Guest post: Annie Lyons – The Lost Art of Letter Writing

Annie Lyons author photo

Today I’m very lucky to be hosting a guest post from the very lovely Annie Lyons as part of her blog tour to celebrate her bestselling novel Not Quite Perfect being released in paperback.

I’m starting a Revolution

 

When was the last time you wrote a letter? I would like to say that I just have but I’m not sure if the hastily scribbled note enclosed alongside a claim for osteopath treatment actually counts.

I’m talking about the kind of letter your parents or grandparents would have written long before the digital age engulfed us; words carefully constructed on sheets of Basildon Bond neatly held over a lined ‘underpage’ enabling you to write in a straight line.

My mother still has a letter drawer in a dresser in the dining room. It contains old letters, writing paper, envelopes, a fat green address book with gold gilt writing nestled in its original cardboard box and a letter opener. My father uses the letter opener every day. It’s shaped like a dagger and my six-year-old son is fascinated by it. When he opens the drawer to retrieve it, there’s a smell of sweet wood mingled with the scent of treasured old letters; words of love, care and sadness from the past. It’s heady.

This isn’t to say that I dislike other forms of communication. E-mails are fantastic but wildly overused. Social media is amazing but it has its time and place. Texting is brilliantly convenient but it’s not exactly the place for Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18. I’m not averse to a smiley face or a Megalol and I don’t think every communication should be a work of poetry either. The digital age has a lot to offer but my goodness it’s an exhausting place. I can’t help feeling that we need to take a break from the chit-chat world we live in and allow our brains to rest and settle a little.

Typing at a computer or jabbing at your phone is a fundamentally different exercise to sitting at beautiful huge walnut writing desk overlooking a delightfully blooming garden as you lay down your worldly thoughts for another person. What? I dream for a living, okay? Kitchen tables are also fine.

I think it’s partly the physical act of letter-writing that makes it so special. Consider for a moment; here I sit, typing my ideas for you to read and every word is delivered by me effectively stabbing at the keyboard, punching out my thoughts. This works beautifully when you need to get your words down quickly. Plus I can delete, re-jig and re-form with ease, which is a blessing. You wouldn’t want to read my first drafts. Not even I want to read my first drafts. Writing on the computer is contained and focussed; it’s efficient, enabling me to box my ideas and assemble them into some sort of order.

Putting pen to paper is entirely different. As a writer, there are times when I need to let my brain spill over like an over-risen soufflé. I want to set it free from contained thought and explore its deepest recesses. That’s when I retrieve my latest notebook and my favourite pen. I often go and sit in a coffee shop to remind myself what real people look like. I watch and listen and sometimes write nothing at all. But often I will find myself noticing a couple of people and I will try to invent a story about them. And when I put pen to paper, the sheer act of writing on a page allows my brain to open up in a way that my keyboard often does not.

It’s the same process with letter-writing. The conscious act of opening a pad of note-paper, writing the date and address, and beginning, ‘Dear,’ is very intimate. It takes care and attention because you are writing to one person. Every word counts. You need to linger as you write. There is little room for deleting or editing. You are holding a one-way conversation with the recipient but because it is one-way, you will can share your innermost thoughts without fear of contradiction or interruption.

In turn, to receive a hand-written letter is uniquely special. These days, the letters I receive are usually from older friends or relatives and the letter is often a card but still, the physical act of opening and reading a note from someone who has taken the time to write to you is a treasured moment. Sometimes, the letters will make you laugh, other times they will make you cry but they will always make you stop for a moment longer than usual and think about the writer and what they mean to you.

When I was a student, I lived in Munich for a year. For the first few months I was desperately homesick, living in another family’s house, trying to come to terms with the language and culture. One of my university friends used to write to me. She would recount tales of the house she was now sharing with fellow-students; of their various exploits and catastrophes. These were delivered with such humour that if I received one in the morning, I would save it for the evening when I could lie on my bed propped up by the flattest pillow known to man and laugh until the tears rolled down my cheeks and my stomach ached. For me they were a godsend and even twenty years on, I can remember the comfort I felt at the sight of her hand-writing. Someone was thinking about me and cared enough to let me know.

This is an inferior example when you compare it to the impact letters have had during wars over the centuries. The letters sent between soldiers at the front and people back home during the two World Wars were quite literally matters of life and death. When you read the well-documented array of letters between sweethearts, from mothers to sons, from fathers to their children, you understand what it is to be human. The mundane details of people’s lives are there offering a distraction to the sheer awfulness of the situation, but most of the letters begin and end with love. They are declarations of the heart, pure and true because when you are facing the very real possibility of death, what else remains but love?

Letter-writing has always been inextricably linked to love. True, there are such things as poison-pen letters but these days the internet seems to be the place where people choose to spew their hate-filled bile. Maybe this means that the hand-written letter can be reserved for love and care. I hope so.

When my father in law died, his wife received over a hundred letters and cards; handwritten notes filled with kindness and love. Not e-mails or texts but words on a page doing their best to convey sympathy and offer comfort. She reads them from time to time even now because they remind her of the person she loves and misses still.

When I was a child, my mother encouraged me to write thank you letters after every birthday and Christmas. I didn’t need much encouragement. I loved using my Paddington Bear stationery set (who wouldn’t?) and I followed her guidance carefully. Address on the right, date on the left. Dear whoever, thank you very much for the (detail gift here). Now write a sentence about why you like the gift and tell the recipient about what you did to celebrate. Finally, thank them again and wish them well. I still write letters of thanks and encourage my children to do the same. It feels like an important ritual; part of my family heritage and something that is worth preserving.

 

Writers love letters almost as much as they love books. They are laced with possibility. They can hide secrets or reveal truths, they can upset, thrill and gladden. They are a window to the soul.

Letters were uppermost in my mind when I came up with the idea for Dear Lizzie. I wanted to write about two very different but completely devoted sisters. Bea Harris is the strong one, the one who always knows what to do. Her sister, Lizzie is the polar opposite, estranged from her family, lonely and alone. Bea has been her only support through life and when she dies, Lizzie wonders how she will cope. Her sister leaves her a package of letters containing her final wishes; wishes that she hopes will help Lizzie find happiness but wishes that will also reveal some difficult truths.

When Lizzie reads Bea’s letters month by month, she discovers comfort in her sister’s written words. The sight of her handwriting and the fact that she is holding a letter that her sister once held makes her feel as if Bea is still with her in a way, guiding and counselling her through life. They take her on a journey which changes her life forever.

Of course, you don’t have to be life-changing when you write a letter. It can just remind people that you love them or are thinking about them. In the ubiquitous world of e-mail, it is special and rare; a treasure to be preserved.

I hope we can hold on to the art of letter writing. In this busy, immediate world they offer respite. They enable us to pause, reflect and record important things that need to be said; thoughts and fears and hopes. They offer comfort and love and show us the essence of the person who wrote them.

So I am proposing a mini-revolution right now. Why don’t you dig out that old note-pad or treat yourself to a new one and put pen to paper? Let’s all write a letter to someone we love. Let’s take a moment to reflect about them and what they mean to us and let’s tell them. Let’s take a break from the chaos and feed the soul. Who knows where that revolution might take us?

Annie Lyons is the best-selling author of Not Quite Perfect (now available in paperback) and Not Quite Perfect Christmas (A Short Story). Her new novel Dear Lizzie is published by Carina and is available as an eBook. 

 

http://www.carinauk.com/annie-lyons

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Twitter @1AnnieLyons

https://www.goodreads.com/annie_lyonswrites

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Guest Post: Is it time to leave the day job?

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Today’s guest post is from Amita Murray, author of Confessions of a Reluctant Embalmer

Is it Time to Leave the Day Job?

This is an excellent question, and one that most writers and artists who love doing what they do will ask at some point. I asked myself this question repeatedly (some might say, obsessively) for over a year before I left my full-time job about three years ago, went part-time/freelance, and decided to spend more time and energy writing fiction. By this time, I’d written (not published, just written) about three-and-a-half novels, and a handful of short stories.

In the last three years, I’ve told myself there were many reasons for this move, but when it comes down to it there was just one. Writing novels felt natural to me – having a full-time job that I wasn’t happy in felt depressing. It was like not only my mind but my body was reacting against the situation I was in, like I was physically fighting a war – a war between doing what I craved and staying in a job that just wasn’t working for me.

About a year ago, a top London agent took on my novel The Pre-Raphaelite Seamstress. At that time, leaving a full-time job felt like the best decision I’d ever made. It was complete vindication. But then publishers turned it down, saying they loved it, it was compelling and beautifully written, but it didn’t fit a clear market. At that time, leaving a full-time job seemed like a very, very bad decision.

So, is it the right thing to do? Here are some of the things you need to think about.

What is your financial situation?

When I left my job, there were a few things working in my favour. I’d anticipated this move, so I had some savings (not loads, just some.) I had some part-time and freelance work on offer.

So, here are some questions you should ask yourself:

  • Do you have any savings?
  • Do you have any part-time/freelance opportunities?
  • Might you need a mortgage in the next few years? (Sad though it is, it is harder to get a mortgage if you are freelance than if you are on a salary, even a part-time salary.)
  • Are you likely to need maternity-leave in the next few years? (Remember, no salary, no maternity leave. Only a maternity allowance, which you will have to do a fair bit of paperwork to get.)
  • Do you have a partner with a more stable job than yours? (Not crucial, but it can help.)
  • Are you likely to need further training in doing the thing you love?

While you’re asking yourself these questions, think about this. Why do you want to leave your job? Is it to get more time to focus on the thing you want to do? To have more energy? Because it’s more satisfying doing what you love? Or just because you don’t like the job you’re in? None of these are bad reasons. But it takes a while to make it as an artist in any discipline. If you can find the time and energy to do what you love, while working part-time, then that’s a pretty good middle ground.

One more question – are you actually good at the thing you love doing? Are you getting really good feedback from people who know what they’re talking about? Or is it only your mum that reads your work? If so, then you may need more training. For which, you may need more money! And, therefore, some sort of salary.

Is your creative side going nudge-nudge and is it starting to hurt?

Okay, so, leaving a full-time job is not so great for your finances. But what about your creative side? I have to say that even though I’ve been a little sad (read, in a death-wish inducing panic) about my finances at various times since leaving full-time employment, I’ve worked on some fantastic freelance projects. These have had variety, really cool people to work with, had me thinking on my feet, and made me resourceful. Meaning, even the work I have taken up that was not related to writing novels was fulfilling and meaningful.

So, in terms of your creative side, leaving a job that is not working for you will definitely free up energy and time, give you more time with family and friends, and make you resourceful. But it can be very tough on your finances, and that can unhinge you, given enough time spent on decisions about whether or not to buy eight-pound pantyhose.

Remember one more thing. Leaving your full-time job may not be a permanent decision. You can rethink it as you go. In some cases, especially depending on what you’re doing part-time, you may have the option to easily go back to full-time work. In other cases, it may be harder.

Check out my romantic-comedy Confessions of a Reluctant Embalmer – think Six Feet Under, but more slapstick, with a dash of The Royal Tenenbaums – on Amazon. Publishers Weekly says the book is randy, fascinating, and very funny. And get in touch! I’d love to hear from you. Get this book for 99p on a Kindle Countdown deal on Amazon, from June 16-22, 2014.

Get in touch @AmitaMurray and amitamurray.com. I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

Guest Post – Emma L Adams: My Writing Journey

I started writing books at the age of 5. I didn’t even know I wanted to be a writer at the time – I doubt many five-year-olds know what they want to do with their lives! But I was a very creative child, and I loved stories. I was always lost in a book, always inventing characters and worlds. I was ten when my teacher told me I could be a writer – and it was like it had been right in front of me all along. I knew – I knew this was what I had to do with my life.

It wasn’t until I was 14 that I started writing a novel. I’d invented a set of characters who starred in various short stories, but I knew they were destined to be part of a novel. No –a series. That was when I started chasing the dream of publication. So I wrote the book. The first draft was a meandering mess that took a year and a half. The problem was, I knew it wasn’t yet ready to be published – but I didn’t quite know how. So I bought writing craft books and read articles online and worked on improving my craft. I decided the best thing to do was to study creative writing at university. When I was 17, I started re-planning that first novel, from scratch, as part of a six-book series. But exams and university applications kept interrupting, and I set my heart on a certain course which I wanted more than anything. And they turned me down. As there were only a handful of places, it was probably inevitable! In the end, I got a place on a different course, and this turned out to be the best choice I’d ever made.

It was summer 2010. I had three whole months before I started my university course. So I wrote the first draft by hand, in little more than a month (this was after over 1 ½ years of planning – I didn’t do things by halves!) Then I printed and edited it. I did at least five complete edits before I showed my family and friends – a major step! The one mistake I made was not getting peer feedback from fellow writers. I did research the submissions process extensively to avoid making newbie mistakes, honed my synopsis and query, and just before I turned 19, I sent it out. I started university. I met fellow writers, and for the first time in my life, I felt like I belonged.

The first rejection was encouraging, but after that, I received a slew of form rejection slips. I began to feel discouraged, once the initial buzz of university had worn off. The course wasn’t really aimed at novelists looking to make a career of writing. I’d finished drafting the second book by the end of my first year, and I decided that I wanted feedback on the first one from someone in the industry. After researching all the options I finally decided to send my work to a well-reputed literary consultancy. And I was told the book was unpublishable. The idea wasn’t original enough.

That stung, but I knew I could write – I just hadn’t found the right story yet. Although I was devastated at the time, it was breaking away from that first novel that gave me the courage to write something new – and that third novel was The Puppet Spell. It was originally my writing portfolio project for my second year creative writing module, and I’d found the kernel of an idea in an old notebook from when I was 15. I had a lot of fun with it despite writing under pressure, and the close scrutiny of my seminar group. This time, I had critique groups and beta readers look at the story before I decided it was ready to face the world. And then something unexpected happened: I was recommended to a publisher by a fellow student at Lancaster –and they genuinely expressed an interest in publishing my book. And I signed with Rowanvale for a small print deal.

Meanwhile, I’d been working on another series. That year was a crash-course in social media, marketing and promotion – exhausting but exciting! I finally saw my book in print, met many wonderful writers online – and discovered a niche my new book series could fit into: New Adult. I’d been fretting about where the Darkworld series, which is an upper-YA urban fantasy/paranormal series set at a university, would fit. YA books with protagonists aged 18+ were difficult to sell. But now publishers were actively looking these books!

Darkworld was my dream project. I’d planned it to have five books, based on the original plots for the later books in my first ever series (but massively altered and updated for an upper-YA audience). I knew this was something I couldn’t rest until I had it written down. It excited me more than anything I’d written before. I got to dig deeper into ideas I’d wanted to put in books for years, as well as drawing on the strange and wonderful world of student life I’d been experiencing for the past two years. The words came out of nowhere, as did the characters – as if they’d been waiting there all along. And the demons scared me half to death!

I finished the draft in September 2012 and started querying after more rounds of extensive edits and feedback from my seminar group. And in February 2013, I got an offer from Curiosity Quills Press! Darkness Watching came out on the 10th October 2013, and now I’m editing Book 2. I won’t lie: it hasn’t always been easy. My writing journey is on-going, and although it’s sometimes frustrating, I wouldn’t miss this for the world!

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Emma spent her childhood creating imaginary worlds to compensate for a disappointingly average reality, so it was probably inevitable that she ended up writing fantasy and paranormal for young adults. She was born in Birmingham, UK, which she fled at the first opportunity to study English Literature at Lancaster University. In her three years at Lancaster, she hiked up mountains, skydived in Australia, and endured a traumatic episode involving a swarm of bees in the Costa Rican jungle. She also wrote various novels and short stories. These included her first publication, a rather bleak dystopian piece, and a disturbing story about a homicidal duck (which she hopes will never see the light of day).

Now a reluctant graduate, she can usually be found in front of her writing desk, creating weird and wonderful alternative worlds. Her debut novel The Puppet Spell, published in January 2013 by Rowanvale Books, is a fantasy tale for young adults and the young at heart, inspired by her lifelong love of the fantastical, mythology, and video games. Emma also writes supernatural fantasy novels for older teens and adults. Her next book, Darkness Watching, is the first in the upper-YA/New Adult Darkworld series, and was published in October 2013 by Curiosity Quills Press.

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Darkness Watching

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Author: Emma L Adams

Publisher: Curiosity Quills

Release Date: 10th October 2013

ISBN-13: 9781620073629

Genre: Urban fantasy/paranormal
Target Audience: Upper YA/New Adult
Distributor: Ingram

 

 

 

DARKNESS WATCHING Summary:

 

Eighteen-year-old Ashlyn is one interview away from her future when she first sees the demons. She thinks she’s losing her mind, but the truth is far more frightening: she can see into the Darkworld, the home of spirits– and the darkness is staring back.
Desperate to escape the demons, Ash accepts a place at a university in the small town of Blackstone, in the middle of nowhere – little knowing that it isn’t coincidence that led her there but the pull of the Venantium, the sorcerers who maintain the barrier keeping demons from crossing from the Darkworld into our own world.
All-night parties, new friendships and a life without rules or limits are all part of the package of student life – but demons never give up, and their focus on Ash has attracted the attention of every sorcerer in the area. Ash is soon caught between her new life and a group of other students with a connection to the Darkworld, who could offer the answers she’s looking for. The demons want something from her, and someone is determined to kill her before she can find out what it is.
In a world where darkness lurks beneath the surface, not everyone is what they appear to be…

 

Read Chapter One.

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Reviews of DARKNESS WATCHING:

 

“Emma is an amazing writer. She has become one of my favorites. I couldn’t put Darkness Watching down.” – Diane at A Creative Mind

“Darkness Watching provides an original world that is fully complete and from a teens POV. It was dark and entertaining and sometimes teen books don’t go full out, this one did. The world building was truly strong in this novel.” – Lexi at 
Book Bliss

“Like good books should, Darkness Watching left me pondering the story after I’d finished reading AND left me wanting more. Adams built a strong world for readers to be immersed. But the regular world retained full realism. Normal every day teen situations felt completely believable.” – Erin at 
Erin Albert Books

“This was entertaining from the start…I didn’t want to put it down, and fans of urban fantasies I think will enjoy this. Darkness Watching was definitely worth the read.” – Jenea at Books Live Forever

“Demons, Sorcerers, evil, and secrets. Could you ask for a better supernatural suspense set-up? I couldn’t, and picking this book to read for Halloween was perfect. It’s full of suspense, danger, evil and dark humor. The plot is original, and completely gripping. From the first page, this book had me hooked, almost too afraid to finish, but knowing I’d regret it if I didn’t keep reading.” – Rose at Desert Rose Reviews

“This is a wildly different story than any I have read about demons…I loved it!” – Kathy at Bookmarks, Spoilers, and Happily-Ever-Afters

“All in all this is a suspenseful first part to an intriguing new fantasy series. I look forward to the next book and finding out what happens next! Recommended to fans of NA & upper YA supernatural & fantasy novels” – Sharon Stevenson, supernatural author

Guest post: Sophie King

Today author, Sophie King, has written a guest post for Sheli Reads!

‘But I don’t want to start again,’ wailed a friend down the phone the other day. ‘It’s too difficult. And I’m running out of time.’

I know just what she means. Making a fresh start, whether it’s moving house or changing jobs or going through a marriage break-up, is often terrifying. In fact, not that many years ago, I went through all three in the same month.

Even now, when I look back, I wonder how I did it. In fact, I wouldn’t have managed if it hadn’t been for some very dear friends who helped me unpack and mopped my tears.

‘Do the next thing,’ advised one of them as I struggled to remain brave in front of the children. In other words, concentrate on the next job that needs doing. It might be making the kids’ packed lunches for school or it could be updating your CV. The trick is not to think too far ahead. Otherwise, your mind starts asking how you’re going to cope and before you know it, you’re drowning in the sea of unknown.
The other thing that helped, was routine. Until these life-changes, I’d been working as a freelance journalist from home. But when I became a single mum, I needed a steadier monthly income. So I became a writer in residence of a prison for two days a week (for three years) and I also trained as a writing tutor for adult education classes. That helped me get a job at Oxford University and also a local college.

Of course, new routines are scary at first. But it’s amazing how, before long, you get used to them. Even practical problems can be sorted. I had to leave the house at 7.15am for one of my jobs and was often unable to rouse my sleepy teenager for school by then. Luckily one of my wonderful new neighbours stepped in to help.

In fact, as I soon discovered, starting again meant meeting people whom I would never have come across in my old life. That gave me the idea for my third Sophie King novel, SECOND TIME LUCKY. It’s about three women and one man who all live in separate flats within a beautiful old house. Each one is beginning again: Molly is a widow who is convinced her husband is still alive; Louise is a single mother of two; Marcie is a home-sick American bride; and Roddy (whose family once owned the house) is desperate to make up with his estranged children.

Of course, I haven’t based my characters on any one real person. But I do know what it’s like to be on your own, which helped to describe their emotions. Each one of them finds a happy ending, although it’s not always what they thought it would be. But that’s life, isn’t it?

Luckily, I found my happy ending too. A rather unexpected one actually. I married a family friend and we now live by the sea – something that the children and I have always wanted to do. As for my friend at the beginning of this piece, I have to confess that I’ve teased you a bit here. She’s happily married and she isn’t changing jobs or moving house. No! She rang because she’d messed up her nine year old’s birthday cake and twenty guests were due to arrive in three hours time.

“No problem,” I assured her. ‘I’ll buy one on my way over.’
If only it was so simple with husbands…

If you’ve started again in life and would like to share your experiences, email me at sophie@sophieking.info. Please also get in touch if you’d like details of The Sophie King Prize or would like to go on my mailing list. http://www.sophieking.info.

Guest post: KK Hendin

Today I’ve got a guest post from the very lovely KK Hendin! Enjoy!

Why New Year’s Resolutions Are Not Always A Terrible Thing

God, I am the world’s biggest cliché sometimes.

Once upon a time, it was January first, and I decided that 2013 would be a good year to make a New Year’s Resolution. Mind you, I had never really made one before. But I guess I was feeling optimistic, because I made myself a lovely little list of resolutions for the year of 2013.

One of them was finish at least one manuscript, and self-publish, if that was what I felt was best for the book. There were other ridiculous resolutions on that list that never really happened, like figure out life. But much to my shock, I wrote the words The End many times this year- namely, with Heart Breaths.

I wrote Heart Breaths at a very weird kind of time in my life- I had just parted ways with my job, I had paused school, and ONCE AGAIN, I had no idea what I was doing with my life. (This last bit seems to be a bit of a reoccurrence, truth be told.) I had finished a book and a half, and there was a story tickling my brain.

And so since I suddenly had all this magical free time when I wasn’t looking for a job, I started to write. And I wrote. And wrote. And wrote. And wrote some more.

Writing is a very personal experience- even when you’re not writing an autobiography or something about yourself, pieces of you still end up in what you write. Writing fiction for me is a way to sort through my jumbled thoughts by having others go through similar situations as I have gone through, or I’m going through at the moment. Luckily, I can say that I haven’t gone through the same things that Maddie has gone through, or Gabe, but there are aspects about what they struggle with that were and continue to be intensely personal.

Letting people in, even after being hurt. Learning to trust people. Opening your heart, even with the possibility of getting hurt. Standing up for yourself. Learning to trust yourself.

They’re all things that so many people are struggling with- not just me, and not just Maddie and Gabe. Heart Breaths was a book that helped me explore what it meant to open your heart up after being hurt, and learning that you are so much stronger than you think. And that sometimes, you don’t have to try to do it all yourself- that there are people who love you that are more than willing to help you find your brave.

Heart Breaths is a story of friendship, love and redemption. And beaches J
I mean, just look. How could I not include this?

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(picture via: http://www.obxlistings.com/wp-content/uploads//_slide_image/51-e5231325.jpg)

It may not be the typical New Adult release, but at the heart of it, it’s the same. About two people trying to figure out how to navigate the weird world of semi-adulthood, and maybe, if they’re lucky, try to navigate the world of love.
God, I’m such a sap 😉

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
KK Hendin’s real life ambition is to become a pink fluffy unicorn who dances with rainbows. But the schooling for that is all sorts of complicated, so until that gets sorted out, she’ll just write. Preferably things with angst and love. And things that require chocolate.
She spends way too much time on Twitter, and rambles on occasion over atwww.kkhendinwrites.blogspot.com.

LINKS:
BLOG: http://www.kkhendinwrites.blogspot.com
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/kkhendin
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/KK-Hendin/425268687590642?ref=hl
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7231267.K_K_Hendin

Guest post: Zoe @ The Book Lovers

I have a treat in store for you today! Zoe from The Book Lovers has kindly agreed to write a guest post talking about her blog, why she blogs, and her favourite genre, NA. I asked Zoe if she wanted to add any pictures, and for some reason she sent me this one….

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Hi everyone *waves*

My names Zoe and my blog is The Books Lovers. I’ve had this blog for a year now and I have met some of the most amazing friends through our love of books. I started The Book Lovers due to the excessive amount of books I go through (it’s slowed down a lot since I’ve got a full time job now). I used to go through two or three a day, and after speaking to my friends about setting up a review blog and they told me to go for it. I was nervous but I already recommend books to my friends and lend my books out so I thought “why the hell not” and so The Book Lovers was born.

My blog mainly focuses on New Adult with a hint of Young Adult and Erotica. My friends always tease me about reading sex books but I shrug it off because I love the books I read and why should I feel weird about sex scenes? You will notice I go off on tangents, so sorry in advance.

I used to spend a fortune on books, and when I got a kindle for Christmas a few years back that is when I discovered a whole array of books; books that I hadn’t seen in the shops and bookstores and books that were so cheap that I could buy about 7 eBooks for the price of one. I had my kindle for about a year before I started up my blog and if I’m being honest, I had no idea about self-publishing and the whole book community. I just downloaded books that looked awesome. My first NA book was actually Beautiful Disaster – Jamie McGuire. I had seen it by chance on Amazon and once downloaded I read it straight away. I adored it.

So when I began my blog, I had no one to show me the ropes, I had to figure out everything alone. From knowing what books tours were, to wondering what on earth Arcs were and how to join in with everything I saw on my TL. I think that’s why I always go that extra mile to help new blogs out because I know how lost I was when I first started and I’d hate for anyone to feel that way when they first begin.

Over the course of the months, I had built up my blog, knew what I was doing and making friends and author friends along the way. I support new blogs, new authors and I love promoting their work and chatting with them. Self-pub authors really are the best. Of course all authors appreciate their readers and fans, but I think without us, self-pub authors wouldn’t get the light of day, and that is why I love them. They are so gracious that you want to read their book, that you leave a glowing review and that you just love their books. I have a great group of author friends and I’m so happy to actually call them friends. I am actually meeting up with a few (and my lovely book blog friends) in November for a book event and I cannot express my excitement. I’ve been chatting to them for moths and now it’s time to meet them!

Sheli asked me to write my top indie authors and dear god, there are just so many, but I’m going to narrow it down to the ones that have supported me and my blog and I have been with from the very start.

1)      Karli Perrin – Author of April Showers and April Fools (Out Dec 2013)

2)      Emma Hart – Author of The Memories series, Mauve Legacy series, The Game series

3)      Kerry Heavens – Author of Just Human and Still Human

4)      Rachel Brookes – Author of Just Breathe

5)      Laura Beege – Author of These Things About Us

6)      Terri Anne Browning – Author of The Rocker series

7)      Jade C Jamison – Author of so many bleeding books that I love hahha.

8)      L.M Augustine – Author of Click To Subscribe and Two Roads

 

Okay, so I couldn’t push it down, because I love all of these authors! I have been with most of them since the beginning and I couldn’t ask for better friends. Push aside the fact we talk a lot, I always keep my reviews honest as I would never give them 5 stars just for knowing them. I always give them what I think the book deserves.

But yes, these eight indie authors definably deserve a read. They write amazing books that will suck you right in until the very end where you’ll be like ‘where did the time go?’ You won’t want to put their books down at all.

I was umming and ahhing about adding more to the list, but the majority of the authors I love have been snatched up by publishing houses, which they definitely deserve so fingers crossed these beauties do soon!! (I know Emma has an agent which is amazing news!!)

The reason I love these authors is because they write something different. New Adult fiction tends to focus on issues such as leaving home, developing sexuality, and furthering their education and career choices and in every book you can definitely see some part of the character in yourself, whether it’s the fears, college life, leaving home, finding yourself, having sex – there is something you can relate to in an NA book and I think that’s why I read NA a lot. The one book character I relate to a lot of Camryn from The Edge Of Never – J.A Redmerski. The reason I relate to her is because she’s lost, and she just packs a bag one day, gets a bus ticket and doesn’t know what she’s going to do, she just wants to get away, make the pain go away. During the trip she meets Andrew and he shows her how to live, how to concur her sexuality and let go of her past and learn who she truly is.

And this is what I want to do. Just pack and leave, find myself and find where I belong. Maybe find love along the way too.

I sobbed so much during this book that when I saw my mother, she asked me who had made me cry. She laughed when I told her it was a book. But see, this is why I love the NA genre. You can really connect to the story, the characters, how they are feeling and how they deal with everything. It’s real. Not that other books aren’t, but NA is something I don’t think I could ever stop reading. (can you imagine when I’m forty and still reading about 20 years olds…) but there are so many great authors that you should all just go and read and then come back and let me know how much you love their books 😉 big promise I know.

If I haven’t sold you on at least picking up one NA books then I haven’t done my ‘job.’ But I am hoping that if you do decide to take a chance on NA, please let me know what you are reading and if you enjoyed it. Come follow me @TheBook_Lovers and come chat books with me. I don’t bite….too much 😉

A big thank you to Zoe for this fantastic post!! I’m very tempted to try out an NA book now, I hope you are too!!

Guest post: Red and White

And now for something completely different! I’d like to welcome Karen D’Or to Sheli Reads for her guest post about the recent trend for Tudor fiction.

Red and White

In California’s wine country, the grape harvest starts well before fall — the fruit ripens fast during the sweltering midsummer days when our vineyards seem like magnets for the summer sun, trapping the heat between the hills and valleys that define our terroir. Those heat wave days can quickly turn into sudden thundershowers, threatening the crops with mildew and ruination.

It is turncoat weather. If grapes aren’t harvested in time a precious vintage may be lost.

As long summer days come to a close, and the erratic harvest weather sends me home earlier on Saturdays, I open a bottle of local Pinot Noir and settle in to watch BBC’s The White Queen, the poorly-reviewed ten episode production based on Philippa Gregory’s three books: The White Queen, The Red Queen and The Kingmaker’s Daughter.

Each Saturday night I turn on satellite TV to watch the small screen rendition the War of the Roses (WOTR). It is an time that historian Allison Weir calls anunfolding pageant of treason and conflict.” I’m vigilantly watching the show because this year, surprisingly, the fictional tales of the historic conflict between the (red) Lancastrians and the (white) Yorkist roses/houses are my favorite bedtime reading: escapist, romantic, devious, epic, and always volatile.

Sure, I’ve grabbed Ms. Gregory’s popular WOTR novels, but even before The White Queen TV show landed in the U.S, I’d found other fiction authors who have tackled the pivotal century with careful plot development, thoughtful character interpretations, and insights into the mercurial relationships within, and between, the two houses. Since Sheli Reads loves good historical fiction, I’m delighted the saucy Welsh blogger invited me to guest post this week so I can share my thoughts on a few key re-tellings of this era.

Tudor Rose: the Story of the Queen Who United a Kingdom and Birthed a Dynasty

Margaret Campbell Barnes wrote Tudor Rose: the Story of the Queen Who United a Kingdom and Birthed a Dynasty sixty years ago. Tudor Rose brightly weaves the history of Elizabeth of York, the White Queen’s eldest daughter, and the most recent common ancestor of all English monarchs. Elizabeth shines through as a naturally cheerful girl who develops into a wise and warm queen. The book moves quickly, is carefully researched, and is well worth reading. However, towards the end Barnes tosses in a few strange fictional twists that seem both implausible and rushed.

 

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Rose of York Trilogy

Written more recently, and with a stronger Ricardian slant, is Sandra Worth’s Rose of York trilogy, three books framed by the decades long love story of Richard III and Anne Neville. The author won several awards for the series including Francis Ford Coppola/Ray Bradbury/Moxie Films-sponsored 2003 New Century Writers Award. The trilogy kept my attention, and Worth writes with compassion and clarity. Although Worth’s presumption of a “love at first sight” tormented romance between Richard and Anne is rather charming, I don’t agree with the journal of the Richard III society’s reviewer that the trilogy is a “masterpiece.” Entertaining, yes, but the author may have gone a bit too far in de-vilifying Richard.

The War of the Roses

In spite of the entertainment value of the novels, for me the most compelling read is the 1995 non-fiction classic from Alison Weir. Weir is the highest-selling female historian in the United Kingdom. This is a long (496 pages) and riveting book. It is a great introduction to the WOTR era; for a historian Weir is imminently readable with a strong narrative compass. Because of her uncanny ability to make historical facts evocative and moving, Weir’s insight is often more worthwhile, and compelling, than some of the fictional accounts which often unfairly collapse years and decades into just a few words.

 

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As the days grow shorter, I recommend that you grab some juicy WOTR reading. You might even consider breaking out of the historical novel groove to explore a renowned nonfiction guide to this unstable period by turning to Alison Weir’s War of the Roses nonfiction classic. Weir brilliantly tells the “astonishing and often grim story of power struggles that involved some of the most charismatic figures in English History.”

By all means, time travel back to the fifteenth century: get lost in and around vivid landscapes like Pembroke Castle in West Wales, or Ludlow Castle in Shropshire where Edward IV sent his son the Prince of Wales before…. well, if you don’t already know, you’ll find out!

And as you delve into these devious WOTR times, I suggest you cozy up with a glass of ruby-red wine, perhaps a 2008 Dry Creek Valley Meritage. If you aren’t yet loyal to the reds, and if your leanings are more toward a chilly, seductive, wheat-hued dry white, consider the award-winning 2010 Alexander Valley Vineyards Chardonnay.

Unlike in the volatile choices during the War of the Roses, there are no losers in this decision between Red and White.

 

Karen D’Or

28 September 2013

 

Background: 

Karen D’Or (B.A. in English Literature and M.A. in Business Administration) has a 30-year career writing for corporations and non-profits. Karen is a successful grant writer and researcher in Sonoma County, California, where her practice raises millions of dollars for local social service agencies. Her college boyfriend recalls her writing as “remarkably fresh, witty, sharp, expressive and clever.” Www.musingly.me is Karen’s first blog venture launched to fulfill those lofty expectations of three decades ago. Twitter @musinglyme