Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Sheila Norton - talks about writing and her new book - YESTERDAY

Today I'm pleased to welcome Sheila Norton to my blog. I've just read YESTERDAY and can recommend it - an excellent read. Now over to Sheila who is going to answer some questions and tell us a bit about herself.

 Tell us a little about your new book, YESTERDAY. 
It’s set in the early 1960s, during the time of the Mods and Rockers and Beatlemania. My heroine, Cathy, is an ordinary teenager growing up in that era, who finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time during the first violent clashes between mods and rockers at Clacton at Easter 1964 – and the events which follow will haunt her for the rest of her life. Forty years later, she has to revisit her past, face her memories and find out exactly what happened.

2.      This is a completely different type of book from all your previous novels. What made you decide on the change?
After eleven contemporary novels, I did want to try something different, and I’d once been advised to write ‘something historical’. The 1960s are now considered ‘historical’– and having grown up in that era myself, I’ve always thought it was a fascinating decade when there was a lot of social change. It was great fun using my own memories as part of the background.

3.      Why did you use the theme of the Mods and Rockers?
Well of course, there has to be conflict in any story, and the two rival gangs of teenagers provided that. Quite apart from the fights and violence that broke out over the bank holidays at various seaside resorts, there was an ongoing distrust and animosity between the two factions. Mixing with the ‘other side’, going into the wrong coffee bar or hanging out with the wrong crowd, could cause trouble – as happens in YESTERDAY.

4.      Why are you self-publishing – and would you recommend it?
The first eight of my novels were published by a mainstream publisher, which was a fantastic experience. But by turning to self-publishing (for Kindle, with Amazon) I’ve been able to take complete control of my writing career. It’s quick, easy and it’s possible to make a real success of it. But if I hadn’t had the advantage of being a previously published author, I know it would have been far harder to stand out from the crowd. It’s also essential to have a self-published book properly edited, and to be prepared to do a lot of promotion.

5.      How did you start out as a writer?
Writing was always my hobby, ever since I was a little girl scribbling stories in penny notebooks for my friends. My first published stories were in children’s magazines. Then I won two first prizes in short story competitions in the early 1990s, which gave me the confidence to submit stories to the women’s magazine market, and since then I’ve had well over 100 stories published in titles like Woman, Woman’s Weekly, My Weekly, Yours and People’s Friend.  I made several attempts at writing a novel, but the first one I finally had accepted was The Trouble With Ally in 2003. It’s a Rom Com about a woman turning 50. I was around that age myself at the time!

6.       Do you have any tips for aspiring novelists?
My first piece of advice is always: Only write for one reason – because you enjoy it. It’s harder than ever to get published, equally hard to stand out as a self-publisher, and although we hear about the ‘overnight success’ stories, most of us have spent years working towards our goals, suffering rejections, hardly earning anything, before we manage even a modest kind of success. Most of us need a day job, or a pension, to support our writing – but we write because it’s what we love doing.

7.      What was your own day job, and how did it influence your writing?
For most of my working life before I retired, I was a medical secretary. It was fascinating work – I enjoyed the interaction with patients, doctors and other medical staff – but it was very busy and at times very stressful. It certainly gave me ideas for my stories, as a hospital is a place where all human life can be seen at its best and its worst! – and is also a hotbed of gossip! Many of my short stories were hospital romances, and my fourth novel Body & Soul has a hospital background.

8.      Do you have a daily routine for your writing?
Not since I’ve been retired! When I was at work, I had to do all my writing in the evenings. Now, I can write whenever I like – which is more or less whenever I’m not doing anything else! I don’t worry if some days I don’t write at all – I just make up for it another day.

9.      How do you like spending your time when you’re not writing?
I have three daughters and six little grandkids – so I love to see them all, most weeks. Other than that, I read a lot, try to have a walk or a swim every day, and enjoy holidays, photography and playing the piano.

10.  Finally, what are your ambitions for the future?
To be fit and well enough to continue my writing for the rest of my life! And if I continue to have some success, that’ll be the icing on the cake.

Sheila Norton : Author Biography


Sheila lives near Chelmsford, Essex, and has been a full-time author since retiring from her previous work as a medical secretary.

She has been writing all her life, her first publications being short stories for children. After twice winning first prize in the Writers’ News short story competitions in the 1990s, her stories were regularly published in women’s magazines.

Her first novel, The Trouble With Ally was published in 2003, and she went on to have a further seven books published, including three under the pseudonym of Olivia Ryan, before beginning to self-publish her novels on Amazon.

Her latest book YESTERDAY is a novel set in the 1960s, being published in 2014 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the ‘Mods and Rockers’ riots in 1964, which form the background of the book.

For more information please go to

Monday, 21 April 2014

Lord Atherton's Ward

Available on Amazon £0.77 and $0.99
Today my latest Regency romance is live on Kindle. This is the fourth in my Lords and Ladies series. The book was previously published by DC Thomson and Linford Romance and has been available on Regencyreads as well.
I've already had a 3* review on – the reviewer enjoyed the book but said it was similar to another title. The  similarities are that the hero is arrogant, shares the same name as the hero in the other book, and the couple find themselves in a compromising situation. The actual plot is quite different. Unfortunately when you write as many regencies as I do, the same names will appear. Also,  I do like my heroes to be arrogant and my heroines strong-willed.
I only have two more novellas in my backlist to publish, but I intend to write a new title for my June release. I will put up a box set in May.
I really enjoyed having Cathy Mansell on my blog last week and am looking forward to hosting Sheila Norton on Thursday.
I hope you're all having an excellent Easter break.
Here is a small taster for you:

Suffolk, 1815

Sarah sent her chair crashing down, the noise loud in the hushed library. 'Surely there must be some mistake, Mr Carstairs? My father couldn't possibly have made arrangements such as those.' The elderly lawyer scratched his head, his watery blue eyes sympathetic. 'I know it's a shock, my dear Miss Ellison, but it's what Sir John wanted for you and your sister. Lord Atherton is an excellent choice as your guardian.'
Sarah heard Jane restoring the chair and she slumped back on to it, her vision clouded. This was too much; first Papa's death from a second seizure, and now this. A hand slipped into hers and she was grateful for the comfort. She straightened her shoulders, blinking away the tears. She was all Jane had now and it was up to her to protect them both from the stranger their father had arranged to take charge of their affairs.
'Thank you for your time, Mr Carstairs. We shall delay you no longer.'
She stood gracefully and left the man no option but to do the same. With her sister's hands still linked to hers, she nodded regally. 'I bid you good day, sir.'
She waited until a servant had escorted the lawyer from the room before turning in despair to her younger sister. 'I can hardly take it in. I'll be one and twenty next summer, why couldn't Papa leave things as they are? After all, I've been running the estate and the house for him since he was taken ill six months ago.'
'I expect he was thinking of you when he did it, Sarah. The last thing he said to me before his final seizure was that you work too hard, and it was time you learned how to be a young woman and enjoy yourself. Anyway, even I know you have only been able to run things here because Papa was still alive. Things will be different now he has gone, it would be better if there is someone else in charge.'
Sarah snatched her hand away. How could Father have talked in such a way to Jane, and not to her? 'You're right, but to have a complete stranger dictating our every move will be insupportable.'
'Remember, that when the year of mourning is up we cannot go abroad in society without male protection.'
Sarah had not really enjoyed the local assemblies and parties she had attended in Ipswich when she came out three years ago. When Mama had become ill and died so suddenly, she'd been happy to stay at home and run the house and supervise her younger sister. She frowned; she might not wish to parade like a prize mare and be ogled by eligible men looking for a suitable bride, but her sister might well wish to do so.
'Jane, you're almost eighteen which is more than old enough to come out; is it your wish to have a season next year?'
Her sister's expression answered the question. 'You mean we could go to London and open the town house, attend balls and soirees? I should love it above all things.' The girl's face fell. 'But only if it's what you want, Sarah, I'd not want you to be miserable whilst I am enjoying myself.'
 'In which case, my love, we shall remain where we are until this wretched Lord Atherton decides to come and find us. Then I shall insist he takes us to London next season so that you can be presented.'
Three months passed before Sarah had news from Viscount Atherton. The instructions from his lordship's lawyers were quite clear; she was to close the house, leave a skeleton staff in charge, and travel, with their elderly governess, to Highfield Hall, which was somewhere near Chelmsford. It would seem the Dowager Lady Atherton had a residence there and would be awaiting their arrival.
She read the missive and tossed it into the fire. Until their guardian appeared in person she intended to stay at Kesgrave Hall. Why should they be forced to live somewhere else when they had a perfectly good home of their own right here? The weather was better today; the sleet and biting wind that had been whipping off the North Sea had finally abated. It would be the first day of March on Friday and the daffodils would begin to bloom and the snowdrops fade away.
'I'm going to ride, do you wish to accompany me this morning?'
Her sister looked up from the sewing in her lap and shook her head. 'No, I certainly do not. I don't know how you can bear to gallop around the countryside when it is so inclement. Miss Read and I shall sit here in front of the fire and complete our embroidery in comfort.'
The governess, no longer needed but considered one of the family after having been with them so long, smiled. 'Do you intend to ride astride? I do wish you wouldn't, my dear, it's so unladylike.'
'Sir John said it was perfectly acceptable to ride this way as long as I stay on Ellison land. As we have almost five hundred acres doing that has never been a problem.' She raised her hand to stop her sister's protest. 'And yes, I shall take Bill with me this time. I know it's unwise to ever go out without a groom in attendance in case I take a tumble.'
She ran upstairs to discover that her abigail already had a dark blue military-style riding habit waiting for her. 'Mary, Miss Jane is staying inside, but I need to clear my head. This waiting for news from our guardian is like living under a dark cloud.'
'Heard nothing today, miss? I expect his lordship is far too busy in London to worry about you and Miss Jane. I reckon you could be here until Parliament rises and the season is over.'
It always surprised her how well informed Mary was about things they hadn't discussed.
'I hope so, the longer we can remain here in our own home the happier I will be. But three months is a long time without news from someone who is supposed to have our best interests at heart.'
She smoothed a fold of her habit and glanced in the mirror to check the jaunty cap was set straight on her curls. 'I am glad Sir John insisted that we mustn't wear black for him.'
Mary was fussing around her hem and glanced up, her homely face lit by a smile. 'You and Miss Jane had been wearing black for so long already. Sir John wasn't the same after Lady Ellison died, if you don't mind me saying so, Miss Ellison. I reckon he was glad to join her in heaven.'
 'I'm sure you're right, Mary. Especially after he was confined to bed. That was no life for an active man. I miss him sorely, but I'm glad his suffering is over.'
Word had been sent to the stable and Sultan, her large chestnut gelding, was waiting outside on the gravel in front of the elegant steps that led to the porticoed front door. She smiled at his antics. The unfortunate stableboy was being lifted from his feet every time the horse plunged.

'Enough of that, Sultan. I'm here now and you shall soon stretch your legs and get the fidgets out of you.'  Her habit had a divided skirt under which she wore breeches and boots. This meant she could ride astride, or sidesaddle without an indecorous display of ankles. She turned her back, taking the reins, and raised a leg for the boy to boost her into the saddle. She barely had time to ram her boots home in the stirrup irons before her horse shot forward.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Cathy Mansell: welcome to my blog.

This week I'm delighted to welcome Cathy Mansell to my blog. I've known Cathy for a long time before a few years we shared the same agent for we decided to part company with her. Over to you Cathy.

About me

I’m Cathy Mansell and I write romantic suspense novels set mainly in Ireland during the 50s, and 60s. My next book, Galway Girl, out this year is my first historical suspense, set in the early 19c. My protagonists like to travel outside of Ireland. So, my books have a flavour of other cities, Leicester, Birmingham and Manchester, places I once lived in.

When my husband retired we moved to a little village four miles from Lutterworth, Leicestershire. We don’t have a dog but usually end up looking after my daughter’s naughty Beagle, Billy. I have an attic room where I write each day overlooking green fields and trees.

Why do I write?

It’s like a drug to me, my fix, I can’t live without it. I look forward to each day and usually write from eight thirty, and then on and off throughout the day.  It’s an obsession, therefore I rarely take holidays.  Now that I’m a published writer there just isn’t enough hours in the day to do everything.  I guess, the reason I write is because I love telling stories.

Tips for new writers.

Believe that what you write is worth doing.  If you are serious about getting published, don’t ever give up.  Take advice from authors who are already published, and rewrite as many times as is necessary.  Join a good writers’ group, read your work aloud and listen to feedback.

Plus and minus of writing.

On the plus side, it’s a magical experience when you actually finish writing a novel and write those two little words, The End. It’s creative and keeps your mind young because you are always in your characters heads living their stories. As a writer you get to meet lots of like minded people throughout the year, at various activities to do with writing.

On the minus side, you don’t earn pots of money as some people like to think.  It’s hard work
and at times lonely. You often wonder if you will finish what you started. You need to be disciplined, otherwise it can get a bit chaotic.  Today, publishers like you to promote yourself and your books. You need to be computer savvy, have a website and be on lots of networking sites.

Blurb: Shadow Across The Liffey

Set in 60’s Ireland, life is hard for widow, Oona Quinn, grief-stricken by the deaths of her husband and five-year-old daughter. Struggling to survive, she meets charismatic Jack Walsh at the Shipping Office.
Vinnie Kelly, her son's biological father, just out of jail, sets out to destroy Oona and all she holds dear. Haunted by her past, she has to fight for her future and the safety of her son, Sean. But Vinnie has revenge on his mind . . .

Book links:

Author bio

Member of
Leicester Writers’ Club, Just Write workshop, Life President of Lutterworth Writers’ Group, Member NAWG, Member Romantic Novelist Association and past president of Riverside Speakers club.

Cathy is an experienced writer of romantic fiction. Her early work was competition short stories and articles published in national magazines. She was Editor in Chief of the Leicestershire Anthology, ‘Taking Off’, a book promoted and supported by Arts Council UK.

In recent times, Cathy has turned to writing full-length novels that are set in Ireland/England. Her debut book, Shadow Across the Liffey, a 2013 contender for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Joan Hessayon award was published in February 2013 by Tirgearr Publishing.  Her Father’s Daughter, Cathy’s second book, has been contracted by the same publisher.  She was a recent contestant on the TV show Food Glorious Food.

Links to Cathy:

Thank you for your interesting and informative post, Cathy. I hope you do as well with your second book as you did with your first.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Reviews and Spoilers

I've been receiving some excellent reviews for my latest World War II book, Barbara's War – The Middle Years, which is wonderful. However, the latest review:  

'I was sure Barbara was going to marry John but was so pleased that she married Alex in the end. I can't wait to read more to find out if Alex is the father. I love Dr Sinclair's character and the bond he has with Barbara. I also love Alex he is such a gentleman and a true hero. A must read, very easy to read, lots of spelling mistakes noted but altogether a great story that keeps you wanting to read more.'

This was a five-star review despite the strange comment about spelling. This isn't an American reviewer so the complaint can't be about British spelling instead of American. All my books are professionally edited and proofread so I'm at a loss to know what spelling mistakes she is referring to.
Even with the most careful and expert eyes, missing words and typos get through even with the major publishers. I'm just reading Christian Cameron's books – absolutely amazing I can highly recommend them to anyone who likes thrilling, action packed ancient Greece historicals –  I stopped counting the formatting and typographical errors after twelve. He writes for Orion, one of the big five. 

When I have a spare few hours I will read through my file again and see if I can pick out anything that needs changing. I use voice recognition and this for some strange reason puts "and" for "had". I know a couple of these have been missed. It also frequently misses out 'for'and 'are'.

Also this reviewer reveals a major plot point – I do wish they wouldn't do this. I suppose it's not quite so crucial with their historical saga – but I've seen it done with reviews on thrillers and that ruins the story for the next reader.

I would be interested to know whether these ever present formatting/typos in e-books, (the process of reformatting the file is what produces them as they are rarely found in print books) actually impact on your reading pleasure. They  don't really bother me, although extra spaces in a line and between paragraphs can jerk you out of the story. There's no excuse for these as anyone can see them and they are easily removed.
What about spoilers? Do you think they are more, or less, detrimental to the reading experience?

Fenella J Miller