Indie Author Of The Month; Paula Harmon

Welcome to another Indie Author of The Month post! This time please welcome the marvellously versatile and prolific indie author Paula Harmon. As well as writing fantastic novels and short stories, Paula was also one of the wonderful people behind Blandford’s first ever literary festival last November. I was honoured to be asked to get involved and it was a fantastic event I hope they are all very proud of. I can’t wait for the next one! Here Paula talks about where her ideas come from, what her writing process is and more. Enjoy.

  1. Tell us about your latest release. What is it about and who is it aimed at?

The Wrong Sort To Die’ will be out as an e-book on 30th June 2020.

It’s a historical mystery set in June 1910.

Fighting her corner in a man’s world, Dr Margaret Demeray works as a pathologist in a London hospital for the poor. Suppressing her worry that she’s breaching confidentiality, Margaret gives a stranger called Fox information about a dead down-and-out, in the hope he’ll use it to raise awareness of bad working conditions.

But when a second man appears to die the same way, Margaret starts to wonder why the enigmatic Fox keeps turning up to ask ever more complex questions.

She decides to work alone, uncertain of his motives and wary of her attraction to him.

Once she starts investigating however, her home is burgled, she’s attacked in broad daylight and a close friend becomes distant.

Fox offers the chance to forge an alliance, saying he knows why the men have died but needs her to find out what is killing them and who is behind it.

Yet how come the closer she gets to him the more danger she faces? And how can a memory she’d buried possibly be linked to the deaths?

Margaret must discover the truth before someone – known or unknown – silences her for good.Margaret Demeray was a minor character in the Caster and Fleet series set in the 1890s where she first appeared as feisty teenager. There was no chance she was going to let her older sister get away with all the fun. It would be suitable for anyone who enjoys writers like Ann Granger, Anne Perry, Clara Benson and like a strong-minded female lead.Tell us about your publishing journey so far.

2. Tell us about your publishing journey so far.

I published two collections of short stories in 2016, followed by a memoir about my father in 2017. In 2018, I published my first novel ‘Murder Britannica’ which is a historical mystery set in Roman-Britain in AD190. The sequel ‘Murder Durnovaria’ set the following year in Roman Dorchester came out late 2019. I published a joint collection of short fantasy stories called ‘Weird and Peculiar Tales’ with Val Portelli. With Liz Hedgecock, I co-wrote the Caster and Fleet series – six historical mysteries set in 1890s London which start with ‘The Case of the Black Tulips’. They’re about two young women, frustrated with the restrictions in their lives who end up in partnership solving mysteries.

3. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

When I was very small, if I was sent to bed early as a punishment I was always quite glad as it gave me the chance to tell myself stories. (For as long as we shared a bedroom, I used to drive my younger sister up the wall by doing this under my breath when she was trying to go to sleep.) Creative writing was my favourite subject at school and I’d always meant to be a writer. Earning a living, then having a family got in the way to start but I thought I’d finally have time and space when my youngest child started school.  However, a relocation and change of working pattern meant my dream was dashed. Then in 2015, someone encouraged me to enter a competition and join a writers’ group. After that I sort of thought ‘if I don’t just get on with it whether I have time and space or not, I’ll never do it’ and I did.

4.What is your typical writing day like?

I work full-time and writing tends to have to fit round work. I try to write for one day at the weekend as well as fitting in an hour a day otherwise. I’d write on train journeys as I did a lot of commuting up till March. The current Covid-19 situation makes things less easy since, although I’m still working, I spend that ‘hour after work’ catching up by video with my mother and sister. But on the other hand, I’ve had nowhere to go at weekends and been able to get on with writing instead. Although, as for many, the coronavirus situation itself has a scrambled my brain a little.

5. What is your writing process? (how do you plot a book, come up with characters, find motivation etc)

I tend to start off with a short scene in my head – a person or people in a location doing something apparently ordinary and then I have to work out who they are and what’s extraordinary about it or what’s going to happen next. I usually start with two characters and seem to end up with a million – really not sure why! Once I know who the people are, I then work out where they are, when they’re living and what time of year it is. If it’s set in another era, I’ll do a little light research to find out what was going on at the time in case I need to factor that in.  Generally once I find the ‘shape’ of the story, I know how it will start and end and roughly who wants what and what is stopping them from getting it. I usually write that down and then an outline of what ought to happen roughly at each stage of the book. Then I just start and see what happens. I quite often end up completely reorganising the middle, though the beginning and end don’t usually change. I find out more and more about the characters as I go long – they become ‘real’ and that sometimes alters what the core of the story is about in terms of what they learn about themselves or their world.

6. What has been the most positive thing about your publishing journey so far?

Hearing that people enjoy what you’ve written – that it’s touched them or made them laugh – is wonderful. But for myself, even if I write something that not many people read, somehow tapping into the part of my brain that demands to write stories is a wonderful mental release.

7. What has been the most negative thing about your publishing journey so far?Marketing is very hard work. Most writers by nature are rather introverted. I’m not sure I always come across that way at work, but the minute I start talking about my books, I’m overwhelmed with shyness. It always feels like I’m exposing a part of myself, which I suppose I am – since most characters have elements of the author in them. (That’s a little alarming when I think of some of my characters.)

8. Who is your favourite character from your own books and why?

That’s really hard to answer and tends to depend on what I’m working on at the moment! Margaret Demeray’s outgoing and determined nature leads her to want to make the world a fairer place, but it hides a vulnerability. She’s drawn in part from some of the rather feisty women in my family, none of whom let anyone tell them what they could or couldn’t do. But I confess her tendency to lose her temper and say the wrong thing when she does is definitely me.

But I can’t help loving Lucretia – one of the main (and from her perspective) most misunderstood characters in the Murder Britannica series. It never ceases to astound her that people don’t realise just how important she is, but she remains full of hope that not only will she become even richer very soon but that she’ll find if not love then passion – it’s just annoying that people around her keep dying in suspicious circumstances.

9. Where do your ideas come from?

I really don’t know! They just turn up. I’ve always had very vivid dreams and quite often that’s where they come from, and I’m also a terrible day-dreamer. I love places of transit like stations where you can think ‘what if I got on a different train and went somewhere else entirely? or what if the train went back in time? or what if an old friend/enemy sat down next to me? or…’ I sort of apply that in other contexts and see what unfolds. ‘Murder Britannica’ started as a paragraph where Lucretia is having a snide and critical conversation with her daughter-in-law. It just came to me one lunch-time and I wrote it down. It was years before the rest fell into place. With ‘The Wrong Sort To Die’, I started knowing that Margaret had qualified as a doctor in about 1898 and wondered what she’d done after that. I knew she’d have a thirst for justice and equality but also suspected she wouldn’t be much good at bedside manner, so wondered what she’d do and decided she’d probably work in a charitable hospital in the pathology department. I decided what year the story would take place in and by chance, saw something on TV about that era which gave me a germ of a background for the plot – most of the general public thinks they’re living in a golden age of peace with new inventions and social change but meanwhile, the government is preparing for war. What might that mean for the people Margaret wants to help?

10. What can we expect from you next?

Next on the list will be the third in the ‘Murder Britannica’ series. While ‘Murder Durnovaria’ was set in Roman Dorchester, the third book is set in a small town near a river which is roughly located where modern day Blandford is. It’s midwinter and Lucretia’s nephew Fabio will do anything to avoid being forced into an arranged marriage, even look into strange goings on in a small town where it’s hard to know who’s on whose side.

11. Tell us three fun facts about youI can make something out of next to nothing whether it’s a meal or a costume; I don’t take myself remotely seriously; according to family legend I have a medieval ancestor who caught a ‘whale’ off London bridge.

12. What is the best advice you could give to aspiring writers?

Don’t give up. Keep writing things even if you don’t finish them, they may come into their own one day and if not then they’re worth it just for the practice. Maybe today is the right day and maybe it’s not. One day you’ll just get on with it, regardless of whether you really have the space or time. Everything you experience, witness and live through can inform your writing whether it’s serious or funny or thought-provoking. Within legal limits – be a people watcher!

Thank you so much to Paula for agreeing to be interviewed on my blog! |If you would like to find out more about Pauls and her books, her bio and links are below!

Paula Harmon was born in North London to parents of English, Scottish and Irish descent. Perhaps feeling the need to add a Welsh connection, her father relocated the family every two years from country town to country town moving slowly westwards until they settled in South Wales when Paula was eight. She later graduated from Chichester University before making her home in Gloucestershire and then Dorset where she has lived since 2005.

She is a civil servant, married with two children at university. Paula has several writing projects underway and wonders where the housework fairies are, because the house is a mess and she can’t think why.

https://paulaharmondownes.wordpress.com

https://www.facebook.com/pg/paulaharmonwrites

viewauthor.at/PHAuthorpage

Murder Britannica

It’s AD 190 in Southern Britain. Lucretia won’t let her get-rich-quick scheme be undermined by minor things like her husband’s death. But a gruesome discovery leads wise-woman Tryssa to start asking awkward questions.

Murder Durnovaria

It’s AD 191. Lucretia last saw Durnovaria as a teenager. Now she’s back to claim an inheritance. Who could imagine an old ring bought in the forum could bring lead to Tryssa having to help local magistrate Amicus discover who would rather kill than reveal long-buried truths.

The Wrong Sort To Die

London 1910. Dr Margaret Demeray is approached by a stranger called Fox to help find out what’s killed two impoverished men. How can a memory she’d buried possibly be linked to the deaths? And how come the closer she gets to Fox the more danger she faces herself?

The Cluttering Discombobulator

Can everything be fixed with duct tape? Dad thinks so. The story of one man’s battle against common sense and the family caught up in the chaos around him.

Kindling

Secrets and mysteries, strangers and friends. Stories as varied and changing as British skies.

The Advent Calendar

Christmas without the hype says it is – stories for midwinter.

The Quest

In a parallel universe, Dorissa and Menilly, descendants of the distrusted dragon people, are desperate to find their runaway brother in a fog-bound city, which simmers with unrest and deceit.

The Seaside Dragon

For 7-11 year olds. When Laura and Jane go on holiday to a remote cottage, the worst they expect is no wifi. The last thing they expect is to be battling strange creatures with an ancient grudge.

The Case of the Black Tulips (with Liz Hedgecock)

When Katherine Demeray opens a letter addressed to her missing father, little does she imagine that she will find herself in partnership with socialite Connie Swift, racing against time to solve mysteries and right wrongs. (This is the first of six Caster & Fleet Mysteries)

Weird and Peculiar Tales (with Val Portelli)

Short stories from this world and beyond.

How Not To Annoy A Writer

It can’t be easy having a writer in your life. They can be rather self-absorbed, perhaps even obsessive at times. They may appear to be living in a constant daydream. They may stay up late at night, drinking coffee and pounding the keyboard. They may get a little agitated when they don’t get time to write and they can be hell to live with if the dreaded writer’s block strikes. But if your friend or relative is a writer, there are lots of things you can do to make life a little easier for them. Here are some things you should definitely avoid doing if you don’t want to annoy the writer in your life.

  1. Don’t buy their book if you have no intention of ever reading it. This will only cause them to writhe in anxious frustration for months on end, as they battle with the urge to constantly ask you if you have read it or not. If you buy their book, please do read it. Anything else is torture for them!
  2. Don’t read their book if you have no intention of reviewing it. Reviews are fuel for writers. Reviews make their day, their month, their year, so please know when you tell a writer you have finally read their precious book, they are now going to expect you to leave a review for it somewhere. Writers can get rather obsessed with waiting for reviews, so please don’t leave them hanging. Just a short ‘it was good’ will keep them happy.
  3. Don’t ignore their successes, no matter how minor. Success is different for different writers. Some will have their eyes set on huge publishing deals, huge advances and after that, world fame. Others are just excited to have finished writing their book! Success means different things to them, so please don’t ignore their little milestones. Whether it is finally starting to write, finishing a project, getting a publishing contract or taking the self-publishing route, please know that it is a huge deal for them and they would love for you to be excited for them.
  4. If their book is not for you, please tell them early on. It is always best to be honest to avoid the writer hanging on in nervous anticipation, wondering if their family member or friend or workmate will read their book. If it is really not for you, not something you would ever read in a million years, please put them out of their misery as soon as possible and tell them this. They will get it over it, I promise, and you won’t have to put up with them hinting and sighing in your direction every time you announce you need a new book to read.
  5. If you haven’t read their work (for whatever reason) please don’t expect them to not be just a little bit hurt every time you ask for reading recommendations. They really, really want to yell; ‘my book!’ every time you do this, but they don’t want to put you in an awkward position.
  6. Avoid certain hurtful phrases such as; ‘writing is not a real job,’ ‘anyone can write a book,’ ‘I wish I had time to sit and write a book all day,’ and so on. To a writer, their writing is their world. You may not understand it, but it’s part of what makes them who they are, and the world would be a very dull place if it were not full of writers.
  7. Remember that their writing time is precious to them. Perhaps they have a day job and can only write in the evening or at the weekend. Perhaps they can survive on the money they make from writing, or perhaps they are retired and devote as much time as they can to their craft. Whatever time a writer has to work on their book, it is incredibly precious to them and they ought to guard it fiercely. Writers need time, space and peace to get things done. If you can allow them this, they will be much happier and calmer, and they will not annoy you so much in return.

If you follow these simple rules, I can guarantee any writers you know will be incredibly grateful and in the long-run they will be far less annoying to know!

Elliot Pie Wins Two Chill With A Book Awards!

Hi guys,

I’m sorry I haven’t blogged in a few weeks. I do actually have some draft and half-finished posts written, but have not had the time to polish them up. I’ve been very busy with work-related projects, and my own writing.

However, I wanted to write a quick post to let you know that Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature has won two Chill With A Book Awards! Having won a Reader’s Award, it was automatically entered into Book Cover of The Month award for March and won that too!

Chill Logo Cover of the Month Award 2019

I am, obviously, over the moon. Many years of work went into this novel, with numerous rewrites, and revisions. It came very close to being picked up by two traditional publishers but in the end I published with Pict Publishing, an all-women indie publishing collective. It’s just always nice to have the hard work recognised, as it gives you a confidence boost and the kick up the bum you need to keep going!

Anyway, I better get back to work and I promise I will have some new posts for you in the upcoming weeks!

 

Results of 2018 Reading Challenge and Why I’m Not Doing One in 2019

I completed a reading challenge in 2017 and enjoyed it so much I decided to do another one in 2018. I spotted the perfect one when it was posted in a Facebook group I belong to. The challenge was 40 books for 40 years and was set up by a group of book-loving friends who were all turning 40 in 2018. As I was also turning 40 in 2018 I thought this would be a great challenge to join in. Here are the books I chose. As you can see, there is one missing! I will explain why I am not doing a challenge this year at the end of the post.

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1)A book about ww1Barefoot on The Cobbles by Janet Few (a bit of a cheat as the book was not specifically about WW1 but it did cover that time period and I really wanted to help out a fellow indie author and read her book!)

2)A non-fiction book about sport – knew I would struggle with this one, and despite a few helpful suggestions from people towards the end, I ran out of time, plus couldn’t be bothered!

3)A Crime novelSix Stories by Matt Wesolowski – absolutely brilliant, highly recommended, unique format, incredibly creepy and Hydra by the same author is wonderful too. His next book Changeling is on my to-read list!

4)A book for adults written by a predominantly children’s authorThe Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling. I’ve never read Harry Potter but was curious to read this and I was pleasantly surprised. It kept my attention and kept me entertained when staying overnight in the hospital with my son!

5)A sequel to a book you’ve already read – Force of Nature by Jane Harper – a slight cheat again, as it’s not really a sequel, but it is her second book and contains the same main character!

6) A book that’s been on your TBR pile for more than 12 months – Release – Patrick Ness – one of my favourite authors, so this was an easy one and did not disappoint

7) An autobiography – Johnny Cash – I’m a fan, plus it was an excuse to read a book I’d bought my mum for Christmas! Really enjoyed this

8) A Carnegie medal winner – One by Sarah Crossan – a quick google of Carnegie medal winners and I liked the sound of this. It was a very quick read, written in verse. Pretty good.

9) A historical novel – The Finest Hat In The Whole World – Colleen Parkinson – an easy choice, as the author is a friend of mine, and this book is incredible! I don’t normally read historical fiction but this was an epic family saga and I couldn’t put it down.

10) A book that is about Summer – Jackdaw Summer by David Almond – my son and I love David Almond and are working out way through his books, so this was an easy and very enjoyable choice. Also a quick read!

11) A book with a prominent character who is LGBTQIA – Symptoms of Being Human – Jeff Garvin – This was a book on my to-read list anyway, so it was another easy choice and I really loved this book. YA at its best.

12) A book with a number in the title – 11.22.63 by Stephen King – I love Stephen King so when I saw this title I knew it was the one to read to tick off number 12. Great book!

13) The final book in a series – Bonds of Blood and Spirit – Legacies – When I was a reviewer for the sadly defunct site Underground Book Reviews, I picked this series to read as it sounded so different to anything I normally go for. Vampires, werewolves and shapeshifters. This was the last in the series and the last book I ever read and reviewed for UBR! Fantastic series.

14) A book from a genre you normally avoid – Jackson by Tracy Podger – This is a romance book, I guess, but a very hard-hitting gritty one. I’d seen it come up in some groups I’m in on Facebook and although I never read romance or erotica, I decided to pick it for this challenge as it sounded pretty interesting. It was a really good book and it was really good to try a genre I normally avoid!

15) A children’s book you didn’t read as a child – Danny Champion of the World by Roald Dahl – I somehow missed this as a child but thoroughly enjoyed it for the first time as an adult!

16) A book originally published under a nom de plume – The Secret Path (Spooksville Book 1) by Christopher Pike – a google search brought Christopher Pike up as someone who writes under a pen name. I’d forgotten about his books, but I actually devoured tons of these as a young teen! I didn’t really enjoy this one though, or his writing style, now I’m an adult. I kind of skim read this.

17) A book recommended to you by a friend – The Minotaur Hunt by Miriam Hastings – My favourite indie author Kate Rigby recommended this indie book to me and I’m so glad I read it, as it’s a fantastic example of how amazing self-pubbed books can be! A disturbing examination of mental illness, I couldn’t put this down.

18) A book with a title featuring the weather – Black Storm by Mark Gillespie – Mark is an author I’ve been following for some time. I try to read as many of his books as I can, but he writes so many, it’s a job to keep up! If you like dark post-apocalyptic, dystopian and alternative history, in short, sharp bursts of action, this is the author for you.

19) A book whose title begins with the first letter of your name – Clay by David Almond – Another David Almond book, so I was happy. Just love his work!

20) A book you chose solely by the cover – Ink by Alice Broadway- beautiful cover and intriguing blurb, but this left me underwhelmed. I just couldn’t care about the characters of the story, so won’t be reading any more in the series.

21) A book where the illustrator is credited on the front cover – The Song From Somewhere Else by A.F Harrold – a kids books in the vein of David Almond, but not as good, I picked this up for one of my kids and as it is full of beautiful illustrations, the artist was credited on the front cover

22) A book published in the year you were born – Still I Rise by Maya Angelou – I don’t normally read poetry, but this was a real treat and worth doing the whole challenge for.

23) A book set in a country you’ve never visited before – Girlhood by Cat Clarke –set in Scotland. I’ve always wanted to go but haven’t made it yet. My daughter bought herself four books by this author and I read some all. Some were better than others, but my daughter got more from them than I did.

24) A book based on or inspired by a true story – Smash all the Windows by Jane Davis – a different tragedy unfolds here, but this was inspired by the Hillsborough tragedy, and Jane Davis is a fantastic indie writer I follow. I’ve read quite a few of hers now and they never disappoint.

25) a book translated from another language – Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin – Wow, this was different. Creepy, eerie, dark, confusing.

26) A Book of short stories – Paisley Shirt by Gail Aldwin – I rarely read short story collections, but I should make more effort, This was a real treat written by an author I know.

27) A book about a culture you don’t know much about – The Fragile Thread of Hope by Pankaj Giri – I’m sorry to say I didn’t finish this one. I just couldn’t get into it and sadly none of the characters interested me.

28) A collaboration novel (2 or more authors) – Sleeping Beauties by Stephen and Owen King – another slightly disappointing one. It was good, but not great, and it was the characters that let me down. I just struggled to care about them!

29) A book by an author you’ve never read before – Mexican Whiteboy by Matt De La Penna – I think this was on my to-read list for some reason, but I’d never heard of the author and it was a pleasure to discover he has more than one book out as I really, really enjoyed this. The characterisation was spot on. I will definitely read the rest of his when I can!

30) A book with an alliterative title – Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay – bought this for my daughter as she had been enjoying the TV show, but sadly I didn’t really enjoy it, or the TV show.

31) A book you spotted on bookstagram – The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Saenz- having read and loved Aristotle and Dante Discover The Secrets Of The Universe, I spotted this on Instagram and knew I had to read it. It was brilliant and I love this author!

32) A fantasy novel – The Oscillator – JK Neve – a brilliant, short, YA fantasy novel written by a guy who comes to my writing group, this was an easy choice!

33) A book set in space – Space Police by David Blake – spotted in a Facebook group, knew it would help tick this one off, but it wasn’t my kind of book

34) re-read a book you read as a child – My Naughty Little Sister by Dorothy Edwards – I loved these books as a child so it was great to read this one again!

35) A book of poetry or a book written in verse – With Double blade – Jean Gill – again, don’t often read poetry, so it was good to be dragged out of my comfort zone and I really liked this

36) A book considered a classic in your favourite genre – The Pigman by Paul Zindel – My favourite genre is YA, and this was a pleasure to read.

37) A green book – Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood – This came up when I googled ‘green’ books, and as I loved The Handmaid’s Tale, it was an easy pick, but I didn’t really like it, sadly. It just didn’t do much for me.

38) A 2018 debut novel – The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo – Brilliant YA book written in poetic verse, I devoured this and loved every page.

39) Read a holiday-themed book around the time of that holiday – Pet Sematary by Stephen King – another slight cheat. I chose Halloween and this is a spooky book, but not one specifically about Halloween. Was great reading it again though, and it prompted me to watch the old version of the film again.

40) Start a book on your birthday, a book that simply takes your fancy! – The Outsider by Stephen King – I got this as a birthday present so it was the perfect choice and I really really enjoyed this one.

So, there they are. The good and the not so good, as well as the slight cheats and the one I didn’t read! I’m proud to point out that there are 12 indie books in this list! It was great to be able to tick books off from the challenge and help out my fellow indies at the same time. This was a great challenge and I mostly enjoyed it, however, I’m not doing one this year. Last year, most of my reading time was taken up by trying to complete this challenge and by editing my own books on my kindle. Therefore, my to-read list of books I actually want to check out is ridiculous! I need to tackle that this year and I don’t want to read any books that are not my kind of thing. It is good to get out of your comfort zone, and I admit that the poetry, short stories, romance and historical fiction books I read for this challenge were all a pleasant surprise, but at the same time, you know what you like, don’t you? I know what I like, and what I am always searching for is compelling, well-written and character driven books, in almost any genre. Hard to find at times!

So, folks what did you read in 2018? What was the best book you read? The most disappointing? Did you discover any new authors? Are you going to take part in a reading challenge this year? Please feel free to comment and share!