Liz Harris

Author of contemporary and historical fiction

Another fabulous RNA party

Once again, the imposing Royal Overseas League in Park Place, off St. James Street, a few steps from Piccadilly Circus, was the venue for the annual RNA Winter Party. And once again, I’m putting up some of the photos I took of the event. This allows me to indulge myself by looking at them again and re-living what was yet another fabulous RNA party.


The Royal Overseas League


I could wax lyrical about the atmosphere, the liveliness and friendliness of everyone, the delicious canapés, but as always, I shall allow my photos, plus their captions, to do the talking. (P.S. Any fuzziness about some of the photos is entirely the fault of the camera. It is in no way the result of an over consumption of wine!)

Right, Camera, action …

John Jackson catches the photographer in action!!


Jan Jones with Catherine Jones

John Jackson with Roger Sanderson

Pia Fenton


Berni Stevens with Sarah Newson and Linda Mitchelmore

Berni Stevens, Christine Stovell, Kathryn Freeman, Jules Wake

Anna Lucia Scamans


Julie Vince, Nicola Cornick

Christine Stovell, Julie Houston

Royce and Marion Lindsay Noble




Margaret James

Trisha Ashley

Catherine King, Margaret James, Trisha Ashley


Lucy Gilmour, Rony Grey, Fiona Harper

Margaret James, Broo Doherty, Sophie Duffy, Cathy Hartigan

Jean Fullerton


Cathy Mansell

Julie Roberts, Caroline Rayner

Myra Kershner


R.J. Gould

Mandy Baggot, Katie Fforde

Talli Roland, Vanessa Savage, Catherine Miller



Jo Thomas

Talli Roland

Me, Jan Sprenger, Tania Crosse, Claire Dyer, Julie Roberts




Me with Alex Hammond

Alex Hammond with Emily Kitchen

Yes, chocolate!


Anita Chapman, Liz Cooper

Judy Astley

Gilli Allan, Berni Stevens, Clare Chase, Lyn Vernham, Caroline Rayner



Carol McGrath, Cara Cooper

Veronica Henry

Catherine Miller, Vanessa Savage, Clare Chase, Anita Chapman




Alison May

Jan Jones, Katie Fforde

Cathy Hartigan, Ian Skillicorn




Imogen Howson, Julia Wild

Kate Johnson

Taking positions for the photograph that will be on the cover of the next issue of Romance Matters, courtesy of John Jackson



Well, that’s it for this year’s RNA Winter Party.

Over and out!

<-- 8 Jan 2020: Moved "'date,author,edit', " from before to after on Liz's request' -->

Where there’s a Will …

Thank you, good friend Janet Gover, for tagging me to take part in this fun series of blog postings, and Hello, Australian readers and writers of rural romance, and others. If this is your first visit to my blog, Welcome!

Today I plan to introduce you to lean, athletic, gorgeous rancher Will Hyde, one of the stars of A Western Heart, but before I do so, a word about Janet.

Not only is Janet a good friend, but she’s also the fabulous author of books that are a must-read for those who love the romance of the outback and rural life. Janet grew up surrounded by books in the tiny Australian bush town where she lived. There wasn’t a lot to do except read and ride her ponies, so not surprisingly, since she writes from the heart and from her experience, rural Australia and horses feature strongly in her writing – oh, yes, and dishy men, too!

Janet’s latest novel, Flight to Coorah Creek, is the first in a series of Coorah Creek novels. To learn more about Janet and her books, check out her website here. And if you missed her introduction to Dan Mitchell, the hero of her second Coorah Creek novel, click here.


Right, back to my latest book, A Western Heart, a novella set in Wyoming 1880.

Will Hyde and Rose McKinley, the older son and the older daughter of successful neighbouring ranches which sprawl across rolling hills and lush green fields, have grown up like brother and sister, knowing that one day they’ll marry and thereby unite their two ranches.

Their families and friends know this, too. And impatient to see the marriage take place, they’re starting to wonder aloud, and with increasing frequency, why Will and Rose’s engagement hasn’t yet been announced. Rose, too, has started to wonder why. She knows Will loves her and she knows she loves him, so there’s nothing can stop them marrying.

Or is there?


That was a brief introduction to the book. Now to get down to the lovely business of introducing you to Will.

1.) What is the name of your character?

Will Hyde. The Hyde Ranch will be his one day, but rather than stand back and merely supervise his men, he’s out there working with them at every available opportunity, his sleeves rolled up, the brim of his hat low over his eyes.

A strong man, not given to many words, but with a great sense of humour, Will’s a man a woman can rely on, a man who will make her feel protected and safe.

2.) Is he fictional or a historic person? 

Fictional. He stepped out of my head, into my heart and on to the page. I hope very much that readers will fall for him big time in the way that I have. BUT he’s also historical. He’s a rugged man living in the American West, not a modern, twenty-first century man.

3.) When and where is the story set? 

Wyoming 1880. I’ve stayed on a working ranch in Wyoming and walked the fields that Will and Rose will have walked. Not in 1880, though! A little more recently than that.


Ranch land in Wyoming, US

A town like Hope










4.) What should we know about him/her?

Ranching is in his blood, and he would like to see the Hyde and McKinley Ranches unite just as much as would the two sets of parents, but not at any cost. Will knows that Rose McKinley likes him – indeed, loves him as a brother – but he’s not a man to settle for liking, or for being loved as a brother: he’s a man with the potential for passion in his heart, and he’ll only wed a woman if he’s sure she loves him as a man.

5.) What is the main conflict? What messes up his life?

Not ‘what’, but ‘who’.

Nate Galloway. Lean, good-looking Nate Galloway, with the way of the world about him, walks into Rose’s life and …  Hmm. I think I ought to stop there to avoid a spoiler.


Cora McKinley, Rose’s sister. While Rose was drifting through life on a cloud of self-blindness and complacency, Cora had been growing into a beautiful young woman. A beautiful young woman with her eye on Will, the answer to every woman’s dream. Was spirited Cora the type to sit back and do nothing about her growing feeling for Will? I’ll let you, dear reader, guess the answer.

6.) What is the personal goal of the character?

To run the family ranch to the best of his ability. To wed a woman who loves him in the way a woman should love the man she wants to marry.

7.) Can we read more about A Western Heart?

Definitely. You will find more about it in this website, and it can be bought here.

AND NOW it’s over to two of my writer friends, Christine Stovell and Angela Britnell, both of whom write about fab men in rugged locations. They’ve agreed to be tagged and will be telling all next week.

A little about Chris. Setting off with her husband in a vintage wooden boat – how romantic is that! – Chris sailed from a sleepy seaside resort on the east coast of England halfway round Britain. She’s now on dry land and lives on the beautiful West Wales coast, where long-distance running, rather than sailing, helps her plan her plots, such as for her romantic novella, Only True in Fairy Tales.




You can learn more about Chris and all her books by clicking here.

And now a little about Angela. Angela was born and brought up in England, but later travelled extensively with her American husband before they settled in Tennessee. She learned to love books at any early age and now loves writing them too. Her latest is a romantic novella, set in a stunning location – Cornwall. Celtic Love Knot is set in the small Cornish village of St. Agnes. Learn more about this, and Angela’s many other novels, by clicking here.

So – Chris and Angela– over to you. I’m very much looking forward to reading your blogs next Thursday.


<-- 8 Jan 2020: Moved "'date,author,edit', " from before to after on Liz's request' -->

Yes, it’s the RNA Conference, July 2014

Harper Adams in Edgmond, Shropshire, was the venue for this year’s excellent RNA conference, and the perfect ambiance it proved to be.

Before the conference proper began, RNA members gave talks and held workshops in the Wellington Library on the Thursday, and on the Friday morning, there was a highly successful ‘Love of the Past’, meet-the-author and book fair event at Blists Hill in the Victorian Town. To give you a flavour of the occasion, I’ve captured some of the magnificent costumes worn by the historical authors who participated in the event.

Freda Lightfoot

Me, preparing for the Blists Hill extravaganza

Christina Courtenay


Kate Johnson

Liesel Schwarz

Kate Johnson, Liesel Schwarz



Louise Allen

Nicola Cornick

Romy Gemmell, Louise Allen



Jenny Barden

Anne Stenhouse

Juliet Greenwood


Lynne Connolly

Jenny Harper

Jacqueline Farrell


Jean Fullerton

Denise Barnes

Alison Morton, Jacqueline Farrell




And finally from Blists Hill, no photographic record of an RNA event is complete without at least one photograph of a pair of shoes …


My boots


Moving on  to the first day of the conference …

Getting together after the panel

Christina Courtenay, Chair of the RNA, and Jan Jones, Conference Organiser, welcome the delegates

Lizzie Lane, Judy Astley, Sue Moorcroft, Janey Fraser, Charlotte Foreman. Panel for the topic: ‘Reviews Revealed’


Christina Courtenay, Liesel Schwarz

Elizabeth Cooper, Anita Chapman

Carol McGrath, Charlotte Betts


Jen Gilroy

Alison Knight


Lynne Connolly, Liam Livings, Jan Jones



What better thing to do on a hot summer evening than gather together on the grass outside one of the houses in which we were staying. After dinner on the Friday evening, we did just that.

Alison May, Janet Gover, Lyn Vernham (MD, Choc Lit), Kate Johnson, Sue Moorcroft, Margaret Kaine

Melanie Hudson, Jane Lovering, Sarah Callejo, Rhoda Baxter, Laura E. James,
Alison May, Janet Gover












Val Williamson, Rachel Brimble, Alison Knight, Christina Courtenay

Henriette Gyland, Alison Morton, Val Williamson, Rachel Brimble










Erica Hayes, Melanie Hudson, Jane Lovering

Liesel Schwarz, Jane Lovering, Robert Fanshaw

Celia Anderson, Vanessa Savage, Lucie Wheeler, Catherine Miller, Simon Whaley


Now on to some of the talks I attended.


Eileen Dickson, Jen Gilroy, Julie Roberts

Checking the locations for the various talks and workshops

Nikki Logan, President of the RWA, discusses how the body reacts when reading


Matt Bates, Fiction Buyer for WH Smith Travel, and Richard Lee, Founder of the HNS, talk about getting books into retail outlets

Katie Fforde, Christina Courtenay, Jenny Barden (who organised the conference programme), Richard Lee, Nikki Logan discuss the Future for Romantic Fiction

Hazel Gaynor




Alison Baverstock, sharing her research into self-publishing


Ian Skillicorn tells the delegates everything they need to know about self-publishing their books

Phillipa Ashley & Nell Dixon discuss writing a series or set of linked books





And yes, there was a lot of gathering

Gathering for the Gala Dinner

Still more gathering



Denise Barnes, Jean Fullerton, Me

Alison May, Janet Gover, Denise Barnes, Jean Fullerton

Alison Morton, April Hardy, Sue MacKender, Eilidh McGinness


Janice Preston, winner of the Elizabeth Goudge Trophy

Denise Barnes, Alison Morton

Pia Fenton (Christina Courtenay), Chair of the RNA, with Jan Jones, announcing winner of the Elizabeth Goudge Trophy


Janie Millman, winner of the Katie Fforde Bursary

Katie Fforde, announcing the winner of the Katie Fforde Bursary


Sue Moorcroft, Jan Jones, Pia Fenton




The evening draws to an end  …

Talli Roland

Liam Livings

Sarah Callejo, Rhoda Baxter, Me




For those who stayed on, the last afternoon begins…

On the Sunday Sofa. Jane Wenham-Jones with Janie Millman, Christina Courtenay, Katie Fforde, Jo Thomas

… with necessary supplies

Kate Johnson prepares for mental exertion


And on the final evening …

The best of quiz teams (even if we didn’t win). April Hardy, Alison Morton, Denise Barnes, Eilidh McGinness, Me, Bernardine Kennedy


All there is left to say is, Roll on RNAConf15!

Over and out!




<-- 8 Jan 2020: Moved "'date,author,edit', " from before to after on Liz's request' -->

Turning family fact and myth into a novel

I’ve known Heather Rosser for more than ten years. During that period of time, I’ve watched as her novel, In the Line of Duty, has grown from its inception to its publication a few weeks ago.

In the Line of Duty, by Heather Rosser


I’m delighted, therefore, to welcome Heather to my blog this week. Unusually for me, I intend to step back and allow her to speak to you herself.  So it’s over to you, Heather!

‘Sorry, Liz, that you were unable to come to my First World War ‘street party’ to celebrate the launch of In the Line of Duty, but I know you were there in spirit! Oxford Writers Group, family and friends rallied to make it a lovely occasion.


The launch party in Oxford for In the Line of Duty

I guess all families have skeletons in the closet! When my cousin began delving into why our grandfather had been disgraced as a Royal Naval Air Service sea plane pilot, my uncle declared, ‘It’s a can of worms!’ This, of course, immediately made us want to open the tin.

The staff of the Fleet Air Arm Museum were very helpful and I was able to build up a picture of what it must have been like for my grandfather and his observer to track enemy shipping, a basket of pigeons being their only method of communication.


Heather’s grandfather in RNAS uniform, and her grandmother: Harvey and Elsie Dyke


My grandfather’s disgrace was only one of the closely guarded family secrets: there was another. No one knew the identity of the mother of my grandfather’s eldest son who was brought up by my great-grandparents.

My mother had hinted about it and had even begun to write a family memoir. She had talked about my great-grandfather, Humphrey, who was a Detective Inspector with the railway police. The story goes that in 1912, when he was working at Llandudno Junction in North Wales, he and Alice, his wife, walked from Conwy to visit an old Celtic church, fell in love with the view and built a holiday home there. The house remained in the family for sixty years and I loved spending summer holidays there when I was a child.  The idea of turning my grandfather’s story into a novel came very soon after my mother’s death.


Heather near the family home in Wales and the old church


I returned with my husband and daughters several times while I was writing my novel. Recently I was delighted to see the old church at Llangelynin featured in a TV series about sacred places. My grandmother used to be the key holder and one summer I helped her serve tea to hikers coming up the mountain from the Conwy Valley or the coast.

I chose my title, In the Line of Duty, to reflect the romance of railway journeys as well as the conflicts between duty and desire ever prevalent in war-time. In the novel, I tell the story of William through the eyes of Alice, his mother, and Lottie his sweetheart. It’s a story very loosely based on that of my grandfather. The family lived in Wembley, which used to be a wealthy London suburb, but I’ve changed this to Belsize Park which has remained affluent and so is more plausible to the reader. Very little is known about my grandmother’s family so I have given free reign to my imagination in creating Lottie, her wayward sister and their conventional parents who own the grocer’s shop opposite Llandudno Junction station.

I have loved researching and writing my book and I hope some of you will enjoy reading it. You will be able to buy it through bookshops, and through Amazon. To buy through Amazon, click here.’

Heather Rosser


Many thanks, Heather. I wish you every success with In the Line of Duty.

<-- 8 Jan 2020: Moved "'date,author,edit', " from before to after on Liz's request' -->

How much historical vocabulary is too much?

No, I’m not the person who’s going to discuss this very interesting question with you – it’s my good friend, Alison Morton.

Alison Morton, author of INCEPTIO, PERFIDITAS and SUCCESSIO


I’ve timed Alison’s interview, if that’s the right word, to coincide with her launch of SUCCESSIO, the third novel in her award-winning Roma Nova series which features sassy detective Carina Mitela. As writer and broadcaster Sue Cook says, it’s a “A real edge-of-the-seat read, genuinely hard to put down.”

I know Alison researches her writing thoroughly, so I asked her for her thoughts on historical detail in books.

Over to you, Alison!

“Not finishing a book is a serious and rather sad decision for a reader. I rarely give up, but I was struggling through a recommended book and twice woke up with it on my face. I dreaded picking it up again. The story was fascinating, but the dialogue and vocabulary so irritating I was losing the plot. Literally.

The research was impeccable, the thriller story full of twists and the characters well-drawn and rounded. The chief enemy was very sympathetic, so the writer had been clever, pulling me in to want him to be the victor rather than his opposite number.


The dialogue was full of words such as ‘Odds bodkins’, ‘Prithee’ and ‘varlet’, and I mean full. Obscure names of everyday objects had been inserted wherever possible and they became alienating.

I’ve nothing against well-researched period vocabulary; in fact, it’s essential to set the scene in historical fiction of all types and sometimes crucial to the plot. I use Latin expressions and Roman character names in my alternative history world of Roma Nova. Words such as palla, atrium, solidus, centurion, etc. are what give my books their ambiance. But my characters speak in standard English so the reader can follow what’s happening. If a book is set in the Renaissance then a more formal tone may be better, if in the Wild West, then a more casual tone and with farming and animal-related words and expressions.

Writers need to link the period flavour to the reader’s experience and knowledge without ‘writing down’ to them. Scattering, hinting and drip-feeding are far more effective writing techniques and give readers context, colour and perhaps some new information without separating them from the story. Less is more, or multum in parvo as the Romans say.”

The Arch of Constantine, near the Colosseum in Rome, emblematic of all things Roman

Medieval knights

Roman signifier

Many thanks, Alison. That was most interesting, and food for thought for all those who write historical novels. It recalls a discussion about historical vocabulary that I had on my blog some time ago. You can read it by clicking here.

Before you go, tell us about the book that’s published today.

SUCCESSIO continues the story of Carina, whom we met in the first two books in the series, INCEPTIO and PERFIDITAS. What’s a little different is that the next generation steps up to take an important part in the action.

Roma Nova – the last remnant of the Roman Empire that has survived into the 21st century – is at peace. Carina Mitela, the heir of a leading family, but choosing the life of an officer in the Praetorian Guard Special Forces, is not so sure.

She senses danger crawling towards her when she encounters a strangely self-possessed member of the unit hosting their exchange exercise in Britain. When a blackmailing letter arrives from a woman claiming to be her husband Conrad’s lost daughter and Conrad tries to shut Carina out, she knows the threat is real.

Trying to resolve a young man’s indiscretion twenty-five years before turns into a nightmare that not only threatens to destroy all the Mitelae but also attacks the core of the imperial family itself. With her enemy holding a gun to the head of the heir to the imperial throne, Carina has to make the hardest decision of her life…

And here’s a trailer with some exciting music

Alison’s bio

Alison Morton writes Roman-themed alternate history thrillers with strong heroines. She holds a bachelor’s degree in French, German and Economics, a masters’ in history and lives in France with her husband.

A ‘Roman nut’ since age 11, she has visited sites throughout Europe including the alma mater, Rome. But it was the mosaics at Ampurias (Spain) that started her wondering what a modern Roman society would be like if run by women…

Both INCEPTIO, the first in the Roma Nova series, which was also shortlisted for the 2013 International Rubery Book Award, and PERFIDITAS, the second in series, have been honoured with the B.R.A.G. Medallion®, an award for independent fiction that rejects 90% of its applicants.  Alison’s third book SUCCESSIO is being launched now!

SUCCESSIO is available through your local bookshop (paperback) and online as ebook and paperback at multiple retailers.

 You can read more about Alison, Romans, alternate history and writing here on her blog at

or on her Facebook:   Twitter: @alison_morton

Over and out!

<-- 8 Jan 2020: Moved "'date,author,edit', " from before to after on Liz's request' -->

A WESTERN HEART. Yes, I’ve gone back to Wyoming

The story

Wyoming, 1880

Will Hyde and Rose McKinley, the older son and the older daughter of successful neighbouring ranches, have grown up together like brother and sister, knowing that one day they’ll marry and thereby unite their two ranches.

Their families and friends know this, too. And impatient to see the marriage take place, they’re now wondering aloud with increasing frequency why the engagement hasn’t yet been announced.

Rose, too, has started to wonder why. She knows that Will loves her and she knows that she loves him, so there isn’t anything that can stop them marrying.

Or is there?

And now over to me!

The difficult thing about talking about a novella that’s just been published is that you’re afraid of giving away more than you should. After all, you want people to read your story and be gripped/moved/surprised/enthralled by the events that happen between the pages – pages literal and figurative – and if they know in advance what happens, the effect will be muted. Obviously, with a full length novel the writer has plenty of scope for dropping tantalising details without revealing any key plot points, but with a 30,000 word novella, there’s limited scope.

Good ranching land in Wyoming

To add flesh to the above outline, though, I can say of A Western Heart that this is a story about the rivalry between sisters. Rose has a sister, Cora, who’s two years younger than Rose, and Cora most definitely has a mind of her own. The theme of sibling rivalry is linked with the theme of how difficult it is to know truly what lies in the depths of one’s heart.

Something else that I don’t mention in the outline is that there’s a handsome stranger who literally rides into the lives of the McKinley girls – Nate Galloway. By the time that Nate arrives, the reader knows that Will Hyde is expected to marry Rose. Will works on the ranch he’s to inherit, so it takes no great leap of imagination to know that he’s a tanned, good-looking guy. Two tanned, good-looking men on horses – A Western Heart has its share of gorgeous males!

Finally, the above outline is an outline of the story alone – it obviously doesn’t tell the reader that the novella is set against an historically authentic background, but it is. I deliberately picked 1880 as the year in which to set my story. The events that happened a few years later in Rock Springs show that Nate had a valid reason for leaving his Rock Springs home at that time, and the developments in the cattle drives and railroads, which form part of the substance of the story, gave him an historically justified purpose for visiting the successful cattle ranchers in Wyoming in 1880.

Outside the horses’ barn

In the story, Jacob’s Cabin is set back from a river, which could look like this …

… or like this.




I love this period in Wyoming history, and I really liked working with my characters, so I enjoyed writing A Western Heart enormously. I hope that readers, too, will enjoy finding out about the lives of Rose, Cora, Will and Nate.

Over and out!

If you feel that you would like to buy A WESTERN HEART (Choc Lit Lite, 99p from Amazon), click here.

<-- 8 Jan 2020: Moved "'date,author,edit', " from before to after on Liz's request' -->

To New Orleans via Florida. Yes, a catchy title!

Following Choc Lit’s success at the 2013 Romantic Times Booklovers’ Convention in Kansas City, Choc Lit’s Marketing Director, Lyn Vernham, plus six of her authors, including me, went to New Orleans this May, the location for the 2014 RT Convention.


It’s amazing the people you meet when you step out in New Orleans. Here I am with The Greats of the past: Antoine ‘Fats’ Domino, Al ‘Jumbo’ Hirt and Pete Fountain


And some of the greats of the present day.

Lee Child signing a Jack Reacher novel for my husband

With one of my favourite authors, Rachel Gibson

E.L. James


Fellow Choc Lit authors Christina Courtenay and Beverley Eikli have already written blogs about our visit to New Orleans. You can read Christina’s blog here and Beverley’s here.

As they’ve so ably and entertainingly covered the basics of the week, and as I don’t believe in reinventing the wheel, my contribution to bringing the convention alive for you will mainly take the form of captioned photos. So here we go!

Since there’s no direct flight from Heathrow to New Orleans, and since I had a cousin in Florida, a State I’d never visited, I opted to change flights in Florida and spend a few days on Florida’s west coast with my cousin before flying on to New Orleans.



Pride of place goes to the alligator. This was what I’d expected to see in Florida, and this is what I saw on my first morning there. Walking across the wooden bridge to Siesta Beach, I peered over the side and lo, there it was. Having only ever seen an alligator in the zoo prior to that, this was an exciting moment.


Now you (almost) don’t.

Now you see it … 

Now you really see it …



Three more shots of wildlife in Florida.

A white heron

A roseate spoonbill – a member of the flamingo family









Whistling ducks with their brilliant red bills


Sadly, I don’t have a photo of an anhinga. Anhingas, also known as snakebirds, don’t have oil glands so they can’t waterproof their feathers. This means that after they’ve been in  the water, they have to come out on to the bank, spread their wings and dry out thoroughly for a long period of time. If they attempt to fly while still wet, they can’t get off the surface of the water.

All too soon, it was farewell, Florida, with its miles and miles of wonderful fine white sand beaches …


At every turn there was a stunning beach


… and HELLO, NEW ORLEANS, with its vibrant night life, unforgettable jazz and tasty beignets.


The wide Mississippi, which winds crescent-shaped through New Orleans. Though the river water – the water upon which the city depends – is muddy, the purifying system is so effective that the city’s drinking water is the fourth purest in the US


A box of the iconic beignets. We had breakfast most mornings at the famous Café Beignet

A New Orleans streetcar. Riding from one end of the line to the other is a great way to see the city


The Café Beignet. Note the trumpeter outside the café, which is typical of the New Orleans scene



And now to the hotel…

We stayed at the New Orleans Marriott, the hotel on the left

Posters like this greeted us in the hotel lift

The key to my hotel room. Of course.




I think it’s time we had some people in the photos.


What better way to start the day than with breakfast at the Café Beignet? Lyn and Paul Vernham and Beverley Eikli

Strolling along the bank of the Mississippi, Lyn Vernham, Pia Fenton (Christina Courtenay), Sue Moorcroft












The Samhain Saints & Sinners party. Red balloons float above the Sinners, and white balloons above the Saints

Me at the Saints & Sinners party

Beverley Eikli and Rachel Daven Skinner at the Saints & Sinners party


Sue and Pia with a Stormtrooper. Naturally.

Lynne Connolly


Here I’m admiring the interesting floor decoration (ahem)


On my last full day in New Orleans, I went first to the main cemetery, and then I took a swamp tour.

In the cemetery, I learnt about HAINT PAINT, a blue paint. It’s believed that the dead can’t pass through the blue paint, hence you see blue throughout the city. A number of the TOMBS are painted blue so that the dead are kept within the tomb.  Shells and pieces of brick are left around the top of the tomb to be used as currency in the afterlife. People place items used by the deceased when they were alive in front of the tomb on the bottom left hand side. The items are then broken in order to symbolise the transition between life and death.

Blue paint was also used to keep the dead out of the houses.


Haint paint is seen on a number of tombs

Reputed to be the resting place of Marie Laveau, the ‘Voodoo Queen’. The voodoo cult is a mystic cult of African origin that flourished in the 19th century.

Burial crypts serve as a cemetery wall. Because of their arched shape, they are known as ‘oven vaults’



The blue door kept the dead out of the houses. They also painted the porch ceiling blue for that purpose

And there’s a whole lot of blue on this house

There’s quite a lot of blue on the front of this house



No, there’s no blue on this, but there’s some lovely wrought iron, which is frequently found on New Orleans’ houses


One of the last things I did in New Orleans  was go on a SWAMP TOUR.


There was a tremendous variety of the foliage

There’s a real serenity to the bayou in the swamp

Wild hogs


During the tour, I cuddled an alligator.  Well, perhaps ‘cuddled’ is a weeny exaggeration.


Surprise and horror …

… gave way to smiles when I remembered the camera, and also when I realised how soft-skinned and rather sweet the alligator was.









Well, that’s it! It’s over and out, and farewell to Louisana.

<-- 8 Jan 2020: Moved "'date,author,edit', " from before to after on Liz's request' -->

My notes from an LBF14 Seminar: Top 10 Tips for Self-Publishing

Had I written the seminar title in full, I would have needed an extended title space. The full title is ‘Top 10 Tips for Self-Publishing from Two of the Top New York Times Bestselling Indie Authors’. See what I mean?

Barbara Freethy and Bella Andre

The two authors who gave this excellent seminar were Bella Andre and Barbara Freethy.

I made notes throughout the seminar and have written them up here. I must confess that there are one or two terms with which I’m not familiar, and it’ll be my homework to find out what they mean.  A note of caution (well, perhaps that’s a bit too strong). Barbara and Bella are American, and some of the sites to which they refer may be effective only for novels that originate in the US.

Barbara and Bella’s credentials are eye-wateringly impressive. Both were traditionally published before going it alone, and both now count their sales as indie authors in the millions. I heard this, licked the top of my pencil, and prepared to learn. This is what I found out:

1.  BRANDING is all important. The brand must be recognisable, able to be identified at a glance, be honest about the nature of the novel, be consistent (in font, art, titles, etc) and be fluid enough to change with the ever-changing market.

a) The NAME OF THE AUTHOR, when creating a brand, is the most important thing on the cover.

If the author writes books in different genres, there should be a different author’s name for each genre. To build a brand and make it a success, though, you should write 5 or 6 books in a genre before trying something else. You will, however, make more money by staying in one genre.

Choose an author name that communicates the genre to a potential reader.

The name of the author should be short enough to be written large on the cover.

The picture on the cover should evoke the emotion of the novel. (Some people outsource cover design; Bella and Barbara have learnt how to do it and do it on their own)

b) TITLE LINES. Titles lines are a part of the branding. The line should tell the reader what the book is about. Watch the sales’ figures and, if necessary, alter the title line if you think it might be holding the novel back.

c)  Try to spot a HOLE IN THE MARKET, and plug it. Barbara and Bella spotted that a wave of anti-chick lit criticism had resulted in a slump in the number of chick lit novels being published, but their instinct told them that there was a demand for such novels. The demand from readers wasn’t being met, so they wrote and self-published their own chick lit novels. The title, cover, title line and author’s name proclaimed the genre. Their instinct had been right, and their novels sold in huge numbers.

d)  THE POWER OF THE SERIES.  Series’ novels are extremely popular – they’ve become a part of our culture now. (I’m butting in to tell you that at the Romantic Times Booklovers’ Convention in Kansas City in 2013, I was amazed to see the popularity of series’ novels. Readers couldn’t put them into their trollies fast enough at the Grand Book Fair.)

Don’t write yourself into a hole. Don’t give so much away about a minor character in one book that you close your options for using that character in another book. Keep your novels open-ended when concluding your novel. The conclusion should be satisfying for the reader, but you should leave something in the background that can be developed into another novel for the series.



Aim for one novel every 2-4 months. You need a consistent production schedule – consistency in all aspects is all important.



Look for ways in which to increase your revenue. While you can learn a lot from things such as youtube, for example ebook formatting, you won’t be able to do everything yourself and you may do well to take help. Pick what you’re good at to do yourself, and hire in the people to do the things you can’t do. The increase in income will justify the initial outgoings. Barbara and Bella’s advice –  THINK BIG!

Things you can do are:

Bundle your novels together.


Print as a subsidiary right

audio books, which can be lucrative (which can also – apparently fairly easily – be put inside the print book). has opened up to UK authors now. This is the only site available for royalty split deals right now.


foreign translation



You will have to choose whether to go direct or whether to use a distributor.  Bella and Barbara do it all themselves.  You can go direct to Amazon KDP, CreateSpace, Barnes & Noble NookPress (which has now opened up to authors from outside the US), iBooks, Kobo, google.

The pros of going direct are that:

* it’s easier to change prices, cover, sales’ description, keywords, blurb, and so on. Both authors closely watch their sales and if they feel that their sales are sluggish, they can easily make any changes that they think will enhance their sales

*you have easy, speedy access to sales figures as there’s no middle person. This enables you to spot any sudden changes and to respond quickly to them.

*you can build a good relationship with the retailer

* you will develop the ability to understand the sales’ patterns on specific retail sites, which can be useful.

The cons of this are that:

*you are taking on a lot of work

*you have to learn different forms of conversion.


Bella and Barbara advise that everyone chooses the way to proceed with which they are most comfortable.



Your marketing begins with your novel and the presentation of it – the content of the novel, the title, the cover, etc..

Both authors recommend 80% writing to 20% marketing. Each book will sell the next book so you should do more writing than promoting. Weigh up what promotion you do in terms of how much time it will take you from your writing. During your 20% marketing, think like a publisher.

Whatever your feelings about the social media, you will have to use at least one form of it as you need to connect with readers.  To promote on the social media, Barbara and Bella use:

*Facebook page, and perhaps boost posts. Readers need to have a place in which to find the author, and this is a good place.

*Facebook Reader Groups/Street teams. These are outlets for readers to talk to each other.


*join writers’ groups, like Romance Writers of America, if you’re in the US. You want to be part of a community.

*goodreads, with giveaways (To encourage reviews, at the end of the message with the giveaway, ask the reader to sign up for the newsletter, and add that hopefully they’ll love the book. You could add that an honest review would be appreciated.)

*Pinterest, to build interest in the book

*google+, where your newsfeed is shown to everyone in your circle




*Amazon Author Central

* (a library distribution company)


Always respond to your readers, no matter how much time it takes.

Generally, network when ever you can, and cross promote with other authors.


Both authors were asked if they blogged. They said that they didn’t feel that blogging was necessary. Barbara said that in the time that she ‘d take to think of three paragraphs worth putting in a blog, she could have written another chapter of her work in progress.

(NOTE from me: neither author blogs, but both have a newsletter and have built up an email list of readers.)



They have a five-year plan. In your plan, set yourself realistic expectations.

They have a pricing strategy. Write more than one book. The first book in a series is frequently put on sale or offered free. The others in the series would usually be around 1.99. Make sure that when you put out the first of the series at a reduced price or free, there are others in the series that they can promptly click on to buy.

Their advice: think like a publisher. If something doesn’t work, a publisher will change it – so should you.

Always keep an eye on the market – you can learn a lot from what other successful authors are doing.

Make sure that your book is as good as it can be. Don’t shortchange the book or the readers – reviews last a long time. Both Bella and Barbara hire professional editors, proof-readers, artists, file-formatting, audio narration quality control.

That’s it then!!

Good luck to everyone who’s thinking of going it alone.

Over and out.

Goodbye, London Book Fair, till next year.


<-- 8 Jan 2020: Moved "'date,author,edit', " from before to after on Liz's request' -->

The London Book Fair 2014 (or, more accurately, one day of it)

This week, from 8th – 10th April, the Earls Court Exhibition Centre, of the cavernous interior and art deco-style exterior, played host to the London Book Fair 2014, a magnet for people involved in every aspect of the world of publishing, from both at home and abroad.

In what was my first visit ever to the London Book Fair, I spent the Wednesday at the Book Fair. It was an absolutely fabulous day, and if I hadn’t had edits waiting for me at home, I would have been back at 9am the following day for more.

Since I had my camera with me – of course – I thought I’d show you a few pictorial highlights of a day filled with chatting to friends old and new, with interesting and informative seminars, and with the opportunity to peek at the promotions on the various publishers’ stands, not to mention the highlight of the day – spending time on the brilliant Choc Lit stand.

Arriving at the Earls Court venue…

… it took some minutes to orientate myself inside the vast hall. Well, that’s not totally true. To be honest, I don’t think I’d orientated myself even by the end of the day. To the very last minute of my visit, the building remained a glorious, bewildering mass of books and people, and I loved every single minute of wandering hopelessly around, seeking one destination after another.

Which way to go?The first of my many decisions.

A birds-eye image of the London Book Fair










A map in my hand, my first destination was, of course, the Choc Lit stand.

It’s all happening on the Choc Lit stand

Lyn Vernham, MD of Choc Lit, and Choc Lit’s Lusana Taylor prepare for the day

Me, in front of the Choc Lit display, courtesy of Christina Courtenay


And this is what it’s all about – BOOKS and MORE BOOKS


Minutes after I arrived at the Choc Lit stand, I bumped into my good friend, Alison Morton. I was delighted to see Alison again, and we promptly headed for coffee, stopping en route to say hello to the Silverwood Books stand, on which Alison was spending some time each day, and then to the Kobo stand, where we had a delightful talk with the charming René d’Entremont from Canada, the P.R. Manager of Kobo.


Alison in front of the Silverwood Books stand

Rene d’Entremont, PR Manager of Kobo













After a most enjoyable coffee with Alison and friends Jenny Haddon and Evelyn Ryle, I headed with Alison to the first of the four seminars I’d booked, which was Darren Hardy in conversation with best-selling authors Mel Sherrat and Tim Ellis. The discussion included the use of Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace to fuel readership growth, and gave plenty of food for thought.

Waiting to start their seminar, Mel Sherrat and Tim Ellis, with Darren Hardy

My second seminar was called Development Hell. An excellent panel comprising screenwriter and novelist, John Niven, Jamie Wolpert, whose work for the National

Rhodri Thomas, Jamie Wolpert, John Niven, and Sheila Crowley

Lottery Fund involves making films and scripts better, and Rhodri Thomas of The Ink Factory, chaired by literary agent Sheila Crowley, answered questions put to them by the audience about the route from book to film in a way that was both greatly entertaining and informative.

After lunch, I went to the only workshop I’d booked in the day. Paul Andrews a led a discussion that ranged over the many aspects of marketing one’s novel. I was fortunate in my companions on either side, and came away with two new friends – writers Ahyiana Angel and Nikki Okoroma. I was delighted to learn that Nikki was a member of the RNA and look forward to seeing her again at the RNA Summer Party on 22nd May.

The final seminar of the day was Ten Top Tips for Self-Publishing from NY Bestselling Indie Authors, Bella Andre and Barbara Freethy. The points made by Bella and Barbara were so interesting that I shall be writing a blog about the advice that they gave.

The London Book Fair closes down for the night

Waiting for the Top Ten Tops seminar to begin

Barbara Freethy and Bella Andre

When I left at the end of my first day ever at the London Book Fair, I was inspired. It may have been my first visit, bit it certainly won’t have been my last!

Two Choc Lit authors’ book launch

On Friday evening, April 4th, a number of Choc Lit authors, their families and friends, gathered together at The Chocolate Factory in the south of London to celebrate the publication of two of the latest novels from Choc Lit – Flight to Coorah Creek, Janet Gover’s debut novel with Choc Lit, and The Maid of Milan, by Choc Lit’s Australian author, Beverley Eikli, who was in the UK for a fleeting visit.

As the saying goes, the best laid plans of mice and men gang aft stray. This was one such occasion. Full of good intentions about taking loads of photos to show friends who couldn’t be there, I had my camera in my bag, its battery freshly charged.

But you know how it is – as soon as you get together with people you know, or with people you’ve always wanted to meet but hadn’t yet had the chance to do so, all thoughts of doing anything other than chatting to them can fly out of your mind. At any rate, all thoughts of taking photos certainly flew out of mine!

Happily for me and for those who’d like to see some pictures of the event, my very kind friend, Catriona Robb, took a number of photos during the evening and she’s sent them to me so that I can put them on my blog. A huge thank you, Catriona. As they say on twitter, Mwah!


Janet with Catriona Robb, who took these photos

Book launches are about books – here is Janet signing her novel for Jenny Haddon

Jenny, Janet and the novel. Beverley’s novel can be seen under Janet’s.



Lyn Vernham, Choc Lit’s MD, sees that everyone gets wine, and more wine. Front right is Beverley Eikli.

Sue Moorcroft and Melanie Hudson chatting to a friend

Me, Kathryn Freeman, bloggers Laura and Charlotte, Isabella Connor (Liv) and our blogger friend Catriona




I wasn’t the only person posing! Here’s Catriona Robb with Alison

Here I’m talking to Choc Lit author Alison May and blogging friend Charlotte. Behind us, Laura watches on, and behind her, Sue is chatting to Paul Vernham

Posing for the camera with Alison May



Jenny and Rachel talking to someone off camera

Janet with Henriette Gyland

Henriette with Jenny Haddon and Rachel Summerson




Thank you, Catriona, for allowing me to put up these photos.  Over and out!

<-- 8 Jan 2020: Moved "'date,author,edit', " from before to after on Liz's request' -->