Thursday 23 February 2012

Author Showcase - Kathryn Brown

Kathryn Brown is an author who runs a sheep and arable farm in Northumberland. Her debut novel, ‘Discovery at Rosehill’ is a paranormal romance set in the Scottish Borders. Kathryn is one of thirty hand picked authors on the innovative reader/writer website She is currently on blog tour and you can also find her at her own popular Crystal Jigsaw blog.

Kathryn, tell us a little more about your writing and your life as an Author.
I very rarely go a day without writing something, whether it’s a blog post or an article. Writing is my passion and something I wouldn’t want to be without. I always knew I wanted to be an author but had no idea when it would happen. Determination took over as I began writing ‘Discovery at Rosehill’ and I decided no matter what I would publish the novel – and just for myself if I had to. Being an author is incredibly rewarding but it is hard work, especially when it comes to promotion. I have learned over the past twelve months that marketing a book is so much harder than actually writing it.

What inspires you to write paranormal stories?
My main inspiration is my love for the spirit world. I am sensitive to spirit presence and have probably been so all my life, although it has become more apparent during the last twenty years. I am deeply fascinated with ghosts and spirit communication and I knew this would be the subject on which I would base my debut novel.

How do you research your novels?
I spent about twelve months researching for ‘Discovery at Rosehill’. I asked questions of Mediums and had readings which gave me a real sense of the work they do. But the main research came from my own experiences. I live in a very atmospheric Georgian farm house and my sensitivities have been heightened since moving in here nearly 11 years ago.

Tell us about your novel?
‘Discovery at Rosehill’ is based partly on me and my home. Medium Camilla Armstrong is a strong character, albeit a loner. Communicating regularly with her deceased grandmother, she is led to Rosehill where she moves in and turns the house into the grand residence it once was. But over the years, Rosehill has held many dark secrets and it soon becomes clear to Camilla why her grandmother introduced her to the house in the first place. Camilla makes discoveries about her past and her ancestors, and realises there is more to her life than that of a lonely medium living alone. When she opens her door to the village reverend, she is determined to find love and accept him into her life, even though their spiritual differences post a real threat to any relationship they may have. A third party is introduced to the story in the form of Ross, an old flame of Camilla’s, and someone she still has strong feelings for. As the plot starts to unfold, Camilla discovers the secrets at Rosehill don’t just live within its walls but also surround the vicar, too. Now on a mission to get to the bottom of what is going on, Camilla eventually works out the truth as her communication with the spirits becomes more intense.

Buy ‘Discovery at Rosehill’ in paperback or for Kindle at Amazon UK or
Kathryn’s Page at:

Thursday 16 February 2012

The Perfect Book Title...

Last week’s post  ‘Arresting the Reader’– a masterclass in opening lines - resulted in a variety of wonderful responses and examples here on the blog and prompted an interesting discussion on Twitter. One tweep (twitter user for those who are not familiar with Twitter jargon) quipped that he thought all his readers should be arrested - and I had a giggle at that one - so thank you to @himupnorth!

Another writer tweep said that after reading the post, she had ‘revisited her opener’ and having taken on board the advice to get a sense of mood, tone, content and place in those first few sentences, now felt ‘really proud’ of her opening lines. Fantastic!

This week, I have been asked as a result of a writer’s title crisis to do a post on book titles. This is a subject I also need to explore for my current unnamed WIP (work in progress) and one I covered early last year when I first started blogging and writing ‘Reaching for the Stars’. As many of you may not have read this post before and others may appreciate the refresher - I am therefore reposting it below.

Do you decide upon the title of your novel first and write the story to suit or do you finish the manuscript and choose a title afterwards?
With me, the title usually 'pops' into my head while I'm pondering the theme, the premise and the characters, then it is fixed. I just can't help myself. Of course, it might not be a good idea to get too attached to it if you have a publisher, as I know lots of writers who thought they had the perfect title, only for it to be changed later. Famously, Jilly Cooper's latest blockbuster 'Jump' had a working title of 'Village Horse' during the four years she was writing it.

So what makes a good title? Well, surely it has to be the minimum number of words that sum up the feel of the book. If you can relate genre, setting, time period and premise, as well as attracting attention to the cover, then you have to be backing a winner.

I had an interesting time on Better Book Titles today - it's a website that features recognisable book covers of bestsellers and classics and updates them with a twist - giving a much more descriptive title. You can also now follow this site on Twitter at @betterbooktitle. The site is run by Dan Wilbur and he aims to give you the meat of the story in one condensed image. Great fun!

My advice if you are struggling to name your magnum opus would be to think about what you want the title to convey and to make notes, jotting adjectives, verbs and nouns, which can be associated with the story. Use a thesaurus and refer to a reverse dictionary - a reverse dictionary allows you describe a concept and get a backlist of words which have definitions conceptually similar to the words you search with - a good place to find a reverse dictionary is

Next I would suggest giving yourself some time and space to process your ideas and to allow your subconscious to work. Then, when you have a title or a selection of title ideas to work with, go to Amazon and look up other books with titles that are similar or the same - noting in particular the ones in the same genre as your work. Originality is always best but remember that there are no laws of copyright on titles.

If you are deliberately trying to be controversial with your choice - or simply like to be a little different - then don't be surprised if you find yourself shortlisted for next year's Oddest Book Title Of The Year Award. This year's worthy winner, as announced recently by the Bookseller magazine, was an inspirational guide: Managing a Dental Practice:The Genghis Khan Way
Writers - do tell us how you came up with the title of your book and at what stage in the writing process you did it...?

Readers - what makes it a perfect book title for you...?

All comments and tweets appreciated.
Love, Janice xx

Friday 10 February 2012

Arresting Your Reader…

A couple of years ago, I attended a writing masterclass hosted by the fabulous Diane Pearson, acclaimed author and recently retired President of the Romantic Novelist’s Association. Diane was also Senior Editor for Transworld Publishers where she edited - among many illustrious others - the wonderful Jilly Cooper and, in 1994, she won the British Book Award for Editor of the Year.

The subject of the workshop was getting the opening lines of your novel exactly right in order to immediately arrest the attention of your reader. I learned so much from Diane on that day about opening lines that I now work hard to make sure the start of my novels adhere to her wise words.

I learned that ideally the first lines should indicate the mood, tone and content of the book, as well as setting the time and place. Controversially perhaps, it was suggested that dialogue should be avoided in the first paragraph, as it makes it difficult to capture period and place quickly. To see how this is done effectively, I suggest we look at the one of the most powerful, most recognised opening lines in all of literature, that of Daphne du Maurier’s novel ‘Rebecca’.

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. It seemed to me I stood by the iron gate leading to the drive, and for a while I could not enter, for the way was barred to me. There was a padlock and chain upon the gate. I called in my dream to the lodge-keeper, and had no answer, and peering closer through the rusted spokes of the gate I saw that the lodge was uninhabited.”
Using Diane’s advice, I tried to use this principle of mood, tone, content and sense of place with the opening lines of my own novel ‘Bagpipes & Bullshot’. To my delight, she read out my work in class that day as an approved example!

“When the Greyhound bus pulled over in Baytown Texas, Innes Buchanan stepped off. He dropped his tartan backpack and bagpipes onto the boardwalk and inhaled deeply, feasting his eyes on the shimmering white sands and glittering blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico.”

So writers, let’s get to work on our own opening lines – please do feel free to let me know how you are getting along by leaving a comment.

And readers, what are you reading right now? Why not flip back to the opening few lines of the novel you are reading and let us know if you get a sense of mood, tone, content and sense of place from those first few sentences?

Love, Janice xx

Saturday 4 February 2012

Author Showcase – Richard Holmes

Richard Holmes lives in Tetbury, Gloucestershire. He has worked as a medium for over ten years with over six hundred public demonstrations of clairvoyance under his belt. He runs workshops in various spiritual topics, gives private consultations for guidance along life's pathway and also tutors on a one-to-one basis in meditation and spiritual awareness. He is a Reiki healer, psychic surgeon, spiritually inspired artist and he gives profound interpretations of dreams. He is also one of thirty hand-picked authors on the innovative reader/writer website and is the author of spiritual guidance books Astral Travelling, The Avatar and Me and Angelic Wisdom Trilogy 

In his guest post, Richard talks about the spiritualism in his writing and gives an example of why he feels the entire human race is one whole inter-connected family.

Living Proof That The Spirit Has No Boundaries

In 1995 I was in a very dark place; I’d been suffering from depression for years but had no idea. I was also in a dead-end and brain numbingly boring job, working for the Royal Mail in Swindon, Wiltshire. I desperately wanted to break free of my humdrum existence and decided to pursue something completely different and creative. I had always been a big fan of rock and blues music and like many, played a mean ham-fisted guitar. My guitars were my pride and joy and I decided I was going to become a full-time student at New College in Swindon on their BTEC “Popular Music” course. It was a huge decision; it meant giving up full time employment and struggling by on casual jobs, such as washing pots and bar work; but I decided that I really needed the adventure. A while before the course was due to start, the college informed me they were not running the popular music course, but offered me “BTEC Performing Arts” as an alternative. I’m glad I decided to take them up on their offer because in no time at all after the onset of the course, I realised that I was not a very good guitarist after all, in fact I was just short of mediocre. I was 40 years old and attending a sixth form college, and there were kids of 16 playing guitar like Jimi Hendrix. But out of the darkness there came a light. I may have been a rubbish musician, but I found a flair for acting that I didn’t know I had; and little did I know at the time that it would be my experience on stage, both as a member of a theatre company and as a solo performer, that would prepare me for my work as a medium in the future. Anyway, I digress; this story is not meant to be about me, but I did need to paint a picture for you.

Around about Christmas time in 1995 two young students at New College (whom I didn’t know) decided they were going to race their cars up Queens Drive in Swindon on their way home. One of them tried to overtake on the inside lane and lost control of his vehicle. He mounted the grass verge and continued onto the pavement. Another young student, walking home, took the full impact of the car and was rammed into a wall. The wall was demolished and the young man departed this Earth there and then. I didn’t know the young man; indeed I only heard about the incident from the other students in my group and ascertained that his name was Mark.

Even though I didn’t know Mark, and if he were to stand before me now I would not know that it was him, I was really struck by how deeply his passing affected the kids in my group. Seeing how touched they were, in turn, touched me. So much so that in January 1996 I was prompted from within to write a poem that I simply called ”Mark”. I came into college one day and read the poem out and showed it around. Many were touched by it and news of the poem reached Mark’s parents who, via the grapevine, requested a copy. Back then, computers were very much alien to me and I had written the poem by hand. I was very pleased that news of my work had reached Mark’s parents and even more pleased that they requested a copy; so it was with great joy that I hand-wrote them another. The poem was not a piece of literary genius; in fact it was a very, very simple piece of writing. But its power was in its simplicity.

Now to the whole point of this article. It is difficult for many to understand that the entire human race is one whole inter-connected family. Human logic does tend to equate with the physical form and the boundaries and limitations imposed by our much tormented minds. But to me this incident proves that time, space and physical presence are of no consequence to the Divine Spirit that is our deepest and highest truth. I never knew Mark at all, but I was touched deeply within my heart; his parents never knew me (and still don’t) but they were touched deeply in their hearts. It wasn’t our physical forms that had an impact on our respective lives; it was our very souls reaching out to each other across time and space.

Gather your thoughts as you read these words
A friend has departed, the emotions are stirred
As he winds his way up to Heaven above
We think of him and extend our love
He’s happy now we surely know
But it broke our hearts to see him go
A far-away land, a pasture green
The most beautiful place you’ve ever seen
We shall meet you again when our time is done
In that beautiful place with the never setting sun
The flame of your memory Burns deep in our soul
And shall burn eternal ‘till the hills cease to roll
So think of us Mark from your beautiful place
And send us a postcard of your smiling face
Richard Holmes – January 1996

Author’s website:
Author’s Blog:
Twitter A/c @atmicsplendour:

Thursday 2 February 2012

What’s in a Name…?

I often start a new book with a fully formed character in my mind - who comes with a name – a name that suits him or her so well that they couldn’t possibly be called anything else. Finn McDuff of Reaching for the Stars arrived in such a way and so did Orley MacKenna of Bagpipes & Bullshot - even my own three children arrived into this world with their names already decided upon - but this time I’m not entirely sure I have exactly the right names for my hero and heroine..!

How important is a name?

Well, I think names are very important because they immediately conjure up images and character traits and so I believe it’s worth spending some time and research to get them right. Especially for your main characters. I mean, how many actors and musicians have changed their given names to something more in keeping with a strong image? Famously, there is Elton John, who might not have made it with the name Reginald Dwight. Then there is current pop siren Katy Perry – who is actually Kathryn Hudson in real life – but then there is already a famous actress called Kate Hudson, isn’t there?

Surnames are as equally important. They should be strong and not silly. They have to resonate rather than clash with the first name and, personally, I would avoid names so unusual in either pronunciation or spelling that they run the risk of taking the reader out of the story. Surnames can state nationality. They can even suggest if a character belongs to the upper, middle, or lower classes – before they open their mouths.

How do we find the right name?

Twitter: I threw out this question last week here on this blog and on Twitter in preparation for writing this post and received some great suggestions. @MrsPogleswood – Luke or Luker and Alex (female). @BookstoRemember – Andrew and Tayra. @SallyHepworth – Patrick and Eloise.

Here on the blog: Louise Graham suggest Cheryl and Richard. Old Kitty favours Angelina and Aiden. Cassam likes Abi for a heroine and Ross or Garth for a hero. Valentina (whose name I love!) offered Olivia and Matt.

So do keep the name suggestions coming in - either in the comment box below or on Twitter (I'm @JaniceHorton)

A great piece of advice came in from @Rodney_Willett on Twitter. Rodney is the lovely husband of acclaimed novelist Marcia Willett. He says: “it doesn’t matter – just call them anything to start with - then one day you will realise that Jane is really Sarah and Dominic wants to be Andrew.”

Research: I think television programs are a great source of name ideas and don’t forget the goldmine that is the credit list at the end of movies. The internet lists currently popular names and baby name books or listings are also worth checking. I like the idea of finding names with meanings: for example Gareth means ‘firm spear’ and Lachlan ‘warlike’ – so these guys would be tough and manly in any book!

Next Friday: having settled on a couple of names, I’ll be hosting a mini-writing-workshop looking at writing the opening paragraph. Do let me know if you are starting a new book right now too – or if you are thinking about it…?

In addition to my regular Friday posts (which often appear on Thursday evenings!) I have decided to host my Author Showcase posts additionally on occasions as there are so many writers out there whom I feel deserve to be showcased and supported.

So, pop back on Saturday 4th February to meet Richard Holmes, author of Angelic Wisdom Trilogy. Richard is a Medium, a Reiki healer, a psychic surgeon, a spiritually inspired artist and interpreter of dreams.

Janice xx