Sunday, 24 November 2013

The Fussy Librarian - great resource for readers and authors!

My book Beware of the Horse is being featured today at The Fussy Librarian, a new website that offers personalized ebook recommendations. You choose from 40 genres and indicate preferences about content and then the computers work their magic. It's a great idea - for readers and authors -- do check it out!

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Book covers: working with an illustrator

Book covers are hugely important in the success of a book, and I really enjoy working on my indie pubbed titles with a brilliant designer.  Like many authors, we use images from image libraries such as  Of course, there are drawbacks to this.

1.       If can be very time consuming scouring images to find exactly what you want
2.       It isn’t always possible to find exactly what you want
3.       When you do, it might be too expensive for your budget
4.       When you do, you might find that image has been used before – and unless you do a Google image search, you won’t know where.  For instance, the first image I used for a book cover, I discovered, the day after publication, that another author has used the same image.  Although we had modified ours, it was still instantly recognisable.

So I decided to stretch my budget and commission an illustrator to produce an image that is exactly what I want, completely distinctive and unique. Via Facebook, I accidentally came across a wonderful artist called Sarah who specialises in drawing and painting animals.  Having seen some stunning horse portraits, I got in touch last year and recently we met, talked and she has agreed to produce the image for one of my forthcoming titles, The Perfect Horse.  It was important that the horse in question be breathtakingly beautiful – perfect, in fact, - since although the story is a thrilling pony book aimed at children and teenagers, there is a twist, and it involves genetic engineering…….

Sarah charts her progress on her Facebook page so that readers can see how the illustration work is evolving, which is a great idea. I can’t wait to see the finished result. Watch this space!

Photo: Not very good with loose work! But ideas of colour running though the piece!

Monday, 11 November 2013

Coffee in the Midnight Sun

A new travel website offers opportunities for writers to send in articles - and they are running a competition!

I've got a short piece in today, all about a previous summer visit to Iceland, called Coffee in the Midnight Sun.  Click to read

Iceland has a truly inspirational landscape and is a photographer's dream.

They've included 2 pics by my brother Chris Ayres  - who has an AMAZING album of photos on flickr - click

Plus the article features one of my modest efforts of Iceland's famous church.  And below is a stunning pic from my partner Roger taken during our visit.
Seljalandsfoss waterfall by Roger Hyland

Sunday, 10 November 2013

The horse in my heart: FREE until Friday!

My new e-book The Horse in my Heart is now available from Amazon and will be FREE to download until Friday.

All writers have a book that they are especially proud of, and for me, this is that book.  It's an emotional story of love, friendship and loss, and, although now out of print, it was the bestselling of all my novels, selling over 162,000 copies in 7 countries. (The original title was Transitions). As with other titles in my out of print backlist, I have revised and updated the story and reissued it as an e-book in the hope that a new generation of readers will enjoy it.

If you want to try it out here are the Amazon links for US and UK: (it is also available in all other Amazon territories).

And this is the product description:

Now, leaning on the fence, letting the soft breeze stroke my face while I watch my sweet bay horse grazing beneath the apple tree, it’s as if everything is normal and nothing has changed. But everything has changed. Forever. 

Reading Elizabeth’s diary, a year after it all happened, I experienced a strange feeling of unreality. Perhaps it was a dream. Perhaps it should have been. Sometimes, I wonder what her horse thinks of it all (he is still her horse, and always will be). Because horses remember everything. In fact, they have amazing memories, better than humans. Most of all they have souls. Deep, fathomless souls. 
And a great capacity for love. 

When nervous rider Annie innocently responds to an advert for a horse for sale, she wants a steady safe ride, but instead finds herself drawn to the lively Rocket - and his owner, the enigmatic teenager, Elizabeth. Annie knows she could never manage a horse like Rocket but Elizabeth won't listen. 
It’s a stormy start to a friendship that will change both of their lives dramatically. Because Elizabeth is on a mission to find a home – the right home – for her beloved bay rescue horse, and, despite everything, she’s convinced Annie is the one. 

But why is Elizabeth in such a hurry to find a home for the horse she clearly loves so much? When she discovers the reason, Annie is devastated. And time is running out….. 

Friday, 8 November 2013

Writing and OCD

In a previous blog post I talked about the concept of writing what haunts us, and how it influences the topics we choose. Clearly, our psychological make-up is bound to affect the way we write – and the characters we create.  

Earlier in the year I watched a TV documentary called OCD Extreme Challenge, which followed the progress of a group of young people who were all debilitated by Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and wanted to improve their condition.

People who don’t suffer from OCD or phobias find it hard to understand.  Saying “pull yourself together really doesn’t work”.  The fear is real.  Most OCD sufferers hate being the way they are and are desperate to be “normal.”  They try to hide their issues and use strategies to give the impression they are like everyone else. It’s hard work. 

This was riveting viewing and also very moving. The participants were brave to allow their situation to be observed to help others and risk ridicule from those who just don’t understand what it feels like to be at the mercy of OCD.   Two of the young people had contamination OCD, which involved excessive hand washing, and fear of public places and therefore eating out. 

Physical challenges were part of the therapy, the theory being if you can conquer extreme physical obstacles, the resulting self-confidence enables you to cope better with the OCD.  So you trick your brain into thinking you can do anything.  I suspect overcoming any major challenge, physical or not, can achieve the same results. 

The therapist did not try to cure them, but instead helped them come to terms with living with uncertainty, confronting the fears and extreme rituals.  Because fear of the unknown and not being in control is at the root of OCD.  Freedom from being controlled by their condition is what sufferers seek; because, ironically, we are control freaks.  We need to be in control of our environment in ways that, realistically, we can’t be.  And constantly fighting the resulting pervasive intrusive thoughts is exhausting.   

About 20 years ago, I saw a CBT therapist and it gave me some tools to enable me to cope better.  I had a phobia about anything medical, and debilitating checking routines, as well as a travel phobia.  The therapy enabled me to travel abroad,  even managing a trip to Bali (an exceptionally stressful 7 days,  since it exposed me  to almost every anxiety and hang-up – and succeeded in reinforcing my fears!). 

Caring for my parents, I had to confront my medical phobias head on, which I did, and you would think, (as I did) that this would cure the phobias.  But in fact, despite finding ways to manage the fears so I wasn’t crippled by them, they actually became worse – especially after losing both parents to cancer.  

I have recorded some of my thoughts in notebooks, and writing down how I feel does help.  Writing as therapy. 

In the 1980s, I wrote a short piece about my underground train phobia, which I called Only 3 Stops, published in the excellent QWF magazine.  But, apart from a short ghost story,  I’ve not really explored it in my fiction – yet. There are few fictional characters with OCD that I can name who are main protagonists, which is a shame, because there are lots of sufferers out there.  The TV detective series  Monk was refreshing in that the detective hero had crippling OCD (which of course helps him solve the crimes).  And one of my favourite characters is Sheldon, the theoretical physicist in the wonderful TV sit com The Big Bang Theory.  I laugh because I recognise much of the behaviour, and what, to non-sufferers, may seem ridiculous and strange, to me demonstrates logic and common sense! It all boils down to the way we think about things.  I believe that neuroscientists have identified faulty brain wiring in OCD sufferers and I hope that developments in this field will continue.  If there was a cure for OCD it would be life-changing. 

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