Third Annual Bloggers Bash

This is rather a self-indulgent post as I re-live the Bloggers Bash. I can’t believe it’s already a week since I was in London meeting up with bloggers, some of whom I met last year, some of whom I only knew online and others whose blogs were new to me.

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Here I am with two of the organisers, Geoff le Pard and Ali Isaac

The Bash, now in its third year, is organised by Sacha Black and her minions, Geoff le Pard, Hugh Roberts and Ali Isaac. This year, as well as the presentation of blogging awards in a wide range of categories, the day included presentations and a panel debate – as well as much hugging, socialising, eating cake and a huge amount of chatter and laughter.

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Sally Cronin and I have shared many virtual hugs so it was lovely to meet her and enjoy a real hug at the Bash. Here she is with author and blogger Noelle Granger from the USA

I experienced my usual ‘country bumpkin goes to the big city wobble’ a couple of days before. What if I was left sitting in a corner all by myself? What if I got lost and never made it to the Bash? I dread getting lost in London by jumping on the wrong train on the underground (Glasgow’s underground is so simple. It goes round in a circle so if you miss your stop you sit tight until it comes round again – there’s none of this changing to join other lines) or taking a wrong turning because often I confuse my left with my right.

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Willow and Ruth in the front row with Ellen, who won the inaugural short story competition, sitting behind with Shelley who was second in the Inspirational Blogger category

Anyway, armed with numerous bits of paper with step by step instructions I made it from Euston to Victoria – paying for the tube ticket with a contactless debit card made life easier than queuing. At Victoria I had a bit of a panic when I couldn’t find the exit named on one of my bits of paper – neither could three rail staff. As I approached three police officers coming out of their office, they backed off in a very unfriendly manner. Two of them vanished but I trapped the third between me and a wall as I brandished bits of paper and asked where the particular exit was. He demanded to know where I was going which, at first, I thought was none of his business really but realised when I reluctantly told him that he then knew in which direction to send me.I checked into my overnight accommodation and did a recce with my instructions to find the venue so I’d know where I was going and how long it would take. It was a nice evening so I didn’t mind that I’d walked an extra two miles because I missed a turning. Nice young man in reception looked confused when I asked if this was the venue for tomorrow’s Bloggers Bash. His colleague informed me it was the venue for an International Bloggers Conference.

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Elena, Bash orgnaiser Sacha and Ellen – sorry I practically decapitated you but the smiles are great.

Jessica Norrie and I actually met on the way and introduced ourselves and then we were there being offered welcome hugs by Hugh. Any worries about not finding people to talk to me vanished: despite the fact that the majority of us are complete introverts and usually run a mile from large gatherings the buzz bloggers generate when they get together is quite incredible.

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Sherri, Marjorie and Sally

The awards, for which there were 6,561 votes this year, were announced at intervals during the day – for a full list of winners see Sacha’s blog here.

The presentations by Suzie on how to make money from your blog and Elena on Pinterest were fascinating. Elena made it all sound so easy for a few giddy moments I was convinced I’d reactivate my Pinterest account as soon as I came home. Hmm! A lively debate took place with the panel of Suzie, Elena and Christoph Fischer.

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Adam Dixon and Christoph Fischer in earnest conversation

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Ritu, Steve, both of whom I met last year and Sue. I’ve followed Sue’s wonderful blog for at least two years – and she follows my Goldfish blog – so I was delighted to actually meet her in real life this year.

 

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Thanks to Sally Cronin for sharing this photo of Marjorie, Sherri and me

 

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Another of Sally’s photos showing Willow, Ritu, Sue and Noelle.

Check out the blogs of those who attended (apologies if I missed any) and see what an extraordinary range of topics people blog about.

Ritu – But I Smile Anyway

Shelley – Shelley Wilson

Jessica – Jessica Norrie

Willow – Willowdot21

Graeme – Graeme Cumming Dot Net

Rebecca – If Only I Could Read Faster

Marje – M J Mallon Author (Kyrosmagica)

Lucy – BlondeWriteMore

Sheila – SC Skillman

Noelle – SaylingAway

Sherrie – A View From My Summerhouse

Allie – Allie Potts Writes

Helen – Journey To Ambeth

Mary – My Dad Is A Goldfish

Christoph – Writer Christoph Fischer

Eloise – E. De Sousa

Julie – Julie Lawford

Steve – Sun In Gemini

Alex – Alex Raphael

Ellen – Ellenbest24

Elena – Elena Peters

Davy – Inside The Mind Of Davy D

Lance – Lance Greenfield

Sally – Smorgasbord – Variety Is The Spice Of Life

Icy – Icy Sedgwick

Matt – The Gay Stepdad

Susie – Susie Lindau’s Wild Ride

Adam – Adam Dixon Fiction

Lucia – Rereading Jane Eyre

Alexina – BOOKSTORMER

Ruth – Image & Word

Melanie – Melanie Roussel

Sue – Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo

Suzie – Suzie Speaks

Jo – My Chestnut Reading Tree

Donna – Jot to Jot

Sacha – Sacha Black

Geoff – TanGental

Ali – Ali Isaac Storyteller

Hugh – Hugh’s Views And News

If you are interested in attending next year’s Bash put the date in your diary now – June 09, 2018 and I think you can sign up on Sacha’s blog to receive email notifications regarding the Bash.

Changing Direction

The map of Coorah Creek

For more than four years, I’ve had a sheet of cardboard stuck to the door of my office.

On this cardboard, I’ve slowly been building the town of Coorah Creek – the setting for five of my outback Australian novels.

With each book, something else has been added to the map. Houses and the names of the people who live there. A property and a national park. A church and one statue. I started the map when I started the series, because I knew I would be coming back to Coorah Creek again and again. I wanted to make sure I was consistent, and didn’t forget where something was, or accidentally move something.

I didn’t want Max driving across the creek in a place where there wasn’t a bridge. Or I didn’t want Jess landing her plane on the wrong side of town.

Saying goodbye to Coorah Creek – at least for now.

After the first couple of books, I used the map less and less, because the town was so fixed in my mind. It was so very real to me, I could simply close my eyes and see it.

With the publication of Wedding Bells by the Creek this year, I’ve taken the map down. It was a surprisingly important and emotional moment.

I am writing something different now. I am working on two books, one set in England and one in Australia, but that Australia book is set somewhere else.

So now I have a new map. It’s the map of a horse stud called Willowbrook on the Hunter Velley of New South Wales.

I’ve marked a house and the creek. There are stables and an old stone fountain. An old wooden church has been converted to a home on the other side of the creek. These are the places where my new characters live. I’m started to get to know those places now. They fill my head, and will soon be attached to my door.

My new map – it’s just staring to develop.

The map of Coorah Creek is now safely rolled up and stored with my research notes on top of one of my bookcases. There are times when I miss Trish at the pub, and Jack and Ellen. Max and Tia are still on my mind, but for now, I am enjoying exploring a new place and meeting new people.

It feels just a little bit like when I left home to study at university. I left my own small country town and family and friends to move to the big city. It was a bit scary… but it was exciting too. Finding new stories to tell is just like that – both scary and exciting.

Inside the old barn – a photo from my research trip through the Hunter Valley in New South Wales.

I will never forget Coorah Creek and the people who live in the town. And I am not saying that I won’t return. There are still more stories to tell there…. maybe one day I will put that map back up on my office door.

Sharing with you the excitement of launch week

Hello!

 

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Editor Helen Huthwaite from Avon Books UK with JFTH at the RNA Summer Party on publication day

After a saturated end to last week in Northamptonshire, when I was soaked to the skin dashing through Northampton to get to BBC Radio Northampton for my interview on the Bernie Keith Show, by Monday summer had arrived! Before my BBC Radio Cambridgeshire spot with Jeremy Sallis I was able to sit outside at a nearby pub to eat my lunch. (I only drank water and tea, honestly.) It was glorious!

 

The week has continued in the same vein. Yesterday I met friends in London and then went on to Romance in the Court, hosted by Goldsboro Books of Cecil Court. Standing outside the shop, drinking fizz and chatting to many author friends plus quite a few readers, it felt as if we were in the Mediterranean. (I had a chocolate brownie before the event and half a pizza after, in case you were worried that I had nothing to soak up those lovely bubbles!)

Just for the Holidays has enjoyed encouraging sales figures for its first week (or part week, in the case of the paperback) so I plan to give myself time to relax this weekend and watch the Formula 1 from Monaco.

I’ll finish with a bit of a gallery to go with the excitement of launch week, working on the principle of a picture being worth a thousand words (even if, as a writer, I seldom agree.)

 

 

 

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Jeremy Sallis at BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

 

Publication day flowers

Publication Day flowers

 

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With Bernie Keith and Riley, BBC Radio Northampton

 

Champagne lunch

Champagne lunch with my agent, who is, indeed, lovely

Nothing could be better than a summer spent basking in the French sun. Until you add in three teenagers, two love interests, one divorcing couple and a very unexpected pregnancy.

 

 

 

Ramping up the suspense

There’s always something new to learn about writing, isn’t there? I’m delighted when my readers tell me they ‘couldn’t put my book down’, or that ‘I’m shattered today – I was reading your book till two this morning’. I thought I’d got it right in my latest novel too, but a report I commissioned told me I need ‘more danger’. First of all I was puzzled, then concerned – then I took a deep breath and thought about exactly what I need to do.

Painted_sign_on_concrete_wall_at_the_Hoover_Dam_(28849021943)Danger isn’t necessarily about violence, or lots of action – it’s about establishing your heroine’s goals quickly, then ensuring that your readers know that there are bad things to come. I believe I’ve felt a little constrained by the need to conform to historical facts, which has made me focus on what I think needs to happen next, rather than asking myself, ‘How can I promise my readers that my heroine is going to be driven to the limit by the challenges that will confront her? Conformity_Hazard.svgI need to make radical changes, and I’ve been going back to storytelling basics. Here are a few great ideas about how I can increase the danger my heroine faces:

  • Make sure her main goal is made clear early on
  • Promise one challenge after another to obstruct her way
  • When one disaster is surmounted – bring in another, bigger and more threatening one
  • Make sure every challenge is properly surmounted
  • If the story sags, don’t throw in action – make your readers worry more. Action resolves suspense, it doesn’t create it, so ramp up the tension by promising another disaster for the heroine to face.
  • What is her greatest fear? Make her face it.
  • What makes her vulnerable? Force her to deal with it.
  • Make sure the goals are big enough – and show why she wants it so much.
  • Danger – this can be an external physical threat or something that hampers your heroine’s ability to rise to the challenges she faces.
  • Raise the stakes. You’ve made her goal clear at the beginning – now increase the price she has to pay to achieve it.
  • Make the problem more difficult to solve.
  • Halve the time she needs to achieve her goal.

My characters need to be set up in a way that will heighten the tension too. My heroine has to face big challenges, so she needs strong opponents. I must:

  • Make my antihero as strong or stronger than the heroine
  • Make him not evil, but human and believable
  • I will consider giving the antihero a point of view, so that the reader can be made aware trouble is on its way even though the heroine doesn’t know yet
  • What does he have that the heroine lacks? A strong place in society, loyal supporters, charm that might lure the heroine’s friends away?

My heroine does have many personal limitations. I’m going to delve deeper into these too!

  • Is she timid? Plagued by self doubt? Overoptimistic?
  • Does she falter under pressure?
  • Make her challenges more difficult by hampering her ability to deal with them

Perhaps it all sounds obvious, but sometimes we become so immersed in the story inside our own head that we forget to stand back and judge how others will react.

So – for me, it’s back to the drawing board, and I’m going to take a big swallow of my own advice!

‘Just for the Holidays’ hits the shelves!

JFTH Ebook cover smallPublication day!

Yes, today Just for the Holidays will be hitting shelves, shopping trolleys and e-readers. It’s the culmination of a lot of work, not just for me but for my agent, editor, publicists, assistants, sales team, cover artist and everybody else who’s involved in the publication of a book. Huge thank yous to every single one of them.

Thanks also to all the lovely readers who buy my novels and make my life as an author possible. Every book’s special to me and it fills me with joy when you contact me on social media to tell me what you thought.

So what’s Just for the Holidays about? It’s about Leah, who’s mad on cars and chocolate but not mad on the idea of a husband and children. She gets roped into looking after her sister’s husband and children with only a Porsche and a pilot to cheer her up.

What else can you expect to find within the pages? France, teenagers, more chocolate food technology, lovely sunshine, a Goth, furry creatures, an unexpected guest and a helicopter.JFTH Blog tour small

If you’d like to follow the blog tour, here’s the schedule.