A new book and a new me.

The Heights – a beautiful cover from the team at HQDigital.

I’m really pleased to at last be able to reveal some exciting news. I’ve been keeping this secret for what seems like forever… but now I can announce that I have new book coming out soon – in a new genre, with a new name and a writing partner.

The Heights is a modern adaptation of the classic story of Heathcliff and Cathy – set in the late 20th century, against the backdrop of the miners’ strike and the decline of a once proud mining community in Yorkshire.

Juliet Bell is the pen name for my writing partnership with Alison May. It all started at a conference a couple of years ago. We each led a workshop, and both used Wuthering Heights to illustrate very different points.

This is a book I have wanted to write for years. I am a huge fan of the original. I have often heard people talk of Heathcliff as a romantic hero and Wuthering Heights as a great love story. In my mind, that’s just not true. Heathcliff is a fascinating character… but he’s no hero. It’s not really a story about love, it’s a story about obsession and the destruction it can cause.

As a journalist, I have read and written about the period from the winter of discontent, through the Thatcher years up until the global financial crash in 2008. This time of great social change and discord seemed a perfect setting for the book – but as an Australian, I really didn’t feel I had the cultural background to do it justice. Research can only go so far.

Back to the writing conference.. and Alison who is not only a fabulous writer, but also grew up in just the right part of England at just the right time. She too loves the work of the Bronte’s – and like me tends to think of Wuthering Heights as something other than the romance of popular belief.

At the conference we joked that between us we could write that book – and get it done in time to mark the 200 anniversary of Emily Bronte’s birth in 2018. A couple of weeks later, we decided we weren’t joking, and The Heights is the result.

I thoroughly enjoyed the collaborative process. You can go and meet Alison on her website … and there will soon be a Juliet Bell website, because The Heights is not her only work. Alison and I are part of the way through another book – but shhh … I can’t say anything about that one yet.

I am incredibly proud of The Heights, and will be talking about it on Juliet Bell’s twitter account @julietbellbooks  and facebook page too. And I probably also should mention it’s now available for pre-order.

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You are invited to a wedding

I am so in love with this cover.

I’m really excited to  invite you all to a wedding in Coorah Creek. Wedding Bells by the Creek is the fifth book on my Coorah Creek series.

Isn’t the cover just lovely? It really captures the spirit of the book.

The novella picks up the story of The Creek and its residents after the events in Little Girl Lost – the book that won the Romantic Novel of the year Award for an Epic Romance. I realised there had yet to be a wedding in The Creek – and what is better than a Spring wedding?

Here’s the blurb….

How do you forgive what you can never forget?
Helen Walsh has never stopped searching for the daughter who ran away from home when she was just fifteen. Now, her daughter has found her. Face to face with the woman her child has become, Helen longs to be forgiven for her mistakes.
Ed Collins has walked Helen’s path, and he knows that she needs more than her daughter’s forgiveness. He would help her if he could.
Ed’s wife Stephanie returns – thirteen years after she deserted Ed and their young son. Now Ed is being asked to forgive. Steph was his first and only love… but are some things impossible to forgive?
In the tiny outback town of Coorah Creek, secrets are hard to keep.
What will happen when Ed learns the truth about his wife?
And as Helen plans her daughter’s wedding, dare she dream of her own?

I’m so please to send this story out into the world. It’s available for pre-order now, and will be officially released on May 2nd.

You might not want to read my latest book…

That seems a strange thing for an author to say – but the book I just finished writing is a bit … Well… it has lines in it like…

10 0 * * * root /exc/dbdump Cdiv –f + | gzip –c >      and so on.

I guess this is where I confess that I am a bit of a geek. Or nerd. Or techie… there are a lot of words for it.

In my day job I do database and workflow design with large computer systems for making TV programmes and films. I’ve just finished writing a training course for system administrators, including some pretty advanced IT ‘stuff’. The book is almost 400 pages long. I think that’s longer than any of my novels.

The cover is definitely not as pretty as my novel covers.

Although it’s a totally different type of writing, as I did it, it occurred to me there are some similarities between writing a technical training course book and writing a novel.

First – good grammar and spelling and sentence structure are essential for both. Punctuation too.

A novel has to show an unfolding story – provide some background and explanation – otherwise what happens next won’t make sense. The same is true of a training manual. The early chapters (well… lessons) prepare the attendees for what’s ahead and give them the knowledge they need to carry on.

There’s no dialogue in a training guide, but it does have to contain explanations of various things – presented in much the same way as the trainer does when speaking.

Part of me wants to open the technical book at random and turn something like this…….

… into this and see if any of the students notice.

You have to maintain the reader,s interest in whatever you write – a novel or a technical manual. It’s probably easier in a novel, because the reader is there for enjoyment. Although, a lot of people enjoy learning new things as well.

And of course, there has to be a climax… That’s easy in a novel – the moment of greatest conflict and resolution.

In a training course – it’s the exam. And the happy ever after comes when you pass and get the certificate. And you may even catch the glimpse of a promotion or pay rise in your future.

In totally honesty, I enjoy writing novels more than writing technical manuals – but both provide their own challenges. That’s what I like to do all the time – challenge myself. And I do believe that whatever you write, if you do your best to write it well, the experience will make you a better writer for all things.

And now – it’s back to the Aussie bush and my next novel.

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.