Posted in Events, Personal life, Reading, Writing

Quick! Before We Run Out of May…

photo of abundant May blossom on hawthorn hedge
May blossom at my favourite time of year

…How I’ve Spent Most of Mine

In between pulling over on impulse at various points on various journeys to take photos of the gorgeous spring views in the Cotswolds, I’ve had a packed calendar of events, the weight and complexity of which has scuppered my plan at the start of this month to post a weekly uupdate on what I’ve been up to. So I’ve decided in future to do this just once a month, in a single post at the end of each month. Today’s post will fill you in on how I spent the second half of May, having published a couple of posts earlier about the first half. Well, I did say I have been busy.

I will still try to post here weekly, including the monthly columns I write for our two local magazines, plus anything else that strikes me as possibly of interest to you.

My First Twitterchat (14th May)

I confess I barely knew this was a thing before, but when Tim Lewis, who runs a weekly Twitterchat for the Alliance of Independent Authors, asked me to feature as a guest to speak about running a literature festival, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to promote my beloved Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival (HULF)!

promotional image for my Twitterchat

“What is a Twitterchat?” I hear you cry. It’s a conversation on Twitter, identified by a specific hashtag , in this case #IndieAuthorChat. It takes place at at set time – in this case 8pm-9pm London time. The host asks a series of questions and the guest answeres, but anyone else may join the conversation by searching for and applying to their own tweets the required hashtag. Tim explains at greater length in a post on the ALLi blog here.

The hour flew by, and even though as Tim instructed I had carefully prepared lots of ready-made answers and photos, I felt like I was typing fast enough to melt the keyboard for the whole hour. As well as enjoying talking about HULF, and encouraging other authors to consider setting up something similar themselves, I made some great new friends.

BBC Radio Gloucestershire Book Club (15th May)

This month we were discussing the young adult book that everyone has been talking about lately – The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Show presenter Dominic Cotter, fellow guest Caroline Sanderson and I all have teenage daughters, each of which had identified this as a must-read, and we finally caught up with it! It tells the story of a girl living in a poor black of the USA, riddled with drug dealing and violent crime, and how she finds the strength to cope with the aftermath of the shooting of two innocent friends – and to campaign for reform. It’s an incredibly powerful book on so many levels – an engrossing read (although it took me a chapter or two to tune into the dialect and slang) with a tremendous sense of place and beautifully drawn, memorable characters, as well as politically important and empowering. We all felt it will become a timeless classic, and, we hope, instrumental in bringing about change in the real world. Read it!

And if you’d like to tune into the show to hear what else we had to say about this and other book-related topics, such as HULF, you can catch it on iplayer till mid June via this link. Book Club is the first hour of the lunchtime slot, and starts about 10 minutes into the show.

Next month’s Book Club choice is Raynor Winn’s memoir The Salt Path, and the show will be live from noon on Wednesday 26th June.

Our BBC Radio Gloucestershire Book Club recommendations for May and June

Captain Swing & the Blacksmith (17th May)

I was thrilled to have the chance to see my first ever Folk Opera, based on a wonderful book I was sent to review a couple of years ago – Beatrice Parvin‘s Captain Swing and the Blacksmith, a historical novel set at the time of rural riots against the mechanisation of farming with the introduction of the threshing machine. The book came with a CD of the folk songs that inspired it, and this show took the whole to its natural conclusion with a dramatic presentation through readings, songs and instrumental music, all in the delightful rural setting of Avebury‘s Social Centre, a tiny hall a stone’s throw from the, er, stones – the mysterious standing stones of Avebury. What better way to spend a sunny spring evening? I liked it so much I also bought a music CD from the accordionist’s band, not least because he is featured playing it in Hugo, one of my favourite films.

Captain Swing and the Blacksmith Folk Opera Cast

Oakwood Literature Festival (18th May)

The next day I had an early start to drive to Oakwood, a suburb of Derby, where my author friend Dawn Brookes was organising her second Oakwood Lit Fest, which she’s created on a similar model to Hawkesbury’s. Last year I had fun as keynote speaker, and this year I chaired a panel talking about the nature of Cosy Crime Fiction – what it is and why it’s so popular. On the panel with me were Dawn, who writes mysteries set aboard cruise ships, and Wendy H Jones, who writes both cosy and dark crime novels. I also enjoyed talking about my Sophie Sayers series at a Meet the Author event in the local library.

promotional banner for the Cosy Mystery panel event

Stroud Short Stories (19th May)

Next evening I was Stroud-bound, this time thankfully to sit in the audience and enjoy someone else doing the work! I’m an occasional judge for the twice-yearly Stroud Short Stories event, which culminates in ten authors reading their short stories before a live audience. This was the first time in a new venue, the Cotswold Playhouse, which, like the previous venue, was sold out for the event, despite being twice the capacity! The stories were all so scintillating, and the readings so magnficent, that many in the audience, myself included, declared this to be the best yet. I was also pleased to discover the venue, which I’d never been to before – they have a great programme of shows at affordable ticket prices all year round, and I suspect I’ll be back there again soon, possibly for the Bristol Old Vic students’ rendition of The Canterbury Tales on 4th July.

Cheltenham Authors’ Alliance (21st May)

A much-needed day at home was followed by my monthly trip to Cheltenham to host my Cheltenham Authors’ Alliance writers’ group in the delightful Suffolk Anthology bookshop. As ever, it was a lively discussion about everybody’s news and questions and issues of the moment, and although it was exhausting after such a busy month, it’s always lovely to see everyone there and to help them make progress with their own writing lives. When one member very kindly described me afterwards as his guardian angel, it gave me enough spring in my step to drive home safely!

Wotton-under-Edge Arts Festival Meeting (22nd May)

Just about still able to string a sentence together, next night I’d agreed to meet a representative of this festival that takes place at our nearest market town, just three miles away. Next year will be their 50th Festival, and at HULF one of their committee approached me to ask whether we might provide a literary event as an outreach for them next year. I was honoured to be asked (not least because Wotton is about five times the size of Hawkesbury!) and enjoy and hour’s brainstorming meeting with Anne Robinson, who is going to take our ideas to the next committee meeting and develop things from there.

Matilda the Musical (27th May)

And finally I wound up my hectic month with a treat – well, my teenage daughter’s birthday treat, actually! A trip to the Bristol Hippodrome to see Tim Minchin’s wonderful stage musical rendition of Roald Dahl‘s classic children’s book, Matilda. I love Matilda with a passion. You may remember I made a model of her for our village scarecrow trail last autumn, when she manned my Little Free Library for a week. I can’t bear to throw her away, so now she’s taken up residence in the reading nook in my dining room.

photo of Matilda scarecrow with Little Free Library
Matilda loves my Little Free Library!

We first saw the show when it launched at Stratford-upon-Avon, prior to its London run, and loved every moment – and this was sufficiently long ago that we had forgotten a lot of the detail, so it was still really fresh to us. It is an astonishing show, enjoyable on so many levels – the story, the music, the ingenious lyrics, the choreography and the sentiments – and will be loved by adults and children alike. If you have the chance to see it, do – you won’t regret it.

Guest Posts

I was pleased to be interviewed by Rachel McCollin for her blog here:

Interview with Debbie Young, Cozy Mystery Writer

And to be quoted again on her blog the following week when she was polling authors about where they get their inspiration – you can read that post here:

How to Get Writing Inspiration?

I love doing guest posts and interviews so was pleased to be invited this week by printing giant IngramSpark, to write a series of blog posts for their website, aimed at other indie writers.

What About the Writing?

Somehow – and I’m not entirely sure how – in between all of this frenzy of activity, I managed to finish my final edit of my new novel, which has now been despatched to my invaluable editor Alison Jack. I also decided in a lightbulb moment to change the title from Flat Chance – A Staffroom at St Bride’s Mystery to Secrets at St Bride’s – A School Mystery for Grown-ups. It’s a fun mashup of romantic comedy, mystery and satire, aimed at all those who grew up hooked on traditional school stories for children, such as Malory Towers and the Chalet School series. The cover is now with my talented designer for amendment (sorry to make extra work for you, Rachel Lawston!) It will also be the first in a new series.

I also signed off the audio files for my first audiobook novel, which will be of the first in the Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries series.

New Writing Projects

Today I started writing a new Sophie Sayers novella which will be given free of charge to everyone on my mailing list. (If you haven’t yet signed up, you can do so using the form at the bottom of this post.) I’m hoping this will be ready in August.

Then I’ll be writing the sixth Sophie Sayers Village Mystery, Murder Your Darlings, set at a writers’ retreat on Ithaca, at which Sophie inadvertently won a free place back in Best Murder in Show.

After that I’ll be alternating between the two series in future, and publishing at least one book in each series each year, if not more. St Bride’s #2, Stranger at St Bride’s, in which an American gentleman turns up claiming the estate is rightfully his, as a descendant of the (supposedly childless) founder, will be my autumn writing project.

Book Reviews Always Welcome!

In the meantime, if you’d like to spur me on, and you’ve read and enjoyed any of my books, it would make me very happy if you could spare a moment to leave a brief review online somewhere.

New reviews help books get discovered among the masses of novels out there in the world, and your support could make a real difference to my sales.

Like to Join My Mailing List?

To be among the first to know about my new booksspecial offerscoming events and free downloads, just type your email address into the box above and click the grey button. You’ll also receive a free download of a short novella, The Pride of Peacocks, a lighthearted quick read in the Sophie Sayers Village Mystery series, available exclusively to my subscribers. I promise I won’t share your email address with anyone else and you may unsubscribe at any time. Thank you!

Posted in Events, Reading, Self-publishing, Writing

Coming Soon: Two Talks in Three Days (22 & 24 October)

Hello folks, just a quickie to give you advance notice of two events that I’m involved in over the next few days.

1. Indie Author Fringe Conference Talk: “The Best Day Jobs for Authors” (Saturday 22nd October)

logo for 2016 Frankfurt Indie Author FringeOn Saturday 22nd October at 6pm, my talk in the autumn Indie Author Fringe Conference will be broadcast online by the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), which hosts this fab series of free online conferences that you can join in wherever you are in the world.

ALLi runs three conferences each year, to coincide with the world’s biggest book trade events – the London Book Fair, Book Expo America and the Frankfurt Book Fair.

The Frankfurt Book Fair is currently in full swing, and the IAF Conference will run for 24 hours from Saturday through to Sunday, starting at 10am Frankfurt time. My talk will be at 6pm on Saturday 22nd October on the topic of “The Best Day Jobs for Authors”. and I’m including advice from lots of fellow ALLi authors as well as drawing on my own experience. Click here to find out about the full programme and how to join the Fringe live online as it happens, visit this page.

All the talks will also be available online for evermore afterwards too, so don’t worry, you don’t have to forego sleep for 24 hours to join the fun. If you’d like to enjoy my contributions to the two previous 2016 IAFs, here they are:

2. BBC Radio Gloucestershire: Reading “The Alchemy of Chocolate” live on air

Picture of Debbie reading from Quick Change
Reading “The Alchemy of Chocolate” at Stroud Short Stories, April 2015

I’m delighted to have been invited to give my first ever live reading on BBC radio of one of my short stories, The Alchemy of Chocolate. I’ve been invited to read this particular one as part of a piece promoting Stroud Short Stories,because it was the same story that I read at the April 2015 SSS event and also at SSS’s Cheltenham Festival of Literature event last Monday. (I’ll be posting separately about that once I have photos . Event organiser John Holland will be in the studio with me on Monday 24th October on the lunchtime show at 12noon, and he’ll be reading some of his stories too, which are always compelling and often very funny.) Tune in here.

the-alchemy-of-chocolate-kindle-cover

“The Alchemy of Chocolate” is one of the stories in my flash fiction collection Quick Change, and it’s also available as a free download for anyone joining my Readers’ Club, which means I’ll send you news of new books, events and special offers, plus a free short story with every enewsletter. Just click here to sign up. 

Photo of Debbie Young, Dominic Cotter and Caroline Sanderson
Having fun at the October Book Club at BBC Radio Gloucetershire yesterday

In the meantime, if you’d like to catch the October BBC Radio Gloucestershire Book Club broadcast, featuring Caroline Sanderson, Associate Editor of The Bookseller, and me, talking books with presenter Dominic Cotter, you can do so here – it starts an hour into the show. No prizes for guessing what this month’s read was – as you can see from the photo, we got into the spirit of it, raiding our wardrobes for purple. Caroline even managed to rustle up a raspberry beret! We like to think Prince would have approved.

 

Posted in Events, Reading, Writing

My Debut at Cheltenham Literature Festival

A newsflash about my appearance tonight at the biggest and longest-standing lit fest in the UK

Poster for tonight's event
Featuring… me!

Over the weekend, a message flashed up on the corner of my computer screen: “YOU’RE IN!” Clicking to read the full email, I learned to my delight that I’ve been selected to read one of my short stories at Cheltenham Literature Festival tonight, in the 9pm event in the Little Big Top, entitled “Stroud Short Stories’ Greatest Hits”.

Debbie Young at microphone reading Quick Change
Reading from one of my short story collections at Stroud Short Stories event, April 2015

Stroud Short Stories organiser John Holland had chosen 7 out of 120 stories that had previously been read at its twice-yearly story evenings. Each SSS event provides a snapshot of the high calibre of local writing. These 120 stories had themselves been sifted from thousands of stories submitted to SSS over the years.

While the story I read at the April 2015 Stroud Short Stories event was not one of the first seven chosen, Katherine Hunter, one of the original line-up, had unfortunately fallen ill, and so I was pulled off the reserve bench to fill the gap. I’m really sad for Katherine to have to miss this opportunity due to illness, and I hope she makes a speedy recovery.

In the meantime, I’ll be dusting off my gold dress, an appropriate outfit for reading “The Alchemy of Chocolate”, which I wore when I read it at the April 2015 event in Stroud.

Cover image for The Alchemy of Chocolate showing chocolate coins falling out of a purse
If you join my Readers’ Club, you’ll receive a free download of this short story as a welcome gift

I won’t spoil the plot for anyone who is planning to be in the audience tonight, but if you’d like to read the story, you can either buy Quick Change, the collection in which it originally appeared, as an ebook or paperback (ISBN 978-0993087967), or get a copy of the story as a welcome gift when you join my free Readers’ Club.

All that means is you give me your email address and I send you very occasional emails about new books, events and special offers. You can unsubscribe any time you like too, though I hope you won’t want to! Please click here if you’d like to join the Readers’ Club.

Tonight’s Programme

To whet the appetite of the audience, here’s the line-up for tonight’s event, in order of appearance:

  1. Debbie Young – The Alchemy of Chocolate
  2. Philip Douch – Trog and Kron Almost Get It Right
  3. Ali Bacon – Silver Harvest
  4. Andrew Stevenson – A Good Old-Fashioned Cooper
  5. Rick Vick – Seeing
  6. Mel Golding – A Small Change
  7. Bill Jones – The Vampires in the Basement

It will be introduced by the ever-entertaining John Holland, an award-winning short story writer himself.

A good friend of ours, David Penny, a historical novelist and technical manager of the Alliance of Independent Authors, will be attending to video the event, so we hope to be able to share that with you in due course.

In the meantime, you can get a further sneak preview of the event if you tune in to BBC Radio Gloucestershire at 12.30pm today when lunchtime show presenter Dominic Cotter will be doing a quick interview with me. John Holland will also be interviewed on the night by the station’s roving reporter in the Green Room. (I think it’ll be Jo Durrant, who is doing a great round-up of the Festival on a daily basis – catch her on Twitter here.)

Like to Enter the Next Stroud Short Stories Competition?

After all the excitement of tonight is over, it’ll be back to planning the next Stroud Short Stories event, which takes place on Sunday 20th November. You have until the end of Saturday 29th October to submit your entry. Please note admission is free, but only authors who have a connection with Gloucestershire or South Gloucestershire are eligible to enter. Stories may be on any subject, to a maximum of 1500 words. For more details, visit the Stroud Short Stories website. Ooh, nearly forgot to mention – this time I’m the guest judge, alongside John. All entries are anonymised before they reach the judges, so no chances of favouritism. 😉

With thanks to my lovely friend Jacky, who will be in the audience, for flagging up that this week is Chocolate Week – what’s not to love about that?!

 

 

Posted in Events, Reading, Writing

The Alchemy of Stroud Short Stories

Debbie Young and poster for Stroud Short Stories
Excited to see the poster as we approached the event venue

This weekend, I was privileged to take part in a special evening of live performances by 10 Gloucestershire authors of their short stories, chosen for the latest Stroud Short Stories programme. 

Not only was my story, which also appears in my collection Quick Change, chosen from among 128 entries for inclusion, but also the event was named after its title: The Alchemy of Chocolate.

The event was held in Stroud Valley Arts, a small, intimate venue with slate grey walls and a low ceiling, cosy and inviting. 75 seats were squeezed in to accommodate the audience. Such is the reputation of Stroud Short Stories as an entertaining and enriching event that tickets, a bargain at £5 each, had  sold out weeks in advance.

On the subject of money, I ought to point out that this short story festival makes no money whatever – it’s run simply for the love of the short story and to give a platform to local authors. It’s also designed to give new, as yet unpublished writers the opportunity to share the stage with more established authors. The passion behind this voluntary project shone through in John Holland’s witty commentary and careful nurturing of both authors and audience throughout the night. Its impact was clear from meeting a young girl who had been  brought by her mother to encourage her interest in writing.

Reading My Short Story

New cover for Quick Change
Now available in paperback – my collection of very short stories (aka flash fiction)

I was third up on the two-part programme – a great spot as it meant the audience was already warmed up when I took the stage, and after I’d finished reading, I could relax and enjoy the remaining seven stories. As I sat waiting my turn, I was glad my friend Caroline Sanderson, who features with me on BBC Radio Gloucestershire’s Book Club slot, had come along for moral support and interest.

My reading went very well, despite spotlights shining so brightly that while on he stage I couldn’t see anyone in the audience. They could have all gone home, as far as I could tell. Fortunately, their copious laughter in all the right places in my story assured me that they were still there and hanging on my every word. I had to pause a number of times to allow the laughter to run its course, which made me feel like a stand-up comedian, in the best possible way.

It was gratifying to be approached by a number of people afterwards saying how much they had enjoyed my story and how funny it was. Several said they could relate to the heroine Jennifer, who discovers a secret recipe to turn chocolate into gold. It was lovely to see how the story chimed with them on a personal level.

I was also pleased to have several people approach me about the Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival, having recognised me from the website. (I’d leafleted the seats with flyers for the event, which takes place next Thursday.)

Meeting Other Authors

Cover of Stroud Short Stories anthology
The new Stroud Short Stories anthology

It was an especial pleasure to meet so many local authors whom I’d not met before. (I’m 25 minutes’ drive from Stroud, and the 10 of us are dispersed about the county.)

I also very much enjoyed hearing their stories, from moving tales about suicide and unrequited love to wry riffs about avant garde artwork and stem cell technology. All 10 of us had completely different stories to tell, cleverly ordered by organiser and compère John Holland, himself a gifted writer of short fiction, into a digestible and seamless whole. Here’s a shout-out for the authors and their stories:

  • Martin Spice Le Fromager
  • Philip Bowne Cows Can’t Jump
  • Richard Vick Ways of Seeing
  • Katherine Mitchell Daffodils
  • Rod Griffiths The Sweetest Smile
  • Anthony Hentschel The Giant Meets the Christ-child
  • James Sinkins The Casablanca
  • Chloe Turner The Bronze Garden
  • Mary Omnes The Spinsters

If you’d like to read these stories, plus over 70 more, you can catch them in the handsome new Stroud Short Stories anthology, now available to order via Lulu here, edited and published by Nimue Brown. The books are a bargain at £10 (including P&P). That’s just 12p per story – worth every penny. My copy is on my bedside table, ready to dip into for quick late-night reading, though I’m already finding it’s impossible to read just one story at a time without being lured on to read many more.

All in all, it was a memorable and rewarding evening. Although authors who read at any event must “miss a turn” to give others a chance the next time, I’m already looking forward to the autumn event.

Stroud Short Stories takes place every six months. The next event will be held in the autumn with a spooky theme. To be kept informed of event news and for details of how to enter the competitions, follow their website: www.stroudshortstories.blogspot.co.uk.