Inspiration and making it happen with Siobhan Daiko

Siobhan 3Today we’re delighted to welcome Siobhan Daiko to share her writing journey with us and, hopefully, to bring a little bit of Italian sunshine with her. Over to you, Siobhan…

I’m really honoured to be hosted on the Write Romantics blog today. Thank you so much for having me! I met Jo online two years ago and have been enjoying reading the posts ever since. So it’s fab to be here.

Writing wasn’t something that I’ve always done, unlike most other writers I know. Yet I’ve always been creative. My father was an artist and encouraged me to paint when I was a child. I loved it, but I was also a linguist, and that’s the direction my life initially took.

My passion for writing only started when the empty-nest syndrome kicked in. My son had left for uni and an old friend had become a published author. Naively, I thought I could become one too. So I wrote a novel about a school-teacher in Wales (I was a school-teacher in Wales at the time). I thought it would be the next Bridget Jones. Ha! I did complete it, and sent it to the RNA NWS. My reader was encouraging, but I would have needed to have completely re-written it, and my heart wasn’t in the story. Instead, there was a different story in my head, clamouring to be told.

The idea for The Orchid Tree had come to me while I was researching my grandparents’ experiences in the notorious The Orchid Tree Cover MEDIUM WEBStanley Civilian Internment Camp in Hong Kong during World War II, and the first part of the novel is set there. To lighten the darkness of the subject matter, I focused on two very different romances. I’d grown up in the ex-colony, and the post-war section is inspired by a place I know and love.

Fast forward to 2014, and I’d written several drafts, taken early-retirement, and had moved with my hubby and two cats to my family’s second home in Italy. I’d started submitting, and, after the book had been rejected a few times, I heard about a fantastic editor, John Hudspith, who helped me get it into shape. A small publisher in Edinburgh then asked for the full manuscript, and I waited, and waited, and waited for their decision.

By then, another story had started clamouring in my head, and, in six months, I wrote my next novel, Lady of Asolo, a time-slip historical romance set in the area where I now live. I’m definitely inspired by locations that touch my heart!

Lady of Asolo Cover MEDIUM WEBA couple of nudges to the publisher in Edinburgh produced the same response: The Orchid Tree was still under consideration. Rapidly losing the will to live, I decided not to submit Lady of Asolo anywhere. I set up Fragrant Publishing to publish my Fragrant Books, found a fantastic cover designer, JD Smith, organised a Facebook launch party, learnt how to format for Kindle and Create Space, and started my self-publishing journey.

Becoming an indie author, for me, was definitely the right decision. I’m not getting any younger, as they say, and I wasn’t prepared to play the waiting game any longer. So far, I’ve loved everything about the self-publishing experience. Publishing Lady of Asolo taught me a lot about the process, which I could use when I withdrew my submission from the Edinburgh publisher and launched The Orchid Tree myself. And I’m still learning. There are so many opportunities out there for Indies. The best thing I did was to have my work properly edited and to commission a professional cover design. I still have to get to grips with marketing, but my books are selling and it’s great to log onto my Create Space and Amazon Kindle Direct accounts to check their progress, and even better to get a monthly royalty payment. Lady of Asolo is being translated into Italian via Babelcube. The Orchid Tree is being produced as an audio-book via ACX, and, just last week, I heard that it has been accepted by Fiberead for translation into Chinese.

My next project is a series of erotic historical novellas, inspired by the lives of famous courtesans. Why erotica? It’s an fragrant havenexperiment, to see if I can pull it off. There’s a lot of hard-core BDSM erotica on the market at present, and I’d like to publish something different. There might be a niche-market of readers who would enjoy what I’m writing. And, if there isn’t, at least I’ll have given it my best shot. Book 1 is based on the life of Veronica Franco, one of the most talented courtesans in 16th Century Venice, another of my favourite places, and should be ready for publication this summer.

Long-term, I would like to write a sequel to The Orchid Tree. Then, perhaps, another historical romance. Sometimes, I wish there were more hours in the day…

Thanks again for having me on your Saturday blog spot. I wish all the Write Romantics and their readers every success, but, most of all, continued enjoyment of this wonderful passion that we all share.

Thanks so much for joining us on the blog today, Siobhan, your passion for writing, and those places you love, really shines through in your post.

Now is a brilliant time to check out Siobhan’s atmospheric novels, as they are both on offer:

The Orchid Tree is discounted to £0.99/$1.99 until Monday 27, and Lady of Asolo to £0.99/$0.99 until 1st May.

Siobhan is also currently offering a wonderful short story called Fragrant Haven completely free.

To find out more about Siobhan and her beautiful base in Italy, you might also like to visit her blog. You can also follow Siobhan on Twitter – @siobhandaiko – and Facebook.

Finally, we’re thrilled that Siobhan has chosen the Write Romantic blog for the cover reveal of the first novella in her erotica series, Veronica:

“So sweet and delicious do I become, when I am in bed with a man who, I sense, loves and enjoys me, that the pleasure I bring exceeds all delight, so the knot of love, however tight it seemed before, is tied tighter still.”

Veronica Cover MEDIUM WEBMarried at sixteen to an abusive husband, feisty Veronica Franco escapes his cruelty by taking the only option open to her. Soon, she’s feted as one of the most beautiful and sought-after courtesans in 16th Century Venice.

A talented seductress, she’s able to create desire in her patrons under her own terms, giving them her body but not her heart. She courts the cultural élite for fame and fortune, publishing her poems and letters, while battling to maintain a balance between her sense of self-worth and the need to win and keep the support of men.

But when disaster strikes, and her life begins to unravel, will she be strong enough to hold her own in a man’s world?

get that champers ready – my book is out today!

Just a quickie cos we don’t usually post on Thursdays, just to say my book ‘Please Adopt Me’ is out today. Its a bit like ‘Call the Midwife’ but about a social worker in her child protection job, but it has happy ending. I’m really chuffed to say its already selling and its only been out a few hours! If you do read it I’d love to know what you think of it, could you leave me a review? I’d be really grateful. Thanks, Lynne.

Buy the book HERE 

Jo’s Lovely Blog Hop

My writing friend, Liv Thomas, who with her co-author recently had a top ten Kindle bestseller with Beneath an Irish Sky, under their pen name of Isabella Connor, has invited me to take part in the Lovely Blog Hop, in which writers talk about some of the things that shaped their life and writing.

At the end of the post, I’ve linked two other writing friends, this time from the Write Romantics, who will tell you about themselves. It’s also a great way to discover blogs you might not have known about…

Sam and JojpgFirst Memory

My first memories are all linked to a house we moved to when I was three years old, as I don’t remember the house we lived in before at all, and many of them to my older sister of two years – Sam. We were typical sisters, who bickered a lot but also played together. Although, being older, she would pick on me a bit and gang up with the girl next door to make me eat mud! My now wild, Russell Brand-esque hair was more desirable back when I was a toddler, and it was all cherubic curls, which everyone raved over… until, one day, when my mum was on the phone and Sam decided to give me a rather drastic home hair cut! Despite all of this, one of my earliest memories is, aged three, standing with my face pressed up against the yellow metal gate at the end of our path, waiting for my sister to come back from her first day at primary school. She might have driven me mad at times, but I still missed her when she wasn’t there. Here’s the two of us a few years later, rocking that late 70s look!

Books

We’ve done this before on the blog, admittedly, but I’ve always loved reading and tried writing my SS100079first novel at aged seven. My favourite way to spend a Sunday as a teenager was to lie on my bed with my back pressed up against a warm radiator, reading until Sunday had slipped into Monday. My teenage writing heroine was probably Jilly Cooper and, for lots of girls my age, reading Riders was a rite of passage. Although I loved Sue Townsend just as much, but for very different reasons, and still hook up with Adrian Mole every time I really need cheering up. These days, I love writers who can combine humour and emotional storylines – like Julie Cohen and Jo Jo Moyes – and, having finally given in to a Kindle and found out I love it, there’s more reason than ever to read into the wee small hours.

Libraries

I can vividly remember going to the library every week with my mum as a child and loving the Baby bounce and rhymechildren’s section and the huge range – as it had seemed back then – of books to choose from. I even wanted to be a librarian for a bit and having my own date stamp seemed such a wonderful prospect! Later on, as mum myself, I took both my children to ‘Baby Bounce and Rhyme’ at the local library to help introduce them to stories, poetry and books in general. Both of them now enjoy reading and Harry has raced through all the Dick King-Smith books and is now on to Michael Morpurgo, so maybe, just maybe, those early sessions in the library paid off.

What’s Your Passion?

Apart from writing and my family, I’d say it’s got to be travel. It doesn’t matter if it’s the UK or SS101819overseas, but I’m not happy unless I’ve got at least three trips booked to look forward to.   I’ve just spent two weeks in the Welsh mountains and we’re off to Holland in June, and Spain the month after that. Apart from England, America and Scotland are my favourite places to visit. Probably the most exotic place I’ve been is the Venezuelan jungle, where we went piranha fishing and had to wear socks on our hands at night to keep the bugs at bay! That particular setting is bound to feature in a novel one of these days.

Learning

This is a tricky one… As a university lecturer, I am usually a complete advocate of learning. However,Snape I am currently half way through a Masters degree and finding the workload hard going, combined with work, writing and family life. However, it’s worth it to wear the hat at the end of it all, that’s what I tell myself. When I got my first degree, my friend and I kept our caps and gowns all day, just so we could prance around Canterbury dressed like that. Back then, my hair was black and I was into makeup that was far too pale for my olive complexion, so I looked not unlike Alan Rickman as Professor Snape!

Writing

I love writing. I sometimes don’t enjoy all the stuff that goes with it, particularly the marketing side ofauthor 2 things that come with being a published writer. However, there’s nothing better than creating a universe of your own to escape to. You can go anywhere in the world, try out any job and spend hours on Pinterest just dreaming about who your next hero’s going to be… bliss!

Well, that’s me! Thanks again to Liv Thomas for nominating me. I’ve enjoyed writing my Lovely Blog Hop.

Below are the links to two blogs from writers I know you’ll find interesting and, who, as fellow Write Romantics, I can’t wait to read more about:

Sharon Booth will be posting her blog on Friday 1st May.

Jessica Redland will be posting her blog on Wednesday 6th May.

 

Celebrity Character Creation

CCIAOnescaleThe Write Romantics are glad to welcome back friend of the blog, Zanna Mackenzie this week to offer us a guest post all about creating celebrity characters, which some of us know from experience are great fun to write! Over to you Zanna…

Whether or not we regularly purchase the gossip magazines and follow the ups and downs in the lives of our favourite celebrities I think we all share a fascination with what it must be like to live your life in the glare of the media spotlight.
How would it feel to be followed everywhere by eager paparazzi, all pushing and shoving for a photo of you? Not to mention the reality of the more unflattering the photo, the greater the demand for it! What would it be like to pick up a newspaper or magazine and read something about yourself which is a total lie? To have to put up with horrible things being said about you and have people share their opinions and criticisms on everything you wear, do and say.
It must be awful to be constantly riddled with doubts as to whether somebody really wants to be with you as a date you or friend because they actually like you – or because of who or what you are? E.G. – famous!

Having to live your life this way must bring lots of dilemmas, heartbreak and sorrow – much of which is often played out in front of the world’s media, whether you want it to be or not.

But underneath all the oodles of money in their bank accounts, the wardrobes of designer clothes, glamourous mansions with private swimming pools and the eye wateringly expensive cars, these people are just human beings like the rest of us. And maybe sometimes they even wish they weren’t famous and find themselves craving a tiny bit of peace, quiet and privacy.

I recently watched The Voice UK – a reality series about people trying to win a singing contest – and whilst I thought allCCIATWOscale of the contestants were amazing and the finalists fabulous, my favourite singer actually won – Stevie. He came across as a very likable guy with a huge desire to sing and an amazing voice. He’s a fireman, a family man, rather handsome too. As he sang his about-to-be-released single at the end of the show, his wife watched from one of the coach’s chairs and she understandably looked proud and was crying and happy all at the same time. But I have to admit if that had been me in her position then a little part of me would also be fearful for what the future might hold if my husband became famous – all that scrutiny, all those women flirting with him, all that media spotlight, upheaval and pressure. It would turn their lives upside down.

Fame can be fabulous, we see all the glitz, money and success, but it can also be pretty scary.

All of which explains why, I think, we have a love for celebrity characters in the books we write and read. From pop stars to movies stars, even royals and WAGs, their lives are endlessly fascinating, dramatic and quite simply the stuff of which books are made!

ZannaM scaleZanna Mackenzie is the author of a series of romantic comedy mysteries based around the agents of the CCIA – otherwise known as the Celebrity Crimes Investigation Agency. Books 1 and 2 in the Amber Reed CCIA Mysteries are out now, with book 3 due for release in May.

http://viewauthor.at/ZannaMackenzie

Rachael Thomas on Writing Books

Okay, it’s confession time. I have a serious addiction to how-to books, or to be more specific, books on the craft of writing in general and romance writing in particular.IMG_0082

It’s a collection I’ve been adding to since I bought my first one in 2006. That was Kate Walker’s 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance and even better, it’s signed! I was attending my first writing course, which was Kate’s weekend course in Fishguard, run by Writers’ Holiday. This is one of the books which is my constant companion on my desk as I write. The other is The Emotional Thesaurus and of course, a dictionary.

IMG_0079

One of my favourite to read, is Wannabe a Writer? by Jane Wenham-Jones. This brilliant book, telling all you need to know about being a writer, covers everything from the discipline of writing and keeping at it to writers’ bottom. A must read for anyone who hasn’t encountered this book.

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As you see from the first photo, my bookshelves are now tightly packed with these books, but I don’t expect it will dissuade me from adding to them in the future.

So what’s the attraction of all these books? Writing is a solitary occupation and it’s great to be able to dip in and out of these books, referencing things that suddenly make me question myself and my writing. Like those moments when suddenly housework becomes amazingly interesting and you’re convinced you can’t write. I’m sure we can all relate to that at some point!

I’d love to know if there are any more serious collectors of these books out there. Also, if you have a favourite book on writing, what is it? I might just want to add it to my groaning shelves!

Accepting the Challenge

blog picture for wrI’ve had a very busy time lately.  My first book There Must Be An Angel was published on March 28th; I organised a Facebook launch party to celebrate and that took far more planning than you’d ever believe; I’m currently working on a novella and two short stories, as well as gathering ideas for Book Three and getting Book Two ready to send to my editor. It would be madness, then, to agree to take on the task of writing daily blogs. Wouldn’t it? Well, probably, but I’m nothing if not insane, so I took the challenge. The A to Z Challenge, that is.

If you haven’t heard of it, the basic idea is that you dedicate the month of April to blogging daily, using the different letters of the alphabet to decide your subject. So, for example, on the first of April you would blog about something beginning with A and on the second of April you’d blog about something beginning with B. Not complicated to follow, is it? You do get Sundays off, so you have twenty-six blog posts to write, which is very fortunate as there are actually twenty-six letters in the alphabet. What a happy coincidence! You should also take the time to visit some of the other blogs that are taking part in the challenge. You can read more about it here.

So, given the amount of commitment it takes, and given the fact that I’m already flat out with the writing, as well as the day job and family stuff, why did I agree to sign up for the challenge?

I have to admit, I like a challenge. If someone openly asks me if I can do something, however difficult it may seem, I immediately want to do it. I’d been flagging with the writing – sometimes taking days off to do other things. I figured at least this way I’d write something every day.  (Not strictly true, as it turns out, because of a marvellous little thingA2Z-BADGE-0002015-LifeisGood-230_zps660c38a0 called scheduling. Oh well…) I also wondered if I was actually up to the challenge. Could I do it? I had a sneaking suspicion that it might not be possible. I mean, what do you blog about that begins with X or Z? I still have no idea – those days are growing frighteningly close! But once I’d seen the lovely badge to pin to my blog page I was lost. I love a nice badge. No going back.

Question was, what would I blog about? Participants can choose to blog about random things, or they can choose a theme. My initial thought was to blog about random subjects. It was going to be tough enough, why add to the pressure? But then I thought it may actually help to have a theme. Make you focus your mind, that sort of thing. Hmm…What to write about?

Angel ebook coverThen, suddenly, it seemed obvious. There Must Be An Angel came out on March 28th. The challenge started on 1st April. Why not use one to promote the other? Anyone who’s had a book published will tell you that getting it noticed is the tricky part. There are millions of books vying for attention on Amazon. Who’s going to notice my little novel, as it sits there on the virtual shelf, all shy and shivering like a child on its first day at “big school”? I have to do something to remind people that it’s out there, and the challenge could help me do that.

So, each day, I’ve posted about something that, in some way, connects with the book. For instance, on day one, I blogged about Art of Mallow. Art of Mallow is a fabulous little gourmet marshmallow company, based in Leeds. I read about the company in Yorkshire Life, and it struck me as a great job for my heroine, Eliza, to have, so I bought a book of marshmallow recipes to see how difficult it was, and bought two bags of marshmallows from the company (purely for research, of course!) Then, when I was planning the launch party, I contacted the owner of Art of Mallow, explaining the situation, and that I wanted to give away three bags of mallows as prizes and the reason for it, and did I mind if I named her company and explained to people why?  She very kindly replied almost immediately, wished me the best of luck, promoted my party on her Facebook page, donated the bags of mallows for the launch and contacted Yorkshire Life to inform them of this unexpected turn of events. Just shows you! So that’s why Art of Mallow is connected with There Must Be An Angel.

Other subjects I’ve covered so far include Jane Eyre (there is a connection, but you’ll have to read the post to find out what it is), Family Tree (due to the names I’ve given to my characters and how they were “borrowed” from my ancestors), Beltane, and Heroes – a fabulous excuse to post pictures of gorgeous men like Aidan Turner in Poldark if ever I saw one. Sometimes, I’m quite shameless. Today’s post is all about Kearton Bay, which is a fictional village but inspired by the real-life Robin Hood’s Bay. I love Robin Hood’s Bay and I’ve posted some pictures of the village and added a link to its website. Future posts will include Musical Soundtracks, Readers and Reviews, and Villains.

I wasn’t sure how much help the challenge would be in getting Angel noticed, but sales have actually gone up, and I’ve had a lot more visitors to the blog. I have at least two new followers and one commenter specifically said she was off to buy the book. Even one extra sale is good news so, from my point of view, the challenge was worth the effort.

Plus, believe it or not, I’ve actually enjoyed it! Would I do it all again next year? Hmm, now that’s a different story. Then again, if someone challenges me to do it…

Love Sharon xxx

There Must Be An Angel is available to buy here

Find out more about me, my books and my blog here

Have you been booked?

One of the treats of a British summer is the plethora of literary festivals around nowadays. There can be few pleasures more engaging than being in our wonderful historic country listening to an author talking about their book whilst supping a glass of something delicious.

Indeed, they are now so popular that major authors can now command big money and getting a look in on the schedule is out of the question for lesser authors like myself. This can make the bigger events feel less personal, as event officials rush their writers off to private areas giving us little  opportunity to talk to the authors in person.

But if you choose a new event, one that’s still in its early years and has plenty of authors who are early on in their writing career, you can get the best of both worlds. Small enough to still maintain their house party atmosphere, you can hear first-hand from a variety of authors, some new, some not so new, about their work, their inspiration and what drives them.

Hawkesbury Upton is one such event. In its first year, the venue alone is a perfect place to spend time in. It’s in a beautiful south Cotswolds village called Hawkesbury Upton, close to the famous Badminton estate in a gorgeous pub called ‘The Fox’, with its own Italian restaurant. The event will be opened by best-selling novelist Katie Fforde and best-selling literary novelist and poet Orna Ross, who is also founder of the Alliance of Independent Authors. There are a variety of talks starting at 7pm, author readings, an exhibition and a shop open all evening, something to entertain everyone. The event will feature local charity, Readathon, aimed at encouraging children to read and even a literary calligraphy exhibition.

To truly soak up the literary connections you could stop over at The Bodkin en route. This beautiful local restaurant in the village of Petty France near Hawkesbury Upton was visited by Jane Austen, who is reputed to have scratched a message with her diamond ring on an upstairs window. She   commemorated her stay in her novel ‘Northanger Abbey’.

The day is on World Book Night on April 23rd. Interest has been so great that who knows, in a few years the event might be taking its place amongst the biggest of the book world.

And for one final treat, Write Romantic’s Helen Rolfe and Lynne Pardoe will be making their debut in the literary festival world at the event! For the full programme, see the webpage.

http://hulitfest.com

Wednesday Wondering – What Does Easter Mean to You?

P1060222Happy Easter! Okay, so the bank holiday weekend with the key days of Good Friday and Easter Monday is now behind us, but it’s still school holidays and some of you may be enjoying time off work still. I was back to the non-writing day job yesterday, but I’m looking forward to having tomorrow and Friday off too.

My question for the WRs this week was, quite simply, ‘What does Easter mean to you?’

I attended church until I left home for university aged eighteen and remember there being a Palm Sunday parade from The Salvation Army Church at one end of the high street, past my church (Methodist) and up to the Church of England church at the other end for a multi-denomenational service. I’d parade as part of the uniformed organisations (Brownies, Guides, then Rangers) and I my over-riding memory is of being absolutely freezing because we weren’t allowed to wear coats or jumpers. Back then, the Brownie uniform was a dress, although I was certainly grateful for my bobble hat. I remember being giggling each year because the donkey always seemed to go to the toilet outside the church. I’d then spend the rest of the service trying to warm up, knowing that we’d have a freezing cold parade back again!

P1060226As a child, we’d get loads of Easter eggs – one from each set of grandparents, and from each auntie/uncle. My childhood home had an extra room downstairs called the study. It was originally a garage before we moved in and had been converted to a room, but it always retained that cold feeling of a garage. As such, it was the perfect place for storing Easter eggs and selection boxes at Christmas, keeping them nice and cool. It was also the perfect place for helping myself to chocolate when nobody could see me! I used to raid my Easter eggs and those of my older brother; such a pig! When I was 19, my habits hadn’t improved. My boyfriend in my 2nd year of university bought me a fabulous Easter egg. It was a large Cadbury’s crème egg one with a picture of a juggler on the front. The hollow chocolate egg was his stomach and his juggling balls were 2 normal-sized crème eggs and 7 mini crème eggs. I’d been presented with it about a week before we broke up for the Easter holidays and it sat enticingly on my shelf with strict instructions not to eat it until Easter. I think I lasted about a day before I broke into it. If I just ate one of the mini eggs then placed the foil back in the mould, that would be okay, wouldn’t it? So I did that. But it was really yummy. So I had another. And another. By the time we broke for Easter, I packed my Easter egg to take home. Except there wasn’t any chocolate left in it; just a plastic mould with the foil wrappers shaped into it to look like it was all still there! Oops!

Jessica xx

So, what does Easter mean to the WRs?

Sharon says…

P1060225I have very happy memories of Easter. One of the main ones is watching Jesus of Nazareth starring Robert Powell. We all – my mum, dad, sister, brother and I – gathered round the television to watch it, enthralled. My mum and dad weren’t religious at all, but they were really absorbed in the programme. As for me, I cried absolute buckets. I totally believed in the Easter story and it broke my heart to see it played out on screen before me.

Easter, for me, has always been one of the most important times of the year. Of course, when we were children, it also meant Easter eggs and time off school to me and my sister. One year, we got thirteen Easter eggs each from aunts, uncles, grandparents, parents, family friends…Quite ridiculous, really.

When my own children were little I made it very traditional. Fish on Good Friday, Easter eggs, lots of Easter themed television, a turkey dinner on Easter Sunday and sometimes church, too. Now they’ve all left home and my faith has sadly dwindled, I think, in my mind, Easter is simply tied in with spring – daffodils, new lambs, new life, new hope. In that sense, I suppose it has that much in common with a story of resurrection and overcoming even death. I do think that, if you’re a Christian, Easter is the most special time of year, even more than Christmas. I wish everyone – of all faiths or none – a happy Easter.

DSCF0005-smallRachael says…

Easter time here on the farm is like any other day. The daily jobs of milking and feeding continue regardless of what holiday it is. This only makes family time all the more precious, although with two older teenager’s social lives to be factored in this Easter, it may prove difficult to all be around the table for dinner on Easter Sunday.

As with most families, Easter is also about chocolate eggs and probably far too many of them! It’s good also to stop and reflect about why we are celebrating Easter. Just as Christmas isn’t all about the gifts under the tree, Easter isn’t all about mountains of chocolate.

I hope you all had a lovely Easter weekend and that you haven’t eaten too much chocolate!

Lynne says…

P1060224Easter to me is a time of new beginnings when the world wakes up from its winter slumber. For me my reading tastes change a little, from the fireside reading of winter, when I love P.D.James and Charles Dickens to livelier, more summery tomes. This year is a special treat, because there’s so many of my lovely Write Romantics’ stories available now in print and electronic form. Roll on better weather when I can loll around in the sun with an iced drink and suntan lotion and call it research!!

Jackie says…

church and daffodilsI was brought up as a reasonably strict Catholic and went to a Convent school from the age of ten. I would attend St Dominic’s church every Sunday in my best hat (even if I had a terrible cold and sneezed through most of the service) Lent was all about the money I would give to charity if I gave up sweets etc, rather than an excuse to diet or stop the booze (which it seems to have turned into today) and Easter was all about Christ dying on the Cross. So my memories of Easter are mostly about the dreaded Stations Of The Cross in church. There were I think, fourteen ’stations’ and the gathered congregation would kneel and pray at every icon reflecting on the image of Jesus at his crucifixion, before standing and walking to the next ‘station.’ I recall this took forever and one time I got a fit of the giggles with my best friend. She suppressed her laugh rather too much and it came out the other end as a loud ‘trumpet’ noise. This made us laugh even harder and she continued to ‘trump’ for Britain. People around us started tittering, but the nun in charge of us hoisted us up and sent us to the back of the church to reflect on our sins. She didn’t say what our sins were as I suspect such a thing as a ‘blow off’ couldn’t be acknowledged as it was far too unladylike! It was actually a bit of a result as we messed around with the rosaries and ‘palms’ that were for sale at the back of the church until it was all over.

Deirdre says…

Easter for us is a quite a low-key affair these days – not that we ever did a great deal but certain little traditions, like painting the shells of boiled eggs for breakfast, have slid off the radar now, mainly due to not having any children in the family, and the demise of my mother-in-law who celebrated Easter as she did everything else, with a cook-fest.  She used to make scrumptious spicy hot cross buns which were sent down to us on the morning of Good Friday, not before, not after.  Then on the Sunday there’d be a family gathering at her house for the big roast, followed by Christmas pudding from the batch she’d made the previous year.  She made simnel cake thick with marzipan and iced in lurid green which is the traditional colour, and on the top was a plastic egg decoration with a chick inside which came out year after year.  If we weren’t full after that lot there were home-made Easter biscuits sparkling with green-coloured sugar (no worries about additives for her), as well as the Easter eggs themselves and other chocolate treats.

Peggy at EasterI still do a roast – which has to be lamb, nothing else – and this year I was farseeing enough to get an extra Christmas pudding, having let them all down so badly last year by not providing one.  We have Buck’s Fizz mid-morning and champagne with lunch.   Any excuse.  The boys still get eggs, old though they are (the boys, I mean, not the eggs) and I always have daffodils in vases to brighten things up.   In the loft we have gigantic folded-paper rabbits and another rabbit that plays a tune which we stand about, if we remember to get them out.  We always invite my husband’s Aunt Peggy.  She’s 91 now.  This is a photo of her at ours last Easter.  As you can see she’s still got a sparkle in her eye, as well as in her glass.  We don’t do outdoorsy things at Easter. The weather always seems so cold, but we usually go for a drive in the country on Easter Monday and maybe stop off at a likely hostelry.  That’s something we did when I was a child, and we used to pick primroses if they were out in time, but of course you can’t do that now.

I do like Easter-time.  It’s so colourful with the daffodils and other flowers, and the Easter displays in the shops.  And of course you know that summer’s not that far away – always a cheering thought.

image1Helen R says…

We’ve never been a religious family so Easter has never been a big event in our house. This is hard when the kids fire questions at me about ‘why do we have Easter?’ Only as an adult did I find out eggs are given to each other to signify new life and it’s nice to have a basic understanding now.

As for the chocolate side of things I’m afraid I’m over excited this year. It’s my first Easter in the UK since 2000 and the Easter eggs on display in the shops are amazing. I shall make my selections this year and remember the meaning of the occasion.

Jo says…

disc 3 612I think Easter, a bit like Halloween, is a lot *bigger* now than when I was a child.  I don’t remember Easter egg hunts or anything like that, but my mum would make birds’ nests from strands of shredded wheat, dipped in chocolate, and fill them with little candy eggs.  We had a big family and so would receive lots of chocolate eggs from relatives and they’d all be lined up on the sideboard.  My sister would still have most of hers in June, but I’d eat all of mine by the week after Easter. Once or twice I even broke into her stock and tried to smooth out the foil after I’d eaten the egg, to make it look like it was still in there.  It’s no wonder she’s three sizes smaller than me, even now!

With my own children, we’ve always had Easter egg hunts, even when we’ve been away on holiday – which we often are for the school break.  Here’s a photo of the eldest three when we were in the New Forest one Easter and about to set off on a trail through the woods.  This year is no different, we’ll be staying in a converted barn in the Llyn Peninsula in north Wales and I’ll be hiding eggs for the big hunt on Easter Sunday.  I’ve tried suggesting that they might have outgrown it now that they’re 10, 13, 14 and 16, but they’ve insisted they’ll never be too old for an Easter egg hunt.  Here’s hoping I’m not still looking for places to hide their eggs when they’re in their forties!

What about you? We’d love to hear about your Easters past and present. You can comment by clicking on the ‘comments’ tag at the end of the teeny words below this post. Thank you xx

Saturday Spotlight with Publishing House So Vain Books

Happy Easter! We hope that you’re having a lovely, relaxing time and haven’t overdosed on the chocolate eggs. If you’re working this weekend, we hope your time to relax comes really soon.

Squared_BLACK_logoMost of our Saturday Spotlights feature other writers, but every so often we bring you a different insight into the world of writing and today is one of those days.

About a year ago, Alys shared with The Write Romantics an advert she’d spotted for a new publishing company called So Vain Books. They weren’t looking for the genre of books she writes (urban fantasy), but she wondered if they might be a good fit for others in the group, particularly Jo and possibly myself. Jo submitted her MS and was offered a publishing deal with them. ‘Among a Thousand Stars’ will be out on 17th June. However, I didn’t submit. I felt that my novel didn’t really match the request for glamour/fashion/sex.

I was so impressed by the way So Vain Books were working with Jo that I remember joking that I should change parts of my MS to fit more with the glamour/fashion/sex element as they sounded like a company with whom I’d really like to work. Instead, Jo asked Publishing Director, Stephanie Reed, if there was anything else they were looking for. Steph said they were after books with heart where the protagonist changes their partner/life/career and learns from it. That was exactly what my book was all about so I submitted and was delighted to secure a publishing deal too. ‘Searching for Steven’ will be out on 3rd June.

Today, we welcome Stephanie to the blog and thank her for a valuable insight into the world of a new publisher.

Jessica xx

image_stephanieWhat’s your background?

My background is mainly in magazines and PR. I worked for over 5 years in the field of magazine editing, writing, fashion styling and PR, whilst in the meantime studying Publishing and getting some experience in the book publishing industry as a freelance editor.

What inspired you to start So Vain Books? How did you go about it?

Back in 2009 I founded So Vain Magazine, a now well-established online fashion, beauty and lifestyle magazine. After four years in the industry, I started thinking of how to expand the brand in different ways. Given my love for books and my background, an idea was very soon formed: we were going to start publishing books. What I always wanted to do was to bring my unique approach to the book publishing process. The fact that I didn’t come from years and years working for any big book publisher meant that I did not have a “standardised” way of seeing things, and had the luxury of being able to shape the publishing house in a way that I thought could work. We publish unique books that we really believe in and market in non-traditional ways. All the So Vain Books team members come from different industries and we are all very young and full of fresh ideas. After a few months spent planning, getting funds, focusing our editorial direction and recruiting new members for the team, So Vain Books was launched on the 13th of February 2014 with a very glamorous and successful event in Central London. Ever since then we have spent all our time reading manuscripts, signing up very promising authors (including the fabulous Jo Bartlett and Jessica Redland from The Write Romantics), meeting with industry experts, building up our database or bloggers and editor, etc.

It’s a very stressful job, full of long hours and no holidays, but also a very rewarding one, as now we have had the pleasure of signing up some talented authors and we really can’t wait for what’s to come in the future.

What sorts of books are you looking for? How might a potential writer submit to you?

3d CoverSo Vain Books is always looking for a great story to publish! We are passionately interested in anything to do with fashion, beauty and romance no matter if it is a light and entertaining fiction novel or an insightful guide on how to be part of the fashion elite.

  • Fiction: we publish light fiction romance novels, specifically in the genre of chick-lit, erotica and New Adult that are funny, witty and quite glamorous.
  • Non-fiction: we publish memoirs, how-to guides, coffeetable books and DIY books all written in an entertaining and informative way by bloggers, celebrities and industry experts.

We only accept submissions from authors based in the United Kingdom.

We require a minimum of 3 chapters for the non-fiction guides and a full manuscript for the fiction books. For both of them, we will ask you details about yourself, a full synopsis and how you see your book positioned.

Sometimes, even if you have not written anything yet but have a fantastic idea you want to explore with us and see if we might be interested in it, we will read it and give you feedback and maybe work with you to develop it, but we will wait until we have the right amount of words to consider it for an actual contract.

For all submissions, you can refer to our dedicated page: http://www.sovainbooks.co.uk/are-you-an-author

How quickly do you know whether a book is for you or not?

Depending on the number of submissions we have at a given time, it may take us up to 8 weeks to come back to any author who has submitted a full manuscript to us. We do provide feedback both if it is a no or a yes.

Many of your books are set in a glamorous world. Is your world glamorous?

Not at all! There might have been a time when I think I led a pretty glamorous life, going to fashion shows and parties, always wearing super high heels and red lipstick wherever I went. But I soon realized that life was not for me. I am more of a tea-and-duvet kind of girl, and I prefer spending my evenings reading a good book rather than going out to glamorous events. Plus, that’s what books are for: they provide an insight into a world in which everything is glitzy and sparkly, without having to leave the comfort of your home (or bed)! Plus, often, when you end up living “the dream” you do realize it’s not always how you expected it and it’s just better to read about it in a book!

book 3dWhat do you do to support your authors?

We pride ourselves to be a very author-centred publishing house. We won’t publish anything that we do not passionately believe in, and for this reason we only publish a limited amount of books per year, focusing on quality over quantity. We dedicate to each author and each book the right attention to detail, offering editorial support, creating stunning designs, planning bespoke marketing and publicity campaigns, and being by their side every step of the way, supporting their own initiatives and ideas for the production, publication and promotion of their books.

Our bespoke publicity campaigns include a customised author’s website, social media campaigns, email marketing, blog tours, reviews, and much more. We don’t want to simply publish great authors, but we are committed to creating a brand around them and bringing them to success, so all our plans are about thinking long-term and ensuring a bright future for all our authors.

In a very competitive market, what do you think authors can do to promote their work and get themselves noticed?

It is really hard nowadays to get yourself noticed. There are hundreds of new books published every day, so finding a way to stand out from the crowd is no easy matter. The main thing people value when deciding whether to read a new book or not is recommendations. They have been proven to be the most influential factor, so having a large number of reviews on Amazon and on websites like Goodreads is key. Once you achieve that, it opens up a world of possibilities. So get as many beta readers as possible (including your friends and family), contact book bloggers and Amazon reviewers, and offer them your book for free in exchange for an honest review. If your story is a good one, it will take no time to start getting some very positive feedback and building that network of recommendations and “social proof” that is fundamental to get people to buy the book!

What sort of books do you read for pleasure?

I love romance, but you might be surprised to know they are not the only kind of books I read. I love fantasy almost as much as I love chicklit! I adore books by Cassandra Clare, JK Rowling, Suzanne Collins, Sophie Kinsella, Cecelia Ahern and also from some far less-known authors.

I am currently reading “Me Before You” by Jojo Moyes.

horizontal BLACKWould you ever consider writing a book yourself?

No, definitely not. The more I read the manuscripts we get submitted by authors, the more I realize I would never be able to do that, or at least not as well as they do it. I also would not have the patience an author must have, as it can take a very long time to write a book and get it perfect.

What does the future hold for So Vain Books?

I am confident that it will become a well-established publishing house, full of successful and exciting books, ensured by the fact that we dedicate all our passion and creativity to each title and we have a mix between fiction and non-fiction, with an array of celebrity books that will help with promoting the less famous and first-time authors.

In the future we also aim at becoming an online store, with many books and other items revolving around our core brand. I want the company to also expand into things other than books, organizing events, conferences, etc.

Jo and I can honestly say that it has been a pleasure working with So Vain Books and we’re both very excited about our June releases. Thank you for joining us today, Steph.

If you’d like to leave a comment or ask a question, please click on ‘comments’ at the end of the teeny weeny tag-words below this post xx

Self publish and be damned!

I know the argument over whether to self publish or not has almost been flogged to death but it’s one of those things that I haven’t taken much notice of until I decided I might go down that route. I had a look on Kindle Direct Publishing today and although initially it made my eyes cross, it didn’t actually look too hard to manage after a bit of concentrating!
So one hurdle down, how many more to go, and is it a good alternative for someone who hasn’t yet cracked a publishing deal? I have recently had two near misses and a handful of praise from the few publishers I sent my manuscript to, so next on my list was to pay for a structural edit to see where I was going wrong.
So it has started. I am paying proper money in my mission to get one of my novels out to a wider audience. If I decide to self-publish, I will then have to pay for a proofread and a cover. Other miscellaneous costs will be necessary on the way such as paying for promotion and an IBSN number if I want to sell paper books as well as eBooks.
The upside of self-publishing – better royalties, immediacy of publishing, being able to design your own cover and set your own price, has been well documented. However, having paid more attention than usual to recent publishing deals of acquaintances, I discover that there do seem to be more pro’s than cons.
Of course the biggest upside of bagging a traditional deal has always been, for most writers, the kudos of having a publisher put their faith in your book. Other writers get this, but the average reader with a kindle would never notice who published your book and if they did look they probably wouldn’t be much the wiser. And even the big publishers, who have the opportunity to sell your book to a wider audience, often e publish a book first and wait and see if it sells enough to merit a paperback print. CreateSpace can do this with print on demand (and they do a very good job) so that’s hardly a bonus, anymore.
Do I really want to give a publisher most of the profits on a work that has taken a year to write, just for the credibility and possibly a bit more promotion than I could do myself? Promotion is quite a big consideration if you have no fan base, but once again publishers expect you to do practically all of the marketing of your book yourself. Advances are almost a thing of the past and the publisher mostly has full control over price, cover and content. Some don’t even proof-read your book before they publish it and they still take a huge cut, in some cases as much as ninety per cent of the profits.
And yet… and yet… I still yearn to have one of my novels published by a ‘proper’ publisher.
I guess the answer is to keep going until I have enough of a platform to decide which one suits me best. Who knows, I could do both and be in a win/win situation. For the moment though, neither have happened, but to misquote a far better writer than I will ever be, in the future, ‘The odds may ever be in my favour.’
Jackie x