Tag Archives: writing

Everything you need to know about Google + (Part I)



There’s a new kid in the social media town. Name of Google+. Is he a cheap pretender or the new big cheese?

In Part I of my report, I’ll let you know my thoughts, and what I’ve discovered about other forms of networking.




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August Words with Jam – Out Now

Possibly my proudest issue yet! I interview my find of the year – crime writer, Peter May. Plus I interview the legendary PD James, one of my all time favourite writers. Plus I chat to Joanna Penn (@thecreativepenn) about her latest non-fiction book, How to Market Your Book. Plus there’s much, much more …. and it’s FREE so subscribe today!



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Recommended Summer Read – The Lies You Told Me by Jess Ruston

Image The Lies You Told Me

By  Jess Ruston

4 out of 5 stars

If I’d seen this book on the shelf in Waterstones, the cover may well have attracted me to find out more even if it had been in the woman’s fiction area and not something I would usually pick up. I wasn’t sure what to expect to be honest, but I’m delighted to say I was more than pleasantly surprised.

The central theme of the story is secrets and lies. How one deception leads intrinsically to another, and the author does a very competent job showing that the sins of the parents do echo down into the lives of their offspring.

Klara Mortimer has had a difficult childhood. Not difficult in the clichéd sense of the word, but difficult as she was raised without the love and protection of a mother. And the feeling that her mother’s disappearance has never been fully explained, leads to a multitude of insecurities in adulthood.

When an anonymous letter containing a key arrives, Klara is led into a journey back into her mother’s life and discovers truths she would have preferred remain secret. Her spiralling obsession into finding answers takes her to some dark places, where she begins to believe her whole life has been a sham and she can trust no one. She turns against her husband, Mark – and her father, Henry who she feels has betrayed her in his desire to protect her.

It’s clear that her mother, a model who renamed herself simply ‘Sadie’ lived a rollercoaster life in 1950’s London. But the hazy memories Klara has of Sadie before she disappeared, and the stories her father has related over the years, do not seem to tie up with the discoveries she makes about her mother.

The reader is compelled to turn the page, sharing Klara’s need for the truth, and the conclusion of the story was unexpected, emotive and satisfying.

Jess Ruston has a real gift of creating believable, sympathetic characters, that even if we don’t actually ‘like’ them, we feel a connection with their lives and a need to hear their story. Her writing is well-crafted, well-paced, and the attention to detail and ability to examine the dark side of people and situations, gives depth both to the story and the characters. She is also able to deliver a complex and gripping storyline which twists and turns enough to hook even the most difficult reader.

This is the first book I’ve read by this author, but I look forward to reading more of her complex family thrillers.



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Guest Blog Post

… up today on the excellent blog from crime author, Francis di Plino.

Ten things you maybe didn’t know about me and the stories behind some of the stories too!



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Today I was interviewed …


… by Mitsubishi Matters. They are the internal news site for Mitsubishi in the UK and handle most of their publicity including blogs and media releases. As I tend not to discuss my writing at work, or with colleagues in the industry, it will be interesting to see the reaction once the article is published.


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The curse of submission letters & synopses …

I wrote this post recently for Triskele Books Toolbox. I’ve had varied degrees of success with agents and publishers over the years, and thought I’d like to impart a little of the knowledge I’ve learned on the topic of submission letters and synopses. I know this subject can induce dread and fear into the hearts of newbie authors – so I hope this may help in some way.

One thing I have discovered over the years is that when it comes to synopsis, less is more. Unless an agent states clearly on their website or submission terms they require a full three page, chapter and verse, detailed synopsis, my advice is to stick to a one page resume of the plot. If possible add a hook or interesting snippet in there, something to stand your blurb out from the crowd.

Again, please always follow any rules for agents that prefer strict guidelines, but if not, don’t worry yourself into the ground about your synopsis. I have had two agents now, both of whom told me they never read more than a single page synopsis, and would never make a decision on a novel on the strength of one.

However, one thing I think is vital is a strong submission letter. Again, I would strongly advise this is kept short (no more than one page), polite and succinct, but again, I’d recommend inserting something that takes an agent’s interest. Maybe comment on one of their clients, how you chose to submit to them as your writing has been likened. Or show that you have done your homework and studied the genres they specialise in. Also, don’t be scared to add a little humour or humility – both can work well in the right situations.

Also, even if you are subbing to more than one agent at a time, which in my opinion is completely acceptable, always personalise each letter. NEVER send a round robin type letter or email. Always take time to study their websites, find out who is the right agent to submit your work. There’s little point in sending anything to an agent who only represents non-fiction classical authors if your book is a comedy take on the next Fifty Shades of Grey! The fastest way to end up in the slush pile (or probably the bin) is to send a batch of letters that have been cut and pasted with no personal detail.

Remember, agents are human. Publishers are too (for the most part). From the dealings I’ve had with both … most are lovely people who are as passionate about writing as you are. Give them a break from the norm. They get as fed up of slush piles as you do. So, if you feel confident enough and you have something witty to say, be articulate, state your case. Most importantly – stand out from the crowd.

And the most important piece of advice I can give you … be yourself.


I’ve attached a couple of sample submission letters below. Both of these have been successful in getting request for fulls from their initial pitch, and both went on to get representation with the agent. You may be surprised how short and succinct these letters are, but trust me, agents are busy people, the less waffle, the more likely you are to attract their attention.

Obviously, it goes without saying that you will need to tailor these to suit your remit, but as a simple template, stick to these guidelines and you won’t go far wrong.



I am currently looking for representation and would very much like to submit my novel to the XX Literary Agency.

As an obsessive reader myself, I enjoy many of the writers currently on your books, particularly XX and XX

I do feel that my own writing (my novel is XX fiction) would fit well within the XX Agency’s current list of writers.

I am looking for an agency whose ethos is based firmly on working closely with their writers and I was delighted by your website and your dedicated approach to writers and literature.

Briefly, (put BIOG here – no more than 100 words)

My novel XXX is complete at XXX,000 words.

Best regards,




Having studied your website, I am attaching a short synopsis and sample chapters of my crime thriller, XXXXX, which is complete at XXX,000 words. The novel is the first in a series of six books which I have been working on for the past two years. I am actively seeking representation for my work with a view to future publication. 

Briefly, (ENTER 100 word BIOG here)

Sample chapters of XXXX came third on XXXXX, and I received a very promising review from a top editor. (ENTER ANY AWARDS OR ACCOLADES YOUR BOOK HAS RECEIVED here and a TWO OR THREE SENTENCE SUMMARY OF THE NOVEL)

I’ve completed a XXXX course, and have had numerous short stories and articles published (XXXXX). (SHORT WRITING BIOG HISTORY here)

I am now actively seeking an agent to assist me in breaking into the difficult word of fiction, and I’m prepared to work hard to realise my dream. 

If you require any further information, or wish to read more chapters, please let me know.


Thank you for your time.

Yours sincerely,



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When advice really matters …

ImageAnother super blog post from Triskele Books this week about the learning experience of writers.

One of my personal Eureka moments is included in the list, and the discussion took me back to the first piece of critique advice that really stuck with me. Where, I guess, I first started to realise there were ‘rules’ that needed to be learned and understood. And it was also that first gush of fresh air that makes you think ‘oh, yeah, of course. I get that now.’

It’s been so long ago, probably a dozen years or more, and I confess I’ve forgotten the name of the American guy who gave me so much of his time and good advice back then. He said he saw something special in my writing and he really gave me so much confidence to pursue my dream. It was on my very first writing site, Critique Circle, and although I don’t remember his name, I do remember his writing was the first I’d ever read on such a site that stopped me in my tracks and made me go Wow.

And his advice, once he said it, was SO obvious. Not so obvious to achieve – but so obvious where I needed to improve.

“You are an excellent wordsmith, however, why use twenty words when two will do? When I read your writing it’s like it’s covered in a veil, a fine mist and it makes me want to scream. If you could erase that mist, polish those words until they shine, your writing would sparkle like a diamond.”

The second Wow moment I had several years later was on a site called The Shed. I’d somehow landed there after a run in with the ‘Prefects’ on another site and a disastrous experience. The Shed was a minefield of egos. But a talented minefield, and it was there I met Amanda Hodgkinson (http://www.amandahodgkinson.com) and had that second Wow moment.

One of her early stories caught my eye, it had Cherry Tree in the title, and I adore cherry tree blossom, so I read it. And I couldn’t believe the quality of the writing. From there we somehow connected, and I read some very early drafts of her now successful novel, 22 Britannia Road, and it was a real goosebump moment. The first time I actually thought maybe I could get to a similar standard if I worked hard and learned more of these ‘rules’.

I’d class Amanda as a muse to this day. We have week long discussions about the actions of a character. We can almost argue if we don’t agree where a story should be going. But one snippet of advice stays with me. Amanda and I talked on a bench at the side Lake Zurich in the fading autumnal sunset, and it was this …

“You need to burrow deeper. Burrow into the story, burrow into the words, burrow into the characters. Really dig deep and let the story tell itself. You’re only scratching the surface, you have to go deeper.”

We were talking about my novel, The Charter, which had recently received numerous rejections to the point of really making me question my future as a writer and my ability to improve to get the book from good to great. Amanda made me realise I wasn’t alone, that she’d faced similar moments of crisis, but most importantly, gave me the confidence to write myself out of that hole.

So, those are my personal muse moments. There are a lot more to be found here on this weeks Triskele Books blog which can be found here …


I’d love to hear any of your muse moments that have helped you as a writer.

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