New year, new website


Ahh, January. Bringer of all things new and shiny – such as my brand new website which will be my online home from now on. I hope you’ll visit the new site and will sign up to continue to follow my blog updates and news as I head towards publication of THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME in April. THIS YEAR! Four months, to be precise!

Before I hang up the ‘Closed’ sign here, I want to take this opportunity to say thank you for following me over the past year here at Whims & Tonic – or even earlier than that in my other blogging personas. Your wonderfully supportive comments always make me smile and I hope you’ll continue to join me in my writing adventures over at the new site.

In the meantime, a very Happy New Year. I hope your 2014 never runs out of tonic – or gin!




The Girl Who Came Home – to the UK and Ireland!

The Girl Who Came Home ARE

Just when you think things can’t possibly get any more exciting, this happens – the Advance Reader Edition of THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME, copies of which arrived at my publisher today! I am literally pinching myself (whilst sipping a glass of prosecco!) I’m so thrilled with the cover and to see the actual book is a very special thing.

Also, I’m delighted to announce that in addition to the US release in April 2014, THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME will also be published in the UK/Ireland by HarperCollins 360. The publication date for the US is April 1 and for the UK/Ireland is April 24.  I have a sneaky feeling that April 2014 is going to be a very ‘jumping up and down and grinning a lot ‘ kind of month!

And finally, I am thrilled to be launching a brand new website in January, so thank you to everyone who has visited my site here at Whims and Tonic and shared my path to publication with me. There were plenty of bumps in the road but I got there, eventually! The new website is so hopefully you’ll visit and sign up to keep receiving my updates when the site goes live in early January.

Until then, wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and all good things for 2014.

Hazel x

Then and Now: Becoming Josephine, by Heather Webb

Becoming Josephine cover

I can’t believe a year has passed since I started ‘Then and Now’. What began as a very simple idea to look at writer success stories has proved to be so inspiring.

To round off a wonderful year of positive tales of getting there, I’m so thrilled to invite Heather Webb to the blog. Heather’s debut novel BECOMING JOSEPHINE is published at the end of this month and I just know it will go on to do great things in 2014.

Heather has worked extremely hard at her craft and is proof that doing your homework and learning about the publishing industry is as important as writing the book. She told me all about her very interesting path to publication.

What stage were you at with your writing this time last year?

Last October, I was eagerly awaiting my agent’s final comments on my manuscript. By the final week of October, we went out on submission, and the week after Thanksgiving, I got THE CALL! We had a very interested editor at Plume who wanted to buy my debut.

What important decisions did you make in the last twelve months?
Many! I was teaching geography at a local college this past spring and the preparation and paper grading was killing me. It gobbled up all of my writing time, which stressed me out and made me miserable. I made the decision to resign from formal classes and to stick with the publishing courses I teach in continuing education instead.

Can you tell us how you found your agent.
It wasn’t an easy process! I suspect it never is, though I feel incredibly fortunate with how my situation worked out. I spent about two years writing and revising, then I began to attend conferences–both to learn about the business and to connect with agents. After going to a few and pitching to agents, I gathered my nerve and sent out all requested material and a round of queries. I had two rejections right off the bat and the rest were “rewrite & resubmit”, a pretty good success rate. But at that point I realized the book wasn’t ready. So I sat on my manuscript the following six months and revised the heck out of it.

I found new critique partners and really pored over my edits. At the end of that six month period, I attended another conference, armed with the best query I could write and the most polished novel I could conceive of. I was READY. I could feel it in my bones. And you know what? My instinct was right. I met my agent at that conference and she signed me a month later. The moral of the story is write, revise, revise, revise. And revise some more. Find strong critique partners who are willing to point out the brutal truth. Go to conferences if you can swing it. It’s VERY valuable to meet with agents in person to get a feel for your chemistry with them and also how they work. Ask lots of questions. Be prepared to be flexible about your vision, and above all, keep moving forward with courage and confidence. It’s a tough business, but confidence and hard work will carry you toward your dreams.

What was the pivotal moment for you in the last twelve months? 
I’ve had several pivotal moments this year in my publishing career. The day my book cover released was huge! At last the dream had a face! It seemed so unreal to me still until that moment. Another turning point was my first review when my book became someone else’s! I knew it would happen eventually, but what an exciting and terrifying thing it was to see it actually happen. In October, I reached another turning point–I began to receive interview requests from bloggers and media outlets. And now, I anxiously await my release date!

What is the most important thing you’ve learnt about your writing during the last twelve months?
The most important thing I’ve learned about writing this year is that we can always keep learning and growing. Each book, each set of characters, present their own set of challenges, which is both an exhausting thought and a very exciting one. Without the challenge, I’m not sure writing a book would be any fun.

What are your hopes for the next twelve months?
I’m currently working on a novel set during the Belle Époque, 1880s Paris, in which art, obsession, and madness collide. What are my hopes? That it sells!

Any final thoughts?!
I’m positively thrilled to go on tour! I can’t wait to meet readers and share my love for Josephine with others!
Heather Webb Smiling

About the author
Heather Webb is the author of BECOMING JOSEPHINE, her debut historical (Plume/Penguin 2014). A freelance editor and blogger, she spends oodles of time helping writers hone their skills—something she adores. You may find her Twittering @msheatherwebb, hosting contests, or hanging around as a contributor to the Editor’s Posts. She is also the Twitter mistress for the popular site, Writer Unboxed. She loves making new reader and writer friends. Stop on by her website or Facebook, or at Goodreads,

Rose Tascher sails from her Martinique plantation to Paris to trade her Creole black magic culture for love and adventure. She arrives exultant to follow her dreams of attending Court with Alexandre, her elegant aristocrat and soldier husband. But Alexandre dashes her hopes and abandons her amid the tumult of the French Revolution.Through her savoir faire, Rose secures her footing in high society, reveling in handsome men and glitzy balls—until the heads of her friends begin to roll.After narrowly escaping death in the blood-drenched cells of Les Carmes prison, she reinvents herself as Josephine, a socialite of status and power. Yet her youth is fading, and Josephine must choose between a precarious independence and the love of an awkward suitor. Little does she know, he would become the most powerful man of his century- Napoleon Bonaparte.BECOMING JOSEPHINE is a novel of one woman’s journey to find eternal love and stability, and ultimately to find herself.
Thank you to Heather for sharing this insight into her path to publication. I wish her every success with BECOMING JOSEPHINE.

Twas the ‘write’ before Christmas


Twas the night before Christmas, and in a small Irish town

A writer stared at her laptop and frowned,

At the pages and pages she’d crafted with care,

In the hope that a bestseller soon would be hers.


While her children were nestled all snug in their beds

Visions of book signings danced in her head,

She deleted this word and tinkered with that

Watched, all the while, by her big, fat cat.


When, there, on page sixty, she saw a great error

She panicked and flustered and gasped with sheer terror.

An email, to her editor, she wrote in a rush,

‘We can’t send the book out! It should have stayed in the slush.’


‘The plot is appalling, the pace is too slow,

Even the part where they dash through the snow.

It now seems, to my wondering eyes, very clear,

That I have a terrible case of pre-publication fear.’


‘Fear not,’ came the reply from her editor, so quick,

‘It’s perfectly normal to feel physically sick,

‘Your book is a marvel, it would be absurd,

To stop all those people from reading your words.’


‘Feel happy, feel merry, feel joyous and cheery,

Feel confident, feel positive, don’t be worried or teary.

You’re bound to top the charts, spring, summer and fall,

Now tap away, tap away, tap away all.’


As dry leaves that before a wild hurricane fly,

She slammed shut her laptop and started to cry,

Such was her terrible nagging self-doubt,

But then … someone was calling … a whisper, a shout.


And then, in a twinkling, she heard on the stair,

Two little voices in the cold morning air.

‘Wake up, Mummy! It’s Christmas. Can we see if he’s been?’

She opened her eyes. It had all been a dream.


She put on her slippers and crept down the stairs,

She too, was keen to see if Santa had been there.

The children, they gasped with utter delight,

Never before had they seen such a sight.


Great piles of presents were under the tree,

‘One for you and one for me’.

She sat and she watched them, her heart all a-flutter

It melted to see the two happy little brothers.


And under the tree was the best gift of all,

Nothing too fancy, just perfect and small.

An empty notebook, to fill with her thoughts,

Of stories of the past and things of that sort.


And she thought of the notebook she’d filled once before

With ideas for a book … but she hadn’t been sure,

And yet, there it now sat, right there on the shelf,

The book, she had written,  all by herself.


So, if you are a writer, this Christmas time,

Ignore the doubts and bad dreams – just drink some more wine.

And remember how wonderful it is, just to write.


Merry Christmas to all – and to all, a good night.


The Lost Duchess, by Jenny Barden

The Lost Duchess
This month I’m delighted to welcome back historical fiction author, Jenny Barden, to Whims & Tonic to tell us about her second novel, THE LOST DUCHESS, which was published last week and is being officially launched in London this very evening! Jenny’s debut novel MISTRESS OF THE SEA  was hugely successful – testament not only to Jenny’s wonderful writing, but to her relentless hard work! In her interview below (which she wisely sent on before opening the champagne tonight), Jenny updates us on the challenges of writing that ‘difficult second novel’ and shares a fascinating insight into the many different aspects of a writer’s life and explains why it helps to be a proficient juggler. Over to Jenny ….
Hello again, Hazel, and thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to say a little about what has happened since I had the privilege of contributing to ‘Then & Now’ back in June.
The first major bit of good news is that the book which I had then just finished (in the midst of a house move, leaks and flood warnings!) is now published. THE LOST DUCHESS came out on 7 November in hardback and as an ebook and will be released as a paperback next summer.
When I last spoke to you I was on tenterhooks as to whether this book would meet my editor’s approval. Well, it wasn’t all plain sailing; there were several rounds of revisions before the book finally got the unqualified ‘just right’ that I really wanted to hear. In fact, there was so much pressure to refine the manuscript to what became a looming deadline that the release of the paperback for my debut largely passed me by in a blur!
I think readers and new writers sometimes don’t fully appreciate how much juggling authors need to do between finished books that are about to be published, those in the process of being refined, copy-edited and proof read, and those in the course of development, being written creatively. It’s not unusual to have all three stages on the go at once – or maybe more for authors with several titles out a year. Balancing promotion with editing and full throttle writing is sometimes hard to do well.
So it’s with a proud sigh of relief that I’m able to report back and say that The Lost Duchess is on her way. She has a beautiful jacket with which I’m delighted and (this is the icing on the cake) she was recently shortlisted for the ‘Best Historical Read’ Award at the UK’s Festival of Romance.  Just to be on the shortlist along with five other splendid authors of romantic historical fiction is honour enough. It’s heartening to see so much interest in the Duchess before she’s even stepped out into public view. Requests for review copies keep coming in, and the list of events at which I’ve been invited to speak about her continues to rise.
For anyone who enjoys epic adventures, or who is interested in Elizabethan history, the founding of America, or reading a love story with a difference, I hope The Lost Duchess will be one to consider.
More about Jenny and The Lost Duchess can be found at the following links:
Next month, I will be interviewing author Heather Webb about the experience of writing and launching her debut novel BECOMING JOSEPHINE, which will be published by Plume/Penguin at the end of December.

Getting Published – live workshop this Saturday

Writers Web TV

I’m really excited to be participating in a new venture called Writers Web TV, the brain child of Ireland’s writing industry superwoman, Vanessa O’Loughlin of and Inkwell Writers.

Getting Published is a live workshop, which you can register to watch, online, for free and takes place this Saturday, 9th November.

Literary agent, Carole Blake will impart wisdom from her best-selling publishing guide From Pitch to Publication, and tell writers what to expect from a publishing deal and how to secure one. The US publishing market will be explained by Paul Feldstein who will give you the lowdown on how to crack stateside publishers and children’s literary agent Julia Churchill will be chatting about the colourful world of children’s publishing, how to pitch your book and identify the right agent for your work.

I will be talking about my path to publication, the importance of your author profile, how to get the best from social media and how to clock up those all-important sales for your book. I’ll  be explaining (hopefully!) how self publishing can open doors for you and talking about my US publishing deal.

Viewers will be able to interact with those in studio to help them develop their skills and get answers to their questions. WritersWebTV has developed a world-first innovation in online education for writers by providing live-streamed interactive workshops to a global audience, featuring Irish and international best-selling writers and industry professionals.

Led by literary scout Vanessa O’Loughlin, founder of, the panel will consider the key elements of fiction writing and furnish viewers with tips, advice and actionable insights to help them improve their writing and get it on the path to publication.

Viewers can watch the full one-day workshops for free when they watch them live. If they want to download a workshop or watch it later, they can pay to keep the course.

To register, click the following link:

The Girl Who Came Home – available to pre-order!

The Girl Who Came Home

I’m not sure if I will ever stop getting butterflies in my tummy when I post updates like this, because I am so excited to see that the new paperback version of THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME is now available to pre-order on Amazon!

The link to the Amazon page is here and the pre-order price is $9.48. The book will be available on April 1, 2014.

This time last year, I’d just completed my second novel and was anxiously awaiting feedback from the publishers it had been submitted to. I am now working on edits of that second novel which is due to be published in January 2015 and here I am, blogging about my first novel’s pre-order status. What a difference twelve months can make!

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