Saturday, 24 May 2014

The Chocolate Book Tag Challenge


Firstly, I would like to thank the very lovely Tara Ford for tagging me in this rather bizarre blog thingy!  Here is her post: http://taraford.weebly.com/blog/chocolate-book-tag-challenge

Eating chocolate and reading kind of go together like Walter White and Jesse Pinkman, don't they?  Or, if you haven't discovered the joy of Breaking Bad yet, like Danaerys and her dragons.  Oh, you don't watch Game of Thrones, either?  Okay - like a new Kate Atkinson and a nice bag of Cadbury's Chocolate Eclairs!



One of the nicest things any reader of my books ever said to me was that when a new one comes out she savours it like she does Lindt chocolates - and reads them WITH Lindt chocolates!  When we were children, my sister and I would go to the library every Saturday afternoon and, when we got home, lie on our beds for hours with our chosen books, immersing ourselves in them whilst eating the once a week Saturday sweets.  Ah, the innocent pleasures of a 1960s childhood!  It was one of the highlights of the week.

The Chocolate Blog Tag Challenge requires me to pick six books and decide which item of (chocolate) confectionary would best go with them. Just thinking about it and compiling the pictures made me want to get stuck in, so I hope it does the same for you - or not, if you're trying to keep off the sweet stuff, as I am!  Oh, and if you want to look at the book, just click on the title - I am absolutely made up that I've finally discovered how to do that!!

Here goes: 

First of all, the book I am currently reading - The Night Porter by Mark Barry.



I'm really loving it!  Now, although I'd like to think of the porter snuggled up at his desk with a nice cup of cocoa, the book is actually quite dark in places, with some wonderful cynical observations ~ and I would like to enjoy something dark, crisp, with a bit of a bite - what could be more appropriate than After Eights?



My next book is John Boyne's The Thief of Time ~ a marvellous story, about a man who is born in the 18th century but never ages past 50.  Thus, he lives until the 21st century.... 



He's quite a multi-faceted gentleman, this character, and the book made me think of days gone by, which, for a reason I can't fathom, made me think of Raspberry Ruffles.  Perhaps I ate them as a child!  Anyway, a nice bag of these would go beautifully with this book, and a few cups of Earl Grey...




Now a ghostly Spanish mystery ~Mantequero a wonderful, longish short story by Jenny Twist.   



The sequel, a novella called Disappeared, again about the mysterious Mantequero, is next on my reading list.  I wanted to choose something a bit dark and exotic to go with this - yes, yes I know Old Jamaica is nowhere near Spain but Jamaica rum made me think of dusty Spanish mountainsides, for some reason... and I love the price on the chocolate bar!  You could eat as many of these as you wanted, if the Mantequero got hold of you.... you'll have to read it to find out what I mean!




Next I've chosen fabulous adventure drama The Highlander by Zoe Saadia



Now, I don't know if there were such things as lions around in pre-Aztec South America, and suspect that there probably weren't (look, it's over a year since I read the book, okay?!), but I had to choose a Lion Bar to go with this, simply because of the wrapper/cover thing!  




One of my favourite books EVER is The Big Picture by Douglas Kennedy



It's about a man who, because of an accident that would have looked like murder, has to disappear and become someone else, far away.  It's a gripping story, and one of those ones you really can't put down - so to read it you're going to need a very comfortable sofa with lots of cushions, a big pot of coffee and, every fifteen minutes or so, a piece of chocolate... as I said, you won't want to put it down, so you'll need a BIG bar of....




Lastly and definitely not leastly ~ chocolate was made for chick lit, wasn't it? I'm not a big chick lit fan, but I do like the odd one if I'm in the right mood, as long as it's got a good story and a great writer.  The very best chick lit book I've ever read is Mother of the Year by Karen Ross



I think of this genre as pure self-indulgent escapism, so what better to go with this book than the most self-indulgent confection of the lot?  Thornton's Summer Collection - just WOW!  If you haven't tried them, just... DO!



I can tag one other person, so if anyone would like to do it, please let me know in a comment

Thank you!






I'm tagging ... Ngaire Elder
I'm tagging ... The Green Wizard 
(click on names for blog - yippee, now I know how to do this I'll be linking words to tons of stuff all over the place!!!)

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Who says you can't sell books via Twitter?


I've read a few people saying recently, oh, everyone's fed up with all the 'buy my book tweets, they don't work anymore, it's so hard to sell even one book these days, you can't sell books/find new readers via Twitter, blah blah blah.   

Well, actually, yes you can.  

Then there are those who look down on we writers who advertise our books on the site, too.   As one writer friend said to me recently, we don't complain about our feed being filled up with their conversations, do we?  The friend in question chats to people alot, helps support others, blogs regularly and posts items of general interest, as well as advertising her books - yet still she has been criticised for this terrible sin.  I think people should tweet what they wish ~ you can always unfollow if it's not to your taste.  (Incidentally - if someone does too many retweets for your liking, but you still want to follow them, you can do so by turning off the retweets.  It's in the little cog wheel thing by where it says 'following' on their page).


Anyway - back to the big question.  Can you find readers for your books via Twitter? 

Hell, YES!

My newest book, Kings and Queens, has been out for five and a half weeks. It already has twenty-two reviews.  To give credence to the two green words above, I shall now break these twenty-two down:

Two are from book bloggers from whom I requested a review and to whom I supplied a review copy.
One is from a real life friend (who does actually read all my books, without being forced/bribed!)
One is from a long standing Facebook friend (ditto!)
One is from someone who (I think) 'discovered' me via Facebook.
One is from someone on an avid readers Facebook group (for readers, not writers).
One is from someone who started to read me after reading a short story of mine - but the story was in an anthology compiled by.... someone I met on Twitter!
All rest are from people who have started to read me through Twitter - and they're not one-offs from chums, they're all from people who have read more than one of the others, too; some have read them all. 

Thus, were it not for Twitter, I would only have six reviews for this book so far!  You could even argue that I would have even less; the book bloggers were found via Twitter.

HUGE thank you to anyone who has ever enjoyed one of my books that they acquired via Twitter, whether free, half price or a whole £1.99, and another HUGE thanks to anyone who has reviewed me, ever, ever.  I have many, many more reviews from people who have got to know about me via Twittering, be it through a tweet, a free promotion, a blog feature, a recommendation, or whatever.  I know that loads of my writer friends can say the same, too, and will, I hope, be nodding to themselves if they're reading this.  So, if you've only just started using Twitter to promote your book, don't take notice of the negativity, and stick with it.

If you use Twitter in an effective way, you CAN find readers.  I think it's a marvellous site, and not just for this purpose.  So many interesting people and articles, so many great photos (especially lately) ~ it's something all those people who use apps for auto tweeting/retweeting never find out about.  Ah - perhaps they're the people who say Twitter 'doesn't work'....

If you've just started using the site and are a little unsure about it, you could do a lot worse than to buy Twitter for Writers by Rayne Hall ~ it's by far the best book of its type.


Thank you, Twitter, and all who tweet in her!!




(ps, from June 1:  I was just twittering with someone who shares my Tudor fascination, who then said, hang on, I have to read your book (Gemma Lawrence @TudorTweep, she writes great historical stuff on wattpad HERE), so she nipped onto Amazon and bought Kings and Queens.  A moment later another lady, Becky, chimed in with 'I've just been looking at that - sounds like just the thing for my long train journey from France!', and bought it, too.  She didn't have a Kindle, but I told her how you can download the app to your ipad, phone, etc, which she didn't know.  Yes, I know that's only two books, but it was two in five minutes, and that sort of thing happens to me a fair bit.  Established readership often comes one, two or three at a time.  And it's is something the "Contributed Tweets are provided by @SomeCrapApp" crew miss out on....)


Sunday, 4 May 2014

Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived...


... those six women who married that most famous of English kings, Henry VIII.  I've read so much about all six, and find that in fiction they're portrayed differently each time.  Anne Boleyn: hard-hearted and ambitious or a pawn of her father and uncle?  Katherine Howard: victim or gold-digging minx?  We don't know for sure ~ all we can do is read the best researched books on the subject. 

My novel Kings and Queens, is a look through a mirror at their story, taking it into the twentieth century; it tells of Harry Lanchester, successful property developer, and the women in his life.  I wrote it because the women have always fascinated me; I used to draw them when I was a child.  Writing it gave me an opportunity to present them as I saw them, even though I am not a historical fiction author.

I've given my own opinion of the six here, and a word or two about how I translated them into my own characters ~ it's far from an in-depth anaysis, just a brief snapshot of each.  

Which was your favourite of Henry's wives?


 ~ Catherine of Aragon ~



The first wife, to whom Henry was married to for longer than all the others put together, and whose religion mattered more to her than anything else, even having a close relationship with her daughter, and her own happiness and comfort.  I know Catherine was a dutiful, loyal, selfless woman who was loved by many, and so supportive to Henry when he was young, a truly good wife ~ but I've never warmed to her very much.  Of course, it's impossible to put myself in the position of a 16th century member of the Spanish aristocracy who'd been brought up to revere the Virgin Mary above all others, but I tried to see her just as a woman, too. I put all of her sterling qualities into Cathy Ferdinand, Harry's first wife, but also her stubbornness - and what I consider her decision not to acknowledge certain realities.


Maria Doyle Kennedy as Catherine of Aragon in the Showtime production of The Tudors



~ Anne Boleyn ~



Probably the most well known, and certainly my favourite.  Anne Boleyn was enigmatic, alluring, beautiful, intelligent, witty, clever, with enough feminine mystique to bring a King to his knees.  So much has been written about her; I hardly scratched the surface.  Historian David Starkey devoted more than a third of his book Six Wives to her.  A wonderful picture of her early years and formation of her character is given in Gemma Lawrence's La Petite Boulain.  For me the big question was always whether or not she really did love Henry, or whether her seduction of him remained a political move, as portrayed in Phillipa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl.  I like to think there was genuine love on both sides; I showed this in the grand passion between Annette Hever and Harry, in my novel.  Being set in the 20th century, Kings and Queens is somewhat light on beheadings, though my husband pointed out that eventually poor Annette did, in fact, lose her head...


Natalie Dormer as Anne, in The Tudors; I thought she was perfect in this part



~ Jane Seymour ~


Jane Seymour is often thought of as the 'good wife', meek and mild, the antithesis of Anne Boleyn.  She was said to be his favourite, not least because she was the only one to bear him a son.  I wonder, though; had she not met an early death, might she not have bored him or displeased him, too? Also, I wonder if her marriage to him was every bit as much a product of her own and her family's ambition, as that of her predecessor.  I show this in Jenny Seymour, Harry's third wife; as well as being demure and sweetly girlish, she is also very determined, a little smug - and very sure of what she wants....  


Anita Briem alongside Jonathan Rhys Meyers in the Showtime production; I preferred her as Jane, rather than Annabelle Wallis who played her in the subsequent series



~ Anne of Cleves ~



Oh, poor Anne of Cleves!  She is my second favourite after Anne Boleyn. Many people know, now, that it's a myth that she was ugly; I read that Henry never actually called her a 'Flanders Mare' at all.  It was more that they had an unfortunate first meeting, the 'chemistry' was not there, and she'd had a very sheltered upbringing and had no idea how to be alluring to her husband.  Once the unconsummated marriage was annulled, she continued to be welcome at Court and outlived them all; I have illustrated her disappointment and subsequent survival in Hannah Cleveley, who has proved to be most readers' favourite character in Kings and Queens.


 Joss Stone made a charming Anne of Cleves!



~ Katherine Howard ~



I always felt sorry for Katherine Howard.  She was little more than a child; in those days you didn't get any choice in the matter if the King of England wanted to marry you ~ and thus her youth was cut short.  Of course she was not wise to have begun an affair with Thomas Culpepper, but she was a young girl in love who was too daft to realise what would happen.  In Kings and Queens, however, I decided to make Keira Howard something of a gold digger; keeping the story feasible was one of the biggest problems I faced, and I reckoned that this would work better as an up to date translation of her circumstances - not to mention her somewhat lurid past....

Tamzin Merchant as Katherine, facing her death



Catherine Parr ~


Here's another one I felt sorry for; Catherine Parr, who wanted to marry Thomas Seymour, and had to quell not only her feelings for him but also her Lutheran leanings, in order to marry the ageing king.  I knew little about her before I did my research, and was surprised to find her one of the most interesting; I hope this comes across in the character of my final wife, Kate Latimer, which was one of the chapters I enjoyed writing the most; she, too, has turned out to be a readers' favourite.


Joely Richardson, intelligent, dignified and charming, which is how I saw both Catherine and Kate.


Kings and Queens is essentially a contemporary drama; it is not necessary to know anything about these fascinating ladies in order to enjoy it.  For those who would like to know a little background about the life of Henry VIII before reading, there is a link to my mini-bio blog post in the front of the book.  

Here is the book, if you would like to have a look:






ps: February 2015
The sequel to Kings and Queens, LAST CHILD, is now live.  I've written about it, with links, HERE