Posted in Reading, Self-publishing, Writing

How To Find Beta Readers

Following my post yesterday about how I’ve used beta readers to help me fine-tune my next book, you may be wondering how I found such a fine band of willing volunteers!  If so, read on…

How do you find beta readers, willing to give up their time to help you further your writing project? Well, you just ask. “But who do you ask?” I hear you cry. “And why would they want to do it?”

Who to Ask

Cover of Quck Change flash fiction collection
Just back from beta reading – to be published 21 June 2014

Best not to choose friends and family, who might be tempted to tell you what they think you want to hear – that it’s the best thing they’ve ever read. Worse still, they might hate it – not great for the relationship!

If you belong to a writing circle, commenting on each others’ drafts is probably something you already do – but if not, make the suggestion. You may find others are keen to do this, but just didn’t want to appear egotistical by being the person to raise the idea!

Equally, if you belong to a book group, ask for volunteers there. After all, people attend because they enjoy reading, and those who aren’t writers themselves may be pleased to be invited.

I recently read a short book called The Beta Reader by Elizabeth Eyles, who kindly offers to match up writers with beta readers. If you’d like to take advantage of her generosity, I’d suggest the decent thing to do is to buy and read her book before you do so. (I didn’t realise this until she’s volunteered to beta read Quick Change for me – she’s obviously practising what she preaches!)

Who I Asked

I found most of mine by putting a call out for volunteers on a private Facebook forum that I belong to – the Alliance of Independent Authors. This is the not-for-profit organisation that brings together the best self-publishing authors from around the world – i.e. those who take their writing seriously and aim for professional standards.  I’m well known there because I edit the group’s advice blog, so I quickly had a list of volunteers. But it’s such a supportive group that I’m sure that anyone else would have had the same response, had they put up an engaging pitch for their manuscript.

The international element of the group is a bonus because it means I’ve had beta readers from other countries. I’m conscious that I’m a very British English writer, and I want to maintain that feel to my work, but without puzzling overseas readers with unintelligible Anglicisms.

In addition, I called on an online friend whose flash fiction I’ve enjoyed, Helena Mallett, author of Flash Fraction, a clever collection of 75 stories each 75 words long. As one of the stories featured a GP at work, I also called on my friend, Dr Carol Cooper (also a member of ALLi) to check it for accuracy. She’s not only a GP, but also a medical journalist, non-fiction author and novelist (where does she find the time?!) Her excellent debut novel, One Night at the Jacaranda, by the way, is currently on special offer on Amazon UK for only 99p for the rest of this month.

Why Would They Do It?

Cover of Opening Up To Indie Authors
My latest book, co-authored with Dan Holloway, helps indie authors interact more effectively with the book trade

Volunteers who are not authors will be

  • interested in seeing what goes on behind the scenes of producing a book
  • flattered that you value their judgment enough to entrust them with your precious manuscript
  • be glad to have a sneak preview of your book before it’s published

The last two of those reasons also apply to volunteers who are authors. In addition, this group of people will be:

  • interested to see how another author’s work looks pre-publication
  • pleased to feel that they are helping an author friend produce a better book
  • possibly hoping you’ll return the favour

My Experience of Beta Reading

I’ve been a beta reader for several author friends and have always found it very satisfying to feel I’ve contributed to the fine-tuning of their books:

  • I’ve picked up factual and grammatical errors that might have slipped through until an eagle-eyed reviewer complained post publication
  • I’ve highlighted confusing plotlines.
  • I’ve spotted repetitive words and phrases that the author hadn’t realised were cropping up so often as to become funny, e.g. so many characters rolling their eyes that it was starting to sound like an affliction

All of these things were very easy to fix, and the authors were always grateful. It’s also rewarding to receive an acknowledgement in the book when it’s finally published and a free copy of the book (signed, if it’s a print edition). After all, who doesn’t like seeing their name in print?

Go For It!

If you still need justification for asking, bear in mind that if your beta readers enjoy your manuscript, they may be persuaded to post up early, positive reviews when your book is finally published.

I hope this overview gives you the courage to seek beta readers for your own books. Good luck and happy writing – and reading!

In case you missed it, I wrote another post about beta readers here:

Why Beta Readers Make Better Books

 

 

Posted in Reading, Self-publishing, Writing

Why Beta Readers Make Books Better

That tongue-twister heralds news of my new flash fiction collection, Quick Change, due for launch later this month.

Cover of Quck Change flash fiction collection
Due for launch as an ebook on 21 June 2014

It’s a nerve-wracking time for any author when their precious manuscript is packed off for final editing and proofreading before publication. This week that’s what’s happening to Quick Change, the collection of flash fiction that I’ll be publishing as an ebook later this month. By the power of the internet, the final draft has zoomed across the ether to the other side of the country, for my editor Alison Jack to give it her expert treatment.

Last week it was the turn of the beta readers to read an earlier version of my manuscript. No, that doesn’t mean I’ve written my book in Greek.

What Are Beta Readers Anyway?

Beta readers are volunteers who read a manuscript prior to publication to alert the author to anything that might be improved. A great beta team will pick up inconsistencies and glitches that might spoil the flow of the story, e.g. a character whose name changes, an unbelievable  plot detail, or excessive use of the author’s favourite words.

  • One of my lovely beta readers spotted that I apparently have an obsession with recycling bins: the frequency of their appearance in this book has now been reduced. Or you could say, I’ve put out the bins.
  • Another reader pointed out that Belisha beacon should be capitalised because it’s named after the first Baron Hore-Belisha, a former British Minister of Transport. Well, did you know that? By the way, I can understand why they plumped for his second name.
  • One person alerted me to a recent change in the law that had made one scene in my book illegal. It was news to me. (And I bet that’s intrigued you – but no plot spoilers here, sorry!)

Interestingly, none of my eagle-eyed friends spotted the blind man that I had checking his watch. That anomaly only jumped out at me when I was inputting their suggested changes to the copy.  Which only goes to show that you can never have too many people checking over your work before you hit the “publish” button…

Publication Date Alert

I’ll be sending out a special newsletter to my blog subscribers nearer the launch date, Saturday 21 June, along with a free bonus story. To receive this alert, do either of these things:

  • If you don’t already subscribe to my blog,sign up here, and I’ll send your free bonus story with the next newsletter.
  • If you don’t want to join the blog subscribers list, but would like to be alerted when Quick Change is published, please add your email address here.

(If you’re already a subscriber to my blog, you don’t need to do anything – I’ll send you the newsletter anyway.)

In the next day or two, I’ll be posting here about how to find beta readers – useful for any authors reading this post, but also an interesting insight for non-authors behind the scenes of book production. In the meantime, I’d like to say a big thank you to my fabulous beta readers and editor by posting their links here:

 

Posted in Reading, Self-publishing

Lightbulb Moments About Independent Booksellers and My Reading Habits

(A post about revelations that came to me when setting up my virtual bookshop on the fun new http://www.myindependentbookstore.co.uk app)

Debbie Young photographed with David Ebsworth and Helen Hollick
At the launch of David Ebsworth’s “The Assassin’s Mark”, with Helen Hollick

Some time ago, after going through a phase of reading one book after another by the same few authors, I decided on two courses that would encourage me to read outside my comfort zone:

  • to read and review any books that I was offered, in particular self-published ones to support other indie authors
  • to join the local Historical Novel Society book group, having never knowingly chosen a historical novel for leisure reading

It was only when joining the new www.myindependentbookshop.co.uk website this morning that I realised that by chance I’ve discovered a preference for a very particular type of book that I’d never articulated before.

My Independent Bookshop

This site has just been launched this month by Penguin Random House purportedly to support the dwindling supply of independent bookshops in the UK. (Of course it does no harm to Penguin Random House’s reputation, either.)

It invites you to set up your own virtual bookshop and effectively play at being a bookseller. And before my overseas friends rush to try it out for themselves, I’m afraid this looks like a UK-only initiative so far, but maybe it’ll be heading for your shores soon. After all, those Random Penguins get everywhere…

You get to design your own shop from a range of templates and then choose up to 12 books that you’d like to recommend to others, beneath your own shop sign.

The result is a very pleasing pretend shop – and who hasn’t enjoyed playing shops at some point in their life?

Celebrating Indie & Self-Published Authors

I chose to call mine “Flying Off The Shelves With Debbie Young”, to reflect my book promotion advice website, Off The Shelf Book Promotions, and I decided to stock it entirely with self-published books by indie authors – because it’s harder for them to get their books stocked in real shops, despite the very high quality of the best indie books.

I’ve driven that point home with all the subtlety of a brick through a window by adding the strapline “Top Quality Fiction by Indie and Selfpublished Authors from Around the World”. (I’d have hyphenated the “selfpublished” but the site didn’t allow hyphens – hmmm.)

You don’t actually stock or sell the books on your shelves in real life – but if any readers take up your recommendations and buy a book you’ve suggested, the real-life bricks-and-mortar store that you’ve recommended will be sent a share of the profit (the rest, presumably, being absorbed by the website’s founders).

I’ve nominated Foyles in Bristol as mine, because I’ve been to some great indie author book launches there, such as the one pictured above. It’s also where I’ll be launching my paperback edition of Coming To Terms With Type 1 Diabetes this autumn, thanks to some helpful negotiating by SilverWood Books with whom Foyles has a special working relationship – and because my own local independent bookstore, The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop, which has branches in Tetbury and Nailsworth, is not yet listed on the website’s database.

Early Quirks

Two old copies of Lewis Carroll books - Alice In Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass
My antique Alice books

As with any new site fresh out of beta-testing, there are a few glitches and quirks, such as not recognising a surprising number of books. Not only did it refuse to acknowledge some self-published books, which didn’t really surprise me, but it also had apparently never heard of my favourite book: Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There. That narrowed down the choice of books that I could post on my virtual shelves.

The site also asks you to list three categories that characterise your reading, so that it can list your shop alongside similar stores. Although I do read very widely, not least because I review children’s books for the parenting magazine Today’s Child and an eclectic mix of books by contributors to Vine Leaves Literary Journal, I decided to narrow the focus of my pretend shop to the three types that make up the bulk of my leisure reading: contemporary fiction, literary fiction and short stories. I therefore omitted the children’s fiction from my shelves.

Inventing My Own Genre

Once I’d added my selection of 12 of the books I’ve most enjoyed in the last little while, the site asked me to write a paragraph describing my choice of books. Only as I was searching for words that summarised my choice did I realise that the following description held true for them all:

Gripping reads by gifted storytellers who will transport you to another time and place – fulfilling reading, whether you need something to stash in your suitcase for your travels or you prefer to tour the world from the comfort of your favourite fireside chair

Some are historical novels, some are contemporary, and trade publishers would never lump them all together under the same genre. Traditional genres are far too restrictive and unbending. Historical novels, for example, are defined by the Historical Novel Society as having been written at least 50 years after the event that they describe. But even though it falls outside conventional classifications, I’m still pleased to find there is a common bond between them all: transporting me to a different time and place. That made me realise what I need to look out for in future, when I’m seeking out a new read that I’ll enjoy.

Of course, I’ll still read more widely and just as voraciously as ever – but I was intrigued to discover this new common bond between the books that I’ve most enjoyed recently.

What’s On My Bookshelves?

And now the answer to the question that I’m sure you’re dying to ask: which twelve indie authors did I choose? They are (in alphabetical order by first name):

  • Ali Bacon
  • Alison Morton
  • David Ebsworth
  • Francis Guenette
  • Helen Hollick
  • Hilary Shepherd
  • Judith Barrow
  • Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn
  • Lucienne Boyce
  • Rohan Quine
  • Sandy Osborne
My Independent Bookshop logo
The logo of My Independent Bookshop website

But if you want to know which books they are, you’ll just have to go and visit my independent bookshop! Come inside, it’s open for business here!

(And yes, that is only 11 on the list – I took the liberty of putting Sell Your Books!, one of my own books in the twelfth slot, and in the next few days I’ll ring the changes by adding Opening Up To Indie Authors, which I co-authored for ALLi with Dan Holloway.)

By the way, I was unable to find all the books I wanted to include, such as Jane Davis;s fabulous novel I Stopped Timenot yet listed on the site,  Carol Cram’s The Towers of Tuscany and Orna Ross’s Blue Mercy.  All of these books exactly match my definition above.

The Most Important Question of All

So, I’ve had a couple of hours fun playing at pretend booksellers today, and it’s given me a nice warm feeling.

But as I put up my virtual “Closed” sign for the day, I do have one niggling question. Will this site really help reverse the fortunes of our struggling high street bookshops? Or is it a cynical ploy by larger forces to give readers the feeling of helping them, while actually encouraging them to place their orders on line? After all, the cut of the sale that will be passed on to your local nominated bricks-and-mortar store will be much less than if you’d actually visited their shop and bought the book in person. I’ll be very interested to hear what the REAL independent bookstores have to say about the issue – and if the boffins behind the new http://www.myindependentbookshop.co.uk site would like to reply, that would be terrific. Over to you!

  • How would you describe your favourite reading matter?
  • If you set up your own store within the www.myindependentbookshop.co.uk site, do come back and leave a link to it in the comments – I’d love to come shopping in it!
  • And if you’re the proprietor of an independent bookstore, do you welcome or dread this initiative? Do tell! 

Marry in Haste by Debbie Young

15 Short Stories of dating, love and marriage

New cover of Marry in HasteThese warm, witty short stories take an affectionate look at the institution of marriage, offering five gentle tales about each of the following stages: seeking a partner, committing to marriage, and surviving the long haul.

Each story involves different characters, from single girls seeking Mr Right, to couples struggling with the technicalities of actually getting hitched, to long-wedded couples who have plenty of time to repent at leisure.

Although most of the stories are told from a female perspective, this is far from being a feminist rant, but is rather a gentle celebration of matrimony – provided you find the right partner, plan the wedding your way, and find ways to live together long-term, despite each other’s foibles.

From the author Debbie Young, renowned for her sharp observational British humour, underpinned by a cheery optimism and a heart of gold, this little book will be a great engagement, wedding, anniversary or Valentine’s gift, or a heartening read for anyone who is wondering whether it’s even possible to get married and live happily ever after.

HOW TO ORDER

From your local bookshop
Quote ISBN 9781911223016

Buy online
Order from Amazon UK
Order from Amazon US
Order from other ebook retailers

WHAT READERS SAY

New reviews make any author’s day. If you read and enjoy Marry in Haste, please consider leaving a short review on Amazon or any other site online. Or simply recommend it to your friends! Thank you very much for your support.

20) LIKE SOMERSET MAUGHAM – Zed (2 May 2016)

I read this in a couple of sessions and enjoyed it immensely. It gallops along with plenty of laughs and well-observed nuances. It called to mind Somerset Maugham for me. If you like an English book of mostly “story-driven, punchline-delivering Maupassant-Maugham kind”- as categorized by Henry Shukman in the Guardian 2004 – then do read this book. I am glad I did!

19) SHORT SNAPPY STORIESAmazon Customer (15 April 2016)

What a fabulous light hearted read. Short snappy stories that you can dip in and out of whenever you have a spare five minutes – Or you can easily read the whole book in one go. Debbie has once again mastered the short story with her wonderful sense of humour. You will not regret reading this.

18) GREAT TO DIP INTO FOR A QUICK FIVE-MINUTE READ! Helen Laycock (5 April 2016)

Short tales which explore the many phases which may be encountered in a relationship. Well-observed, with its particular strength being the handling of the dialogue.

17) FIVE STARSSharon Gray (10 March 2016)

This book really lifts the spirits and reminds those feeling particularly jaded that love takes many forms. I particularly liked the way different sections of the book corresponded with different stages in a relationship. My personal favourite ‘ A New Coat ‘ made me cringe and laugh at the same time.

16) THE BRIGHT SIDE OF MARRIAGE Martin Brown (16 March 2016) 

I can’t give this book 5 stars, only because the state of marriage is such a mystery to me. I thoroughly enjoyed reading these short (very short) stories of love sought, found, endured and even cherished. I fear that any book by me on this topic would be tinged with multiple layers of sarcasm and cynicism. Debbie Young sees the bright side of life and celebrates it with humour, wry observation and a warmth that manages to avoid over sentimentalism. I have my favourites, but as they probably wouldn’t be the same as yours, I see little point in mentioning them. Instead, I suggest that you read this delightful little book and draw your own conclusions. personally, I am waiting for the sequel!

15) I RECOMMEND THIS BOOK – AND NOT JUST TO LOVERS OF GIRLY STUFF The Bagster (2 March 2016)

Not my sort of book. Well, that’s what I would have thought before I read it. Girly stuff.

I would have been wrong.

Marry in Haste is a collection of 15 short stories about the unending incompatibility of women and men. It’s divided into three sections of five stories each: Seeking, Committing and Enduring. All 15 take up only 94 pages in total so it isn’t a demanding read, and I finished most of it on a train journey from Cheltenham to Gobowen. I was glad to have it with me.

Debbie Young writes well and amusingly, though it would be selling it short to call it a collection of humorous stories. There’s an intelligent and informed view of human life at work here. You wouldn’t expect deep character studies in an average of six pages each and you don’t get them but the people are believable and so are their motivations.

I recommend this book. And not just to lovers of girly stuff.

14) DELIGHTFUL – SensoryMama (1 March 2016, Amazon USA)

This is a lovely collection of quick looks into relationships. I always admire authors who are able to successfully write short stories. There is so much that needs to happen in such a short amount of words, and Ms. Young did not disappoint.

All of these stories left me with a smile on my face and hoping for more. Ms. Young really does an excellent job of capturing a wide range of emotions in such a short amount of space.

I’d recommend this to anyone looking for a quick, light read that will leave you looking for more delights from this author.

 

13) LIKE TINY BRUSHSTROKES ON A PIECE OF IVORY – Mrs  C Mason (1 March 2016, Amazon UK)

Marry in Haste”—-the title invites us to add the suffix :- “Repent at leisure.” But there is little evidence of repentance, as Debbie Young’s characters seem to embrace their fate with wholehearted enthusiasm. The dangerous angle of the wedding cake couple on the cover might indicate future perils, but one hopes they are simply “falling” in love.

Jane Austen was acclaimed as a creator of microcosms, tiny brush strokes on a small piece of ivory. Was she also the first writer of “chick-lit”? No shame if she was. Women number half the population of the world. Why should we not have lighthearted fiction which speaks largely to the feminine psyche?. Debbie Young is a gifted proponent of this genre. Her warm humour and appealing characters place her with Catharine Alliott and Katie Fforde, but her stories have a depth all her own. Each vignette of “Marry in Haste” contains characters that have a complete imagined life with a past and a future.

Each little history contains the possibility of a full length novel, whilst being sufficient unto itself. The subtle humour with which the writer invests her stories, permeates each vignette. A sushi roll examined for signs of life, Barbara in A and E after food poisoning provides specimens “of which unfortunately she still had plenty.”

Thomas, the overdemanding partner who turns out to be a cat. Very occasionally married bliss is questioned. The over-solicitous husband tells the feminist saleswoman that he and his wife are perfectly happy as they are. “And do you know, though his attitude flew in the face of my feminist principles, I’m sure he was speaking the truth.”

A collection of short stories which positively celebrates love, yet subtly raises the wedding veil on the slightly sinister, questionable side of that well worn institution – marriage.

12) A DELIGHTFUL BOOK – OJ (28 February 2016 on Amazon UK)

This is a delightful book and well worth the read. Loved the humour and the twists. Splitting it up into sections was a great idea and kept me reading to the end.

11) HEARTWARMING Anita Davison (25 Feburary 2016 on Amazon UK)

A heartwarming collection of flash fiction stories based on the subject of love, commitment and marriage which we can all identify with. Each one carries a clear message as to what we expect from a relationship and what we actually get. That most of us only get part of what we hoped for in marriages/relationships, all of which are flawed but are worth sticking with. Some of these stories will make you laugh while others are thought provoking, even a little sad. All of them are witty and fun making it hard not to read them in one sitting.

10) AMUSING AND ENTERTAINING SHORT STORIES ON MARRIAGE AND DATING – Lorna Sixsmith (31 January 2016 on Amazon UK)

Thoroughly enjoyed these short stories: very varied in length and with different angles on dating and marriage. I particularly enjoyed those with a little twist in the tale and a helping of humour.

9) ENJOYABLE COLLECTION OF STORIES – Lucienne Boyce (31 January 2016 on Amazon UK)

Organised into three themed sections (Seeking, Committing, Enduring), the book contains a cracking selection of stories which dissect – and gently poke fun at – the absurder side of love and marriage. Populated by creepy boyfriends, manipulative girlfriends, overbearing husbands and secretive spouses – as well as (my favourite!) one white witch, the characters are nicely observed and drawn with a few deft strokes. Some tales chronicle the seemingly insignificant battles fought over towels on the floor, money, furnishing the home, the tidying up. Others remind us that love can manifest itself in the smallest detail – even something as mundane as shopping in the supermarket. There’s often a twist in the tale, and they’re not always for the worse. A very enjoyable collection.
Disclosure: I was a beta reader for Marry in Haste and the author is known to me through the Alliance of Independent Authors. However, this review represents my honest opinion of the work.

8) PERFECT PICK AND MIX – “AliB” (22 January 2016 on Amazon UK)

These short stories of a few pages each are billed as a gentle celebration of matrimony, which they certainly are, although marriage isn’t always the outcome. In the first section we’re still playing the dating game, and in the third section some of the heroines clearly have itchy feet. But most of all these stories are not just witty and engaging but also optimistic. Even when the heroine of ‘Old flames new sparks’ comes a romantic cropper, she knows there will be someone, sometime, if she just looks in the right place. I like this story because it focuses on the narrator’s character rather than the plot, and in all of the tales I think the ‘twist’ – which usually brings a disaster – is less important than how the people get to grips with it, and yes, love usually does find a way.

Cynic that I am, I might have grown tired of the all round happiness but Debbie Young always throws in the odd exception to prove the rule. I found the New Coat, where a shop assistant faced with an unsettling pair of customers particularly intriguing, when the narrator is forced to review her own attitudes, and there are naughty twinkles in Cook’s Perks and False Economies. And if at first sight some of the stories are slight, I recommend a second reading where something new will always catch your eye.

I don’t know I’d recommend this as a gift for a happy couple, since ‘Marry in haste’ does have a well-known corollary! But these stories are a perfect length for dipping into on a journey or breaking up a gloomy winter evening.

7) WHAT A GOOD READ! – “spabby girl” (21 January 2016 on Amazon UK)

I’m still smiling from the story I read last night, I had no idea how a story about an argument over a wedding present would end, I thought one or the other would have to give in but when I saw what actually happened I had to laugh out loud! And I’m still tickled now. I also thought it was just me who had trouble with putting lavender flowers in things but it seems not, what seemed like a good idea at the time didn’t quite work out as planned!These stories are a witty and engaging slice of life in the marriage market and a perfect tonic for a quick read. We all need a dose of fun in our lives and Debbie’s humour is unmissable, wry and mischievous I just hope this is the first of many anthologies.

6) ENGAGING COLLECTION – Sue Johnson (17 January 2016 on Amazon UK)

I am not a great fan of weddings, but I did enjoy this book. I love the way Debbie Young has divided the collection into ‘Seeking’, ‘Committing’ and ‘Enduring.’

The stories are all enjoyable but my personal favourites were ‘Old Flames, New Sparks’, ‘Presents Tense’ and ‘False Economies.’ The stories are warm-hearted, the characters well-drawn and the situations totally believable.

5) PERFECT GIFT FOR WEDDINGS, ENGAGEMENTS, VALENTINE’S DAY, OR JUST ANYONE WHO LOVES LOVE – “Ava D Reader” (10 January 2016 on Amazon UK)

Another great collection of gems from Debbie Young. Fifteen short stories about love divided into sections on Seeking, Committing and Enduring, there is something here for everyone who loves Love – and who doesn’t? Each story is short and sweet, but with a satisfying tang and the kind of little twist you’d expect from a Debbie Young tale.

Packed with endearingly flawed characters, everyday wisdom and just the right amount of humour, Marry In Haste would make the perfect gift for weddings, engagements, valentines day … or many other occasions.

4) SUPER LITTLE BOOK – “Paula G” (10 January 2016 on Amazon UK)

A super little book. Witty and fun, it will have you smiling at the characters’ antics, nodding sagely and occasionally laughing out loud. My personal favourites were ‘Having Your Cake’, ‘Snoring’ and ‘False Economies’ but I’m sure there is something here for everyone. My only gripe – I would have liked 15 more! This enjoyable collection of short stories is an ideal way to brighten up your daily commute or lose yourself in at coffee time. I was lucky enough to be offered a free copy of this book to review and thoroughly enjoyed it.

3) SHORT AND SATISFYING ENTERTAINMENT WITH WISDOM – Mari Howard (9 January 2016 on Amazon UK)

This collection ‘fast fiction’ on the theme of Dating, Love and Marriage, begins as it means to go on: with a great story sizzling with double entendre and related humour which draws the readers in with a delicious promise of more to come.

Without giving anything away, I’ll pick out a couple favourite stories, the second and third in the second section, as examples of masterful use of tropes and allusions to current culture. We all know similar people and situations and this writer keeps the reader on her side with a feel-good factor of ‘Oh yes, isn’t it just like that, aren’t men/women like this?’

A dry, sly, yet always friendly, well disposed and knowing, wit highlights the trends, tropes, and foibles of the current social scene and makes for a delightful read. Great for train journeys and commuting, this flash fiction comes in short, tasty bites.

2) DELIGHTFUL – “Sensory Mama” (9 January 2016 on Amazon UK)

This is a lovely collection of quick looks into relationships. I always admire authors who are able to successfully write short stories. There is so much that needs to happen in such a short amount of words, and Ms. Young did not disappoint.

All of these stories left me with a smile on my face and hoping for more. Ms. Young really does an excellent job of capturing a wide range of emotions in such a short amount of space.

I’d recommend this to anyone looking for a quick, light read that will leave you looking for more delights from this author.

1) SAY YES TO THIS ONE! – Betsy Talbot (5 January 2016 on Amazon US)

I liked the mix of slice-of-life vignettes and more imaginative, slightly surreal/supernatural tales. Some stories tugged at my heartstrings, while others made me laugh out loud. And oh those clever little twists! This is a book I enjoyed beta reading (and that isn’t always the case). If you like a modern take on old-fashioned love, then you’ll enjoy this collection.

Posted in Events, Self-publishing, Writing

A Busy Bee on the Busy Words Blog

Photo of the front of the shop plus the Daffodil next door
The delightful independent bookshop the Suffolk Anthology nestles beside the famous Daffodil restaurant

As just one of a flurry of events that have kept me busy during the last few weeks, I recently had the pleasure of being guest speaker at Cheltenham Writers’ Circle, at the invitation of historical novelist Edward James. Edward also attends my Cheltenham Authors’ Alliance, which meets every third Tuesday of the month at the wonderful Suffolk Anthology bookshop.

About Edward James

cover of The Frozen Dream by Edward James
Edward James’ prize-winning novel explores a little-known period of Tudor history

I’d first come across Edward a few years ago, when he won a prize awarded by publishing service provider SilverWood Books and ebook distributor Kobo, which I’ve just enjoyed reading. It tells the story of a little-known historical episode when Tudor explorers attempted to find a north-east trade-route passage via the Arctic to China. His prize was to have his novel beautifully produced by SilverWood, and as you can tell from this stunninng cover, they did their customary great job. (You can find out more about his book on the SilverWood website here.) 

Amongst Friends

When he invited me to speak at Cheltenham Writers’ Alliance about my own writing and publishing activities, I didn’t expect to know anyone else there, so it was a pleasant surprise to see in the audience the lovely bookseller Sallie Anderson from the Suffolk Anthology bookshop and Dr Terri Passenger, a trustee of Read for Good (formerly Readathon), the wonderful children’s reading charity that I used to work for.

My Talk

Edward had asked me to talk about my books and writing, and about the self-publishing process. Fuelled by coffee and Kit-Kats all round, I managed to talk for nearly two hours, with lots of show-and-tell of my books, and plenty of questions from the audience.

Afterwards, Edward kindly invited me to be interviewed on his blog, so that members who were not at the meeting, and anyone else who was interested, might catch up with what they’d missed. He’s now posted the interview on his website, and it includes my answers to the following questions:

  • When did you decide you wanted to be a  writer?
  • What did you do before you became a full-time writer?  How did  it contribute  to your writing?
  • Tell me about some of the things you have written.  What is your current project?
  • What made you decide to self-publish?
  • Can you describe your writing day?
  • You convene two local groups of ALLi.  Can you tell me about ALLi and how it can help self-published authors?
  • You have  a lot of other activities including the Hawkesbury Festival.  How did that come about?
  • When you spoke to Cheltenham Writers’ Circle you told us about Beta Readers.  Could you say something here for those of us who were not at the meeting?

Could you give us some links  to tell us more about your work?

If you’d like to read my answers, click this link to read the interview on Edward’s Busy Words blog.

Edward’s blog also includes interviews with a range of interesting authors and bookish types, and I was delighted to discover one of them is Helene Hewett, proprietor of the Suffolk Anthology bookshop, which brings us neatly full circle to where I began this post!

Group shot of authors in doorway of bookshop
Helene Hewett is immediately behind me in this group shot of author friends in the Cheltenham Authors’ Alliance, in this jolly shot by Angela Fitch Photography. (Unfortunately this was taken before Edward joined the group.)