Animation by Kayelle Allen at The Author's Secret

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The cover unveiled!

I was beginning to think it was never going to come together, but here it is - at last, courtesy of Hot Damn Designs (with a little bit of help from my friends).

Now I'm getting very excited about the release of my new contemporary romance 'Shopping for Love' next week.  I've already given a sneak peak of the opening chapter, so here's the blurb:

Love can find you in the strangest places - but it's never for sale!

They meet - of all places - buying tomatoes in the supermarket and there’s no denying the attraction is mutual.  But Greg, a software developer, is still raw from his painful divorce and Emma, his children’s teacher, is recovering from her own heartache.  Then the reappearance of Emma's career-obsessed ex-boyfriend and Greg's spiteful ex-wife threatens to kill their new love before it has even begun.

Is Emma’s love strong enough to survive Greg’s demanding past and the threats to both their careers?  What will be the cost of falling in love in a world where everything comes with a high price tag?

I hope you like the cover - and I really hope you'll like the story.

Here's a further snippet from Chapter One:

Seeing the ‘labels girl’, as he had come to think of her, standing next to him contemplating her purchase of tomatoes seemed like divine intervention.  Striking up conversation over the merits of tomatoes was hardly high on his list of chat-up lines, but as far as openers go, it did the trick.  Now at least they would be on smiling terms when they met.  Hell, they even had something in common – they both shopped for love – that is, suffered the ordeal for elderly hard-to-please relatives.  At least he presumed her old lady was a relative of some sorts. If he’d had longer to chat, he might have found out.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Pride & Piracy

Have you ever Googled yourself?  I must confess, I hadn’t until yesterday.  What prompted me to do so was reading several blog and web posts about marketing, one of which suggested getting a friend to create a Wikipedia page on yourself.  That prompted me to start looking around to see what information actually did exist about me.  Google yourself – it’s a fascinating and eye-opening experience. And sometimes you find far more than you bargained for!

I came across a site purporting to be about term paper sharing with an open request for one of my titles, dated about six weeks ago.  Intrigued, I clicked on it and found it to be a pirating site on which someone calling herself ‘housewife’ had requested a free download of one of my books.  This was made available to her and to anyone else – and a number of people availed themselves of the opportunity to download it for free.

My first instinct was to join the site and tell the desperate housewife and all the other free-loaders that if they were so hard up that they couldn’t spend $2.99 on a legit copy, they should contact me via this blog for a gift.  I mean, I’m just a struggling author – their need is clearly far greater than mine.

The book in question happened to be one I’d self-published, otherwise it would have been my publisher’s headache to deal with, not mine.  A good friend of mine, another self-published author, told me it would be impossible to take any action against the pirates – she herself had suffered at their hands.  Fortunately, my clever son (I know, I’m always talking about him, but he’s just such a useful person to know!) has not only a sound knowledge of the internet, but also of intellectual property law, including copyright infringement, so I followed his advice.

So should this happen to you, through Google, the first thing to do is contact them on the following link:  You will have to complete a page of details but this is very straightforward.  I received an email from Google support a few hours later telling me they were removing the website from their search index.

Feeling more than a little hacked off by this website, as an added precaution I also contacted the web hosts informing them that their lessee had violated their terms of contract and should be dealt with immediately.  You can look up a website on: to find out who is providing them access, and then contact those people for action.  My email did not receive the courtesy of a response, but that’s not to say it wasn’t acted upon.  One or the other must have and, although I can’t be sure who got there first, the offending site became inaccessible remarkably quickly.

My advice to self-published writers is to Google yourself regularly and watch out for these cheapskate pirates.  Then take action – fast.  Many e-books cost far less than a cup of coffee in Starbucks, but you can bet your boots that Starbucks wouldn’t stand for the theft, so why should we?

Message now showing on Google:

In response to a complaint we received under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, we have removed 1 result(s) from this page. If you wish, you may read the DMCA complaint that caused the removal(s) at


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Almost here!

My latest contemporary romance 'Shopping for Love' is due for release next week - providing I can iron out the minor detail of the cover in time! It's being worked on by a great cover artist, but we haven't yet managed to agree all the details, so I can't include a sneak peek here. However, I can include a quick peek at the opening.

She heard him muttering under his breath in the vegetable aisle – the one with the salads, cucumbers and tomatoes. I do that too, she thought. I wonder if other people notice me doing it. It wasn’t a question that worried her too much. Supermarkets were so big and impersonal and forever shifting their stock around as if the management lived in perpetual fear of customers growing too complacent about finding what they wanted. It was hardly surprising that confused and harried customers muttered to themselves as they went through the trauma of their weekly shopping ordeal.

The thing about this muttering customer, though, was that he was extraordinarily good-looking, in Emma’s eyes. He didn’t seem the type to be frequenting a supermarket alone on a Friday evening, much less muttering under his breath like he might be declaring war on it! Emma smiled to herself as she deftly swung her trolley around him and stood facing the rows of tomatoes – the supermarket’s top picks, not the rows upon rows of blushing red, orange and yellow jewels glistening in boxes, clinging to vines or nestling shyly together in punnets with little ribbons saying ‘ripen at home’. She’d tried all those and Joan had complained about them: too sour, too tasteless, too tough, too squishy etc., etc.

After surveying the array of so-called ‘deluxe’ produce before her, Emma reached up to the top row to the most expensive pack of all. Surely that meant they had to be the best? As she reached for the plastic container, her hand touched another hand reaching for the same box. She withdrew hers rapidly, as though she’d been stung, and glanced to her left with an apologetic air. “I’m so sorry.”

“I’m so sorry,” he said, simultaneously. It was the gorgeous, muttering man. “Allow me.”

“Oh no, I was just looking,” Emma said. She felt very silly. Just looking? At tomatoes? How stupid does that sound?

“I know, it’s very difficult to know what to choose, don’t you agree? I mean, whatever I buy, my grandfather will find something to grumble about.”

“Oh.” Emma smiled; it was her biggest and best offering. “I’m shopping for a rather fussy old person too. I sometimes think she gets more pleasure out of complaining than living.” She heard him give a throaty chuckle, which sounded rather sexy, as he turned and looked at her for a moment.

“Are you sure you’re not my grandfather’s secret shopper?”

He had a very pleasing twinkle in his deep brown eyes, Emma observed. She widened her smile for him. “Oh no, my Nemesis is definitely female.”

He picked up two packs of tomatoes from the top shelf. The leather on his jacket creaked as he stretched his arm and she could just catch the faintest whiff of its pleasant, earthy smell.

“Well maybe these will appease their fastidious tastes?”

Together they gazed at the array of tomatoes huddled under the cellophane wrapper. The label proclaimed them to be hand-picked for sweetness and flavour and their assortment of colours and sizes certainly made them look more interesting than the uniform red ones. She caught the scent of his cologne: deep spice tones with a hint of citrus. It smelled expensive. Emma wondered, irrelevantly, if it was his own choice, or a gift from a woman.

“These get my vote,” he said. “Let’s go for it and we can meet here next week and compare notes.”

He said it jokingly but she smiled and nodded as she accepted the box and placed it in her shopping trolley. When she could think of no reason to linger further, she nodded and smiled a bit more before consulting her list and moving off towards the next aisle.

She rather hoped he might follow her, or that she would encounter him again in a different aisle, but no such luck. She’d read magazine articles about supermarkets being the latest venues for people to meet but hadn’t believed them for a minute. She came to this one every Friday at more or less the same time to do Joan’s shopping and pick up a few things for her herself for the weekend and had never even seen, much less talked to anyone remotely date-worthy. Until today.

Sterodent. She checked her list and rolled her eyes. She’d forgotten Joan’s denture cleaner and had to back-track to the dental products aisle. She was such a disorganised shopper, hating it so much. For her own needs she could happily shop at the corner shop with its deli-counter and mini-market but Joan was far more fastidious than Emma. At 87, Emma conceded, she had a right to be so.

Her servitude to Joan started some three years previously. Joan lived in a small and pleasant block of manager-supervised flats next to the little cottage Emma had inherited from her grandmother. She often saw Joan pottering about in the well-kept grounds in the evening when she came home from school. Joan used to be a teacher too and she enjoyed chatting to Emma about her day and comparing notes about her own teaching days. How very different those days were.

Some two or three years ago, Joan disappeared for several weeks and the little patch of garden she always tended herself became overgrown. There was a flourishing rosemary bush to which Joan had invited Emma to help herself should she ever need that herb in cooking and Emma had rather cheekily, but discreetly, taken a cutting from it for her own garden.

Emma wondered vaguely what had happened to Joan and considered approaching the scheme manager to enquire, but she wasn’t sure then how to do that and more pressing matters always seemed to get in the way. The next time Emma saw Joan, she was limping and heavily reliant on a stick. Emma watched her surveying her little patch and looking sorrowful.

“My gardening days are over. I’m to be moved to Fernleas.” Joan told her mournfully.

“But why?” Emma asked in concern.

“I’m not mobile enough to manage here as I can’t do my own shopping anymore; much less tend my little patch of garden. They say I need a residential place. It will break my heart to leave.”

“But I can help with your shopping, if that’s the main problem.” Emma assured her quickly. Too quickly, but that had always been one of her faults. And that was how it all began; her servitude to Joan.

Not that Emma minded, most of the time. Joan was profoundly grateful and it was no hardship to collect her meagre list and stop off at the supermarket on her way home from school each Friday. School generally finished early on Fridays – the one day no meetings were ever scheduled and the supermarket was just around the corner from it. She would drop Joan’s shopping off, idle away half an hour or so chatting with the old lady and then go home. It wasn’t as if she ever had any more pressing engagements these days. Especially since Bailey had mumbled his excuses and fled her life. He’d left a gap which Emma felt she’d never be able to fill.

After a time, Joan gave up attempting to leave the building, only venturing out of her tiny flat once a week to hobble to the room at the end of her corridor where the hairdresser came to wash and set the old people’s hair. As long as Emma did her shopping, however, she was able to retain her independence and her dignity. She had no family and no friends mobile enough to help her or even visit her. She received her lunch courtesy of Meals on Wheels but managed to fend for herself at breakfast and supper thanks to her personal shopper. Emma was acutely aware that if she didn’t fulfil this service, Joan would have no choice but to succumb to a residential care home to await her eventual death.

During the past few months, Emma noticed that Joan grumbled a lot more about minor things. She swore her loaves of bread and pots of yoghurt were getting smaller, her concentrated orange more dilute, her loo paper thinner and such little gripes. Emma worried at first but then learned to dismiss the complaints which gradually escalated week by week, instead trying to distract Joan with more cheerful observations. She found the constant complaints depressing.

Emma told her about the nice man in the tomatoes aisle, but Joan showed little interest in him. Instead she peered at the tomatoes with a look of suspicion. “In my day, tomatoes were always red,” she observed, poking at the cellophane with her arthritic finger.

Emma laughed. “Yes, we thought these would amuse you. They look interesting, don’t you think? If you don’t like them, I’ll look for some different ones next week.” She wondered if she would ever see the tomato man again.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Apple Tree - Free Download This Weekend

My publisher is giving away copies of my first contemporary romance, 'The Apple Tree' on Amazon this weekend.
Amazon UK

Here is an except from Chapter 5 of this prize-winning romance.

She gazed at a street lamp in front of her, watching the moths jostling for position as they flapped round and round.  She thought Nicholas was like that light, attracting all the moth-like creatures, the Annabels, the Clarissas, the Livvies and probably many more, all irresistibly drawn to his lovely flame.  He could have married any one of them and made the same mistake as her.  Had he always been entirely truthful with them all?  Had he never come close to feeling that intensity of emotion he seemed to have shared with her, close enough at least to have wrong-footed somewhere en route?  Could he really know himself so well and be so perfect?  Robert certainly thought so.  He made him sound like a saint.  Saint Nicholas—no, sorry, got one of those already—and he was a do-gooder too!
Some ten or fifteen minutes must have passed and Julie wondered if Livvie and Nicholas had finished ‘catching up’ and whether Nicholas had been left with sufficient strength to have maneuvered her car from the drive without further damage to either it or the van.  Damage her insurance company would now have to sort out for her.
“There you are!” he exclaimed from a point close behind her.  “I’ve seen to your car for you.”
“And Livvie too, I trust?”
He actually managed the merest flicker of a smile, if it wasn’t just a tic in his cheek, that is.  Livvie’s ‘catching up’ must have been very therapeutic, Julie thought.
“She’s an old friend,” he explained dismissively, to no-one in particular.
But not very old, Julie thought.  Then she caught her breath as Nicholas came to sit on the bench beside her.  At last he was coming to his senses!
“Can I ask you one question, Julie?  Was it because you thought I was a simple gardener that you felt you had free license to trample on my feelings?”
She groaned.  “Oh Nicholas, you know that isn’t true.”
“Then it seems I know very little,” he replied dryly.  “I suggest you go home now before you freeze to death.”
She jumped up from the bench, her feet, in their light, strappy sandals smarting with the cold as she planted them solidly in front of him and gazed down at him.  “My marriage was over long before I met you.  It was a mistake that should never have happened.  I was ashamed of it.  It was like my career in a way.  Passing your exams doesn’t automatically make you a good doctor in exactly the same way that signing a book in a registry office doesn’t automatically mean that you’ll have a good marriage, or even a proper one!  Simon and I were never really husband and wife, we were just good friends.”
“Simon?”  He nodded and repeated the name in a voice heavy with sarcasm.  “Simple Simon?  Simply making mistakes?”
Julie knew he was referring to her observation that sometimes people simply made mistakes in their choice of marriage partners, so the insult was double-edged.  “You have no right to insult him.” she reproached quietly.
“No, of course not.  He’s your husband.”
“No, Nicholas.  Not anymore, but he is my friend.”
“Really?  That’s what I thought I was.  It seems you treat all your friends the same way.  Badly!  In my book, friends don’t cheat and lie.  You should have told me instead of deliberately letting me believe you were someone…something else”
“How could I, knowing your views?  I grew too attached to you.”
“All the more reason for telling the truth, don’t you think?”
“But I couldn’t bear to risk losing what we had.”
“We could never have anything built on a foundation of lies.  If I asked your husband, would he tell me you were never really his wife?  Would he betray you the way you betrayed him?  Do you hate all men, Julie?  Or is it that you simply don’t know the difference between right and wrong, or the truth and lying?”
She was as wounded by his tone as much as his words but still pressed on, her voice little more than a shaky whisper.  “I don’t hate you, Nicholas.  I love you.” 
“I’ll leave your keys on the bench.”  His voice sounded icy.
She backed away a pace and stared down at her feet in misery.  Was there nothing she could say to move this man with whom she had shared so much love?  Had she really damaged their relationship so irrevocably?  How could he have changed so much, her tender lover?  Had she done that to him?
She wanted a glimpse of the old Nicholas to reassure herself that he had existed and she hadn’t dreamed him up.  This cold, hard stranger bore no resemblance to him. 
When she raised her head, Nicholas was no longer there.  She had told him she loved him and he had simply walked away.  How much more humiliation could she take?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Another thought about Reviews

Readers and Writers - a loving relationship

There is a body of opinion that believes it’s wrong for authors to review the work of other authors, and I confess, this baffles me.  Aren’t writers readers too?  Are their opinions less valid because they are ‘in the trade’?

I've been an avid reader all my life – to such an extent that all my favourite people in history (except one) were writers of some description.  From as early as I can remember being aware of an author behind the words that brought me so much joy, I fantasised about sitting down to tea with that writer and discussing his or her story, thereby prolonging my delightful experience in the fictional realm s/he had created.  But, of course, it never happened.

I did try writing to one or two authors, the old fashioned way – you know, pen on paper, envelope, stamp – all now becoming relics of a bygone age – via their publishers.  Well, in the dark ages pre-internet, how else could readers ever hope to make contact with their favourite authors and tell them what they liked and disliked?  I don’t think I ever received any replies and authors both living and dead were shrouded in the same aura of mystery and inaccessibility. I entered my teens no less an avid reader but much more of a cynic.  If only I had known then what I know now: that writers love to hear from readers.

The fact is that historically, writing book reviews was the privilege of other writers – journalists.  Ordinary readers rarely had a public voice no matter how passionate their opinions.  A reader might daydream about having tea with an author and discussing his or her character and fictional realms – though I suspect never in a very critical way – but they didn’t contemplate writing actual book reviews for other people – including the author – to read. 

The internet and e-publishing has changed all that.  Now authors have become accessible to their readers and lo and behold they tell us they love to hear from us.  They long to hear what we thought of their latest creation.  Having joined those ranks myself, I know I do and I’m fortunate enough to know quite a number of writers- and they all feel the same.  To date I haven’t met one who doesn’t value constructive feedback from readers.  And being a writer doesn’t make me any less avid a reader.

Despite the ease of it, many readers still feel reluctant to air their views in public.  Out of every 10,000 sales, a writer might receive as few as 10 reviews.  That seems very surprising to me.  The internet has given everyone a voice…but how many people bother to use it?  I can only assume that the culture of writing reviews hasn’t yet caught up with the technological advances of e-publishing or that the vast majority of readers simply don’t have the time to sit and compose missives explaining their likes and dislikes.
This is a pity as constructive feedback is manna to most authors.  For my part, as a writer, I live and learn by it; while as a reader it informs me about the pros and cons of a new book and can be extremely useful.  I often read reviews and think I’d like to sit and chat to the reviewer over a cup of coffee and swap opinions and ideas.  There I go again!

When I’ve enjoyed a book, I still want to let the author know and if the book surpassed my expectations, I want to shout it from the rooftops and let other potential readers in on it.  And if that can help the writer who has brought me so much pleasure at so little cost, so much the better.  It’s quite a tough world for writers, especially the new ones who are struggling to make a name for themselves.  

The internet is enabling me finally to realise my childhood dreams of communicating with good writers who have brightened up my day.  I don’t do it for any ulterior motive, except to show my appreciation in the same way I will applaud a good play in the theatre or music at a concert.  The fact that I’m a writer too should make no difference to my opinions as a reader.  And those cynics who think reviews from other writers are suspect, should really just…go away and pick up a good book and stop complaining.