words written at least are needed to make a writer, and that’s a good guide. After all, when you’ve developed your skills, you can come back to your early works and rewrite them ‘properly’.

 How do you prefer to promote your books?

 I don’t prefer to promote my books. It interrupts my story-telling. I do enjoy meeting readers eg at library talks. I don’t do Twitter, but am on Facebook as Anna Jacobs Books. And I send out a monthly newsletter. I get such appreciative responses from readers that I enjoy doing that.

 The main thing is reaching readers and letting them reach me, because I learn so much from their comments. I’m always striving to become a better writer. Much more important than going mad on promotion at all costs. If you write good books, readers tell each other about them. Word of mouth is still the most effective form of promotion long-term.

 What kind of books do you read?

 Not historical sagas/romantic stories, which I write for two publishers. I spend two-thirds of the year with them and that’s enough.

I enjoy modern family relationships novels, cosy mysteries, fantasy novels, and I enjoy good research books, especially ordinary people’s memoirs published by amateurs or their families. You can really get the taste of the past from those, a taste not filtered through a historian’s eyes, however good the historian. I just read a collection of comments on the aftermath of WWI by people who’d been in the war. It was fascinating.

And I’ve read several ‘Mass Observation’ compilations. They’re wonderful. Before, during and after World War II, the government funded a small organisation to collect people’s thoughts about their daily lives – and sometimes do surveys. The best I’ve found of these are ‘Nella Last’s War’ and ‘Nella Last’s Peace’. They made a film of the first ‘Housewife 49) which was very true to her book. And Nella could certainly write in an engaging and easy to read way!

 Who is your favourite author and why?

 Georgette Heyer, whose books made me love history when teachers at school had bored me to tears with lists (eg Causes of the Industrial Revolution). Her stories also taught me how wonderful minor characters can be. But I have several other authors whose books I buy automatically:

 In no particular order, my favourite authors of today are:

Lillian Stewart Carl (gentle archaeological murder mysteries set in Scotland)

Robyn Carr (complex modern stories of relationships set in the USA)

Ann Cleeves (murder mysteries, particularly her ‘Vera’ series which were made into a brilliant TV series, set in Northumberland)

Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher mysteries, set in Australia in 1930, with some of the most brilliant visuals and costumes I’ve ever enjoyed

Bronwyn Parry’s Australian series of rural mysteries, very tense and gripping

Emilie Richards’ family/relationships stories set in the USA

I could go on, but don’t want to bore people.

Where do you see your writing life within the next ten years?

 I’d like to continue writing several books a year, in at least two genres, and one of the most important things to me it to improve what I do. I’m very passionate about quality of writing – my own and other people’s work. If I read a brilliant book, I say quietly, ‘That was a top quality read.’ It’s my highest compliment and what I aim for myself.

 The publishing industry has been in turmoil for several years and it’d be a rash person who predicted anything confidently.

 Basically, I just want to tell stories that people enjoy reading.

 Have you any advice for ‘wannabe’ writers?

Yes. Learn your craft by writing several books and do not hurl them out as self-published books until you’ve done your training. Truly, one book does not a novelist make. It’s like saying your first cake (or even your tenth) will be of of professional bakery standard, good enough for a wedding cake. Not going to happen.

My first novel is still on file and it’d need a complete re-write before it could be published – and even then, I won’t do it, because it’s a trite plot idea. No, RIP, dear story. But it taught me so much, it was well worth writing.

Anna Jacobs: Historical stories: ‘The Trader’s Gift, ‘Heir to Greyladies’, ‘The Trader’s Reward’ (4/14)  Modern stories: ‘Winds of Change’, ‘A Place of Hope’, ‘In Search of Hope’

  I wish Anna every success for the future and hope to meet her on her next visit to the UK when I come over from my other life in Holland


If you have any questions for Anna Jacobs please write them in the comments box below and feel free to share on Facebook and Twitter.



March 3, 2014 · 2:10 pm

The Fantasy World of Author R. F. Long

As part of my Around the World Tour, I would like to introduce author, Ruth Long, a writer of sword and sorcery, urban fantasy, paranormal romance for adults, and young adult readers.


Welcome Ruth.

 Ruth Long

How many books have you written and which of these are your personal favourites?

Gosh, I’ve almost lost count at this stage. I’ve been writing stories for as long as I can remember. Of the ones that have made it to publication, or will get there soon – I’ve written six novels and two novellas. I write fantasy romance as R. F. Long and fantasy for Young Adults as Ruth Frances Long. I’ve two coming out this year – one paranormal romance and one YA.

It’s hard to choose favourites though. I suppose if I had to it would be my paranormal romance Soul Fire and my Young Adult fantasy The Treachery of Beautiful Things. That is, until the new ones come along… 😉

 I see you live in Ireland. Are you able to network with other writers there?
Definitely. Ireland has a thriving community of writers in all genres and they’re very supportive of each other. Sites like help us all keep up to speed. And of course, as a country, we’re rather famous for our sociability. Twitter helps a lot too. I spend a lot of time on Twitter (@RFLong).


 Has Ireland inspired you with your writing?

Right from the beginning. Irish myths and legends are a great passion of mine. They are such an amazing source for a writer. Our legends are deeply embedded in our landscape and our lives. Every hill, every river, every valley seems to have a story connected to it. More directly my forthcoming YA book, A Crack in Everything, is based in Ireland, and deals with a lot of Irish fairy folklore, especially the idea that the fairies were angels expelled for refusing to take a side in the war in Heaven. It’s due out in Autumn 2014 from O’Brien Press.

There is also a certain humour, a way of using language, and weaving stories together that is peculiarly Irish, and I tend to run to that sort of lyricism at times. Thank goodness for good editors! 😉 We like things to be beautiful, we like things to be tragic and above all we like a good story to hang it all on.

The Treachery of Beautiful Things

From your web site I see you have an agent. Many writers dream of having an agent.  What have been the advantages for you?

I wouldn’t want to be without my agent, Sallyanne Sweeney, for a moment. I can’t make head or tails of legalese and she is fantastic when it comes to contracts. She negotiates for me and lets me get on with the creative side of writing. She helps with edits, reads my work critically, lets me bounce weird and wonderful ideas off her and gives me someone to contact in times of blind panic. She’s really encouraging and supportive. Having one professional person to do all that is a godsend.


 Are you a member of a writing association?  Do you think it is important to belong to a group when first starting out as a writer and why?
I’m a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and Children’s Books Ireland. Writing tends to be a solitary pursuit so contacts made through groups like these are really important. I’m also a member of online sites such as Romance Divas, and I’m part of a critique group with a number of writers I met there. This is more personal group in that we read for each other, listen to the upsets and rants we would never want to make public, and constantly support and encourage each other. Life is hard so you need friends who understand what you’re up to, why the voices in your head won’t shut up or do what you tell them and how that’s perfectly normal. Plus getting to know other writers means finding out about loads of awesome new reads.


 Do you prefer to read a paperback or a Kindle?

I alternate between the two. Some books I have to read on paper, but the convenience of ebooks is really attractive too. I had a Sony reader for years, but recently got a Tablet so I have the Kindle reader on that. It’s also very handy for proof-reading and critiquing for friends.  My day job as a librarian, often dealing with rare books from the 15th and 16th centuries onwards right up to brand new publications, tells me that print books aren’t going anywhere, but there’s no reason why the two can’t happily co-exist.

 How did you learn to be a writer?  Did you attend creative writing classes or have you always had a natural ability.

I’ve always wanted to tell stories, from when I was very little. And fantasy was always my genre of choice. I learned to read early and soon read my way through the junior library and headed into the adult library. Romance came a little later in life but as I read I discovered that if a story didn’t have a romance in it, I usually made one up myself. I found that I tended to put characters together in my mind whether it was there in the story or not so I suppose romance stories were always in the offing. I’ve done one or two courses, mostly online, and I learned a lot through membership of online writing groups and through critique groups.


What kind of books do you read? Who is your favourite author?
All sorts, from fantasy and YA to thrillers and crime novels, Historical, both fiction and non-fiction. I think writers should devour books as well as produce them. Reading widely teaches you about storytelling. It’s an advantage of life as a librarian, especially when I worked in the public libraries. My favourites are Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. I’d read them forever. But I tend to be more of a fan of individual books than specific authors.


 Do you have another book in progress toward 2015?
I have two coming out this year – a paranormal romance called The Mirror of Her Power from Taliesin Press, and my YA fantasy A Crack in Everything. So I’ve edits for them in the offing. I’m already working on the sequel for the A Crack in Everything, called The Hollow in the Hills, and then I’ll start on a sequel for The Mirror of Her Power. Of course, I’m never just working on one thing, so I have two other stories I’m whittling away at in the meantime. I’m going to have a very busy year.


 Where do you see your writing life within the next ten years?

I’m happy to just keep on writing. It would be lovely to be able to make a living from writing full time but I don’t think I’d ever want to give up my day job. So enough to be comfortable I suppose. I hope to grow my readership and still be able to vary the type of stories I tell.

 As an author, what is your next big ambition?

To write the best book I possibly can. Always. To do credit to the stories that come into my head and get them to print in as perfect as way as I possibly can.

If I’m going to go for the full fantasy wish-fulfilment answer – I’d dearly love to see one of my stories on film.  😀


Thank you Ruth, it was a pleasure to hear your story.  You are an inspiration to all.


Please go to Ruth’s web site for more information  or leave a COMMENT below



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I first met author Sally Jenkins as a member of She has recently entered the world of e-publishing and I wanted to find out more about her. Welcome, Sally, to my blog.

1. How many books have you written and which of these are your personal favourites?
I have five books available on Amazon Kindle plus a couple of manuscripts that ‘didn’t quite make it’ sitting on my hard-drive. Maxine’s Story, the first in the Museum of Fractured Lives(, series is my personal favourite. It’s about young love – those feelings that we all experienced as teenagers when we really fancied someone. But, unlike most people’s love affairs, the consequences of Maxine’s short relationship with Kaspar are far reaching…

Sally Jenkins Karen's Story - The Museum of Fractured Lives - Cover imagesml

2. What research did you find most difficult for your books?
Most of what I write requires little or no research but I can think of one exception. The short story, Replacing the Empire, which is included in the collection One Day for Me – 8 Award-Winning Stories, tells how Wallis Simpson got cold feet on the morning of her marriage to Edward VIII. The scenes in the story are fictitious but I wanted accurate historical facts in order to give the tale authenticity. The internet was a great boon in researching the names of both the royal wedding photographer and Mrs Simpson’s bridesmaid. I also managed to include in the story some actual quotes from Wallis Simpson. The story achieved second place in the Snapshots of History Autumn/Winter 2012 Competition.


3. Do you prefer to read a paperback or a Kindle?
I like the Kindle because I can adjust the font to suit my eyesight and read without the need to my find my glasses! But I love browsing in my local library too and always bring some ‘gem’ home with me. So I still read ‘proper’ books as well.


4. How did you learn to be a writer?  Did you attend creative writing classes or have you always been a writer from leaving school – Tell us more.
I started a general creative writing correspondence course when my eldest daughter was a toddler (she’s 22 now!). Through that I started having success with magazine articles and then short stories. This gave me confidence and I abandoned the course to focus on short stories for women’s magazines. I attended a couple of one day courses on this genre and met Helen, who became my writing buddy. We now exchange work every fortnight for critique – this a wonderful discipline for making me produce something regularly! I am now moving towards longer stories, unsuitable for the magazines’ requirements, hence The Museum of Fractured Lives series.


5. I hear you have published with various magazines. Is this how you began your writing career?
Readers’ letters and articles were my very first successes and then I moved on to short stories.



6. How do you prefer to promote your books?
I think promotion is the hardest part of e-publishing! I promote via my blog ( mainly. I also belong to a couple of writers’ forums (including MyWritersCircle) where I post any news to do with my books. When I have a special offer I use some of the multitude of websites and Facebook groups that publicise free and discounted e-books.


7. Do you specialise in one genre or do your prefer to write general fiction.
I would classify my writing as ‘women’s fiction’ but I’ve had good reviews from men as well so maybe it’s ‘women’s fiction verging towards unisex’!


8. What kind of books do you read?
I enjoy crime and thrillers. I’ve just finished Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – I enjoyed it but thought the second half was much more gripping than the first.


9. Who is your favourite author and why?
One of my favourite authors is Elizabeth George who writes the Inspector Lynley stories. I like the contrast in character between upper-class Lynley and his down-to-earth sidekick, Barbara.


10. Where do you see your writing life within the next ten years?
That’s a difficult question! More of the same I think – I enjoy the control of publishing without the constraints on story length and genre that a mainstream publisher would impose. And I’ll continue the magazine writing too – flicking through a publication and seeing my name in print still gives me a thrill.


11. Now you have published what is your next big ambition?
I’m aiming to slowly grow the length of the books I write, this is to allow for increased character development plus more twists and turns in the plot. So ultimately I want to be creating full-length novels.


12. Do you like animals and if so do you have a pet of your own?
Animals aren’t really my thing. My children were always desperate for a dog but I refused on the grounds that it would be lonely whilst we were out at school and work. But the real reason was I didn’t want to walk it, groom it and clean up after it – maybe I’m just lazy! We do have a goldfish named Reg – but that’s the limit of our menagerie.


13. Have you any advice for writers who wish to publish an e-book?
Edit and polish the manuscript until it shines! Do not be one of those shoddy e-publishers who’s just out to make a quick buck – very few people get rich e-publishing. I am in the middle of writing ‘Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners’ – so my advice would be to get hold of a copy when it comes out next month! Sign up to my mailing list ( and I’ll drop you a line when it’s available.

Sally Jenkins A Writer On Writing -Fiverr



Thanks Sally I am sure folks will enjoy reading all about you.  I wish you every success in the future.

If you have any questions for Sally please  COMMENT in the  box below



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Ambition to Reality with Mansu Edwards

           Following on from my ‘Around the World’ interviews I would like to welcome author and poet, Mansu Edwards who lives in the USA and  self-publishes his poetry. Mansu has written and published several books and I was keen to know more about his ambitions as a poet and author. I first met him through; he is a keen contributor to the forum. Enjoy reading about how ambitions can turn to reality.

Mansu Edwards

Mansu Edwards

       Perhaps you would tell us about your academic career and how you came to write poetry.

 I majored in Media Arts in college. The courses included Screenwriting, Film Studies, Lighting, Media Aesthetics, Journalism, etc. I selected Media Arts because I enjoyed writing and thought that screenwriting would be a good fit. It would allow me to use my imagination. I began to write poetry during my junior year. An AOL user from Pennsylvania inspired me. We wrote rhymes back and forth using the Instant Message feature.

 I gather from the information I received, you are self-published.  Can you tell us about your journey and decisions to go down that road. Did you search for a publisher first or did you decide to self publish from the start?

I’m an Independent Entrepreneurial Imagionationist.  I decided to take my career in my own hands because of the exorbitant Vanity Publisher fees. The company contacted me because of poetry I submitted to the Library of Congress. After severing ties with the Vanity Publisher I chose new material and mixed it with some of the old entries. Also, I changed the title of the book to ‘The Disappearance Of Hate’.

Biscuits and Yogurt

Biscuits and Yogurt Vol 1

 How have you benefited from writing poetry?  What does poetry do for you?

 I received monetary compensation from selling it in the streets, festivals, online and at work. This process made me appreciative and humble. It made me know that God gave me this gift for a reason.

 How would you describe your genre?

My writing focuses on internal growth and the art of thinking. I use various themes such as relationships, food, humor, psychology, sci-fi and sociology. I go with my gut feeling. Who knows my next book could be a Western? I don’t want to place boundaries on my writing.

 Which author/poet inspires you most and why?

 James Allen inspires me. He wrote ‘As A Man Thinketh’. It’s concise and inspirational. It’s the concept of seeds producing positive or negative circumstances.

 Tell me about your work, ‘The Disappearance of Hate?’ What is this book about and how has it helped others?

 ‘The Disappearance Of Hate’, a collection of poetry that takes the reader on a journey from self hate and negativity to empowerment and freedom.

 Why do you feel it is so important to inspire others?

It’s very important, because a person or thing always influences us. It can push toward growth and fulfilment or destruction and chaos. I focus on positive inspiration. I want people to break mental boundaries to achieve internal and external successes. When we improve the world improves as well.

 How many books have you written up to 2013 and could you please describe each one in no more than twenty words?

 I’ve written five books:

1. The Disappearance of Hate- A collection of poetry that explores the human psyche.

 2. Mental Diet- An inspirational cookbook of fictional recipes to empower people. Some of the recipes include ‘Stress Free Mac And Cheese’, ‘Unstoppable Baked Wingettes’ and ‘Turkey Burger Success Deluxe.

 3. Vertical Algebra — Success quotes from Black Englishman Sir Kedcuv Rhineclavu IV translated by Mansu Edwards and a Crater Rock Alien from Mars.

 4. B.A.Y. Vol. 1- Preview for ‘Biscuits And Yogurt Vol is an E-book. It contains ‘The Story of the Wouldve’s’ and ‘The Chair’.

 5. ‘Biscuits and Yogurt Vol. 1’ is a satirical self-esteem handbook/E-handbook of short stories, poetry, and various forms of writing. The entries include ‘A Day in the Life of Brigsby Lasker- a Blog by Brigsby Lasker’, ‘Marketing/Assistant Needed in Small Office- Soho’, ‘Schedule of a Professional Failure’ and ‘The Graduate Funeral’. 6. ‘Peruvian Calligraphy’ is an E-book of short stories exploring male and female interactions.

 Do you think poetry is more popular than ever or do you think we need to create more awareness that poetry is a good thing for the mind and soul?

I think it’s popular because there are so many poetry groups on Meetup. There are still spots in the city ‘Nuyorican Poets Cafe’, ‘Bowery Poetry Club’ and ‘The Five Spot’.

 Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time? You have stepped outside the traditional book writer box once before. Is this present genre likely to change or have you finally found your future as a poetic writer?

I see myself writing more books and starting several companies. I’m not sure which direction I will go as a writer. I know that I will continue to push the boundaries of writing. My goal is to be innovative, creative and follow my heart. I leave everything in the Lord’s hands.

 Tell me more about your current work in progress and what you hope to achieve.

I was working on a novel entitled ‘W.B.’ It’s different than my previous books/Ebooks. I don’t want to talk too much about it because it’s still in the early stages.

A copy of  ‘Biscuits And Yogurt Vol. 1’ and ‘Peruvian Calligraphy’ E-book can be obtained from my blog .

 Thanks Lin for having me.

Thank you, Mansu, for a very interesting interview and I wish you every success for the future.

Please feel free to leave a reply below.


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