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Jeanette Heiwtt

Since the recent publication of Jeanette’s book ‘Exclusion Zone’  many things have happened and I asked Jeanette to come back and tell you all about it, and here she is…

On February 14th – Saint Valentine’s Day – my debut crime fiction novel was released into the world on Kindle. I knew that this time around it would be very different to my previous two published novels. I was much more active on social media for a start, and I had spent the last couple of years building a network of support in readers, bloggers and other writers. But when I sat down to look at the book on Amazon (yes, narcissistic but I done it), I wasn’t prepared to see that it was at number 156 in the International Crime and Mystery category. I done a little push on Twitter and FaceBook to see if there was any way I could get it into the top 100 and lo and behold, when I awoke the following morning it was at number 50! It’s a huge thrill to be able to say that Exclusion Zone was in the bestselling 100 books in Crime and Mystery. Because of the Chernobyl setting it also got in the top 100 in Military and also in the History section.

jeanette hewitt~Exclusion Zone cover

In the two weeks that Exclusion Zone has been released I’ve been lucky enough to take part in some blogs just like this one, the readers of which might otherwise miss out on hearing about my crime novel. Word really does spread on social media and though a lot of it is actively pursuing people and groups, sometimes bloggers and authors hear about the work and make an offer for me to appear on their blogs with an interview or a Q&A session. And that’s one of the things I love most about this game, the total and utter support given. I’m sure it’s got to be one of the friendliest professions that I’ve come across. Of course, it’s not good etiquette to just ‘take’, and I’ve always tried to pay it forward in supporting, sharing and retweeting writers and bloggers and readers if I come across something I’ve really enjoyed or has touched me. I built a Facebook page and with sponsorship and support from my very technologically minded and creative partner, Darren, we managed to reach far and wide to draw people in. The page is a place where I can play, and right now I’ve having a lot of fun posting some Chernobyl facts accompanied by photos. People seem to enjoy them, which is great to hear because I enjoy the educational side of this important piece of history too.

On Saturday just gone I was lucky enough to get a slot to pitch to an agent at the Curtis Brown / Conville Walsh Discovery Day, held at Foyles in London. Hundreds of aspiring writers had congregated there, and once again, I met some lovely people. Julie Stock, Elaina James and a fantastically friendly lady who had flown in from France among others. I wasn’t nervous, mainly because three years ago I had a similar shot at stardom when I was shortlisted for the Inspire and Mentor Award and got to meet the legend that is JoJo Moyes. And said legend asked me which authors I like to read and my brain suddenly emptied itself, and the only name I could recall was Jackie Collins. So no, I wasn’t nervous about the most recent event, having had my worst mind freeze a few years back, and luckily this time my brain stayed lovely and full and I managed to read out my pitch without looking at my notes and answer the agent’s questions without stuttering or forgetting anything!

It’s all about putting yourself out there, which can be hard as it’s not natural (to me, anyway) to ‘big yourself up’. Writing is rather solitary, so it’s a strange dynamic to spend six months alone with your characters and then be thrust out into the world to talk about them. I had some good practice last year when I was on a panel with fellow crime writers SJI Holliday and Jane Isaac at the Felixstowe Book Festival. This year I’ll be appearing again, but this time I’ll be on my own. I’m very much looking forward to being part of the East Anglian Festival of Culture (Eafoc) as that will be relaxed and chatty, something I can do!

The paperback of Exclusion Zone is now on sale too and on 26th April I’ll be having a launch at Stillwater Books in Felixstowe. There will be some talk, some drinks, some freebies and some fun and I’ll be using that opportunity to put my public talking into rehearsal!

Updates on the launch will be posted on my Facebook page – www.facebook.com/j.mhewittauthor – and also on my website – www.jmhewitt.com – so if anyone does fancy coming along do keep an eye on my pages.

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Welcome, Val Wilson…

Val Wilson pic

Can you tell me a little about yourself? (inc if you use a pen name and why):

My name and author name is Val Wilson. I’ve been a published author for 15 years, beginning with a children’s book, Moog Tails Minerva Press), in 2000. Then I wrote women’s fiction (5 books and  30 short stories) for pleasure, but published 33 academic papers in the field of diabetes health education (the subject of my Ph.D.) instead over ten years from 2003–13. In 2006 I was asked to contribute a ghost story to a Kentish anthology and this was published in Hauntings (Urban Fox Press). I then wanted more and began researching my first diabetes book, Diabetes: From the Ebers Papyrus to Stem Cell Technology, a complete history of the condition published by Teneo Press in 2014. This was followed by insulin: Uses and Abuses in 2015, examining the hormone’s uses in the body and abuses in sport, the treatment of schizophrenia, dieting and certain other areas, also published by Teneo.

Val Wilson~Moog tails            Val Wilson~Insulin       Val Wilson~Diabetes

I have wanted to break away from academic writing for a while, and have written two murder mystery novels set in the 1950s: Miss Morris Must Die, and Poison is a Woman’s Weapon. The first of these has been submitted to Accent Press and they have asked that I contact them again in April to take things further.

What was the first story you wrote?

A story about a family of rabbits when I was 10. I don’t remember what it was called though!

Were you inspired by someone or something?

I’ve always loved writing but was inspired to write the murder mysteries by a love of Agatha Christie’s novels.

Why do you write?

I have a compulsion to write and I do it every day because it makes me happy.

Can you tell us about your newest book?

Having said that I wanted to break away from non-fiction, I had an urge to write another and I’m currently editing my third diabetes book, Diabetes: The Psychology of Control. It is another academic tome about the challenge of diabetes self-management from the patient’s perspective. Once the manuscript is sent to Teneo (based in New York) they will assign a suitable reviewer for the work and, all being well, the book should be out some time this year after it has been registered with the Library of Congress in the United States.

What genre best fits for the book?

Non-fiction, medical/science.

What are some of the benefits and challenges to writing?

The benefits of writing in any genre for me are that I find it cathartic and, in respect of the diabetes books, I hope to pass on information that can help others with the condition. The challenges of writing are to write something that appeals to a specific audience (be it fiction or non-fiction), with a unique twist that a publisher may also find interesting.

 Do you attend a writing group?

I used to, as it was very useful as a sounding board for my fiction stories. Unfortunately I had to give it up due to chronic health issues, but would thoroughly recommend that other writers join one if they can.

Do you have someone to critique your work?

I am lucky to have a friend who is an independent literary agent. She has critiqued my fiction and I found this really useful in making my characters larger than life and developing an author’s voice. This has meant I’ve moved from rejections over the past two years to actual interest from the wonderful Accent Press.

Are you working on something new at the moment?

In addition to editing my diabetes book, I am working on a third murder mystery novel, The Secret is In the Bones.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

Be tenacious, no matter how many times you are turned down. Eventually you will receive a positive response!

What is your writing routine?

I write for as many hours as I can every day, even if I have writer’s block. I get something down on the page and then this can be built upon and edited until a book starts to emerge.

Do you have an editing process?

I read a completed manuscript over and over until I’m basically happy with it. Then I leave it alone for as long as I can manage (preferably a month or so) and come back to it with a fresh pair of eyes. I find the break allows me to pick up all sorts of things I’ve previously missed.

What do you enjoy the most/least about writing?

I love the feeling of creating something new. I hate waiting for months after sending a submission to a publisher!

How important is it for you to share your writing?

I am happy to share my writing with everyone! Now I have the confidence to publish I realise that there’s no point in writing unless it is shared with others. I was always told as an academic that it’s your duty to disseminate your work.

Where can people go to read your work?

Moog Tails (second edition); Diabetes: From the Ebers Papyrus to Stem Cell Technology; and Insulin: Uses and Abuses are available on Amazon.

My murder mysteries will hopefully be available in the near future now that Accent Press has expressed an interest.

Where can people find you on the internet?

I am on Facebook and my author page is linked to my personal page. I don’t have a website as yet, but I’m seriously considering it if I have success in getting the murder mystery novels published.

FB page: https://www.facebook.com/doctorvalwilson?fref=ts

FB author page: http://www.facebook.com/Val-Wilson-1648657168713651/

Is there anything else you would like to share with your readers?

I think if you keep reading as much as possible it helps to see how other writers tackle certain subjects and how they use their word skills. This ultimately helps any writer develop their own style.

Val Wilson~Diabetes   Val Wilson~Insulin  Val Wilson~Moog tails

Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Val-Wilson/e/B00MDGDIN0/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1456151893&sr=1-2-ent

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Welcome, Jeanette Hewitt…

 Jeanette Heiwtt~1

Can you tell me a little about yourself? (including pen name if you have one)

My debut crime fiction novel is being released under the name J.M Hewitt. I’ve had two novels published previously in my own name, both contemporary fiction, and this is my first venture into the world of crime.

What was the first story you wrote?

I would have to think back very far to answer that one, I recall writing a short story about a woman soldier when I was about eleven years old. I always remembered it and I’ve revamped it recently and entered it into the Flashbang Flash Fiction competition for Crimefest 2016.

Were you inspired by someone or something?

I remember quite clearly declaring at ten years old that I was going to write a book and for me, it seemed a natural progressive move from reading. I’ve had many inspirations over the years, Ffyona Campbell (the first woman to walk around the world) and her books detailing her travels always stuck with me. She’s a strong woman, and after she completed her trans-world walk she went off the grid for many, many years. I always felt so desolate that this woman would never know that she was my inspiration, and my second novel, Worlds Apart, was written with Ffyona in mind as the main character. Imagine my delight when a few years ago she reappeared in Devon, having spent years living with the Aborigines and was now back in the UK, ready to teach all her findings. She runs wild food walks now, and we have interacted many times since she came back. One of these days I’m going to accompany her on a walk. And to walk side by side with your own hero, that’s rather a mind blowing thought!

Alex Marwood was the one who led me into the world of Crime Fiction, with the debut novel The Wicked Girls. I have met her several times and count her as a valued friend. Ruth Dugdall, fellow Suffolk author, is also so supportive. And these lovely people, they branch off into other friendships and introductions, often I can’t believe that the genre we write in houses such wonderful folk.

What do you like about writing a story?

Firstly I love to teach with my work. It’s my own personal opinion but I always think if you can read a book and learn a little something then you take away so much more than you ever expected. This train of thought probably comes from how I was taught. One of my earliest memories is of my parents teaching me from their own history books, this was before I even went to school! So that method is probably engrained within me.

Can you tell us about your newest book?

On 26th April 1986, reactor four exploded at the factory in Pripyat, Chernobyl. At the same time teenager Afia Bello vanished from her home without a trace.

The damage from the nuclear fallout is examined over the following weeks, months and years by Afia’s younger sister Sissy, as she unwittingly uncovers clues relating to her sister’s disappearance, and the secret life that Afia kept hidden from her family.

In the summer of 2015 Private Detective Alex Harvey is hired to investigate the disappearances that have been occurring within the exclusion zone. He can think of only one person to bring along with him to help; Ukrainian national Elian Gould.

Elian – who was adopted at birth – has her own reasons for accepting the job; namely to search for her own family history which has always been a mystery to her.

But the remaining citizens of Chernobyl are hiding their own secrets and with a darker force at work, the missing person’s case suddenly turns into something much more serious.

How did you come up with the story?

I was only eight years old when the nuclear disaster happened, but it has always intrigued me greatly – a place on earth where nobody can go? It led me to thinking, what about if people didn’t leave; what if a bunch of them stayed and something terrifying was happening but because it’s a no-go area no law enforcements would help them… I must say I’ve absolutely loved the research that I needed to do in order to do this book justice. It’s so interesting, the parallels between man-made disaster, science, the reclamation of nature and government cover ups. I’m still researching now as I’m going to be doing several talks about it this summer and every time I delve into it I discover something new.

What genre best fits for the book?

It falls in the genre of crime fiction, with a little bit of history thrown in.

jeanette hewitt~Exclusion Zone cover

Are you working on something new at the moment?

Yes, I always kind of knew that the Chernobyl book would be the first in a series. I’m currently a third of the way through the sequel and this time, its set in Schevenigen, Holland. Many of the characters from Exclusion Zone will make an appearance in book two.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

Never, ever give up. My line of thought is this: you can never get worse, your writing will only improve with time and experience and there is no age limit in this choice of career, unlike if you wanted to be, say, a model. I took part in a workshop last year and some people were saying that if this opportunity didn’t lead to anything they were going to give up! I was horrified, sure, the rejection can be tough, but rejection is everywhere in life. Take it, learn from it and keep going!

Also, interact with writers. There are many events which cost next to nothing or are even free; talks, book signings etc.

Do you write in a writing group?

Yes, I belong to a lovely group called the Felixstowe Scribblers. They are a mighty fine, supportive bunch of people. We meet twice a month and we have homework to do, usually 1000 word pieces but sometimes flash fiction. I’m so thankful for this homework, creating short stories takes me out of my comfort zone, which is a good thing!

Do you have people who will critique your work? (And if you do, do you acknowledge them in the front of the book?)

My mum is usually my first reader and she’s honest too, which is what you need. I’ve got a couple of critique offers for the next book I’m planning, but the making of Exclusion Zone moved so fast there was no time. However, I’ve had an unbelievable amount of support from fellow authors and bookish friends. They will certainly be acknowledged; in fact I think my acknowledgement section on Exclusion Zone is at least a page long. It’s like a weepy Oscar winning speech!

What is your writing routine?

I write by hand during the week and then type it all up on a Saturday. If I’ve finished typing it up I’ll continue on with the story through to Sunday. Any spare moment is spent writing, that includes train and plane journeys, holidays and evenings.

Do you have an editing process?

With writing longhand and then typing it up its almost editing right there, as I can see what’s not working the second time I go through it. I try to write blocks of words at a time, maybe going back chapter by chapter to pick up any errors that slipped through the net.

What do you enjoy the most/least about writing?

The creation – of people’s lives (and deaths!) is a good feeling of power! Of course, the characters go off on their own paths and sometimes I have to follow them and see where they lead me; I’m not totally in control. I really don’t think there are any points I least like, I truly love every part of the process, especially research.

How important is it for you to share your writing?

To be a published author has been my dream for around thirty years, so when people tell me they’ve read it and they liked it that’s great. When they say they learned something that they didn’t know that’s even better!

Where can people go to read your work?

My two previously published novels are available on Amazon.co.uk and can be purchased almost anywhere on the internet. They will also be on sale at the East Anglian Festival of Culture in July. I’ll be there too and would love people to stop and say hello!www.eastanglianfestivalofculture.co.uk

Where can people find you on the internet?

I’m on twitter @jmhewitt and more details can be found on my own website: www.jmhewitt.com

Is there anything else you would like to share with your readers?

If anybody does fancy finding out a little more about Chernobyl or my work I’m in the process of arranging lots more events throughout 2016, so do keep an eye on my website.

I’ll also be a ‘guest curator’ on BritCrime in April. BritCrime is a fantastic free online festival made up of many crime fiction authors that usually runs in the summer. Do check them out on Twitter: @BritCrime and on Facebook: BritCrime Authors.

jeanette hewitt~Exclusion Zone cover

http://www.amazon.co.uk/J.-M.-Hewitt/e/B01BT1SJRY/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

 

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Welcome Richard, please tell us what you’ve been up to since you were last here.

Richard Hardie

What’s going to happen in 2016 for me, Suzan?……….In two words, Authors Reach!

Authors Reach banner

Last year, I and four other authors decided to pool our expertise, resources and knowledge in marketing and publicity and see what we could come up with. Individually we were all doing well in one aspect of the market, or another. I had always sold (fairly) well in shops, as well as to schools and libraries, whereas the others were far better than I at using social media and sites dedicated to marketing books to a wider audience.  It struck us that our combined skills lacked only one aspect before we would be able to call ourselves publishers. We needed to edit, design covers, arrange print runs, sort out distribution and supervise uploads.  The easy bit?

Actually it then occurred to us that one of our small group (Gina Dickerson) is a very gifted cover artist and in fact has a small company doing just that and websites, we all edit savagely and know freelance editors who we’ve worked with in the past, and I’ve had the odd positive conversation with the country’s leading small-run book printer and the UK’s leading distributor. Just maybe….

Hence Authors Reach, a limited company that does pretty well everything its five authors could want of it. I and Sarah England came to an agreement with our publisher to buy back what remained of our book copyright contracts and we became the owners of our own destiny. Sarah took the lead, publishing a new edition of her “disaster” RomCom, Expected, publishing it in eBook and paperback on Amazon. Sarah has always sold well on Amazon and has carried on doing so. However I have always preferred selling in book shops whereas my eSales have been minimal, though I would love them to go stratospheric! I therefore talked to Nielsen and bought 10 ISBNs under the Authors Reach banner, for use as we needed them, contacted Gardners, the distributors, and arranged for them to take a minimal stock of our Authors Reach books so shops could have next day delivery, and opened an account with Lightningsource to print our books and upload to Amazon.

My first two books, Leap of Faith and Trouble With Swords, have now been printed by Lightningsource with Nielsen ISBNs, are in Gardners repository and already on some book shop shelves.  Now it’s down to legwork, getting shops to take my books and invite me to do a signing session. I’m a sort of guinea pig and Sarah England, Catriona King, Gina Dickerson and Shani Struthers will be following me and probably overtaking me soon.

Richard Hardie~NEW Trouble With Swords ecover Richard Hardie~Leap Of Faith ecover

www.rhardie.com

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Richard-Hardie/e/B00BEZ21R0/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1453752275&sr=1-2-ent

We have a number of radio and local TV interviews lined up and our plan is to have many more during 2016. Book shops may not be as easy to work with as Amazon, but they do create a “fan base” and are great fun to visit. It’s also the only way to actually meet existing readers face to face, and to create new ones.

Authors Reach has great potential, Suzan. Many thanks for letting me tell you and your blog readers about us.

www.authorsreach.co.ukAuthors Reach circle logo

 

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With my author hat on I attended the first East Anglian author fair at the end of July at the fabulous Coconut Loft Art Gallery on Waterloo Road. This gave locals an opportunity to ‘meet the author’  with twelve authors from across Norfolk and Suffolk, including: Helen Thwaites, Caroline Way, Hannah Precious, Ian Robb, Terry Tarbox, Pam Finch, Bronwen Grono, Jocelyn Blakey, Helen Milligan, Patricia Peters and Ann Bowyer.

All the authors~done with my camera

The centrepiece of the event were five newly published authors who had risen to a ‘get published’ challenge set by themselves during a writing workshops last November. They formed the group Waveney Author Group (WAG) and go on tour later this month.

Gina cutting my cake with the WAG authors looking on

I’m looking forward to The  2nd Annual event which will take place next July and an interim ‘meet the authors’ weekend will be held at the Coconut Loft on the 5th & 6th Dec.

Author places are selling well, with only a few places left. For more information pop along to www.getwriting.co.uk

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1st Annual East Anglian Author Fair/ Pop-up Bookshop 2015

Readers, writers, lovers of books, fiction, non-fiction, agents and publishers… come one, come all.

New and established authors, some reading their work but all showcasing their books.

Dates: Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th July 2015.

Venue: The Coconut Loft Art Gallery, 8 Waterloo Rd, Lowestoft, Suffolk NR33 0AA. Tel: 01502  521845

Time: 10 am – 4pm. And after a successful Saturday, why not join the authors and unwind with fish and chips on a Blue Flag beach just 100 metres from the gallery, and on the Sunday an Italian ice cream.

Pop up bookshop~The Journal 24th July 2015

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Welcome Ann Bowyer…

Ann Bowyer

Can you tell me a little about yourself? (including pen name if you have one)

At an early age, I was writing stories and drawing comics which I published weekly. Before I left school I knew I wanted to be a journalist. I already had the shorthand and typing skills but my parents were set against it. They considered it was an unsuitable occupation for a young lady – that was the 1960’s – oh, how things have changed! So I found myself becoming a secretary, then a Business Studies Teacher, then a freelance software trainer but, of course, motherhood came somewhere in-between all that.

What was the first story you wrote?

Probably something to do with horses – I was horse mad, as many girls are today, though riding them was not on the agenda until we moved further out of London and even then, I had to save up all my pennies as my parents couldn’t afford to pay for lessons.

However, my first novel was completed at 15 and the plot was around – you’ve guessed – horses!

Were you inspired by someone or something?

Very much so, I loved to read about show jumping and gymkhanas and was lucky enough to go to the Horse of Year Show for several years running with my best friend. I read every horsey book and magazine I could lay my hands on and my favourite author was Ruby Ferguson who wrote the Jill books. When I grew more mature I was inspired by Jane Austin, of course, and whenever I am ill, Pride and Prejudice is a comfort read and I’ve always been a Maeve Binchy fan.

What do you like about writing a story?

Plots and research are possibly the things I enjoy most. Creating an interesting plot and seeing characters react has always fascinated me because my characters always surprise me as they go off and do their own thing. But, since I set my novels in the past, research is my favourite occupation and sometimes I have to drag myself away from fascinating avenues of enquiry or the book would never get written.

Can you tell us about your newest book?

My latest book is ‘Lost in a Homeland’ and is a sequel to my first published book ‘A Token of Love – a family saga. Both are fiction but the first book is largely based on my grandparents lives.

Ann Bowyer~Lost in a Homeland

How did you come up with the story?

It was the book I never intended to write! There is a third book which is half written and I had every intention of moving to the next generation in this saga but, following numerous requests, I capitulated and wrote ‘Lost in a Homeland’ in order to fulfil my readers’ desires to know what happened when the family left Canada.

What genre best fits for the book?

Historical, women’s contemporary fiction, romance

Are you working on something new at the moment?

As already mentioned, there is a third book in this series and I have every intention of finishing this as well as, possibly a fourth but I also have several ideas for other books.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

It’s all been said before – read and write as much and as often as you can. Don’t let anyone put you off. You can do it!

Do you in a writing group?

Over the years, I have belonged to several writing groups and found them really, really helpful, supportive and encouraging. My regular writing group folded some time ago but I have been so busy with writing and travel, I haven’t yet joined another. But I will – no one else understands a writer like a writer.

Do you have people who will critique your work? (And if you do, do you acknowledge them in the front of the book?)

Yes to both, though I don’t name them specifically.

What is your writing routine?

That is a very difficult question to answer. I share my study with my husband and, unlike many authors, I do prefer peace and quiet with no interruptions. That can sometimes be difficult but if I have a deadline, after supper is best and I try to get a couple of hours in most evenings.

Do you have an editing process?

Editing does happen a little on the way because I try to write to a place where I know I will be able to pick up the next day – that overcomes what is often called writer’s block. When I begin the next day, I go back to the beginning of the previous scene and may edit it, though most of the editing is left until the end.

What do you enjoy the most/least about writing?

The satisfaction of reaching the end is possibly the most enjoyable part of writing but I love it all so maybe it’s the frustration of not having enough time to write.

How important is it for you to share your writing?

Very. My first novel (which I refer to as faction), as I mentioned, is based on my grandparents’ lives and I wanted to tell it because it seemed to me nobody knew of the horrendous drought conditions British people endured in the Prairies in the 1930’s. Everyone, but everyone has heard of the ‘Grapes of Wrath’ but this is a parallel story. Usually my stories are a comment on the times.

Where can people go to read your work?

My books are available through Amazon :

http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=ann+bowyer

http://www.amazon.com/Ann-Bowyer/e/B00JCP6H1U/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1435630339&sr=1-2-ent

They are Kindle published also.

Also available at Jarrolds, Norwich as well as Diss Book Publishing in Diss, Norfolk.

Where can people find you on the internet?

My website:  www.annbowyer.com

Facebook:  Ann Bowyer Author

Twitter:  AnnBowyer2

Is there anything else you would like to share with your readers?

The research for my first book took ten years and involved travelling extensively across Canada as well as Europe. I now give talks/slides on this, which includes some of the unusual and original documents and photographs which turned up following a family tragedy. Anyone interested in a talk can contact me through my website.

My family history has always fascinated me and when I have completed my present saga, I might well turn my attention to my maternal side – my mother was born in India at the time of the Raj.

To finish, thank you, Suzan, for hosting me.

I have enjoyed it, thank you, Ann.

NB: Ann will be having a Book Release Party on Facebook tomorrow, why not hop over and join in?https://www.facebook.com/events/816556811726199/

Ann Bowyers book covers

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Beta readers

My last blog was on Finished writing first draft. What next? And today I want to talk about beta readers and to answer some questions I am sometimes asked.

What is a beta reader?

‘An alpha reader or beta reader (also spelled alphareader / betareader, or shortened to alpha / beta), also pre-reader or critiquer, is a non-professional reader who reads a written work, generally fiction, with the intent of looking over the material to find and improve elements such as grammar and spelling, as well as suggestions to improve the story, its characters, or its setting. Beta reading is typically done before the story is released for public consumption.[1] Beta readers are not explicitly proofreaders or editors, but can serve in that context.

Elements highlighted by beta readers encompass things such as plot holes, problems with continuity, characterisation or believability; in fiction and non-fiction, the beta might also assist the author with fact-checking.2]’  

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beta_reader  (June2015)

I have a few beta readers, some for my fiction and some for my non-fiction. It is important to get the right beta readers for the job. I say ‘job’, but it’s not paid and I don’t give them a contract. Although I do give them a list of open-ended questions to answer. If I didn’t they could come back and say, ‘I enjoyed reading it’ or ‘It’s fine’. But how does that help me, the writer? It doesn’t.

Do I need one?

It is a good idea to have more than one. I have four beta readers for each genre I write. For some of my writing I have a first beta read and a final beta read.

Have you got people who can give you objective and constructive feedback? Some people think that their partner or friend can be a beta reader and some can, but be aware that some may fall into the category of the ‘I enjoyed reading it’ brigade.

How do I get one?

As a writer you will have a platform whether it be a Blog, Facebook or Twitter account, or all three. (And if you haven’t got any of these you may consider having at least one.) Once you have one or more of these you can give a call out for some beta readers.

What skills do I want in a beta reader?

A reader who normally reads the genre you are writing

Someone who can give helpful objective criticism

Someone who says they can meet your deadline, and does (I usually give a two week deadline)

If you are writing about a different country try and get a beta reader from that country

Someone who has the knowledge required e.g. when I write my non-fiction this is usually workbooks for staff who work in social care so my Beta readers are staff and Managers who work in this field.

When I write fiction e.g. My Chatty Cat series my beta readers are cat lovers and when I write romance my beta readers are readers of romance. Along with choosing beta readers with the knowledge you also want them to have a good degree of skills in grammar, plotting etc.

What do I give to my Beta Readers?

Be up front about what you want the beta reader to do/to look for

How will the beta readers receive your work email, hard copy? Can they write on the hard copy? Do you have a preference on the pen colour they should use? If it’s on email do you want them to use ‘track changes’?

When you want the work returned.

What do I do when they give me their feedback and comments?  

The feedback they give you will be constructive advice and you should not see it as criticism but see it as they are helping you with your writing If they didn’t give you this type of feedback then they are not doing their job right.

Plan some time to sit and relax and read through their comments and feedback.

Don’t forget to make contact with your Beta Readers and thank them.

Should I acknowledge Beta readers in my book?

Some authors do and some don’t. Beta readers play an important part in a writer’s life and I name them and thank them in my book for their support. I also send them a personalised signed copy of the book.

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Love the official photograph from People’s Book Prize where Beyond My Control made it to the final! Thank you to everyone who voted x

Me~used snipping tool

I will write a longer blog, with lots of photos, later x

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Welcome Julie Ryan… *offers Julie cup of tea*

Tea and scone

Can you tell me a little about yourself?

Julie Ryan

I was born near Barnsley in Yorkshire where I lived for the first eighteen years of my life before going to University. It was then that the wanderlust kicked in as when I finished my Teacher Training, I went off to work in Greece, Thailand and Poland. I have no idea where this desire to travel comes from as my parents didn’t even have a passport for a long time. Moving house and/or country twenty times in twenty years can be a bit wearing though so I’ve been happily living in the Gloucestershire countryside with my husband and young son for the last few years. We bought a semi-derelict property as that was all we could afford and w are still renovating. I dream of one day having all my books neatly arranged on shelves instead of boxes and can’t wait to unpack my new desk. I have a feeling I may have to wait some time though! When not writing, I work as a distance language tutor teaching English to French companies. I also enjoy amateur dramatic and can often be found treading the boards as the Fairy Godmother in the local panto or more recently as Miss Maple in an Agatha Christie pastiche.

What was the first story you wrote?

Oh my goodness, that’s going back a while as I seem to recall I was always scribbling something as a child. I think it was probably a little play that I wrote for myself and my friend to enact for her parents. I seem to recall we played husband and wife for some reason.

Were you inspired by someone or something?

Probably the neighbours but I really have no idea how I ended up playing a grumpy henpecked husband!

What do you like about writing a story?

I love the fact that when I begin, I really don’t have any idea of where the story is going to take me. I love it when characters develop a life of their own and wake you up in the early hours to insist you change their story. Sometimes they say or do things that surprise me. In one case a character mentioned her brother and yet I wasn’t aware that she had one. It meant a lot of backwriting but it added to the plot. I can’t sit down and plan out each chapter. I have a general idea of where it’s going and let the characters fight it out1

Can you tell us about your newest book?

My latest book is the third in the Greek Island mystery series but you don’t need to have read the others. It’s about a young girl who has a gift for seeing into the future centered around a group of holidaymakers staying at the same hotel. There’s a serial killer on the island so lots of drama and excitement as well as romance for some of the guests. The key to the mystery is the local thriller writer.

Julie Ryan book cover

How did you come up with the story?

I started from the idea of Pandora being able to see into the future and then the rest of the story developed from there. I read a lot and so I suppose my writing is influenced by the kind of books I like to read.

What genre best fits for the book?

I’ve been wondering about this. There’s romance but it’s not chick-lit. There’s suspense and mystery but it’s not a thriller. Although Pandora can see into the future, it’s not really a paranormal book either. Perhaps it should just be contemporary fiction.

Are you working on something new at the moment?

It depends on what my characters decide to do next. I have an unfinished Christmas novella that I really need to work on but it’s been put on the back shelf for a long time. I’m also working on a collection of short stories too. I only ever intended my first book to be a short story and look how it’s developed. I have the germs of an idea for a fourth book in the series but it needs to simmer for a while.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

It sounds trite to say ‘Just write’ but that’s the best advice I was given. Sometimes, you can be afraid to put pen to paper in case it turns out to be rubbish but some of my best ideas have come from stories that I originally discarded. At least if you have something written down, it can be edited or may provide future inspiration. Other than that – never give up!

Do you belong to a writing group?

I set up a book club with the lovely Linn B Halton and we sometimes read our work to each other. It’s not really a writing group though.

Do you have people who will critique your work? (And if you do, do you acknowledge them in the book?)

I have a group of people who will act as beta readers and critique my work. I like to acknowledge them in a paragraph at the end of the book.

What is your writing routine?

My free time when husband is at work and son is at school is usually in the morning. After dropping son off at the bus stop, I look forward to my morning coffee and usually reread what I wrote the day before. Then I may need to do some research – a good excuse for trawling the internet and looking at cats – and on a good day I may actually write 1000-1500 words. If I’m on a roll I usually find that my coffee has gone cold so I stop and make another and try to write until lunchtime. Then it’s onto the day job until the next day.

Do you have an editing process?

After finishing the first draft I usually leave it for a couple of weeks and then go through it for the storyline first of all to check on the timeline and any inconsistencies. This may involve moving paragraphs or chapters around which then means another read through to check that this change hasn’t affected anything else. Then it’s onto grammar and spelling and trying to find all those typos that are obvious to everyone else but slip through the net when it’s your own work you’re reading. Then I’ll send it out to my beta readers and make any necessary changes before giving it a final read through line by line.

What do you enjoy the most/least about writing?

Editing is the thing I hate most – the finished article is what I like best.

How important is it for you to share your writing?

Feedback is always useful especially if it’s constructive so I know the benefits of sharing. I’m quite shy about my work though so it doesn’t come naturally to me.

Where can people go to read your work?

At the moment I’m only published on Amazon but my first book ‘Jenna’s Journey’ has recently been signed by Booktrope so it should be more widely available very soon.

Where can people find you on the internet?

I love people to get in touch about my books. I have a blog at www.Juliesworldofbooks.blogspot.co.uk where you can get all the latest news and an insight into the life of a writer/reader.

I also blog about other writer’s books at www.allthingsbookie.com

Is there anything else you would like to share with your readers?

You might like to take a look at this awesome trailer for my second book ‘Sophia’s Secret’

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