The Susie Orman Schnall Fortieth Birthday Swag Bag Blog Hop

Susie Orman Schnall, author of On Grace (US Link, UK Link), started the fortieth Birthday Swag Bag Blog Hop. You can read the original post HERE. I was invited to take part by Nicky Wells: fabulous blogger, prolific author of romance that rocks and all round lovely lady. Do have a look at Nicky’s swag bag HERE, and be sure to check out her novels as they’re all excellent reads.

So, the idea is I’m going to a friend’s fortieth birthday bash in an exotic island resort. Sun, sea and Sangria (if it happens to be a Spanish island!) here we come. I can’t wait, but in the meantime I need to think of a few of my favourite things to add to the birthday swag bag. OK, here goes:


Oh my goodness, let’s start with a tough one eh? Like most authors, I am a voracious reader – one of my favourite pastimes is to curl up on the sofa with a good book. Another is to sit Hello, Darkness Coverunder a tree on a sunny day with a good book. Another is to snuggle under my duvet with a good book – you can see the pattern emerging here, can’t you? I’ve resisted the temptation to weigh the swag bag down with the complete works of Charles Dickens, or a collection of all the Sherlock Holmes stories, in favour of championing an author whose work I have recently discovered. Being a fan of the thriller genre, I have gone for the excellent HELLO, DARKNESS by Sandra Brown. Here are the purchase links if you’d like to read this wonderful book yourself: UK Link. US Link.


Ah, now this is much easier than the last category. Much as I love my expensive perfumes, there is one beauty product I couldn’t do without, and that the Aussie Three Minute Miracle conditioner. Leave this in for three minutes (the clue’s in the name!) and even my unruly mop of hair turns to silk. It smells divine too.


Mmmm, I’m getting hungry contemplating this one. Again, it’s not a difficult choice. It’s got to be – ta dah – Twiglets. Oh, not just any old Twiglets, but the gorgeous dinky little Twiglets in the festive tubs that only seem to be available during the run up to Christmas. I suppose that’s because they’re festive, duh – and trust me to want one in June. Quite simply, though, these nibbles take snacking to a whole new taste level, so it’s got to be the Christmas tub of Twiglets.

Flogging Molly

Click image for UK purchase link.


WHAT?!!!! I’ve had to choose a favourite book, and now I’ve got to narrow my vast cd/vinyl/MP3 collection down to one? Again the classics spring to mind, as I never tire of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, or Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, but there’s one album that never fails to lift my spirits, and that’s the one I’m including. I first discovered this Irish/American band at Reading Festival a few years ago, and as I love Irish folk music with a rocky edge I fell in love with them immediately. Pour the Guinness; crack open the whiskey; tap those feet – it’s the brilliant Flogging Molly’s Within A Mile of Home.

And finally…

MY CHOICE:wakeboard

This one’s easy: a wakeboard. It might be a bit bulky in the swag bag, but as long as we could find a motorboat, and there’s a fair chance we could on a holiday island, we can get out on the water for hours of endless fun.


Next week the swag bag will be hopping over to two of my favourite bloggers.

DEBBIE YOUNG, an English author, journalist, blogger, book reviewer and book promotion consultant. Her entertaining blog, Debbie Young’s Writing life, can be found HERE along with information about her books. Debbie edits the blog for the excellent Alliance of Independent Authors, an organisation championing the cause of indie and self publishing authors of which I’m proud to be a partner member. I was lucky enough to meet her twice recently: once at Cambridge Lit Fest, then again two days later as she launched the book she’s co-written with Dan Holloway, OPENING UP TO INDIE AUTHORS (US linkUK link).

CATHY BROCKMAN will be taking the blog hop back across the Atlantic for her post. Cathy’s blog, Cathy Brockman Romances, is a thoroughly enjoyable mixture of author interviews, book reviews, sneak peeks at forthcoming book releases including her own ‘Love Bites: First Bite’, free stories, and anecdotes and observations about life in general. Cathy loves books, especially romances, and if there’s a touch of the paranormal or a few fit cowboys thrown into the mix she is in her element.

I follow both ladies’ blogs regularly, and always look forward to their posts. If you’ve enjoyed today’s post, do visit Debbie and Cathy in Blogland next week to see what they’ll be adding to the swag bag.

Fabulous Friday Interview With Romantic Rock Chick Author – Nicky Wells

I’ve certainly got that Friday feeling today. Not only is the weekend upon us, but I am also very excited to welcome rock chick, author of wonderful romances and all round NickyWells_AuthorPhoto - Copylovely lady NICKY WELLS to An Author’s View. There’s so much I want to ask Nicky that I’m going to have a hard job whittling my questions down to a manageable amount, but I’ll do my best. Here goes:

Alison – Hi Nicky, and thank you for taking the time to drop by and get bombarded with questions today. Your books all feature romance and rock music, which is a great combination. What gave you the idea to combine the two? Was Tuscq based on any particular band?

Nicky – Alison, I simply love reading. I love chick lit, and comedy, and also the odd thriller here or there. Plus it’s no secret to you that I love rock music. I have a real thing for rock musicians, I don’t know what it is, but they turn my head. Moreover, I find the whole industry utterly fascinating; I guess you could say I’m drawn to it like a moth to light, LOL. (Okay, make that a butterfly). So when it came to writing, it seemed natural to combine the two. In essence, therefore, I started writing modern romantic fairy tales. We have a prince in the rock star, and your girl-next-door takes Cinderella’s role. A perfect combination, as far as I’m concerned, and it gives me a kick every time I bring the two together…eventually.

Tuscq was heavily influenced by a fusion of Bon Jovi, Europe, FM, Whitesnake, Foreigner… you get the idea. And did you know—Tuscq is now a real band? A group of musicians got together in response to the book and wrote and recorded ‘Love Me Better’, the song featured in Sophie’s Run. How cool is that? I had no idea this was going on until the scratch demo turned up in my inbox….

Alison – Super cool. I love that Tuscq have released a single, and have a copy of it on my iPod. The Rock Star Romance trilogy, SOPHIE’S TURN, SOPHIE’S RUN and SOPHIE’S ENCORE  was written amazingly quickly, particularly considering the intricacy of the stories and the depth of the characters’ personalities. Did you have all the books and character biogs planned out before you started?

NickWellsBanner - Copy

Nicky – Ah. Well. Now, there’s a question. The Trilogy started with a single book, Sophie’s Turn, written under the working title of Full Circle. It was written while I was pregnant with my first child—that would be well over nine years ago—and languished in a drawer for at least seven years. When I published it, it was a bit of an anti-climax, really. A sort of, now what? moment. One of my friends suggested that I should write the next book, especially as Sophie’s story wasn’t finished. It was at that point that I sat down to map out a sequel and, because of the way Sophie’s Turn ends, it wasn’t that easy to forge the way towards the ending I had always envisaged. Enter a second and then a third book.

As for the depth of characters’ personalities—why thank you so much, that means a lot. I would like to think that this stems partly from the fact that I created detailed ‘legends’ for them, from birth right to present day, including likes, dislikes, appearance, relationship history and such like. Plus they started living with me, more or less constantly, once I started writing book 2, and my whole family became used to discussing them as though they were real people. Sounds crazy, perhaps, but it worked for me!

Alison – It doesn’t sound at all crazy to me, as I sit here surrounded by all my imaginary friends. Character development is one of the many pleasures of being an author, but of course there are practicalities too. What options did you consider when you came to publishing your first novel? Did you look at self-publishing as well as traditional publishing?

Nicky – Sophie’s Turn was originally self-published in July of 2011. I had pounded the agent and publisher trail twice over in the years between finishing writing and the discovery of Kindle publishing, and I thought: why not try this? I didn’t ultimately care about ‘making it big’. I didn’t care whether it was ‘the done thing’. All I wanted is to show my baby off to the world, to whoever cared to read it, and I wanted to make them smile and walk away from the story with a happy feeling. That, incidentally, is still why I write. But I digress.

In January 2012, I chanced upon Sapphire Star Publishing on Facebook. I liked their philosophy and outlook, and sent them Sophie’s Turn for their consideration. They came back within two weeks and requested the full, and two weeks after we signed a contract. So, quite unexpectedly, I’d found a home for my books with a small press publisher in the States. Since then, I’ve published books 2 and 3—Sophie’s Run and Sophie’s Encore—through Sapphire Star and greatly enjoyed the experience. The benefits of working with a professional publishing house have been tremendous.


Click image to buy on Amazon UK.

Does that mean I wouldn’t consider self-publishing again? Absolutely not. I think a lot is to be said for the ‘new publishing paradigm’, as it’s sometimes called, which encourages author to place their eggs (books) into as many different baskets (publishing avenues) as possible. A key idea of this new ‘paradigm’ is that an author should hold on completely to all of the rights to at least some of their work, and I find the idea compelling. With that, I elected to self-publish my Christmas novella of last November, and I’m currently considering which ‘basket’ to seek out for my upcoming release, Fallen For Rock. It’s a great time to be an author, that’s for certain!

Alison – It certainly is, especially as more and more readers realise that there are some seriously good authors self publishing. I’ll be considering self publishing for my second novel – if I ever finish writing the thing, that is! No one can tell a new author how to write a book, but there are some things I’ve learned along the way that I wish I’d known at the beginning. What have you learned from your writing, publishing and blogging experiences? Are there particular bits of advice or warnings you’d like to pass on to new authors?

Nicky – Hmmmmm… where to start? Let’s talk about editing. I hear a lot of groans and frustrated mutterings about editing. People seem to dread it, and some folks seem to focus on some sort of perceived criticism in the edits. I think editing is great. It’s a key step in turning a good manuscript into a great one. Your editor is your friend, so even if a page, chapter or whole section of your book is slathered in red, remember that the editor is trying to help you. It’s the editor’s job to streamline the plot, to point out information dumps or inconsistencies, to query assumptions, reactions, or emotions.

Nobody writes a perfect first draft. So when you finished that draft, put it in a drawer for at least a month before looking at it again. If you’re self-publishing, find an editor you like, and if you’re with a publisher, trust that they’ll find you a good match. And then have faith. Get through the edits one piece at a time, and don’t be daunted.

Last but not least, in all of this, remember—it is your book. If there’s something in the edits that you feel is gut-wrenchingly wrong, then (and only then!) leave it. Think it over, maybe tweak it in a different way, but don’t compromise your ideals.

Alison – Obviously as an editor myself I have a vested interest in every author getting their worked properly edited, but bias aside it is something I would always recommend as an author too. It’s really not scary, and I always remind authors for whom I work that I am merely making suggestions, never criticisms. I was lucky to work with an editor through my publisher who was excellent, and I learnt a lot from him. Now I’m sure you’ve got another writing project on the go, Nicky, as I know how much you love to write. Please tell us a bit about your work in progress.

Nicky – My work in progress is titled Fallen For Rock, and it’s due for release on 1 July!! Here’s the blurb:

Love, life, loyalties. Nothing stays the same when Emily gets drawn into the world of rock…

Glossy and sophisticated professional high-flyer Emily has no time for nonsense such as the rock music her ex-boyfriend Nate adored so much. Yet when she unexpectedly comes into possession of VIP tickets—access all areas—for new rock band phenomenon, MonX, she can’t resist the temptation.

The fateful gig turns into more than one night and Emily finds herself strangely drawn to this new and unfamiliar, glittery world. However, only weeks later, MonX and her own universe fall apart, with devastating consequences for all. When MonX lead-singer, Mike, appeals for her help, she reluctantly embraces a new opportunity. But she soon discovers that while she may be a rock chick after all, a groupie she is not… Or is she?

Just exactly where do her loyalties lie? And what direction will her life take now that she’s left behind everything she treasured?

Alison – Oh yes, roll on 1 July! I’m trying to word this next question so as not to give too much away! While reading the Rock Star Romance I desperately wanted sexy singer Dan and loveable lead character Sophie to get together. Did you ever find it difficult to write about times when they were with other partners, especially when one found true love elsewhere?

Nicky – The quick answer to this one is: no. LOL! I knew where how it was all going to end, ultimately. Therefore, I could allow myself to live the moment with Sophie completely and utterly, letting myself get into her head and feeling her feelings. Now, Dan obviously has a tougher time with this, and it was conveying his emotion that proved a challenge as I was writing from Sophie’s point of view in the first person throughout. Yet I wanted the reader to know just how Dan felt while Sophie was taking… shall we say, a little detour. Therefore I took the somewhat unorthodox step of breaking with the first person point of view half way through the book—at a fitting moment—for a few chapters. While I was concerned that it might confuse readers, I’ve had nothing but positive feedback about this, and I’m thrilled I went with my instinct here….

Alison – It certainly worked for me; I really felt Dan’s pain. The only thing I found difficult was stopping myself from feeling resentment towards the – er – ‘little detour’, but it wasn’t long before I realised this was what was right for Sophie. In true rock chick style you’ve been living the rock dream yourself recently – interviewing rock bands, taking part in photo shoots, and now, as we mentioned earlier, Tuscq and Sophie have released their beautiful rock ballad ‘Love Me Better’. How exciting is it seeing your band come to life? How did you feel the first time you heard the single?

Nicky – OMG, Alison—it’s magical. I cried! When that scratch demo turned up in my inbox for the first time, it was just a female voice and a piano backing, but I could tell the song would be AWESOME and I cried. I was so stunned—I absolutely hadn’t expected this. It was like somebody literally made a dream come true.

For the next four months or so, every now and then I’d get an email with an updated version, and eventually, the male singer (whose name, by fluke, is also Dan—well, Daniel, really, but he’s Dan to me!) came on board. It was amazing to witness the process of making a single from (almost) start to finish. Alan Glass produced the song in London, and I had a star-struck moment of, really? Alan Glass? You have to understand that Alan has worked with the likes of Earth, Wind and Fire and Aretha Franklin… and then he agreed to work with Tuscq? Wow. Double wow. I’m still speechless, actually, although given how much I just warbled on about this, that seems hard to believe!

Alison – I’ve come out in goosebumps just imagining it all. Wow indeed! Let’s talk promotion: are there more radio appearances in the pipeline for you? Will Tuscq get involved with guest appearances, or perhaps even a tour?

Nicky – I do love my radio appearances, don’t I? I don’t have a firm schedule here apart from my monthly turn on the Midweek Drive show on Siren 107.3 FM. Sometimes, interviews seem to happen quite a lot, and then there’ll be nothing for a few weeks or months.

Regarding promoting my books, I have to make a small confession. On the whole, I don’t really promote them aggressively anymore. Of course, I’ll share and tweet reviews that roll in, or special appearances of my good self or promotions, and you can watch me make a Big Noise for launch day or special occasions. But on a day to day basis, I got tired of shouting about my books. It went against my very nature to do so. So now, I try to hang out on Twitter and Facebook whenever I can to chat with people and spread some laughter. Of course, my Facebook and Twitter accounts and my blog clearly identify me as an author and have pictures of my books, and sometimes sales links even. But really, I just try to be out there as much as I can in hopes that when a book launch comes along, the people I have been meeting might show interest and help me make a song and dance then—and only then.

Alison – It can get exhausting relentlessly plugging your books can’t it, especially in a world where every author you meet is doing the same. It’s much more fun chatting and swapping anecdotes on social media! I was enchanted by the car free island in the German North Sea where Sophie seeks refuge when her life threatens to fall apart in Sophie’s Run. I know you grew up in Germany, so is this island a place you have visited?

Nicky – Great question. Ironically, the answer to that question is no—but fear not, I have been to several of the islands in that corner of the world, so I know the culture and ways and lay of the land from first-hand experience. It just so happens that I wanted Sophie to visit one of the car-free islands that I hadn’t been to!

In order to complement my own knowledge of the island group with Langeoog-specific knowledge, I had a good long chat and email exchange with the tourist board; I read up on the island’s history; at the time of writing, I had an exact tide timetable to hand as well as the ferry time table; I spent hours on YouTube watching the videos people have posted about their stay on the island; and I scrutinised pretty much every inch of the island via Google Earth.

The tea shop is an invention, although the food and drink aren’t, and I would hazard a guess that there is something very similar to Greetje’s tea shop somewhere on the island. The row of cottages where Sophie lives is real, although I took the liberty of moving it along the dune road slightly and modifying the layout. Artistic license, right? I’m glad you enjoyed this section; it’s one of my favourites in the Trilogy and also a long-cherished personal daydream of mine.

Alison – To finish off nicely, do you have any writing or rock music related anecdotes you’d like to share?

Nicky – Well. You know Sophie’s attitude of ‘act as if you belong’ when she tries to get backstage that first time in Sophie’s Turn? That’s something I borrowed from personal experience. A long time ago, when I saw UK rock band FM for the first time in Germany, I was fortunate enough to blag an invitation to hang out backstage. Over beers, I wangled an invitation to a second gig a little later in the week. I didn’t pursue this at first. But a day or so later, I thought…why the heck not? What have I got to lose? So I made my way to the venue, boyfriend in tow, with no clear plan what we would do when we got there. The concert was sold out, we didn’t have a ticket or a backstage pass, and it was raining. My boyfriend was having kittens. Me, I was determined to get in.

So, much like Sophie does in Edinburgh, I ignored the crowd. I’d done enough scouting out of backstage entrances to figure that I had to go round the back somewhere. I climbed over a couple of barriers; casually, you know, without hurry and in a quite obvious manner, like I had every right to do so. I still don’t know what came over me that night, but it worked. Boyfriend wasn’t so keen, but it was either follow suit or stay outside. He followed.

Unbelievably, nobody challenged us, and there we were, on the other side of the fence with access to the back of the venue, and, lo and behold, there were tour buses and trucks and what have you. I could hear the sound check going on too. I tried to get my bearings and eventually figured out which door would lead into the auditorium. I knocked (ring any bells?) and a bouncer answered, so I told him we’d been invited by the band. He went off to fetch someone to verify that we were bona fide invitees (ring more bells?) and one of the roadies came out to take a look-see, recognised us and… that was that. We were in. (I hasten to add that this is where the similarities end! The events that follow on from this moment in Sophie’s Turn are all the product of my overactive imagination!)

Alison – That’s absolutely brilliant Nicky, thank you so much for chatting to me today. Finally, here’s a bit about Nicky and her work in her own words:

About Nicky Wells: Romance that Rocks Your World!

Hi! I’m Nicky Wells, your ultimate rock chick author. Signed to US Publisher, Sapphire Star Publishing, I write Romance That Rocks Your World, featuring the rock star and the girl next door.

My books offer glitzy, glamorous contemporary romance with a rock theme ~ imagine Bridget Jones ROCKS Notting Hill! If you’ve ever had a crush on any kind of celebrity ~ rock, pop, movie or other ~ you’ll connect with my heroes and my leading ladies!

Like my first leading lady, Sophie, I love listening to rock music, dancing, and eating lobsters. When I’m not writing, I’m a wife, mother, occasional knitter, and regular contributor to The Midweek Drive show on Lincoln’s Siren 107.3 FM. Rock on!

My books: Sophie’s Turn | Sophie’s Run | Sophie’s Encore | Spirits of Christmas

Join me: Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Romantic Novelists’ Association | Sapphire Star Publishing | Amazon | Goodreads | Pinterest

Did you know? There’s a single out now by ‘my’ rock band Tuscq come to life! “Love Me Better” is available for download from Amazon, iTunes and many other places.

The Countdown Escalates

22 August 2013

Regular visitors to ‘An Author’s View’ may have noticed that no author interview has appeared this week. The interviews will return in September as there are plenty more fabulous authors happy to share their stories with us, but for now I would like to dedicate ‘An Authors View’ solely to my very soon to be published début novel, DORY’S AVENGERS.

One week today Dory’s will be officially published and my lifelong dream will have come true. I’ve always enjoyed storytelling, and I’ve always loved books. Now the two have come together, and it goes without saying that I’m excited. I’m also nervous; the butterflies have been churning away in my stomach for a couple of weeks now, but that’s all part of the thrill. At the forthcoming Book WaterstonesLaunch in the Cambridge branch of Waterstones on 29 August I’ll be signing copies of my beautiful book, making a speech, reading from DORY’S AVENGERS…

Yes, I’ll be the centre of attention. Bring it on! I can’t wait.

Whatever happens after the book launch will be a huge adventure as I continue my steep learning curve. Thanks to fellow authors, who have been unfailingly supportive of my writing, I know a lot of hard work awaits me as I continue to keep the interest in DORY’S AVENGERS alive with promotional events, more book signings, and, of course, my twin loves of blogging and networking. Somewhere along the way I would like to continue writing ‘New Book’, as well as acquiring a good reputation as an editor. I need to keep the wolf from the door somehow, and believe me, he’s sharpening his teeth even as I type! I’m looking forward to it, with a little bit of trepidation. No one ever ventured into the unknown without a few nerves, but I’ll be working for something about which I am passionate: my writing. To have been given the opportunity to follow my passion is a wonderful gift, a gift for which I will be eternally grateful.

The future certainly looks very exciting, and it will all kick off in a week’s time. As the countdown escalates I have decided to shamelessly copy an idea from Nicky Wells: blogger extraordinaire, author of the fabulous SOPHIE’S TURN, SOPHIE’S RUN and soon to be published SOPHIE’S ENCORE, and supportive friend. Like me, Nicky is a music fan, and every Monday she adds some music to her blog. Music has always been a source of inspiration for me, so for the next seven days I will share a song each day as a soundtrack for DORY’S AVENGERS.

I hope you will enjoy Dory’s Music, and the accompanying blogs.