Lucky Xmas through the author’s words

A Very Lucky Xmas Book Cover A Very Lucky Xmas
Lilac Mills
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Release Date: 20th August 2018

Things can't get worse for Daisy Jones... can they?

Christmas is meant to be the happiest time of year so why is absolutely everything going wrong for Daisy? Reeling from a bad breakup, moving back in with her parents and hounded by trouble at work she really shouldn’t be surprised when things go from bad to worse..and she ends up in A&E!

Her great-grandmother persuaded her to plant a silver sixpence in the Christmas pud for luck but choking on the coin isn’t the ‘change’ she’d wished for. Yet when dashing Dr Noah Hartley saves the day things finally start to look up. With Christmas Day just around the corner Daisy’s determined to make her own luck...and hopefully bag herself a dishy doc in the process!

A heart-warming christmas romance perfect for fans of Holly Martin, Debbie Johnson and Daisy James

Lilac Mills tells us about Xmas

  1. How long do you think about a topic before deciding to write about it? Do you have a set of notes or a note book where you write down topics that appeal before making a decision as to which topic this time?

Oh, I can mull something over for years before I bite the bullet. I’m currently just finishing up some edits for Canelo (the book is due to be published in the spring) on a story I first began about 13 years ago. I wrote about thirty-thousand words, then life got in the way and I did other stuff instead, but I always intended to come back to it, and when my lovely editor asked me if I had any ideas in the pipeline, it seemed an ideal time to develop and complete this poor little book-baby. The story has changed considerably from the very first half-draft, but then novels often tend to, but the concept is the same.

I also have an ideas folder, which I’m continually adding to, but what usually happens is that something will come to me which takes precedence over all of them, and I simply have to write it until the story is out of my system.

  1. How long does it take to research a topic before you write? And for this book?

It depends on the book, but so far not too long, because I’m writing about what I know or have experienced myself. A Very Lucky Christmas came about from my grandmother’s tradition of making her own Christmas pudding and putting a sixpence in it for luck. Unlike Daisy, no one in my family actually swallowed the darned thing, but there were a couple of near misses and one cracked tooth.

  1. How many times have you been rejected before your first novel was accepted or before this book was accepted?

I was accepted by a publisher on the first submission, but that wasn’t just luck. I had invested a great deal of time in researching publishers, and I knew what Canelo was looking for, so my pitch to them was right, and I sent them the sort of novel I knew would fit in with other novels in their chick lit stable. Of course, there was always the possibility that they did not want to take on another author in my genre at the time I submitted to them and I was fully prepared for that, or that my writing wasn’t as good as I hoped it was!

 4. Did you need to self-publish on e-books before a publisher took you up?

Not necessarily, and many authors don’t. I just happened to think going down the self-publishing route was viable for me at the time. I’m quite impatient, and want my stories to be published as soon as they are ready, and not to have to wait to fit in with a publisher’s time-frame. Self-publishing has been a worthwhile experience though, as I have gained insights into marketing and advertising that I otherwise might not have done.

  1. Would you recommend self-publishing and building an audience before approaching a publisher? If so, what benefits do you see that it might have for the aspiring novelist?

My publisher liked the fact that I had an online presence and also liked that I had already published three books which were fairly well received by my target audience. It could very well have gone some way towards influencing Canelo to make me an offer. Self-publishing can be a risky business though and may backfire if you don’t do it right. Editing and proofreading is a must, as is a professional cover. The right marketing helps too, because no matter how slick and polished your novel might be, if readers aren’t aware of it, it’s not going to sell.

  1. Does writing provide sufficient income to live on? And how long did it take before this happened?

It hasn’t happened yet, but I’ve only been writing chick lit for eighteen months, with four novels published so far. Unless I write something which catches the imagination of the public in a huge way, I think it will be a while yet before my income from writing matches my income from my day job. And even then, I’m not sure I’m prepared to give up my job. It’s steady income, I know what is going into my bank account at the end of every month. I can’t say that about my income from book sales.

  1. What do you read when you are ill in bed?

Nothing. I’m rarely ill, but when I am it tends to be the flu, and all I want to do is to curl up in a ball and feel sorry for myself.

 8. What is your favourite genre?

It has to be chick lit, although I do like the occasional psychological thriller. Besides writing in the chick lit genre, it does help to read it too, to keep abreast of trends and to see what other authors are writing about.

  1. In your opinion who is the funniest author now writing?

I’ve just read a book by Stephanie Dagg called Fa-La-Llama-La: Christmas at the Little French Llama Farm. It was hilarious. Her second in this series is due out soon, and I can’t wait to read it. There’s something about her dry humour that strikes a chord in me.

 10. What have you done with the things you wrote when in school?

I didn’t write in school, apart from those things pupils were forced to write. I didn’t do any creative writing under my own steam. I don’t think I thought it was possible. To me, authors were magical beings, creating stories out of thin air. I didn’t ever believe I could join their ranks. I didn’t actually start writing until I was in my early forties, but I didn’t start with a short story, or a novella, or even a 100,000-word novel. Nope, I went for it big time, and produced a massive 320,000-word effort. Looking back, some bits of it weren’t too bad, a few bits were actually quite good, most of it was meh, and there were some parts which were pretty dire. It will never see the light of day, but I cut my authory teeth on it, so to speak. It’s hidden safely away in the depths of my laptop and there it will stay.

Authors’ bio

Previous Books: Summer on the Turquoise Coast, Sunshine at Cherry Tree Farm and Love in the City by the Sea

Lilac Mills writes feel-good romantic women’s fiction, and is the author of Love in the City by the Sea, A Very Lucky Christmas, Summer on the Turquoise Coast, and Sunshine at Cherry Tree Farm. Lilac spends all her time writing, or reading, or thinking about writing or reading, often to the detriment of her day job, her family, and the housework! Home for Lilac is Worcester, England.

Twitter: @LilacMills

Amazon (UK)

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How to Write about Crows

The Crows of Beara Book Cover The Crows of Beara
Julie Christine Johnson
Ashland Creek Press
September 1, 2017

Beautifully crafted with environmental themes, a lyrical Irish setting, and a touch of magical realism, The Crows of Beara is a breathtaking novel of how the nature of place encompasses everything that we are.

Questions for Authors: Crows of Beara


  1. Can you tell your readers something about why you chose this particular topic to write about? What appealed to you about it? Why do you think it is different and your approach is unique?


I first visited Ireland in 2002, when I spent two weeks hiking the Beara Way. Years passed before I began writing, but my love for Ireland grew with each visit.  Once I began to find my way around the world of writing novels, I knew I’d be telling an Ireland story or two someday. Of course, there are no shortage of novel that use Ireland as a backdrop, but it is the multiple genres that set CROWS apart. It marries women’s fiction with eco-lit, magical realism with the cold truth of substance abuse, the power of art vs. the lure of corporate promises.

  1. How long do you think about a topic before deciding to write about it? Do you have a set of notes or a note book where you write down topics that appeal before making a decision as to which topic this time?

JCJ: How many ideas can my brain turn over at any given time? There are always several I’m toying with, examining, meditating on. And one always filters through to become the story I put my pen to. I keep what I call a “process notebook”. As I begin crafting characters, turning over themes, making research notes, asking myself questions, I use this analog process notebook to record all thoughts. It’s something I return to as I begin drafting on Scrivener (a software program for writers), to sort out plot holes, create and correct timelines, question my themes and progression. It becomes the novel’s journal.

  1. How long does it take to research a topic before you write? And for this book?

JCJ: I try not to get bogged down in research in the early stages. I can write around most things, making notes of what I need to explore and clarify at a later time. There’s a balance between getting your bearings in a time, place, story problem that may require some background reading, and simply getting on the with the writing. For this book, I conducted early research into the habitat and condition of the Red-billed chough, on the history of copper mining on the Beara Peninsula and how copper mining is conducted today, and on substance abuse and recovery. I gathered enough of a foundation to begin, and then continued my research as I progressed. Some things, like the political and corporate corruption at play in the book, came straight from the headlines when I was deep in revision with my publisher, two years after I wrote the novel’s first drafts. Apple, Google, and other corporations which sought tax refuge in Ireland found themselves in hot water just as I was filling in some plot holes in CROWS.

  1. What resources do you use? In general and for the last book that you wrote?

JCJ: Primary sources, interviews, print books, the internet, my own travels and reading. Whatever I need to get deep into the questions and story problems, to see through my characters’ perspectives.

  1. How helpful do you find authority figures such as the police when you say you want to write about them? Is there a good way to approach them in your experience?

JCJ: I haven’t yet had the need to call upon the advice or perspective of law enforcement. Fortunately, I live in a wonderful community where it will be easy for me to reach out and make connections with people from a range of professional experiences when/if the need arises.

  1. How many times have you been rejected before your first novel was accepted or before this book was accepted?

JCJ: Well, hey. Zero. I pitched my first novel at a writers’ conference to several agents and publishing editors before I began sending out query letters. Three weeks after the conference, I signed with my agent and my publisher the same day. Not the usual way of things, and I’m so very grateful that these stars aligned. My agent did send CROWS out on submission after my first novel was signed and in the publication process. It took about five months to find a publishing home for CROWS, which is not long at all, although it felt like an endless, agonizing process at the time. I have another novel on submission now, and it’s a brutal time to be out there. Book sales are very slow and publishers are reluctant to take chances with new projects. I’m just biding my time and working on the next thing. Never give up hope, but let it all go.

  1. Did you need to self-publish on e-books before a publisher took you up?

JCJ:. I was committed to pursuing a traditional path to publishing, but I was researching an independent approach. They both have their high and low lights.

  1. Would you recommend self-publishing and building an audience before approaching a publisher? If so, what benefits do you see that it might have for the aspiring novelist?

JCJ: I don’t have any experience in the self-publishing realm, but there are wonderful blogs and organizations out there that can provide any aspiring novelist with information and options.

  1. Does writing provide sufficient income to live on? And how long did it take before this happened?

JCJ: I know only a handful of writers who support themselves completely with their book sales. It’s extremely rare. Hmm… come to think of it, I don’t know any.  And I mean writers who do not have a partner supplementing their income or providing health insurance, but who rely on book sales as their sole means of support. Nearly all writers, from New York Times bestselling authors, to income-generating self-published authors, need some other means of economic input. Most of us are teaching, freelance writing/editing, or have day jobs. In my case, it’s all three. Book sales generate a pittance. Don’t go into this business thinking you will make any money. Do it because you have stories to tell.

  1. What is the funniest thing that happened to you on a book tour?

JCJ: I haven’t had any true ha-ha moments, but there were so many times my breath was stolen clean away by seeing friends in the audience I hadn’t seen in years. Decades. It’s the most beautiful thing to find support in the most unexpected of places.

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Books/book review/fiction/writing

How to Write a Novel

The Novel Book Cover The Novel
James A. Michener
Fiction. literature
Dial Press
August 11, 2015

In this riveting, ambitious novel from James A. Michener, the renowned chronicler of epic history turns his extraordinary imagination to a world he knew better than anyone: the world of books. Lukas Yoder, a novelist who has enjoyed a long, successful career, has finished what he believes to be his final work. Then a tragedy strikes in his community, and he becomes obsessed with writing about it. Meanwhile, Yoder's editor fights to preserve her integrity—and her author—as her firm becomes the target of a corporate takeover; a local critic who teaches literature struggles with his ambitions and with his feelings about Yoder's success; and a devoted reader holds the key to solving the mystery that haunts Yoder's hometown. Praise for The Novel “Michener explores some of the deepest issues raised by narrative literature.”—The New York Times “A good, old-fashioned, sink-your-teeth-into-it story . . . The Novel lets us see an unfamiliar side of the author, at the same time portraying the delicate, complex relationship among editors, agents and writers.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer “Michener loves literature, and his information about some of his favorite reading is almost as alluring as his explanation of how to handle a manuscript.”—Associated Press “So absorbing you simply will not want [it] to end.”—Charleston News & Courier

A story in 4 parts that lacks the compelling writing of his previous books.

The book was first published in 1991 (he died in 1997 at 90 years of age) although re-issued in 2015. And in some ways he perhaps considered it a summing up of what he learnt as a writer and educator in literature.

We have several passages where the characters discuss the best writers of the age, and the worst, and give their rationales. Indeed, in many sections and chapters, the voice of an erudite author comes across very strongly – it could be considered in fact a teaching tool as again sections discuss good literature elements, good editing practices, and the use of language.

And these are the points that take away from the story. The reader feels they are being lectured to about to read even – the 4th part of the book.

Michener grew up, went to university and even taught, in Pennsylvania and so one must assume that the characters and societies of the Dutch inhabitants were very familiar to him. And in these sections where he writes about the rules of their society – the whole braces/not braces issue, and the arguments between the ‘Plain Dutch’ and the ‘Fancy Dutch, and the discussions of Hex signs, you feel his knowledge of  the subject matter as in his other books such as Hawaii. And these sections were where I felt I was reading Michener the Novelist as opposed to Michener the Lecturer.

Indeed the book is dedicated to the Pennsylvania Dutch students who went to school with him.

So a book that although written in 4 sections is actually a book with two voices. That of the academic lecturing on how to write and edit a good novel and which novelists to emulate, and that of the novelist telling the story of the Pennsylvania Dutch community.



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Books/book review/fiction/Romance

Reading, Writing, and Women

The Words in My Hand Book Cover The Words in My Hand
Guinevere Glasfurd
literary fiction, historical fiction
Two Roads
February 9, 2017

The Words in My Hand is the reimagined true story of Helena Jans, a Dutch maid in 17th-century Amsterdam, who works for Mr Sergeant the English bookseller. When a mysterious and reclusive lodger arrives - the Monsieur - Mr Sergeant insists everything must be just so. It transpires that the Monsieur is René Descartes.
But this is Helena's story: the woman in front of Descartes, a young woman who yearns for knowledge, who wants to write so badly she makes ink from beetroot and writes in secret on her skin - only to be held back by her position in society.
Weaving together the story of Descartes' quest for reason with Helena's struggle for literacy, their worlds overlap as their feelings deepen; yet remain sharply divided. For all Descartes' learning, it is Helena he seeks out as she reveals the surprise in the everyday world that surrounds him.
When reputation is everything and with so much to lose, some truths must remain hidden. Helena and Descartes face a terrible tragedy and ultimately have to decide if their love is possible at all.

A story based in speculation about facts – what caused Descartes to have a friendship with Helena, a maid? And how did Helena manage to learn to read and write when it was extremely uncommon amongst women of the Quality, let alone a maid?

Well, the author has made some suggestions within this book that link the facts in a way that makes total sense – with perhaps a little embroidery here and there, just to flesh out the known characters and known occurrences.

This is a sensitive tale of a young girl, Helena, who is forced by family circumstances to become a maid in the household of a bookseller in 1635.

Helena narrates this story as it happens to her and she tells us of the way in which she manages the household and her work, and how she learnt the rudiments of reading and writing (on her hand for lack of knowledge or access to, paper, quills, and ink) from her brother who was schooled by tutors.

The bookseller, Mr Sergeant, ekes out his living by renting the attic rooms of his house to like minded gentlemen and thus Descartes comes to stay. And Helena encounters him and his servant, and learns to write properly. All this at a time when paper was extremely expensive and not for the ‘common sort’ to have access to.

Helena and her maid friend, who she teaches to read and write,  wonder what life would be like if all women could read and write. Perhaps they could then manage their own businesses and not be dependent on men for their livelihood and income? A world that they do not get to see.  As they live in a world where books are still extremely expensive and a man (never a woman) who has a library of 100 books is considered a scholar and wealthy.

Meeting Descartes changes Helena’s life forever, and not just because she learns to read and write properly.

I found this a fascinating and sensitive story and could not put it down. I wanted to know more of this strange relationship between the maid and the renowned scholar.

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Ian Hiatt explains his killing spree

Interview with Ian Hiatt

Can you tell your readers something about why you chose this particular topic to write about?

I think when every writer starts their vowel movements for the first time, they usually have grand and noble purpose behind it.

DEATH OF AN ASSASSIN and books in the Saint Roch series are just plain about having fun. Both as a writer and as a reader. There's still be character development, high stakes, and things-to-ponder kicking around between the cover and backflap, but they're blended in with the gunfights and profanity.

As for where this topic itself came from, I've always been a fan of Greek mythology and the mythologies of any other culture I can find a book for. But so many of the ancient tales are too far removed from our own modern culture and can come across as dry. Not to mention, there are far too many instances where Generic Hero Man triumphs over Terrible Monster Lady in those stories. It's not fair and it's only one frame of reference. The villain of a story is all about perspective, so I thought, why not show tell a story more akin to that damned Odyssyeus crashing his boat into the island home of the Sirens just because they happened to be singing and his crew couldn't help themselves.

How long do you think about a topic before deciding to write about it? How long does it take to research a topic before you write? And for this book?

I mull over a story idea for months/years before fully settling on what it is I want to write. I usually start writing as a “get my feet wet” sort of a thing. If it requires a great amount of research, such as historical fiction, I'll do that in spurts. But in general, I only research when I question what I'm about to write. If it's a topic I'm not well versed in, I find out what I'm missing.

Nothing makes a story drag along more than inadequate research. And nothing brings it to a faster ass-grinding halt than too much research.

How many times have you been rejected before your first novel was accepted or before this book was accepted?

Countless. The best thing you can do with rejections is keep track of who rejected you (so you're not hucking your book at them multiple times) but not how many times you've been rejected.

Of course, if those rejections come with notes you can do two things: 1) realize that no one is an expert on reading, writing, or publishing and that their advice may not be iron-clad, 2) realize that the people you're pitching to do know a thing or two about reading, writing, and publishing and that you may want to take their advice. If those two things sound as though they are contradicting each other, don't worry---they are. There's no perfect formula for “making it” in this business and anyone who tells you there is is likely trying to sell you something. Be like goblin-made armor. Take in only that which makes you stronger.

For numbers, this was my second completed manuscript that I pitched at agents, editors, and passing strangers on the street. It's one of the many, many, many started stories, though.


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