Summer Solstice Splash ‘n Cash Giveaway!


I’ve teamed up with four other authors this week for a Rafflecopter giving readers the chance to win a $100 Grand Prize, which can be taken in the form of either cash or an Amazon gift card – who doesn’t need more books!

It’s free to enter – just click on the link at the bottom of this post to be taken to the Rafflecopter. Good luck.

Summer Solstice
 Splash ‘n Cash Giveaway!


$100 Grand Prize
(Amazon Gift Card or PayPal Cash)


Sponsored by:

Adventures in Audible

I love audiobooks. With all that’s going on in our busy lives, sometimes it’s hard to take the time out to sit down to read. So, mucking out horse corrals, cleaning the kitchen, driving the car, I’m usually found, with earphones attached, listening to novels.

Often Amabloody jackzon’s Audible reviewers or an exceptional narrator send me on an unexpected journey, far beyond the obvious bestsellers such as Girl On A Train, Girl With A Dragon Tattoo, Gone Girl. I’ve found myself gallivanting about the high seas with the YA bestselling series, Bloody Jack, about a young orphan lass who joins the British Royal Navy disguised as a cabin boy. I’ve schemed and battled my way through Game of Thrones, sweated through the tumultuous backstreets of Bombay with Shantaram, corralled wild brumbies and fallen in love in the Australian Outback with our own Janet Gwild oneover’s The Wild One. I find the narration – often award-worthy performances – lends colour to characters or adds to the emotion in a way that is different from reading the print edition. Honestly, that can be great or awful. Nothing is worse than a bad narrator. And conversely, it can be almost unbearable to listen to some tense moments of horror, longing to fast forward but afraid of missing a crucial point.

‘Ellie Campbell’ has had her own adventures with Audible’s ACX service. ACX is a program designed to pair authors with narrators/producers on either a pay or profit-sharing basis (with, for some lucky books, an ACX stipend awarded to further entice the narrator). So far we’ve launched two audiobooks, How To Survive Your Sisters, our first novel, and Looking For La La.

It was fascinating listening to the different audition samples of our chosen segments. Some were too cultured to our mongrel ears, more suitable for A Room With A View or an elocution lesson. Others didn’t get the humour. But Elizabeth Klett, an experienced Audible narrator, and Stevie Zimmerman, an amazing character actor, hit the exact tone we envisaged for both novels. We eagerly awaited each chapter and marveled. We were much too inexperienced and intimidated to give notes but luckily our narrators didn’t need them. We laughed as they brought comic scenes to life and sometimes cringed at our own bitchiness. Those sister squabbles, for example. Yes, we are two of four sisters; yes, we do – occasionally – indulge in digs, spats and snarky comments at each other’s expense, but, like hearing your own voice played back on a recording, we positively winced when hearing our fictional sisters’ exchanges vocalised by another and questioned if our standards of normal family interactions were somehow morally warped. I’m sure actors feel the same watching their own performance.

Anyway, those audiobooks were so much fun we’re all gung-ho to produce the rest. What’s less obvious, from an author point of view, is the marketing. Audible do offer some credits to authors and producers to entice would-be reviewers but beyond the usual outlets of Twitter and Facebook, we’ve discovered few bloggers or websites who focus on audio as opposed to the written word. It’s still in many ways a developing market and one we’re thrilled to be part of. A real adventure, in fact.

Meanwhile, if you’re interested in hearing two of our favorite novels come to life, we recommend joining Audible. For a small subscription you get a monthly book credit which can save a fortune if you have a habit like mine, given that audiobooks can be expensive.

CompetitLooking For La La audioion:How To Survive Your Sisters audio

We’re offering a free audio book to four readers who sign up for our newsletter at then tweet using the hashtag #TakeFiveAuthors.

We’ll choose the winners on 18th July. Good luck!

Fear. Has it halted your writing dreams?


So what is stopping you from being an author?  Or, if you’re one already, what offers your greatest obstacles?  No, it’s not Time.  If your passion calls loudly enough, you can always squeeze hours from the day, no matter the siren call of Facebook or the demands of work and family.  The problem is another voice is calling louder:  it’s Fear.

Oh my, the terrors of creativity!  Where to start?  There’s that inner critic that says you’ll never be good enough, that it’s crazy suicide to stick out your head, only to have it shot away.  It sneers at your aspirations, mocks your dreams.Wim_van_den_Heuvel_en_Yoka_Berretty_(1961) (1)  What if you write total crap?  What if you have no talent? Or for some the reverse might paralyze. What if you become successful beyond your wildest dreams? Will your friends still love you? Will you be able to handle the heat?

At twenty-one, working for literary agent, Carol Smith, I yearned to write short stories for our women’s magazine contacts.  (These being my disastrous dating days I had a wealth of tragi-comic material.)  But Carol’s encouragement couldn’t quell my nightmares, imagining someone reading my work and hating it.  Worse yet, hating me.  Thinking I was stupid, boring, totally worthless.  I’d have stayed in that hellish limbo if our new secretary hadn’t produced her own story within days of being hired.  Nothing like a competitive panic and the fear of left behind to spur you over an artistic hurdle!  Plus, I realised, by using a pseudonym no one would know I was the authorial culprit unless I confessed.  Oh yes, I was very brave.

Eventually, as we writers do, I started a novel, pouring into it all my angst: hundreds…thousands…of words.  It went on and on. I showed it to a couple of editors who suggested, unsurprisingly, major cuts. Shamed and crippled by 320px-Frightthe suspicion I may have exposed some tormented aspects of my psyche, I bolted to South America instead.  Years later, my sister Pam and I entered the novel-writing arena, knees shaking, hand in trembling hand, as we together we dared the rejection trail.

As they progress, authors discover tricks to overcome creative anxiety, for what else is writer’s block?  Write anything, they say.  Just put words on paper, ignoring the internal editor that shrieks you’re spouting rubbish.
A few pages of total garbage are sometimes enough to shake loose true inspiration.  My trick when I’m stuck is to scrawl a rough draft with pen on a yellow legal pad. Or – lazier –  pass the stubborn bastard over to my writing partner, Pam.   For some, writers’ groups help.  Still, the one time I joined such a group, I found myself sweating buckets, the only person present (and the only published author besides) who absolutely refused to read her work aloud.

Five novels on I can affirm it gets easier.  I know my enemy.  I know the only way to defeat him is to write, although beginning any new book tends to awake the monster.   The bad news: publication is half the battle in a never-ending war.  Today’s authors need to become publiScared_Girlcists as well.  For a shy reserved writer, what could be worse than having to blow your own trumpet, fight against the self-effacing little girl inside that wants to shriek, ‘Don’t bother reading my work, it really isn’t very good!’?

Instead, you put yourself out there like a nightclub stripper, shaking your stuff all over the internet, luring in new readers, inviting reviews, good or bad.   You grow a thicker skin.  Tell yourself the writers of glowing five star reviews are amazingly intelligent souls with exceptional good taste and those who slapped you down with one or two stars can go take a running jump.

What’s the bottom line?  For Pam and I, it comes down to this.  If you want to write, write.  Ignore the naysayers, the loudest of which will probably be buzzing about your brain.   Accept that, just as with new acquaintances, for all those who think you’re brilliant, there will be others who vehemently disagree.  And remember that many famous authors like Hemingway and Mark Twain discovered their own prescription for courage.  Whisky. Lots of whisky.512px-Scotch_whiskies



3D Million Dollar QuestionWe’re offering a paperback copy of our latest book, Million Dollar Question to one Take Five Authors reader who signs up for our newsletter here then tweets using the hashtag #TakeFiveAuthors

We’ll choose the winner on 10th March.

Best of Luck!   And let us know what sparks your personal terrors!

Does rejection make you depressed or determined?

Like most authors, I’ve had my share of rejection slips. I suppose I’m lucky in that most of mine were what is rather sweetly termed ‘rave rejections’. In other words, they generally took the line of ‘We love your writing, but in the current marketplace … risk of signing a debut novelist …overcrowded women’s fiction market …’ and so on.

I take a little consolation in knowing that ‘twas ever thus. The list of writers who were serially rejected is huge. Gone With the Wind was rejected 38 times. (It has sold 30 million copies.)


Agatha Christie, via Wikimedia Commons

Agatha Christie had to wait years before she was accepted for publication – now she is the biggest selling author of all time, excepting William Shakespeare. JK Rowling was rejected by 12 publishers (who must be bitterly regretting their decisions now). I can go on – Stephenie Meyer (Twilight, rejected by 14 agencies), Kathryn Stockett (Help, rejected 60 times), Jasper Fforde (The Eyre Affair, 76 times), James Patterson, a dozen publishers.
When I interview authors on my blog, one of the standard questions I ask is, what are your top tips for writers. Without exception, they say, persist, keep writing, believe in yourself.

It’s hard though. If I’m honest, I found the effect profoundly depressing. For a number of years – despite being signed successively by two agents who were strongly supportive of me – I couldn’t get my work out to readers. I began to doubt my skill. If it hadn’t been for the support of fellow writers (including three lovely bestselling authors who always believed in me) in me, I might have given up. Then I was signed by the lovely Accent Press, I was lucky enough to be given an editor who loves my writing, and as a result, my creativity and confidence have blossomed.

We might think that it’s all the fault of editors – and surely we must query some judgements? I’m not sure that history records how Rudyard Kipling reacted to being told he didn’t know how to use English language, or John le Carré to the announcement that ‘he didn’t have any future’. Louise May Alcott was told to ‘stick to teaching’. But editors are readers, like the rest of us. They have their own loves and hates, they may be rooted in what has worked in the past, or under instruction to play safe. Thankfully, there are other ways to reach the reading public now, and many an author who has started out by self publishing has been subsequently been snapped up by a trad publisher later (or continued to success as an indie).


But can you learn from rejection? Some authors certainly believe so. Sylvia Plath said, ‘I love my rejection slips. They show me I try.’ CS Lewis became more and more determined to succeed through the years of rejection.  David Mitchell received a rejection from an editor at Harper Collins that ‘shredded my first-born novel, laughed at my phrasing, twirled my lacy pretensions around and gobbed into the seething mosh pit of my stolen clichés’. He tore up the slip – but took the criticism to heart and used it to progress. And Beatrix Potter showed her self belief by eventually publishing The Tale of Peter Rabbit herself. [This illustration Beatrix Potter (Public Domain) via Wikimedia Commons].

Rejection can sapping and demoralising, but do try to turn the negative energy into positive energy, find support where you can, and keep writing. You may be the next multi-million bestseller.


6The latest result of my persistence is making it to the bookshelves this month. Between Friends is set in Edinburgh and revolves round three women whose lives, careers, marriages and friendship are threatened by the return into their lives of a man from their past. Only by pulling together can they survive – but is the man too clever at sowing distrust?

I’m offering a free signed paperback to one Take Five Authors reader who signs up for my newsletter at then tweets using the hashtags #BetweenFriendsComp and #TakeFiveAuthors. (Don’t worry – there’s always an option to unsubscribe later – though I hope you won’t!).

I’ll choose a winner on 25th February. Good luck!