Monday, December 16, 2013

Writer Spotlight - Cathy Bramley

On Coffee and Roses I like to bring you news of exciting authors who are either waiting to be published or published and worth checking out.

This week, I'm delighted to welcome the wonderful CATHY BRAMLEY into the Coffee and Roses Writer Spotlight.

When did you first decide that you wanted to write?
Last year. Most authors say that they’ve been writing stories since they were a child, but not me, which is a bit embarrassing. I’ve always been a huge fan of reading though – can’t go to sleep without reading a few pages. But last year, I was casting about for a new challenge: I always like to have a bit of a project on the go. We had not long moved into our new house that we’d self-built and I hit on the idea of writing a novel with a property theme. I attended a few courses, read up about it and decided to give it a go. Now I am totally hooked and cannot imagine not writing!

What interests you as a writer?
Two things immediately spring to mind:
I love words. Sometimes I can roll a word round in my head for days, waiting for an opportunity to use it! It saddens me that I can’t get ‘onomatopoeia’ into more sentences – such a waste of a good word.
You can’t beat a good laugh. I love a bit of visual humour. Stick me in front of an episode of ‘You’ve Been Framed’ with a cup of coffee and a chocolate biscuit and I’m as happy as Larry. Except when people hurt themselves. I’m not so keen on that. My friend’s daughter once slipped on a banana skin right in front of me; it was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.

Do you have a typical writing day? If not, when is the best time to write for you?
I was talking to my vet about this. He reckons that first thing in the morning before he has answered emails or checked Twitter or Facebook is his ‘Crystal Time’. I love this idea. I’m not sure that my brain is ever particularly crystal clear, but I can certainly concentrate more in the mornings.

My writing schedule starts in the evening. I consult my hi-tech spreadsheet to see what scene or chapter is coming up next and roughly plot it out with a few scribbled notes. Next morning, once I’ve located the notes, (I’m a terror for writing things on random scraps of paper) I write the scene and try not to keep getting distracted by Twitter alerts or by checking the Amazon ranking for Conditional Love! I write until I have to pick my daughters up from school.

What inspires you as a writer?
What inspires me most to write are the funny things people say to each other. Particularly off-the-cuff, unrehearsed remarks. I store them up like a squirrel burying nuts for the winter and then I unearth them and drop them into my story like nuggets of treasure. I’ve got a friend who has come up with some corkers over the years. I intend to plunder a few of his best bits in my next book.

For my own writing journey, I’m inspired by other writers’ success stories, particularly those who have self-published their novels with the intention of attracting the attention of an agent and publisher, lovely ladies like Kirsty Greenwood, Rachael Lucas and Annabell Scott. Following in their footsteps is my number one goal for 2014.

What are the best things about being a writer?
LOADS! So here are my top three:
1. I get to read fantastic books and call it ‘research’!
2. Receiving emails, tweets and messages from complete strangers, telling me how much they enjoyed Conditional Love. That makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.
3. Writing. Writing simply makes me so happy, I’ve had a varied and exciting career, but I don’t think I’ve ever been as happy as I am now.

And the worst?
The worst bit is about forty thousand words in when I look back at what I’ve written and decide it’s completely pants! None of the jokes are funny, the plot has gone off at a tangent and ever writing the words ‘The End’ seems highly unlikely.

Tell me about Conditional Love: what inspired the story?
My initial idea was to write a book with a property theme. I’ve always had a passion for property and love moving house. I grew up in Kings Heath in Birmingham (on the same road as Samantha Brick – the woman who claims that women don’t like her because she is too beautiful!) My parents have had three houses on that road, people used to sit at their front window and watch our belongings being wheeled past on a trailer on a regular basis. We were the main source of entertainment before X-Factor.

But as I got further along with the novel, I realised that the book was also about different kinds of love: for friends, family and lovers and that the love that we long for isn’t always the one that’s right for us… (cue dramatic drums!)

What was it like to see your published novel for the first time?
I squealed and leapt about from foot to foot, then I did that American thing of circling your arms like you're stirring a big pan of porridge, shouting, ‘Go Cathy, go Cathy!’ Which would have been absolutely fine, had I not insisted that the UPS delivery man wait while I opened the box of books so that I could share the moment with him!

What would be your top three tips for unpublished writers?
1. Don’t wait for the right time, the right desk or the right fancy notebook, just get on with it. Turn the telly off and write!
2. When you think your manuscript is ready (and I speak from painful experience here) it probably isn’t. Invest in a critique, even if it’s only on the first chapter. An expert will be able to tell straight away if your novel is ready to face the world.
3. Believe in yourself. Don’t dream about becoming a published author, make a plan and do it!

Do you have a dream project you'd love to write?
I wrote Conditional Love as a one-off, sorted everyone’s lives out and mentally said goodbye to all the characters. However, I have had so many people asking me what happens next to Sophie, that I’m thinking that I’d love to write a sequel. Fingers crossed!

Anything else you’d like to say?
Just a MASSIVE thank you to you, Miranda for inviting me onto your blog and to everyone else in booky world who has helped and supported me this year. It has made the world of difference to me.

Thanks to Cathy for a fab interview! You can find out more about Cathy at her website, follow her on Twitter @CathyBramley and on Facebook. Conditional Love is available from Amazon in e-book and paperback formats. It's a witty, laugh-out-loud romantic comedy with a protagonist you'll love and I highly recommend it!

Jane Austen in the lunch queue

Today is Jane Austen's birthday and around the world Austen fans are celebrating (with a dainty dance and a spot of witty banter, perhaps?) So today's post is in honour of the great lady (with apologies for my 21st century impertinence...)

The thing I love most about Jane Austen's writing is her ability to observe people in everyday situations. She was the consummate people-watcher of her day, noting the social quirks of her peers both in public and in private. While the love stories of her books will always be irresistible, what I adore more than anything about her work are the sparkling nuggets of overheard conversations, subtle (and not-so-subtle) gestures and the preposterousness of social conventions of the day. These were, and still remain today, the essential tools of writers - collecting people and inviting readers to spy on them.

Over two hundred years after her birth, people-watching is very much alive, although the gathering places have changed from the society balls and grand social occasions of Jane Austen's time. So, I found myself wondering today what she would make of the lunch queue where I used to work. (Like you do!)

Of course, had Jane Austen been alive today she would have just turned 236, so the odds of her standing for long enough to observe are decidedly slim... But supposing some kind soul had found her a debatably comfortable seat on a mock-pine melamine chair in the small coffee shop in the atrium of the office complex in Wolverhampton. What would she make of the motley crew of gathered office workers standing in line to buy their lunches?

Take, for example, the young guy who lined up every lunchtime with his mother. Blessed with an impressive mop of red hair and a perennial blush, he waited solemnly, head bowed, as his fifty-something companion (all richly-lined mouth and jangling gold jewellery) proudly regaled the assembled queuers with embarrassing tales of his seventeen-year-old life. "He brought a girl home the other day. Drippier than a stream of tap water and not much brighter, but she'll do for now..."

I think Jane would have seen it all and logged it in her mind, as writers do. I wonder if she might then have one day written a scene where he finds the courage to stand up to the overbearing mother and make his own way in the world...

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Miranda Writes 20 - Plotting Book 6

All this year, I am keeping a video diary about writing and publishing my sixth novel and following the success of my fifth book, Take A Look At Me Now. This week, I reveal the latest #getinvolved winner and talk about plotting Book 6...

I was asked this week about how I plot my books by Catriona Merryweather from Fabulous Book Fiend. It's a very interesting question, not least because for book six I'm trying something new. I'll reveal all in the vlog...

Also, did your suggestion for the name of a kooky Brooklyn craft store make it into Book 6? Keep watching to find out!

Remember that I love answering your questions, so what would you like me to answer for next week's vlog? Post a comment below or email me at


p.s. This week's YouTube-nominated freeze-frame is entitled, 'Spider Hand!'

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Miranda Writes 19 - Awesome news!

All this year, I am keeping a video diary about writing and publishing my fifth novel, Take A Look At Me Now. This week I share some AMAZING news about the book - and reveal the first winner of my #getinvolved competitions for Book 6...

It's been a complete rollercoaster of a year but the last couple of weeks have been phenomenally exciting. This week, I received some completely wonderful news: Take A Look At Me Now has made it to NUMBER FOUR in The Sunday Times Bestsellers! It's my highest ever placing and I'm completely over the moon! (You'll see how happy I am on the vlog...)

Also this week, I'll announce the winner of my first #getinvolved competition for Book 6, which I'm writing right now. Did your suggestion win? Watch the vlog to find out! And to complete the goodies in this week's vlog, I'm answering two questions sent in by lovely Kev from I Heart... Chick Lit. If you would like me to answer your question in next week's vlog, leave a comment below or email it to:


p.s. This week's YouTube-nominated freeze frame is entitled 'Say awwww'...

Monday, November 4, 2013

Writer Spotlight: Lisa Dickenson

On Coffee and Roses I like to bring you news of exciting authors who are either waiting to be published or published and worth checking out.

This week, I'm excited to welcome the very lovely LISA DICKENSON into the Coffee and Roses Writer Spotlight.

When did you first decide that you wanted to write?

I was about eleven, and at a talk by Anne Fine in Plymouth. She was saying that when she was young she wrote loads of story beginnings, first chapters and opening paragraphs before moving on to the next idea. I do that, I thought. We’re the same! This means I will be a writer too! Then growing up I fell into that miserably British trait of assuming my dreams wouldn’t be reached because there was too much competition, but even so, if anyone actually ever says I can’t do something a little spark inside me always ignites and mumbles “I’ll bloody show you…”

What interests you as a writer?

Don’t tell anyone, but I’m quite interested in eavesdropping on and writing about interactions between people who think no-one’s listening, or when they can’t find the right words to say in a situation. That natural dialogue where you don’t produce the perfect, scripted comeback and it ends up sounding completely awkward and the reader – or listener – thinks, I know exactly how that feels!

Do you have a typical writing day? If not, when is the best time to write for you?

My dream is to be a full-time writer, living near the beach and writing all day with the sand on my toes. But for now my typical writing day consists of sitting on a crowded bus full of teenagers for an hour in the morning and evening on route to the day job, hoping they don’t laugh at what I’m typing and call me a name I don’t understand. Actually, they have no interest in me whatsoever, so I can’t complain. If it’s a weekend my aim will be to write thousands of words on Saturday morning but then I procrastinate and “think” until Sunday night and then suddenly it all pours out.

What inspires you as a writer?

Holidays! Be it a caravan in Cornwall or a holiday home in the Hollywood Hills. In my own abode it’s amazing how easy it is for my brain to procrastinate like hell – the house could do with a clean, the fridge needs a bit more stocking, those Real Housewives episodes need to be watched. Getting away, seeing new vistas, living a new life for whatever length of time, observing all new people with different, interesting lifestyles… those things inspire me, and I come back from each holiday with armfuls of ideas for locations, characters, scenes or even whole new stories.

What are the best things about being a writer?

Playing God – ha! Babbling on, unfolding a fictional life, doing to them what you will and putting words in their mouths. Each time I handed in the next two chapters of The Twelve Dates of Christmas to my lovely editor at Little, Brown, Manpreet Grewal, I was always amazed that it didn’t come back with everything edited out; I’d never before had a job with such freedom. Of course, there were edits, but the bulk was still there. My characters were allowed to be there, my scenes. It’s ever such a nice feeling. Oh, also that it’s practically in the job description that you have to laugh at your own jokes.

And the worst?

When you have a deadline and you’re tired and you don’t know how to write something and everything you’re putting on the page sounds like the crappest thing anyone’s ever written, ever, in the history of forever. Forcing creativity is the worst. I only had one meltdown, I think, at my editor, where I started furiously writing shouty capital emails saying – and I quote – “BUT WHAT IF I CAN'T THINK OF ANYTHING AND THE CLOCK TICKS AROUND TO 5PM AND ALL I CAN THINK ABOUT ARE DIAMANTES AND RED DRESSES AND WILLIES AND I AM DISOWNED IN THE WORLD OF PUBLISHING?????” She was like, “Okay, calm the heck down, it’ll come to you,” – and then the solution came to me that evening.

Tell me about The Twelve Dates of Christmas

This is Claudia’s story of how she tries to pull her life out a big stale rut through the magic of Christmas in London. She struggles with the things we all do – grumpiness, heartache, indecision – but also faces a lot of fun, romance and discovery through her December of dating. From part one, Dates 1&2, through to part six, Dates 11&12, you’ll find lashings of snow, mulled wine, a host of sparkling dates, people showing off their lovely and not-so-lovely Christmas spirit and hopefully come out the end feeling like you should be knocking back a glass of Baileys and soaking in the season.

Why did you decide to release your book as a series rather than a stand-alone novel?

This was Manpreet at Little, Brown’s idea – she’d been thinking about the possibility of releasing a serialised novel and in the early days of Twelve Dates we talked about it and decided we’d give it a go. It splits rather neatly into six parts, and I like that it harks back to how Dickens would release his novels, because I firmly believe he wrote the best Christmas story of all time with The Christmas Carol (closely followed by The Jolly Christmas Postman).

What would be your top three tips for aspiring writers?

1. Enter writing competitions. Submit to agents. Find a friend who’s into writing and ask them to read it (you’ll be surprised once you admit you’re a writer how many friends say “I’ve been thinking of writing a book, too.”) It’s very easy to think ‘I like writing, my stuff sounds okay to me, but I don’t really know if I’m good enough,’ and subsequently do bugger all about it. If you submit your work at least someone is reading it, giving you feedback, taking you seriously. And you might just start the next ‘chapter’ of your life. Ha! Do you get it? Like, chapter of a book… They don’t call me an author for nothing.

2. Listen to podcasts from established authors. I have a whole host of Jackie Collins ones I keep on my iPod that I used to listen to when I felt like just sacking it all in and not bothering. Then I’d listen, and Jackie would chatter on about her successes, her struggles, her inspirations, her writing methods, and I’d always come away feeling a lot more revved up. This is what I want my life to be, I would think, and I would do something about it.

3. Carry a notepad everywhere! Don’t spend time trying to find a pretty ‘writer’ notepad with the perfect cover and an elastic doodah to hold it shut – you’ll never use it, because you won’t want it to be filled with scribbles and scrawls and half a chapter that started to get a bit too erotic and now you’re a little embarrassed it’s in there. Just have a crappy old notebook you may or may not have nicked from the office stationary cupboard, and jot down everything that springs to mind, from words of dialogue inspired by the song you’re listening to, to possible solutions to the end of a scene, to whole new story ideas. Shove it all in. Just remember to then go through it and collate your ideas from time to time!

Do you have a dream project you'd love to write?

Yes, two! I’d love to write a really chilling, eerie ghost story. Not one filled with shock, blood and gore, but the type that makes you unnerved. Like Rebecca or The Woman in Black. Something Hitchcock said which sticks in my mind is that if a bomb suddenly goes off it gives you ten seconds of fright, but if you know the bomb is there the whole dynamic is changed and you get foreboding and suspense. He was talking about films not novels, but I think it still applies, and that’s the type of novel I’d like to explore. The other project harks back to younger me and her dream to write an epic, Sweet Valley/Babysitters Club-style series with lovable characters that you keep coming back to, that people would want to collect the set and to follow their life stories (and still secretly love aged 30…).

Anything else you’d like to say?

I’m sure you’ve had enough of me harping on, but I think the only other thing I’d like to say is a whopping thank you, to Miranda, and to all the other authors and bloggers who’ve been incredibly supportive. It’s pretty scary putting yourself out there and saying “I WRITE THINGS, PLEASE LIKE THEM AND LIKE ME”, so a thanks to all of those who’ve helped me feel like I belong here and that they’re going through the same things, and everything’s going to be peachy.


Thanks so much to Lisa for braving the Writer Spotlight! You can find out about Lisa at her website and follow her on Twitter @LisaWritesStuff.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Neal Doran - Getting 'The Call'

At the beginning of this year I chose my magnificent seven Future Stars and I've been working with them on their amazing writing projects. So I was over the moon (and not surprised at all) when one of my Future Stars, NEAL DORAN told me he'd been offered a two-book deal! His first novel, Dan Taylor is Giving Up on Women is available on Kindle now - and it's brilliant. I asked Neal to tell what it felt like to be offered his book deal...

I had a clear idea how it was going to be when I found out I was going to be published.

My family would know I’d got ‘The Call’ because of the music that played. For years Rosalita (come out tonight) by Bruce Springsteen had been an essential part of the dream. If you don’t know it, it’s a fantastically uplifting song, written when Bruce was astoundingly young, about him trying to get his girlfriend to sneak out of her parent’s house for a big night out (it’s cool -- the characters are probably late teens/early twenties, it’s not about two 40-year-olds who still live with mum and dad). It’s medically impossible to not jump up and down when you hear it, and it has this line…

Whoa, so your daddy says he knows I don't have any dough,
Well, tell him this is his last chance to get his daughter in a fine romance,
Because the record company, Rosie, just gave me a big advance!

Now, this might not seem that relevant at first. I accepted, ooh, weeks ago, that I’m never going to be a rock star. And I was expecting to hear from a publisher not a record label. But it was this line, so full of exuberance, vindication, and joy that became part of the moment that would make the work worthwhile. It was going to be the soundtrack to jumping off a table, twirling my wife around the kitchen, and throwing my kids up in the air (and catching them). It was going to get the party started.

I imagine every writer has something like this - a scenario that they can play out in the head, of what it’ll be like when they get the news they’re going to be published. It was one of those things you have to think about a lot when you’re stuck with a half-finished novel that looks in urgent need of CPR and you aren’t sure it’s going to pull through. It’s insulation for your hopes when the cold reality of another auto-response agent rejection comes in, or you get told -- yet again -- that you’ve written a funny book, but men don’t read rom-com, and women don’t read rom-coms written by men.

I knew that getting there (and I had to believe I’d get there) would involve being on the wrong end of rejection. I knew it was going to be a case of one step forward, one step back. There were a lot of times when it just felt like all the steps were being taken on a travelator going the wrong way.

But you go through all that to get The Call that means you have a book deal.

But when it happened, I wasn’t anywhere near the CD player, or the kitchen table. Instead, I was stuck in my home office, bleary-eyed and on a day job deadline. Kathryn from Carina UK called, and BAM! Out of nowhere I had a two digital book deal. Someone had mucked about with the travelator, and suddenly I was heading in the right direction. But life didn’t change in that second. Corks didn’t pop. I had a very late night ahead of me at work, I could only text my wife the news as she was in a big meeting, and the boys needed to get their chicken goujons before football practice.

For days I kept going in a kind of trance. I told lots of people and said I was really delighted. But if you’d heard me, I don’t think you’d have thought I’d achieved something I’d been working towards for years, and dreaming about for decades. It was a couple of days later before it really hit me. We were going away for the weekend for my birthday, it was a big one, and one that I’d set as a deadline for something to happen with the novel. Heading out of town and looking for a place to stop for ice-cream, I put on one of our in-car compilation CDs.

The guitar, Hammond organ and sax of the E Street Band blared, and Bruce started calling out his gal, Rosie.

It sank in. The setbacks and the self-doubt, the re-writes and the rejections had all been worth it. Dan Taylor Is Giving Up On Women was going to be published! I’d made my deadline by a day…

I looked out at the road ahead, the windows down in the early spring sunshine, my wife and two sons joining in with the ‘Hey! Hey! Hey!’s to one of my favourite songs.

I’d done it.

The thing with being in a car with the windows open, is it’s much more likely you’ll get something in your eye...

You can follow Neal on twitter @nealdoran and on Facebook.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Miranda Writes 17 - Characters, books and BUMP!

All this year, I am keeping a video diary about writing and publishing my fifth novel, Take A Look At Me Now. This week, as P-Day creeps nearer, I share some exciting news about book launches and YOUR chance to star in a promotional video, plus answer your lovely questions...

Most of you will know by now that Bob and I are over the moon to be expecting our first child in March next year. Consequently, this is Bump's official vlog debut!

I also answer your questions on how to build a picture of your characters, my favourite characters and what I loved most about writing Take A Look At Me Now.

So, without further ado, here's the vlog! If you have a question for next week's vlog, leave a comment below or email me: Enjoy! xx

p.s. This week's YouTube-nominated freeze-frame is entitled, 'Ta-daaaah!'

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Winning The New Rose Prize - Naomi Frisby

The judging for this year's NEW ROSE PRIZE is underway and our judges are hard at work. But what is it like to win? I asked the first year's winner, NAOMI FRISBY, to share her experience of winning New Rose Prize 2011...

My big, pink suitcase was sitting in the hallway, packed in three layers – shoes, summer clothes, books – ready for a week in Spain. I was sitting on the sofa, laptop open, ready to press send.

Earlier in the week, I’d noticed The New Rose Prize listed on an arts e-newsletter I subscribed to. I only had one story short enough to qualify for entry; it’d already gathered a number of rejections from literary magazines but the competition was free and another failure to place wasn’t going to make a lot of difference. I didn’t think I had a hope of getting anywhere – Miranda Dickinson was a romantic fiction writer, why would she be interested in my bleak literary fiction?

A few weeks later, I was standing in our department office, phone in hand, when it vibrated. A new email. ‘Congratulations, you’ve been shortlisted for the New Rose Prize for fiction’. I read the email to the others in the office, rang a friend, emailed the writer who’d been my university tutor, walked the length of the school telling friends in other departments and posted the news on Facebook.

On the day the winner was to be announced, I was also at work. Miranda had scheduled her post for 12pm, at which time 28 Y9s would be sitting in front of me studying a short story themselves. I timed the lesson so they were doing a task at the crucial moment and positioned myself in front of the classroom computer. Refresh. Nothing. Refresh. Nothing. Refresh. Argh! It was me! And right that moment, I couldn’t tell anyone.

As soon as the lesson was over, I ran down the corridor to my then head of department’s classroom and shouted the news at her. I spent my lunch break texting, emailing and updating Facebook. The feedback from friends and family was lovely. But the feedback from people I’d never met was even better.

People who didn’t know me, who were published writers themselves, liked my story. Miranda Dickinson liked my story. Jamie Guiney said he looked forward to reading more of my work in the future. Maybe I really could be a writer.

The main part of the prize was a weekend at one of Ruth Saberton’s writing retreats in gorgeous Polperro, Cornwall. Ruth was enormously generous with both her time and her resources. After writing a number of short stories, I was attempting (and still am!) to write a novel. My plotting wasn’t sharp enough – Ruth talked me through a number of tools she used and gave me copies of them. She also copied a huge folder of documents to help with submitting to agents, including her own letters, synopses and CV. Ruth’s still the only person outside of my university writing workshop to have read my work in progress and her feedback on that was enormously helpful.

What did winning The New Rose Prize mean for me? It meant that other writers believed in me and in turn that meant I believed in myself. I’m still unpublished but it’s given me the confidence to keep going until the day I can remove the ‘un’.

Thanks to Naomi for sharing her story! We will be announcing the winners of this year's New Rose Prize soon - keep watching for the latest news...

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Why I have a problem with Goodreads

Firstly, let me explain. I am posting this because Goodreads use the feed from my blog and repost it on their site. (Even though, if you visit my blog, you will see that all content is copyrighted and needs permission to be reproduced). And I want them to read this. This week I have been horrified by the treatment some authors have received from Goodreads and also by a small proportion of their users. I emphasise SMALL because I believe there are thousands of genuine, lovely readers on Goodreads. I want to make it clear that this is not about you. But someone I care about - a Goodreads user - was hounded by malicious messages this week because she dared to openly disagree with one feature of the site. She was sticking up for me and the abuse she received was so horrendous it made her want to close her own blog.

As authors, we're not supposed to answer back. If we get a bad review, or our books are rated and reviewed even when we're still writing it and nobody could have read the book because it doesn't exist (this happens on Goodreads), or if we receive abusive comments on our blogs and websites, or if people illegally download our work without paying for it, we're not meant to say anything about it. If we do, we're 'bad sports', or we 'only want to see good things about ourselves', or we shouldn't complain because we're 'doing our dream job' and, as such, 'have asked for it'. Now, apparently, our views don't matter to sites who use our books as collateral in order to generate discussions, either. A senior bod at Goodreads recently told a publishers' conference, "Goodreads isn't for authors." Fair enough, but without books (and authors) for the site to discuss, where would Goodreads be?

So, if you're a debut author who has self-published your book and know, without a shadow of a doubt, that nobody can have read it yet, but are faced with one and two-star ratings supposedly from someone who has read your novel, that's apparently OK. You can't answer back - and, when you contact the site displaying the clearly false rating, you're told their users are doing nothing wrong and that 'most users will take the rating with a pinch of salt anyway'. Except that if you're relying on a site like Goodreads to make readers aware of your self-published debut novel (and we're told as writers that the reason we can't complain is that it's good publicity), a low star rating could put off potential readers from even looking at your book. I've heard many stories like this from authors this week. And it's not just debut novelists: Harlan Coben posted this today:

But what angers me, more than all of the above, is that when people dare to openly question the system, they are subjected to malicious, horrific abuse. Abuse that they, like authors, are not supposed to respond to. I won't name the lovely lady who encountered this treatment this week because I don't want any more morons heading to her site. But she is a good friend of mine, an excellent reviewer and a member of Goodreads. She responded after I commented on Twitter that my new book had received a rating in June, when the rater couldn't possibly have read it because, like Harlan Coben, I was still working on it. She was angry at how some people were abusing the site she was proud to be a member of. So she spoke out. And the torrent of abuse she received was so bad it made her want to close the blog that she's worked so hard to create and is so well-respected by readers, publishers and authors alike. This is wrong. Whatever Goodreads say about their users, they cannot condone the merciless hounding of one of their users who dares to raise her head above the parapet - ultimately because she wants to make the site she is a member of a better place.

So, I'm standing up. I will not tolerate people being abused on social media or websites like Goodreads, especially not in my name. This lady did nothing wrong. She spoke up to improve the site she felt was being abused by a tiny, idiotic minority. She spoke up to protect Goodreads, by suggesting one thing the site could change to improve it. She did not ask to receive so much abuse that she was scared to go online. This has to stop. NOW. If you're reading this on Goodreads, do something about it. Raise awareness of the abuse perpetrated in the website's name by a minority of its users. Bullying of any kind is illegal. It should be taken seriously. Because if it is allowed to continue through inaction, it can be devastating. I am not prepared to stand by and allow it by my silence.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Happy Yorkshire Day! By 'eck, tha' knows...

Today is officially Yorkshire Day, so being the proud daughter of Yorkshire parents (Ilkley Moor Ba' t'hat, tha' knows) I thought I'd celebrate with a sneaky giveaway...

Both my parents were born and raised in lovely Ilkley, West Yorkshire, before moving down to the Black Country for Dad's job when they got married. Consequently my sister and I grew up knowing that we could 'play cricket for Yorkshire one day' (allegedly), that Yorkshire was God's Own Country and that it was, officially, the 'right side of the Pennines'. We watched Emmerdale (both Farm and not) because it was filmed not far from Ilkley (where my grandparents and uncle still lived) and drank Yorkshire Tea, largely because the artwork on the box featured the Cow and Calf - the twin rock formations on the top of Ilkley Moor. We visited most holidays and certainly in our early years spent most of our free time in the lovely Dales.

This has fostered a lifelong love of the county in me and is why, when I wrote what became Fairytale of New York, I made sure that Rosie's parcel from home that her brother brings contained Yorkshire Tea, both as a nod to my heritage and also because it's still my favourite. A year after Fairytale of New York was published, the lovely people at Yorkshire Tea found out I'd name-checked them and sent me a box of goodies, including a box of 'Miranda's Tea' (see picture above) which now has pride of place on my desk!

So, if you'll forgive the tenuous link, I'm offering two signed copies of Fairytale of New York as a special Yorkshire Day giveaway... Want to win one? Just leave a comment in the box below!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Miranda Writes 15 - Live from the RNA Conference!

This week I bring you a very special, two-part vlog from this year's RNA Conference in Sheffield...

I had a fantastic time at conference, especially meeting so many brilliant authors. And, never one to shy away from a vlogging opportunity, I was very cheeky and grabbed some exclusive interviews with amazing authors...

In Part One, I talk to Laura E. James, Kate Lace, Brigid Coady, Rowan Coleman and the very mysterious Electra Shepherd!

In Part Two, I meet Tamsyn Murray, Stephanie Cage, Julie Cohen, Kate Harrison and Cally Taylor... So many wonderful writers!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Miranda Writes 14 - Reviews, Copyright and Dream Destinations...

All this year I'm documenting the writing, editing and publishing of Take A Look At Me Now - my fifth novel - giving you a unique, behind-the-scenes look at my life as a writer. This week, I answer your questions on authors and reviews, copyright, dream destinations for books and which of my characters I'd like to hang out with - including Nell from Take A Look At Me Now...

I have four fab questions this week, including one from the lovely Heidi at Cosmochicklitan book blog and two very special questions from the very gorgeous Kirsty at I Heart Books book blog, to celebrate the one-year blogaversary of her blog. Congratulations, lovely lady!

What do authors really think about reviews? Are they a help or a hindrance? And how can reviewers write reviews to bring about better books? I answer these thorny questions and more this week! To ask me a question, simply leave a comment on this post or email me:


p.s. This week's YouTube-nominated freeze-frame is entitled: 'Things that make you go HMMMMM...'

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Miranda Writes 13 - Your Questions Answered!

All this year I'm documenting the writing, editing and publishing of Take A Look At Me Now - my fifth novel - giving you a unique, behind-the-scenes look at my life as a writer. This week, I answer your questions and reveal how you can read exclusive scenes from Take A Look At Me Now months before it is published...

As Take A Look At Me Now is winging its way to the printers, this week I asked for your questions - and you responded with some real crackers! So this week, I'll tell you about product placement and name-dropping in novels, discuss whether writers ever really turn off their critical skills to read a book for fun and let you know my views on whether you should approach an agent with a full manuscript or not.

Do you have a burning question about writing, publishing, my books or anything else? Pop a comment in the box below, or email me: and I'll answer them for you next time.

Enjoy! xx

p.s. This week's YouTube-nominated freeze-frame is entitled, 'What's that coming over the hill...?'

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Life Begins at 22...

When I was 22, I was full of dreams with absolutely no idea how to make them happen.

I had just left university with a good degree and came back home to the joys of endless job applications. It seemed I had the double-whammy of being over-qualified and under-experienced for every job I applied for. I'd gone to university with my dreams of being an actress firmly in place, but after one audition where the casting director said, 'No. Next!' before I'd even spoken and another where I was the only candidate and still didn't get the job, my confidence hit rock bottom and I quickly shelved my career ambitions.

I wasn't writing then. Or at least, I didn't think I was writing - although my diaries I faithfully kept during that time would disagree. I'd been laughed at for writing when I was 18 years old and didn't try to write fiction again for ten years. I wish I'd had the confidence to tell that person to get lost and carry on with what I loved doing.

When I was 22, I'd also just met someone. I was amazed and overwhelmed that anyone would want to be with me and so when he proposed I accepted straight away. I started to have doubts about it throughout the year but I convinced myself it was just pre-wedding jitters. I wish I'd had the confidence to listen to my gut. It would have saved me from nearly eight years of unhappiness and fear.

What message would I send to my 22-year-old self? Be confident in who you are. Don't worry that you don't have all the answers yet: you're not meant to! Fight for what is important to you - whether anyone else thinks it's important or not. And trust your gut reaction. If something feels wrong, it is. And lastly, even the really awful mistakes (that you make in good faith but wish in time you hadn't) can help you to become stronger, more determined to succeed and a fierce celebrator of life.

LIFE BEGINS AT 22 is a blorgy of sharing to celebrate the launch of BROOKLYN GIRLS by Gemma Burgess. Find out more about the book here and read more LIFE BEGINS AT 22 entries here.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Miranda Writes 12 - More lovely San Francisco!

All this year I'm documenting the writing, editing and publishing of Take A Look At Me Now - my fifth novel - giving you a unique, behind-the-scenes look at my life as a writer. Here is the second of the vlogs I made when Bob and I visited San Francisco to research Take A Look At Me Now...

In this episode you'll see Union Square, Chinatown, the Financial District and the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park!


p.s. This week's YouTube-nominated freeze-frame is entitled, 'Hanging out in Union Square'...

Monday, June 3, 2013


Finally I can reveal the title for my fifth novel...

Here it is...

Miranda Writes 11 - Book 5 characters, tenses, rituals and more!

All this year I will be documenting the writing, editing and publishing of my fifth novel, giving you a unique, behind-the-scenes look at my life as a writer. This week, I'll tell you about one of the supporting cast for Book 5 and answer your questions on everything from writing rituals, good vs evil characters and which tense to write in...

With the sun finally appearing, this vlog is in my very sunny garden this week. Apologies for the blustery wind and couple of edits (I got rather carried away nattering to you in the sunshine!)

Thanks so much for your amazing questions, which this week come from the lovely Kirsty at the awesome bookish site Novelicious (click the name to visit), Dot from the equally fabulous Dot Scribbles Blog (click the name to visit), together with twitter lovelies @RosieBBooks and @Rachel_Fusion.

So, without further ado, may I present my very sunny vlog!

p.s. This week's YouTube-nominated freeze-frame is entitled, 'Here comes the sun...'

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Miranda Writes 10 - Agents, book covers and more...

All this year I will be documenting the writing, editing and publishing of my fifth novel, giving you a unique, behind-the-scenes look at my life as a writer. This week, I'm answering your questions on everything from whether to have an agent or not, my new book cover and how long it takes to write a book...

I asked for your questions and you responded with lots of great ones -so here they are! Ever wondered how many copies of a paperback book are printed in an edition? Or how many hours each writing session should be? Or how to take a basic plot outline and make it into a story structure that works? I answer all of these this week. I'm always looking for your questions for my vlogs and asking one couldn't be easier: just leave me a comment on this post, or email me at:


P.s. This week's YouTube-nominated freeze-frame is entitled: 'Catching some well-earned zzzzzzzzs'

Friday, May 17, 2013

Holly Hepburn - Being Brave...

I am delighted to welcome the very lovely HOLLY HEPBURN to Coffee & Roses. Her brand new e-book novella, Cupidity, has become an instant Amazon bestseller and if you haven't read it yet you're missing out! I asked Holly to tell us about her scary decision to self-publish - a decision which has clearly paid off...

Brave. It’s a word you associate with heroic people – like firemen and soldiers and trailblazers. It’s not the kind of word you associate with writers, unless they are Salman Rushdie or E L James.

It’s certainly not a description anyone would normally level at me. I’ve never done anything remotely brave, apart from risk my stomach contents on Nemesis Inferno at Thorpe Park. I’m even scared of spiders.

But when it came to self-publishing my first adult book, I didn’t so much as flinch. Self-publishing has come a long way since the days of murky, sweaty-pawed vanity publishers, who charged you a small fortune for a badly printed, thin papered, unprofessional looking version of your dream. Thanks largely to the rise of e-books, self-publishing has stepped into the light and, boy, has it stolen the show from its papery co-stars. Some people even think it’s the future of publishing. I’m not sure that’s true but it did offer me a way to dip my toe into adult writing.

I’ve always wanted to write a chick-lit novel and although I’ve started writing one, I’ve never managed to finish it – other commitments have got in the way. So it stands at 35,000 words, sad and neglected, waiting for me to come back to it. My agent even sent out the first three chapters to a couple of publishers, and the response was positive, with one gigantic publisher requesting the full manuscript. And that was the problem – I didn’t have it, and lacked the time to finish the novel. So I worked on other things and forgot my chick-lit yearnings. I wrote an opening chapter for the Harry Bowling Prize for New Writing 2012, which reached the final ten. And still I didn’t feel I could finish a book, until the end of 2012, when I had an idea that wouldn’t go away. I don’t have to be a novel, it whispered, I could be a novella...

Once I’d decided to write a novella, self-publishing was a natural home for it. No publisher would be interested in a 20,000 word story from a debut novelist, after all. And I knew several other people who had self-published with great success. So, after a false start or two, I finished the novella and set about creating a cover, one that set out very plainly that this was a chick-lit story. Once it was ready, I uploaded everything to Amazon and Cupidity was born.

It’s absolutely terrifying, putting something out there that hasn’t had the benefit of an expert editor and proof-reader. Of course, you can employ professionals to do this for you and I recommend that you do. I ran out of time to do it with mine but I went over and over it so many times that I hope the mistakes are few and far between (memo to self: ask writer friends who have read it if they spotted any mistakes). The morning I was ready to publish, I felt sick. The project felt much more personal than anything I’d put out there before. What if people hated it? What if they thought it was rubbish? What if – horror of horrors – they didn’t laugh?

I hit publish anyway. That was two weeks ago and it’s been OK. Cupidity was an instant bestseller. In fact, it’s been top of the Amazon bestseller chart ever since. People seem to be reading it. More importantly, they seem to be laughing and it seems to be at the bits I meant them to find funny. I’m thinking about running a local course on how to self-publish, to help other writers to navigate the lumps and bumps of e-book formatting.

So it strikes me that although I’m not an astronaut or a tightrope walker, maybe I am a little bit brave after all.

Thanks Holly! I adored Cupidity and absolutely recommend it! You can follow Holly at her gorgeous website: and on twitter @hollyh_author.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Miranda Writes 9: The New Rose Prize 2013!

All this year I will be documenting the writing, editing and publishing of my fifth novel, giving you a unique, behind-the-scenes look at my life as a writer. This week, I'll tell you all about my writing competition for unpublished writers, The New Rose Prize 2013 and bring you exciting details of my sparkly online writing course, which is coming soon...

2013 will see the return of The New Rose Prize for unpublished writers! I'm extending the competition this year to include separate prizes for Crime, Literary, Romantic Comedy and YA short stories, plus for the first time I'm adding a First Chapter award for the most impressive first chapter of a novel (open genre). I'm so excited to be bringing this competition back after a cracking opening year in 2011, which was won by Naomi Frisby. There is a stellar line-up of judges and awesome prizes. Submissions will open on WEDNESDAY 8th MAY and close on Saturday 31st August, with the shortlist announced on 6th September and winners announced on 20th September.

My judges are: TAMSYN MURRAY for the YA Prize, MEL SHERRATT for the Crime Prize, JAMIE GUINEY for the Literary Fiction Prize and I'll be judging both the Romantic Comedy Prize and the First Chapter Award.

The announcement of the official opening for submissions, plus all the entry details for New Rose Prize 2013 will be published HERE at 1PM on WEDNESDAY 8TH MAY - so make sure you check back then!

I'll tell you more in this week's vlog below - enjoy!

p.s. This week's YouTube-nominated freeze-frame is entitled, 'New Summer Hat'...

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Why books are a cinema just for you...

Today, I sat in a cinema all by myself and watched a film.

This is not a statement that I have no friends or that I'm a rock-star author who can command private screenings. It was just a lovely, serendipitous happening. But it made me think about what writers do for our readers.


I didn't have special permission from the director the view the film alone. I didn't have to pay a King's ransom for the opportunity. I didn't even have to book the experience in advance. I simply turned up at my local multiplex cinema on a Saturday morning and bought a regular ticket for the first show of the day. As it happened, nobody else had the same idea and so, with my £6.20 ticket, I watched the film as the only person in the cinema. Yes, I felt like a celebrity. And yes, I grinned like a complete loon all through the film. It was one of those moments that probably won't ever happen again, but I loved every second of it.

And then, it hit me: as an author every book I write offers each reader an experience like this.

Every author who writes a story for other people to read is inviting those readers into an amazing world which feels as if it was created just for them. The audience of one. It doesn't matter if a book is read by one person or several million, the experience is the same. We offer people the chance to step into their own private cinema of their imagination and project a story into it for them to enjoy. And as each reader's ideas and expectation of the story are different, each mind-movie is different, too. We give readers an indulgent, VIP experience by welcoming them into worlds of our creation, no matter who or where in the world they are.

That's why books are magical.

I mean, where else can you receive that kind of attention for less than a price of a cinema ticket?

Friday, April 26, 2013

Miranda Writes 8 - Edits, winners and inspirations

All this year I will be documenting the writing, editing and publishing of my fifth novel, giving you a unique, behind-the-scenes look at my life as a writer. This week, I announce the final two winners of my #getinvolved challenge, talk about edits and answer your questions!

After a completely crazy couple of weeks, the first edit on Book 5 (still awaiting a title) is done and I've recovered enough to be almost coherent!

So, without further ado, here is this week's vlog - hope you like it!

Enjoy! xx

p.s. This week's YouTube-nominated freeze-frame is entitled, 'Oy! Oo nicked me teef?')

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Caroline Smailes: Why I'd Quite Like To Thank Richard Madeley

I am delighted to welcome fantastic author CAROLINE SMAILES to Coffee and Roses. Her brand new book, The Drowning of Arthur Braxton is published this week. It's already receiving rave reviews and is an absolute must-read. Over to you, Caroline!

Being a student and finding out that I was pregnant seemed like the end of the world.

And even after I had come to terms with the pregnancy, and long after my baby had been born, I was dogged by a sense of failure. In fact, three children, a happy marriage and several house moves later, I was still haunted by that ghost of my abandoned studies.

So, when the opportunity to return to academia presented itself I jumped at the chance to study for a PhD, but this brought with it new, unforeseen problems.

My break from university had left me out of touch with current research and being a mother and wife had changed me. I wasn’t the same na├»ve, young girl who had been excited by the challenge of phonetics and phonology. Yet I continued with my studies, the voice in my head telling me that I would prove wrong all the people who had told me that having my baby would ruin my life.

I was in my second year of PhD study when I miscarried our fourth child. This brought devastation into my daily life. I felt lost and confused. In my sadness and grief I recognised that I wasn’t being true to myself. I finally understood that I’d been too busy trying to please other people and in doing so had forgotten how to please me. It was in amongst the chaos and upset that I turned to writing.  
Writing had been my 'safe place', it had always been my safety net. I had numerous diaries, poems and snippets of captured moments. Yet this time it was different. The writing about my feelings surrounding the miscarriage developed into a story and that story into something longer.

I found myself stealing increasingly larger amounts of 'spare' time to write. My time with the story offered an escape and a chance to explore issues and thoughts. Through writing I was finding myself, I was finally being true to me.

Fast-forward five months to September 2005 and I was eating my lunch in front of the TV. I was watching a repeat of a Richard and Judy programme. The presenters were talking about someone who Richard called 'a nearly woman'. It makes me laugh now, but I can’t even remember who they were talking about. He gushed that this 'nearly woman' often tried new things, but she never finished them.

Richard Madeley’s words hit home and I froze. I was a 'nearly woman'.

I felt that I was ‘nearly’ finishing many things, but not fully committing to any. At that very moment I knew that if I didn’t make some drastic changes I ran the risk of living the rest of my life as a 'nearly woman'.

Within the next two weeks, I dropped out of my PhD study and cancelled my funding. I had made a choice, I was going to be true to myself, I was going to be a writer. Of course, my journey was never going to be all plain sailing. Many people close to me had been shocked at my switch, telling me that I was throwing away my career to follow a ridiculous dream. Academia offered financial security, writing didn’t.

Possibly I’m stubborn or maybe I was driven by a desire to prove people wrong, but I spent every single spare moment writing, late nights, early mornings, in the car, in the bath, giving up my favourite TV shows. Writing simply became an obsession, the characters in the novel occupied my mind and I was determined.

I finished the final draft of my novel a year later, on holiday. We celebrated with champagne in the afternoon and my falling asleep in a chair, fully clothed. Ironically, I guess by finishing the novel I put myself onto a different level of ‘nearly’, as it was suddenly all about how to find an agent and how to submit to publishers. My reaction to this was to start a blog, while trying to figure out the best next step. And it was three weeks later that a publisher stumbled on my blog, read an extract from my novel and asked for the full manuscript. And a week later, when I received my first publishing contract.

But even now, with my fifth novel about to be published, the voice of Richard Madeley still haunts me. It taunts me with the threat of one day becoming a ‘nearly woman’, it makes me determined to keep writing.

One day, I’d quite like to thank Richard Madeley.

Thanks so much to Caroline for such a brilliant post! You can follow Caroline on twitter @Caroline_S, on facebook and visit her website here. Her amazing new book, The Drowning of Arthur Braxton is published by The Friday Project this week and I can’t wait to read it!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Miranda Writes 7 - San Francisco baby!

All this year I will be documenting the writing, editing and publishing of my fifth novel, giving you a unique, behind-the-scenes look at my life as a writer. This week, I bring you the first of my vlogs from my research trip to San Francisco and reveal the winning KOOKY COFFEE SHOP NAME suggestion for this week's #getinvolved challenge!

Bob and I have just returned from San Francisco - what an amazing place! I absolutely fell in love with the city and am having withdrawal symptoms already...

While I was there, I filmed lots of footage to help me recreate the sights, sounds and experiences we had for when I'm writing Book 5. I also kept a blog diary, which you can read at my website. I'll be sharing several videos with you over the next couple of weeks - hope you enjoy them!

Also in this week's vlog I'll reveal the kooky coffee shop name suggestion that is going into the book - keep watching to find out who will get a mention in my acknowledgements.

I'd love to know what you think - also let me know your questions about writing, publishing or anything else that you'd like me to answer next week. Leave me a comment below or email me at


p.s. This week's YouTube-nominated freeze-frame is entitled, 'Check out the shades, y'all...'

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Miranda Writes 6 - A big trip and writer's block tips!

All this year I will be documenting the writing, editing and publishing of my fifth novel, giving you a unique, behind-the-scenes look at my life as a writer. This week, I announce the third of your suggestions for Book 5! Which CUPCAKE FLAVOUR will Nell be making in the book and who will be get a thank you in my acknowledgements? I'm getting ready for San Francisco and also give my top tips for beating the dreaded writer's block...

Your suggestions for a CUPCAKE FLAVOUR for Nell to bake have flooded in this week and I've been like a kid in a cake shop choosing the winner - thanks! Find out in the vlog who will see their suggestion written into the story and their name in the thank-yous!

I'm getting ready for my exciting research trip to San Francisco - and I'm so excited! In my vlog I'll tell you the innovative way I'll be using the trip to create Nell's discovery of the City of Lights. I also give my tips for overcoming writer's block, including a visit to the pub...

So here's the vlog - hope you enjoy it!

p.s. This week's YouTube-nominated freeze-frame is entitled, 'Ooh for the wiiiiings...'!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Miranda Writes 5: Advice for aspiring authors and a big trip!

All this year I will be documenting the writing, editing and publishing of my fifth novel, giving you a unique, behind-the-scenes look at my life as a writer. This week, I announce the third of your suggestions for Book 5! Which piece of VINTAGE CLOTHING will Nell be buying from a store in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district and who will be mentioned in my acknowledgements for suggesting it? Plus, I give my top tips for aspiring authors and tell you where I'm off to very soon...

Well, it's been a bit of crazy week writing-wise, but Book 5 is coming together well. I've been writing more about Annie's neighbourhood diner, where quite a few scenes will be set and some fab supporting cast characters have appeared, each with their own stories. Like Marty and Frankie who dole out their wisdom over enormous pancake stacks, and a pair of star-crossed lovers who don't even realise their stars are anywhere near each other! There's also a a bit of a mystery that intrigues Nell - but when she solves it she's in for So much more than she bargains for...

In this week's vlog I'm also talking about my advice for aspiring authors, sharing how I came to be a published author and my top tips for getting the most out of your writing. I'll even give you a bit of sneaky info on my Writing Inspiration Course that I'll be launching in May this year!

So, ready to discover if your piece of vintage clothing has made it into the book? OK lovelies, sit back, relax and enjoy!

p.s. This week's You-Tube nominated freeze-frame is entitled, 'Half-asleep'...

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