Animation by Kayelle Allen at The Author's Secret

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Authors: Where Do You Get YOUR Ideas?

I offer absolutely no apologies for featuring a writer on my Wednesday's Writer spot who has been here before.  She is my favourite modern writer and it's always a pleasure and an honour when she can fit me into her busy schedule.  She is the multi-talented Jenny Twist, author of the best novel I read in 2011, the wonderful Domingo's Angel.  Ever since reading that I've been following her work avidly. Her short stories have appeared in several excellent anthologies, so I was really thrilled when she released her first self-published stand-alone short story Away With the Fairies last week.  If you haven't read it yet, please trust me - you SHOULD!  It will be the very best 77p you've spent.  Away With the Fairies stirred up powerful childhood memories for me and I was fascinated to know what inspired Jenny to write it.  Here's her answer:

Where do you get YOUR ideas, Jenny?
I suppose all authors get asked this question from time to time and probably most of us don't have the faintest idea. My friend, Tara Fox Hall, dreams a lot of her stories and I think dreaming may come into the process for me, too. I have never written a story directly from a dream but I often wake up with an idea for a story fully-formed and with no idea of where it came from. I imagine all these ideas loafing about in my subconscious, cluttering up the place, and every so often something triggers them to come to the surface. Very often, after the idea has been triggered, maybe even after the story has been finished and written down, I can see where it came from – some half-forgotten memory or something in the news.

When Lynette asked me how I came to write Away With the Fairies I almost said I had no idea, but then I realised I did know where it came from. It's just I hadn't made the connection.

When I was a child I regularly would see a sequence of pictures play out upon the wall in front of me. It was as if a film had been projected on to it. The sequence was always the same. Every time I saw it I recognised it and knew what would happen next, although afterwards I could remember hardly any of it. I just knew it was moving pictures and somewhere in there was a gnome. I called it 'my pattern' and I loved it. It was a secret pleasure.

I don't think anyone else knew about this. I certainly never told anybody and my mother had very little time for me because my younger brother was very ill with epilepsy – the fully-developed form with convulsive fits and blackouts known as grand mal (great evil). It was only years later, long after I had outgrown 'my pattern', that I saw a programme on the subject and realised that what I had experienced was petit mal (little evil), a much milder form of the same condition.

This is what Lucy does in Away With the Fairies. She stares at the wall and looks into another world. Her parents think that she is suffering from petit mal. I don't think she is, though. I think something completely different is happening.

I also realised that I had drawn on my knowledge of English folklore, particularly the rather obscure tale of the Green Children, who had appeared in an English village one day, hand in hand. They had green skin and would only eat beans. The boy soon died, but his sister learnt to eat a variety of food, her skin lost its green colour and she eventually learnt to speak English. She told her new family that she and her brother had walked into a cave one day and came out into a different world.

If you want to know how these two strands wove themselves into a story, you will have to read the book.

More About Jenny Twist
Jenny Twist was born in York and brought up in the West Yorkshire mill town of Heckmondwike,the eldest grandchild of a huge extended family. 
She left school at fifteen and went to work in an asbestos factory. After working in various jobs, including bacon-packer and escapologist’s assistant, she returned to full-time education and did a BA in history at Manchester and post-graduate studies at Oxford.
She stayed in Oxford working as a recruitment consultant for many years and it was there that she met and married her husband, Vic.
In 2001 they retired and moved to Southern Spain where they live with their rather eccentric dog and cat
Her first book, Take One At Bedtime, was published in April 2011 and the second, Domingo’s Angel, was published in July 2011. Her novella, Doppelganger, was published in the anthology Curious Hearts in July 2011, Uncle Vernon, was published in Spellbound, in November 2011,  Jamey and the Alien was published in Warm Christmas Wishes in December 2011, Mantequero was published in the anthology Winter Wonders in December 2011 and  Away With the Fairies, her first self-published story, in September 2012.

Forthcoming Releases to Watch out for:
Her new anthology, with Tara Fox Hall, Bedtime Shadows, a collection of spooky, speculative and romance stories, will be published 24th September 2012.
Her new novel, All in the Mind, about an old woman who mysteriously begins to get younger, will be published 24th October 2012.  Oh and believe me, that's another one you won't want to miss!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

That First Kiss - In Loving Hate

If you have read my previous posts on this subject, you'll know that I've been working through each of my novels discussing the scene of the first kiss.  Today I've reached my forthcoming release In Loving Hate, which I can hardly wait to share, but must remain patient until its release - scheduled for 9 November.  As yet, I don't even have a cover for this (hence I'm resorting to a cute kitty image to brighten up the page) so it still feels a little unreal to me.

Here is the blurb:

How far will the rich and powerful go in order to achieve their goals? That is the question Lyssa must decide when she finds herself caught between two formidable adversaries: powerful business tycoon and shipping magnate, Alex Andrakis and close childhood friend, ‘Dynamic’ Nell Winters, brewery heiress and prolific businesswoman.

Photo credit: Giorgos~ (moving to Google+) via photopin cc
Following the failure of her marriage in Greece, Lyssa returns to her family home in London, to discover that her mother, a once-celebrated actress, is now facing crippling debts.  When Lyssa begins to investigate these, she becomes embroiled in the intricate business dealings of Nell and her arch-rival Alex.  Irresistibly drawn towards widower Alex and his unhappy young son, Lyssa begins to uncover some unexpected and disturbing facts.

photo credit: UGArdener via photopin cc

The more involved she becomes, the more shocking are the discoveries she makes.  The conflicts culminate in a frightening battle for survival as Lyssa finds herself the prime target between the possessive Nell and obsessive Alex.   With her loyalties deeply divided, can Lyssa make the right choice for everyone concerned?

The first kiss scene of the story is unusual as things are not quite what they seem.  Lyssa has lured Alex into a trap for her own ends and throws herself at him in a very public embrace.  Alex's reaction, and her own, are not at all what she expects.

He caught her tightly in a fierce embrace, gazing into her eyes for a moment.  A moan of urgent need escaped his lips before they sought and found hers and he kissed her hungrily and with an intensity that left her weak with shock, unable to pull away.  But as she recovered her senses, thoughts of pulling away seemed to slip out of her mind.  His tongue gently parted her lips and found hers, performing a little mating dance that caused a thrilling current to spread throughout her body, charging every nerve ending until each one seemed to tingle with anticipation and long for more.  What am I doing?  No answer.  For a moment she felt absolutely powerless to do anything but respond to the passion of the instant which he, not she, dominated. Time stopped and the world around her stood still, dissolving into nothingness as she succumbed to the intense pleasure surging through her body, which left her faint with desire for more.

When she finally did pull away, he continued to hold her closely, cupping her face in his hands and showering both it and her hair with greedy little kisses as if he couldn’t get enough of her to satisfy his voracious hunger.  His eyes were like bottomless pools of pure desire and she knew her own must mirror them.  She looked at him in astonishment, trying to regain her composure but with extreme difficulty.  What just happened?  The question hammered at her brain but received no answer.

Finally she found her breath, though her voice came out as little more than a weak whisper.  “Oh dear, this isn’t quite…” She took a deep breath and eased herself smoothly away from his embrace, her planned speech having fled her mind.  “I’m terribly sorry Alex, but I’ve just remembered something very important.  Do you mind if we cancel lunch?”

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

That First Kiss - Shopping for Love

Shopping for Love is about two fairly ordinary people who meet in a local supermarket shopping out of love or concern for two elderly people, only to find love themselves.  I wanted to create a stronger male character in this story - and one with a (larger than) life of his own.  And Greg willingly stepped forward!  In many respects he became more significant than Emma.  (I'd love to be able to include photos of how I envision him physically, but haven't succeeded in getting permission to use the photos I found.  For anyone interested, however, I see him as cross between Tom Hiddleston in this photo: and the lovely antiques dealer, Paul Martin - check out his photo here:

Greg, a divorcee, works in the unglamorous world of software development in a top investment bank.  He has two young children and an ex-wife who left him, but can't quite let go of him and when it seems Greg has found love at last, the former wife tries to sabotage his blossoming relationship.  This remains fairly chaste for some time as Emma, too, is recovering from an unhappy relationship. She is also the teacher of Greg's youngest child, which causes added complications.

Here is their first kiss:

Later on they sat together on the voluptuous leather sofa listening to an incredibly sexy saxophone dominating a romantic jazz tune.  His fingers played with a curling tendril of her hair which had escaped her antique barrette and tumbled naughtily across her cheek.  He coiled it around his finger, deliberately letting the back of his hand caress her cheek.  She felt relaxed and calm, enjoying the intimacy of his touch.
“You don’t need to, you know,” he murmured in her ear.  “Drive home, I mean.”
She tilted her head slightly and their eyes locked as the saxophonist continued to weave his spell.  Greg tucked the strand of hair behind her ear and laid his palm against her cheek.  He brought his other hand to the other cheek, cradling her face between his long fingers as he continued to look deep into her eyes. 
It made her feel precious, revered almost, the way he gazed at her and slowly, very slowly brought his lips to ghost over hers.  It was barely a touch yet it sent a shiver of longing surging through her.  He began scattering tiny, tentative kisses around her lips and face before his mouth once again made contact with hers and began its soft, teasing nibbling. 

He’s not rushing me.  If I pull away, he’ll stop, she thought.  But why should I, when I really don’t want him to stop?  Not yet, anyway.  She raised her arms to encircle his neck and the gesture drew him closer, allowing his kiss to deepen into a passionate intimacy.  He kisses beautifully, she thought with a thrill.  I knew he would!

(Further (new) information about Shopping for Love will soon be available at:

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Wednesday's Writers - Jenny Twist and Tara Fox Hall

Acclaimed Authors, Jenny Twist and Tara Fox Hall to Release New Anthology 24th September

It is my absolute pleasure and privilege to devote this week's Wednesday's Writer post to two wonderful individuals who are exceptionally talented and successful authors in their own right.  Their regular readers and fans therefore know without a doubt that they are in for an exciting read whenever Jenny and Tara collaborate on a new anthology.  Having had a sneak preview of some of the stories in Bedtime Shadows - I can promise this one will live up to your highest expectations.

Tara Fox Hall and Jenny Twist will launch their anthology of speculative fiction, Bedtime Shadows, later this month. The book has already received high praise from other authors and is said to rival the short stories of  M. R. James, Philip K Dick and even Stephen King.

The two writers became friends when they both contributed to the highly-acclaimed anthology, Spellbound 2011, issued by Melange Books in October last year.

“I was so proud to be in that anthology,” says Jenny, whose own anthology, Take One At Bedtime, was chosen as Editor's Pick when it came out in April of the same year. “I thought every single one of the stories in it was interesting and well-written and the authors were all such fun to work with.”

“I was excited to make the jump from short horror stories to longer works,” added Tara, whose flash fiction and short stories have appeared online at Deadman’s Tome, Flashes in the Dark, Ghastly Door, The Halloween Alliance, Black Petals, SNM Horror Magazine, Dark Eclipse, Cemetery Moon, The Copperfield Review, and Microhorror. “I’d just published my first paranormal romance e-novella, and was anxious to be in a print book. Spellbound 2011 introduced me to some wonderful authors, some of whom have become very good friends.”

The two writers could not have come from more different backgrounds. Jenny was born in England and worked at many different jobs including bacon-packer and escapologist's assistant before returning to full-time education at the age of 28 and doing 2 history degrees at Manchester and Oxford. Eleven years ago she retired to Spain. “ I feel like I'm finally getting on with my real life,” she says. “I always wanted to write and now I'm finally doing it!”

Tara was born in the United States, earned her bachelor’s degree in Mathematics with a double minor in science at the State University of New York at Binghamton, and is currently an OSHA-certified safety and health inspector at a metal fabrication shop. In addition to speculative fiction, Tara Fox Hall’s writing credits include nonfiction, action-adventure, and contemporary and historical paranormal romance. She is the author of the paranormal action-adventure Lash series and the vampire romantic suspense Promise Me series. “I love that my stories resonate with people,” she says. “That they can lose themselves in my stories means I’ve done my job.”

“We chose Bedtime Shadows as the title,” Jenny says, “to reflect my anthology, Take One At Bedtime and Tara's Just Shadows. We are very proud to have an introduction by the illustrious horror writer, T. Fox Dunham (no relation to Tara) and we have been very lucky to have some excellent authors give us advance reviews.”

The book is a mixture of horror, speculative fiction and romance – stories of ghosts and vampires, future dystopias, travel through different dimensions, a holiday romance that changes everything, and a new twist on an ancient myth.

Here is what other authors have to say about it.

“I recommend this collection without any reservations” - Herbert Grosshans.

“Together these two authors will strap you to your chair and lock your attention to the magic they weave.” - Su Halfwerk

They know how to write stories that entertain and involve their readers. Someday I think we may identify them with authors like Shirley Jackson, Stephen King and HP Lovecraft.” - John Mecom

“This literary progeny of authors Jenny Twist and Tara Fox Hall was a joy to read for a couple of reasons. There’s a nice variety of stories ranging from dramatic to speculative to downright gruesome.” - Mysti Parker

"Daily-living captured and stylistically rendered with a 'twist' of macabre lurking behind each provocative tale...BEDTIME SHADOWS delivers a punch -- watch out for the unexpected."
~ Douglas Wickard

The Man With No Face Jenny Twist
All her life Deborah has been haunted by the memory of a couple locked in a deadly embrace. She thinks the woman may be the mother that abandoned her but she cannot see the man's face. Who is he?
All That Remains – Tara Fox Hall
This thrilling sequel to The Origin of Fear (Spellbound 2011) takes us back to Latham's Landing. Will Tina and Sandra survive their encounter with the ghosts that inhabit the haunted isle?

The Children of Hope Jenny Twist
It is 1963 and Ginny is unmarried and pregnant. Her parents consign her to one of the infamous Mother and Baby Homes which  are little more than prisons and workhouses. Will she be able to escape before they come to take her baby away?

 The Bull-Dancer Jenny Twist
The twelve chosen bull-dancers are sailing out of the harbour under a black sail, bound for Crete and the deadly Minotaur, while a mother looks on in anger.

Take the Chance– Tara Fox Hall
A young girl growing up in post-apocalyptic America is determined that she and her sister will survive – whatever it takes!

A Victorian Dolls' House Jenny Twist
When Violet sees the dolls' house in the antique shop she has to have it. But the Delacorte House is no ordinary dolls' house – and it is definitely not a toy!

Heart's Bells– Tara Fox Hall
Theo and Casey are in love, but so many things stand in their way. They suffer separation and heartbreak but still remain true – until something happens to Theo that changes everything.

Doppelganger Jenny Twist
When Christine wakes up in a sumptuous white room with silken hangings, she assumes she is in heaven. But she soon finds out she is not in heaven. And before too long she begins to wonder if she is even still Christine.
Voices Jenny Twist
Olivia and Aidan are telepathic twins. Olivia is used to hearing Aidan in her head, but she is terrified when she hears a new and sinister voice.

Return to Me – Tara Fox Hall
Determined to find the source of the nightly creaking she alone can hear, Sam Reading discovers Harrison Benning, a ghost who becomes corporeal for one night of the year; the summer solstice. Their warm friendship soon becomes powerful love that lasts through decades, tragedies, and even beyond death.

Catch Me If You Can Jenny Twist
Willy prowls the streets at night, listening to all the sounds of the old town. But does he have a more sinister purpose?

Shades of Grey– Tara Fox Hall
Throughout history there has always been a Seer making sure that the world follows its proper course, keeping the world in balance. Yet when the old Seer prepares to hand over the burden to his apprentice Tim, he realizes too late that Tim has his own ideas of how things should go.
BEDTIME SHADOWS will be released by Melange Books in September 2012

To find out more about the authors, go to:
Jenny Twist
Facebook Author Page

Goodreads Blog

Amazon Author Page

Tara Fox Hall

Tara's Facebook Page:

For info on my recently published work, Lash, click here:

For info on my recently published work, Just Shadows, click here:

Saturday, September 8, 2012

That First Kiss - Wishful Thinking

I've loved hearing your experiences of your first kiss following last week's blog - it seems for many of you, it was pretty much the same as mine.  Oh, but then we were so young and inexperienced.

For most of us, our heroes and heroines are not so young and inexperienced; and even if they were, they wouldn't want us to let the world know that when we describe their first kiss.  This has to be romantic, sexy, the prelude and promise of much more intimate things to come…later on.  Striking just the right note with that first kiss is far from easy, in my experience.

I think it's a major milestone and I'm sure there must have been volumes written on the subject, but how can we be sure we've got it just right?  How can we be sure we've dealt with it sensitively, from the perspective of our characters?  I'd love to know how other writers know and what gives readers that satisfying ahhh factor.

In my second novel, Wishful Thinking, here is how I dealt with the first kiss.  When Jess met Christian, she had no idea who he was.  They spent a pleasant evening together just before Christmas and then he disappeared and she went on her way believing she would never see him again.  She couldn't put him out of her mind, however, and on subsequently discovering his identity, accepted that their paths were unlikely ever to cross again.  The last thing she expected was to find Christian on her doorstep on New Year's Eve as she was putting her young son to bed:

"When she returned to the sitting room, carrying the roses now crammed into a rather smaller vase than their elegant stems deserved, she found Christian standing looking at a small Ansel Adams’ poster on her wall.  He turned towards her as she re-entered the room, thanking him for the flowers. 

“I really am sorry for just turning up like this.  I literally only discovered where you lived an hour ago and just got into the car and drove here.  I thought if I phoned first, you might have tried to put me off coming.  I wasn’t sure if you’d want to see me.”

 “Not want to see you?”  She shook her head in surprise as she placed the vase on the table.  She’d thought of nothing else but seeing him again, though she had hardly dared allow herself to admit that, or to expect it to happen.  And here he was now, looking absolutely magnificent and leaving her feeling tongue-tied and awkward. 

He moved towards her, their gazes locked together.  Their lips were so close that she felt hers begin to tremble.  She could smell his cologne or aftershave which smelled heavenly to her, citrusy with exotic spicy undertones, deeply sexy and very expensive.  The tremor in her lips spread to her whole body and when his lips finally touched hers, she released a soft moan of longing and utter capitulation.  His touch was gentle; their lips barely making contact at first as if they themselves were hesitant and shy about getting to know each other and this fired her desire almost to fever pitch.  He scattered a few exploratory little butterfly kisses on her, as if begging permission to take her completely, before claiming her mouth in a deep and passionate kiss. 
How long the kiss lasted, Jess couldn’t tell.  She lost herself in the ecstasy of the moment, the sheer bliss of the exquisitely romantic touch of his lips, soft yet firm against her own.  I’ve wanted this not just since that night in the snow; this is something I’ve wanted forever.  She felt her body melting in his arms and the sensation she might disappear altogether as she no longer had any sense of control over her will.  She was just there, in his arms, responding to his kiss and it was the most perfectly right experience of her whole life so far.

Eventually he pulled away, but continued to look deep into her eyes, his own luminous and large.  “That was unfinished business.  It had to be done,” he whispered softly."

I do hope Christian got it right.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Cover art kudos for Shopping for Love

It was a great thrill to me recently to discover that the cover of Shopping for Love received the August eBook Cover Award in a contest run by a very talented cover artist (Melody Simmons) at  

Finding the right cover art is one of my nightmares (right up there with finding the right title; it's a little known fact that Shopping for Love had Supermarket Sweep as its working title!) and this was one I had almost begun to despair of happening.  When it did, of course, I was delighted with it.

Melody chose it for its clean, bright colours, elegant fonts and eye-catching concept of the design.  She said the shopping trolley was well-blended in with a suitable background.  Credit for Shopping for Love's cover goes to Kimberly Killion of Hot Damn Designs but Melody herself is an extremely talented cover artist whose site is well worth a visit.

So thanks for the award, Melody.  Considering the really excellent competition from the other finalists, it was an honour just to be among them, and a real accolade to be the winner.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

With love and - that first kiss...

Photo credit: Thomas Hawk via photo pin cc
As romance writers, that first kiss is one of the major milestones we build up to in our stories and it's what romance readers expect and look forward to.  It has to be written sensitively, convincingly and sexily to be a satisfying experience for the reader and, if I'm honest, it's not something I'm entirely comfortable about writing.

How many different ways can that first kiss be written and still sound original and convincing?  These days I often feel when reading that the kiss is just a preliminary to the more important business of the sex act.  The slow build up is no longer acceptable to many modern readers because in Soaps and films two people no sooner meet and like each other than they are in bed and declaring undying love and even, in that post-coital haze, contemplating marriage…followed almost immediately by a cold blast of reality. 

This isn't for me because as I've said all too often, I prefer to leave the bedroom door closed and let my lovers get on with the fun bits without my help.  But the kiss is my responsibility and I fret over it like a mother hen with her chicks.  It's so important to get it right that sometimes (I now realise) I cheat and overwork it or simply work around it.  The one thing I do know is that it shouldn't be formulaic, that every first kiss in every story needs to make the reader go "aahhh" and remain memorable.

Photo credit: via photo pin cc
They say all women remember their first boyfriend, their first date, their first kiss, their first…well you get my drift.  They don't necessarily all involve the same person - they certainly didn't with me.  My first proper kiss was incredibly awkward and clumsy because I had no idea what to do.  I'd seen chaste kisses and people apparently giving each other tonsillectomies in films - but, at 15, no one had taught me the right way to kiss.  Consequently I probably behaved like Doris Day's maiden aunt.  I know I didn't particularly enjoy the experience and decided to leave it a while before repeating it.  Just as well really, because I never heard from the boy again.

There is one kiss which happened about ten years later that became my yardstick for the perfect first kiss and when I feel that first kiss scene posing difficulties, I remind myself of the sheer romance surrounding this particular milestone in my life and try to inject a little of that magic into the scene.  I can't claim always to succeed, however.

In my first story, 'The Apple Tree', I certainly didn't do Juliet any favours when the gorgeous Nicholas first kissed her.  It should have been wonderful.  She had been wanting it and willing it to happen but, as usual, misread the signs and turned the moment into something awkward and embarrassing, so that it passed almost without her comprehension and she was left to relive it in her memory later to truly appreciate the moment.  She provided me with the excuse to gloss over the occasion rather quickly.
"And before she could open her mouth too far to protest, his lips found hers and invited them into an altogether more pleasurable occupation.  Her resolve melted in an instant at the touch of his softly sensuous mouth, though not before the thought had crossed her mind that the fragment of poetry he had just quoted had, coincidentally, come from Shakespeare."

I can't say I'm especially proud of that kiss and in future blog posts, I thought I'd reveal how my first kisses progress through my subsequent novels (and I like to think they do), I'd love to hear what you remember of your first kiss or how you go about dealing with this romantic moment in your writing.  Is it painful, or purely pleasurable?

With  and xxx