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.

 

Hallowe’en and all that Hocus Pocus!

It’s almost October 31st, and that means only one thing…Hallowe’en’s coming! Unless you’ve been on another planet for the last few months, you’ll know that The Write Romantics are publishing an anthology of short stories, all with winter or Christmas themes. It’s called Winter Tales and will be launched on November 8th. We found writing short stories very different to creating the novels we usually work on, and it’s made us look at other short story writers with even more respect and interest. The recent release of a short story anthology entitled Hocus Pocus ’14, really caught our eye. It’s a collection of thirteen tales, each with a spooky twist, ideal for this time of year. We decided to find out more about the anthology and who was behind it…

 

2014-10-19 19.40.23It seems that Hocus Pocus ’14 was the brainchild of writer and QVC presenter Debbie Flint. She got together a group of authors including Lynda Renham, Lizzie Lamb and Tina K Burton and asked them to visit their dark side. The result is this creepy collection of shorts. We risked life and limb to prise information from these surprisingly obliging ladies to find out all about the book. Believe me, when you’ve read it you’ll admire our bravery. These people have seriously warped imaginations…

Debbie Flint

Debbie Flint

So, Debbie, what gave you the idea to put together an anthology, and why for Hallowe’en in particular? 

Last year fellow authors Carolyn Mahony, Mary Jane Hallowell and I found ourselves suddenly challenged to run a Facebook online party by ourselves, with a guest visit from published Mills and Boon author Isabelle Goddard – also from our Tuscany writing group. We’d all just self-published our first titles and wanted to raise awareness of our books. The plan was to do it on Hallowe’en since that was the plan we’d inherited, having all agreed to participate but not run it. Then suddenly we were in charge and we had to make it up as we went along, but the feedback was amazing, the sales of our own books lifted slightly, and everyone taking part gave great feedback. It worked! We found it was the most fun, fulfilling day – especially because being Hallowe’en there was a whole host of different options for subjects to post about, making the day really diverse and compelling. We ran it on our specially created event page on Facebook. We had pics of ‘finger food,’ favourite spooky hunks, songs and films, plus real life supernatural experiences to name but a few. We found there weren’t that many others going on on the same day, nor was there much on Amazon if you searched the word ‘Hallowe’en.’ We know that self publishing nowadays is all about discoverability, so the idea for a new event this year was born.

How did you select the authors to take part?

Initially it was just our little group, and then having mentioned it to a few other authors on other writing groups/retreats, many others stepped up and submitted stories to us for approval. Most would have been a shue-in, as they are award winning or best selling established authors, but we still used the process I rely on to gauge a story’s potential – my beta readers group. Facebook is a magical thing, and two years ago, it put me in touch with around two dozen avid romance readers who regularly review and ‘mark’ the work we submit to them. They’ve been instrumental in helping me bypass those frustrating early stages with a SFD where you think you know what to do but you need validation from true readers. Now ‘Debbie’s Readers’ occasionally take other work to read too and all seem very keen to help and have their opinions counted! Funnily enough my publisher Choc Lit (still sounds funny to hear myself say ‘my publisher’ – I only signed with them in the summer, first book out next Spring!) also use a ‘tasting panel’ for exactly the same reasons. I highly recommend doing so to new authors – and established ones!

Anyway, with the help of co-editor Mary Jane Hallowell, one of my best pals and writing buddies, the ‘approved’ stories mounted up and soon we had nearly 13 which I figured would be perfect for this anthology, so I contacted a couple more authors to reach the magical number! By the end of August it was clear we could make it the magical 13, of varying lengths, which Adrienne Vaughan and Lizzie Lamb pointed out would form a meaty paperback, and could they have some copies. So we expanded our plans to include Createspace too, and I got my lovely cover designer in Canada, Angela Oltmann to polish up the design one of our beta reader’s sons had already submitted. The POD covers (print on demand- that’s how they do paperbacks on Amazon via Createspace) which she creates, takes a lot more work than eBook covers ever do, so it was an investment, of around £130 overall. I also used a formatting expert in San Diego, Yvonne Betancourt, to ensure the finished POD interior was right. But if we sell copies outside of the freebie promotion period it’ll hopefully eventually cover it. Plus I will do one next year too, Hocus Pocus ’15,  and possibly a Valentine’s anthology of romantic short stories, so ‘Hocus Pocus ’14’ will be part of a series! If anyone is interested in taking part in the next ones just email me debbie@debbieflint.com. I’m looking forward to reaching a whole new audience via the other authors and via the fab Hallowe’en party on 31st – I do hope you’ll join us!

Welcome Lizzie Lamb, Lynda Renham and Tina K Burton. How did you all get involved?

Lizzie:  One of the New Romantics Press, Adrienne Vaughan, was contacted by Debbie who was looking for contributors and Adrienne put my name forward. I was a bit worried about getting side-tracked from finishing book 3 but already had a spooky story on file so I said yes. I’d written it a few years back for a competition ‘Heaven Can Wait’ run by Writers’ Magazine and (I think) Cally Taylor. She had just published her novel Heaven Can Wait and was running the competition to promote it. I was glad I’d kept the story on file because it only needed a bit of tweaking, et voila.

Lizzie Lamb and Adrienne Vaughan

Lizzie Lamb and Adrienne Vaughan

Lynda: I got involved with the anthology when Debbie asked me if I was interested and did I know anyone else who would be. I was unsure at first as short stories aren’t my thing really. I always find my short stories end up as novels and I don’t think Debbie would have been too happy with that!

Tina: My friend, Lynda, put me in touch with Debbie, who was putting together the anthology. Debbie asked if I’d like to get involved and, as it happened, I had a story that I thought might be suitable.

How did you find writing short stories as opposed to novels?

Debbie: I  like writing short stories – my first ever was for my QVC blog (I work on the shopping channel as a presenter) and my blog gets around 13000 views a week, so having just returned from the Tuscany writing course – my first ever experience of romance writing – I thought I’d do a 5000 word story for Feb 14th – so The Valentine’s Surprise was born. Three years later, having been inspired into self-publishing by Emily Harvale, I played around with KDP and uploaded it for a three day freebie. Immediately several hundred people downloaded it, and my journey into being a novelist was born. I then finished my WIP, Hawaiian Affair, followed by books two and three in that trilogy of steamy romances, all around 80-90,000 words. I finished a Bridget Jones style tale set in shopping telly at Easter this year, also full length. But my second short story, When Dreams Return, was written with the intention of running a freebie promotion for Mothers’ Day, which I did. However, being set at Hallowe’en I’d always intended that it would be my contribution for the Anthology – we’d been planning it since last October you see.

Lizzie: I would rather write a novel than a short story. Why? Because all my short stories read like the start of a novel. It’s a genre I need to work on if I’m ever going to feel more relaxed about writing one. Sue Moorcroft gave me a tip once, which was to think of the short story as an ‘incident’ with a beginning, a middle and an end – rather than a chapter in a novel. After I’d taken that advice on board it was much easier, but I don’t think I’ll ever be a natural short story writer.

bb485b6d7f02dff8fbd367e0a2a19a61

Lynda Renham

Lynda: I disciplined myself and wrote my contribution which is titled ‘Clarissa’. I didn’t find writing a short story easy so I very much admire writers who can do it. I have written a few short stories in the past but find them difficult. If I have the choice, give me a novel to write any day.

Tina: I wrote and sold short stories before writing novels. I like the challenge of short stories – writing a whole plot and credible characters within a limited number of words. But I also like novels because you have more scope to develop your characters fully.

 

 

What is your story called and what’s it about?

Debbie: It’s called When Dreams Return. Chelle’s hubby Andy disappeared mysteriously and she stopped painting. Her talented artwork is her livelihood, inspired by her elaborate dreams. Finally she decides it’s time to accept his death and move on, by renovating a spooky Victorian House with a secret in the attic. Her pal Sara who lives nearby is married to Andy’s brother but she has secrets of her own. It’s a ghostly tale with humour and pathos, and ended up becoming a short novella, at 14,000 words. I was very pleased that the freebie helped it to get 4.6 avge stars on 29 reviews! Very chuffed! 

Lizzie: It’s called Jumping the Queue. As I said, I more or less wrote it to order for the competition Heaven Can Wait. That theme decided what I was going to write about. I’ve also written a  ‘true’ spooky story for the promo day when the Hocus Pocus event takes place on Facebook – 31st October. It’s called Knock, Knock, Who’s There? And concerns a real life spooky event which happened to me when I was a child. I’ll probably be posting it on my website, too, as part of the promo.

Lynda: Clarissa is a car that the main character, Frank, becomes obsessed with. However, the obsesion becomes quite creepy when the car begins to control Frank’s behaviour. I don’t know that anything inspired the story. It just seemed to jump onto the page and I very much enjoyed the process of writing it. I’m always fascinated when that happens.

Tina K Burton

Tina K Burton

Tina: My story is The Soul Stealer, about a doll who borrows souls. I used to work in the funeral business, and whilst I’m not religious, I do believe that our soul – the essence of what makes us, us – leaves the body and goes somewhere after death. It was thinking about that a while ago that gave me an idea for the story.

 

Our thanks to Debbie, Lizzie, Lynda and Tina for dropping by and telling us all about their venture into short story writing. Hocus Pocus ’14 is available to buy here and you can read Sharon’s review on Goodreads here

The short stories included in the anthology are:

Seed of Doubt by Adrienne Vaughan
Letter for Ray by Carolyn Mahony
Heaven Must be Missing an Angel by Jules Wake
The Last Leg by S A Edward
Lovespelled by Jane O’Reilly
Clarissa by Lynda Renham
Orange Blossom by Mary Jane Hallowell (short novella)
Jumping the Queue by Lizzie Lamb
Haunted House by Alison May
The Soul Stealer by Tina K. Burton
Green Man Rising by Litty Williams
Insubstantial Evidence by Tracy Burton
When Dreams Return by Debbie Flint (short novella)
Bonus Material -– true life spooky tales & poem

You can follow Lynda Renham’s blog here . Follow Lizzie Lamb’s blog here. Follow Tina K Burton’s blog here. Follow Debbie Flint here.

Join in the fun on Facebook on October 31st and prepare to be spooked!

Hocus Pocus '14

Hocus Pocus ’14

 

Six Year Badge of Honour – Jules Wake’s Apprenticeship in the NWS

We’re delighted to welcome Jules Wake to the Saturday Spotlight. As members and graduates of the RNA’s New Writer’s Scheme, we’re always fascinated to hear stories of how other NWS members secure an agent, a publishing deal or both.

Between us, we range from Year 2 to Year Too Many To Recall in the NWS! Today, Jules is going to talk to us about her six years on the scheme. If you’re on the scheme now, we’re sure this will be great encouragement for you and, if you’re thinking about joining, it should help you make that firm decision too.

Over to Jules and some lovely pictures from her book launch …

Me at book launchAt the moment just having had my debut novel published, thanks to the NWS, I’m in the handy position of having four more complete books tucked away in my bottom drawer and I’m a quarter of the way through the sixth. This is my journey to publication via the wonderful NWS.

Year 1

One of the biggest mistakes new writers make is that they keep re-visiting and polishing their first work. I guess I was lucky in that my first submission to the New Writers Scheme, in the days when you were offered two reads, did get a second read. Both reports were glowing and suggested I try to get an agent.

It meant that if I wanted to stay in the RNA I needed to sign up for the NWS the next year. I was determined to submit a full manuscript so I started a new novel for that year.

Year 2

The feedback this time wasn’t so wonderful. When it first dropped through the letterbox a scant five days after I’d submitted it to Melanie Hilton, I felt that the report got it wrong. One of the reader’s views was that it was too much of a ‘cross-genre’ and there were various other criticisms. After such a glowing report the previous year, this was quite a set back and for a week I took it very personally.

CupcakesAnd that is one of the hardest parts of being a writer, taking and acting on constructive criticism. But, and this is a very big but, why bother asking an expert if you’re not going to act upon it or at least listen with an open mind to what they have to say?

After a week of feeling aggrieved, I re-read the report and applied myself to re-writing the ms and addressing the points my reader had made.  I learnt a huge amount from that report, although at the time I didn’t realise it. Today I re-read it and with what I know now, I can see that it was very honest, bang on the money and offered lots of constructive criticism that luckily I did take on board.

Year 3

The disappointment of Year 2 made me start a third novel, which again didn’t get a second read from the NWS but again I received several pages of hugely useful advice. Reading that critique now, it’s so obvious that its painful – the book suffered from a lack of clear understanding of the characters motivations and goals. I could write, I could plot and I could complete a 100K word manuscript but I just didn’t have a good handle on the technical aspects of novel writing.

Bookends 1Year 4

So onto year 4 of the New Writers Scheme and a new book. Again only one read but lots of suggestions and advice. This time I took notice.

Year 5

With other commitments I knew I wouldn’t get another book written ready for the August deadline, so I decided to focus on a re-write of book 4 addressing all of the points raised in the report. To my delight I received two glowing reports, along with that all invaluable advice and tips.

I made amendments and sent this ms out to agents. Lo and behold not one but two agents asked for a full. I was thrilled to bits … until they both came back with a polite rejection. One of them, however had taken the trouble to give a considerable amount of feedback. I wrote back thanking her for her time and expressing gratitude for her comments and asked if she would mind if I submitted my next book the following year. In hindsight this was a smart move. One it told the agent, I was serious about writing, two that I was business-like, three that I could write a book a year and four gave me an opening the following year with her.

Donna & IYear 6

I submitted my application to re-join the NWS in 2013 and then three weeks into January got the email! An invite to meet a publisher I’d submitted my first NWS book to. It had undergone a considerable re-write, principally because Choc Lit ask for the male POV and I’d written it all in first person.

Choc Lit offered me a contract and my debut novel Talk To Me came out in paperback on June 6 of this year.

I still had my NWS membership so decided to submit book 5 for what would be my last time. The report was the best yet, with the line ‘Frankly if you don’t find a publisher with this I’ll eat my hat!’

Again there were a few constructive points which I took on board and then I started submitting to agents. Three carefully chosen ones, all of whom I had been submitting to each year. I didn’t hear a thing. Three months later I decided to have one last shot at getting an agent and picked out five suitable targets. (I could write a whole other blog on targeting an agent)

I sent out five submissions on the Thursday. On Monday I received a call from a top London literary agent asking if I’d had their email. What email? Would you believe possibly one of the most important emails of my life had gone into my spam box! She wanted to read the full ms.

Would you believe it, two days later one of the original agents came back and requested the full ms? Unfortunately I’d just sent it off on an exclusive basis. What to do? Admit that? Would she then still want it, if the other agent subsequently rejected it? In the meantime another agent expressed interest … honestly it was like buses!

To cut a long story short (yes another possible blog post), both agents were at the RNA party a week later and I was able to meet and chat with both. I knew as soon as I got chatting to one of them, that she was someone I could work with.

So I now have an agent and one published book. I’d have achieved neither without the RNA’s amazing New Writers Scheme. I don’t know any of my readers but I offer a heart-felt thanks to every single one of them, for the time they took to read my ms and the detailed, honest and constructive feedback that they provided with absolutely no obligation.

Those reports can be absolute gold dust, I urge you to read, re-read and take note of the positives as well as the negatives. Most of all, I really do suggest you don’t keep re-visiting and resubmitting the same novel.

 

Thanks to Jules for joining us and sharing. We were delighted to have the opportunity to meet her during the recent RNA Conference and hear more about her personal journey to publication so it’s great to be able to have her as a blog guest.

 

You can follow Jules on Twitter @juleswake, link to her Amazon page, or read more on her website or blog

Jessica xx

All About America: Rhoda Baxter Finds Debut Success in the USA

It’s Independence Day in the USA this coming Friday; 4th July. I’m no history expert (isn’t that what Google’s for?) so I had to look up the year (1776) but I did know that it was the date the Declaration of Independence was signed declaring independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain. With such strong links to the US today, it’s quite hard to imagine that the UK and US were once not on the best of terms.

For a while now, the USA has held a fascination for The Write Romantics. Not because we want to go on holiday there (although most of us do) but because we’ve become increasingly aware of America as a huge and exciting market for our writing. As members of the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA), we often read on the online community about writers who have written for both the UK and US markets or who write exclusively for the US market and many of us have submitted our manuscripts to US publishers. While we await the verdict, we’re anxious to know more.

ImageWe’re delighted to welcome fellow-RNA member, Rhoda Baxter, back to the blog to talk about her experiences of being published in the USA.

Rhoda Baxter always wanted to be a writer, but her parents told her she needed to get a ‘real’ job and write in her spare time. So she became a scientist and now works in technology transfer. She writes contemporary romantic comedies in whatever spare time she can find around her day job and her family. Which means her parents were right all along. How irritating.

Her novel Girl On the Run (formerly Patently in Love) is released by Choc Lit Lite in June 2014. Her first paperback novel, Doctor January will be published by Choc Lit in August 2014.

Over to Rhoda …

Writing for the American market

My first publication was with a US publisher. It wasn’t planned that way, it was just the luck of the draw.

My experience is a familiar story. I had written two books, but couldn’t find an agent. I was lucky enough to get some feedback along with my rejections. They all said ‘it’s good enough, but we don’t think we can place a book with so many emails in it’. The trouble was, I’d chosen to tell the hero’s point of view entirely in emails. It was part of what made the book so much fun to write. I mentioned this at an RNA lunch and Christina Jones suggested that maybe ebook publishers might be more willing to take on something that was a little unusual. It was a good idea, so I set about doing my research.

The market for ebooks was (still is!) biggest in the US. The next biggest will probably be South East Asia. There were a few well established ebook publishers at the time (and a whole load of others that arose and disappeared within a few years). While I was going through this, someone posted a submission call on Romna – it was from a small, but established epublisher. They wanted non-erotic romance (yay), between 50 and 100K (hurrah) and, crucially, the person posting recommended them highly.

So I emailed my submission off to Uncial Press and forgot about it. Less than a fortnight later, I had an email offering me a contract for 2 years. Ebook wasn’t my first choice for a debut (not many people in the UK read ebooks at that time – ereaders only became popular here about two years ago), but hey, it was a start. So I signed up.

Editing for the US

I was lucky in that Uncial are happy to use UK spelling and, provided it’s not too confusing, UK idiom. There was still the odd dispute about ‘a herb garden’ should really be ‘an ‘erb Garden’, or whether someone could look round or whether they had to look around. All in all though, it was a fairly painless process. The only thing we could not agree on was a suitable alternative to “Phwoar”. There must be one, but we couldn’t find it. So I had to delete it. If you figure out what it is, please let me know.

As a British reader, I take Americanisms in my stride – although the phrase ‘khaki pants’ makes me snigger like a pre-schooler. It turns out some Americans aren’t overly bothered about British-isms either. I’ve had feedback saying ‘what’s an MOT? ’ and discussions about whether tea should be served cold in a tall glass, but for the most part American readers don’t mind the odd British quirkiness. I’ve also met lots of readers who say ‘I like British Fiction’.

A few months ago, I did some research – if you can call asking a bunch of people on Twitter ‘research’ – on why some American readers liked to read British books. Overwhelmingly, the answer was that they enjoyed seeing another country through the books. Readers who enjoy historical novels especially liked the authenticity that the British voice gave. In some undefinable way, they felt it ‘fit’ better. Readers of contemporary romance liked the bite and cynicism in British dialogue. Those of us who grew up watching Blackadder have a certain pace of dialogue that’s sunk into our collective psyche. It’s not easy to write purple prose when you really want your heroine to be a girl called Bob.

A word on Copyright

Copyright in your work arises automatically and it belongs to you. When you sign a publishing contract, you will nearly always be giving the publisher an exclusive licence to publish your work – the right to be acknowledged as the creator of the work remains yours.

ImageIn the UK there is no formal register for copyright works. In the US, you still have the same rights, but if you want to claim damages for copyright infringement (that’s where you sue someone for pirating your work and get back money for the income you lost), it’s best to deposit a copy of your book at the Library of Congress (http://www.copyright.gov/eco/) and pay a small fee. Most publishers will do this for you, but some small presses may not. It’s worth checking.

Any advice for new novelists on writing for the US market?

Have a look at the best seller lists in both countries over a length of time, you’ll see that, generally speaking, both lists are very similar. Don’t write for the US market or the UK market. Write the best book you can. If it’s good, people will read it. That is all.

If you’d like to know more …

Rhoda can be found wittering on about science, comedy and cake on her website http://www.rhodabaxter.com, Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/rhoda.baxter.5), Google+ or on Twitter (@rhodabaxter).

 

Thank you, Rhoda, for joining us and sharing such a valuable insight. And the advice about the US market doesn’t stop there. On Monday and Thursday, we’re joined by Lynne Connolly, prolific writer and fellow-RNA member. Then, on Wednesday, we’ll have our usual Wednesday Wondering but it will be – you’ve guessed it – USA-themed!

Julie

Mega Monday: We’re influential bloggers!

most-influential-bloggerThank you to Carol Cooper who awarded this badge to the Write Romantics.  We already loved Carol for inviting us to review her wonderful novel, being interviewed for the blog and for agreeing to write the introduction to our anthology, but now we love her even more.

One-Night-at-the-Jacaranda_cover_eBook_smlIn case you didn’t know, Carol is a doctor, teacher, writer, broadcaster and mother, whose debut novel, One Night at the Jacaranda, has received a wealth of rave reviews on Amazon. Carol is also a successful writer of non-fiction books, mainly on child health and parenting, and is The Sun newspaper’s doctor. As well as being a great friend of the Write Romantics blog, Carol has a fab blog of her own. If you’ve been missing out on Carol’s beside manner up until now, then you really should check out her blog.

Now we’re passing on the award to ten other bloggers. They might not get quite as excited over blog awards as we do – perhaps they’ve already had thousands – but we’re going to recognise them anyway, because their blogs have been influential to us.

Diana Blacklock was nominated by Helen R, both of whom are based in Australia.  Diana’s writing has been influential to Helen and her blog regularly features other writers who open up new worlds and add even more titles to Helen’s bulging Kindle!  Just the blog to visit if you’re wondering what to read next.

Sheila Norton, was nominated by Deirdre.  Sheila is a member of the Romantic Novelist’s Association and was traditionally published for some time, but is now blazing a trail for indie publishing.   Deirdre also recommends Sheila’s book Yesterday, which is set in the sixties and is well worth checking out.

Sharon Booth’s blog, the Moongazing Hare was nominated by both Alex and Julie – I might well have got in there too, if they hadn’t been so quick!  Sharon’s posts are always entertaining and she has a great writing style.  Sharon is brilliant at networking and supporting other authors and we are absolutely delighted that she is going to be a guest in our anthology.

WeddingSarah Lewis who runs the My Eighties blog has been influential on me (Write Romantic, Jo) for many years, having been one of my besties for (*clears throat*) 32 of them. Of course we met in a test tube! Sarah’s blog is a must read for fans of what surely was the best decade of all time (although Sheila and Deirdre might beg to differ). Sarah is currently writing a memoir and will also be a guest writer in our anthology.

The Murmuring Cottage was nominated by Lynne, who tells us that the blog is just beautiful, with still life pictures similar to Country Living magazine, very peaceful and restful, with an atmosphere that’s great for getting her in the mood to write.

Alison May is a brilliant friend to the Write Romantics blog and we have really enjoyed tracking the journey on her blog from nervous NWS member to published author, winning and being shortlisted for various awards along the way… giving those of us still in the NWS something to aim for. In fact she might already have this award, too, but we’re sure she’ll make some room in her trophy cabinet! Alison is also going to feature in our anthology and we can’t wait to read her story.

JKellerFord-web-301J Keller Ford was a recent guest on the blog,we absolutely loved having her visit and we have enjoyed following her blog ever since.  She’s got us thinking about the type of book cover we want for the anthology, which has been really influential on our plans, and has contributed to two anthologies herself, so really knows her stuff.

Rhoda Baxter, is another wonderful supporter of our blog and has helped many of the Write Romantics with advice and, especially, her knowledge of the US market. We really like Rhoda’s inheritance books slot on her blog and although we’re pretty certain she will already have been nominated, we’re including her in our top ten nonetheless. As you can already tell, we’ve been incredibly lucky that many of the bloggers and writers we have found so influential, in our first year of blogging, are also going to be involved in our anthology and Rhoda is no exception.

VIKKITHOMPSON_PICVikki Thompson is about the most prolific blogger we have ever met!  Vikki’s blog, The View Outside, was really influential on the Write Romantics in the early days and she taught us all about the value of tagging our posts properly and the joys of the scheduling function!  She takes on A-Z challenges with admirable enthusiasm and her writing prompts and insecure writers’ group posts are definitely worth the visit.

_MG_1008Linda Huber is another contributor who we have been thrilled to get on-board.  Just the picture on Linda’s blog, of where she lives on the banks of the beautiful Lake Constance in Switzerland makes us want to write!  She’s been inspirational in her support of the anthology and we have all been downloading her debut novel, The Paradise Trees, so we are ready for the release of her forthcoming second novel The Cold Cold Sea.  Her writing is every bit as evocative as the titles suggest and we can’t wait to get her anthology story in our hot little hands!

Carol asked us to include a YouTube video of our current favourite song.  Getting nine romance writers to agree on a single song was not something I wanted to attempt, so I posted a request on our Facebook group, promising the first person who came back to me that they’d get their choice.  So here is what Jackie chose, Ed Sheeran’s Sing, and we’ll be playing it in our flat at the RNA conference, at full volume.

So if you find yourself in the room below, and there’s some less than tuneful singing coming through the floor, you’ll know that the Write Romantics have been on the vanilla vodka again!

Liv Thomas on fulfilling her promise

We are delighted to be joined again on the blog today by Liv Thomas. Liv wrote her debut novel, Beneath an Irish Sky, with fellow writer Val Olteanu, under the pen name Isabella Connor. Beneath an Irish Sky was released by Choc Lit in August of last year and their second novel, An Irish Promise, is due for release in November. All this, despite the fact that Val and Liv have never met in person!

Liv’s long held dreams of becoming a writer took a while to come to fruition, as it was only after she received praise for some Lord of the Rings fan-fiction that she decided to make it a reality.

a_LivCongratulations on the success of Beneath An Irish Sky and the completion of the next novel in the series, which we know is due for release in November.  Please can you tell us a little bit about An Irish Promise?

An Irish Promise is the story of how bullying affects a young girl, both in childhood and as an adult. She returns to the village in Ireland where the bullying took place, set on revenge, but of course, romance gets in the way in the form of a handsome Aussie.  The novel also deals with how the results of their actions impact on the bullies themselves.

Is writing a second novel really as difficult as people say and just like the notoriously difficult second album that musicians often describe?  

On the whole, I think it was easier this time because we’re more aware of what’s required.  We’ve also become more used to each other’s writing style.

What have been the best and worst things about being a published author?

The worst thing is having to grit your teeth (and not cry) when someone criticises your baby.  The best thing is the sense of achievement … I don’t know if you ever lose that.

Do you read reviews for your novels and have you had any that you have found it difficult to deal with or been bowled over by?

We’ve been incredibly lucky, and have had some lovely reviews.

Who would play the lead roles if An Irish Promise were made into a film?

We used this visual of Chris Evans (the actor not the presenter!) for the character of Aussie actor Finn.

http://hdwallpappers.com/images/wallpapers/Chris-Evans-Wallpaper1.jpg

He has an incredibly soulful/vulnerable look which conveys Finn’s emotions to perfection. Finn is something of a tortured soul, bless him.

Beneath an Irish SkyHow important do you think networking with others in the publishing industry is and how do you do this?

I have a sadly neglected blog, and am active on Twitter and Facebook.  It’s extremely important to be a part of social media, which is a bit like a rolling stone gathering a huge amount of moss. I think it’s important not to view it purely as a means to promote your work though – on Twitter in particular, there’s nothing worse than following someone who only ever tweets links.  I’m far more likely to click on a link from someone who has socialised and interacted with me.   A Facebook ‘author page’ is also useful.  Try and treat social media as an actual get-together – make conversation, respond to others, and don’t expect help with promotion unless you’re prepared to do the same for them.

If you could go back and give your un-published self any advice what would it be?

Don’t get carried away – we wrote 240k words for Beneath an Irish Sky because we thought there was a minimum number of words that would be accepted, not a maximum!  We had to lose half of it.  In hindsight, it was for the best!

What do you think the main benefits of being supported by a publisher, rather than self-publishing, are?  

You obviously get promotional support, but it’s also a huge psychological boost.  Being accepted by a respected publisher is the realisation of a dream.  I’ve only ever been with Choc Lit, so can’t speak for other authors/publishers, but I would say the support we’ve had is second to none, not just from CL themselves, but from the other writers.  We call it the Choc Lit family, and it is.

What is next for you in terms of working in partnership as Isabella Connor and do you envisage writing separately at some point?

We’re working on a third novel together, so that will take priority.  Eventually, if time allows, we might give solo writing a go, but not at the expense of our partnership.  With a co-author you have moments when you’re like a reader – you don’t know what’s coming next.  And we’ve both had ideas for scenarios in both novels, that the other wouldn’t have come up with.

Thanks again for taking the time to come back for an update interview with us. The Write Romantics wish you every success for the future and we will be pre-ordering An Irish Promise!

Find out more about Liv and purchase Beneath an Irish Sky or pre-order An Irish Promise on the ChocLit website at: http://www.choc-lit.co.uk/html/isabella_connor.html

Or on Liv’s own blog at: http://livbet.webs.com/

Follow Liv on Twitter at: @Livbet

Join Liv on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/livvie.thomas

The link to Beneath an Irish Sky on Amazon can be found here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Beneath-Irish-Sky-Isabella-Connor/dp/1781890048/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1378056623&sr=8-1&keywords=beneath+an+irish+sky

Saturday Spotlight Guest Slot – Writing a Novella by Liz Harris

Happy Easter! The Write Romantics hope you’re having a lovely, relaxing long bank holiday weekend and, if you’re working, we hope you do have some time off.

We’re delighted to welcome Liz Harris as our guest on today’s Saturday Spotlight. Liz is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association through which all The Write Romantics met virtually. 2012 was her big year when she saw publication of both her first novel and a novella and she’s joined us today to specifically talk about novellas.

As someone who tends to write a lot of words, I’m toying with a novella myself as I feel it will be good learning to really focus and limit my word-count. One of my fellow Write Romantics is currently writing her first novella and a few others have shown interest so we’re all extremely interested in Liz’s tips.

“So what exactly is a novella?” I hear you ask. Well, I’ll leave that question in Liz’s capable hands….

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With A Western Heart, set in Wyoming 1880, my second novella for Choc Lit Lite, soon to be published, I thought I’d say something about the differences between writing a novella and writing a full length novel.

Getting to grips with novellas is well worth doing as they’re increasingly a big thing in the digital world. The more material out, the better, is the mantra today – and ‘the better’ means more money. Novellas lend themselves to fast writing and to books that form part of a series, and that leads to healthy sales.

Not surprisingly therefore, both self-published and traditionally published authors are now slipping novellas out between their full length novels, or may even be focusing solely on the novella market.

At 50,000 words, my first novella, The Art of Deception, was at the top of the word count for a novella, which ranges from 20,000 to 50,000 words (50 to 100 printed pages). But 50,000 words is the same length as some Mills & Boon novels, so it didn’t feel like a novella to me.

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Because of that, when I decided to write A Western Heart, and was going to aim for around 30,000 words, I thought I’d begin by checking out the differences between writing a novella and a full length novel.

I did this in a very pleasant way – I read as many novellas as I had time for in the genre in which I was writing – in the case of A Western Heart, it was the historical genre. At the end of my reading, I’d found that:

  1. The tone of a novella was lighter, and it should be fast-paced. The period detail should be authentic, but there shouldn’t be too much of it. The same is true of descriptive details, be they for character or setting. There should be enough specific detail to make it believable and create a sense of place, but not slow the story. The reader of novellas wants a page-turning, speedy read.
  2. There should be a single plot, although it can have – and probably will have – complications. A 30,000 novella is too short for sub-plots. Generally, a single story line keeps aids clarity and pace. Having said that, if you’re aiming for 40- 50,000 words, you may feel that your novella would benefit from a sub-plot; if so, it should be easily resolved. It might even have been the cause of the main conflict. It should never be there, however, merely to help the word count.
  3. Point of view. Only show one POV unless there’s a really good reason for having more than one. Too many POVs could bring confusion to a short novel.
  4. Have a few clearly and succinctly defined central characters, and a few supporting characters, but not too many of either. You will need to know the same sorts of things about your characters as for a full-length novel, such as their background, character traits and secrets, but there will be fewer characters and they will appear early on in the novella – there is less time to spend on introducing, developing and building up each character. Your minor characters should add interest and move the plot forward, but they shouldn’t detract from putting across your story line.
  5. Dialogue, as with a full-length novel, should define the character(s) and forward the story. It shouldn’t meander, unless that’s part of the plot.
  6. As with a full length story, you’ll need a conflict, but not too complicated a conflict for there to be a satisfactory resolution. You’re working within a limited word count.

I thoroughly enjoyed writing A Western Heart, and will definitely write more novellas in the future. Good luck to everyone who decides to give novellas a go!

Finally, many thanks, Write Romantics, for giving me a chance to talk to you.

 

Thank you, Liz, for joining us. You can find out more about Liz on her blog at: http://www.lizharrisauthor.com/

You can access Liz’s material on Amazon through the following link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Liz-Harris/e/B009V1G8UA/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1397897588&sr=1-2-ent

 

Enjoy the rest of the Easter weekend everyone!

Julie

 

The Saturday Spotlight – Rhoda Baxter tells all!

Our guest on the blog this week is Rhoda Baxter.  Rhoda  started off in the South of England and pinged around the world a bit until she ended up in the North of England, where the cakes are better. Along the way she collected one husband, two kids, a few (ahem) extra stone in weight and a DPhil in molecular biology (but not necessarily in that order). She had a childhood ambition to be an astronaut or at least 5 feet tall. Having failed at both of these, she now writes humorous novels instead.

Her first novel, Patently in Love was a contender for the RNA Joan Hessayon Award and was a top ten finalist in the 2012 Preditors and Editors poll for romance reads. Her third novel, Dr January will be published by Choc Lit Publishing in autumn 2014. 

Rhoda B new photo

Hi Rhoda, welcome to the Write Romantics blog and thank you for agreeing to be our guest this week.  We’d love to start by asking you a little bit about your writing journey so far and what was the very first thing you did when you heard you’d got a publishing deal?

Thank you so much for inviting me in for a chat. It’s nice to sit here in the warm when it’s so wet and cold outside.

My writing journey was pretty long. I won’t bore you with the details (if you really want to know, there’s a blog post about it here: http://rhodabaxter.com/2013/10/25/two-emails-abo…22nd-of-a-book/).  I went to a talk once where they took a poll of the authors around the table as to how many books they wrote before they were published. The average was 3.5 books. I’d written 3 books and was on my fourth by the time Patently in Love was picked up by a publisher.

Yes, please, I’d love a cup of tea. Milk please. No sugar. Thanks.

In all honesty, I can’t remember what I thought when I first got the email.  It was a mad old time as I’d just started a new job after moving from Oxfordshire to East Yorkshire and my youngest was still only a tiny wee baby. I do remember buying a celebratory cheesecake though. Very nice it was too.

What are you most looking forward to about your publication with Choc Lit and moving away from the e-book only approach?

Without a doubt, it’s the idea of having a physical book in my hands. Having a book only in ebook format should be no different to have a print book – real people still buy them and read them and review them. But there’s something about the physical book that you can put on a book shelf and stroke and cuddle… I think it’s a generational thing. We grew up with paper books and they ‘feel’ more real to us than ebooks. My Mum reads my books on her computer, but doesn’t really feel they’re ‘real’. My kids, on the other hand, are perfectly at home with ebooks and print books alike. They tend to get jam on things though and a Kindle is easier to wipe clean than a paper book.

I’m also looking forward to doing some real life promotion for my books. So far I’ve concentrated on doing everything online, because I’ve only had ebooks to promote. When I have a print book I can take along with me, I will try and do some talks to libraries and at local events.

Lastly, of course, I’m looking forward to the celebratory cheesecake I’m going to treat myself to. Mmmm… cake… Sorry, zoned out there for a moment. What was the next question?

Do you have any writing superstitions e.g. writing in the same place, using a certain pen etc?

In an ideal world, I would. I’d have a special desk (very tidy, naturally), and a special mug and a special pair of pants to wear when I’m writing. In reality, my desk looks nothing like that, so I end up writing my books sitting in bed at the end of the day.

I don’t really mind, so long as I get to write. I do wish I could see the surface of my desk now and again though.

HAB

What are you working on now and what are your writing goals for the next 5 years?

5 years! You make it sound like it’s normal to have a plan! (What do you mean it is? Damn. That explains a lot). It’s not possible to plan that far ahead because life tends to get in the way. If you’d told me four years ago that I’d be relocating to the North East, with a three month old baby and a three year old in tow, whilst DH and I both start new jobs and I try to get a writing career off the ground, I’d have laughed  at you on the grounds that no one is THAT mental.

What am I working on now? I’ve just submitted the 2015 book called Please Release Me (which is set in a hospice) to Choc Lit. I’m trying to figure out what to write next. Something with the whole email/prose mix again, I think. I have my characters, but need to figure out what happens to them. I’ve also got to do some promotion for the Truly, Madly, Deeply Anthology which is coming out in February.  I’m very excited to have my story included in a book that’s got stories by Katie Fforde, Judy Astley, Carole Matthews and other famous people.

How do you keep creating new and entirely different characters as you write more and more books?

I don’t know. They just turn up.  Sorry, that’s not a good answer, is it? But it’s true. It’s like Paddingtion Station in my imagination. Characters turn up in my head and I have to find stories for them. I usually find the men easier to think up than the women. I love my heroes.

I don’t do character sheets and character interviews like some people do. I’m too lazy for that. Quite often I write my way into the characters by writing a few extra scenes before the story really starts so that I can get a feel for their voice. Sometimes there’s a key aspect I have to get right before they ‘click’. Once that happens, it’s easy to hear and see them.

I’ve never tried to analyse where these people came from, in case they stop coming. If it ain’t broke…

It sounds like your professional life and your writing persona are two different worlds.  How do you cope with the different approaches to writing and has this ever caused you any conflict?

My work writing is very analytical and matter of fact. Details need to be spelled out. My fiction writing is about subtlety and emotion. In that sense they are very different. On the other hand, the technical writing needs to be structured, with all the introductory information in place, arguments made and neatly tied up into the conclusion. The same is true of a novel.

With work, I’m allowed to be boring in what I write (apparently, people don’t like jokes in their technical summaries. Huh).  With fiction boring your reader is a definite no-no.

One of the Write Romantics, Alex, is also a lawyer and it’s not a world that has ever made her think of romance fiction.  What gave you the idea for Patently in Love?

Marshall from Patently in Love has been around in my head for a long long time. When I was plotting the book,I realised that the combination of email and prose would work really well as an office romance. So I picked an office I knew and used it as a setting. I didn’t use anyone I knew as characters, but I did include a few jokes about the obsession with hierarchy that seemed to be prevalent in that environment.  It also meant that I didn’t need to cross check patent related bits of the plot. (A good thing too because one of the big IP blogs reviewed the book. It would have been awful if they’d found a glaring error!)

Who is your favourite character from any of the books that you have written so far and was (s)he based on anyone in particular?

My favourite character of all is Hibs, the hero of the next book Dr January (due to be released in autumn by Choc Lit). He has a PhD in molecular biology, long dark hair, lovely high cheekbones and is an expert in karate. He’s really funny and sexy and I had a crush on him when I wrote it.

Hibs wasn’t based in anyone real (if only!), but after I wrote the book, I realised I’d effectively taken the character of Edward Cullen from Twilight and split him into two men. The lovely, adoring, caring side (in Hibs) and the controlling, domineering, stalkery side (in Gordon).  Both men are gorgeous – naturally.

We’ve heard that some writers use pictures they find, of celebrities or sometimes photographs that they just happen upon, to inform the physical descriptions of their characters and we wondered if you did this or, if not, how you form a mental picture of your characters’ physical qualities?

I don’t do that, although I should. If I found a picture of Hibs from Dr January, I’d definitely enjoy looking at him from time to time.

The mental picture of my characters tend to start fuzzy and solidify as I write the introductory scenes. I know I’ll cut those scenes out eventually, but they’re still useful for finding out who the characters are.  Weirdly, I often forget what colour their eyes are, so I need a post it on my laptop screen to remind me.

What piece of advice would you give yourself about writing if you could go back to your pre-publication days?

Remember that it’s a long game. Your first book is not the only book you’ll write (in fact, it’s not even the best book you’ll ever write because you’ll learn and grow as a writer with each subsequent book).  Have patience and keep going. You’ll get your break eventually

Oh, and get some sleep, while you still can.

What are the best and worst things about being a writer?

The best thing – you’re never alone. There’s people in your head all the time.

The worst thing – you’re never alone. There’s people in your head all the time, insisting that you write stuff down.

Anything else you’d like to share with us or advice you can give would be gratefully received!

Write stuff you want to read. Even if the first draft is crap.

Find a good critique partner (or join the NWS!) and listen to what they say. You don’t have to agree with everything they say, but make sure you give it good consideration before you dismiss it.

Keep going. The more you write, the better you’ll get.  All authors were unpublished writers once.

Read how to books. You won’t learn anything new, but it may shift something you already knew into a new light.

Read a lot of books in your genre. Call it market research if you like.

Enjoy it! Otherwise, why do it?

Thank you very much for having me over. It was a lovely cup of tea.

Good luck with your writing careers. I’m sure it won’t be long before you’re all published.

Find out more about Rhoda:

She can be found wittering on about science, comedy and cake on her website www.rhodabaxter.com  or on Facebook or Twitter (@rhodabaxter).

You can buy Rhoda’s books here:

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00BUEKFX2/ref=rdr_kindle_ext_tmb

Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/Having-Ball-Email-Ice-Cream-ebook/dp/B00BUEKFX2/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

Kobo UK: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/having-a-ball

All other formats (including non-DRM PDF) from the publisher’s site: https://www.uncialpress.com/Rhoda-Baxter

Much Ado about Alison

Alison May is a good friend to the blog and some of us were lucky enough to share accommodation with her at last year’s RNA conference.  So we’re delighted to welcome her back for a second chat, now that she has had not only her first novel published, but also a Christmas-themed novella.

AliMay

Hello again Write Romantics. It’s lovely to be back. I come to bestow the wisdom of the published writer. Much Ado About Sweet Nothing has been published for nearly 7 whole weeks, and therefore, of course, I now know EVERYTHING. Literally EVERYTHING. What do you want to know?

We are really all keen to hear about your experience of the marketing side of things – particularly how much you do and how much help you’ve had from your publisher.

I’m published by Choc Lit (www.choc-lit.com) and they are great, but obviously things will vary from publisher to publisher. I’ve had lots of support on social media, not just from the Choc Lit team themselves, but also from other Choc Lit authors. Choc Lit also do things like setting up local media interviews and sending out press releases on your behalf.

That doesn’t mean that you don’t have to be at the centre of your own promotion though, especially on social media. And marketing and promotion are hard – that’s why people who are good at marketing get paid the Big Money. It’s particularly hard if, like me, you’re fundamentally a bit reserved and English. I use twitter and facebook a lot (you can find me here: www.twitter.com/MsAlisonMay and here: www.facebook.com/pages/Alison-May/310212092342136) and constantly worry that I overdo the promotional tweeting and am massively annoying people or that I underdo it and should be selling more books. It’s definitely an acquired skill.

Do you read your own reviews and how do they make you feel?

Of course I read them – I’m human! Generally I’m pretty chilled about reviews either way. It’s lovely when someone loves something you’ve written, but inevitably not everyone will, and either way, it’s just one person’s opinion.

I actually find ‘middling’ sort of reviews more troubling than really terrible ones. At least someone hating your book is a reaction. If they just find it a bit ‘meh’ that’s quite hard to deal with.

Has anything that’s happened since being published surprised you in either in a good or a bad way?

Well, obviously it’s a bit disheartening to discover that I’m not suddenly rich beyond my wildest dreams, and that I don’t automatically earn the right to lie on a chaise longue in my nightie and dictate my next book to a topless male model who, for reasons never fully explained, moonlights as an audio typist.

I am slightly surprised, and disappointed in myself, to discover how obsessed I am with checking my amazon sales rank. One piece of advice – just don’t start down that route. It’s weirdly addictive, occasionally deeply depressing and it’s almost impossible to kick the habit once you’ve started.

MAASN_small final cover

We’ve all heard about the difficult second album scenario and we wondered how true that’s turning out to be in relation to the writing of your second full-length novel?

Well just in case my publisher reads this, I’ll start by saying that novel 2 is coming along absolutely fine. Completely fine. It’s totally going to be submitted soon. Definitely. Almost certainly. Probably. Errr…

Honestly, for me writing novel 2 is properly hard work. There are all sorts of reasons for that. Much Ado About Sweet Nothing was my first completed novel, and while I was writing the first draft I basically knew nothing about how to write a novel. Now I know a little bit, and a little knowledge is, as the cliché goes, a very dangerous thing. Having completed and edited one novel you know more than you did when you wrote novel 1, and ignorance is really helpful when writing a first draft. It stops you from trying to correct stuff as you go along, and stops you tying yourself up in knots of anxiety over whether it’s good enough. That tiny bit of knowledge can be paralysing.

So yeah, novel 2 = really hard. Sorry about that.

How are you finding the development of new characters and new themes, do you have any concerns that you might find yourself inadvertently sticking with ‘favourites?’

This is something I’m very aware of, but I’m trying not to think too hard about it, because it’s another anxiety that can become paralysing. If you look at every character, every plot point, every choice you make about narrative voice or tense, or about setting or structure, and think ‘Oh, have I done that before?’ it stops you from progressing. I think you just have to write the best book you can and put everything else out of your mind.

What are you most looking forward to/most anxious about as you move onto the next phase of your writing career?

Looking forward to finishing book 2! Hopefully that will be published in paperback as well as ebook, which would be great. Print publication is a big outstanding ambition. After I’ve finished novel 2, I’m committed to writing a sequel to Holly’s Christmas Kiss, which I’m excited about. Holly really exceeded my expectations in terms of the sales and reaction over Christmas, so I’m looking forward to revisiting that world again in time for next Christmas. I’m also excited about building up work alongside the writing. I used to teach creative writing and I’m really keen to get back into teaching and critiquing.

In terms of anxiety I guess it’s just the awareness that my current situation could change. Novel 2 might not be good enough. All sorts of stuff could go horribly wrong. Again, you can’t spend time thinking about all the stuff that might go bad, because it’s another of those paralysing voices. You’ve just gotta keep writing.

So there you go. Sorry it got a bit long but there are my honest answers to your very insightful questions. I hope you found them enlightening, or if not enlightening at least passably interesting. That sounds more realistic. I hope you found them passably interesting.

And now you should all go and buy my book. If you want to. Or not.

Much Ado About Sweet Nothing is in the current Kindle 100 deal and is only 99p during January!

About Much Ado About Sweet Nothing

Is something always better than nothing?

Ben Messina is a certified maths genius and romance sceptic.  He and Trix met at university and have been quarrelling and quibbling ever since, not least because of Ben’s decision to abandon their relationship in favour of … more maths! Can Trix forget past hurt and help Ben see a life beyond numbers, or is their long history in danger of ending in nothing?

Charming and sensitive, Claudio Messina, is as different from his brother as it is possible to be and Trix’s best friend, Henrietta, cannot believe her luck when the Italian model of her dreams chooses her. But will Claudio and Henrietta’s pursuit for perfection end in a disaster that will see both of them starting from zero once again?

This is a fresh and funny retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, set in the present day.

About Me

Alison May last visited the WriteRomantics in September. Since then her first novel, Much Ado About Sweet Nothing, and her Christmas-themed novella, Holly’s Christmas Kiss, have been published by Choc Lit Lite, and she has almost learnt to say ‘I’m a writer’ when people ask her what she does for a living. Her next goal is to be able to say it without giggling uncontrollably and spluttering drink all over poor innocent question-asking strangers.

The Wednesday Wondering – What We’re Reading Right Now

When a writer is asked what advice they’d give to other writers, one of the most commonly cited gems is to read. A lot! As you’d probably expect, The Write Romantics are all avid readers although how we all find time to fit it in between family life, writing, running a farm, working, volunteering and the million and one other responsibilities we have between us is an absolute mystery!

Today’s Wednesday Wondering was posed by nosey me and is quite simply:
What are you reading at the moment? What drew you do that book?

Let’s find out what The Write Romantics have to say…

HELEN P:

I’m currently reading about ten different books but the one I’m trying to concentrate on and read is ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens. I’ve never read it and my writing group’s homework is to bring in a piece of seasonal writing and introduce it, so I thought it would be very apt. Plus I thought I’d best take a look at how one of the great master’s writes a ghost story 😉

DEIRDRE:

I’m reading The Hidden Cottage by Erica James. I didn’t set out to buy it but, armed with a load of lovely book tokens I won in a writing competition, I decided to break into them with a little mooch around Smith’s. First I picked up a book I’d had on my list for a while and as it was part of a buy-one-get-one-half price deal I began the search for another. The Hidden Cottage spoke to me straight away. I’m a sucker for a book title with the word ‘cottage’ in it, the cover is delightfully colourful and I’ve read many of Erica James’ books before so I kind of knew what I was getting. I’ve read about two thirds of it, and it does live up to its promise in that it’s a cosy read about family relationships, which is what the author excels in. I wouldn’t say I’m loving it as much as her previous one, The Real Katie Lavender, but the characters feel genuine and all have traits you can easily identify with. There is a tragedy in it, which I won’t give away here, but mainly it’s an easy, warm-hearted read and it’s perfect for reading by the fire when the rain’s hammering down outside.

RACHAEL:
At the moment I’m back in the reign of Henry VIII with a new release by Judith Arnopp. The Kiss of the Concubine is all about Anne Boleyn and is a time in history that has always fascinated me.

The reason I’m reading this book, is not just because it is written by a friend and neighbour but because, despite knowing Judith, I would have to read each and every book she writes. They are just so different. It’s not history through rose tinted glasses. It’s real and makes me wonder just what it would have really been like to live then.
The opening chapter is brilliant and drags you in straight away and is so different from anything else. It’s a must read!

http://www.juditharnopp.com/kissoftheconcubine.htm

ALEX:
I’m currently reading ‘Rumours’ by Freya North. I picked it up because I’ve read and enjoyed many of her previous books and while I’m recuperating I wanted something that’s not too taxing. I am enjoying it although it has some ‘interesting’ switches of POV which I find a bit annoying. Just as an aside, years ago when I worked in a bookshop in York I met Freya North. She came into the shop with the publisher’s rep. Her first book had not long been out and I had no idea who she was. I do remember that she was very polite and unassuming so I was a bit surprised when I later read her book and found out how many sex scenes were in it. Just shows that you really shouldn’t judge an author by what she looks like!”

LYNNE:
I’m one of those people who can’t just read one book at a time. I have to have a book with me all the time so there’s generally one wherever I happen to be. In the car I’ve got ‘The Children of Green Knowe.’ I know my childhood’s long gone, but I do enjoy children’s books now and again and this one is especially good. I visited the manor house in which it’s set, Hemingford Grey, the author Lucy Boston’s home. It was magical and one of the loveliest homes I’ve visited. I’m also reading ‘The Last Runaway,’ by Tracy Chevalier. This is excellent. I saw it as a recommended read from Richard and Judy and I liked the fact that it is set in America in a Quaker community. It has a lovely sense of atmosphere and a gripping storyline!

On my To Be Read pile isSusan Lewis’s ‘One Day At A Time.’ I love her work, she chooses some very emotional issues and I like that. On a completely different note I have Diana Holman-Hunt’s memoir, ‘My Grandmother’s and I.’ She was granddaughter to the great Pre-Raphaelite painter William Holman-Hunt. He painted my favourite painting of all time, ‘The Light of the World,’ which is beautiful and exactly what I think Jesus looks like!

That’s my favourite thing about books, there are so many and they’re all so different!

HELEN R:
I’m reading “Too Charming” by Kathryn Freeman. It’s utterly brilliant with one very sexy hero. I downloaded this onto my Kindle in response to an advert by her publisher, Choc Lit. I highly recommend it.

JAXX:
I’m reading Henriette Gyland’s book The Elephant Girl, which is a roller coaster of a book with mystery, interest and a lovely hero and heroine that you feel you know by the end of the book- a very satisfying read.

JO:
I am reading David Walliams’ Gangsta Granny. The reason is because I have had an idea for a Middle Grade book I’d like to write after I finish the current NaNo project and get it off to the NWS. I’ve read and loved a lot of Roald Dahl and I think Walliams is seen as a modern-day equivalent. I’m reading it to look at techniques, the language and vocab levels and the pitch of humour versus plot. I want to get an idea of whether my story idea has enough legs before I take it further and I’m loving reading something so different and being a kid again for a bit!

JULIE:
I’m reading “Beneath an Irish Sky” by Isabella Connor on my Kindle. I was drawn to his book because it’s a collaboration between two writers, Liv and Val, who we interviewed over the summer on our blog. The idea of a “joint” book sounded interesting, as well as the story itself. I’m really enjoying and find it refreshing to read from predominantly male POVs. Sadly, progress is very slow – not because the book isn’t a page-turner but simply because I have absolutely no time to read at the moment. I like to get really engrossed in a book and read large chunks in one sitting as I enjoy it more that way. I think therefore that I may just put the Kindle away until November is through and I’ve therefore finished NaNoWriMo which will hopefully give me a little more reading time. I have a Christmas book I want to delve into in December so I would like to finish Beneath an Irish Sky within the first week.

So, quite a mix of books and genres, old and new. Have you read any of the books we’re currently reading? Do you have any recommendations for us? What are you reading at the moment? Please join in and let us know.

Julie