Welcome to my blog. I am not a very regular blogger, but I try to keep this site updated with news and information. If there's none of the above I may just share my random ruminations.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Phew! Another 5* review - this time from Karen Bryant Doering

Karen Bryant begins by saying:

"Life Class is an adult novel, in the sense that it is a grown up story, about love, life, relationships and the road to happiness and self-acceptance....."

She goes on to give a perceptive and thoughtful overview of the story before concluding...

"I admit to having a love for British authors who bring English villages to life. The author of Life Class, Ms. Allan, does not disappoint. Her characters are full of the rich personality so often found in small towns and she brings them to life with ease and finesse. The protagonists are realistic, warm and easy to relate to, making the story easy to get lost in. The narration does not interfere with the flow of the story keeping it on track and moving forward and the descriptions of village life and locale draw the reader in.

Life Class is a moving story that will tug on the heartstrings of all but the most hardened readers, simply because it is a story of ordinary people who live ordinary lives, just as the rest of us do. How they deal with the situations many of us find ourselves in and the decisions they make is what sets this novel apart from many of its genre. Its warmth and realism bring an extra measure of both heart and life."

Thank you Karen.

For the full review go to: http://www.amazon.com/LIFE-CLASS-ebook/dp/B007XWFURQ

Sunday, July 15, 2012

"A Fascinating Story", says Jenny Twist of TORN, in her 5 * review

After her resumé of the story, Jenny goes on to say: "This is an impressive book. Gilli Allan is an accomplished and fluent writer. She uses language well and, so rare these days, correctly. Her characterisation is superb. I found myself getting furious with the shallow and selfish Jess who invariably puts her own desires first, but fell a little in love with both her lovers. The plot is quite different from anything I've ever read before. Most definitely NOT chick lit. But how would you characterise it? Often the best books fail to fall neatly into genres and this is one of them. Gilli pulls no punches and makes no attempt to prettify her characters.

An unpredictable story but an all round very good read."

Thank you Jenny.

For the full review go to - http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/cdp/member-reviews/A2M7PC37Q1T9G1/ref=cm_cr_pr_auth_rev?ie=UTF8&sort_by=MostRecentReview

Friday, July 13, 2012

Another five star review - this time for LIFE CLASS - from Kim Nash

After reprising the story, Kim goes on to say....

"This is gentle, lovely story and Gilli Allan has such a fabulous way of writing, that you really do feel like you're there with the characters on the outskirts of the book looking in and sharing their most intimate secrets. I had great difficulty putting it down, the pages seemed to turn themselves as I became engrossed in the wonderfully developing plot.

It had a lovely ending which really put a smile on my face and gave me a really fantastic feel good factor for the rest of the day. It also made me think about things that people want from their lives, and that it's important to be doing something that you enjoy. Also that it's never too late to try to do something that you've always wanted to but never quite got round to doing for one reason or another. (I think I'd better start making a list!)

Delightful characters, charming places and colourful scenes made this a book that I thoroughly enjoyed, and I was sad that it had to come to an end. I could have continued to read about these people all day long!"

To read the complete review go to Kim's blogspot:


“I’ve always wanted to write a book”

We’ve all been there. You’re introduced to someone new. And what does she reply to the fact you’re a published writer?

“I’ve always wanted to write a book. But I’m just too busy at the moment!”

The intimation is clear - writing a publishable book is easy, anyone can do it. All you need is the time. But maybe I’m being unfair. There are many people who want to write. And, although it’s not unknown, it’s an unusual writer who doesn’t want a mainstream publishing deal. Publication is validation of the creative impulse which made you give a year or more of your life to the book you’ve just finished. You want people to read what you’ve written. You want to feel you haven’t been wasting your time.

The original idea that I might actually try to write for publication was decades before digital was even a gleam in anyone’s eye. The idea came to me while I was ironing. I suddenly thought: ‘I used to write romances when I was a teenager, I’m sure I could knock off a Mills & Boon now.’ (Famous last words!) As soon as the ironing was put away I found a note book and pen, and started. I found a publisher almost immediately after I’d finished that first book, Just Before Dawn (although not Mills & Boon), but it was only after my publisher failed - two books later - that I began to learn what a hard business I’d got myself into. But by then I was hooked.

As every year passes, the road to publication has only got longer, harder and more stony. And when you think you’re almost at the door you’re faced with high brick ramparts. I know. I’ve beaten my head against them for long enough! And even if you’re lucky enough to get a mainstream publishing deal, it’s far from guaranteed to make you a living, let alone wealthy. Those who believe having a book published is the route to fame and fortune need to be put straight. For every J K Rowling there are many thousands who struggle, whose income from writing is only enough to feed the cat, whose contracts lapse and are not renewed. Anyway, you’re more likely to get a mainstream publishing deal if you are already famous and, preferably, young and good-looking!

Your new friend may say: “But self-publishing is easy these days. Look at Amanda Hocking.” Technically it is easy, but to create more than the tiniest ripple you need to work very very hard at the promotion and marketing side of the business. Either that or walk through a magic fairy dust storm. (And by the way, if anyone has a weather forecast for when and where the next MFD storm is likely to occur I’d be more than interested to know.

To be writer you have to be tenacious, resilient, a bit selfish and very obsessive! You write because you have to. And you’ve got to be like one of those wobbly men with a silly grin on his face. He can easily be knocked down, but he’ll spin and fall over and bump his head on the floor, then he’ll always bounce back up, the silly grin still in place.

So when that inevitable introduction happens, and you’re faced with the wannabe writer who thinks it’s all going to be so easy, clench your teeth and keep your hands tightly clasped behind your back. Instead of saying something rude or punching her on the nose, be kind, but tell her some of the above home truths. Most importantly, in my view, if she’s really truly serious about writing a book, she won’t wait until the children are off her hands, until she has more free time, until she’s given up the day job. She’ll start now. If she’s got it in her she’ll find a way. I would say that, wouldn’t I? It’s what I did.

Designing the cover for Life Class.

To tell the story of how the cover to Life Class came about, I have to go back further, to the genesis of the story. I’d attended a life class for years and knew that one day I would write a book with that title. But I had no idea about my characters ... or the plot ... or anything really! I decided that to kick-start my imagination, I needed to choose jobs for my characters. I began to consider my friends. I lighted upon a woman I knew who, at the time, did a very interesting job, a job which brought her into contact with people at a profoundly vulnerable point in their lives. Although the personality, biography and appearance of my heroine, Dory, is nothing like my friend’s, I gave Dory the same job, a lab technician at a sexual health clinic. The assumptions she might make about the people she met during her working day - maybe people she already knew in quite another context - could lead her into misjudgments and ethical dilemmas.

So I had my heroine, but I then I needed a hero. I had another friend who, at the time, worked as an admin assistant to a man who designed and sold fountains. It struck me that designing fountains was an unusual and interesting job. But I was thinking in terms of the artistic and creative side of the job. My friend put me right. Her boss was an engineer not an artist, dealing more in the science of hydraulics and water flow. But the spark had been lit. What I wanted, I decided, was more a sculptor than an engineer. In fact, when I thought about it, why bother with fountains at all? Fountains added an unnecessary complication. After all, a figurative sculptor is someone who himself needs to study the human form, but in a class set-up he would be more likely to be the teacher rather than a student. So there were my bare bones. Fortunately I knew two sculptors with whom I could do research. I could talk to them about their craft, their attitudes to their work and how they went about getting commissions, but more than that, I wanted to know how it felt to sculpt. I had dabbled in the past with clay, but wanted a more in-depth experience. So I signed on for a two day workshop with one of the sculptors I knew, Elisabeth Hadley. www.hadleysculptures.co.uk/ I loved it, and while doing the workshop I took a series of photographs. I also visited a foundry, where sculptures are cast in bronze, so that I had an overview of the process from beginning to end. When I’d finished writing Life Class and was preparing it for publication, I looked again at those photographs I’d taken during the work-shop. In one of them my own clay sculpture is seen in the foreground, the model is reclining in the background. I thought it might make a good cover. Although she is unrecognisable, I asked the model for permission to use the image.

This is the second e-book cover I have produced myself. I have an art and design back-ground and so, when I published TORN, I decided to try to do the cover myself. I enjoyed choosing an image, cropping it, manipulating the colour saturation and the size, then designing the layout and playing around with the different fonts. Although I ultimately did manage to come up with a cover I liked, it was technically quite difficult for me - a computer nincompoop - particularly as I only have the most basic ‘paint’ and ‘photoshop’ programmes.

By the time I came to publishing LIFE CLASS, my standards had gone up. I knew a little more about what was required and knew I should produce a higher quality image. After playing around with the work-shop photograph for awhile I was unable to arrive at a result I was satisfied with, so I talked to my son, Tom. Although he was very busy at the time (he is currently doing a Phd) he volunteered to help me. God bless the internet and computers, which makes it so easy to send documents and images back and forth. In fact, I think Tom enjoyed the respite from his ‘real’ work. He tidied up my effort and put the finishing touches to the final image. So that is how I (and my son) created the cover for LIFE CLASS.

Editing (or making that ugly ill-formed lump into a thing of beauty)

When I was fifteen, I found and reared a fledgling owl. I called him Timmy. I’ll tell you in a minute what this has to do with writing.

Editing is the best bit of writing because every time you do it you’re making your book better. But before you can start the editing you have to have the raw material to work on. Sorry to state the obvious! Writing doesn’t come easily to me. To get the original story out and onto the page is a slow, hiccupy sometimes painful process. It was when I was thinking about the creation of that first ugly, misshapen draft, that the image of my owl came to mind. In the wild, owls eat the whole of their prey, bones, fur and all. They then regurgitate a pellet of the indigestible part of the diet. So, if you’re rearing a young owl, you have to incorporate some of these elements, to keep this mechanism working.

Timmy lived in our garage; I often watched him, sitting up on a rafter, regurgitating these pellets. It looked very uncomfortable; it looked like it took a great deal of effort; it looked like Timmy would far rather be doing something else as he gagged, retched and eventually brought up a surprisingly large and steaming lump of matter.

It’s only after the horrible process of excavating that first draft out of myself, that the fun begins. It’s only when I read the whole thing through that I realise it’s not as bad as I first thought. But even if it is, the ideas about how to improve it start to flow. And it’s not just the way I’ve expressed myself that can be tidied up. New revelations come to me about the characters and their motivations - why did X say that and Y do this? Flaws in the plotline show up, but also the solutions. The story may even go off in new and surprising directions. All of this is like magic and is deeply rewarding.

After we released Timmy we’d leave his food out in the garden. He’d return every evening to eat. Then he stopped coming. One summer night, a year later, we heard a very loud and very close ‘tu-whitting’ . It sounded just like Timmy. My dad shone a torch onto a full-grown owl sitting in our beech tree. As we watched he flew down and perched on the top of the side door to the garage where Timmy had lived. I believe it was him. It was almost as if he’d come back to tell us he was all right.

And I’ve discovered since, Timmy wasn’t a boy. It’s the girls who go ‘tu-whitt’ and the boys who go ‘tu-whoo’.