Jenny Kane: Coffee, cupcakes, chocolate and contemporary fiction / Jennifer Ash: Medieval crime with hints of Ellis Peters and Robin Hood

Tag: edit


Today I’m joined by my friend and Devon Writers business partner, Lucy V Hay – this is advice you can’t afford to ignore.

Over to you Lucy…


by @LucyVHayAuthor

1)They know what they like. I’m a big ‘grip lit’ fan – in other words, I’m most interested in female protagonists who are probably NOT police (or other related authoritative figures). I like mysteries, thrillers, unreliable narrators and characters who are not your ‘usual’, meaning I like diverse casts and I don’t feel have to necessarily ‘like’ characters to relate to their journeys. Plot-wise, I like strong concepts and prefer a fast pace with unexpected twists and turns. I favour psychological torment over actual graphic violence generally speaking. In terms of writing style, I like prose that’s lean, visual and sharp, almost literary.

That’s not to say I never read male protagonists, police procedurals or novels with torture and splatter in. I even read romance from time to time! But I favour ‘grip lit’ because ultimately I want to be entertained. Obvious, really!

effective book bloggers

BOOK REVIEWER TOP TIP: Know who you are, what you like and let people know – then you’re more likely to be approached by publishers, small presses and individual authors who have ARCs you would love to read.

2) They know their opinion is one of many. I don’t see the point in ‘hate reading’, so I always stop reading if I am not enjoying a book.  My time is limited as a busy working Mum of three, why would I waste it on something I am not enjoying? What’s more, I never review books I haven’t finished. But most importantly, I recognise that just because I don’t like a book, doesn’t mean someone else won’t LOVE it! As book reviewers, we have to realise our opinion is just one of many.

BOOK REVIEWER TOP TIP: If you’re not enjoying a book, why not pass the baton on to another reader? You could always say to the ARC giver, ‘this wasn’t for me, but I think X would love it’.

3) They have a strategy. I keep a record of the books I’m reading and have read via my Goodreads page, plus I share my top crimefiction picks based around a theme on my ‘Best of 3’ feature on my blog. I also try and post to my blog at least twice a week, plus five or six times in Facebook groups and Twitter chats about reading and writing. In other words, in any given week, my fellow readers should hear approximately ten times from me.

But it’s NOT all about me and what *I* like: I also invite fellow crime fiction fans to submit THEIR ‘Best of 3’ picks to my blog, plus I also invite authors and screenwriters to take part in an interview feature called Criminally Good. Once a month, I’ll do an author chat on my FB page, CRIME, INK too

BOOK REVIEWER TOP TIP: Decide in advance how you will build up your platform. And try and stick to the 80/20 rule – if you’re talking about yourself and your site 20% of the time, make sure you’re taking about others (and their books or picks!) 80% of the time!

Good luck out there!


Lucy Hay

BIO: @LucyVHayAuthor is currently writing her first psychological thriller novel. She is also a script editor for movies and has written the nonfiction book, Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays (Kamera Books). Join The Criminally Good Book Club to sign up for news, offers and giveaways.

Devon Writers


Many thanks Lucy.

Jenny x

Novel Progress 6: Concluding

A special kind of feeling occurs when I can see the end of a novel draft in sight. It’ a very physical thing- my fingertips tingle as if I have mild pins and needles, I type faster, my heart rate speeds a fraction (possibly due to increased coffee consumption)- oh, and I can’t stop smiling.

I want to reach the end, the goal post of the concluding sentence- and yet, at the same time I don’t want to get there. Being lost in the world that I’ve been creating- the lives of my fictitious friends- is a comfortable place to be. The moment I place that final full stop in place I have to step back- remove myself a little from the world I’ve invented. And that is precisely where I am with the fourth in my Another Cup of… series- for today I have placed the last word of Another Glass of Champagne on the computer screen!

Another Glass of Champagne_edited-1

This distancing myself from my own creation is vital for the next stage of the novel. For the completion of the final sentence is far from the end of a the writing story. Now comes the redraft- the polishing- the editing- the objective overview of my work. It’s time to make sure that every word is perfect for the job it has to do, that all the story threads have been tied up, that the time scale between events is physically possible, and then to track down and remove as many typos as humanly possible!

So while the conclusion brings me a feeling of immense satisfaction – it also heralds in the next stage. A process I enjoy a great deal- Another Glass of Champagne is about to be edited to within an inch of its life…

Happy reading,

Jenny xx


Guest Post from Carol McGrath: My Writing Journey

I am delighted to welcome fellow Accent writer, medieval history lover, and Robin Hood fan, Carol McGrath to my site today!

Over to you Carol…

First of all thank you, Jenny, for hosting me on your blog today.

I always find authors’ writing journeys intriguing. Usually a writer’s expedition into the world of publication is a mix of very dedicated work mingled with that precious little bit of good fortune when it comes to finding the right agent and/ or publisher for your work.

C McGrath 026

My own writing history towards the golden globe of publication was the result of a dedicated effort to hone my writing skills and to an extent it was accidental. I’ve always scribbled. I wrote little books as a small child that were usually inspired by Enid Blyton’s adventure stories and the legends of Robin Hood. I also loved to write poems. My first published piece was more serious and poetic. It was about Vietnam’s terrible war and appeared in our school magazine. For the very first time, this month I am visiting Vietnam and Cambodia. It will be a fascinating trip.

I never thought anyone would seriously want to actually read anything I wrote. Whilst my children were growing up, I taught part-time in a High School. I attended day-school writing courses at Oxford Continuing Education. We were a close knit group that signed up year after year to the same tutor’s course. Some of my fellow writers came from writing families. I remember Eliza Packenham’s suffragettes fondly and Molly Keane’s daughter, Virginia, who was writing a children’s book set in the west of Ireland. Our tutor, Angela Hassell, encouraged me to send chapters of a novel I was working on to agents. This oeuvre was a saga set in Ireland in 1919 at the dawning of the Irish Civil War. I never did attempt to publish this novel because I had little free time to end the tale. However, writing it was a wonderful escape from a busy modern life. Now, so many years later, I often think of finishing it.

Handfasted Wife

I studied for a two year diploma course in creative writing at Oxford University’s Continuing Education. Again, I never considered publishing. The seeds of my first published novel The Handfasted Wife were sown at this time, after a trip to Bayeux in Normandy. I wanted to write a radio play for my portfolio and was fascinated by a story I came across then, that King Harold’s wife identified her husband’s body on the battlefield by marks only known to her. King Harold had been defeated by William of Normandy who famously invaded England in 1066. I wrote the play and for a time forgot all about it. Only today I have been listening to it on audible, thinking of those voices from history that came to me all those years ago when I first wrote the play. The narrator got those tough Anglo-Saxon noble women right. It is a pleasure to listen to them speak via my I pad. Who would ever have thought I would one day hear them?


Some years later, after completing an MA in Creative Writing at Queens University Belfast, I did consider that I was ready to send my work out to agents. Another Irish story set in 1910 was completed inspired by my MA. work. I called it The Damask Maker. A number of agents read the full manuscript. It clearly was not ready because they all suggested I did this or that to it. It is still waiting my attention and a possible name change.

Instead of reworking the spongy mid-section of that novel, I went on an MPhil course ( English and Creative Writing) at Royal Holloway, University of London, and fell utterly in love with the story I began to write there. My first published novel, The Handfasted Wife, inspired by that long ago trip to Bayeux, was written on this course along with a thesis on how Romance tempers Historical Fiction. The novel took me three years to write. Its protagonists haunted me and, equally, England, before and after The Norman Conquest intrigued me. This manuscript was picked up by my RNA New Writer’s Scheme reader, jay Dixon, who had just become a commissioning editor for Accent Press. When I told jay that I was thinking about a trilogy to continue the story I had begun in The Handfasted Wife, she commissioned all three for Accent Press. If I liked writing The Handfasted Wife, I liked writing The Swan-Daughter even more. This is the story of King Harold’s younger daughter Gunnhild and her fate after The Norman Conquest. I have just sent The Betrothed Sister, the final novel of this trilogy to Jay. I have not looked back. I am researching a new trilogy set in the thirteenth century, so Jenny, watch out because I shall be consulting you about ballads of the period, on which you are an expert.

The Swan Daughter

I have thoroughly enjoyed my road to publication. There was no angst and no stress. I think I gradually grew into my route to publication, and looking back it feels as if it was a natural progression for me. I have always loved writing and telling stories. Reading Historical fiction was ever a passion and writing it well, whilst challenging, has been a very satisfying experience. Nowadays, what was a once upon a time hobby is now a full time job and it is certainly one that I enjoy.

I have one obvious tip if you want to be published- enjoy what you write, write it well, hone it and stay with it. Make sure it is ready and be determined to publish it when it it.

I wish Jenny Kane every success with Cup of Champers. I have read her novels and love them.


Carol’s Links-


Twitter – @carolmcgrath




Scribbling in the Margins- 


Thank you Carol x

Great blog! I would be honoured to help out with your ballad research when the time comes- Ronin Hood fans unite! There is something very special about the stories from our medieval past. They had a magic that encapsulates the period.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

Novel Progress 5: Novel Interrupted

Here I am, sat at my desk in the corner of my local café with only a third of Another Glass of Champagne left to write, and yet that is not what is occupying my time this week.

Last year I drafted the Cornish romance novel, Abi’s House – and as regular readers of this blog will know, it is now available for pre-order. However- Abi’s House isn’t actually finished yet!

This week I have closed the Another Glass…file and reopened Abi’s House so that I can tackle the edits; polish it, perfect it, and generally make sure it is as good as myself and my lovely editor, Greg, can make it for you.

Abi's House_edited-1

This ‘two novels at once’ technique of writing is fairly standard, and ensures that an author always has one book brewing, just as another is about to come out. The final tackling of the publisher’s edits, proofing, and (in my case at least), making sure the dyslexia hasn’t messed things up too much, is always a rewarding process. It’s also an extremely useful reminder for me- for six months has passed since I wrote Abi’ House, and I’ve written a novella and three quarters of a novel since then- I have to confess, some of the plot had already left my mind, and came as a nice surprise to me- I hope it does to you when the novel is released on the 13th June!

Another Glass of Champagne_edited-1

Next week however, I’ll be back to the Pickwicks crew…and believe me, the sooner the better, because I’ve left poor Amy at a very inconvenient moment – for her at least…

Happy reading,

Jenny xx




Guest Post from Jenny Harper: A writer’s path is littered with obstacles

I’m pleased to welcome fellow author, Jenny Harper, to my site today, with an excellent blog about the perils of being a writer.

Over to you Jenny…

Jenny Harper PWL_FC

A writer’s path is littered with obstacles

Have you ever gone on a writing course? Read a book about plots, characterisation or dialogue? Done a degree in Creative Writing?

I have. I’ve done all of those things, except the last one – but my first degree was in English Literature, and it put me off creative writing for decades. I knew I could never be Tolstoy or Dickens, or even Monica Dickens, come to that. And all that close analysis of texts made me so self conscious about structure, words, imagery, metaphor and the rest that I was like a rabbit staring into headlights – frozen.

So I wandered through a career in publishing (I was a non fiction editor for Collins and Cassells), magazine editing, journalism and finally corporate publishing (I produced magazines and newspapers for corporate giants such as BP, Total, Clydesdale Bank, Bank of Scotland and a number of insurance companies, as well as local authorities and government departments). Only when retirement was looming did I finally pluck up the courage to look at creative writing again.

After floundering around a bit with scraps of ideas and miserable efforts to ‘write a novel’ (everyone can write, right?), I spotted a course that sounded just great. It was in a castle in the Scottish Highlands. The tutor was best-selling novelist Anita Burgh, and I could use a week away from work.

So I went on the course and became a novelist, didn’t I?


I certainly learnt a lot, met new friends (including author Jo Thomas whose career has just gone stellar), and had a great time – but all I learned was how much I didn’t know.

I went on more courses, including a wonderful week in Corfu with Katie Fforde and a week in the fabulous Chez Castillon in France with Veronica Henry.

I read books on writing.

I became increasingly confused.

After all, celebrities seem to be able to knock out a best seller the first time they set pen to paper, so why couldn’t I?

I became bogged down in scene lists, three-act structures, beats, conflict, points of view, themes – all the technical bits and pieces that underpin a novel.

Finally, I learned that it takes most novelists an average of nine novels before they find a publisher. I threw the lot away. I listened to my inner voice and simply wrote. All the advice and lessons I had had over the years must have sunk in, because the things I had found so hard began to flow naturally. I gained confidence. I drew on the support of fellow writers. I joined a lot of social networks. I networked in the real world. I became a writer!

Here are my top tips for anyone on a similar journey:

1)    Tell the story you want to tell (and make sure you know which character’s story it is).

2)    Focus, by asking yourself what your story is really about ­(not a synopsis of the plot). Try to capture it one word, then in two sentences.

3)    Dig deeper. Get right inside your characters.

4)    Persevere.

5)    Don’t be afraid to get help – from writing buddies, mentors, beta readers or editorial agencies.

And finally – please tell me I’m not the only one who has been on this journey!

Jenny CC 2 web


I live in Edinburgh, Scotland, but I was born in India and grew up in England. I’ve been a non-fiction editor, a journalist and a businesswoman and I’ve written a children’s novel and several books about Scotland. Nowadays I write contemporary women’s fiction with bite – complex characters facing serious issues.

Face the Wind and Fly is about a woman wind farm engineer with a marriage in trouble and a controversial project to handle. 

Loving Susie is about a female politician with a complicated family history and at odds with the world.

Maximum Exposure, is about a newspaper photographer with job to save and some growing up to do.

My latest novel People We Love is about an artist who is struggling to support her family after her brother’s death. She needs friends, and reasons to be happy, and her journey is a strange one.

People We Love UK:
Maximum Exposure UK:
Loving Susie UK:
Face the Wind and Fly UK:


Thanks ever so much for such a great blog Jenny. My writing journey has also been littered with potholes, fits, and starts! I’ve never done a creative writing course either- I’ve always been wary of them- they always seem to add pressure rather than make you feel more capable- or maybe that is just me!!

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

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