Thursday, 24 December 2015

A Christmas Wish from me...

I would like to thank everyone who has purchased a book, audiobook and everyone who has attended one of my events and their families a Merry Christmas.  Without your support I wouldn't be able to call myself a writer and do a job I love. 

May your Christmas be filled with happiness, peace, and love... oh and lots of presents too!

Best wishes, 


Thursday, 10 December 2015

Welcome.... Angela Wren

I am delighted to welcome Angela Wren to my blog today.  Not only is Angela an actor and director, she is also the author of short stories and comic-flash fiction.  She very kindly agreed to take time out of her busy schedule to tell me a little about the background to her first novel, Messandrierre, which has just been released.  

First of all, thank you Victoria for allowing me the opportunity to write on your blog.  I hope your readers will find my little nuggets of wisdom - assuming there are some - interesting and useful.

I'll introduce myself as something of a scribbler and I've been doing that since I was about 8 or 9.  I even liked my creative writing homework.  And it's OK; you don't need to tell me how peculiar it is for a child to actually like homework, any homework!

I was first introduced to France as a teenager and, frankly, I've been hooked ever since.  My scribblings then centred on what I'd seen, where I'd been, the people I'd met.  Not that any of it came together as a story at that time.  How could it with the standard teenager's attention span!

Then grown-up life and work got in the way and I spent less time in France and more time in front of a computer writing planning and strategy documents as my life spiralled through a career in business change and project management.

My light bulb moment was my decision to escape the rat race.  I started visiting areas of France I'd never had the time to go to before; I stayed in places I'd just driven through in the past and I wrote more seriously.  But when you have scenery like this -

to look at for as long as you want, it is hard not to be inspired.

I visited the Cévennes and took my Stevenson with me and, over three weeks, I followed his route from Le Monastier to Allais along with my version of Modestine - a Landrover!  That journey took me across some stunning countryside, tiny villages where everything stopped for lunch and the family, through vast groves of walnut trees and along winding mountain passes. 

To this day I am certain that I stood on one hillside, looking down on a small farm and a few other houses, in exactly the same spot that Stevenson must have been to create a sketch I have in another book of his.

In a village in Burgundy, I happened across a two roomed museum dedicated to Renoir.  His studio was in an outbuilding and for a couple of euros I went to have a look.  Expecting only to be allowed to look through the windows, I was stunned to find that I could actually go inside.  So I have had the inestimable pleasure of treading in Renoir's footsteps!  And, it seems to me that there are lots of little places like this the length and breadth of the country - you just need to search them out.

Need I mention the cuisine?  Probably not, but I wonder who else has driven across the Puy de Dome and found a large farmhouse with French cars parked outside and a hand-written menu drawing-pinned to the door frame.  I walked in to discover a large room filled with trestle tables and benches and Madame made the people at the nearest table squeeze up to fit me in.  The food was simple, the taste phenomenal and the ambiance buzzing.

So, setting my first novel, Messandrierre, in France, seemed to me at least, to be a logical progression from those early scribblings.  My book is the first in a series of murder mysteries and features my investigator Jacques Forêt.  Messandrierre is the name of my fictional village in the Cévennes and the story begins in September 2007 because when I was there at the time, it snowed! 

Author Bio:

Having followed a career in Project and Business Change Management, I now work as an Actor and Director at a local theatre. I’ve been writing, in a serious way, for about 5 years. My work in project management has always involved drafting, so writing, in its various forms, has been a significant feature throughout my adult life.

I particularly enjoy the challenge of plotting and planning different genres of work. My short stories vary between contemporary romance, memoir, mystery and historical. I also write comic flash-fiction and have drafted two one-act plays that have been recorded for local radio. The majority of my stories are set in France where I like to spend as much time as possible each year.

You can learn more about Angela by visiting her website and blog;

Website :
Blog :

 Sacrificing his job in investigation following an incident in Paris, Jacques Forêt has only a matter of weeks to solve a series of mysterious disappearances as a Gendarme in the rural French village of Messandrierre. 

But, as the number of missing persons rises, his difficult and hectoring boss puts obstacles in his way. Steely and determined, Jacques won't give up and, when a new Investigating Magistrate is appointed, he becomes the go-to local policeman for all the work on the case.

Will he find the perpetrators before his lover, Beth, becomes a victim?
Messandrierre – the first in a new crime series featuring investigator, Jacques Forêt.

Available from:

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Desert Empire Writers Showcase

Bob’s Big Boy, Calimesa, hosted The Desert Empire Writers Showcase book signing event Saturday the 14th. Nine book authors from California’s Inland Empire offered their books and donated prizes for the drawings, which began at 4:15pm.

Brenda Hill, author of With Full Malice, about a deadly vigilante society in Yucaipa, organized the event and offered her hardback and mass-market paperback at a large discount.

Local authors as well as those from The California Writers Club talked to the public and answered questions about writing and workshops, including:

Brenda Hill: With Full Malice: about a deadly vigilante society in the Inland Empire.
Samuel Thomas Nichols: The Seventh Stage - about the aftermath of the murder of a rancher's wife and daughter.
Joyce Melton: Blue Moonon the third Thursday of each month, the Devil grants wishes and causes havoc.
Barbara Reed: Harmonic Deception: Does a tragic childhood excuse murder?
Sue Andrews: To Live and Love Again about how the author survived several murder attempts near-death experiences.
David Strack: Letters Over the Wallabout the lives of four East Germans behind the Iron Curtain.
Debby Johnson: Rock. Paper. Scissors -  about a new kid in school who’s rejected by the other kids.
Cathie Norton: The Tale of the TreesA young woman’s journey through grief to resolution.

For information about future events in the Inland Empire, check Brenda Hill’s site:

 Joyce Melton, Barbara Reed, Cathie Norton, Debby Johnson, David Strack, Sue Andrews, Samuel Thomas Nichols, and Carolyn Jernigan.

For questions about future events and/or writing workshops, go to 

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Author Swag and Freebies...

I’ve been thinking a great deal about promotional items for authors as I’ve recently signed up to appear at two multi-author signings. This raises two questions: ‘What do readers expect in the way of ‘author swag/freebies’ when attending such events?’ and ‘Which items will hit home with them?’

Whenever I’ve given a talk to a group, presented a workshop, or attended a local literary festival, I have always provided bookmarks, postcards and ‘signed by the author’ stickers to grace the cover of any book sold. 

But are these the best promotional items and do they garner any sales? And how many of them end up in the bin.

Unless you have a proven sales record and are a multi-publisher author earning big money like James Patterson or J K Rowling, most publishers no longer provide a budget for such items; in fact, all promotion is often down to the author.

Paper promotional items are relatively inexpensive form of swag. So how do you go about providing the perfect bookmark or postcard?

Anyone with access to a computer and printer can produce a bookmark; but bookmarks that say everything about you as an author and your novel. These need to look professional if they are to connect with the reader and seduce them into buying your book. So don’t use a stock image, use the cover of your book, tagline and website address.

Most likely you will wish to hire a designer, but don’t panic, you’re not going to have to pay huge agency fees. A quick search of the Internet reveals many sites and graphic artists offering such services, but before you sign up or part with your hard earned cash, ask to see samples of their work.

 I recall the first writer’s conference I attended in America some years ago. The conference bag was crammed full of bookmarks and postcards. Did any of them fly home with me? Only those for novels I was interested in reading. The rest ended up in the bin. 

Paper is cheap and ‘everybody’ uses it. So if I can consign fellow author’s bookmarks and postcards to the dustbin, what chance do my own paper promotional items have of making it home with a reader?

These days however, it seems that anything goes when it comes to author swag/freebies, especially at conferences and large events such as the Romance Writers of America annual conference.

  • ·      Pens
  • ·      Mugs
  • ·      Key Rings
  • ·      T-Shirts
  • ·      Tote bags
  • ·      Coasters
  • ·      Fridge Magnets
  • ·      Notepads
  • ·      Computer Mouse Mats
  • ·      Chocolate
  • ·      Lip Balm
  • ·      Small bottles of hand cream/sanitizer
  • ·      Badges

The list is almost endless.  While there is no doubt some of the items on the above list are useful, (especially tote bags for all those books your reader buys) but do they really say anything about YOUR book?

All these items cost money, and when the average author earns around £11,000 annually, finding something that readers will think is clever, and which entices them dig into their wallet to purchase your book, are difficult.  Setting a budget for such items is essential, as no author would wish to spend more than they are likely to earn in sales at such an event.

So, not only does my promotional item have to be unique and say something about my book, it has to be relatively inexpensive and useful. Before you empty your savings account and splash out on 250 T-shirts, pens and mugs etc, (remember, the more you buy the cheaper the individual cost per item), work out who your audience will be and where you are going to use your promotional items.

Rather than just handing out postcards at my next signing event, I am going to place a sticker on the back of some with the message ‘Email me and request a free copy.’ It will be interesting to see how many requests I receive. 

In the meantime, I would love to know what other authors provide by the way of swag/freebies. What do you use as give-aways? How have they supported your sales?

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Please Welcome... Lynda Stacey

My guest this week is Lynda Stacey.  Lynda is the winner of the ChocLit and Whole Story Audio Search for a Star Competition, and has signed a contract for her novel, Keeper of the House.

Lynda very kindly agreed to take a little time away from working on her next novel to talk about her writing journey.

I finally did it. I finally made it through the shortlists, the masses of rejection letters, the hope, the despair and now finally the elation. 

Everyone tells me how ‘lucky’ I am. How lucky I am to have the beautiful home that I have, how lucky I am to have a great job, how lucky I’ve been travelling the world as a scuba diving instructor and now, how lucky I am to have won Choc Lit’s Search for a Star Competition.

But it wasn’t always that way.

At 14 years old, my English teacher pulled me to one side and suggested that I went on to further education, did my A levels and followed it up by doing a Creative Writing Degree. But in my life, that was never going to happen. I left school with barely any qualifications. It was 1984 and there was a miners strike, I had no choice but to take any job that I could to help feed my family.

I always resented not taking qualifications, for not having proved to myself and to others what I could achieve, and have worked hard my whole life to make up for that.

It took me almost 30 years to build up the courage to begin to write again.

I joined the Romantic Novelists' Association New Writers Scheme two years ago and since then, I’ve met the most amazing people. Authors in every shape, size and with every perceivable type of personality that you could imagine.

The RNA is like a huge family. Over night you gain hundreds of brothers and sisters that you never had before and can I say… without them, I doubt I would have had the courage to keep going, to pick up the laptop night after night. To work every day, for over a year on a project that may never be published. To keep taking the continual knocks and the continual rejections. And somehow through the madness… manage to keep my sanity.

I’ve entered so many competitions. In 2013, my novel Broken Jigsaw was short listed for the Festival of Romance New Talent Award. In 2015, my novel Revenge was short listed for the Elizabeth Goudge Award and then finally my new novel Keeper of the House was short listed for ChocLit’s Search for a Star, in collaboration with Whole Story Audio books.

You can imagine how I felt when I was told that I’d won.

You guessed it… I really did feel ‘Lucky..!’

Congratulations Lynda and we wish you every success in your new career as a published author, and look forward to reading Keeper of the House in the not too distant future.

Lynda's novel, Keeper of the House, will be published in 2016 by ChocLit. More details of ChocLit's 'Search for a Star' competition can be found on it's website: choc lit search for a star

Friday, 28 August 2015

Welcome... Emily Royal

My guest this week, is Emily Royal.  Emily is a member of the Romantic Novelists' Association New Writer Scheme.  Sally kindly took time out of her very busy schedule to talk about the benefits of the New Writer Scheme and her writing journey.  I wish you every success and look forward to reading your debut novel.

Over to you Emily...

Facing “The Fear”
Have you ever had a nightmare where you are walking naked down a crowded street and everyone is laughing at you? How did you feel? Ashamed, humiliated, wanting a sinkhole to appear in the road and swallow you up?
Multiply that by a few thousand. Now you’re pretty close to how I felt about letting someone read my novel.
The thing is, the whole point about being an author is that people are going to read your books and (quakes at the thought) some of them will write a review.
So why, I ask myself, do I want to do this? Why romance? The genre is generally frowned upon even though it takes just as much effort to write and just as many people (if not more) enjoy reading romance compared to other genres.
Many authors will probably say the same – it’s just something I have to do.
My problem was, when I had written my novel, what comes next? This is where the wonderful Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) came in.
Sometime in March 2014 I stumbled across a website for professional writers, the RNA, which has a New Writers’ Scheme (NWS) for unpublished authors, restricted to 250 members each year. NWS members enjoy most of the benefits of full membership, eg access to events, a quarterly magazine, plus a full critique of one novel from an experienced author. Perfect! Sadly, all 250 places for 2014 were filled. My naïve reaction was “but it’s only March!”
Never mind - I cracked on with the draft of another novel and waited till the end of the year when applications opened for 2015. Huddling over my computer at just after midnight January 2 2015, I pressed the “send” button the moment my clock registered 12:02, jumping for joy when I received confirmation of my success a few days later. Little did I realise how lucky I was. A fellow NWS member told me she missed her alarm in 2014 and sent her application at 5am, but the places had all gone. The NWS is heavily oversubscribed and I can understand why.

So what has the NWS done for me? Through membership of the RNA’s online forum I connected with a fellow NWS member who set up a critique group which now has a range of members at different stages in their career – newbies like me and more established authors. Being in the NWS is like going back to University where I’m a 1st year undergraduate with “graduation” to full membership, ie a publishing contract, an indeterminate number of years away.
The critique group was and is an invaluable source of support and advice, not only on writing, but how to cope with twitter, websites and blogs – all the essential skills an author needs in addition to being able to write books. Being an online group I never had to look any of my critique buddies in the eye, but The Fear still gripped me when we started to share chapters and extracts for comments. But the feedback I got was great – really constructive tips on editing and pacing as well as encouragement to stick to my own writing style.
So when I finally submitted my manuscript in mid-2015 to the NWS for critique I knew I had something that was at least better than the first draft. At this point, other than the odd chapter and a few passages shared among the critique group, I had not let anyone read the whole novel from start to finish (cue images of being pelted with rotten fruit and vegetables as I continue to walk down that street – Cersei Lannister, anyone?). The Fear gripped me again - images of feedback such as “what on earth do you think you’re doing”, “stick to the day job”, “this is a pale imitation of a cheesy bodice-ripper” flashed through my mind.
When my report came back, not more than three weeks after I sent the manuscript off, my blood pressure spiked. It was like those end-of-year university exam results which determined whether or not you’d get kicked off the course for being too stupid.
Needless to say the lady who critiqued my novel was positive, constructive and gave excellent editing advice. I assume she’s a lady – the NWS critique panel are anonymous. This makes sense because writers can be a feisty lot. I have heard stories of rejected authors parading up and down outside an agent’s offices yelling obscenities and someone once told me an author sent an agent a cake with a begging message iced on the top; so I can understand why reviewers want to be protected by the veil of anonymity. Artistic temperament + negative feedback = ugly meltdown.
But it’s a shame I don’t know my reviewer’s name because I’d like to give her a big hug! By giving me feedback on the bits that needed work she has helped me improve and prepare my manuscript for agency submission. By her positive feedback on the plot and characterisation she has begun to convince me that my book doesn’t suck and that if I persevere at it I have a chance of getting that elusive publishing contract. And finally, by being the first ever person to read my book in its entirety without spontaneously combusting at the awfulness of it she has helped me to conquer The Fear.
If I don’t manage to secure a publishing deal in the short term the silver lining is that I have many more years to look forward to in the NWS, knowing that there’s a very supportive community in the RNA as a whole and some talented authors and reviewers to help me understand what works in a novel and what doesn’t. I can’t recommend the RNA/NWS enough and would urge any budding romance authors to join.
I just need to make sure I set my alarm for 12:02 next January. Oh, and write a decent book!


Emily grew up in Sussex where her love of all things Medieval made her nag her parents to take her to Bodiam Castle at every opportunity. She loves romantic novels with lots of conflict and hardship and characters with a dark edge. She is currently writing gritty medieval romances but has outline plans for other historical settings as well as contemporary romances. She now lives in rural Scotland with her husband, children and menagerie of dogs, chickens and snakes (often to be found on her lap when she’s writing). Emily Royal is the pen name of Sally Calder. She is in the process of setting up a website but can be found at: