Monday, 24 December 2012

Advent Heroine - Babushka

For Xmas Eve, a special heroine - Babushka - from the old Russian Christmas story. Babushka was too busy to heed the call to follow the new born King, the Christ child, as she had housework to do. When at last she's finished, she gathers up the toys in her cupboard (she had a baby who had died) and follows him but never quite catches up. As she goes on her way each Xmas Eve, she leaves a toy for every child on her way to find the Baby Jesus.

    Merry Christmas to all our Pocketeers - both writers and readers - and best wishes for a Happy and Successful New Year 2013.


Sunday, 23 December 2012

Advent Heroine Amy Johnson

The most famous of all female flyers.

In 1930 she flew solo to Australia in a Gypsy Moth and was awarded the CBE in the King's Birthday Honors. She married Jim Mollison and together they flew to the USA hoping to complete the journey without a break. 55 miles short of their destination they were forced to crash land when they ran out of fuel. They were awarded with a ticker tape parade along New York's Broadway.

The marriage broke up and after the outbreak of war Amy became a pilot in the women's section of the Air Transport Auxiliary, flying vital machines and men to various destinations.

On 5 January 1941 Amy disappeared, believed drowned, when her plane crashed into the Thames Estuary. No trace of her body has ever been found.

New Book Promo

Hi Everyone,

My latest book is free today on Amazon.
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Love Chrissie
Hi Everyone,
My latest book is having a free day!
'Getting a Life' is free on Amazon for today only.
Hope you enjoy it!
Love Chrissie

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Advent heroine - Eve

Audience participation is required with this one! Let’s consider the role of ‘mother’ as a heroine and start from the beginning with Eve. Some people believe we all came from one mother. Poor old Eve had no mother or father; she was fashioned from her husband’s rib from whence comes the name ‘woman’. Having succumbed to temptation, she was punished with the physical agony of childbirth and sentenced to being under the power of her husband. She had three children: Cain, Abel and Seth and is known as ‘the mother of all the living’.

The accomplishments of most mothers are numerous and often tend to be overlooked or taken for granted. Not all people will regard their mother as heroic and the empty photo frame is for you to imagine your own picture of ‘mother’. It might be your own mum, yourself, or a fantasy one. It could even be Eve.

Friday, 21 December 2012


It is difficult to imagine a more fearsome woman than Boudicca, Queen of the Iceni people. Dio Cassius wrote: ‘She was huge of frame, terrifying of aspect, and with a harsh voice. A great mass of bright red hair fell to her knees.’ Not exactly your usual romantic heroine, but she put together an army and almost sent the Romans packing. To her followers she was the personification of a goddess, which may explain the variety of Celtic tribes who united so passionately behind her.

When her husband  Prasutagus died, he left half his estate to his wife and daughters and half to the Emperor Nero, as was expected at that time. But a few days after his death an administrator was sent to seize his total belongings and retrieve his debts. Unable to pay, Boudicca was publicly flogged and her daughters raped in front of her by Roman soldiers.

Perhaps it was grief that drove her, or perhaps revenge, but it is said that she raised an army of 100,000 warriors made up of her Iceni tribe and various other Celtic tribes. They burned and pillaged their way from Camulodunum (Colchester) to Londinium (London) and by the time she reached Verulamium (St Albans) her army was 200,000 strong. She was eventually subdued by Paullinus and, rather than face defeat, the proud warrior Queen and her daughters took their own lives by drinking poison.

What a wonderful plot this story has. Maybe a bit strong for a Pocket Novel, but otherwise it has everything. Love, romance, excitement, danger and tragedy. Boudicca has been written about many times, and the wonderful Alex Kingston with her bright red hair played the Queen in the 2003 film, but Boudicca’s story still has the power to inspire women everywhere.

I live in Colchester, so Boudicca is part of my heritage. Her picture is a stained glass window in our town hall. The town is still enclosed within a Roman wall, and part of Colchester’s Norman Castle is built on the foundations of the Temple of Claudius where Boudicca fought her famous battle with the Romans.

Like any other real heroine, she will always be remembered.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Advent Heroines Number 20 The Duchess of Cambridge

There are some heroines who come in blazing, fighting, triumphant, energetic, spikey. There are others who win the day through sheer quiet determination. Kate Middleton is one of those. The recent history of the Royal family has been a troubled one. Like a tv soap opera, the lives of the Windsors has played out with drama - some cringe-making mistakes, some tearjerking tragedies have beset them in recent decades. At some points, the present Queen's long reign threatened to look more like an episode of Eastenders than the sedate, regal progress it should have. Kate Middleton had a lot to live up to when she decided to marry into 'the firm'. She would inevitably be compared to her absent mother-in-law and the press, given half the chance, would have a field day with her.

But she has proven to be made of stronger stuff. With a rock solid family behind her, she has in a very short time built a significant following. Quietly glamorous, appealing to young and old, she helped to make the Queen's Jubilee year a great one for the Royal family, helping to turn their fortunes around and strengthen their brand. With a baby on the way, she has fulfilled everything expected of her and more. A thoroughly modern heroine with very traditional values, she has put the first family in the land firmly back on track. They are indeed lucky to have her.


Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Advent Heroine Day 19 - Ellen Ripley and the changing nature of Heroines

My advent heroine today is Ellen Ripley, the heroine of the Alien franchise, as played by Sigourney Weaver. Before Alien, women were generally treated as baggage in a story; to be carried around and cared for by the hunky hero. In romances, that role was played up the nth degree as breathless damsels waited for a man to save them from their lives of drudgery.

So when I first watched Alien, I expected that Dallas, as played by Tom Skerrit, would be the one to save the day. I don’t think I was the only one.

That it turned out to be Ripley, gave us a character who broke all the boundaries around portraying women as strong characters who were not a slave to their emotions. As a contrast, Lambert, played by Veronica Cartwright, was the distressed damsel, screaming her way through the film and generally hampering everyone’s efforts to deal with the alien.

Ripley was good at her job and able to make the tough decisions, even if those decisions, such as not letting an infected crew member back into the ship, were not popular. So she wasn’t necessarily likeable to begin with, but that was because she was a woman taking decisions that would have been acceptable from a man.

But she was also a nurturer. She ‘adopted’ the little girl Newt, not long after being told that her own daughter had died whilst Ripley was in hypersleep. Later she took care of the android Call, played by Winona Ryder, though word has it that that relationship was supposed to be a version of the alpha male/beta heroine relationship. But the fact that Ripley had a career, and left a daughter at home whilst she worked on a space ship was, for the first time in fiction, treated as normal. Before, if a female character had been depicting leaving her children behind to have a career, she would have been portrayed as unsympathetic, whereas no one would ever disapprove of a man going off to work for several years and not seeing his family. Never before in film had women been treated as true equals, with no apologies and no questions about whether they were doing the right thing.

Interestingly when the script of Alien was written, all the characters were known by their surname. Only when it came to casting were the characters assigned genders. I’m sure that helped in making sure that Ripley did not have to live up to the female stereotype. And it’s just as likely that the other female in the story, Cartwright, could have been played by a man. That would really have tested the boundaries of gender, to have a man playing the weaker role.  

Admittedly Alien is not a romance, but I believe it did pave the way for women to have more equality in all types of fiction. Romantic heroines were at last allowed to be proactive instead of reactive. They didn’t have to sit around waiting for men to save them, and they could even be the one to save the man.

I think characters like Ellen Ripley helped all writers to realise their female characters as whole people, and not just as prospective or actual mothers and damsels in distress.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Advent Heroine - Grace Darling

The most famous of all lighthouse keeper's daughters.

In September 1838 when the SS Forfarshire floundered on Hardcar Rocks near Longstone lighthouse, 22 year old Gace helped her father rescue the survivors by rowing their boat out to the rocks in treacherous conditions. Grace was left alone in the boat trying to control it against the vicious storms while her father checked on the survivors clinging to the rocks.

The daring rescue caught the public interest and Grace received £50 from Queen Victoria. She was also awarded a silver medal from the Royal Humane Society and a medal for gallantry from the National Insitution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck (now the RNLI).

Grace died four years later at the age of 26 from TB.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Advent Heroine - Princess Leia Organa

Princess Leia Organa "STAR WARS"

"A long time ago in a galaxy far far away ..." and its accompanying haunting music must be etched in most people's minds forever. The heroine of Parts 4, 5 & 6 of the epic science fiction movie series, STAR WARS, Princess Leia Organa, an iconic fictional movie heroine determined to save her galaxy from Darth Vader and his planet-destroying Death Star.
We first see her as only a holographic image through a robot, sending out her message seeking help because she has been taken hostage by the enemy. Cute little R2-D2 escapes of course and is found and its message retrieved by farmboy Luke Skywalker who sure knows how to fly a plane, becomes a Jedi Knight and fights alongside the Princess with smuggler Hans Solo and a cast of colourful characters and allies.
Together they all fight the most evil of evils, Leia pitching in among them and handy with a gun, the rebellion leader, always determined to save her people and in the centre of all the action.
The galaxy is saved in the end, of course, with Luke's pivotal and famous fighter run down the trench to destroy the Death Star.
A heroine and her memorable story who is already legend in movie history.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Advent Heroine

I’m being greedy today and posting two heroines. I couldn’t decide which, so posting about both of them.

Dame Maggie Smith is so dry in her humour that she always makes me laugh. I suspect she is probably quite similar to her many characters, the most recent being Violet Crawley in ‘Downton Abbey’. I know the programme has its critics but for me it was a highlight of television.

She often fights for films to be made ‘for grown-ups’ instead of the constant pandering to the young. There have been rather fewer of these but many of them have been highly successful.

Her critically acclaimed films include Othello (1965), The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969), Travels with My Aunt (1972), California Suite (1978), Clash of the Titans (1981), A Room with a View (1985) and Gosford Park (2001). She has also appeared in a number of widely popular films, including Hook (1991), Sister Act (1992) and as Professor Minerva McGonagall in the Harry Potter film series

I loved seeing her in ‘Ladies in Lavender’ too, along with my other heroine for today.

Dame Judy Dench another Dame from the world of acting. Her list of highlights is endless, including "M" for recent James Bond movies, lots of roles on television from high drama to comedy. I loved the "Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" (with Maggie Smith again). It was great fun and most entertaining. Judi Dench has received many award nominations for her acting in theatre, film and television; her awards include eleven BAFTAs, (including the Bafta Fellowship in 2001) seven Laurence Olivier Awards, (including the Society's Special Award) two Screen Actors Guild Awards, two Golden Globes, an Academy Award, and a Tony Award. In June 2011, she received a fellowship from the British Film Institute (BFI).[3] She was married to actor Michael Williams from 1971 until his death in 2001.

Long may they reign!

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Advent Heroine - Isabella Bird

Isabella Bird was born in 1831 and until she was 40 lived a 'normal' life, staying at home to care for family members as expected of a female of that era. She would probably have stayed there and been unknown had not doctors prescribed travel to cure her bad back and insomnia. For the next thirty years she travelled widely across the globe from Tibet to Japan to the American Rocky Mountains. She had many scary moments as a single woman travelling but it didn't seem to put her off. Her diaries and letters offer an insight into her travels. She really was quite extraordinary.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Advent Heroine - Gladys Aylward

We've all seen Ingrid Bergman in Inn of the Sixth Happiness but the real life Gladys Aylward was nothing like her. She was small in build and had a London accent. She didn't like the film and insisted it was nothing like her real life.

When she was 28 she took the decision to travel overland to China to work with missionary Jeannie Lawsojn in Yangchen, after failing her examination at the Mission Centre in London. When Mrs Lawson died Gladys took on the challenge of running the mission.

She was responsible for quelling a prison riot; helping to end the practice of foot binding of females; taking in abandoned babies and of course the famous twelve day walk with 100 children through harsh terrain to the Government orphanage at Sian.

She returned to England for health reasons and when she was refused permission by the Communist Government to return to China she settled in Taiwan and founded an orphanage in her own name. She worked until her death in 1970.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Frozen Heart - Pocket Novel out this week

Just to let you know that my Christmas pocket novel 'Frozen Heart' is on sale this week in newsagents and shops. It's based on the Cinderella theme. I hope you enjoy it. Merry Xmas!

Advent Heroine - White Vision

Thousands of pigeons were used in World War II to carry messages in either special containers on their legs or small pouches looped over their backs. Pigeons were dropped by parachute to Resistance workers in France, Belgium and Holland.
Having flown 60 miles over heavy seas with poor visibility and against a headwind of 25 miles an hour, White Vision arrived at her loft with a message giving the position of a ditched aircraft. As a result, the aircraft was found and the crew rescued.
She was awarded the Dickin Medal, popularly called the animal VC, for ‘delivering a message under exceptionally difficult conditions and so contributing to the rescue of an air crew while serving with the RAF in October 1943’.
We could start a debate about the use of animals in war, but instead will simply marvel at, and raise our glasses to, all heroic animals including search and rescue dogs in disaster areas, animals used as pets for therapy and the many pigeons deployed during wars.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Advent Heroine - Jane Austen

Jane Austen is a heroine of mine not only for her amazing books but also because she was a writer when gently bred women were expected to remain at home and raise children. People can't understand the fascination she has for Janeites - they often say things like ;"She's been dead for over two hundred years." and "She wrote about upper class idiots looking for husbands -who were also upper class and idiots." It is impossible to explain how reading about her interesting, complex and often irritating characters is a pleasure -and when they eventually sort themselves out and get their happy ending -I share it with them. Her world of balls, house parties, rides in an open carriage, beautiful gowns and handsome young men is perfect escapism. So often when reading, or watching one of the many excellent film adaptations, I think - that person is so real -just like me or someone I know. Good writing lasts for ever.
I have written my own homage to the great Jane Austen - Miss Bennet & Mr Bingley. Happy Christmas Fenella J Miller

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

A Christmas Moon out today - your chance to win copies

My first full length paranormal romance is out today. A Christmas Moon was originally written as a pocket novel but unfortunately was not quite suitable for the market. So I was delighted when Siren Bookstrand accepted it.

At the moment the book is only available from the Bookstrand website. It should be on Amazon in about 4-6 weeks time.

Visit my blog for details on how you can win a copy of the ebook.

Advent Heroine - Bathsheba Everdene

How could this heroine be anything but memorable with an amazing name like Bathsheba? 'Far From the Madding Crowd' by Thomas Hardy is one of my all-time favourite books and films. With a quiet but memorable start you know this is a book where characterisation will reign supreme - the heroine is espied by shepherd Gabriel Oak riding down a Dorsetshire lane. Unobserved, she takes out a mirror and preens herself leading Gabriel to describe her later as having one fault - that of vanity. But Bathsheba has enough qualities, beauty being just one, to be courted by three extraordinary characters. Gabriel the solid, ultra-reliable charmer, Sargeant Troy the dashing, selfish soldier and wealthy Farmer Boldwood the lonely, obsessive widower. Bathsheba was extraordinary for her time in being a strong, independent business woman. A landowner who makes her inherited farm a success, an employer who hires and fires, a woman who takes her own decisions about who she will and will not marry. True she makes myriad mistakes along her path to a happy ending, the worst being falling for love-rat Troy. At one point, married to Bathsheba but always in love with Fanny Robin who perishes due to his neglect Troy tells Bathsheba, "this woman is more to me, dead as she is, than ever you were, or are, or can be." Boy, I wish I'd written that line! If you want to read a truly wonderful romance with an extraordinary heroine, this book is for you.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Advent Heroine - Lara Croft

Lara Croft, played by Angelina Jolie in the film version, is very much a modern day heroine. She faces danger at every turn, competes with men on equal terms, but never loses her femininity.

No one could be more feminine than Angelina Jolie, and the Lara Croft of the Tomb Raider games is every man's dream woman, right down to her double-D bra and tiny shorts. However, it is very muich a case of look but don't touch. Not without permission, anyway. Lara Croft has guns, two of them, which probably helps, but women have an arsenal every bit as lethal as a couple of guns, and we can twist most men round our little finger.

As writers of romance and romantic suspense, this is something we have to bear in mind when we create our own heroine. Somehow we have to make her strong and independent but still feminine. She must never be a victim but, equally, she should never try to behave like a man. We don't need to compete to win the fight; we just have to be ourselves.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Margaret and Sally on the RNA blog


Pocketeers Margaret Mounsden and Sally Quilford both get a mention on the Romantic Novelists Association blog about their new releases out in December.

Margaret's is the large print edition of her pocket novel, Second Time Around, released on 1st December and Sally's is her first paranormal romance novel, A Christmas Moon, released on 12th December.

Advent Heroine - Mother Teresa

After she took her religious vows Agnes Gonsche Bojaxhiu chose the name Teresa after the French saint Teresa. She then received permission from her supervisor to leave her convent and go to work with the poor of Calcutta. At times she was forced to beg but what began as a small group of volunteers eventually became a worldwide centre caring for the refugees and outcasts of every nature.

When she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 for her work amongst the poor the funds were giving to help the poor. She insisted she did not need earthly rewards.

In 1983 her health declined and she suffered a heart attack followed by a secon in 1989, necessitating the insertion of a pacemaker. In 1996 she suffered a fall and a bout of malaria further weakened her health.

She died on 5 September 1977 aged 86, mourned by the world and leavikng a legacy of hospices and orphanages throughout the world.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Advent Heroine, Day 8

Ashley Judd, Actress & Humanitarian

Ashley Judd came to mind for my choice of advent heroine when I was trying to think of a woman who I thought particularly heroic. She played the lead role of Libby in the movie Double Jeopardy alongside the wonderful Tommy Lee Jones who was the perfect complementary character for her in the film.

The movie is about a woman framed for her husband's murder but she discovers he is still alive. As she has already been tried for the crime, she cannot be re-prosecuted if she finds and kills him. Of course, said husband is a real nasty and over the course of a fast and action-packed movie, there is nothing that Libby won't do to seek justice and reclaim her son after her years of imprisonment.

Ashley also starred earlier this year in the TV series Missing. Again, familiar scenario. Her character, Rebecca Winstone, has a teenage son who goes missing under suspicious circumstances while on holidays in Europe. Rebecca and her husband were CIA agents and use their knowledge and skills to trace him. Again, the mother tiger comes out and she will do whatever it takes to find him. Lots of twists and fast action over the course of the series.

In her personal life, it seems Ashley is opting out of acting to become a genuine dedicated humanitarian and supports many worthy causes. Her ancestors sailed on the Mayflower, she is the daughter and sister of country music royalty, is married and lives in Tennessee and Scotland. Her autobiography, All That Is Bitter And Sweet, looks wonderful, and is drawn from her diaries kept while visiting grass roots programes in 13 countries [and counting]. Her website gives much more information about the person, and her life and work.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Janes Eyre

From a harsh childhood controlled by unfeeling adults, Jane Eyre has to rely on her own courage and convictions to make her way in the world. She longs to learn. She dares to dream. Employed as a governess, she travels across the bleak Yorkshire moors to the mysterious Thornfield Hall – a house of locked doors with a dangerous secret.

There she meets the strange, sardonic and intriguing Mr Rochester.

Can the constraints of society and the dark past be overcome? Should Jane trust her head or follow her heart?

I've always loved this story ... it has everything in it for me. I know lots of people don't like it but it races through giving satisfaction right at the end. I hope some people share my views!

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Advent Heroine Day Six - Mary Anning

I've chosen Mary Anning for my advent heroine. She had a life that would make a perfect historical saga full of adventure. She also demonstrates the kind of historical heroine we, as writers, should be trying to create. A woman of her time and yet with characteristics such as courage, determination and intelligence that readers today can identify with and root for throughout the story.

Mary was born into extreme poverty in Dorset in the 1800s. She and her brother were the only survivors out of ten children born into the family. She was once struck by lightning which killed her sister. Despite having a very low level of education, Mary taught herself to read and became knowledgeable in the fields of geology and paleontology.

To supplement the family's meagre income, she became a fossil hunter along the beaches at Lyme Regis and gradually made scientific discoveries especially marine reptiles. Eminent scientists of the day visited her and also the fashionable crowd. She died aged only 47 but had lived an amazing life.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Advent Heroine -Day Five Florence Nightingale

I have chosen Florence Nightingale as my advent heroine. Her work in the Crimea is now thought to have been far less heroic than was reported in the papers at the time. The country had need of a heroine and Florence Nightingale's role was exaggerated to satisfy this need. I selected her because of what she did after she returned from the Crimea. she founded the first professional nursing school in the world at St Thomas's Hospital in London. Her social reforms included improving healthcare for everyone in British society as well as recommending more hunger relief in India. she also was instrumental in the abolition of laws relating to prostitution that were particularly hard on women. She also encourage the expansion of women in the workforce. Florence was also a writer – although her work was not fictional but related to the dissemination of medical knowledge. She also wrote extensively about religion and mysticism. She came from a wealthy upper-class family and was expected to marry well and raise children however her face led her to spend her life serving others. Although she suffered from chronic alehouse continued working until her death at the age of 90. A true advent heroine. Hope the snow is not too deep where you are. Fenella J Miller

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Advent Heroines Day Four

At the festive season, it seems only appropriate that we acknowledge the Pantomime Dame who, although traditionally a man, brings laughter to us all and brightens our lives J
Although often regarded as a merely humorous form of entertainment over the Christmas period,  Pantomime incorporates the vital ingredients of good battling evil and emerging triumphant. To this end, the Dame plays an important part not only in engaging audience participation with slapstick routines and trickery towards fellow performers, but also in making us laugh at their outfits and hairdos which are outrageous. They have a bawdy sense of humour and are extrovert characters.


Monday, 3 December 2012

Advent Heroines Day Three

My first advent heroine is the incomparable Dame Agatha Christie. As a writer of romantic suspense, I've studied her books closely to try to find out what it is that makes them so good. Yes, I know Agatha was a crime writer, but there was often a bit of romantic intrigue at the centre of her novels (and she did write romantic novels as Mary Westmacott), such as The Man In The Brown Suit, and the Tommy and Tuppence novels. At least two of my novellas, My True Companion and A Collector of Hearts, are inspired by Agatha's work, and my town of Midchester is not so different from St. Mary Mead, though I have set my stories in Midchester in modern times as well as historical.

One thing reading Agatha's work teaches me personally is how to write easy prose that drives the story along. As I'm sure any of my fellow Pocketeers can verify, easy reading is hard writing. It's not at all easy to write prose that is simple, but effective. Agatha Christie was the mistress of the technique and there was a study done once on why her work was so popular. It was because she used phrases that people instantly recognised (scroll down to where it says 'Her language and The Agatha Christie code). That is why her books sold so many, along with the fact that as a writer she was innovative and not afraid to take chances, as The Murder of Roger Ackroyd shows. So I strive to make my stories move along at a similar pace, in the hopes that the reader will just keep turning the pages.

Christie was something of a mystery woman herself. When her husband, Archie Christie, said he was leaving her for another woman, she disappeared for 11 days, and turned up in a Harrogate hotel, where she was using the surname of her husband's mistress (Neele). No one ever knew why she did it, though it's been suggested that she just wanted to embarrass her husband. Either way, I love that this wonderful writer of mysteries created her own mystery, and never spoke about it.

In a Doctor Who episode, it was suggested that Agatha's novels will be read many millions of years into the future and I doubt anyone would disagree. As I toast my advent heroine, I can only wish mine achieve the same status.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Advent Heroines Day Two

Day two of our Advent heroines is Snow White. However not the traditional version, instead the version in the latest film Snow White and the Huntsman. I saw this the other day and was impressed by two things. First the special effects, including the magic mirror which morphs into an apparition of liquid glass. Second the fact that the two very strong female leads completely steal the limelight. There is the evil stepmother/queen played by the stunning Charlize Theron. She is thoroughly mean, a character built up in layers with an unhappy backstory of her own to give a reason for her sour hatred. The Snow White character is very definitely a heroine for today while still, at heart, possessing the well-loved traits of traditional fairy tale heroines. Sweet natured but this time with a feisty kick-ass attitude. She is locked up in a tower by the evil queen, gives the huntsman a run for his money and finally, like Joan of Arc riding to battle in armour conquers evil to triumph and save her kingdom on a trusty steed leading an army. She is as far away as you could possibly get from the Disney version but both have their place and show how old tales can have a new twist and be just as compelling. One thing this heroine proves is that as writers, we can mustn't fear taking an old theme, shuffling it about, giving it a different spin and making it work afresh.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Free Book download

Tomorrow, Sunday 2nd December, feel free to download 'Say it With Flowers'!
Love Chrissie

Advent Heroines

Hi - The Pocketeers have decided to create a special Advent calender devoted to all those inspirational, beautiful, tragic, brave, captivating, love-lorn, stoic, whatever.... heroines. They can be fictional or real, historical or from the present. They are the women who inspire our novels and have qualities that we can point to and say, 'she's heroic.' I find it's always useful when creating a character to look at real life examples for inspiration. So, here goes. For our first heroine I've chosen Kelly Holmes. A girl from a council estate who knew from the age of 14 that she wanted two things. Firstly to join the army, secondly to be an Olympic champion. She's achieved both through sheer hard work and determination. Being awarded an MBE for her work as a sergeant, she has achieved success in a man's world, letting nothing stop her. She now runs a charity to help young disadvantaged women overcome difficulties and triumph. Add to that her gentle beauty, whippet-like figure and glamorous outfits at many award ceremonies and I think she's a fitting heroine for today. I always think back to scriptwriting advisor, Michael Hague's useful advice on creating heroes and heroines. Two of the things he says we can look for is that the person is an expert because we all find people who are excellent at what they do intriguing. Secondly, that they are likeable. I think Dame Kelly scores on both counts. Watch out tomorrow for our second Advent heroine...... Bye for now! Cara

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

What Makes You Pick Up a Book?

I was browsing in my local library last week in quite a picky mood. I did end up borrowing three books but it got me wondering why I choose one book over another and whether it depends on how I'm feeling that particular day.

There are various factors that may persuade one to pick up a book. Perhaps it's a favourite author - in which case it doesn't really matter what the plot is, you know you are guaranteed a good read. Or, the opposite is true - you read the flysheet and are blown away by the plot summary and just have to give it a go - if you enjoy the book then you are likely to go looking for that author again.

Genre is important obviously. We all know whether we are in the mood for romance or crime or comedy. But within that, an attractive cover might be the hook to pick up a book or an intriguing title.

It's always said that as a writer, your first paragraph is vital to draw the reader in. I know I usually read the first page of a novel before deciding whether to buy/borrow it. A satisfying ending is needed too.

As writers we may have little influence over the colour, final title and illustrations of our published books but we can make very sure there's an enticing first paragraph, a riproaring plot and fantastic ending, ensuring that readers come back to find our next books on the shelf.

So, what is it about a book that makes you pick it up?

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Where do we buy books?

"What booksellers have lacked, to date, is the ability to cost effectively engage with their customers in the mobile / digital arena." (A quote I read recently.)

In other words, where are we going to be buying our books? For me, it’s usually a case of Amazon or bust. I buy the usual things (Easy Reads or similar) from supermarkets but digital formats, we mostly buy using the easiest way. One could go to specific websites and buy them directly from the publishers but it seems to me that Amazon has the edge for downloading them. For me it’s single click and it appears on my iPad a few seconds later. No passwords, no fuss. I must admit, I don’t always finish them using this form of media, as I’ll begin something else (in paper format) and get hooked on that.

But, for many of us with publishing e-books now filling our time, perhaps this is where our future lies. Self publishing on Kindle seems to be very popular and is very successful for some of us. It is made as easy as possible to do, with on-line instructions available. I put up several of mine a while back and have sold a few but never bringing in mega bucks, like some folks do. I wonder how many are sold this way compared to the many other websites? There are other hassles involved too, with overseas sales. Getting the elusive ITIN to receive payment from USA seems to be a major problem.

How many of us do choose to use kindle, tablet, mobile phone or similar methods for reading? I know several people who do have appliances to read but many of them also use the more traditional method. I am planning a holiday in January so am building a collection of books to read during that time, on my iPad. This holiday will be a testing time for me!

Though I’d like to continue to buy from shops, for me it is increasingly difficult to actually get there. Our little local(ish) shop has now closed so increasingly, one has to rely on supermarkets or on-line shops. With this and all the library closures, it is not a good outlook for us, particularly with large print. It also represents a decline in possible other markets.

But, as long as we can, I believe all of us Pocketeers will still be writing our words for them, as long as they are accepted!

Wednesday, 14 November 2012


The statistics are staggering. Facebook now has 1 billion users, Twitter 140 million users and there are 4 billion views a day on YouTube.
A leading neuroscientist has warned that a generation of children risks growing up with various disorders, including a poor attention span and little empathy, due to an addiction to websites such as twitter. She said that a decline in physical human contact meant children struggle to formulate basic social skills and emotional reactions and suggested that a reliance on social networking and use of computer games could effectively ‘rewire’ the brain. The researcher also said that websites like Facebook and Twitter were creating a generation with a child-like desire for constant feedback on their lives.
We, Ruth and Mary, have at times felt overwhelmed by the need to network as writers. There is a fine line to draw between giving the best to, and getting the best from, networking and allowing it to engulf us.
Being part of a writing community and able to share information is a definite plus. The negatives are the constant pressure to keep sites and blogs up to date, read comments, respond and take on board what’s being said as well as acclimatising to the technology.
We’re unsure how much personal information we want to put on the internet. It’s also very time-consuming scrolling through screeds of unwanted information on a website when one is trying to find out about the nitty-gritty of writing. How much time do we as writers spend networking? How important is it and would our time be better spent writing?
We would be interested to hear what other writers think as we are sure there is a wide spectrum of views and experiences.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Delighted to tell you all that The Duke's Deception is now up on Amazon. Sold five copies before I noticed I'd used the same title for the hero - have now changed this and re-published. Not sold anything in Japan -anyone here done so? Have a good weekend. Fenella

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Romancing the First Draft

Depending on how we all write, of course, and each of us is so different, but the first draft for me is a relief. Not to say in the process, it doesn't present challenges. As Carol said in a previous blog, sometimes the halfway mark means scaling a wall but about then it's more like perseverance.

There are lots of moments during that first draft. Early on in my current romance, it was getting interrupted. There just seemed to be so many things happening, phone calls, LIFE happening, etc. but I pushed on through, somehow put my writing first and kept up with my daily allotted output, and it all began to flow and slot into pace.

Most days I write my minimum quota, always aiming for more. But there are other days when some more research needs to be done even though, knowing your plot and topics that will crop up, you may have done much of this beforehand. Clearly I was away with the fairies recently for I had my hero's mother losing her fiance in World War 2. Duh! She would have been nearly 90 and the hero only 30 years younger. Bit old for a romantic hero! So I had to toss all that lovely research re grave sites in Indonesia for that era and re-think, realising the Vietnam war was my only option for the 1970s.

My first draft is often done by longhand on an A4 lined notepad for I find the slower pace of handwriting keeps up better with my steady creative thoughts and words. Sometimes they gush out and I write madly until my hand aches but it's all in a good cause. Getting those words down. For this current project, I've forced myself to list scenes and notes onto the computer and work from there. It's certainly quicker but if I hit a slow or dead spot - not sure how to proceed with the next scene etc. - then I will transfer to handwriting again and the words just come.

When I'm handwriting I become quite familiar with whiteout tape! I hate seeing all those scribbles and changes on the page so I blot them out and it's so much easier to read when it comes to me typing it all up into the computer. My current pen of choice is a Bic Pro. It's a 1.0 thickness and has a really smooth flow.
Of course, no matter how well the writing is or isn't going, there are always distractions. It's spring here in Australia and while it comes with the usual unsettled weather - warm and sunny one day, chilly and showery the next - those warmer days are such a temptation to be outdoors after winter. I'm half done on this current novel and hoping to keep going with it while I am in tropical Brisbane for the next few weeks for the birth of my latest grandson. Happy first draft writing everyone.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012


Writing for a new genre is not easy, but it is a wonderful opportunity to try something completely different. The new books look great. They really stand out from the rest. When I saw them at my local Tesco I wanted to buy all four, and I am sure a lot of other people will feel the same.

But now I have to think of a new set of characters to go with the new plots. Criminals and psychotic killers, detectives and stalkers, moments of high tension and heart-stopping danger - this is not something I was writing about in a pocket novel a year ago. Judging by the books already published, it seems Maggie is open to most ideas, but she also stresses that a thriller must be thrilling and a cime novel should include a serious crime, preferably with a dead body. Romance will still be there, but it is no longer the heart of the plot.

So how am I going to start writing a thriller or a crime novel? I'm not one of those people who have a eureka moment - a sudden blinding flash of inspiration. For me it always starts fairly slowly. A small idea I hope will blossom into something bigger. A thought that sits around in my head for a few days and either disappears or grows into something I can work on.

Cara found the bones of a plot in Turkey. A woman, possibly all alone, in a foreign country. She is on a deserted mountain road with a storm raging overhead, the narrow road slippery with rain and mud. Then what? Please write this one, Cara, I can't wait to read it.

The story I have just sent Maggie starts with a girl driving down a dark lane at night. Suddenly she hits something. Thinking it might be an animal, she has to stop the car and get out - but it wasn't an animal she hit. The new story I am working on begins with a body floating in a swimming pool and a sociopathic killer. So far so good. I hope I can finish it, because endings are just as important as beginnings.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Pocket crime ideas.....

Firstly, sorry not to have posted on Wednesday, but I was still on holiday in Turkey. Being away is wonderful for the writing mind. For a start I always read loads on holiday. Also, new locations always give me a portfolio of ideas to work on. I have been looking for a crime/suspense idea for my next pocket novel and new scenery made me think of how important the setting is to some crime novels. One of the films available in the house we rented was 'Insomnia' with Al Pacino. He plays an LA detective sent to remotest Alaska to investigate a murder. That region in summer has nearly 24 hour daylight resulting in the insomnia which plagues the detective - the very distinct landscape and constant daylight become almost like a character in the story. What's more the detective's guilt over a past incident came back to torture him during his sleepless nights.

I was visiting Turkey in the last few weeks of the holiday season. Although we stayed in a resort, Kalkan which is much like any other, it was eerily quiet and there was a feeling of the 'real' Turkey coming back to claim the land during the winter. When one day, we hired a car to drive from the busy beach resort into the hills I had no idea what a scary adventure it would become. Petrol being now as expensive in Turkey as it is in England, we only half filled the tank. We also woefully misjudged the distance into the hills which quickly became mountainous and remote. Before we knew it we had gone too far to get back easily and were dangerously close to running out of fuel on deserted steep roads where the odd goatherder was the only inhabitant. Add to that a frightening storm with the loudest thunder and brightest lightening I had ever seen and the setting was ripe for a scarey crime novel. We had gone so far up, we were in the clouds on slippery roads with hairpin bends.

We could easily have been stranded, without a word of Turkish and forced to find shelter for the night. The area has a rich history of antiquities being looted from sites like nearby Xanthos and taken out of the country by sea.

Suddenly I had a possible motive for murder, and thoughts of lost treasure which could easily be hidden in the mountains or shipped away at night in a small boat from the many isolated coves like this one just below our holiday rental....

I am so pleased that pocket novels now have a stronger crime/mystery/suspense line and now, armed with my photos and memories of Turkey I am set to write one with a setting which will become a character in its own right. All I need to do is follow Sally's advice and use NANOWRIMO to give me the impetus to get it written! I wonder how many other of you writers have had a particular setting which has inspired you and got the creative mind ticking away.....

I have blogged about the historical sites in Lycia over at my personal blog

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Write your pocket novel for NaNoWriMo

I've put up a post on my blog today about writing your pocket novel for NaNoWriMo. I'm going to be writing one so hopefully others will join me!

Friday, 19 October 2012

Easy Reads now in the shops

The new Easy Reads are now available to buy from the shops. You can find them in Tesco, Sainsburys, Asda, Smiths and other large newsagents. Here's a picture of mine, which is among the first four. Please excuse the quality, my scanner is offline, and I had to take this with my ipad.

As you can see it has been renamed Bonfire Memories and is under the 'Intrigue' genre. The other three books available are: 
Tribal Connections by Stephanie Todd (under the Caress genre)
Hushed Words by Angela Britnell (Liaison)
Web of Fear by Julie Coffin (Suspense)
All four books will be on sale until 15th November so there's plenty of time for you to get one. But I'm holding a giveaway of mine over on my Blog so if you'd like the chance to win a copy come on over.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Barbara's War

I am very excited to tell you the first of my mainstream, non-Regency, titles is now on Kindle and Create Space. "BARBARA'S WAR by Fenella J Miller is a gripping tale of a young woman in wartime changing the course of her unhappy life. Some very dark moments. A really excellent read. Maureen Lee ‘An captivating story, so evocative of the period.’ Jean Fullerton. "If you liked War Brides you will love this book." Barbara Sinclair is desperate to escape from her home in Hastings. Her beloved half-brothers, Tom and David, are being sent to boarding school because the town is likely to be a target of the German Luftwaffe when the bombing starts and John Thorogood, a childhood friend, is also leaving to join the RAF. Caught up by the emotion of the moment Barbara agrees to marry him when the war is over. She discovers her paternal grandparents know nothing about her and she is determined to find them. Dr Edward Sinclair, her grandfather, is delighted to welcome Barbara to her father's ancestral home but her reception from her grandmother is frosty. Nevertheless, she is enjoying her new life. Barbara is obliged to return to Hastings and her grandfather accompanies her – this visit changes her life for ever. Now she not only has John as a dear friend, but also has Simon Farley, the son of a local industrialist and Alex Everton, a handsome Spitfire pilot, taking an interest in her. Then everything changes. Evil stalks her paradise. Will Simon, Alex or John be the man to save her life?

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Pocketeers Ask Sally Special

As I almost forgot about writing this blog post this week (sorry!) I put a call out to folks asking what they would like me to write about. It’s turned into a bit of an Ask Sally special, so I will endeavour to answer all the questions here, and I hope that my fellow pocketeers will join in with their own answers. (Those of you who read my column in Writers Forum or visit my writing calendar blog will know about my Ask Sally feature).

Q: (In relation to the new Easy Reads) Could you give us some indication of what sort of stuff which would have been taboo under the old guidelines has now been accepted?

A: This is not the easiest question to answer at the moment, as things are in a state of flux as even the editors get to grips with the new imprint. No Easy Reads have been published yet (My novella Remember Remember will be the first - Note: since writing this, I've seen that Easy Reads are going to be numbered differently, such as Liaison 1, Liaison 2 etc, so mine won't be the actual first, but it may be the first in either the intrigue or suspense lines. I'll know more when it's on the shelves) so we can’t do the usual research that all good writers should do for a market.

There are various bits of information dotted around the Internet, which may be of help. The new guidelines can be found on my blog here (It’s a pdf download, so you need Adobe Acrobat in order to open it.)

There’s a great report of an interview by Douglas McPherson with Easy Read editor Maggie Seed on Womagwriters blog here

And Maggie clarified some of my own questions about the new imprint here:

So hopefully they’ll be of some help. There are also all sorts of links on my main pocket novel page on my blog, including links to a report of Maggie Seed’s appearance at the RNA conference.

There’s also some very good information in the blog post and comments section on this blog on Margaret's post about Stretching The Writing Muscle.

I can tell you from my own experience that the books are going to be very different from the old pocket novels. Naturally I don’t want to give my story away here, so I have to be a bit vague. But I can tell you that I was able to tell the story in the third person (alternating the hero and heroine’s points of view), but I also put, at the beginning of each chapter, a first person section from the point of view of the killer. So that’s very different (and very chilling if I may say so myself).

I blatantly allowed my hero and heroine to sleep together without them making any declarations of love or other commitment. As I was still not sure of the rules on explicit sex of the new imprint at the time of writing that, I did keep the bedroom door closed. My heroine had also had an affair (prior to meeting the hero) with a married man.

I can tell you that at least one of the characters dies a very nasty death, and whilst I didn’t go into all the blood and gore, it’s quite chilling. There’s also another quite progressive (for pocket novels) element to the story, which I’m afraid if I told you I would have to kill you. Seriously, it’s a major plot point and would give the story away. But I have to say that I would never have believed that such a plot point would be allowed in pocket novels.

On the other hand, we’re still not talking Trainspotting and the Reservoir Dogs here. In terms of language, I got away with a couple of ‘bloodys’ and ‘buggers’ (assuming they make the final edit) but I don’t think they’ll be wanting any Ana Steele style ‘Holy f***s’ anytime soon.

Nor, despite jokes, are DC Thomson going the Fifty Shades of Grey route.  Sex scenes should be sensual and not pornographic. So no bodily fluids!

Maggie told me that for the intrigue line she liked the idea of stories such as those written by Sophie Hannah. I would imagine, admittedly based only on my one acceptance, that murder mysteries would be along the lines of Inspector Morse, Agatha Raisin and other similar style mysteries. But don’t quote me on that. What Maggie has said is not to write as if you were writing for pocket novels. Don’t be afraid to be a bit bolder, and there’s no need for the action to be all from the heroine’s (or hero and heroine’s) point of view anymore.

However, Maggie is keen that even the murder mysteries and intrigues have some relationship at the centre of them, because the books are still going to be sold next to the women’s magazines.

I can tell you that Maggie still likes the things she’s always liked. She likes a hunky, tortured hero, an appealing heroine who may have faults but is still sympathetic, and feisty older people. She also likes a really twisted murderer! But I don’t think we’re talking Hannibal Lecter here. I’d save the cannabalism for another day. What I mean is psychologically twisted. The murderer in my story has a very skewed view of the world.

I read it somewhere that some people think the pocket novels will be dumbing down. I’d like to address that here and say ‘certainly not’. If anything mine is more complex than any I’ve ever written (at least in pocket novel terms), and I certainly didn’t write for a less intelligent reader.

What I will say here is that the only way you’ll really know if Maggie likes your novel is to pitch it to her. Send her three chapters and a synopsis. I’ll talk about process in a bit in response to another question, but if she likes the idea she will advise you how to write it to current requirements. She’s lovely like that.

My first Easy Read novella Remember Remember should be on the shelves very soon. It’s a Bonfire Night theme so it’ll either be the end of October or the beginning of November. As soon as it’s gone off sale, I’ll be putting it on Kindle so if you don’t manage to get a paper copy, you should be able to read it on your Kindle or laptop. I think that once we see a few more on the shelves it will be much easier to know what Maggie is looking for and how far we can take things.

And I’m sure my fellow Pocketeers have even more advice to offer regarding their own recent submissions.

Q: I'm reading a Pocket Novel at the moment, POV seems to switch quite a lot, 3 times on one particular page - is this normal as I prefer to write from one POV.

A: With the new Easy Reads, you can write from one point of view or several (and with The People’s Friend actually). It’s up to you. I generally advise the participants on my workshops not to switch points of view mid-paragraph, and that it’s best to have a line break between points of view. Too much head-hopping can be confusing for the reader. But I’ve read a lot of novels lately where points of view can change between paragraphs. I know People’s Friend don’t mind that so much and a lot of their more established writers do it, and I’ve seen it in a few Mills and Boon novels. What matters is that the writer clearly knows what they’re doing and that point of view changes don’t just come across as a sign that the writer does not have a good grasp of the technique.

Q: Can you explain the process when a full manuscript has been submitted? How long should you wait for a reply and when is the right time to send it elsewhere?

A: Waiting for a response to the first three chapters and synopsis can take up to six months. But once a full MS has been submitted, the editors of both People’s Friend and Easy Reads are usually fairly quick to get back to you. I’ve had an acceptance the day after submitting a full MS. Sometimes I’ve had to wait a week or two. I think the most I had to wait was two months. But it’s really ‘how long is a piece of string?’ Bear in mind that they are reading hundreds of submissions a month and have to read them all. I’d say that if you don’t hear anything for six months after sending the partial, chase it up. If you don’t hear anything after three months of being asked for full MS, then chase that up, particularly if it’s seasonal work. They don’t mind at all. Both Maggie and Tracey are very approachable. But I would suggest waiting to hear back from them before submitting elsewhere. If you don’t hear back within a reasonable time after chasing up your full MS, then by all means submit elsewhere.

Are the pocket novels worth doing?

Do you mean in terms of what they pay? Or experience? It’s true that writing pocket novels does not pay a lot and I’ve seen some heated arguments about it. Both Easy Reads and The People’s Friend pay £300 a book, though Easy Reads are adding £20 to that figure, for each additional book they buy from a writer. After it’s published, you can sell it onto Ulverscroft for Large Print. They pay around £450. You can then claim Public Lending Rights from Libraries, and those payments last for as long as your books are in the library and being borrowed by readers. I know it’s been argued that you could still earn that extra if DC Thomson paid more, or if you wrote short stories and sold them. I concede the first point, but as for earning more from selling short stories, that’s all very well if you can sell them.

Also, it’s very hard to re-sell a short story that’s already been published in a British magazine, so once you’ve earned from it, that’s all you’ll ever earn. The Australian mag That’s Life Fast Fiction buy some reprints, but it’s not a given. You may be able to earn a bit of ALCS money from stories, but it’s not as long lasting as Public Lending Rights. And personally speaking, I’ve been far more successful at writing and selling pocket novels than I ever was at writing short stories. Admittedly I’m quite quick at writing the pocket novels, and can easily write between anything 3 and 5 a year, so they may not be for everyone in terms of the output needed to earn from them.

In terms of doing the pocket novels for experience, I think it’s a great way to learn how to create a novel that has good characters, pace, structure and which is, most importantly, entertaining. If the editor likes your story but think it needs work, she will work with you on it and guide you to writing the right sort of novel for a DC Thomson publication. So you get the chance to work with someone who is at the top of her profession and who knows what the market and readers want. I’ve learned so much about what works from the pocket novel editors.  

The most important thing is that those of us who write pocket novels love doing it, and sometimes that’s more important than what you earn from it. Only you can decide if it’s right for you.

If you sell a Pocket Novel, what rights do they purchase?

The Easy Reads and The People’s Friend usually purchase First Cheap Paper Rights, which is pretty much the same as First British Serial Rights. This means that they have first rights to publish the work first in their given format and that it can’t be published in that same format or any other by another publisher whilst the book is on the shelves. All other rights for Pocket Novels, including Large Print and ebook rights, remain with you. But it’s common courtesy to let them publish the novella and for it to be off the shelves before you put it on Kindle and/or sell it on for Large Print. As Large Print publishers need an actual printed copy, you’d have to do this anyway. But as they can take a couple of months to get back to you, it won’t hurt you to send off a copy of your pocket novel to the Large Print publishers as soon as you get it even if the novel is still on the shelves at that time.

I’ll be appearing (all too briefly) at the Festival of Romance in Bedford this year on Saturday 17th November 2012 where I’ll be answering these questions and more about Pocket Novels at a Pocket Novel/Category Romance workshop. Tickets for the event (which I think are £19 each) are available from the FoR site. I have it on good authority there are plenty of spaces left. On the day I’ll be holding a free raffle for all those who attend the workshop, and there’ll be some book bundles up for grabs in that raffle. They’ll consist of some of my previously published pocket novels (some in Large Print). I also hope to include my first Easy Read amongst the bundles.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Stretching the writing muscle

I've never written a crime drama before but I think the new book launch by My Weekly might provide a good stepping stone into the genre. The Intrigue and Suspense genres are two very different brands. Intrigue could I think be classed less gritty and Suspense more hard nosed.

I quite like reading 'cosy' murder mysterites, rather along the Murder She Wrote lines, Simon Brett Fethering mysteries, Miss Marple and M C Beaton's Agatha Raisin series. The guidelines say 'Who - amateur sleuths' so I am presuming 'cosies' would fall into this category.

I think it's a good idea to stretch the writing muscle by going for something different. Murder mysteries would require quite a bit of planning. There would be alibis, false and real, a list of suspects, motive and action. The scenario would also have to be carefully thought out. Unless you were going for a period piece like a typical country house murder mystery of say the twenties. you would have to think up a good reason as to why everyone was together and the reason for a feud. Weddings and other family gatherings always provide good material.

I understand these novellas will be displayed amongst the magazines. I hope they are given good prominence. Has anyone had one accepted yet or got any thoughts on the new line?


Wednesday, 26 September 2012

The value of reviews.

There has been a lot of talk on Facebook and Twitter about writers and publishers paying for reviews so I thought I would make this the subject of my post. I certainly have noticed a correlation with the amount of sales I make on Amazon to the amount of reviews I've got; it doesn't seem to matter that there are several negative reviews as well as the positive. Of course a review is subjective - there are books, if I was forced to review, I would only give two or three stars to because I don't like books written in first person present tense. I know these books quite often very well written they're just not thing I want to read. I wouldn't dream of writing a negative review for a book just because I don't like the style. If you look at the site 50 Shades of Grey has more one and two star reviews than it does five star, the same has happened for War Brides another runaway bestseller. What matters, I think, is that they both have hundreds, if not thousands, of reviews. Recently there has been a case of a writer leaving leaflets about their book in a Waterstone's and the sales staff taking umbrage and attacking the writer on Amazon with scurrilous reviews. This book has only sold a handful of copies up to that point, but I'm sure the resulting publicity in all the papers has proved financially beneficial to the author. I'm always suspicious of five-star reviews; I think a lot of them might well be written by family and friends. After all, I don't think there are many perfect books! I've had 90% excellent reviews of my books most of which I've forgotten stop however, I think I could quote you from every one of the negative ones. So –do reviews have any real value? It must be so if publishers and authors are prepared to pay large sums of money in order to acquire them. I've been told that Amazon only feature your books in any of their marketing if you’ve had dozens of five-star reviews. What do you think? Are they a reward for good writing or a displacement activity for readers with too much time on their hands? Sometimes I think the particularly nasty reviews might be written by disgruntled writers who are not selling as many books themselves. Would love to hear what you think? Fenella Barbara's War - coming 5th October.