2020: One for the Books
What can we say? 2020 has been strange, to say the least. One for the books, both figuratively and literally. Our industry has faced some real hardships, like so many others, and has had to adjust to countless unprecedented events but it has done so admirably and come up fighting! This year has introduced complications that we have never had to face before and we’re humbled by everyone’s continued support and our authors’ relentless, positive attitudes.
Despite this year’s extraordinary challenges, all our authors have achieved so much, both with their books and in their personal and professional lives, and we’d like to celebrate all their successes!
Ash Watson, author of Because Japan
“Despite the many setbacks 2020 has brought us, I have remained positive and proactive throughout. The release of my first book brought forth nothing but positive reviews from all over the world and I love receiving messages from people saying that it has inspired them to break out of their comfort zones and seek the unknown. On a personal note, I started a new role in the film and entertainment industry, becoming a part of many exciting productions, and during the lockdown, I maintained a healthy and active routine; keeping fit both mentally and physically, studying Italian and reconnecting with my dusty old guitar. This has been a year to remember for many reasons, but I’m grateful to the things that have helped me grow as a person, and I can look back at this year as a giant test that I somehow managed to pass.”
Brenda Burling, author of Deceived
“When you decide to make a change in your writing career and take a gamble, try something new and let the cards fall where they may … that time … that year, for me, was 2020. I signed my contract with Cranthorpe Millner, and I was thrilled. What was not to be known was the year held so much more than a new literary direction for my novel Deceived.
Amid the chaos, uncertainty and sadness that 2020 has divulged, I consider myself fortunate. As well as good health, I am one of the lucky people who was gifted the opportunity of time.
Lockdown spelled something that a writer, unless exceptionally fortunate and financially gifted, rarely gets the opportunity to indulge in: the luxury of time to write, to keep on writing, sometimes from dawn until dusk. This meant the completion of a new novel, the embarkation of another project and the time to truly think, daydream and wonder, all the lifeforce of a writer.
The publishing world, along with everyone else, suffered, so many publishers struggled to stay afloat, some sadly failed but our industry is a fluid one that often adapts and changes with the ebb and flow of life. During lockdown the rate of reading and kindle downloads, online book purchases etc showed reading was on the increase.
Did this inspire? Yes, a little. Did the time when we were told to stay indoors help? Yes, a lot!
I consider myself fortunate to have been a writer in 2020, a moment in time to truly indulge my passion. A green light to write and keep on writing.
I was thrilled to get regular contact with Cranthorpe Millner. Encouragement and understanding of an unprecedented time spurred me on.
2020: a year of reckoning, 2021 the year of rejuvenation, reinvention and reboot.”
Cate Cullington, author of The Stones
“2020 – what can I say? It was definitely a year of the good, the bad and the ugly. I work for the NHS so I know about the bad and the ugly and the best way for me to cope with it is to concentrate on the good.
The publication of my first book ‘The Stones’ (@The_Stones_Crime_Fiction on Instagram) is definitely the good. I absolutely love the end result – the book has a real feeling of quality about it and it is something that I’m very happy to put my name to! I have been amazed and overwhelmed by how well it has been received across the board. I have so many projects for 2021 including two more books but my main aim is to hopefully see some people I’ve been really missing – my eldest daughter who lives in Ireland and her four children who will all be a lot taller than the last time that I saw them!”
Chris Tetreault-Blay, author of It’s a Long Way to the Moon and It’s a Long Night for Santa
“It would be an understatement to say that 2020 has been an eventful year – for good reasons and bad.
As we all know, the world was seemingly turned upside-down and every-which-way by Covid-19, but amongst the doom and gloom that has faced us all at some point through this year, I count myself unbelievably fortunate to be ending 2020 on something of a high.
The year certainly has not been without its dark points – I experienced health issues, personal loss and major upheaval all within the first six months or so – but I believe the madness of it all helped me put certain things into perspective and, for once, gave me focus and drive.
Creatively, I owe much of the happiness I feel right now to one little creature – a Little Brown Moth. This time last year, I had embarked on an exciting new chapter of my writing career with the release of It’s A Long Way To The Moon, my first children’s picture book. The response I received – and continue to receive – for this book still astounds me! After several years cutting my teeth in the horror fiction field, it was the first time that I felt I could say to myself, ‘I have arrived.’
However, I had no idea what other doors this little story would open for me in early 2020! I started the year off by pushing aside my demons of social anxiety and started organising my own live reading events at local libraries. The first, in my hometown of Newton Abbot, blew me away! The room that makes up the children’s library there was packed with warm, friendly faces all eager to hear me read my book. It was truly a magical experience and led to further readings at Tiverton and Exeter libraries too.
I also struck up what was going to be a lovely arrangement with a local indoor play centre, who agreed for me to hold regular reading events there. However, lockdown came and these plans – along with my remaining library reading dates – were shelved.
But another opportunity was to come my way as a result of this newly-formed relationship with Bear Feet play centre, as I was approached by a mutual contact of theirs who invited me to be a guest on TV and radio parenting expert Sue Atkins’ podcast to talk about my work!
In turn, this led me down another avenue which helped me express my creativity during lockdown. Through the generosity and selflessness of a couple of very special people – one being fellow Cranthorpe Millner author Jacky Rom – I launched my very own podcast in May of this year. ‘Dead Men Talk’ was my vessel to delve deeper into my own writing journey, recalling all of the quirky influences that had shaped my work to date, and gave me the opportunity to reach out and interview fellow creatives about theirs too.
In a way, my podcast was like therapy for me. It helped me reconnect with the stories that I had written, and literally put on the shelf and walked away from, over the last seven years. It helped me rediscover the who’s, why’s and where’s behind my decision to start writing all those years ago.
Although I have only written two new stories this year, for me 2020 was more about a journey of self-rediscovery and growth. I had found new avenues to follow in my quest to tap into my creative side. And, of course, I was safe in the knowledge that I had quite possibly my favourite release to date still to come…
The end of October saw the release of what I feel is the pinnacle of my writing journey to date; ‘It’s A Long Night For Santa.’ I had written the story late last year and the adoration I received for the Little Brown Moth’s first outing only made the build-up to its sequel’s release all the more exciting! In this book, I wanted to marry my appreciation of rhyming children’s tales with my love of the most magical time of year – Christmas! Wrapped up in the verses of this book are my own childhood memories of Christmas, as well as those I see through the eyes of my own children. I am hoping that one day this book may be considered a new Christmas classic! (At least in our house…!)
The Little Brown Moth continues to bring me – and apparently many others – great joy, for as I write this I am only a couple of days away from my story being read out on radio by an actual BBC children’s television star! And on top of this, thanks to Kirsty and the incredible team at Cranthorpe Millner, I can even say it has even been read out in truly heart-warming fashion by legendary singer and actress, Anita Harris.
And to think that all of this has happened to me – during this of all years – because of something that I still consider to be my hobby!
My personal life also underwent something of a makeover this year, as I finally stepped away from a career that was damaging me and consider myself blessed to have been able to find another path to follow, especially considering how difficult the climate has become in recent months.
2020 has been the most challenging year I can remember to date, but I am truly thankful to be able to look back and count the many good memories over the bad.
And I have my family, friends, readers and everyone at Cranthorpe Millner to thank for that.
To everyone reading this, I wish you all a very happy, healthy Christmas and here’s to a prosperous New Year!”
Diane Allen OBE, author of Forewarned: Tales of a Woman at War.. with the military system
“This is a wakeup call for those who want to make the army a good employer”
“Great work on a very unpublicised subject”
“A devastating critique of the British Army – the value of this book lies in its current relevance”
“A vital read – for generals, ministry of defence civil servants and any politicians who are serious about making the British army a more efficient and agile fighting force”
“This timely book serves as a depressing reminder of the way in which traditional institutions can be blindly resistant to change”
“Highly readable account of one woman’s experiences in a man’s (old boys’) world”
This is Diane’s heart-felt account of life in the British armed forces – from being one of the first women to attend the previously all male Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst to being side-lined from senior officer promotion when faced with archaic bureaucracy and a toxic leadership culture described in an official report as ‘a pack mentality of privileged white males’ at the top. She describes this book as a call to arms – for all women and men alike – to speak up about the current cultural and leadership challenges facing the British military.
This is the book that launched a defence inquiry into the treatment of women in the armed forces. You can find out more about Diane and follow progress on the defence inquiry at: www.forewarned.uk
Jennifer Claywood, author of While Sleeping (release forthcoming)
“Wow, 2020: what a year! Instead of focusing on the last twelve months, I find myself waxing nostalgic over past christmasses while I prepare for this much-needed holiday break.
So many of the things I love about this time of year come from fond memories I have of my grandmother. My grandmother wanted everyone to feel special during the holidays. We would all go out to pick a tree to cut down, and no matter how awful MY choice, it was always the best for her. One year we even had what we called a Christmas “bush.” She would string up the tree with lights, ornaments, and way too much tinsel, hang a stocking for each of us on the fireplace, put out a manger scene, and get out the “good” dishes.
As a child, I would often come down in the middle of the night to look at the tree. The house would be quiet except for the ticking of the grandfather clock in the living room and my grandfather’s snores wafting in from their bedroom. I would sit on the couch in the stillness, looking at the lights. In all of the rest of my life, I have never felt such peace as I felt then in those still moments of contemplation.
When Christmas dinner came around, she made three different kinds of stuffing…her normal one with onions and celery, then one without celery for my uncle, and one without onions for myself. (If you know me, you are probably aware that I intensely detest onions with every particle in my body.) There was turkey and ham, rolls and green beans, stuffing and cake, and of course, her famous seafoam salad. We were crazy about Jello “salads” back then. It was a creamy, limey, green concoction with pear halves suspended in foamy goodness. I loved the food, but my favorite part of the meal was helping to set the table beforehand. Her dining room at Christmas was the home of warmth, laughter, conversation, and love.
So what do I love about the holidays? Picking gifts that make children feel special. Making favorite foods for the loved ones in my life. Setting a table. Cooking food. But most of all, making memories. My grandparents may be gone, but they live on through me. I hope that my children, and eventual grandchildren, will help me live on too. By focusing my efforts on creating a special time and place, right here and right now, surely the joy and love and togetherness will overshadow the ails of this time.”
Nick Van Loy, author of Insomnia
“2020 has been a terrible year in so many ways. Earlier this year, I lost my job because of Covid-19, so being able to sign a publishing agreement with Cranthorpe Millner is probably my biggest achievement this year. I’ve been writing ever since I was a kid, but I was always a little sceptical to let other people read my work. It even took me a while to send in my work to publishers, but I’m really glad I did. I’m happy to be a part of the Cranthorpe Millner family.”
Parker Duncan, author of Winds of the Immortals
“While training for a busy fire season in North America, Parker released his first novel ‘Winds of the Immortals’, selling 150 pre-orders prior to the official launch on September 1st. The year was a challenging one for all of us, but for some it was also fruitful with opportunities and silver linings amidst the pandemic. New ventures in musical composition came to be during quarantine, and a polished version of Book 2 of the trilogy is almost ready for editing. After coming home from working all over the US this summer and fall, Parker will be working on the release of his next book while skiing, playing music, and training for next fire season.”
Sylvia Hawk’sbee, author of The Messengers
“2020 has certainly been strange: infection, great loss of life, financial disaster, and the misery of isolation. I have one constant companion, a ginger moggy. He understands English and French, but speaks only Cat which cramps conversation.
There have been bright spots for me; I call it the year of the buses.
The MS of The Messengers was rejected by a woman at an agency with the explanation that it didn’t suit their small, specialist firm. She ended by saying she was sure someone else would like it and that I should not be disheartened.
The next publisher I sent it to was Cranthorpe Millner. When I hold a copy I’m still incredulous.
Why the year of the buses? For a long time nothing happens, then two come at once. After a considerable wait, I have an offer from a different publisher for Cinderella Timkins, a novel for adults.”
Tai Le Grice, author of Smoke and Water and Between Dusk and Dawn (release forthcoming)
“It’s a big ask to come up with positive highlights of 2020: it was a rough year for everybody, no matter who or where. That said, looking back, I know I can count my blessings.
One of my biggest achievements was completing a re-write of my upcoming new release Between Dusk and Dawn. To be able to look at the first proof and ask myself, ‘Who even wrote this?’ because I’d learned enough to know I could do a whole lot better was a huge moment of personal growth for me. Kirsty-Ellen might well laugh at me, recalling how stubborn I was with her suggestions on Smoke and Water. I hope I’ve done her proud even though I know I can only continue to learn and improve further.
But it hasn’t only been about my journey as a writer. This was a year of facing my demons. I have never shied away from admitting I have chronic PTSD and DID. I write to alleviate not only my own pain but to, hopefully, help others to overcome theirs. This year, I decided to face the demons and face the truth. As a result, I’ve gone from being a cloistered recluse, almost literally the cliché of the silent writer locked in an attic (though, admittedly, no attic was involved in the making of this scenario) to re-involving myself with the world at large. It’s a whole new world and experience for me, to face the world, not in uniform, but as ME.
In good part, I have the Cranthorpe Millner team to thank for this. They strongly encouraged me to become involved on social media and, oddly perhaps, this pushed me to expand my boundaries. I connected with people in the virtual world but this in turn drove me to reconnect in the real world, too.
My next project will be my biggest and most ambitious to date, one that has been a lifetime in the making. Perhaps there will be smaller projects to fill in the gaps, who knows? But I’m looking forward to taking on the first of my Ribbon Dance series, Before the Dawn in 2021. And, most importantly, continuing my relationship with the absolutely awesome team at Cranthorpe Millner.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all who write, to the team who make the words come to life on the page, to all of us who connect via the stories we tell and share.
Here’s to 2021.”
Vaughn Feighan, author of The Pitfall Experiments: Alpha
“This year has been a turbulent yet renewing year. Even with everything that has happened with COVID, the ability for families to reconnect and for individuals to take a deep breath from their busy lives has been warming to watch. For me, this year was marked with the publication of my first novel (with Cranthorpe Millner, of course) but also the transition from a ‘post-college’ graduate to more of an adult.
Between the United States Presidential election and an abrupt move from Washington D.C. to New York (now shutting down again), this year was full of good and bad surprises. However, it is amazing to look at yourself from an objective lens and see how much you can accomplish even while facing adversity.
Cranthorpe Millner has been great and I am glad to be part of the group!”