A Sexy Saturday Spotlight with Siobhan Daiko!

We are delighted to welcome good friend of the Write Romantics, Siobhan Daiko back on the blog today, to tell us what has been Siobhan 3happening since the release of her first fantastic five-star novella in the Fragrant Courtesans series, which we’ve been thrilled to see hit some of the Amazon bestseller charts. Over to you, Siobhan.

It’s a real pleasure to be a guest of the Write Romantics this Saturday. Thanks for having me back again!

Teaser #5I’d like to introduce you to Veronica, a high-class sex worker in 16th Century Venice. Known as courtesans, these gifted ladies of the night were well-educated and highly sought-after. They were trained, usually by their mothers, not just to have sex but also to entertain their patrons by singing, playing music, dancing, and witty conversation. I came across them when I was researching my romantic historical novel Lady of Asolo. My fantastic editor, John Hudspith, suggested I play to my strengths which, for him, is the way I can convey gritty realism when writing sex scenes. So I decided to write a series about the most famous of these women, and Veronica is the first.

I watch him watching us, imagining how he would take me.

I send him the message with my eyes.

This is who I am.

I am Veronica Franco.

I am a COURTESAN.

I court the cultural elite for fame and fortune, giving my body to many.

And I’m good. So very good. After all, I was taught by my mother, and mother always knows best.

How else to please the future King of France than with the imaginative use of Murano glass? How else to fulfil the desires of all yet keep my sense of self-worth?

But when disaster strikes and my life begins to unravel, I’ll have to ask myself one question:

Is it too late to give my heart to just one man?

Set in Venice 16th Century.

Advisory: sensuously erotic. 18+

 

My novella is based on a true story. Veronica was married off young, as women were in those days, for financial reasons, but the union endedVeronica Courtesan Cover LARGE EBOOK badly. To support herself, she learnt the tricks of the trade from her mother, who’d also been a cortigiana in her youth. Veronica was a talented poet and writer – able to maintain a balance between her sense of self-worth and the need to win and keep the support of men. The fact that she loved to write made me feel an affinity with her. When I read her poems and letters, I was struck by the force of Veronica’s feisty, forward personality and decided she would make the perfect protagonist. She had a string of lovers, but there was one man, a fellow-poet, with whom she had the most amorous affair. His poems to her are published in her Terze Rime in the form of a poetic debate, and I enjoyed adapting them and using them as repartee between the two characters. Veronica was a talented seductress, able to create desire in her patrons under her own terms. I’m sure she loved each and every one of them in her own way, as evidenced by this quote from one of her poems:

So fragrant and delightful do I become, when I am in bed with someone who, I feel, adores and appreciates me, that the joy I bring exceeds all pleasure, so the ties of love, however close they seemed before, are knotted tighter still.

Veronica became the most sought-after courtesan in the city. Writing an erotic novella about a woman who practised ‘free love’ has been exciting. Veronica was promiscuous, yes, she had to be; how else to please the King of France but with the imaginative use of Murano glass? She was a self-promoter, but she also loved deeply and was loved in return. In the following excerpt, Veronica is entertaining two of her patrons, aiming to be invited to a literary salon. There she meets Domenico Venier, who becomes her editor. Even in the 16th Century, having an editor was vital to a writer.

***

Teaser #6“We make polite conversation throughout the meal, but, as soon as we progress to the portego for after-dinner drinks and entertainment, I get right to the point. ‘My lord, Signor Ludovico tells me you frequent a literary salon.’

‘That’s right. Domenico Venier’s. ’Tis the most important gathering place for intellectuals and writers in Venice.’

‘Are courtesans welcome there?’

‘I’ve noticed a few. Why?’

I’m seized by a sudden shyness. Will he think I’m being forward? Thankfully, Ludovico answers for me.

‘I’ve told you about Veronica’s abilities. Don’t tease the girl!’

The count laughs and drains his glass. I reach across to refill it, my gaze meeting his. ‘I write poetry. My greatest desire is to learn from others and improve my own work.’

‘Will you read me one of your poems?’

‘With pleasure.’ I go to my desk and return with the verse on which I’m now working.

Teaser 1If you are overcome by love for me,

Take me in far sweeter fashion

Than anything my quill can describe.

Your love can be the steadfast knot that pulls me towards you,

Joined to you more tightly than a nail in hard wood;

Your love can make you master of my life,

Show me the love I’ve asked for from you,

And you’ll then enjoy my sweetness to the full.

 

‘Very good!’ Andrew Tron rises from his chair and bows. ‘You have talent, Signora Veronica. I shall be delighted to introduce you to Venier. Pray tell me, in what far sweeter fashion can a man take you than your quill can describe?’

I laugh. ‘Ah, that’s something I have yet to discover – which is why my quill cannot describe it.’

***

It was a joy to bring Veronica to life on the page. I did have some issues when publishing to Amazon. My book cover, for the paperback, usedVeronica Cover Paperback PRINT2 (2)-page-001 (1) a famous old work of art, The Venus of Urbino, by Titian. I chose it as it’s supposed to be the painting of a 16th Century Venetian courtesan, even if she wasn’t Veronica Franco.

The cover was accepted by Create Space, but rejected by Kindle which doesn’t allow nudity in any form. A banner placed across her breasts just didn’t look right, so I commissioned a new cover for the e-book version from my wonderful designer JD Smith.

I’ve learnt a lot about publishing an erotic novella through my experiences with Veronica. My next book in the erotic courtesans series is “The Submission of Theodora”, based on another real character. Set in 6th Century Constantinople, it’s inspired by a courtesan who became involved with the most powerful man in the world: the Emperor’s nephew and heir apparent. So far, it’s coming along nicely and I expect to publish it in early November.

Thanks again, Write Romantics, I’ve loved sharing Veronica with you. Here are my social media links.

www.siobhandaiko.wordpress.com

www.fragrantpublishing.com

Facebook Page

Fragrant Courtesans Facebook

Amazon Author Page

Goodreads

Twitter

You Tube Book Trailer

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?

Lizzie Lamb on teamwork, the glass ceiling, and that Waterstones event!

Today on the blog we’re talking to the fabulous Lizzie Lamb. Lizzie is a truly inspirational character – a fantastic writer and a whizz at social networking and marketing, as well as being a genuinely lovely lady. As part of the New Romantics Press (formerly the New Romantics 4), Lizzie has recently flown the flag for indie writers everywhere by hosting an author event at Waterstones, Kensington, no less! We were thrilled when she agreed to appear on our blog and had a lot of questions we wanted to put to her. So without further ado, over to Lizzie.blog3

1. Tell us more about the New Romantics Press. How did you meet? What made you form an “indie powerhouse” together?

Originally, three of us: Mags Cullingford, June Kearns and I were members of Leicester Writers’ Club and the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme. Adrienne Vaughan joined the RNA, came along to one of the chapter meetings which June and I organised at Grange Farm in Oadby. The rest – as they say, is history. As members of the NWS we were constantly polishing and re-polishing the first three chapters of our novels and synopsis with a view to sending them out to agents. Amanda Grange (RNA chapter member and author of over 25 novels) advised us to grasp the nettle and self-publish through Amazon. This we did. I think we work well as a team because we bring different strengths and skills to the group; we are also good friends which helps – but we don’t live in each other’s pockets which probably helps, too.

2. Did you seek a more traditional publishing deal or has it been indie all the way for you?

In the 1980’s I was looking for an agent and did in fact have one – Dot Lumley. Unfortunately, I couldn’t give my writing the time it deserved. I was Deputy Head teacher of a large primary school and that took up all my time. So, we parted company (amicably) and I settled down to furthering my teaching career for the next 16 years. Now, I enjoy being an indie author and I don’t know if I would be willing to give that up unless I could find an agent/publisher who could offer me a really good deal. Maybe after I’ve finished and published number three in 2015 I might think again about it.

blog43. We’re thrilled to hear about your Waterstones news. Tell us more!

Adrienne and I attended a book launch at Waterstones, Kensington, in the summer and boldly asked if we could host an author event there. The lovely manager said: YES. I think it was probably the appeal of four indie authors appearing together and offering four different sub-genres of romance which landed us the gig. I write rom coms, Adrienne romantic adventure, June historical and Mags women’s fiction. But, who knows? I think he just liked the cut of our collective jib, okayed it with head office and on we went. We’d already had a mini-launch in Waterstones, Mkt Harborough, in February 2014 and were on ‘the system’, which helped. We believe that they are no longer adding new indie authors to their data base – but I stand to be corrected on that one.

4. What have you been able to do/experience differently as an indie writer that you may not have done/experienced through a traditional publishing deal?

We can choose our own covers, set our own price (and raise and lower it) as we wish and as our book sales fluctuate. I have been able to order paperback copies through Create Space as I see fit, whereas some of the agents I’ve spoken to have said the POD would be up to my publisher to decide. I don’t simply want my novels to be available for e-readers, having paperbacks is important to me as I sell them at talks etc which I give to writing groups. And, with Create Space you can order one book or one hundred – it’s that flexible.
We can also say, no – we don’t want to give our books away for free, thank you, as a promotional tool. Or to settle for 35% royalties (or less) when we can get 70% off Amazon. We can also write the book we want with the characters we believe in; I’m not sure how easy it would be handing over my novel and being told to edit it to suit the market/ an agent/editor without any guarantees that the changes would make a better book, or sell more copies. I respond to what my readers tell me that they like about my novels. I also know, to the day, how many books I’ve sold, what I’ve earned and where the sales need boosting – thanks to Amazon’s daily sales figures. I don’t think I’d like to have to wait for quarterly sales figures from my publisher. I can also make the most of Kindle Countdown, Kindle Lending Library and Kindle Unlimited because I’ve stayed exclusively with Amazon. Lots of writers would disagree, but KDP Select works for me. Now – if I could just get a WHITE GLOVE DEAL, I’d be in clover.

5. Conversely, is there anything you haven’t been able to do/experience as an indie writer compared to traditional publishing?

There is a definite ‘glass ceiling’ which is hard to break through. For example, getting my novel into bookshops and libraries (those that are left!), although Waterstones, Kensington, has agreed to take three of each of my novels to see how things go – and have kindly agreed to put my books out on their Romance Table. It would be nice to be reviewed in some of the women’s magazines and to be offered a Kindle Daily Deal with the weight of Amazon behind me. But those things seem to be offered almost exclusively via one’s publisher. I would also like to graduate from the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme and become a full member, albeit it a self-published one. But I don’t know how much longer I’m prepared to wait for that to happen. I heavily promote my novels across all media sites and I gather that traditionally published authors are expected to do that in any case. Oh, and, an advance would be nice – thank you very much.
Establishing myself as an indie author has been quite expensive. Some of this cost could have been borne by my publishers – proof reading, formatting for kindle, buying images and producing a front cover and so on. All of the above are allowable expenses against earnings, of course, but you need a pot of money to get you started.

6. As a collective of ten, The Write Romantics find the support we can give each other absolutely invaluable. What value have you found in being part of a group of writers?

Help is just a phone call away. Literally. Adrienne and I talk most nights after she’s finished work, June and I meet regularly for coffee, chat daily over the phone and read our work out to each other and Mags is always on hand to give another perspective to my ideas for taking the group forward. Being a ‘collective’ also means we can ‘divi’ up the jobs, blog posts, promo and so on and spread the workload around a bit. When I lose belief in what I’m doing, I know I can call on ‘the team’ to give me the support I need to keep going. We also have four of us finding out new things about the self-publishing industry and sharing them with each other. Having a ‘tweet team’ helps enormously, too. Going it alone is do-able, but so much more hard work than being part of a team.

7. What does a “typical” day look like for you? (E.g. do you always write in a morning, say, or only check social media at certain times of the day?)

I am one of those annoying people – a LARK. I’m usually at my pc straight after breakfast when I check all the social sites I belong to and comment. Then, after my husband (aka Bongo Man) tells me how many sales I’ve clocked up overnight, I tailor my tweets, blog posts accordingly. I write throughout the day in ‘snatches’, to give my eyes a break from the screen. I very rarely write in the evenings, preferring to watch movies and to recharge my batteries. We have recently bought a second hand caravan and hope to do it up a bit over the winter and then take off into sunset next spring. I always take my trusty pc with me wherever I go as I find if I don’t write for a week, getting back into the novel is hard for me. When in the caravan I generally check emails in the morning and respond, have the day exploring the location where we’ve camped, and then write in the afternoons while Bongo Man and the parrot (yes, he comes with us) chill out at the other end of the caravan. Does the snoring annoy me? Oh yes!

8. Is there a pivotal moment when you can say that you truly felt you were a writer?

I was having coffee with June and Amanda Grange in a local café when Bongo Man joined us with the proof copy of Tall, Dark and Kilted, which had just arrived. My hands were shaking as I couldn’t believe that my book was finally in my sticky little hands. Magic. When I wrote and published my first blog post, joined the Society of Authors and people started asking me for writing advice were pivotal moments, too. I would have to say that our Author Event in Waterstones in November was the icing on the cake for all of us.blog1

9. What’s been your greatest reader interaction moment and why?

It has to be the email I received from a reader in ISTANBUL. She’d read Tall, Dark and Kilted and had cried so much at the end that her husband thought she’d received bad news over the phone. I hope to publish the email in full one day on my blog. I think the other ‘moment’ is when the most unlikely people tell me they’ve downloaded, read and loved my book. By unlikely I mean people who I would never have dreamed would read romance, let alone my novels. I am also quite overwhelmed by the love and support I receive from the ladies I’ve befriended on Facebook. They buy my novels, leave me reviews on Amazon and spread the word amongst their friends. The best kind of social networking IMHO.

10. What challenges have you faced as an English woman writing about Scotland and Scottish characters?

I’ve been giving this one some thought. I was born in Scotland and lived there until I was eleven. My family are Scots and I’ve been surrounded by ‘Scottishness’ all my life. If you are English and want to write about Scotland the best thing is to GO THERE. Although, conversely, Diane Gabadon who writes the Outlander series and D.K. Broster who wrote the Jacobite trilogy The Flight of the Heron etc had never visited Scotland before they wrote their novels. Immerse yourself in Scottish history, movies and read Scottish themed novels by other authors to get a feel of what feels real for you. Scout charity bookshops and purchase large picture books of Scotland and thumb through those for inspiration. Use Google Earth to inform what you write about the landscape and the weather. Be aware of the difference between those Scots who live in the Central Belt and those who live in the Highlands and Islands, their accents are different as is their outlook on life and how they speak. I like to include some Scottish Gaelic phrase in my writing and am lucky enough to have a native Gaelic speaker who helps me with this. Always double check your research if you’re weaving Scottish history into your novel. I’ll give you an example of this: I read a Scottish themed novel recently where the author referred to the hero’s sporran as his codpiece (!) and her copy editor/ publishers hadn’t picked up on it. Hoots Mon!

11. What does the future hold for you and for the New Romantics Press?
My ambition is to write six novels. Three set in Scotland and three set in Norfolk. Then I will market them as box sets. Once I have three novels under my belt with attendant sales figures, I might think of approaching some of the larger literary agencies to see what they can offer me, and take it from there. As for the NRP – originally, we all published our novels at the same time and held joint book launches, but we all work at different paces and that is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain. We will continue to support each other and to promote ourselves as the New Romantics Press because we think that more accurately reflects who we are and where we are headed. Whatever happens, we will always be there for each other and our friendship and support for each other will continue.

Lots of writerly support!

Lots of writerly support!

12. What advice would you give to any writers out there considering an indie route?

Think carefully before you set out on this journey. If, as a writer, all you want is a copy of your novel to pass round your friends and relatives, that’s achievable with a little help and lots of hard work. HOWEVER, if you want to make a career of it – be prepared for a hard slog: promoting your current novel(s) and writing THE NEXT ONE. I try to aim for a novel a year, allowing for health and family commitments. In many ways, I’ve been lucky – I had all my social networking ducks in a row before I published so I was able to promote myself and the other New Romantics – if you are doing that from a standing start it can be quite overwhelming. Meet with other writers, learn from them but, ultimately, know who you are and what you want to write. Glue your derriere to the chair and get on with it.

 

 

 

Thank you so much for talking to us today, Lizzie! The Write Romantics are great admirers of The New Romantics Press and we wish all four of you continued success.

 

 

Boot Camp Bride – Romance and Intrigue on the Norfolk marshes – November 2013
http://t.co/0WkwlH8bgg
UK: http://tinyurl.com/bootcampbride
USA: http://tinyurl.com/nnmzjha
Tall, Dark and Kilted – Notting Hill Meets Monarch of the Glen – 2012
http://t.co/xj2T54mE6j
UK- http://tinyurl.com/o9js6pl
USA – http://tinyurl.com/o4vor4z
https://www.amazon.com/author/lizzielamb
http://tinyurl.com/TallDark-Kilted
Hocus Pocus 14 short story anthology
http://tinyurl.com/Hocus-Pocus14
Lizzie’s Links
Amazon page: http://tinyurl.com/mpcv6bn
http://www.facebook.com/LizzieLambwriter
http://www.facebook.com/newromantics4
lizzielambwriter@gmail.com
website: http://www.lizzielamb.co.uk
blog: http://www.newromantics4.com
Linked in: uk.linkedin.com/pub/lizzie-lamb/18/194/202/
Goodreads http://tinyurl.com/cbla48d
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/lizzielamb/
twitter: @lizzie_lamb twitter: @newromantics4

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.

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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