The Seagull’s Laughter by Holly Bidgood

I am delighted that the young, British author Holly Bidgood has agreed to join me today. Holly is celebrating her second novel with Wild Pressed Books, The Seagull’s Laughter, with a book tour with Love Book Tours.

The Blurb

Born in 1973 to a Greenlandic mother and an English-Explorer father, Malik has always been something of a misfit. He has one black eye and one blue. As a child his mother’s people refused to touch him and now his own baby daughter’s family feel the same way.

On his own now, Malik’s only companion is a guiding spirit no-one else can see, but one day a white man with a nose like a beak and a shadow like a seagull appears on his doorstep and invites him to England.

Martha has had enough of living with domestic abuse. She compares bruises with her friend Neil, who regularly suffers homophobic attacks. With Martha’s baby, they go on the run to Shetland, where Martha has happy childhood memories of summers spent with her aunt.

On their way up north in a camper van, they come across a dejected Malik, alone again after a brief reconciliation with his father’s family.

They arrive safely together in the Shetland Isles, but Malik still needs answers to the identity of the beak-nosed man who casts a shadow over his life, and must now embark on a further journey of his own.

The Seagull’s Laughter is an immersive read, intertwined with nature and the magic of Greenlandic folk tales.

Holly is 24 years old. She moved to Hull after graduating from UCL with a degree in Scandinavian languages. She has been writing since a very young age and as well as her novel, she regularly writes folk and fairytale-like short stories. Holly considers landscape, wilderness and interaction with the elements to be the driving force behind her writing, a passion which has taken her to Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands. Conceived during a visit to the Faroe Islands, her debut literary novel looks at friendship, loss and social change. It is set in the bleak wilderness of those islands during the second world war.

Excerpt from The Seagull’s Laughter

From the corner of my eye I noticed a tiny hand reaching for the basket of coals, and gently I moved the baby’s fingers away before she could blacken them with soot. I spoke to her soothingly in my own language, for a moment not realising that she would not understand. She seemed to enjoy the sounds I was making, watching the movement of my lips in fascination with round, bright eyes. I said the same thing again, and then she looked up at me, serious for a moment, before a wide smile spread across her cheeks and she waved the spoon above her head as though applauding my efforts. I could not help but laugh. She looked over to her mother – busy at the cooker – to share her enjoyment. The young woman laughed too, caught my eyes, and for one long second I felt as though the world had stopped in its tracks and the weight of it had been lifted from my shoulders. Her eyes were blue, the deep blue of the ocean, creased at the edges above cheekbones dotted with freckles and lips that seemed to wear the perpetual shape of a smile. Was it the spreading warmth of the fire that had brought a new pink to her cheeks?

I heard the slamming of a door opening with too much force – breaking the spell. Neil blundered into the room, clutching a jumper in one hand, his eyes turned towards the floor as though in search of something.

‘Martha, have you seen my socks?’ In the same breath he caught sight of me, as I knelt still on the floor surrounded by cushions. ‘Oh, morning, Malik. Sleep well?’ He smiled encouragingly, perhaps to show that he did not mind my having fallen to sleep in the midst of the hospitality he had shown me the previous evening.

I nodded mutely.

‘Cat still got your tongue, eh? Good, good. Martha! My socks?’ He strode over to the young woman, who was rolling her eyes at him, spoon in hand by the cooker.

‘I don’t know, Neil, why don’t you just keep them on your feet?’

I noticed the toe of a woollen sock peeping out from beneath a flower-patterned cushion, which I moved to the side and discovered the other one. I stood up, and clutching the socks in one hand I lifted the baby up into my arms, away from the stove.

‘Thanks, man,’ said Neil, grinning as I handed him his socks. The baby reached out her arms towards her mother, standing beside Neil, who took her from me almost apologetically. I mumbled something about the fire, eyes averted, then turned and ducked through the doorway and out into the fresh air.

The rain fell lightly, skittered across the water in thin curtains driven by the mounting wind. I took off my jumper and rolled my shirt sleeves up to my elbows, seeking the coolness of air on my bare skin, a call back to life from the drowsiness of the night and the numbness of my wearied soul. I gulped down the clear air, trying to swallow the lump in my throat: the longing for Eqingaleq and his guidance. I was truly lost now, captured within an infinite moment, unable to move forwards, cut off from everything that I had known before.

I stepped onto the bank of the canal. Felt the reassurance of solid earth beneath my bare feet. I sank to the ground where Neil and I had sat the evening before. I kept myself still, listening. I imagined I could feel the vibrations of the rain upon the earth, the relentless, rhythmical pounding of the shaman’s drum as he journeyed to the Spirit world. But it was so distant now, I could not discern the beat. I had journeyed too far.

The Tale of the Depressed Man by Mason Bushell

I am always thrilled to find an author new to me whose work I enjoy. It is a real treat. Mason Bushell is an English author from Norwich who writes The Workhouse Mysteries. As those of you who read my blog will know, my favourite genre is crime thrillers and mystery novels so I recently treated myself to the first novel in the series, The Tale of the Depressed Man.

The main protagonist is Holly Ward who works as waitress and manageress of her mother’s restaurant The Workhouse. However, Holly’s grandfather is a police detective and his interest in solving mysteries and putting things right has clearly passed to Holly too. This book had a really interesting storyline that used the backdrop of a restaurant as the location for the story: this really works. 

The opening chapter of The Tale of The Depressed Man was very entertaining and a brilliant way to start the book. The story goes straight into a bank robbery that goes wrong and a high speed car chase where the getaway driver gets more than he bargained for. Shortly after this Holly notices a man sitting at the bar in the restaurant looking really miserable. She tries to cheer him up and find out the reason for his sadness and the next thing she knows, she and her friends and family are involved in the search for the loot from the bank robbery and then a hostage situation.

There are some really strong characters in The Tale of The Depressed Man. I particularly liked Holly and her grandfather. I was kept entertained from start to finish – with a race against time to save a hostage situation, this was a clean, easy to follow plot that I’m sure crime readers young and old will enjoy. The Tale of The Depressed Man is an excellent crossover novel: it would benefit from additional editing but that did not spoil my enjoyement of the book and I look forward to the next story in the series.

Val Penny

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

I had A Man Called Ove by the Swedish author, Fredrik Backman, in my TBR (to be read) list for too long. However, when it became book of the month for my book group, the book suddenly became top of my list.

Ove is a quiet, practical, grumpy man who married a vivacious, outgoing woman who appreciated his qualities. Ove comes off at first as such an officious, stubborn busybody, you want to laugh at him and not with him. He is such a miserly haggler. The words “batteries not included” can put him in a rage. Anyone who doesn’t drive a Saab is an idiot. He is certainly not afraid of expressing his views on any subject, particularly people who break rules.

As the book progresses, the reader comes to see his bark has no bite, and his hunger to be needed is the grace in his core. His wife, Sonya, liked to talk, about books she loved or the delinquent kids she taught, and he liked to listen to her. He got sustenance from building her things, like bookshelves, or, when she became wheelchair bound after a tragic accident, constructing her an accessible kitchen or a ramp at her school.

Ove’s long grief over losing Sonja has recently been compounded by the feeling of uselessness he has after being forced into an early retirement. He is suicidally depressed, but life keeps intruding. He may snarl at a homeless cat ora young person or even at interruptions from his irritating neighbors, but he doesn’t resist much taking the cat in or helping these neighbours with their problems.  Ove thinks he just wants to say goodbye to life, but beginning to care about one thing leads to more and more threads that bind. I have a special place in my heart for writers who can make you laugh one moment and make you cry the next and Backman does just that. A Man Called Ove reads more like a series of short stories than a novel. I found A Man Called Ove most enjoyable and easy to read.

About the Author

Fredrik Backman is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove (to be a major motion picture starring Tom Hanks), My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, Britt-Marie Was Here, Beartown, Us Against You, and two novellas, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer and The Deal of a Lifetime. Things My Son Needs to Know About the World, his first work of non-fiction, will be released in the US in May 2019. His books are published in more than forty countries. He lives in Stockholm, Sweden, with his wife and two children. Connect with him on Twitter @BackmanLand or on Instagram @backmansk.

Val Penny

Shopping Cart Annie by Cordy Fitzgerald

Shopping Cart Annie was given to me by a dear friend who knows the author personally, so I very much hoped I would enjoy the novel by Cordy Fitzgerald. The book is set partly in Colorado and partly in Afghanistan. It is a complex mystery which crosses continents and decades and deserves concentration and consideration.

The main protagonist is a retired schoolteacher and amateur sleuth, Dr. Inez Buchanan. This character is particularly well drawn so the reader knows her strengths and weaknesses and understands why she reacts as she does.

Inez receives a visit from her neighbor, Dolly David, which she considers strange as they do not know each other, however, Dolly goes to Inez because she needs her help. Years ago, Dolly’s granddaughter, Kadija Campbell, went missing from her college campus in Fort Collins, Colorado. The police believed that Kadija was dead, but Dolly has always held out hope that she is alive. A mysterious phone call reinforces her belief that Kadija is alive and hints that she is being held in Afghanistan.

Inez has great sympathy for Dolly but doubts she can do anything to help. Then, Dolly dies in a mysterious accident and leaves Inez as the executor of her estate. Dolly was worth billions of dollars, and Inez knows that her last wish would be for Inez to find Kadija at any cost.

Inez’s friend and FBI contact, Trace Mitchell, believes Kadija may be working as a spy in a terrorist cell. In the adventure that follows, Inez connects Kadija’s disappearance with strange happenings in the Middle East. There are powerful people who know more about the young woman than they are letting on, and Inez must discover the truth.

If you enjoy an interesting mystery with lively characters and complicated twists, Shopping Cart Annie is the book for you. Iyt would be an excellent book group novel as it would generate active discussion.

About the Author by the Author

I live in Colorado and feel fortunate to have both my grown sons live nearby. My first thirty years were spent in Washington, D.C. where relatives and family friends customarily had their own conspiracy theory about what really happens in government. As an only child, I read a lot and by high school, wanted to become a spy for CIA. I never applied, but instead read loads of book on the topic. With a Ph.D. in Education Administration, I’ve gained another set of tools to address my passion for investigative research and espionage.

Admittedly, Cordy Fitzgerald is a pen name. It belonged to my grandmother who died a few days after giving birth to my mother. I can’t tell from my mother’s birth certificate whether she was married at the time of the birth or not. But what is evident through the testimony of relatives now dead is that they were all dirt poor people in Culpepper, Virginia. I use the name now in a feeble but a most reverent attempt to add a few years of life to hers, albeit on the Internet.

Val Penny

Finding Nina by Sue Barnard

I recently treated myself to a pile of books by a group of my favourite authors amongst those books was the most recent novel by Sue Barnard, Finding Nina.

Finding Nina is a relatively short book, but that is not a critism. The novel deals with the life of a woman, given up for adoption and explores the emotions of her birth mother, her adotive mother and her own emotions as she matures. I find the raw and realistic way the emotions in this novel are discussed. The author really gets into the heads of the different characters.

I found the book extremely interesting. So much so that I read it in one sitting. I have already recommended it to several bookish friends and I do so again now.

Sue Barnard is a British novelist, editor and award-winning poet. She was born in North Wales but has spent most of her life in and around Manchester. After graduating from Durham University, where she studied French and Italian, Sue got married then had a variety of office jobs before becoming a full-time parent. If she had her way, the phrase “non-working mother” would be banned from the English language. Sue has a mind which is sufficiently warped as to be capable of compiling questions for BBC Radio 4’s fiendishly difficult “Round Britain Quiz”. This once caused one of her sons to describe her as “professionally weird.” The label has stuck. In addition to working as an editor for Crooked Cat Publishing, Sue is the author of four novels: The Ghostly Father, Nice Girls Don’t, The Unkindest Cut of All and Never on Saturday. She is also very interested in Family History. Her own background is far stranger than any work of fiction; she’d write a book about it if she thought anybody would believe her. Sue lives in Cheshire, UK, with her extremely patient husband and a large collection of unfinished scribblings.

Finding Nina is an original novel, published by Crooked Cat Books, where the characters are divinely shared and explored with the reader.

Val Penny

The Refuge by Jo Fenton

I have just finished the new novel by Jo Fenton, The Refuge, published by Crooked Cat Books. The novel is a sequel to her debut novel, The Brotherhood which is also reviewed on this site at .

The Refuge commences at the point where the Abbey has passed from the Brotherhood to Mark and Mel. The couple have also just welcomed their baby, Emma. They are determined that something good will come from the building and establish a refuge for those still living there as well as for abused women. Predictably, things do not go as smoothly as they had hoped.

The book explores the pressures the arrival of a new baby has on the lives of the parents. Jess, Mel’s sister, comes back into their lives and, for me, it is here that the most compelling scenes of The Refuge take place. The emotions that are explored within Jess, Mel, Mark and other characters are sensitively and realistically drawn. The exploration of the minds of the characters raises this novel from good to truly gripping.

I highly recommend The Refuge and hope the author will write further novels based around these fascinating characters.

Val Penny

When Your Characters Take Over by guest author Sue Barnard

I am delighted that my friend and fellow author has made time to visit my blog today and discuss the characters in her novels. I often hear my characters talking to me, and I’m glad I’m not alone in that. Thank you for this interesting article, Sue.

Nina’s story really began back in 2012, although at the time I had no idea about that. It stemmed from a conversation in my second novel, Nice Girls Don’t, in which mention was made of a baby girl, born in secret during World War Two, and given up for adoption. This baby girl was not referred to again in Nice Girls Don’t, but I realised afterwards that her existence left open the possibility of another story. What could have happened to her?

The baby was Nina, born in mid-November 1943, when World War Two was still at its height. Her mother Alice was seventeen and unmarried, and although the war had changed many things, the prevailing post-Victorian attitude to illegitimacy was not one of them. So one month later, just before Christmas 1943, Nina was handed over to a childless couple who formally adopted her and changed her name to Stella.

There have been occasions when I’ve stared at the words on my computer screen without any recollection of having written them, and I’ve been forced to the conclusion that the characters themselves have been telling me what to write. One such occasion was in Nice Girls Don’t, when one of the characters said something which went on to change the whole course of the story. And it happened again in Finding Nina. The final words of the scene which follows (just after Alice has given her baby away) must have come directly from Alice’s heart. On reading them I found myself in floods of tears, and for a long time afterwards I couldn’t bear to write any more.

14th December 1943

After forcing down a cup of dishwatery NAAFI tea, Alice boarded the bus for the grim journey back to the mother-and-baby home. Her mind was numb, and her heart felt colder than the chilly December afternoon. She neither knew nor cared if any of the other passengers were staring at her. Normally, she would have gone to any lengths to disguise the fact that she’d been crying – her mother had always drummed into her that crying in public was a sign of not coping. But today, such draconian diktats felt both pathetic and cruel.

The home’s minimalist Christmas decorations, hand-made by the residents from whatever scraps and oddments they could salvage, seemed trite and inappropriate. Avoiding the pitying glances of anyone she passed in the hallway, Alice trudged up the stairs to her room, picked up the small utility blanket from the cot beside her bed and held it next to her face. It still smelled of Nina.

Clutching the precious cloth, she slumped on to her hard bed. She had no idea how long she sat there, staring into space with no coherent thoughts, when eventually she was aroused from her stupor by a knock on her bedroom door. Looking up, she noticed for the first time that she was sitting in the dark.

“Alice? Are you all right? Can I come in?”

“Yes,” she answered, in a dull monotone.

The door creaked open to reveal the matron. Betty was a kindly person of indeterminate age, who seemed to mother all the girls and women in her charge, regardless of age or circumstance. She was carrying a tray bearing a teapot covered with a shabby tea-cosy, together with a milk jug, a sugar basin, and two cups and saucers. She kicked the door closed behind her, crossed the room in three strides and set the tray down on the small plain bedside table, before closing the curtains and switching on the light.

“What time is it?”

“Ten to five. I’ve brought you some tea. Put plenty of sugar in it if you want.”

Alice blinked. “But what about the rationing?”

Betty sat down on the bed and patted Alice’s hand, which was still clutching Nina’s blanket.

“Don’t worry about that. You need it today. It’s been brewing for about five minutes, so it should be good and strong by now.” She picked up the teapot and began to pour.

Alice was suddenly reminded of the phrase Shall I be Mother? This morning, she herself had been a mother. What was she now?


FINDING NINAis already available for pre-order. The book is officially released on 3 June 2019, when there will be an online launch party on Facebook, with guests, competitions and giveaways. To add yourself to the guest list, click here then select “Going”. See you there!


1943: A broken-hearted teenager gives birth in secret. Her soldier sweetheart has disappeared, and she reluctantly gives up her daughter for adoption.

1960: A girl discovers a dark family secret, but it is swiftly brushed back under the carpet. Conventions must be adhered to.

1982: A young woman learns of the existence of a secret cousin. She yearns to find her long-lost relative, but is held back by legal constraints. Life goes on.

2004: Everything changes…


Sue Barnard is a British novelist, editor and award-winning poet who was born in North Wales some time during the last millennium. She speaks French like a Belgian, German like a schoolgirl, and Italian and Portuguese like an Englishwoman abroad. She now lives in Cheshire, UK, with her extremely patient husband and a large collection of unfinished scribblings.

Her mind is so warped that she has appeared on BBC TV’s Only Connect quiz show, and she has also compiled questions for BBC Radio 4’s fiendishly difficult Round Britain Quiz. This once caused one of her sons to describe her as “professionally weird.” The label has stuck.

Sue’s own family background is far stranger than any work of fiction. She would write a book about it if she thought anybody would believe her.

Finding Nina, which is her sixth novel, is not that book.

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The Ghostly FatherNice Girls Don’tThe Unkindest Cut of AllNever on Saturday  Heathcliff 

The Rose of Sebastopol by Katharine McMahon

The Rose of Sebastopol by Katharine McMahon is one of those books that had been on my radar for some time, so when it was book of the month at my book group recently, I was delighted.

The Rose of Sebastopol is a story set in the mid nineteenth century at the time of the Crimean War. It tells the story of Mariella and Rosa who are cousins and friends from childhood.

In 1855 Rosa Barr who is a headstrong young woman, travels to the Crimea, against the wishes of her family. She is determined to work as a nurse bit she does not return.

Three people have been intimately connected with her. One, her step- brother, Max Stupeley, a soldier and adventurer; the second a Doctor Henry Thelwell, who is Mariella’s fiance. Henry is traumatized by the war, and harbour a secret passion for Rosa, and the third is Mariella herself. Mariella must now uncover the truth about what has happened to the missing nurse.

Mariella’s journey takes her from the domestic quiet of London to the foothills of Italy where she finds Henry seriously ill and she is devastated when she finds out about his infatuation with Rosa. She then travels on to the ravaged Russian landscape of the Crimea, where she struggles to discover what has happened to her captivating cousin and uncover the secrets of those who loved her.

Val Penny

The Suspects by Katharine Johnson

Any regular readers of my blog will know that Katharine Johnson is one of my favourite authors. Her most recent novel, The Suspects, is certainly one of my favourite books of 2019. (The Secret was one of my favourite books of 2018 – Ms Johnson is such a fine writer.)

The new book tells the story of a group of young people who have just finished their university degrees. They are starting out on their professional futures and decide to buy a house together so that they get a foot on the property ladder as soon as they can. Each of the characters is very different and flawed with plenty to hide. I really liked that we were introduced to them individually. You got to delve into their story before you made assumptions.

When they throw a New Year Party and everybody seems to drink too much and over indulge. It is only after the party that they find a corpse. Panic sets in becausethey are worried that they will become the main suspects. None of the five trusts the police so they discuss their choices. They decide on a plan but this results in secrets and lies twists and turns.

I think The Suspects would be an excellent book group read. It is enthralling and would make for lots of discussion. If you enjoy your murder mystery with a psychological thriller twist, complex characters, and cleverly plots then you will not want to miss out on The Suspects.

Katharine Johnson is the author of gripping psychological and historical suspense stories set in the UK and Italy. It’s always the whydunit that intrigues her most. Katharine’s characters are flawed but not evil – they’re ordinary people who through a bad decision find themselves in nightmarish situations. Born in Bristol, she currently lives in Berkshire. As a journalist she’s written for a variety of magazines, mostly about home and lifestyle. She has a passion for crime novels. old buildings and all things Italian (except tiramisu.) When not writing you’ll often find her drinking coffee, exploring cities, restoring her house in Italy or out walking with her partner in crime-writing, Monty the spaniel, while thinking up plots. She blogs about books and writing and loves to chat so catch up with her on her blog, Katy’s Writing Coffee Shop, Facebook page/instagram/pinterest @katharinejohnsonauthor, and twitter @kjohnsonwrites
Read her books free on Kindle Unlimited.

Val Penny

Playing both Sides by guest author Jane Risdon

I am delighted to welcome my good friend and fellow author, Jane Risdon to the blog today to discuss the challenges of getting books published and the tasks required when self-publishing. I am thrilled to have Jane share her knowledge. Thank you for brining such an interesting article to my blog.

My first piece of published writing was back in the days when I was still working in the international music business and I ventured to write an article about song-writing, recording, and ‘pitching’ to record companies and music publishers: ’So you think you want a Record Deal,’ I think it was called.

I managed recording artists, song-writers, record producers, and even a few actors until I began writing some ten years ago and being married to a professional musician who’d never received any guidance or advice when he was first in the business as a musician, I felt the need to get these – mostly – young hopefuls thinking about the business they were so desperate to join.

The article appeared in an industry magazine and completely blew the whistle on what was (then) believed to be required to obtain a manager, recording contract, and a publishing contract, and it got a lot of musicians re-thinking their approach to the ‘business’ of music. The clue is the word business – over-looked in favour of the be-all and end-all to a musician: the music.

At that time musicians were working hard on their live shows and gathering a following but the actual ‘business’ of their chosen profession often passed them by; they were in it for the music and the business side – the men in grey suits mostly, back then – did whatever they did at some point to release records yet many musicians hadn’t a clue what, and anyway if they worked hard, got their following and made loads of demo’s (tapes and CD’s) and sent them out, someone would ‘discover’ them. And of course, musicians and artistes were sometimes ‘discovered’ because A&R (Artiste and Repertoire) guys still went to gigs to search for talent. But they were few and far between and other musicians often wondered why the hell so-and-so got a deal when they had a bigger following and better material. Good question.

I’ll not bore you with the details of what was in my article and what my advice to aspiring recording artists and song-writers was. The reason I mention it is two-fold: one, apart from school essays that was my first memorable foray into being a published writer – well, sort of. And two, ultimately the way the record business was run back in the late 1980s, early 1990s, led to the formation of hundreds of independent record companies and musicians recording and producing product at home – technology was suddenly changing everything.

You can see where I am going with this, I am sure, in relation to writing and being published.

When I began writing short stories, flash fiction, and my many novels – I still have loads of these awaiting the light of day – I never really considered being published. I was a bit like the musicians who did what they did for love and not for glory and if it happened (somehow) well, that would’ve been cool. I’d always wanted to write since childhood. I loved reading and imagined one day I’d have a book of my own. But that is all it was, something I imagined but never thought would ever happen, especially to me.

Long-time friend, Christina Jones, is an award-winning, best-selling, romance author, and has always encouraged me and my writing. We always wanted to write together but she was successful and I was a ‘nobody’ messing around with crime stories – so how it might happen, we couldn’t imagine. Besides, I was never in the same country let alone any town long enough for us to do that.

To cut a long story short I eventually found myself with time to write and I began writing more determinedly – mostly for my own entertainment. Christina got to read most of it and she kept telling me to ‘do something’ with them. I heard her, I just didn’t have any confidence or any clue how to go about it.

Meantime, I started a blog on WordPress mostly to put my own thoughts and scribblings in one place. After a while I dared push ‘publish’ on a story called ‘A Walk to Destiny,’ and then wondered if I’d lost my mind. Well, I had so many visits to my blog and such fab comments from complete strangers I was encouraged to write more, and after a while I was asked to be a guest author on other blogs. One thing led to another and I was asked to contribute to anthologies – mostly in aid of Charity – and I really felt I’d accomplished my dream. Those who encouraged me and gave me a chance know who they are and I’ve thanked them many times.

Meantime Christina kept telling me to ‘do something’ with my stories. I’d written several novels as I mentioned earlier, including a non-crime novel set in the late 1960s UK music scene, in addition to over a hundred short stories, and I began to look at what publishers were seeking and how to submit. Talk about panic attack. Publishing was another planet!

I sent one story off to a small publisher and never heard back. I felt my life was over. No-one wanted me! But after another panic attack and confidence melt-down I thought back to the days of producing records and pitching musicians and their music to record labels, and had a re-think. I’d approach my writing the same way as I’d approached record companies, movie studios etc., on behalf of my artistes. Easier said than done.

In 2014 I saw that a small traditional publishing company, Accent Press Ltd, was asking for submissions from authors. I decided to submit several short stories to begin and to cut a long story short I was accepted for two anthologies, Shiver and Wishing on a Star, and they also signed me for all my writing. Unreal. I thought it was supposed to be harder and it would take years. Both my stories were crime-related and not what I thought they’d want. But, I had a publisher.

In 2012 I’d completed a novel called Only One Woman set in the UK music scene of the late 1960s, and sent it to Christina to read as I wondered if it needed another POV (point of view) and another main character – I’d written Renza and most of the characters but felt it needed another voice. Christina loved it and wanted to write the other character, Stella, and her related characters. We agreed to do it.

I’d no idea just how much hard work promotion would be. Cripes, it took – and still takes – most of my time promoting it. I thought a publisher would do all that and all I’d have to do was write blog posts, do books signings, and talk about the book to everyone and anyone in the press, on the radio or whatever, and of course it was/isn’t like that.

Publishing has changed, just like music has, and it’s now up to the author to really push their book and boy, it stretches the imagination. It’s the music business all over again – just replace promoting artists and music for authors and books.

We authors are all in the same boat, traditionally or self-published, as far as I can tell.

I’ve many novels and short stories awaiting publication and I assumed that they’d be taken by my publisher, but that was somewhat naive I guess.

Accent have first refusal on my work but couldn’t take my short story collection, Undercover: Crime Shorts, because they only publish anthologies with several authors contributing – not solo authors.

I didn’t want to waste Undercover so I decided to self-publish it – I just couldn’t face hiking it around publishers for ages – hoping. My goodness me, I’d no idea what it would involve. I bulked at doing the whole thing myself, life is too short – I really would like to have time to do other things. Besides, I am writing the sequel to Only One Woman and Ms Birdsong’s two other novels are almost completed. So I decided to employ Plaisted Publishing House to format my collection and help me get it published.

Working on it has taken months and if I ever do it again I shall be better informed and prepared for what is involved. Claire Plaisted has been a star, poor woman, how she coped with my lack of knowledge and stupidity I’ll never know. Had I known I’d have to self-publish one day I’d have clued up much earlier and faster.

Remember, my only real experience of being published is with a company doing the editing, the formatting, and so forth, and it seemed a breeze. Why I thought it wouldn’t be different going it alone for this collection, I’ve no idea. The only similarity is promotion – that flipping word sounds so harmless, but it is immense. Promotion, promotion, promotion, is key, and it is so difficult without a company behind one with their supplies of books, covering some costs, and having their credibility – but even so it is still basically up to the author to push the book.

I did, at least, get to pick my own book cover for Undercover: Crime Shorts, and no-one prevented me from using it. Yay!

I decided to promote the way my publisher expected me to promote: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and so on. I didn’t go for a blog tour, possibly a mistake but I felt (and still feel) embarrassed asking bloggers to host me. I haven’t done any book signings – but I never did any for Only One Woman because none was ever arranged. It’s expensive after-all and with a co-author to consider, schedules can be difficult. So for me nothing much has changed going it alone for this book.

I’ve a lovely following of friends and crime readers who’ve kindly been waiting for my crime stories. I’d never planned on having a Women’s Fiction novel published but my readers don’t seem to mind my deviation from the expected – so far.

Publication was set for May 5th and what happened? I got put in Facebook jail. My collection came out and all the platforms my publisher expected me to use to promote Only One Woman, which I’d planned to use to promote Undercover, vanished. A lesson there I feel….eggs and baskets!

Undercover: Crime Shorts amazingly went into the Amazon ratings at #18 – out of the box as we’d say in music – and #333 in the USA – but without means to promote it fully, having not thought about being prevented from using Facebook, it has gone down the ratings considerably, naturally.

I’ve been incredibly lucky in that many fellow authors have rallied around me and have gone out of their way to assist me with retweets, blogs, and sharing for me. Which brings me to another lesson learned from music days: always help others. Share your success, pay it back. It’s rewarded me – I’ve always tried to help fellow authors by sharing and Tweeting etc. Make friends, help them when you are able, and in your hour of need they may well surprise you by giving so much of their time and energies helping you. I’ve discovered I have some wonderful writer friends and readers and I am eternally grateful for their unexpected, continued generosity.

Going indie does not necessarily mean going it alone. I really should’ve called upon my music marketing experiences and applied them to self-publishing. I seem to have fallen into the same trap as my young musicians did back when – I just didn’t think beyond writing. I’ve played both sides now, and next time I shall be better prepared.

Undercover: Crime Shorts

Under one cover for the first time a collection of crime shorts from Jane Risdon with more twists and turns than Spaghetti Junction – a must for those who enjoy gripping yarns.

Undercover: Crime Shorts features new short stories written with strong female protagonists at its heart and includes Sweet Sable – a redheaded nightclub singer with sex appeal and a sting in her tail, and The Look – a hit woman with an agenda for revenge and a talent for hire.

There is an extract form the first novel in the series Ms Birdsong Investigates Murder in Ampney Parva: Operation Matryoshka – where former MI5 intelligence officer, Lavinia Birdsong, is asked to look for a missing woman and finds herself embroiled in murder, the Russian Mafia, and Ukrainian gun-runners.

My readers say:

Roger A Price: former detective and crime author says: Crime Shorts is a wonderfully satisfying anthology of seven short stories which transcend above the crime fiction genre providing a ripping yarn irrespective of the reader’s crime fiction preference. Jane Risdon has cleverly stitched together a mix of tales to suit all fans of the genre.

Gloria Clulow: reader says: As with all Jane’s stories I find them intriguing and unpredictable, leaving me wanting more; I don’t want them to end.

Professor Margot Kinberg: Associate professor and author of the Joel Williams crime novels says: Undercover, what a gripping story, so well written. You’ve packed so much ‘punch’ into it, loved it. I really felt the rising tension and suspicion! You’ve captured the suspense of it beautifully and it is such a great set-up with good characters.

Charlie Plunkett: reader says:
Fast-paced, well written, page-turner that had me so engrossed my train journey flew by. The author clearly has done a lot of research, these short stories all felt very authentic and each had me gripped and on the edge of my seat wondering how they would play out. It’s been a long time since I read anything quite so intriguing and twisty. It certainly got my heart beating faster and I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a great murder, mystery.
Jane Risdon – my pleasure lovely, praise where it’s due, you have written a fabulous selection of short stories and I will definitely look out for Ms Birdsong.

Jane Risdon – Bio

Jane Risdon began her working life in the international music business where she managed recording artists, songwriters, record producers, and where she has been instrumental in placing music on to soundtracks of many TV series and Movies, working alongside her musician husband.

After years of promoting talented young artists Jane decided it was time to do what she’s always wanted to do: write. She began writing in earnest some ten years ago starting with flash fiction and short stories – mostly crime/thrillers – and her writing was soon included in various anthologies – to date 15 different publications, some award winning. She has written for numerous online newsletters and magazines and is a regular blogger.

She has also written a best-selling novel with author and lifelong friend, best-selling, award-winning author, Christina Jones, set in the UK music scene of the late 1960s. Only One Woman is published by Accent Press with whom Jane signed in 2014.

With over 100 short stories needing a home, Jane has recently published Undercover: Crime Shorts with Plaisted Publishing House, which went into the UK Amazon ratings at #18 and into the USA Amazon ratings at #333 upon publication.

She is writing the sequel to Only One Woman and is completing a series of novels about a former MI5 intelligence officer; ‘Ms Birdsong Investigates.’ These crime/thrillers are set in the Vale of the White Horse, Oxfordshire, and Jane digs into her early career with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office at the height of the Cold War for her inspiration and knowledge of Britain’s Security Services.

Jane’s interests include photography, history, and science, and she and her husband enjoy walking and visiting places of interest – something they never had time to enjoy when ‘baby-sitting’ singers and musicians whilst travelling all over the world.

For Jane’s Books: most digital platforms incl. Amazon worldwide, and in paperback

Undercover: Crime Shorts…/under…/paperback/product-24082039.html

ISBN: 9780359397839

Only One Woman:

53 5* reviews from guys and gals. Available in most countries too.
Paperback and eBook on most digital platforms
Paperback Waterstones and good indie stores.

ISBN: 9781783757312…/…/1783757310…/…/B075D88JB

Jane’s Social Media: