Friday, 19 December 2014

Video: How do you name your characters?

I don’t really have a set plan for naming characters, it’s quite often the first name that pops into my head. I tend to favour names that can be affectionately shortened, and I regularly name them after people I know.

My sister pointed out that I’d named two characters after my parents, which hadn’t been intentional, but it’s now become my thing that I name background characters after my parents.

I find picking surnames more difficult than first names. Sometimes I say “Argh I need a surname” and someone nearby will say one and I’ll just go with it.

Any authors have a method for choosing names?

Video: How do you name your characters?

Friday, 12 December 2014

Virtual romance? I prefer the physical form (repost)

This was originally written as a guest post for

Technology is everywhere these days. We use it in just about everything we do and we’ve found digital alternatives to everything – the trusty vinyl record is gathering dust in the attic while everyone listens to MP3 files. VHS got thrown on the scrap heap by DVDs which in turn are mournfully shaking their fists at the MP4, and in literature the paperback has been joined by the ebook.

Technology and communications have made it possible to do just about everything from your sofa. We can buy our groceries online and get them delivered to our door. We can share our holiday photos with everyone we know, all at once through social networks. We write electronic letters to our family and friends and we don’t even have to be in the same country to have a face to face conversation with someone.

I work in digital media and as my staff get younger and more tech savvy the more I find a reluctance in people to want to communicate physically. Text messages, Snapchat, Email, Facebook, Twitter…all perfectly acceptable methods of communication. But pick up a phone and speak to someone? Well now that requires a good ten minutes of mental preparation to overcome the nerves of actually talking to a real person.

So where does that leave romance? claims that 1 in 5 newly committed couples met online, presumably through a dating site. But dating sites aren’t the only places to meet people online. If we’re more comfortable communicating through technology then it stands to reason that it is easier to meet new people and make new friends through social networks… does that also extend to romance?

The danger with online romance, however, is the Catfish scenario. Since watching the film and more recently the MTV series, I’ve realized that my novel, Inspired by Night, could appear to be largely influenced by the show. It wasn’t. I wrote it long before I saw the series, but it made me realize that there are a lot of people out there, falling in love with complete strangers online, and that my novel is actually pretty realistic.

I love technology. I’m a big fan of playing video games, taking things apart to see how they work, and trying to write bits of programming. I love that I can carry a whole library of books on holiday with me in one tiny hand-held gadget. But I also love the smell of books, the small rush of air breezing past your face as you flip the pages of a new book, acquainting yourself with its size and density.

I love listening to music on the bus to work, storing countless albums in my phone. But I still love the smell of vinyl, the large scale artwork on the cover, or the volume of additional images and text in a CD booklet.

And I still love going to concerts and seeing the musicians physically before me, performing their songs. The anticipation of perhaps meeting your music hero, posing for a photograph (to share with your friends and family on Facebook) and have the chance to speak to them… even though you can easily Tweet them or comment on one of their Facebook posts.

Those of us old enough to remember a time before Facebook, before ebooks and iphones, will always love the real things. The tangible item. It doesn’t make us old fashioned and it doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy the convenience of the new ways. It just means we were lucky to have experienced and enjoyed both.

And Romance? Well I’ll always prefer my romance in its physical form. No amount of cyber sex can compensate for the feelings of intimacy between two people. No amount of virtual flowers and hugs can feel better than being held in the arms of someone you love. And there’s absolutely no online substitute for a romantic candle-lit dinner for two.

Virtual romance? I prefer the physical form (repost)

Thursday, 11 December 2014

What's the worst thing about being an author?

I think the worst thing is on a similar theme to the best thing. While being fully immersed in a world you create, the worst thing is never being able to experience your novel the way your readers will.

The novel writing process goes through many drafts, but with every change you make you always know the big picture and the conclusion.

If there’s a plot twist, you as the author will rarely be surprised by it. You know it’s coming even if it’s only a few seconds before you write it down. When you proof read it, you already know the ending.

When you’re writing parts that you hope will either build suspense or surprise your readers, you can never guage whether you’ve been successful because you always know what’s coming when you read it.

I’ve had some lovely reviews of Inspired by Night and they give me with a warm fuzzy feeling of satisfaction and pride when I read that I achieved the elements of surprise or entertainment that I intended. But I also find myself thinking that it sounds like the sort of novel I’d enjoy reading, and wish I could have experienced it that way myself. Instead, I read it so many times that I sort of hated it by the time it was published!

What's the worst thing about being an author?

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

What's the hardest thing about writing?

I’m something of a professional procrastinator. I can find all sorts of things to do when I’m trying to focus on something, and for some reason, writing is the one thing that really inspires some of my best efforts of procrastination.

Whether it’s writing blog posts, essays, homework, funding applications or fiction.

If I eventually sit myself down at the computer, I can busy myself for ages, selecting the right music, re-reading the previous chapter, and making sure I’ve got my notebook handy. By the time I’ve done all that I probably need a cup of tea. Maybe some biscuits. If there’s nothing snacky to hand, I’ve been known to bake a cake.

But then you can’t immerse yourself into your world and really get any writing done when you’re waiting for the oven timer to ring, then the cakes need to cool…

Once I finally get into it, I can write for hours. I can knock out 10,000 words on a good day if I have no distractions.

Unfortunately, running my own business and living with two pesky moggins means there’s no shortage of distractions.

It’s a miracle I ever wrote anything!

What's the hardest thing about writing?

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Happy Christmas!

Massive thanks to Ash Moore for creating this fab Christmas image of Olivia & Steven at the Thornton Manor Christmas Eve party.

Inspired at Xmas

Happy Christmas!

Christmas book reading part two

Here’s another extract from Inspired by Night in which we get to see inside the festively decorated Thornton Manor on Christmas Eve.

Although fictitiously set in the Peak District, I discovered last Christmas that there is a Thornton Manor, located in Thornton Hough, Wirral. In fact I accidentally drove into the courtyard because my Sat Nav told me I’d reached my destination, which was actually the village hall a bit further on. Still it amused me greatly to find myself on the grounds of Thornton Manor, having never being aware it was actually a real place.


Christmas book reading part two

Monday, 8 December 2014

Christmas Excerpt Reading

It scares me to unleash this on the world, but to celebrate the start of my Christmas book blitz blog tour, and to kickstart my efforts at starting a video blog, here’s a little Christmassy excerpt from Inspired by Night, read by yours truly.

Christmas Excerpt Reading

Sunday, 7 December 2014

What's the best thing about being an author?

Ah that’s an easy one, you know when you’re an avid reader and you get really into a novel, so much so that you feel like you really know the characters and you don’t want the book to end. When you read that last line and close the cover you feel a bit bereft. Sometimes you find yourself wondering how they’re doing, hoping for a sequel.

Well as an author you create that, you are so immersed in the characters that you know what they’re going to say before they do! And even after the book has finished you can always think about them, revisit them, imagine what they got up to next… Which may then turn into a sequel…

There’s something really special about having this bunch of characters that no one else in the whole world knows about yet.

Admittedly, that sounds like I’m making excuses for having imaginary friends as an adult. But as kids, imaginary friends really just develop our creativity. I’m sure all the best authors must’ve had imaginary friends at some point (mine was called Jackie, we went everywhere together).

What's the best thing about being an author?

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Congratulations, you broke the internet

What does that even mean?

I’m as guilty as the next person of spending too much time on Facebook. But is this really the best use of the internet? I bet when Tim Berners-Lee made his proposal for an information management system using the internet, he never imagined the world wide web would become so… stupid.

Okay, what am I talking about? I’m talking about the way people so blindly believe everything they read on Facebook or Twitter.

Facebook isn’t stealing your stuff!

Take this current hoax that’s going round at the moment: People seem to genuinely believe that posting a Facebook status asserting their copyright ownership is going to somehow protect them.

Protect them from what? What do you think Facebook is going to do with your stuff? The simple fact is this: When you sign up with any kind of social network you have to give them a non-exclusive license to share your stuff… why? Because how else would the site be able to let your friends and followers see the stuff you’re posting for them. It doesn’t mean that Facebook is sharing your photos with third parties for commercial gain it simply means Facebook shares your photos with the people you allow to see it (according to your privacy settings and sharing permissions). There’s a really simple rule of thumb here. If you don’t want Facebook to share your stuff, don’t post it on Facebook.

And maybe you’ve never signed a contract before, but you can’t just decide you don’t agree with one of the clauses anymore and stand up and say “well I revoke your rights, and do so retrospectively from the date of agreement.” That’s like telling your bank you decided that they can no longer, and were never ever, allowed to take money from your account to pay off your mortgage. If you want to change a clause in an agreement, you have to, you know, negotiate it and have both parties agree to it.

And while we’re on it, do you really believe Facebook is monitoring every single status update? Who are you asserting your rights to other than your friends?

A pointless waste of time. I filmed a video blog about it last week but then found that these guys had done one much better…

Scare mongering and endorsing baddies!

You might think, well there’s no harm in posting it. but you’re wrong, here’s what happens:

You post or share a bogus claim without checking whether it is true and while some people will tell you you’re an idiot, others will get scared and panic. The scared ones will repost it. All it does is give credibility to the malicious hoaxer that came up with it in the first place and they hi-five their friends and say:

Dude, my bogus status went viral. Let’s make up some more nonsense and see how far it spreads.”

Do you know what else these people make up? Bogus health claims, you know like how you can save yourself during a heart attack by coughing.

Now there is harm in sharing that one. Because no doctor or medical institute has ever recommended that as an option, despite the claims in the article. How would you feel if you told your loved one to cough themselves well and then they died because they delayed getting proper medical attention?

And yet, we see something posted on Facebook and we are all too quick to believe it.

In case you’re wondering, any month that has 31 day and starts on a Friday will have 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays and 5 Sundays. It happened in August and it’ll happen again in May next year… Not in 823 years.

It’s not too late to change…

We have, literally, at our fingertips, all of the knowledge of the world and yet mankind has chosen to turn the internet into one long, never-ending episode of You’ve Been Framed.

I want you to do something for me, next time you read something that makes you think “oh my god, no way, that’s amazing…” before you hit the share button, just google it and see if it’s actually true. Because chances are it’s false.

There’s a great website called Hoax Slayer – you should bookmark it – they actually follow up these so called amazing stories and check if they’re true. They have a whole library of hoaxes dating back decades, from email and web to social media hoaxes.

The internet was created to share information, it has the capacity to educate us, we should be getting more and more intelligent as we have access to so much information… and yet here we are wasting our time watching cat videos. There’s a big world out there and it’s more accessible than ever before, yet we’re too busy trying to find our own house on a map to notice.

Congratulations, you broke the internet

Inspired to write

I’ve mentioned on Twitter and Facebook recently that I’m started a video blog… It’s been difficult, but I’m almost ready to share some efforts with you all.

I invited my facebook and Twitter friends to submit questions for me to answer on film.

So before I share any of the answers I wanted to talk about being an author…

I still can’t quite believe that happened.

You probably already heard the story by now but when I was 8, I had to write a sentence to demonstrate my understanding of the word ambition. I wrote, my ambition is to be an author like Jackie Collins.

Now in my defence, as a child, I didn’t know if my teacher knew what an author was. So I wanted to let her know what I meant, and I wasn’t sure if she would have heard of the authors I was reading at that time, you know, Enid blyton or Ronald Dahl,

But my sister is 13 years older than me, and she was reading Rockstar by Jackie Collins, so I figured, my teacher would probably know who she was.

Now, I haven’t actually read anything by Jackie Collins, but my understanding is that she is the queen of the bonk buster so I’m guessing I achieved that particular ambition in more ways than I initially intended to.

Having said all that, I don’t really think of myself as an author. If someone asks me what I do I say I’m a web designer. I’m actually the managing director of a digital media social enterprise, but that doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as easily as web designer.

For me, I won’t label myself as an author until it’s my day job.

I got my first royalty payment last week. £14.90.

Yes. £14.90. After spending around 500 hours writing, editing, proof reading and marketing the damn thing, it’s earned me £14.90. Not going to put much bread on the table is it?

But it’s early days yet. I’m on the low rungs of the ladder, and I hope that sharing some of my experience will help other first time authors too.

Inspired to write

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Blog Tour Book Blitz

I’ve been really busy at work recently and while my writing and promoting Inspired is always in the back of my mind, my day job has to come first because it’s the thing that puts food on the table.

I launched a Kickstarter campaign this week for a new venture so I’ve been preoccupied with making my campaign video and writing press releases.

So where has that left Inspired by Night, or my current work in progress?

Well it occurred to me that a big chunk of Inspired takes place at Christmas time. So what better time than now to do a bit of promo?

I love Christmas. There’s something so romantic about it. I’m not the most girly of women, but my word, do I get giddy over tinsel and fairy lights?!

I think that’s why some of the more romantic elements of Inspired take place at Christmas. The decorations, the roaring log fires, there was definitely a little influence from White Christmas in the back of my mind as I was writing.

I’m always dreaming of a white Christmas

Anyway, knowing that I had a lot of stuff going on at work I turned to Lola’s blog tours to help me do some promo.

It was all very easy and straight forward to arrange, I spent a week chipping away at a bunch of interview questions, top ten lists and other stuff and sent it all over with a few choice excerpts.

My blog tour is taking place from the 8th December (which just happens to be my Mum’s birthday).

I’ll be posting links to the blogs as they appear.

I’ve never done anything like this. I don’t know whether blog tours have much impact on sales but over on Goodreads Lola was highly recommended. If you’d like to sign up as a host on my tour click the banner above.

I’ll share my experience afterwards, but so far the preparation towards it has been fairly simple.

Has anyone else done any blog tours? How would you rate them in terms of the impact on sales and did you plan them yourself or use a service?

Let me know below.

Blog Tour Book Blitz

Friday, 28 November 2014

Review: Mr Happy by Charlotte Pingriff

Charlotte, who featured on my wall of awesome last month has increased her awesomeness and published her debut novella.

I was fortunate enough to get an advance copy and I have to say I loved it.


image Click the cover art to buy.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, I know that Charlotte’s business is all about making people feel good about themselves and when I started reading Mr Happy I was expecting it to be some kind of self help,book, which is really not my thing at all. But when I started reading this lovely story, I found myself so intrigued I couldn’t stop reading it until I finished.

(Good job I’m the boss because I didn’t get any work done that morning!)

Jen is unhappy, she’s single, desperate to find love and feeling very sorry for herself. So she answers an advert in the lonely hearts and find herself on a blind date with the absolute worst possible man she could ever imagine.

Yet somehow they become friends. The story is a lesson for us all, there’s a mystery surrounding Mr Happy and the revelation is delightfully charming.

I finished reading this novella and immediately set about doing something nice that made me feel happy.

In a way, it kind of is a self help book, disguised as an enjoyable short story. It certainly made me feel happy anyway.


Review: Mr Happy by Charlotte Pingriff

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Fantasy & Sci-fi rock my world (repost)

This post was originally written as a guest post over on

I watch a lot of TV. I’m a big fan of nerd dramas: Arrow, Agents of Shield, Smallville, etc. I love fantasy worlds, where there’s a universe created for the story. Maybe other stories are part of the universe, sometimes they cross over.

In Agents of Shield there was a direct reference to incidents that occurred in the second Thor movie and I had myself a minor geekgasm.

I’ve been a fan of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels for many years and I love that characters drop in to each other’s novels all the time, the settings are the same and over the years I’ve managed to conjure up my own mental image of what Ankh Morpork looks like, the state of the Mended Drum and how the Librarian keeps order up at the Unseen University.

Fantasy worlds are great because you have so much freedom to create things that suit your story and no one can argue with it.

I was watching 24: Live Another Day and after living in London for several years I could see the anomalies of distance – there’s no way someone’s getting to Camden in 10 minutes, not in London traffic – but in a fantasy world, there’s no possibility of such criticism because no one can get out a map and check.

I love fantasy because, isn’t that what we want from the arts? The suspension of reality? To lose ourselves in a little bit of fiction?

Of course the downside of made-up worlds is that it can take a little while to get your head around where things are. You can’t possibly contextualise where the castle is in relation to the hero’s little cottage, or where the local pub is in relation to the hospital (in places like Ankh Morpork those two really should be close together).

For me, when I first read Minology, that stood out. Yes The Will is a new world, the Min are a new race. But the human body is as familiar to me as, well, the back of my hand.

The towns have new names but they’re cleverly chosen to be representative of the body parts in which they’re located and it’s easy enough to visualise where the Luglands is in relation to the Heartlands.

It’s a new world that is instantly memorable and recognisable. I look forward to reading more.

Fantasy & Sci-fi rock my world (repost)

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Review: JJ Prins

I’ve been entertained by JJ’s ongoing commentary as he’s read my novel over the last couple of months, it’s lovely to finally see what he really though! I think I’m a little bit in love with this statement: “She has a way with words that puts you at ease, brings you your tea, tells you to put your feet up and simply enjoy the story being told.”

Read the full review here.

Review: JJ Prins

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Awesome Lady: Erica Nockalls

Counterfeit Magazine – Neil Chapman

I have to confess to being a little fan-girly excited about this entry to my wall of awesome. Now I suspect that for most people, the last thing they’ll think when they look at Erica Nockalls is ‘nerd’, but if wikipedia is to be believed then:

“Nerds can be described by their hobbies” and “Some interests and activities that are likely to be described as nerdy are: Interest in the fine arts, non-mainstream music such as classical, techno, or folk music.”

So I put it to you that a conservatoire trained violinist and artist falls into the nerd camp and as she’s rocking it in her own band – EN, in her acoustic duo with Miles Hunt, and as a member of The Wonder Stuff, she’s proof, if ever it was needed, that nerds are cool!*

Erica, thank you so much for taking the time to answer some questions, let’s dive straight in:

You started playing the violin from a young age. How many hours did you put into practicing and what impact did that have on your school life or teenage social life.

The violin is a difficult instrument to learn, there are no two ways about it. Because it isn’t as instantly gratifying as an instrument such as the piano, for example, it is incredibly frustrating for about the first ten years, and it’s something you really have to stick at. I was encouraged to chip away and practise every day when I was younger, even if it was only 15 mins a day. As a beginner, this is essential for developing muscle memory – I believe it’s how often you practise, rather than how long you practise for, that is important.

As a teenager I began playing in my first bands, which is a healthy thing to do. I knew I needed to practise my violin regularly if I wanted to be any good, so I just got on with it, but of course I grumbled about it from time to time! I felt like music was the only thing I was any good at, so it made perfect sense that I should stick at it, and yes, that sometimes meant not getting drunk on a street corner with mates. Being a professional musician in a rock forum often means you have access to free booze frequently, so I kinda made up for missing out over the years.

 Your first album incorporates a variety of musical genres. What is your approach to writing and recording and does it vary depending on the style?

It know it sounds odd, but I don’t really have an approach to writing, other than getting the lyrics written first, then I fit them to music. I stop layering things up and adding new sections when I think the piece has gone as far as the song can go, then I call it a day and move on.

Stylistically I love listening to and playing heavy music, and that might be from anything to a Shostakovich string quartet to doom goth metal, but it has to be at least slightly progressive otherwise I get bored incredibly quickly and lose interest. I have dark tastes in music.

My lyrics and music could be considered rather angular at times, and the lyrics, particularly on EN2 are feisty and uncompromising. I’m certainly not painting by numbers and trying to sound like anybody else here, I never have done that. If you’re not adding anything to the development of music, you’re wasting everyone’s time, not least your own.

How involved are you with the production side of your recordings and videos?

100%. EN2 is entirely self produced, self funded through selling my artwork, and it is also self released, and all through choice as I wanted complete control over this record. It’s my intention to make some music videos for EN2 – it’s next on my to-do list. I enjoy making videos – it’s a relatively recent creative outlet for me. I’m not bad at editing and I actually find it quite relaxing and rewarding!

How do you feel about social media?

I like it. I think people need to put their phones down occasionally so as not to waste their entire lives online, but as a musician you need a platform from which to air your wares, and as such social media is invaluable. I use predominantly Facebook and Twitter to make announcements and post gig details. Generally I try to be as engaging as possible without ramming my music down people’s throats. You have to treat people as you’d like to be treated yourself, which is absolutely the way forward in real life too.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

It’s difficult to say, but I’m not going to measure highlights of my career in audience numbers. I’ve played to hundreds of thousands of people at a gig, I’ve played to 10 people at a gig – the number of people you play to rarely translates into whether it was a good gig or not. I think the highlight of my career so far is being able to say I’ve travelled the world and avoided getting a ‘proper’ job as a result of being good at doing something that I love. It’s been hard in places and I’ve had so many knock backs I’ve lost count. If you believe in yourself and get your head down though, it’s possible to achieve virtually anything.

What’s next for EN?

Make more EN videos, I’m seriously thinking of putting a US version of my band together and decamping over to NYC for a bit in 2015 – the music industry seems sewn up in this country, so I’m going to see if the yanks will have any of what I’m doing…see if they ‘get’ it.

The Wonder Stuff tour acoustically in December 2014 for our Sleigh The Uk Tour.

Miles Hunt and Erica Nockalls are gigging acoustically across the UK seemingly constantly!

And I’ll hopefully be painting more in the new year and having more EN art exhibitions.

Where can we buy your new album?

Through choice, EN2 is only available from my website and nowhere else. I’m bypassing all online platforms for streaming and selling until musicians are awarded a fairer deal for their music in an attempt to give value back to music.

That deserves a hi-five! Thank you Erica, it’s been fab. Congratulations on your recent art exhibition and good luck with the new album.

If you haven’t already been to check it out, head over to Erica’s website

You can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

* Okay, I’ll admit it, I just really wanted to interview her, nerd or not!

Awesome Lady: Erica Nockalls

Review by Danielle Austen

My fellow Xcite stablemate, Danielle Austen shares her thoughts on Inspired by Night… And on my birthday too! Thankfully it was a great birthday present!

Read it here

Review by Danielle Austen

Saturday, 8 November 2014

L's Birthday Present

imageNovember is probably my favourite month of the year because, apart from all the awesome fireworks, it is also my birthday.

So this year, to celebrate my birthday I’m giving away another Olivia Jones inspired charm bracelet.

The chunky link chain includes a cupcake, slice of pizza, a basque, a teapot and a laptop.

To enter, just leave a message in the comments below, on Sunday 9th November and you’ll be entered in the prize draw.

winner will be drawn at random and announced in Monday 10th November.

L's Birthday Present

Friday, 7 November 2014

No, I don't want to pay you to encourage me to write..!

Ever since I posted about NaNoWriMo I’ve been bombarded with cold-emails from PR agencies and such like, with lengthy details about how they support National Novel Writing Month and how they can help me stay on track towards my target of 50,000 words and give me feedback on my story.

I hate these kinds of targeted spamming. For one thing, the excitement I feel when I get an email to my author account is indescribable and these soulless mass mailouts completely kill my buzz.

But the reason it really winds me up is that I just wasted time reading their lengthy email inviting me to visit their website to read even more information, or to get in touch for further details.

You know, if they spent two minutes on my website they’d see that, not only am I not taking part in NaNoWriMo, I’m not even based in the same country as them so why would I want to use them for any PR I might be tempted to pay for?

I’m only 700 words away from 50,000 anyway… But that puts me just past halfway into my novel. I’ll have much more chance of finishing my novel if my time and patience wasn’t being worn down by irritating spammers.

Trust me, People… With a royalty cheque of £14.90 – I cannot afford your services so stop wasting our time and leave me to enjoy my hobby of writing!

No, I don't want to pay you to encourage me to write..!

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Quirky Beauty Brigade

Following on from my recent interview with Charlotte Pingriff of Perfectly Cast, the lovely lady has returned the favour and featured an interview with me in her latest Quirky Beauty Brigade newsletter.

You can read the interview (and sign up for her newsletter) here…

Quirky Beauty Brigade

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

National Novel Writing Month

I’ve been following the countdown to the start of NaNoWriMo with much interest and although I’m not officially taking part in the event, I do feel motivated to try and finish my current novel – working title ‘The Double Life of Molly Flockhart’.

I’ve reached that half way point where the story has taken hold and my desire to write is much stronger now than when I first started. I know my characters now, they feel like old friends and I’m curious about whether any of my characters are going to fall in love with each other or whether the antagonist is who he appears to be.

It’s fun writing these stories organically, I am still capable of being surprised by the plot twists because sometimes I’m not really expecting it. I always think I know exactly what is going to happen, but as I start writing conversations I find secrets being shared and plots being twisted without any prior knowledge of my own. It means that although I’m the author, I still get some of the suspense and mystery that my readers will hopefully experience, should this novel ever see the light of day.

But I couldn’t commit to writing a novel in a month. For one thing, my birthday is in November so at least one of my weekends will be lost to alcohol and celebrations. But also, the moment I give myself a deadline, is the moment I start busying myself with other things.

Despite that, I’m going to try and recognise National Novel Writing Month by completing this latest offering. But if I fail, at least no one will be monitoring my progress – besides which, in the UK it’s not NaNoWriMo, it’s National Vegan Month… I’m not observing that either!

National Novel Writing Month

Friday, 31 October 2014

Private Twitter accounts and why they're missing out.

Do you use Twitter? Twitter is that cool social network that has people arguing about whether it’s better or worse than Facebook.

I know people who hate Facebook with its proprietary big brother antics but love Twitter for its lack of enforced two-way relationship building.

Similarly people love Facebook because they can converse with like minded people while Twitter all feels like a big mass of people shouting to get attention.

The thing with any social network is that if you have a purpose for using it then how you use it changes.

If you’re going to use Twitter to follow celebrities and see what’s happening in the world then you can enjoy Twitter without ever gaining any followers. If you have nothing to say then fine, just be a follower, a casual observer. Maybe you don’t want followers so you set your account to private so you can manually approve every follower.

But as soon as you say something that you want the world to see, you have got to make your account public. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t protect your tweets but then expect that one tweet you write asking people to buy something or promote a gig or fill out a survey to actually be seen by anyone. Asking for an RT on a private tweet is ridiculous because private posts can’t be retweeted. And expecting people to manually copy the tweet and post it from their own account goes against the point of using Twitter as a means of sharing a message.

We live in a world of immediacy. Twitter is fast paced, your tweet might have a shelf life of twenty minutes if you’re lucky. People are busy writing their own tweets, they’re not going to waste time rewriting yours.

You want your tweet shared? Make it public.

Private accounts miss out on a whole heap of fun. Suppose you go to a gig and decide to tweet about it, copying the band or singer to let them know what you thought… No, even though you mentioned them they won’t see that, you marked your tweets private, remember, unless someone is following you they can’t read it.

Composing a tweet that says ‘hey Twitter, I need your help… RT’

From a private account isn’t going to reach the Twitterverse. It’ll go to the same 35 people that all your other tweets went to, those tweets that document what you had for breakfast and wish your friends a goodnight sleep.

There’s something really exciting about getting retweeted, but those private account holders won’t get that satisfaction of knowing something they said was considered worthy of sharing.

The irony is that while users with private accounts have to manually approve every follower, they could just as easily block every follower from a public account. It’ll take up the same amount of their time. But at least they’ll be enjoying the full experience that Twitter has to offer.

Now okay, I do understand if you only want people you know to see what you say… In which case Facebook is probably the social media for you, it’s more about relationships and less about sharing your thoughts with the whole world.

I know lots of people who are scared of Twitter, but it’s great fun if you use it properly. It gets tedious of course when all you read is a stream of tweets saying “buy my book, here” or “5 stars for my book, buy it here” without ever getting to know anything about the author. I hope that my followers are enjoying my cat photos and the evidence of my procrastination while I’m writing that difficult second novel. I know for a fact that any tweeted links to buy my book have fallen on deaf ears if my first royally statement is anything to go by!

I guess what I’m saying is that if you’re not going to use a social network the way it was intended, why bother at all? Life’s too short to be stuck behind a computer keeping a bunch of profiles up to date anyway. Stick with one you feel comfortable with and use it properly.

And if you really want to keep your tweets private, just set up a separate profile and make it public for those occasional tweets you want to share with the whole of Twitter!

Private Twitter accounts and why they're missing out.

Awesome Lady: Charlotte Pingriff of Perfectly Cast

Pleased to add my first lovely unlikely nerd to the wall of awesome. The first newsletter from Perfectly Cast included instructions for turning yourself into a zombie for Halloween… and my Nerdar went beserk! Charlotte Pingriff is an ex-special effects make up artist who now helps women feel good about themselves by turning their bodies into art. So welcome to the nerd watchlist, Charlotte…

Hey Charlotte, thanks for talking to me, let’s dive straight in, what gave you the idea of turning bodies into works of art?

I trained as a special effects make-up artist, and casting was part of our degree. In special effects, you create casts in order to sculpt prosthetics, or build appliances to custom fit a particular person, but I also loved the creative aspect of body casting, using the human body to create beautiful sculptures that could be used as a canvas for any finish you desire. The possibilities with casts are endless! I love it when a Perfectly Cast client wants a bespoke finish, as it allows me to spread my wings and create something really unique for them.

How’s this for a unique canvas!?

I love the idea of you creating the canvas on which to work, making every canvas unique. You’ve talked about a client with a distinctive scar. Did your finished piece change the way she felt about it?

Yes! She said she had always hated her scar, but that I had made her see it differently. It is her badge of honour, a reminder that she survived something life threatening. Something to be proud of!


How important is body image to you and what advice would you give to women who feel they need to live up to an ideal portrayed by the media?

As a women who has run the gauntlet of body issues, and self esteem issues, myself, it’s hugely important to me. I love clothes, shoes, beauty treatments, and make-up as much as the next girl, but it’s also crucial to me that I accept my body, quirks and all, and that I do all I can to feel positive and good about myself in a healthy way. This is something that has not come easily to me, and I still have off days, like everyone. So I can relate, and empathise with ladies. But I can honestly say that I’m happier with myself now, than I have ever been (some of that has come with age, and some of it has come through sheer hard work). With regards to the advice I would give, it’s such a complex topic, and one that I aim to address through my work and my free ‘Quirky Beauty Brigade’ newsletter, so it’s hard to condense it into one piece of advice – particularly as every woman is different. But if I had to give one piece of advice, it would be to remember that even those women that you idolise, likely have their own issues and insecurities. Remember that these women have carefully cultivated images. They have a huge team around them, and countless thousands of pounds to look the way they do. On top of the endless hard work they put in to look that way, it’s worth reminding yourself that it’s not their natural state. Even those women don’t look like those women. I don’t say that to run them down, but rather to point out that the media ideal is not real. It’s all smoke and mirrors!

When you’re not working, how do you relax?

This is one of my favourite pieces of art by Charlotte.

Well, this is a good time to confess that I probably work way too much! But I do love what I do, and it is a trait a lot of business own

ers share. But when I do stop working I love to read, I love to hang out with friends and drink wine (!), I LOVE to eat good food and I also love watching trashy TV – it’s my way to switch off! Oh, and I’m also starting to discover the merits of meditating, something I never thought I’d get into!

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Haha, see above, trashy TV! Also cheesy music – particularly 80’s, and watching beauty tutorials on YouTube – I love that! It inspired me to set up my own channel too through Perfectly Cast, it’s where I post all the vids for my Quirky Beauty Brigade.

Have you ever had a catfish moment?

Not to my knowledge! I say that, because I have a lot of friends who I only know online, so I guess they may not be who they say they are! But I

have been really lucky so far that everyone I’ve ever met in real life, after first meeting online, has been perfectly lovely in real life too!

Are you a crazy cat person or a barking mad dog lover?

A crazy cat person definitely! There are such funny, entertaining creatures! Though I do love dogs too!

Tell us what you have up your creative sleeve.

I have loads of plans in the pipeline for articles and videos for my Quirky Beauty Brigade, and lots of ideas for the casts (including a very important exhibition that I’m planning with another artist that will tackle serious issues that women face). I’m particularly excited about the Probbles – cute and quirky little pebble creatures that customers can adopt! It’s an idea I toyed with for ages, and it just buzzed around my head, like a crazy fly, and wouldn’t leave me alone. So now that they have been

born, I have a million ideas for them! So watch this space – or rather watch Perfectly Cast’s space!! Hehe. Oh, and I have an ebook coming soon too…..! An adult fairytale/parable. That is something not many people know about, so you read it here first!

Oooh, I’m looking forward to reading that! Huge thanks to Charlotte for stopping by and answering my questions.

You can find out more about Perfectly Cast by visiting the website

Or through the usual social media channels

facebook Twitter


Awesome Lady: Charlotte Pingriff of Perfectly Cast

Friday, 24 October 2014

Is there a right way to write?

I consider myself to be something of an expert when it comes to procrastinating. There are times when I’ve put an unimaginable amount of energy in to doing something else just to avoid the much less complex task at hand. If you’ve been on Twitter recently, around the time that I’ve been trying to write, you will have been subjected to a commentary on my procrastination. Last week I spent a good half an hour on Spotify compiling a playlist of music that I can listen to while writing. Instrumental/orchestral music from movies and video games is currently my writing soundtrack of choice. I’m developing a soft spot for classical music where I would normally have turned my nose at it and dismissed it as boring…and dare I say it, for nerds!

Ironically, the easiest way to distract me from writing would in fact be to listen to music I love, because then I would have to keep stopping to chair dance and sing along to my favourite songs, or tell the air how brilliant a song is… maybe even go tell the internet what I’m listening to.

So that half an hour was time well spent if it provided me with hours worth of non-distracting music.

Since then, it’s become part of my routine: load up my account on the mac, open Pages, wait for iCloud to sync my novel from wherever I last wrote some of it, open Spotify, start playing the theme music from Lord of the Rings and churn out a few thousand words.


But the top way I procrastinate is by sleeping. Seriously! I get into bed, get all cosy and I think about what my next chapter will be, I picture the scene, I imagine the conversations and once I’m happy with it I can just get in front of a computer and write it. Except, just as I’m starting to picture the scene, the inevitable happens. I fall asleep. In fact, planning scenes for my novel has become the top of my list of ways to get to sleep. Maybe it’s something to do with concentrating the mind onto a single focus. Or maybe my novel is just really boring, I don’t know.

One of the reasons I think I procrastinate so much over my writing is that I don’t have a definitive plan. My plot and timeline is pretty vague. With Inspired I had a definite plan that I was working to, but a lot of the parts that tied the story together just happened, often catching my by surprise as I wrote them. With Molly Flockhart I have very vague plans that are starting to get a little more defined as I’m writing, but my characters seem to be telling me the story and some days they’re just not sharing their plans with me.

A friend of mine asked recently, how I went about writing. Did I know exactly what was going to happen before I started writing? The answer is no. I have a theme or a premise and I start writing and see where it takes me. Often I’ll try and plot out a vague timeline or I’ll make notes about characters, names, locations, particular plot twists and then sometimes I’ll skip to the end, work out what the conclusion will be and work backwards a little bit. But there’s always a gaping hole in the middle where I have no idea what is going on and just trust that my characters will tell me when they’re ready to.

I don’t know if that is the right way to do it, or if there even is a right way to write. But I like it because it means that even though I’m writing the story, I can still immerse myself in the world and be surprised along the way.

I’ve joined several online book groups recently, not that I have time to read much – and I don’t read at all while I’m writing because I find other authors start infiltrating my subconscious and it confuses my writing voice – and one thing readers often say, and I can completely relate, is that when a novel comes to an end they feel sad because they’ve been immersed in a new world and they find it hard to leave it. Perhaps this is why so many trilogies and series are being written, so readers can make return visits to that universe.

Avid readers that feel that way should definitely try writing. Creating that world lets you really immerse yourself into it. Creating characters, developing their personalities, their relationships, and the world they inhabit. And as the author you can pop back in at anytime.

Fellow authors: How do you write your novels?

Is there a right way to write?

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Announcing the Wall of Awesome

For too long the term nerd has been a derogatory term used to bully and hurt the feelings of people who are actually destined for more success than their cool, probably attractive, but let’s be honest, stupid, school peers.

And while the nerds have taken the phrase back to wear as a badge of honour in these times when technology is the cool thing to do, it still has a negative image.

Picture a nerd and your mind probably jumps to the kid who wore glasses, the optional school blazer and got straight As in subjects like Maths and science and always had a note to exclude him from sport.

Or you picture an overweight, greasy, guy with thick glasses and bad teeth sat behind a computer.

Well… No more. I’m going to create a section on this website dedicated to all the awesome people who I believe fall under the definition of nerd while going against the stereotype that has plagued us for decades.

There’ll be profiles, interviews and guest posts.

So watch this space.

Announcing the Wall of Awesome

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Thank you Asda for restocking Cream Soda!

So after a terrible week or two with no soft drinks by other half found himself in the fizzy pop aisle at Asda and there before him was a new rebranded 4 pack of Cream Soda. He sent me a photo and then bought 24 cans!

I was worried. What if the new brand means a new supplier, what if it doesn’t taste the same. What if we’ve got 24 cans of super sweet liquid with a nasty after taste?

So I left my office, ran over to my local Asda across the road and I bought a pack for myself…

And it was just the same as the old cans! What a monumentous relief!!

Like Popeye gets his power from Spinach, I get my power from CreamSoda! Like Popeye gets his power from Spinach, I get my power from CreamSoda!

Now you might think I’ve made a fuss about nothing. But I put it to you – you may have a preference between Pepsi and Coke, you’ll notice the difference. You probably notice the difference between diet and the full fat full sugar kind too. And whichever your preference, while you might be willing to drink the other brands, it’ll never be as nice your favourite. Now imagine they go out of business and stop making that brand completely. Sure, you can put up with the other brands but it’ll never be the same. You might even drink less as a result. Or try a completely different flavour of soft drink all together.

When I went on my writing retreat last month, I took a 6 pack of cream soda with me. I drank it on the train while I travelled, I drank it while I was writing.But when they stopped selling it, I didn’t write at all.

This week, since I restocked my fridge with my favourite fizzy pop, I’ve written approximately 8000 words.

So you see: Asda Diet Cream Soda is integral to my work-life balance, making me happy and more productive.

Thanks, Asda, for not depriving me of my diet pop fix!

Thank you Asda for restocking Cream Soda!

Monday, 13 October 2014

Keeping social media sociable

I’ve been using social media in my job for a long time but it was only when I created my author accounts that I really started thinking about what I was doing.

Buy my book, it’s great, some people said so![/caption]

We’ve all done it. Tweeted a link to buy our book and then sat back and expected everyone to immediately descend on Amazon.

But when that doesn’t happen and we consider how quickly our tweet got lost amongst the millions of tweeters all shouting at the same time, we go the other way and start mass tweeting, scheduling random tweets daily, hourly even, with a link to buy the book.

Occasionally we throw in a quoted positive review basically saying:

hey everyone, someone said I’m great.

Which makes us look like an arrogant self-absorbed asshole!

Coz I got a book out… You can buy it on Amazon… Just saying.

As authors, shouldn’t we be capable of composing an interesting tweet that would spark some interest, a RT or even a response? I’ve made several Twitter friends with whom I engage with daily and if it wasn’t for them I’d find Twitter very dull, because by the time I’ve skimmed past all the tweets vying for my attention, trying to tell me how awesome people think their novel is, there’s very little left except the tweets in which I’ve been mentioned.

Social media is one of those what it says on the tin, things. It’s social, it’s about interacting with people. Sharing information and then engaging with the feedback. Otherwise what’s the point?

I don’t want to be sold to. I want to follow people with something interesting to say. As soon as we start to recognise the Twitter habits we hate in other people, we should look at whether we are guilty of the same.

If all I ever do is ask people to buy my book and tell them how great other people think it is, then I’m basically the Twitter equivilant of a cold caller who gets constantly hung up on because real people don’t want their time wasted listening to me trying to sell them something they don’t want!

Look in your list of follows… If you’re an author, I bet you followed loads of other authors in the hope they’d follow you back and retweet your tweets to all their fans?

But you know what those authors are doing? Trying to sell their book. They’re not even reading your tweets. Chances are they don’t even go on Twitter, probably just use Buffer or HooteSuite to bulk schedule tweets for a week in advance. Variations of “my book is now available here…” Or “5 stars for my novel, buy it here.”

Joining groups on Facebook and Goodreads that offer authors space to promote their books, is also pointless, because again, it’s just a group of authors talking about their own book but not paying attention to anyone else. A waste of time.

Book clubs constantly complain about people joining just to promote their novels. They don’t engage or discuss books in general. They just publicise their book then disappear again. Job done.

Social media is about being sociable. Engaging with your readers and potential readers and allowing them to get to know you and your writing style.

[caption id=”attachment_624″ align=”aligncenter” width=”200″> LEMay1000 This is actually me! Here I am.

If authors put a little of themselves into their characters then surely allowing potential readers to get to know them is the best possible publicity for their fictional world and its inhabitants.

I tell my clients all the time: if you’re not going to do it properly, there’s no point in having an account. Stop viewing Twitter as a marketing tool and start getting to know some people.

What’s your experience of Social media? Share your thoughts below.

Keeping social media sociable

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Do books still get judged by their cover?

That’s a slightly misleading question, but I do like to use a well known phrase in a title occasionally.

I’ve been trying to promote my novel in a variety of ways, last week I did a book signing at my local book shop and I’ve written a few guest blog posts for other writers and bloggers.

Book signing at Pritchards Bookshop, Crosby. Book signing at Pritchards Bookshop, Crosby.

But what I really want is reviews. I’ve given away a fair amount of free ebooks in competitions in the hope of getting a review out of it and I’ve sent press releases to local press, all with no bite from the journalists.

This week I was turned down for a review, which on the one hand I appreciated the response, but was disappointed all the same, mainly because I was given two reasons: aside from having a to be read list longer than both arms the reviewer said that I write in a genre she’s not very familiar with and she wouldn’t want to give it a bad review just because it wasn’t her thing.

And that upset me a little because I realise that the Xcite Books logo screams erotica, and I appreciate that erotica isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But I couldn’t help feeling like I was being judged for writing, basically, porn and that it’s not worth reviewing.

Because those of you have that read Inspired by Night, will know that, although it does have a fair share of sex scenes, it’s about as similar to porn as True Blood. There’s probably more sex in an episode of Game of Thrones. My story has a realistic amount of sex in it, for the tale it is telling.

The irony with my novel, is that fans of Xcite books, may in fact be disappointed by the lack of sex!

I’m not a fan of erotica, which surprises a lot of my fellow Xcite authors, I don’t have any intentions of writing any more because I didn’t really plan to write adult romance in the first place, I just told a story and that’s what unfolded.

One of the reviews I’ve had so far said:

The book has some hot and raunchy scenes in it, from cybersex to the real thing, so if you are looking for pure gushy romance, look elsewhere, this mixes up the two really well. It’s not pure erotica, it’s not pure romance, it’s a sexy romp of sorts! Anyway, it’s really good.

There are some really funny moments in the book that made me laugh out loud too and it makes the book really down to earth, tangible and real. I think a lot of ladies will like this book.

Another said:

It was a refreshing change from the usual hot, sexy, rich, male CEO wooing the female. I laughed and cried reading this book.

So the reviews seem to focus on the parts of the novel that I have been promoting myself: fun, nerdy and romantic. The sex scenes are just there because, sex is a normal part of life, everyone’s doing it so why wouldn’t my characters?

I can’t help feeling that reviewers, journalists and anyone else that I’m trying to promote my book to, won’t see past the publisher and even read the jacket blurb.

Yet there are countless books just like mine, blending romance with sex, being published by major publishing houses and no one gives it a second thought.

Seriously? In 2014. Are we really still judging books by their cover?

Do books still get judged by their cover?

Saturday, 4 October 2014

No, Doctor Who Hasn't Become Too Scary!

Yeah, I read a tweet on Twitter this morning “has Doctor Who become too scary?” and did a double take. What a ridiculous question.

Doctor Who had always been scary, except for when it stopped being scary for a bit while the Doctor was all young and handsome and fun and charming.

Again, I love David Tennant, I know I keep sounding like I don’t, I do. I had a massive crush on him and there’s this is my kitchen…


And I love Steven Moffatt too and some of the Tennant/Moffatt stories were awesome. Also Steven Moffatt wrote Coupling and Sherlock so anyone that keeps moaning about him lately in relation to Doctor Who should just zip it and show some respect! (in my opinion)!

But there was a time when people used to hide behind the sofa when the Daleks were in town. The Cybermen in Patrick Troughton’s era were absolutely the creepiest thing I’ve ever seen on television, and if you’re not scared of the weeping angels then I don’t know what kind of badass super hero you are, but you’re not normal that’s for sure!

So the new Doctor is a bit angry and Scottish… Just because the doctor isn’t all swoony and silly like a cartoon character doesn’t mean the show is too scary!

It’s always been scary!

No, Doctor Who Hasn't Become Too Scary!

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Guest Post: Skeleror's journal of evil

When Skeletor asks you to write a post for his blog you don’t say no!

So my post is all about nice guys and handsome guys and whether the two attributed are mutually exclusive.

Read it here.

Guest Post: Skeleror's journal of evil

The great Cream Soda disaster

I can’t remember the last time I was this upset at discovering a much loved item was no longer available to buy.

Asda has stopped selling their own brand diet cream soda cans.

The best cream soda ever made

Well this is just a disaster. It’s not just cream soda that’s been bumped off either, oh no. All their canned soft drinks have gone. Dandelion and burdock, another firm favourite of mine and my other half’s favourite, ginger beer.

I can’t believe it. I know it sounds silly to be so upset… Asda isn’t the only supermarket to sell fizzy pop. But it’s the best.

I’ve searched long and hard for the perfect cream soda and finally I found it. I can honestly say I’ve drank at least one can of Asda diet cream soda every day for the last 2 years. I buy six packs in my monthly shop.

I tried the Tesco one once, yuk, it was so sickly sweet it left a nasty after taste. And I tried the bottled Asda cream soda but it tastes of plastic and is flat before it’s even finished fizzing. There’s nothing worse than flat fizzy pop!

I’m so upset about it. I went into my local Asda today determined to buy all the remaining cans of pop – all they had was four packs of ginger beer – so at least him indoors is sorted for a few weeks.

imageThe last time I was this upset about a drink being unavailable was when they stopped making Schotts Vanilla Heist. There was a bar I used to drink in purely because they sold it. But then they stopped making it. And why was that my favourite drink you might ask? Well, it was basically alcoholic cream soda!

I love cream soda but since I found the perfect cream soda, all other brands taste horrible to me. I’m so upset about this.

Next they’ll be banning pizza and telling me they’ve made tea illegal.

Have you been affected by a favourite food or drink being unavailable? Share your woes below.

The great Cream Soda disaster

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Guest Post: Fantasy & Sci-fi Rock My World

I wrote a guest post recently for my friend Mark Murphy and fellow Liverpool author, which was published yesterday on his website

Minology is a literary series set in the fictional fantasy world of the inside of a human man called Will. The min are a race of creatures that all work hard to make The Will function.

His first novel: The Curious Secret of Central Head is published by Netherworld Books and is available to buy from my Amazon store and follows the adventure of a pair of young min from the Luglands. Mark has just had the second Minology novel, The Disquisitive Saga Of Filbert Monkston, approved for publication. (I got a sneaky peek at the first draft and it’s fab!)

Ready my guest post here and have a little look around the rest of the site and get to know the world of The Will.

Guest Post: Fantasy & Sci-fi Rock My World

Crosby Herald


I’m super chuffed to be in the Crosby Herald. This is the local paper for the area where I grew up (my folks still live there). I’ve always loved reading through the Crosby Herald and finding out what is happening in the area, it’s generally far more interesting than the national newspapers.

Crosby Herald

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Taking a break from the Imperial City...

… But do steer clear of the gates of Oblivion.

For the first time in months we had nothing to watch and nothing to play. So we decided to take a trip to Cyrodill and see how our Nerd Leonard was getting on with the Elder Scrolls (4).


We’ve done it backwards – starting with Skyrim, in which we played a fearless high elf called Sheldon – we decided to create our own race for Oblivion – Nerd – and call our character Leonard, to continue our Big Bang Theory theme.

There’s something about the Elder Scrolls that just seems to transport us into a phantom zone between reality and holiday. In that it feels like it’s real, but we enjoy the sense of visiting new places.

Before going to bed last night I turned to my other half and said:

oh, you know that house we saw for sale? Well it’s 7000, I went and enquired up at the castle and the Count told me.

Now, doesn’t that sound like real life? (Apart from the castle and the count, oh and the price too!)

This is a game that sucks you in. We put it on for a quick visit and four hours disappeared.

But it’s a great game, the artwork is breathtaking and the missions that crop up in the course of just wandering around a small town are great fun to do.

I’m really enjoying being back there again and I hope Bethesda make more instalments… If only because I’ve still got to create Raj and Walowitz!

Taking a break from the Imperial City...

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Ormskirk and Skelmersdale

The same article has also appeared on the Ormskirk and Skelmersdale Asvertiser.

See it here

Ormskirk and Skelmersdale

Liverpool Echo

I’m particularly excited to be featured on the Liverpool Echo website, as the largest local newspaper for Merseyside it feels like quite a feat to get myself mentioned on there. This article features on the book signing at Pritchards Bookshop on 4th October.


Read it here

Liverpool Echo

Southport Visitor

I’m excited to have news of my book signing featured on the Southport Visitor website. The Visitor prints local news for people living in and around Southport. For those not familiar with the geography of the North West off England, Southport is the Northern most point of Sefton, which is a borough of Merseyside (also known as the Liverpool City Region).*


You can read the article here.


* I know, boring! But in my day job I happen to have to know these things, so I thought I’d share my knowledge with you!!

Southport Visitor

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Guest blog:

I wrote a guest blog for the lovely people at

It’s all about the changes in technology and the formats that we now use to consume our entertainment… Including romance!

Check it out. Leave a comment and you’ll even get a chance to win a free ebook.

Guest blog: Romcon.com

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Women kicking ass in the tech world

Or to put it another way: Why my female lead characters are all nerds.

There’s still a massive gender divide in STEM careers (science, technology, engineering & maths) and it can only be a cause for celebration that the UK government have made changes to the national curriculum to bring computer science into primary education. Of course we should probably do something about the image while we’re at it. Kids today still seem to think computer programmers are over weight, scruffy men with big glasses and buck teeth.

Nobody wants to grow up to be a nerd!

Hopefully by learning from an early age girls, as much as boys, will be encouraged to learn. Because if we can’t get girls interested in tech, there’s going to be a MASSIVE skills shortage in the future. Imagine a world where 100% of the available jobs require tech skills but only 50% of the population (i.e. the male half) are encouraged to develop those skills.

Looks at toys – from an early age boys are given video games, building bricks, puzzles. Toys that require some development of logic and reasoning. Girls are given pink sparkly things or plastic versions of kitchen appliances. Seriously – I went to  toy shop to buy a birthday present for my friend’s daughter last week and the shelves were full of toy kettles and ironing boards. Even a toy hoover!

First page of results on Google for "Girls Toys" First page of results on Google for “Girls Toys”

I bought her a toy guitar and a toy drum. With not a hint of pink anywhere!

It’s been said that our education system has the challenge of giving children skills for jobs that don’t even exist yet. That’s a pretty tough call, especially now when technology is accelerating at such a rate that even those of us with a vested interest in tech can’t imagine what will come next.

I’m not a computer scientist. I can’t write code. I can make changes to html in my websites and I can even tweak the odd bit of php, but my digital skills are really more in the design side than the programming. Though I desperately wish I could do more.

When I was a teenager my mum said to me: “you should study computers, that’s the big thing.” I wrinkled my nose and said “but that sounds so boring,” and off I went to university, to study music industry management and muscle my way into working for record companies in London for a few years, before I got sick of being skint and returned to Liverpool to embark on a new career that finished up with me running my own digital media company.

My mum, bless her, has never once said “I told you so,” but I always remember. There’s a lesson there: listen to your mum – she knows!

During my London years, I spent two hours every day commuting and I consumed books like they were going out of fashion. I probably wouldn’t have been quite so skint if I hadn’t bought so many books! If only the kindle had been invented back then.

I enjoyed a good light hearted romance, a bit of fantasy or just something that gripped me. But over the years I found myself less convinced by lead characters. Every story started feeling like it was the same thing. There’s probably only so many ways to structure a romantic novel, but I no longer felt like I could relate to the characters.

For instance: I would absolutely steer the hell away from vampires and werewolves, and if my boyfriend started spying on me and banning me from walking to the sandwich shop by myself, I’d take out a restraining order on him. (I have an ex-boyfriend who tried to ban me from stopping off at the kebab shop on the way home from the pub… You’ll have noticed I said ex-boyfriend…) I don’t relate to characters that start off with a backbone that seems to dissolve as soon as a handsome man comes along.

So when I started writing Inspired by Night, I knew I wanted to create a character that I could relate to. I wanted an independent girl who was capable of running her own business, that was connected to digital/tech industries and who cared more about playing video games and eating pizza than going out and partying.

But I also wanted to show that no matter how confident, successful or intelligent someone is, we all have a vulnerable side.

chrisWhen I first wrote the scenes between Olivia and Chris I wondered if it was realistic, whether someone like Olivia would really be gullible enough to fall for Chris’ charm. But then I saw the TV series Catfish and realised that people are embarking on online romances all the time. In fact this is actually a worrying problem: In America a man has been arrested for scamming elderly people to the value of $1 million by pretending to be romantically interested in them.

I certainly hope that no one thinks I’m encouraging women to behave like Olivia did, I want to remind people that it’s easy to get taken in by someone, especially if you really want to believe it’s real. As a woman who has put her personal life on hold for several years Olivia has lost the self confidence to go out there and meet someone, it’s easy to see why she would fall for the compliments of Chris and the easy nature of embarking on a romance without leaving the comfort and safety of her sofa.

But I’m losing track. The important thing for me is that I have female characters that are attractive, funny and likeable, that succeed in a male dominated industry and demonstrate that being a nerd is not an automatic sentence of loneliness. Nerds are cool! I didn’t want yet another down-trodden female, in a boring job, who gets swept off her feet by a rich powerful man. It’s about being a kick ass role model to women everywhere, standing on her own two feet and showing that there is more to life than finding a man… but when that man comes along, he’ll feel right, regardless of his height, weight and income!

I’ve just embarked on my second novel. The only things that are similar to Inspired by Night are the humour and the nerdy lead character. I’m not planning on writing a steamy bonkbuster, it’s a romantic comedy adventure with lashings of nerdy goodness. Another kick-ass female showing girls that it’s cool to be a nerd!

Women kicking ass in the tech world

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Book Signing: 4th October - Pritchards, Crosby

Well now this is a little bit exciting.

Not only are they stocking Inspired By Night, but I’ve just confirmed a date to do a book signing at Pritchards Bookshop in Crosby village where I grew up.

I’m especially excited because when I was child I used to spend most of my pocket money at Pritchards bookshop. When I close my eyes I can still picture the interior of the old shop (they had to relocate several years ago). I remember the long narrow shop, walking straight to the back where the children’s titles were. Stopping shorter as I got older.

I particularly remember buying Back Home by Michelle Magorian and marvelling at how big the book was – it was like a grown up book. I read that novel so many times.

I was regularly in there buying Christopher Pike books, Nancy Drew stories and then Sweet Valley High as I reached my teens.

As I got older I would order text books for school, but my particular favourite section, no matter what age I was, was the cartoon section – I don’t know how many Snoopy/Peanuts comic books I bought.

So I’m just a little bit excited because I have such a great affection for this bookshop, so many of my happy childhood memories are caught up in this beacon of literary delights. In a time when ebooks are king, I know that Pritchards has a fight on its hands to remain open.

I hope that all you dedicated readers out there will support their local independent books shops. Kindle might be cheap and feed your book addiction while being kind to your pockets, but don’t forget the bookshops that nurtured your love of reading from an early age.

So please come along on Saturday 4th October and say hi, maybe we can swap stories about the books we used to buy!

Book Signing: 4th October - Pritchards, Crosby

Saturday, 6 September 2014

My TV friends

I’ve always been something of a telly addict. Ever since I was a kid I have been opening my heart to the stories of people on my TV screen and regarding them like old friends and family.

A few years ago I had a boyfriend that hated TV. He couldn’t understand my addiction to it. He’d say to me: are you coming over tonight?” And I’d say “no, Greys Anaromy is on.” It used to drive him mad. But I told him in no uncertain terms that I’d been involved in the lives of my Greys Anatomy friends since we met a few years earlier and he’d only been in my life for a few weeks. I suspected that Meredith Grey and Derek Shepherd would be in my life a lot longer than he would anyway.

After he complained that I loved TV more than I loved him and I shrugged and said “well, yes” we parted company.

One of my favourite things in television is when stories cross over. When Addison Montgomery got a spin off show – Private Practice, I always looked forward to the episode when either she went back to Seattle Grace or someone from Greys Anatomy would turn up to visit her. I loved that the episodes would coincide with each other. You knew when you’d just seen Mark Sloan visiting Addison that he wasn’t going to appear in Grey’s that week.

I also really liked it when Cleveland would reappear in Family Guy, during the period he had his own show. And more recently, in the pilot for the Flash TV show, Green Arrow appeared at the end.

It’s funny how, when you get really into a TV show, you become involved in their lives and start thinking about them like they are actually your friends. I was worried sick about whether Tyrion Lannister would be executed after the Mountain killed the Viper.

A friend of mine was really excited when her friends from NCIS met her friends from Hawaii Five-0. It was like having a party with all the people she knew from different parts of her life.

Then of course there’s your TV boyfriend. And it’s okay to have more than one TV boyfriend, without feeling guilty – unless they’re from the same show of course, because that can get a bit awkward.

My current favourite TV boyfriend is Arrows’s Oliver Queen, although as soon as Grey’s returns it’ll be Jackson Avery, and if Parks and Recreation makes it back to our screens then I’ll be mentally stepping out with Ben Wyatt.

I love September because we get a whole new season of shows starting. I’m looking forward to Sons of Anarchy returning and new shows Flash and Gotham both starting in October. I’m also anticipating the return of Greys Anatomy, Scandal and Revenge.

So which shows make up your TV friends and who’s your TV lover?

My TV friends

Saturday, 30 August 2014

What's Good To Do

The first review of Inspired by Night has been posted on

I’m really quite overwhelmed by the five star rating and the lovely write up made me cry!

Read the review here

What's Good To Do

Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
A long time ago in a city far far away (London) I was sat in the office restaurant eating lunch. We were talking about the League of Gentlemen and my colleague told me that he had been friends for many years with one of the writers. In fact, some of the character names in the show were inspired by him and his family. He told me that, while studying, the writer had been advised that when creating characters it helps to name them after people you know, because you immediately feel a connection to them and they feel real.

That conversation has always stayed with me, I bring it out anecdotally whenever the League of Gentleman is mentioned or whenever that particular writer is connected to a project.

But it really came to mind two years ago when I started writing Inspired By Night and needed names for the characters. For the most part, any names I’ve borrowed have been purely for the name sake, but occasionally a little personality or scenario has crept in that influenced the character.

For instance, James is a computer programmer that Olivia had interviewed and as part of the interview, Olivia had designed a test. Steven was cocky about it, thought the test very simple while James over analysed it.

I was childishly pleased that Steven had made a small error – nothing critical but an error all the same, but James had made an error that was actually my mistake in the test design. When I corrected it, I found James would have been right.

This actually happened in real life and knowing I was going to use this anecdote prompted me to use the name. I bumped into the real life James recently and told him he’d inspired a character name, he was cool with it. There are no other similarities at all between the character and his name sake though.

One of the characteristics of Steven is that he’s very confident, despite his young age and lack of work experience. Olivia finds that particularly annoying. I once worked with a guy who was straight from university, and I always marvelled at how confident he was, dealing with the public. I didn’t find him annoying as such, I was more jealous at his ease and manner, but more than anything, I was annoyed at myself for having always hidden behind the mistaken belief that confidence came with age and experience. My colleague – you guessed it – Steven, showed me it didn’t. I can’t imagine how much I’ve missed out on in life due to my shyness and social awkwardness, stupidly believing that one day, when I grow up, I’ll be much more confident. I’m still waiting to grow up!

After I’d decided to use the surname Teller, I couldn’t help calling Steven’s father John – a vague reference to John Teller, the deceased father of Jacks Teller from Sons of Anarchy. I also named the house keeper at Thornton Manor after Rose from Upstairs Downstairs.


And then there’s Ruth. Some of my favourite parts of Inspired By Night include conversations between Ruth and Olivia. I named her after my friend and she accidentally took on some of her personality… Albeit a slightly exaggerated version.

“Why are you wearing flat shoes?’

“I’m taking you shopping”

“I hate shopping”

- Ruth & Olivia

Ruth never makes me go shopping, though it’s true I hate buying clothes, usually it’s me that makes Ruth go shopping, when I need a special occasion outfit, because she knows about clothes and I don’t. She’d never let me go out in public looking ridiculous but she wouldn’t out and out tell me I looked awful – unless she absolutely had to.

Ruth was the first person in whom I confided that I was writing a novel with lots of sex in it. She just grinned at me and said she couldn’t wait to read it.

Finally I had to name Olivia’s ex boyfriend Brian. We have an in-joke amongst my friends that I only fancy blokes called Brian – it only happened twice, a long time ago. As huge fans of The Life of Brian me dating someone called Brian was a gift, but replacing him with another Brian was something else. I’m going to stop saying Brian now!

Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

So who's* loving Peter Capaldi?

*Throws arm in the air and waves it around frantically.
We’ve been waiting with baited breath for the new episode of Doctor Who, the first of the new Doctor’s tenure. There’s mixed reviews online but the two distinct groups seem to have largely similar views: the new generation fans hated it and the old generation fans loved it.

If you haven’t watched the episode yet, and don’t want it ruined for you, please look away now. If you continue past here please don’t blame me if I spoil any surprises.

Okay so I loved this episode. But then I haven’t hated any new Doctor’s first episode so far. I only vaguely remember watching the show when I was a kid (Peter Davison was my Doctor) but since the reboot and easier access to old TV, shows I’ve embarked on watching the completed stories that are currently available from the beginning. Admittedly some of the William Hartnell stories were difficult to get though but I’ve just finished watching the Third Doctor’s story: Doctor Who and the Silurians. Sadly there is a severe lack of Patrick Troughton stories – which is a crying shame because so far I think he’s my favourite Doctor.

So yes, I only got massively into Doctor Who when it returned, but I was also more interested in technology, computers, space and science by then so I had a much better appreciation of the nerdier elements of the show, than I had had when I was a kid. I’m also not going to deny having a major crush on David Tennant and declaring he was the best Doctor ever. But let’s put things into perspective a little bit.

Of course, your favourite Doctor is a matter of opinion and new generation fans tend to mainly form their opinions based on Doctors 9 – 11. And let’s be honest, The Tenth Doctor was the prettiest of those Doctors (and actually, probably, all the Doctors) and as Madame Vastra pointed out in this feature length episode:

Madame Vastra: He looked young. Who do you think that was for?

Clara: Me?

Madame Vastra: Everyone. I wear a veil as he wore a face.

Clara: For what reason?

Madame Vastra: The oldest reason there is for anything: to be accepted.

Or as Steven Teller complains in Inspired By Night:

“someone in their wisdom decided to make The Doctor all handsome and sexy and easily accessible to a mainstream audience.”

imageI read a tweet, the following morning after Deep Breath was shown that said “I’m so glad my teenage self was around for the Tennant era – they were the glory days of Doctor Who.” Although I’m not entirely convinced this teenager has actually watched the preceding forty odd years worth of Doctor Who to confirm that statement. It seems like a shockingly quick judgement to make on the new Doctor.

So just to be clear: Is David Tennant actually the best Doctor? Or just the most attractive? I imagine that opinion also changes with age. See I’ve had a bit of an unexplained crush on Malcolm Tucker… so by rights I should also have a crush on the Twelfth Doctor.

But I’ve come to the conclusion that I have a crush on the Doctor full stop. The Doctor is a name, not a number! Maybe not William Hartnell, but give me a couple of decades and that might change too. I definitely had a crush on Troughton and Pertwee has some pretty amazing sideburns. I can’t imagine being attracted to Colin Baker or Sylvestor McCoy, but until I watch all their episodes I’m not ruling it out as a possibility.

I haven’t worked out which are the glory years of Doctor Who in my opinion yet, I’ve still got five Doctors worth of stories and companions to get through before I can make that decision, but I can safely say that I won’t be swayed by his looks.

The Doctor is one man. In a world where we try to fight against the media’s body image and assure our children that beauty comes from within, how can we not love The Doctor in all of his incarnations? Because he is the same man. If we love his knowledge, his view of the universe and his sense of adventure, then surely it doesn’t matter how many lines he has on his face.

Having watched lots of Classic Doctor Who over the last few years, it struck me that the female characters were always strong. Even the companions with any sense of confusion and bewilderment when faced with the bigger on the inside police box, or stepping out onto a different planet centuries in the future, got stuck in. Look at astrophysisist Zoe Heriot or Liz Shore, a fabulous woman working for U.N.I.T.

But that doesn’t seem to happen as much in modern Doctor Who. Along with making him attractive, the writers also gave us a romance between The tenth Doctor and Rose Tyler. Well that’s just really annoying. But then add to that Martha Jones who despite being a doctor herself and obviously intelligent and well educated, turned all gooey eyed when confronted by the Doctor.

And let’s not forget Captain Jack – total bad-ass in Torchwood but a simpering doe eyed lovesick boy when faced with David Tennant…

I liked Amy and Rory because they were together and even if Rory occasionally got a bit paranoid and jealous, it was clear that Amy loved him, not the Doctor. And even though there’s a very definite ‘you’re not my boyfriend’ sentiment being bandied around by Clara, there was still a sense of this potential for romance. It’s just unnecessary. Doctor Who is a family sci-fi show, it doesn’t need romance.

With the Doctor getting a reboot on his regenerations, it’s seems fitting that he starts from an older age, like William Hartnell. But children loved The Doctor then and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t love him now.

I thought Deep Breath was very clever. I loved the references back to past stories – the clockwork men, directly linked to the Girl in the Fireplace story and the Doctor himself recognising his face (from the Fires of Pompeii episode). I also liked that there was an overarching theme of expressly reminding Clara – and the viewing audience – that he is the same man. It’s almost as though the writing team acknowledged that they needed to reassure us that it’s okay to have an older Doctor, to almost try and convince us to give him a chance, he’ll win you over. It’s a shame that they felt the need to do that of course. The older generation, I suspect, didn’t need any such persuasion.

In truth the only thing I didn’t really like was the introduction of Matt Smith’s Doctor on the phone from Trenzalore asking Clara to help his future self. It felt like a cynical move to appease the kids. I suppose the fact that Peter Capaldi was okay with that, shows his professionalism.

I can still remember reading lots of heartbroken Facebook messages after his first episode, about how Matt Smith was not as good… I said it then and I’ll say it now…

When you say not as good, you mean not as pretty. Give it a few weeks and you’ll recognise and love him for Who he is.

The Doctor.

So who's* loving Peter Capaldi?