Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Sporadic blogger that I am I felt the time has come to write a new one to mark the publication of my new book THE HAPPY HOME FOR BROKEN HEARTS, to celebrate the launch of my new website www.rowancoleman.co.uk and because its almost time to announce the winner of Rowan Coleman's Short Story competition which means I really need to decided between my two favourite today!!

It is hard. Judging the 300 or so entries (with some help from the guest judges) gave me a whole new insight into what it might be like to be on the other side of the publication process. The person reading the submissions and making the decisions.

First of all, there are a lot of truly talented people out there. The standard of stories submitted was generally really high, and I know that every one always says that - but in this case I promise you it was true.

Having said that I also realised that people tend to want to write about the same thing. There were a lot of funerals, quite a lot of prison, and much dwelling on death. There was a large helping of sex and violence and quite a bit of romance. This isn't to say these stories weren't good, two of my most favourite that have got into the top eight were prison and funeral stories. Besides I think people also tend to want to read about the same thing, the human condition - so I didn't hold that against anyone.

And of course its subjective. Its my opinion that counts. That's quite a responsibility. There were some stories that were so well written, but I just couldn't warm to them. I could see the technical skill, the ability, the talent. But they didn't reach me in the way I want my winning story too. Which makes me feel awful, because I don't know any writer who hasn't had the feedback at one time or another that goes something like 'its good, its just not doing it for me.' Its kind of frustrating, to say the least!

So I have two stories sitting on my desk. One will be the winner, one will win second place (the other places are already decided) I have to decide, there are no two ways about it. The question is which?

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Like Bees to Honey - Caroline Smailes' blog tour, Chapter 7

I am delighted to be hosting chapter seven of my friend and brilliant writer Caroline Smailes Blog Tour to support the publication of her new novel Like Bees to Honey.

I don't know another writer like Caroline. She is truly gifted and unique, her imagination and originality is boundless.

If you haven't discovered her yet, I urge you too!

You can buy Bees to Honey here:


Find chapter one of Caroline's blog here:


And read the next chapter here:


Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Rowan Coleman's Short Story Competition.

My writing career started after I won a short story writing competition in Company Magazine. A lot of people don't believe that that's what started it, because prior to entering that competition I worked in bookselling and then publishing for the best part of a decade. You must have had help, people think. Its all about the people you know, others say. But the truth was that even though I worked around books all that time, and even though I wrote in my spare time, if anything, working in publishing put me off trying to write professionally because I saw how hard it was to get published back then, and then how hard it was to stay published. And if it was hard then its nearly impossible now.

I was an Editorial Manager for Ebury Press, my job consisted of managing data, inputting ISBNs, commissioning artwork and chasing editors for stuff they should have done but hadn't. As a consequence I'd spot an editor at their desk across the office and invariably, between me setting off and arriving they'd vanish into thin air (or underneath a desk). It wasn't a job that made me popular....but still, I enjoyed it. I liked my little office (when I started I literally in a cupboard, but time I left I'd got moved to one that a window that overlooked a brick wall) and I liked the people. I learnt a lot about publishing there and I think I would have quite happily have stayed in that job and moved on in publishing without ever really having the guts to try and write professionally myself. And then I accidentally entered a short story competition.

One of the good things about my job was that nobody understood it, especially the data management bit, so I could quite happily shut the door of my office and get on with writing, whilst pretending I was ever so busy and that it was all really hard. One morning I was flicking through a copy of Company Magazine when I came across the competition. The story could be about anything you liked, it had to be 2000 words long. And that was it. I glanced around, it looked liked everyone was hiding from me, I was up-to-date with all my work so I thought, why not. I thought I'd give it a go, even though at that stage I wasn't really serious about sending it in. I came up with a story about a parallel universe where women aspired to be fat. No matter how she tried, my main character just couldn't put in weight, and so never felt attractive. I finished it, read it through, corrected all the mistakes I spotted (which weren't nearly all of them) and on an impulse put it in an envelope and sent it off to Company. Then I forgot about it.

I'm not sure how many months went by, but I think it was about four. And then one Saturday morning I woke up to the sound of a letter dropping through the door. I was a bit confused to see the logo for Company on the letter head, I wondered if I'd applied to a job and this was a rejection letter....then my eyes focused and I read the letter. It was telling me I'd won their Young Writer of the Year Competition. I'd actually won it...out of several thousand entrants, they'd picked me to win. My prize was the have the story printed in the magazine, a years worth supply of books and lunch with a publisher and agent. As you can imagine I was very excited. I danced about a lot, called everyone I knew...who congratulated me and then reminded me that it was only 8.30 on a Saturday morning. But still, even then I didn't really think it would lead to anything.

I duly went off and a very nice lunch with the then editor of Company, Sam Baker, the publisher in question and a charming agent at The Ivy. It was very exciting, all I remember at the time the most exciting thing was being in the next cubicle from Lulu in the ladies (is that wrong?) I had a very nice lunch and lot of really amazing feedback and advice. And it made think for the first that maybe, just maybe, I could be writer.

Lunch at the the Ivy with (almost) Lulu aside, what winning that competition really did for me was to give me confidence to try. I've met a lot of aspiring writers in the last nine years who have asked me what my top tip for getting published is and I always say write, because if you don't write you've got no chance. But apart from that, and essential component you need is the confidence to try.

I would really love to give the same opportunities I had to another aspiring writer out there which is why I've decided to run my very own short story competition to celebrate the forthcoming publication of my eight novel THE HAPPY HOME FOR BROKEN HEARTS.

My latest novel is about young widow Ellen Woods who's sheltered life as a wife and mother comes crashing to an end when her beloved husband is killed in an accident. Faced with financial ruin the only way Ellen can keep a roof over her and her eleven year old son, Charlie's head, is to take in lodgers.

In a matter or weeks Ellen's safe little world is changed beyond recognition and she's faced with the prospect of starting over again, and finding the strength to move on.

And so if you want to enter ROWAN COLEMAN'S SHORT STORY COMPETITION I'd like you write a story of 1000 words approximate on the theme of 'Starting Over.'

It must be a completely new and original work that has not previously been published, even on your blog. This is a competition for aspiring, as yet unpublished writers who do no have a contract or an agent.

and now for the bit I'm really excited about - the prizes!!

FIRST PRIZE: 3 months creative writing online mentoring from Rowan Coleman, Tea and Cakes at Random House Publishing with Arrow Publishing Director Kate Elton and Rowan Coleman, a letter of introduction and agent feedback from David Higham Associates, £100 to spend on Random House books, your story to be published on Rowan Coleman's blog/website and a signed copy of THE HAPPY HOME FOR BROKEN HEARTS.

SECOND PRIZE: 1 months creative writing online mentoring from Rowan Coleman, £50 book vouchers to spend on Random House books and the story to be posted on my blog and a signed copy of THE HAPPY HOME FOR BROKEN HEARTS.

THIRD PRIZE: £25 Worth of vouchers to spend on Random House books and the story to be posted on my website and a signed copy of THE HAPPY HOME FOR BROKEN HEARTS.

ALSO five runners up prizes each winning a signed copy THE HAPPY HOME FOR BROKEN HEARTS.

The competition will be judges by Rowan Coleman, Lucy Diamond, Cally Taylor, Tamsyn Murray and Caroline Smailes. Rowan Coleman will have the final decision.

All entries MUST be sent to rowanswritingcomp@btinternet.com


By entering ROWAN COLEMAN'S SHORT STORY COMPETITION, you agree to be bound by the following terms and conditions;

1. Competition closing date is FRIDAY 16TH JULY 2010. Entries received after this date will not be entered into the competition. The promoter does not accept any responsibility for lost or late entries. Proof of sending will not be accepted as proof of receipt.

2. Only entries received by e-mail will be accepted. Entries will not be returned. Send your fictional story of no more than 1000 words on the theme of ''Starting Over” to:


Your story must be sent in a word attachment and will be scanned for viruses and bugs before it is opened. Your document must be double spaced, Times New Roman, 12 point font and pages must be numbered. Please include the title but NOT your name on your story. Please attach a separate cover sheet that includes the following: the title of your story, word count, your name, address, email address and telephone number. Only entries will be accepted at this e-mail address, no other correspondence will be read.

The competition is only open to residents of the UK and Ireland who have not had a novel or short story collection published and/or do not have a publishing contract. Only one entry per person will be accepted.

You warrant that your story is original to you and does not infringe the legal right of any other party. You warrant that your story has not previously been published in print, on the internet or in any other format throughout the world.

Entries will be read anonymously by Rowan Coleman, Lucy Diamond, Cally Taylor, Tamsyn Murray and Caroline Smailes who will provide a short-list of twenty stories. Rowan Coleman will make the final decision and select three prizewinners (1st, 2nd and 3rd) and five runners up. The results of the competition will be posted on this blog by August 19th 2010.

The winning three stories will be published on this blog where they will remain online at the discretion of Rowan Coleman. Copyright in the stories will be retained by the authors who grant to the promoter a non-exclusive licence to use extracts from the work to publicise and promote the competition, the website, Rowan Coleman and/or “The Happy Home for Broken Hearts”.

All prize winners will be contacted by email by 19th August 2010. The prize winners must respond within 14 days to accept their prize. (FIRST PRIZE: 3 months creative writing online mentoring from Rowan Coleman, Tea and Cakes at Random House Publishing with Arrow Publishing Director Kate Elton and Rowan Coleman, a letter of introduction and agent feedback from David Higham Associates, £100 to spend on Random House books, your story to be published on Rowan Coleman's blog/website and a signed copy of THE HAPPY HOME FOR BROKEN HEARTS. SECOND PRIZE: 1 months creative writing online mentoring from Rowan Coleman, £50 book vouchers to spend on Random House books and the story to be posted on my blog and a signed copy of THE HAPPY HOME FOR BROKEN HEARTS. THIRD PRIZE: £25 Worth of vouchers to spend on Random House books and the story to be posted on my website and a signed copy of THE HAPPY HOME FOR BROKEN HEARTS.) No cash alternatives to these prizes will be made available.

Prize winners attending a one-on-one consultation will be required to take up their prize before 31 December 2010 and to pay for their own transportation to Random House. The date of the one-on-one consultation will be arranged by Rowan Coleman. Alternatively, a phone appointment may be arranged for prize winners unable to travel to the promoter.

Entering or winning the competition does not guarantee an offer of representation from David Higham Associates or publication by the Random House Group.

The judges’ decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into. A full list of judges and prize winners may be made available on request.

The promoter reserves the right to withdraw or amend this competition at any time without notice.

The promoter is Rowan Coleman in association with Random House
20 Vauxhall Bridge Rd
London SW1v 2SA

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Ghosts and Memories

Recently a lot of people having been asking me if I have ever seen a ghost or if I believe in ghosts, because of the publication my new paranormal thriller for teen NEARLY DEPARTED. Its about a group of fifteen year olds in the urban inner city who are forced to come face to face with the supernatural that surrounds and threatens them.

When people ask me either of those questions I always answer yes, yes I believe I have seen a ghost and yes, as a consequence, I believe that ghosts are real. By that I don't just mean the remnants of a living soul somehow left imprinted in time, but also the ghosts of memories, or events and history that have had such a deep and vibrant effect on their surroundings that they leave indelible traces all around them.

I like to collect old things and objects and in my office I have a small collection of items that when I picked them up resonated with the lives that they have past through. A music box from the 1930s, a water colour of Venice from the 1900s, a flamboyant Art Deco vase, a small evening bag from the late 1890s, some jet Victorian mourning jewellery, and a tiny 1920s diamond ring amongst other things. None of them have very much intrinsic value but when I found them in some flea market or antique shop I felt them vibrate with life, with memories. Once eighty years ago someone sat in the shade of a Venetian alley and laboured over recreating that sunny morning, white washing hung across a canal, against a hot blue sky. When I look at that painting I see not only the painting, but also the painter, I feel the sun on the back his neck, the sweat trickling down his back. I imagine he is a young man, seeing a little of Europe before life proper begins. I'm not psychic, I don't know that - no long dead painter has dropped by to fill me in. But old things fire my imagination, spinning stories all around them. I imagine the heart fluttering delight that someone must have felt when her beloved presented her with that little diamond thing, fitted for a finger much slimmer than mine. Perhaps it was an engagement ring or maybe a token of secret love, but in any event how its owner must have treasured it, perhaps not sleeping at all that night, dreaming of the promise of a new life the gift of that little ring brought with it.

Best of all I love my Art Deco vase. It doesn't have any value, but it used to belong to my grandmother. She must have had it from new, perhaps it was a wedding present. I can see it sitting on a polished table filled with flowers. My grandparents didn't have much, they were a working class couple - but she cared for her vase and filled it with flowers all of her adult life and now when I look at it I see my grandmother, not as the lovely wonderful old lady that I knew in my childhood but as a young woman, starting out married life, her first ever vase on her first ever table in her very own dining room. I think, I feel, when I look at her vase, that she must have been very proud.

For the same reason I love looking at old photographs. Nothing is sadder than coming across a album full of photographs languishing in an auction house or a antique shop. I look at those faces staring back at me, often in their sunday best, features composed, hair brushed and faces washed and I feel sorry that there is no-one left to remember their names, to remember who married who or who grew up to do what and how many children they had. A proud young man in a uniform with no-one left to remember if he ever made it home again, if old age ever touched that youthful face. Turn the page of an abandoned album and you are confronted with moment after frozen moment of lost lives and sometimes if you look hard enough you can see the room behind the lense, discern that almost smile that some long gone child has been instructed to suppress.

And sometimes, in an ancient building or an old house when you walk where hundreds of others have walked over decades, sometimes centuries or put you hands on a stair rail or a stone wall that has steadied many hands you can sense the memories of those that have walked there before you, their minds preoccupied with the same worries and hopes that preoccupy us as we go about our daily lives and which one day will also only be memories, ghosts and smudged fingerprints that maybe, some day, someone passing by might wonder and guess at.

I do believe in ghosts, I have seen one. But you don't need a paranormal experience to find ghosts all around you, just look and listen hard enough and you will find them.

Monday, 18 January 2010


Well I said that the next time I blog it will be about puppies and shoes and it is sort of, although my puppy is six years old and the shoe in question is mostly in her stomach. It's not her fault, her dog walker's had flu and she's been cooped up for a bit, so I forgive her, plus it wasn't one of my very best ones and now I have a reason to buy a new pair.

It made me think though how reliant I have had to become on paying people to help me out. I used to tease a friend of mine about her 'staff' telling her she was a proper lady of the manor - but actually I employ quite a lot of people now. It's not that I am lazy or rich - I am actually the opposite of those things. Its just that there are only a certain number of waking hours in every day (although my baby thinks there are considerably more than I do).

When I do have some time when I am not trying to write a book with a baby on my knee whilst singing him my version of Copacabana (where everyone loves a banana) I don't want to clean the house. I want to play with my baby and little girl, talk at length with her over every single dance move of The High School Musical trilogy and bake some cakes or something! After all I also pay people to look after my eight year old three afternoons a week after school and very soon my baby will be starting part-time at nursery. This is not the way I want it, this is the way it is. Granted I have my dream job, a job I love most of the time - but like most working mums I also have the bills and the mortgage to pay - still I do feel wracked with guilt on a daily basis, and what spare time I have is play time not dusting time. So I have a lady who comes and cleans for me. Apart from anything else it means I tidy up at least once a week in preparation for her arrival, which has got to be a good thing.

Why do I need a dog walker, you might ask? Walking a dog is fun - and at weekends I do walk her and I love it, although recently she has taken to making flying leaps into the canal for no apparent reason, which always results in drama because she seems to be the only dog on earth who can't do the doggy paddle and results in another trip to the groomers (I pay someone to groom my dog too). but during the week i rarely get time to give her the exercise she needs. I have recently exchanged one dog walker for another. My first a surly teen who grew more monosyllabic as each week passed announced his retirement grimly just before Christmas - he has plans of becoming a rock star - I don't think walking a poodle did his cred any good. His replacement is the same age but a good deal bouncier, much like the dog. I also pay for a personal trainer -I need to be shouted at, I'm not naturally drawn toward training shoes as they tend not to have kitten heels - and yet I still don't seem to have the body of Angelina Jolie though....

If my budget as endless what else would I pay people do for me?

Pick up my clothes and hang them up. By the end of the day I'm exhausted - that clothes hanger just seems like a step too far.
Take my make-up off and apply a night cream - see above.
Drive me places. I don't like driving. I didn't learn until I was 35, its just seems wrong to be all these big hunks of metal whizzing along a high speed. I do like being a passenger though, that's one of my best things.
Shoulder massage. One a day would seem like a bare minimum.
Deliver flowers daily - a bunch of tulips always gives me a lift.
Cook me healthy fresh food - I'm fairly sure the microwave doesn't count.
Produce chocolate at a moment's notice.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Twelve Months in the Life of....

Funny how the last time I wrote something here, almost a year ago, it was also snowing. I'd spent the morning rolling around in it with my dog and my daughter and I still feel pretty much the same way about snow today as I did then. I am fully over it. And that really is the only thing over the last year that hasn't changed.

I suppose if anyone has troubled to come back to this blog over the last few months they'll be wondering why I haven't posted anything here for so long. Perhaps they'll think I've been too busy, or I couldn't be bothered or that I'd given up writing all together. The truth is that when ever I sat down to blog, I've reflected on everything that has changed in my life over the past few months and I've been speechless - or more accurately wordless. I've found it impossible to describe until now.

For starters it is almost a year since I became divorced. This isn't something that I feel I can write about here - its too personal, but for some months instead of writing about emotional turmoil I've been living it. I was my decision, if there is anyone to blame it is me - I want to say that, but that's all.

In February of this year my last book THE ACCIDENTAL FAMILY was published. It was a book I'd been meaning to write for a long time - a sequel to THE ACCIDENTAL MOTHER a book that several readers who had enjoyed that book had asked for, both in the UK and America. It sold into accounts well - everybody was optimistic - but the the book didn't do quite as well as previous titles. Perhaps because it was published in a dark depressing February when the credit crunch was really starting to bite, perhaps because in retrospect the title and the cover didn't work as well as they could or perhaps because it simply wasn't good enough. But in any case, it shook my confidence. I'd written it during a very emotionally turbulent time struggling to write about things that were in someways the exact opposite of what I was experiencing in my daily life.

Last year was also the year of being pregnant. I can't say that I loved being pregnant - I don't think I suit it especially and with all the other ups and downs and stresses going on around me it wasn't exactly an idyllic time. But my baby son is here now and he is wonderful. He and my daughter are a constant source of joy. Writing when you are pregnant is a curious thing. Its almost like someone has peeled off a layer of your skin, as if your nerve endings are exposed to the world. You feel everything more keenly, joy more intensely, sadness more deeply. Every day, every hour, from minute to minute is a roller coaster of emotion. But the words keep flowing, the ideas keep coming, its a very creative time, a time of creation - and of acid reflux - there's a lot of acid reflux too.

I've moved house twice last year too. Firstly into a rented house which felt a little less comfortable that camping in a leaking tent in the pouring rain during the winter in a peat bog. And I had to pay almost a thousand pounds a month for the privilege. And then into my new house, which is lovely but brand, brand new and taking some settling into. And also there are those annoying little things - like the fact that once you move into it, it's all full of stuff that needs putting away. Must get round to that sometime...

Which brings me to the practical reason that I haven't blogged here for so long. In amongst all of the other things that I have been doing I've also written two and a half books. THE MAKING OF ELLIE WOODS which will be published in April 2010, and its American edition which will be called A HOME FOR BROKEN HEARTS out in September 2010. Also my teen supernatural novel NEARLY DEPARTED written under the name of Rook Hastings which is out next month and half of its follow up novel IMMORTAL REMAINS which will be out next September. I've also planned and will soon be starting work a new novel for adults to be published in 2011, its an idea that I am really excited about.

So that is it. I don't suppose the last year has been any more or any less difficult or tumultuous than the average persons, and there have been some wonderful moments in amongst all the difficult ones. And from now on I'm going to try and blog here more regularly and I promise that the next thing I write will be about shoes and puppies. Seriously.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Snowdrops on lashes

My writing schedule works on one simple basis. I can get all the work I need to done on time as long as ABSOLUTELY nothing happens. This includes no illnesses, no power cuts, no Internet interference, no car break downs, no impulse trips to the shops to buy spam because for the first time since 1978 i fancy spam (the canned spiced ham, younger readers, not the nuisance electronic mail), no unexpected and lengthy phone calls from beloved but verbose friends who like to tell you long stories about people you don't know and finally and most importantly NO SNOW.

Monday morning 7a.m wake to find world carpeted in a glittering garland of snow. 7.15 Lily my seven year old little girl wakes up.
'Look out of the window!' I whisper, all agog.
'Oh yeah, snow,' she says decidedly unimpressed, which is a symptom of her going on her first skiing holiday with her dad over Christmas. It appears that a seven year old can experience a surfeit of snow.
'I means your school will probably be shut,' I tell her.
'Does that mean I can watch telly all day?'
'I know, lets build a snowman!'
'Can I have a packet of skips.'
It's 7.30 in the morning you can't have a packet of skips.'
'Then why are you even thinking of building a snowman?'

And so it goes on. Anyway a couple of hours later and suitably girded, Lily in her skiing all in one suit (more of that later) me in a pair of leaky boots and a sheepskin coat that an eighties premiership manager would have rejected.
'Let's make a really big snowman,' Lily says enthusiastically.
'Yay, lets!' I am prepared for a mother/daughter magic moment.
'You make it, I'll watch.
Lily does not watch. Lily rolls around in the snow. I am quite charmed by her rolling around in the snow so forgive her for abandoning the snowman project before its even begun. However it soon becomes apparent that under the lovely fresh snow she was rolling around was a message. A message left by a particularly large dog. (NOT mine. I am a responsible owner)
Gingerly we go in. Have you ever tried to peel an all in one ski suit plastered with poo off of a near hysterical child. You must try it. It's a blast.
So we had an extra day together and it was lovely, poo aside. And we had Tuesday (Lovely) and now Thursday (LOVELY) and it looks like probably Friday too. And I love her being at home. She is a great laugh, she's funny and smart and great company. She's not that keen on my working though when she's around and neither am I. I'm so busy most of the time that when she is here I want to be with her. So my precariously balanced schedule slips back a week.
Not to mention my lack of wardrobe. I have a small house. My house is so small that literally the whole thing would fit in the hallway of my friends house (Think flashy new build faux Georgian, fake pillared, gated community stoke broker pile). I'm short of storage so reluctantly I decided to sell my lovely Edwardian oak wardrobe and get a fitted one from Sharpe's. For two weeks now my clothes have been piled up on my tiny office floor waiting for the new roomy wardrobes to come. I have been writing (or not) amid a cacophony of frocks, a confection of underwear, a hails of hats and a pile of shoes that nearly reaches the ceiling. (My house is small but there is always room for shoes.) Today was D day. Today my super dooper new wardrobes were due to be fitted but they did not come. Why?


I am so over snow.