Posted in Personal life, Writing

How to Excite an Author (It’s Not Obvious)

An insight into cover creation for my books
plus the chance to download 12 free ebooks,
one of which is my short story collection Marry in Haste

wedding topper figure
Looking forward to meeting these old friends in real life

The things that excite authors are not always the most obvious. Today for me it’s the imminent arrival of a package containing the wedding topper figurine featured on the cover of my short story collection, Marry in Haste.

To create the cover design I used a stock photo, which for me summed up the tone and attitude of both the title of the book and the tone of the stories in the collection:

proceed with caution

cover of Marry in Haste
“A book for women that every man should read” – reviewer

I loved the way the bride is apparently having second thoughts about tying the knot, leaning back from her husband’s over-enthusiastic embrace.

Wanting to freshen up the cover with a slight redesign of the typography, I discovered the proportions of the original image were too restrictive for what I wanted to do, and I wished I had the original statuette so that I could take my own photo.

Money for Old Rope

Cover of "The War of the Peek Freans Light Wounded" featuring toy soldiers
A single short story, first published decades ago in “Woman’s Realm”

Then I remembered a conversation with my ever-entertaining hairdresser Tasha in which we established that you could find anything on ebay – she regaled me on how she’d won a bet that you could get “money for old rope” on ebay by finding lots of “old rope” for sale.

I’d pursued this avenue once before, buying a handful of vintage metal toy soldiers for the cover of my single-story ebook, The War of the Peek Freans Light Wounded, about a child at the start of the Second World War. They’ve lived on my desk ever since, alongside three small plastic gold Daleks and dwarfed by a three-inch-high Snowy dog from Tintin. I’m still awaiting the inspiration to bring them together in a story.

Another statuette of a wedding couple
Future cover stars for “Repent at Leisure”

Ten  minutes later, I’d found not only the precise statuette featured in the original photo, but also a companion piece to use for the cover of my planned sequel, inevitably entitled Repent at Leisure. I’m not ruling out a Happy Ever After to turn this into a trilogy in due course.

We Meet At Last!

I can’t wait to get my parcel and meet what seem like old friends to me now. It’ll be the equivalent of seeing Facebook friends in reali life for the first time, from all angles, in three dimensions, and finding out how tall they are.

It beats me, though, how anyone could want one of these less than enthusiastic plastic couples on their wedding cake. Neither of them look like the ideal representative of a happy couple.

A Model Couple?

My wedding cake topper showing a more enthusiastic couple
Note the direction of the lean, but disregard the hat

The one on my wedding cake was nothing like either of these, having been handmade for me by my talented friend and wedding witness Jane at her pottery class. She’d been with me when we bought my dark green wedding dress, and I’d described my husband’s tartan to her, but his hat was a figment of her imagination. She also didn’t foresee the motorbike, on which he arrived at the Register Office, kilt flying as he tore down Chipping Sodbury’s high street. Nor did I.

Me and my kilted husband on his motorbike
Enough to startle the old ladies in Chipping Sodbury’s high street

We are still married, approaching our fifteenth anniversary, although the motorbike is long gone. (“It did the trick,” he told me later when about to dispose of it. “It got me the girl.”) I’m not sure I’d hold out much hope of the longevity of either of my little plastic statuette couples. I’m also now trying to erase mental pictures of Melania Trump leaning away from her husband’s embrace…

FREE EBOOKS – Marry in Haste plus 11 more!

New cover of Marry in Haste
Available for free till the end of today (28 February 2017), or to buy from Amazon and other retailers worldwide

If you’d like a free ebook of “Marry in Haste”, you’ve got till the end of today (Tuesday 28th February 2017) to download it via this offer, along with 11 other free books by some of my author friends.


It’s also always available to buy from the usual places – order from your favourite local bookshop quoting ISBN 978-1911223016, from ebook retailers, or order from Amazon


Posted in Reading, Self-publishing, Writing

12 Free Books For You – including “Marry in Haste” (24th-28th February)

An invitation to help yourself to 12 free ebooks between now and the end of February, including one of mine!

Graphic showing Free Reads for Smart Women banner
We thought a dozen would be a nice round number…

If you like reading ebooks, read on to find out how to take advantage of a special offer that includes a free download of one of my collections of short stories, Marry in Haste.

If you don’t like reading ebooks, or haven’t tried them yet, here’s a chance to convince yourself, without it costing you a penny! In case you didn’t know, these days you don’t have to own an ereader to read an ebook – you can download to your phone, tablet or computer a free reading app such as Kindle or Kobo, and away you go!

A couple of days ago, I was very pleased to be invited to join a group of eleven sparky women authors in a joint promotion of free books called “Free Reads for Smart Women“. Always a sucker for flattery, I was very happy to add my name under this banner, which, in classic Freudian slip mode, I had misread as Free Reads BY Smart Women”.

Of course, both interpretations apply – because what smart woman could resist the offer of twelve ebooks for free, when they look as intriguing and beautiful as this?

array of books

There’s a bit of everything here to appeal to smart women of all kinds, from crime thrillers to romance, from historical novels to contemporary humour.

What’s the Catch?

The closest thing you’ll find to a catch is that to get your free books, you have to submit your email address. Obviously, that’s so that InstaFreebie, the service that’s hosting this promotion, can email the ebooks to you.

Also the authors would like to send you information about more of their books – but don’t worry, you can unsubscribe from their mailing lists at any time, no questions asked.

InstaFreebie would also like to send you more free book offers, if you’d like them – but again, just unsubscribe if you prefer.

And There’s More…

Interestingly, when you download each free book, InstaFreebie immediately shows you three other free ebooks it thinks you might like. Our team of twelve was bemused to find bare-chested men on the covers of many of these books. But so far we’ve had no complaints…

Men Also Welcome!

cover of Marry in Haste
“A book for women that every man should read” – reviewer

By the way, you don’t have to be a woman to enjoy any of these books. In fact, one of my favourite reviews of Marry in Haste is by a gentleman who described it as “A book for women that all men should read”!

Men are of course very welcome to help themselves to our freebies too. (I’ll be very interested to hear whether Instafreebie offers you same books featuring bare-chested men!)

How to Download Your Free Books

Hoping I’ve whetted your appetite to download one, some or all twelve, here is the link to claim your free ebooks:

It’s a landing page hosted on Helena Halme’s website, and you just click on the book cover of your choice to claim your free download. You can revisit the page and keep clicking for more as often as you like – and if you’d like to share the page or this post with your friends to help them do the same, please do.

***Please note that this promotion is running 24th-28th February only – so get in quick before the end of the month!***

Why Are the Books Free?

Cover of Best Murder in Show by Debbie Young
Due to launch in April

By the way, if you’re wondering why the twelve authors involved are not only smart but so generous – all the books being offered are still on sale commercially elsewhere – it’s because it’s every author’s wish to build up a mailing list of people who are interested in their books, so that we can email readers directly whenever we’ve got a new book about to launch or a special offer coming up.

This campaign is coming at the perfect time for me, as I prepare to launch my first Sophie Sayers Village Mystery in April, and I’ll be sending to my mailing list details of a special launch price offer in March. Exciting times!


Cover image for The Alchemy of Chocolate showing chocolate coins falling out of a purse

If you’d like receive news of that offer without getting involved in the InstaFreebie promotion, that’s fine too – you can sign up here. It won’t get you a free book, but you will have the option to receive a free short story, The Alchemy of Chocolate, as a thank-you.

Happy weekend reading. folks!

Posted in Writing

Creative Memory and Creative Amnesia and Why They Matter

photo of a colander
I’ve a memory like a kitchen colander (Photo:

Three times in the last couple of days I’ve been struck by a phenomenon that never fails to surprise me:

while blessed with total recall for insignificant events as far back as my childhood, I also have a prodigious power to forget things

Continue reading “Creative Memory and Creative Amnesia and Why They Matter”

Posted in Writing

Funny Valentine

graphic of multiple heartsMy monthly columns for the Hawkesbury Parish News and the Tetbury Advertiser have to be submitted to their respective editors by the middle of the previous month, which is why my February column was composed with the shadow of the January 31st tax return deadline anging over me… 

I’ve never quite got Valentine’s Day. It’s not that I’m unromantic, nor have I been unlucky in love. It just seems to me that designating one day on which to celebrate your love smacks of doing your tax return on the 31st January deadline, then thinking “Phew, thank goodness that’s over for another year!” before ignoring your personal finances for the next 364 days (365 tin 2016, thanks to leap year – a 24-hour reprieve, hurrah!). Continue reading “Funny Valentine”

Posted in Writing

Here We Are Again: Reissuing My First Ever Published Short Story

cover of The War of the Peek Freans Light Wounded
New this summer: my first published short story, rescued from print archives and revived for ereaders everywhere

Although this summer I’ve been largely offline, due to holidaying in areas without wifi (sooo restful), I haven’t been idle. In fact, I’ve been beavering away at every opportunity with old-fashioned writing technology (i.e. a pencil and paper – very enjoyable until you realise how long it takes to type it all up when you get home). While in Scotland, I finished writing my next collection of short stories, Marry In Haste, which will be published in October.

But I’ve also been travelling in time, taking stock of short stories I wrote many years ago. I’ve been surprised at just how many I have tucked away and forgotten about.

New Outing for Old Story

One result of my trip through the archives is that I’ve decided to reissue the very first short story of mine to be published, decades ago, in a Woman’s Realm Summer SpecialWhen earlier this year I came across The War of the Peek Freans Light Wounded , a short story set in 1939, I was nervous of rereading it in case I found it embarrassingly bad.

They say that to be able to critique your own work, you should first put it away in a drawer for at three months, to give you time to forget what you’ve written in any detail. Three decades should therefore have been more than enough, especially given my middle-aged memory, but I still didn’t trust my own judgement, even though the story had the validation of being previously trade published. I sought the assurance of trusted friends and beta readers, and their encouragement and praise gave me the impetus I needed to publish it once more. It came. Thank you, my friends – you know who you are!

New Technology

This time, its publication came about via technology that I couldn’t have imagined when I first wrote the story: formatting it as an e-book on Word and rustling up a cover using Canva software, all in the comfort of my own home. The original draft was written on a manual typewriter, and only after leaving university did I acquire an electric typewriter, which was cutting edge technology in its day!

Forever Young?

How different is it from stories I write today? Firstly, its historical setting – I only write contemporary fiction now, and am in awe of historical novelists. There’s a naive and misplaced self-confidence in my writing about an era of which I had no experience beyond schooll history lessons and conversations with my grandparents. It’s also more sentimental – or maybe less jaded, as one might expect from a very young writer.

But the embryo of me as a grown-up writer is still there – the humour, the odd dark undertone, and a sense of fun, even flippancy. After all, I can’t think of any other author whose main focus in a story about war would be biscuits (cookies to you, my American friends) – or at least the biscuit tin which is home to the main character’s collection of toy soldiers. If you’d like to read The War of the Peek Freans Light Wounded, it’s now available to download from all the usual ebook outlets. Just key in the title and my name and it should pop right up. Best read with a cup of tea in hand, and, er, a biscuit…


Draft cover design
My next collection of short stories will be out in October. (The draft cover pictured above is a watermarked work-in-progress.)