Stepping Into The Time Machine plus Cover Reveal

What do you have hidden in your closet?

Pam and I have been writing together as ‘Ellie Campbell’ for so long that sometimes even we forget we ever did things differently.  Recently we rediscovered some of the 140 short stories we each had published in those early years and decided – huge shock – we actually found them really entertaining.  So much so that we decided to gather some of them up into a collection.  Between world travels, multiple changes of first stone age-style word processors, then computers, plus my inability to hold on to copies or the actual magazines, many are probably lost for good, but we managed to come up with twenty funny, romantic, twisty or reflective short tales, soon to be released as Love, Lies And Other Deceptions.   It wasn’t easy to pick a cover to reflect so many diverse themes, but our talented designer Andrew Brown came up with the following. And here it is – ta-da, drum roll, please.

For us, part of the fascination was remembering the two people and the mindset that created those stories.  As mentioned in an earlier blog I started writing in my twenties, working in London publishing and living the muddled chaotic single life so hilariously described in Bridget Jones Diary.  Pam was the mother of three small children when she took the creative writing class that launched her.  We both had very different themes and topics, many reflecting our interests and lifestyles at the time.  Looking over them was was like stepping into a time machine. Now that we are… cough, cough, cough… quite a few years older, would we – could we even? – write anything similar?  Personally, I hardly know that earlier me.  I can see she was cynical, moody, sometimes romantically hopeful, sometimes despairing – and inevitably attracted to every possible variety of emotionally-unavailable womanizer, but I don’t think I could totally recreate her world viewpoint from my happily married self.  (I also suspect she might have been a wee bit more intelligent than I am now but that’s another story.)

Then again don’t we all have similar experiences when revisiting our early work?  Sometimes you look back on things and find it hard to believe you ever wrote that story, painted that picture, or took that photograph. Sometimes it shows how far you’ve moved on.  But then not only do you, the artist, change but also the way you feel about it can change with each viewing.  We’re all familiar with the awful creative roller coaster – one minute loving the work in progress, the next seeing only the flaws and deciding it might be time to give up writing for good because you’re obviously hopeless.  And then coming back again after some blessed time has passed and being amazed to find some merit in there after all.  The successful are those who can see through the illusions and persevere anyway but I bet many of us have an unfinished manuscript in our closet somewhere that we discarded in disgust.  Perhaps rightfully so, perhaps… well, who knows?

Anyway, Love, Lies and Deceptions will be available on Amazon any day now and we’re super excited. And yes, we intentionally omitted to specify which of the two sisters wrote which story.  We thought it would be more fun to leave the readers guessing and maybe to answer that question we’re always asked – does writing together mean you lose your original ‘voice’?  We don’t think so but perhaps in the end the stories tell the tale.

Cover reveal and the London Book Fair

Drrrrrum rrrrroll please! It’s my pleasure this Sunday evening to share my new book cover!

JFTH Ebook cover small


Avon Books UK has given me another fabulous cover, one I’m proud to have on my book. Paperback, ebook and audio book will all be released on 18 May 2017 and you can get your preorder in hereJust for the Holidays is about Leah Beaumont who, having made a decision not to marry or have children, finds herself stuck in France looking after her sister’s husband and kids. But, hey, it’s just for the holidays, right? Well, whether you’re headed for an exotic beach or prefer something closer to home, Leah’s holiday is probably going to make your summer feel pretty good.

Apart from getting excited about that pretty cover, I spent three days last week enjoying the delights of the London Book Fair. It’s a giant trade fair where agents, publishers and those who provide services or products to them, can meet to do business. There are two massive halls and two big galleries filled with stands from all over the world.

So, what is an author doing there? I treat it rather like a conference and go along to absorb information. As well as an opportunity to see what publishers are publishing this year, there are many talks/panels/presentations taking place. Many of them aren’t aimed at me but I’m interested, so in I go. My personal highlights were a debate on whether Brexit will be good for publishing; a talk by Michael Morpurgo, children’s author; and meeting face-to-face for the first time Karen Byrom, the fiction editor of My Weekly. Expect to see a short story and Just for the Holidays giveaway in My Weekly in May, a Christmas two-parter in December, and a little promo idea Karen and I cooked up that I’m sitting on for now.

I also use the Fair as a place to meet other authors and friends for a cuppa, a chat, lunch or dinner. It’s tiring; I walked an average of seven miles a day, but I love it. To share the love, I put together a bit of a pin board for you below.


LBF 17 pastiche

Top row, L-R: Michael Morpurgo, the view from the gallery, the audience gathers ahead of Mr Morpurgo’s talk, spring hits London Olympia, the HarperCollins stand.

Bottom row, L-R: pity they didn’t have my size, London and the Thames in the sunshine (no, this isn’t close to Olympia), Christina Courtenay and I are not afraid of some big shark, the Independent Publishers’ Guild stands, decorative rather than for reading.


Mary Smith – an update on a new book

My latest book, Castle Douglas Through Time, came out yesterday and I’m very grateful to Susan Toy of ReadingRecommendations for this lovely post.

Reading Recommendations

Mary Smith was previously featured on Reading Recommendations in March 2016. She’s back now to tell us of a non-fiction book, on which she collaborated with photographer Allan Devlin, that’s just been published.

Castle Douglas Through Time
by Mary Smith and Allan Devlin
Published by Amberley Publishing
Genre: Non-fiction, local history, photography

The market town of Castle Douglas, beside Carlingwark Loch in the southern Scottish region of Dumfries and Galloway, is relatively new, though the area has been inhabited from prehistoric times and the Romans had a military base close by. In the fourteenth century, Archibald the Grim, the 3rd Earl of Douglas, built Threave Castle nearby.

The town came into being thanks to fertiliser found in the loch and wealth merchant William Douglas, who laid out the present town in 1792. Though his dream of creating a cotton industry failed, Castle Douglas became a flourishing market town. The…

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A night to remember

Candles and chandeliers. And books. It’s a fabulous setting.

Last night the Romantic Novelists Association held their Romantic Novel of the Year Awards Ceremony. This is a glittering evening of canapés and bubbles in the wonderful Gladstone Library in Whitehall Place.

It was particularly special for me this year, because my book Little Girl Lost was shortlisted for the Epic Romantic Novel of the year – a category that includes books with a central romance at the heart, but that cover broader issues and themes as well.

To cut a long story short – I WON!!!!

Yes.. I cried. In fact, the lovely Prue Leith who was handing out the awards gave me her tissues. Thank you Prue.

I was so excited, I can barely remember my acceptance speech – but a few people have told me it was very nice.

Also very nice is the beautiful glass star that now sits in my office.


It is so pretty!!!!

Thank you to the RNA, and the judges and the award organisers and everyone involved. I am thrilled and honoured to hold this award. I have now written three Coorah Creek novels – and all three are award winners. It’s going to take a long time for the smile on my face to fade.

The three Coorah Creek novels. I am very proud of them.


Explain yourself!

research books

Some of the many books I’ve read as part of my research for this novel.

A few weeks ago I wrote the magic words THE END to my latest novel, and since then I’ve been tackling my edits. In the central section, I found I’d got the time line really twisted, and that took some untangling. I spotted passages that were most definitely ‘telling’ rather than ‘showing’. Redrafting these passages is a treat, because by using the active tense and lively words, and writing a scene as dialogue and interaction rather than description, you can make your writing spring into life.

I have also pondered the comments of the kind souls who volunteered to read my work for me. These were really helpful – and even if I eventually decided not to make a change, at least I was forced to think about what I had written and justify my treatment to myself.

But I also discovered there was something else I needed to do. This is a historical novel, set in the late 18th century. I’ve done a stack of reading, boned up on the period, the setting, fashion, language, homes, habits, even funerals and sanitation. This particular novel, however, hinges around a bit of a mystery – a real one – and it wasn’t until I got to the end that I realised that readers may not even be aware that there is a mystery!

I needed to give some background and context.


Notes! via ProjectManhattan, Wikimedia Commons

In my contemporary novels, I wrote about a fictional town in East Lothian called Hailesbank, and I decided to give it its own history, which I inserted into the beginning of every book. Not having written a historical before, I hadn’t considered adding Author’s Notes – but they are definitely needed here.

So what should I include? Here’s what I decided.

  1. Background information. What is actually known, what has been widely assumed – and what don’t we know? Many people will think they know the answer, and I definitely need to flag up that there are doubts about the facts of the issue.
  2. What I discovered when doing the research. In this case, many things – but one or two bits of information I came across really helped to shape the story. For example, my heroine is from a comfortably-off family (father a lawyer, mother has brought further wealth to the marriage). She has never had to think about money – until the French declare war on Britain in 1783 and the banks go into meltdown. The financial crisis also hits other characters in the book.
  3. Did I have to make compromises in the telling of my story? Did I have to manipulate dates, have characters meet who would probably never have met, and so on.
  4. Medical facts. My heroine has an unfortunate problem. I might discuss what was known about it at the time, and the effects it would have had on her and others in the same position.
  5. Fact or fiction? My heroine is fictional, but her best friend was real. However, she didn’t go to the school I sent the two of them to – it didn’t exist! But the conditions described are detailed in a contemporary account.
  6. Real people? I’ll definitely tell readers which of my figures come from history and which characters I have invented.

My aim is to add to the reader’s understanding of the period and the issues, and enhance their experience of reading the book.

Do you read Author’s Notes, particularly in historical novels? And if so, do you think they add to your experience, or detract from it?