Not long to wait

Thrilled to be able to give you a glimpse of Breakthrough Books’ latest anthology of short stories. The theme is Order and Chaos and, my goodness, the result is a collection of stories as exciting and unpredictable as this cover, from a bunch of experienced authors (including me).

Order and Chaos will be launched by Breakthrough Books beside the seaside at the wonderful Margate Bookie Festival, which takes place 20-22nd October. If you happen to be in the Kent or London areas, do pop in. It’s the ‘friendly lit fest by the sea’.

Breakthrough Books to launch at Margate

I’m pleased and proud to announce the launch of the author-led publishing venture, Breakthrough Books, will take place at the Margate Bookie Festival in October. The event will be marked by the publication of two inaugural short story anthologies, Taking Liberties and Order and Chaos. Both books are the result of a group of more than 20 published authors – including me – banding together in a collective based on mutual support and literary freedom.

Here’s what had to say about it.

Reviews of Taking Liberties

Here’s a selection of reviews of the short story anthology Taking Liberties, which includes my little tale, ‘On The Brushes’. It’s great to see what readers, writers and book bloggers make of these stories by twelve established authors.

Longer versions of what they have to say may be found on Amazon or Goodreads, or by following the link indicated. You are most welcome!

‘An excellent collection of short stories about freedom from twelve authors. I was very impressed by how differently each author interpreted the topic and all of these literary offerings are well-written with thought-provoking ideas. There were perhaps three stories I didn’t really connect with, but I enjoyed all of the others. My favourites were ‘Human Error’ by Stephanie Bretherton, which has a sci-fi element; ‘Snuffr – Or How Britain Became A Nicer Place’ by Paul Waters which is dark and wickedly humorous; and ‘On the Brushes’ by Sue Clark which is quite gentle yet compelling.’

NS Ford, writer, reader and blogger.

‘When you don’t know what you fancy until you try it as you dive into a box of chocolates, so Taking Liberties, with its range of different genres, delights the tastebuds in every way. There’s something to suit whatever mood you’re in and all delicious in their different ways. It’s a great introduction to the work of the authors and perfect holiday reading in that you can dip in and out and when you’re home again, buy the novels of your favourite authors who feature. Who knows, maybe you’ll discover a new passion?

judefowl, reader

‘Taking Liberties is a wonderfully eclectic collection of short stories from an equally eclectic collection of authors.
Having read novels by the majority, if not all of the collective I knew the standard of writing would be high and I wasn’t wrong.’

MarkieVee, reader

‘Lots of different styles and voices here, but all of a high quality. At times gripping, at times funny, at times moving, at times thought provoking. Enjoyed the overall theme. Will dip back in from time to time. Great public transport reading. Well worth it!’

Kindle customer

Three stories in and I just love this collection. If you like off beat short stories, you’ll enjoy Taking Liberties!

Miles Hudson, reader

Spring cleaning

The roses are in full bloom. The sun is shining. And young and older person’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of … spring cleaning. Not the house! Of course not! Rather than going to the bother of dusting the cobwebs from the vacuum cleaner and trying to locate the polish, I decided to spring clean my website instead. That is, ask the lovely Jason* to give it a bit of a facelift.

The result is the pages as you see them now. In addition to more up-to-date pictures (and, sadly, my more up-to-date wrinkles!) and information on my comic novel Note to Boy, two new projects have been added: Taking Liberties, the short story anthology I contributed to, which is just out; and A Novel Solution, the comic fiction I am currently editing with the publisher, to be released in early 2024.

Hope you like the bright new look.

*Jason Harvey of Somefolk did all the hard work.

Why Review?

Why review the books you read? I can think of five gold star reasons.

  1. Reviews matter. They really do. Studies have shown that 95% of consumers read reviews before deciding on a purchase. I’m willing to bet that figure is even higher for books. Think about it. How many times have you bought a book without checking the reviews first?
  2. Reviews increase visibility. They are how readers discover new authors and make sure their favourites are up to scratch. Authors benefit from honest reader feedback. And yes, most of us do read reviews – the good, the bad and the occasional ugly – despite what some writers say.
  3. Success breeds success. I’m talking algorithms here. Not that I pretend to understand this dark art. But it seems common sense to me that reviews influence them. The higher a book’s ranking, the greater the number of reviews (and stars) it has, the more likely it is that readers will find it via the algorithms. And being found by new readers is what turns an unknown work into a chart-topper.
  4. Reviewing is good manners. It seems to me, if you’ve read a book, especially one you enjoyed, it’s only polite to let the author know what you thought about it and spread the word to other readers. Reviews don’t have to be long, editorial analyses – though they are welcome too! A few lines saying what you liked or disliked about a book are fine.
  5. It’s good to take a moment. I review every book I read – with the possible exception of the blockbusters that can manage fine without me. I find it therapeutic to sit and think about what I’ve read, and articulate my response to it while it’s fresh in my mind. It’s like when you’ve watched a film and just have to talk to someone about it. The experience isn’t complete without that pause for reflection. Reviews give you that space.

Obviously, here I’m thinking about my own books: Note to Boy and the anthology Taking Liberties. But not only them. Once you’ve read a book, do please share the experience with other readers on Amazon, Goodreads, booksellers’ websites, or wherever you read and write about books.  

Thank you.

Doing it for ourselves

For a writer, there’s little to beat the thrill of holding a book you’ve written. And today, I had that thrill as I unboxed paperback copies of Taking Liberties.

This has been a remarkable experience for several reasons. Firstly, it happened unbelievably quickly; the wheels of the publishing industry usually grind exceedingly slowly. Not in this case. In only a few months, a group of authors were able to put their heads together and, sharing their various skills and talents, produce a short story collection to be proud of. I was pleased to be a small part of it.

Secondly, the anthology has already achieved success as an ebook, staying at #2 in the short stories ‘hot new releases’ chart for quite some time and getting blush-inducing reviews: “wonderfully eclectic”, “funny, moving, thought provoking”, “offbeat”, and “wonderful, uplifting and sometimes surprising”. Fingers crossed, the success continues with the release of the paperback.

And thirdly, amazing though all that is, even more amazing, in my opinion, is the way in which all this came about.

It’s tough out there. I know how hard, how very hard, it is for an unknown writer to find a publisher and then, almost as important, to get their book in front of a sufficient number of readers. New authors, without an existing fanbase to call upon, can – and do – get lost in the white noise of today’s big-name celebrity marketing promotions.

But what can the poor indie writer do against such juggernaut forces? As my old granny used to say, if you want something doing properly, do it yourself.

And so the Breakthrough Book Collective was born. We are a group of friends and colleagues, all proven and published writers, doing it for ourselves. Many have other skills, such as editing, design, art, journalism, photography, podcasting, presenting and marketing, which we pool for the good of the collective. We write in different genres, have different backgrounds, but we share a commitment to putting the creative and financial power in the hands of the creators. And in producing engaging, exciting and professionally presented books, of course!

Taking Liberties is our first initiative and is now available as a paperback. You can order it here. And please do remember to leave a review. We’d be so grateful.

And if you want to read more about the Breakthrough Book Collective and other ‘commons’ projects, my fellow collective, the author, artist and presenter Stevyn Colgan has explained it better and in much more detail in his blog here.

Taking Liberties out today!

I’m chuffed to bits to let you know that Taking Liberties, the anthology of short stories by twelve writers, of which I am proud to be one, is released today and is available to order from Amazon and Kobo as an ebook. For those who prefer a real-life paperback, that will be coming along very soon, in the next week or so.

My heartfelt thanks to Stephanie Bretherton, Ivy Ngeow, Philip Whiteley and Zena Barrie for all the blood sweat and tears, and to them and my fellow Breakthrough Book Collective writers for being so flipping talented.

Taking Liberties is the first venture of the brand new Breakthrough Book Collective.

Of Madness and Miniskirts

Farewell, Mary Quant, spirit of the 1960s. I owe you a lot. You brightened up my life as a young teenager and twenty-something with your short skirts, hot pants and sharp haircuts. You were there for me when I left home, started my first job, and when I met my husband. And when I got married, I wore a minidress. Of course.

And, much, much later on, you and others in the fashion industry were the inspiration for my debut novel, Note to Boy.

Not that I’m suggesting Mary Quant was in the least little bit like my main character, Eloise Slaughter. Eloise is an unprincipled, egotistical monster who shamelessly uses everyone she meets on her way up the fashion ladder. And I am very fond of her. What does that say about me? In contrast, Mary Quant was a retail pioneer and visionary who brought affordable style to the high street and changed the face of fashion forever.

People – nosy people – sometimes ask why I chose to write about the madness of Swinging London. How could I not? It was a crazy, creative and colourful time. Britain was the hub of all popular culture, with the rest of the world taking its lead from us for films, music, books and, of course, fashion. And I had the inside track on all of this. During the late 1960s and early 70s, when I was single and carefree, I worked for an American film company, shared a flat near Oxford Circus, bought my clothes in Carnaby Street, and went to the sort of parties where you might bump into a James Bond actor. Glamorous, hey?

Not so glam when you’re living it. I was an underpaid office dogsbody at the film company, the occupant of the flat next door to ours advertised her ‘modelling’ services on a handwritten postcard pinned to the door, and the James Bond actor I met was the Australian one whose name no-one can ever remember.*

Ok, so real-life wasn’t quite so ‘fab’ and ‘trendy’. Nevertheless, those times became a rich source of material for me as a writer of humorous fiction. I wanted to explore celebrity, from the point of view of someone who’d had it and lost it. As I had observed that glamorous lifestyle, and the behaviour that sometimes goes with it, from the sidelines, it was the obvious time and place in which to set Note to Boy.

So, thank you Mary Quant. Thank you for everything.

*Oh, and the James Bond actor? George Lazenby

Taking Liberties Now Available to Pre-Order

Your patience is rewarded! Taking Liberties, the exciting new anthology of short stories, is available for preorder NOW, and will be released into the wild on 17th April. Each of the twelve stories in the book takes freedom as its theme. Among them, you’ll find my contribution, On The Brushes.

“A collection that is full of surprises. But it is no surprise that this talented group of authors have found so many unexpected and entertaining ways to write on the theme of freedom. A great read.” says Lulu Allison, author of Salt Lick (Women’s Prize for Fiction 2022 Long List)

Be one of the first to dip into this fascinating collection of stories from established and emerging writers by pre-ordering your copy today.

Taking Liberties is published by The Breakthrough Book Collective.