It takes a whole team to indie publish a book!

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Even when you indie publish, it’s not something you do entirely alone.

My fifth novel, In a Manhattan Minute, was published on Thursday 20th October. I have been indie publishing my novels for a while now, but contrary to what many people think, it’s not just me sitting in a room until the final novel is finished and then pressing a button. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of sitting at a desk and getting those words written, but once the first draft is finished and I’ve been through the book at least another three, four or sometimes five times to edit it myself, it’s time to involve a few other people.

Usually, by the time I’ve gone through my novel that many times I can’t even look at it and I need to take a step back. Most writers will tell you this works very well and I usually take a step back after my first edit. But then the real letting go comes when I send it for the substantive round of edits.

Substantive edits are thorough. They look at how the story works as a whole, taking into account the plot, pacing and structure. It’s scary to get the substantive report back because it’s usually several pages long, in addition to comments throughout the manuscript. To manage the substantive edits, I take a deep breath, then separate the report into manageable chunks.  I also cross out sections once I’ve been through the entire manuscript to ensure they’ve been dealt with, and it’s quite satisfying!

Once the substantive stage is finished, the manuscript is returned to the editor and it’s time for the copyedits. I find this stage much less scary. Copyedits are a lot more specific. So, for example, does your character sit down for breakfast and then on the next page clear the table after finishing their lunch? Or do they have blonde hair at the start but then all of a sudden their hair is described as ebony?

Following the copyedits and my subsequent changes, it’s time to use the services of a proofreader. I like to use someone different to who I used for the editing, because it’s a fresh set of eyes on your manuscript. This is the least painful stage because by now the big issues have been ironed out and the story is almost ready. The proofreader will particularly focus on grammar and spelling but they will also spot any inconsistencies you may have missed. When the book is 70k plus, mistakes are easy to overlook.

When the proofed manuscript is returned, I make changes and then go through yet again to check. Next, I pass my manuscript to my husband. I either print a paperback proof or put the book onto my kindle for this. He’s a great final proofreader because he’s not afraid to tell me if there are any mistakes! And again, it’s a fresh pair of eyes. Once he’s checked and I’ve made any necessary changes, I go through yet again and then it’s time to load the manuscript up onto KDP.

During the editing and proofreading stages, I usually get in touch with my cover designer and we discuss my requirements for the book. I may find examples of styles I like, or I may want the cover to tie in with a particular theme. Once we’ve discussed the brief, my cover designer will send me about half a dozen visuals. Usually there’s something there that I either really like, or that we can tweak. It may be a case of taking a font from one, an image from another and putting those onto something new. It takes a few goes back and forth but I end up with a cover I love.

When it’s time to publish, I use Amazon’s KDP. It’s pretty straightforward, especially once you’ve published a few books. You can also read through on the screen again which I usually do, and it’s particularly good to check the layout. I make sure chapter headings are centred, there are no mysterious blank pages, and the cover is as it should be.

I usually multitask too. So right now I’m working on promoting In a Manhattan Minute, I have another Christmas book with my editor for the substantive stage, I’m writing book seven, and I’m thinking about what I’ll do for book eight. It’s hard work but I absolutely love it and couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

It’s so important, if you’re self publishing, to take the time to get each stage of the process right. It does cost, but it’s an investment and good edits, proofreading and book covers will last a lifetime. By investing in each stage it will also help you to produce a book that is just as professional as those titles produced by a big publisher. And it will give you the best chance of success and great sales.

I hope you enjoyed the blog post…if you’d like to sign up for my newsletter, I have an exclusive giveaway coming in mid-November!

Helen J Rolfe x

 

 

 

Five Essential Tips on Picking the Right Editor for You by Ashley R. Carlson

In our last post before a well-earned Christmas break, I’m delighted to welcome Ashley R. Carlson who I met through my adventures on Wattpad.  As well as being a fabulous writer and award winning author, Ashley is also an editor and ghostwriter and she’s joining us to share some insights on making sure you’ve got the right editor working for you. Over to Ashley…

Me headshotWhen you’re an indie author (and even sometimes with a small press), you have the ability to choose your own editor. This can be an exciting task or a daunting one, especially if you’re new to publishing. As an indie author myself and Head Editor for my company Utopia Editing & Ghostwriting Services as well as Midnight Publishing, I have personally heard and seen how some editing/writing collaborations soar, while others flounder—and I think it’s because an individual hasn’t followed this checklist. Here are my top five tips on what you must focus on when selecting the right editor for your book:

  1. Pick the right editor for what your manuscript needs

How many drafts have you written? One? Two? Ten? How many beta readers have already read the manuscript and given you their feedback, to which you’ve tweaked and revised it? If your answers to the above questions are “one/two” and “none/a few,” then you may need developmental editing. Developmental editing is an analysis of your story as a whole—the plot, character, world building, etc. It is not fixing grammar. It is looking at the fundamental building blocks of your book, and offering suggestions or highlighting issues with things like flat dialogue, clichéd characters, confusing scenes, parts that drag, and more. If you’ve not had several people read your book yet to point out these issues or you want a professional’s input, then consider this type of editing.

The next option is copyediting—sometimes combined with line editing, sometimes not—which does analyze the book’s sentence structure, verbiage, use of repeat words, etc. Copyediting also looks at continuity: ensuring facts and statements remain static throughout the manuscript (the character’s eyes do not go from “blue” to “green” halfway through, let’s say). Line editing is at times offered separately, as I mentioned earlier, and is a “less intensive” analysis of the things copyediting also looks at. It may be offered by an editor at a cheaper price, and is a great option if your manuscript is very clean.

For those with the cleanest of manuscripts, ones that have been through three or more drafts and are devoid of most errors, is proofreading. This is the final step before publication, when an editor (or “proofreader”) is looking for any final grammatical, punctuation or spelling errors before going to press. Proofreading is essential before publication to ensure a near-perfect manuscript; copyediting is not proofreading. Though copy editors do their best to find and fix all errors, it is not proofreading, and a separate final proofread should take place.

  1. Certain editors specialize in certain genres

Some editors work in fiction, some in non-fiction. Depending on the type of editing you want, you will want to select an editor who best suits your needs—aka, don’t pick an editor who specializes in cookbooks to developmentally edit your science fiction novel. Now, if you want a great copyedit that focuses strongly on continuity for your fiction, a non-fiction editor may be a good choice due to their experience dealing with historical facts, data, etc. But normally those who specialize in certain genres do not stray far from those genres—and steer clear of those who say they do.

  1. Qualifications

Because editing is a subjective field, there isn’t one “set” type of education for an editor, though a college or university degree in English, journalism or creative writing is a good start. Previous work in other publishing fields, experience with traditional publishers and involvement with editing organizations like the Editorial Freelancers Association and the American Copy Editors Society serve to support an editor’s resume. Keep in mind, however, that with experience comes a price: those who are newer in the field may charge around $20 to $60 an hour, while those freelancers with a long list of past clients (and publishers) can charge more than $160 an hour.

  1. Utilizing a free sample

All editors should be able to deliver on their claims, right? It’s absolutely fair for you to expect and request a free sample edit of your work. Utopia Editing & Ghostwriting Services offers an edit of the first 1,000 words, while other editors I’ve come across offer the first five pages edited. Be sure to utilize this edit and get a dialogue going regarding what an editor can offer you. Do they offer two versions—a “track changes” version with their comments included, and a clean edit with all changes accepted? Do they offer a separate summary? What level of work do they put into it? Do you feel that their comments and changes are relevant, useful and constructive? Do they edit in both Chicago Manual and AP Style? (**These are both U.S. style guides—obviously this will change for your prospective country, like Oxford Style/Hart’s Rules in the UK.) Do they have a specific style guide they utilize that is personal to them? All of these questions should be asked by you before signing a contract, and answered by them to your satisfaction.

And finally…

  1. Do you get along?

Ashley R. Carlson SPR prizeThis is going to be determined by your interactions early on. Does this person seem polite? Gracious? Do they seem like someone who won’t beat around the bush and will tell you like it is? Do you feel like they understand your vision, and are passionate about helping you to achieve it to the best of your abilities? Your editor is going to be the one person along the way to publishing who will be your confidante, your coach and the source of constructive criticism. You want to make sure that they’re a fun person who just “gets” you.

Good luck, and I’m always here to bounce ideas off of! Many thanks to The Write Romantics for hosting me on this wonderful website! I’m honored to have been invited.

Thanks so much for joining us today, Ashley.  As I mentioned earlier, Ashley is also an award winning writer and you can read my review of her fabulous debut novel, The Charismatics here 

Have a great weekend! Alys xx

A Kentish Accent – aka the Mega Monday Announcement

© Mamz

© Mamz

I’ve never thought of myself as having an accent. Maybe no-one does but, coming from Kent, I certainly don’t have the instantly recognisable nuances in dialect that some of my fellow WRs who hail from Yorkshire do. Similarly, if you hear a Geordie speak, someone from the Valleys or a soft Irish brogue you can immediately hazard a guess as to where the speaker’s roots are. I love accents, although my attempts at impersonating them are worse than the  accent of the policeman in ‘Allo, ‘Allo – Good Moaning! If you come from Kent, depending on how posh you are, your accent is probably going to be almost indistinguishable from your Essex, Sussex, Surrey or London neighbours.

© Michel Paller

© Michel Paller

Nonetheless Kent does have its own distinctions – from our vineyards to our oyster beds, to the best weather that the UK has to offer – it’s a county that’s just as unique as any other. We also like to claim Charles Dickens as our own. Although he was born in Portsea Island (Hampshire) he moved to Kent at the age of four, and towns from Rochester to Broadstairs proudly display plaques which state that “Chas was ‘ere”. Well not quite but, like I say, us Kentish maids and maids of Kent (it matters which side of the River Medway you were born on, by the way), can be mistaken for cockneys in the right light.

© Julie Heslington

© Julie Heslington

But what have a long dead, but brilliant, writer and my lack of a discernible accent got to do with my big announcement? Well Dickens, and Broadstairs itself, were the inspirations for my Christmas novella last year. I self published ‘The Gift of Christmas Yet to Come’, to help raise my writing profile above the white noise, prior to release of my first novel with So Vain Books. The novella is set in a fictional town, St Nicholas Bay, loosely based on Broadstairs, where rumour has it that Dickens penned A Christmas Carol. I’ve had a fantastic experience with So Vain Books, but I knew my next novel wouldn’t fit their glam brief, and so I started to think about which publishers I might try for the next step in my writing career. Since I still had the rights to the novella, there was nothing stopping me from submitting that, as well as the next novel I’d finished in draft and, being too impatient to try for an agent, there was one publisher I really hoped would accept my submission…

I’m delighted to say I’ve now got my longed for accent, a four book deal with Accent Press that is. I’ll be releasing four related stories (two novels and two novellas), all set in St Nicholas Bay – a place I can’t wait to revisit – and all with the theme of motherhood that comes about in an unexpected way. The first book will be released in the summer of 2016 and then at six-monthly intervals. I signed the contract on Friday morning and that’s got to be a good enough end to anyone’s week, hasn’t it?

© Alamar

© Alamar

Only it didn’t quite stop there. Just before three o’clock on Friday, I got a completely unexpected email. I’d entered a writing contest from my holiday balcony back in July, whilst the rest of the family slept in late every morning, but I didn’t think I stood a chance and, since the shortlist was originally due to be announced in August, I pushed my disappointment at not hearing anything to one side; especially since the offer from Accent had arrived in between. I never win anything, so what did I expect? My usual prize winning standard is an out-of-date tin of Smart Price carrots in a Harvest Festival raffle and I kid you not!

I looked at the email, though, and wondered why an editor from one of the ‘big four’ publishing houses, who I’d pitched my first book to at an RNA conference two years earlier, was emailing me. Maybe she wanted to be interviewed on the blog and, thinking what a great idea that would be, I eagerly opened her email. Except she wasn’t writing to ask for a guest spot, she was writing to tell me that I’d made the top ten shortlist of that writing competition, which I’d entered under a new pen name.  Unfortunately, I can’t say anymore than that yet, as the shortlist was due to appear on social media today but, at the time of publishing this post, Couple enjoying Sunsetit hasn’t yet been released.  What I would say is that if you’ve entered competitions before and started to wonder if it’s worthwhile, then keep going.  The old adage is certainly true for me – the more I practice, the luckier I seem to get!

So how does a girl from Kent celebrate such good news? Well I’d like to say that I enjoyed Whitstable oysters and a good vintage from the Chapel Down Winery in Tenterden, but in truth it was a pizza with the kids, and a bottle of champagne, that had been languishing in the back of the cupboard since New Year, with my husband. Not Kentish maybe, and definitely not posh, but it’ll do for me!

Jo xx

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?

A cast of characters you’ll never forget: guest blog with Carol Cooper

Women-Writing-Women-Box-Set-Cover_finalJPEG (1)A woman accused of killing her father. A young woman fleeing from the shadow of her infamous mother. A bereaved biographer who travels to war-ravaged Croatia to research the life of a celebrity artist. A gifted musician forced by injury to stop playing the piano. A single mother of four who dares to date again. A prima ballerina who turns to prostitution to support her daughter, and the wife of a drug lord who attempts to relinquish her lust for blood to raise a respectable son.

All these unlikely heroines – and more – appear in a new ebook anthology from seven indie authors called OUTSIDE THE BOX: WOMEN WRITING WOMEN.

Carol“Women characters in novels are often too good to be true. Too smart, too beautiful, too kind – or, even worse, all of these things at once. Or else they’re hapless, which is equally unrealistic,” says Carol Cooper. She’s an author, doctor and journalist; her fiction debut One Night at the Jacaranda, a gripping story about a group of people searching for love, is one of the seven full-length novels in this box set. “I wanted my characters to be feisty but imperfect. To me, that’s far more compelling.”

Orna Ross (founder-director of The Alliance of Independent Authors, and named by The Bookseller as one of the 100 mostOrna influential people in publishing) is the author of Blue Mercy, a tale of betrayal, revenge, and suspense. Her principal character Mercy stands accused of killing her tyrannical father, and now she wants her daughter to know what really happened that fateful night.

Orna says, “The mother-daughter relationship is one of the most fascinating, complex, and under-explored relationships in fiction. It was my hope, in writing the story of Mercy and her daughter Star, that it might help us all to look more closely at our own mothers and daughters.”

JaneThe mother-daughter relationship also features in Jane Davis’s An Unchoreographed Life. Prima ballerina Alison Babbage finds herself pregnant, and turns to prostitution to support her young daughter. Jane won the Daily Mail First Novel Award for Half-Truths and White Lies, and has gone on to self-publish four more acclaimed novels.

Jane says, “I wanted to address a major issue: the lengths that a mother will go to in order to provide for her daughter. I was gripped by a 2008 court case, when, in an interesting twist, it was ruled that a prostitute had been living off the immoral earnings of one of her clients. The case also challenged perceptions of who was likely to be a prostitute. She might well be the ordinary middle-aged woman with the husband and two teenage children who lives next door.”

In Crazy for Trying, the heroine Tulsa is a bookish misfit, says author Joni Rodgers. “Much as I was in my early 20s,” shejoni adds. “I also drew on my experience as the lone female disc jockey at a rock station in western Montana.” Joni is a New York Times bestselling author who’s also an accomplished ghost-writer.

The box set OUTSIDE THE BOX: Women Writing Women is the brainchild of Australian author, artist, and musician Jessica Bell. She’s also the editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and the author of books on the craft of writing (the most recent is Polish Your Fiction). In her novel White Lady, Sonia, unfaithful wife of a Melbourne drug Jessicalord, yearns for sharp objects and blood. But now that she’s rehabilitating herself as a “normal” mother and maths teacher, it’s time to stop dreaming about slicing people’s throats. Easier said than done.

The spotlight here is on unlikely heroines. As Jessica says, “Though the seven novels included may fit through the Contemporary Fiction/ Women’s Fiction slot, they are all remarkably and uniquely different in style, which I believe to be a very strong attraction. There are readers out there who don’t like to read the same kind of genre, or about the same kind of characters over and over. This box set is for them.”

Roz Morris is a ghost-writer and teacher of creative writing master classes. “But I was busting to write as myself, with my own Rozcharacters, my own style and my own vision,” she says. Her novel My Memories of a Future Life is the haunting story of how one lost soul searches for where she now belongs. “My principal character Carol fits well with this collection of unconventional female protagonists. On one level, Carol is hardly an everywoman because her life has been unusual – she is a concert pianist. But the impulse that started her on that path, and ultimately undoes her, is certainly universal – she wants a place to belong and to feel loved.”

KathleenThis reader’s smorgasbord also includes Kathleen Jones’s novel The Centauress. A Royal Literary Fund fellow, and best-selling author, Kathleen contributes a story about a bereaved writer Alex, a young woman from a conventional background, who has come to Croatia to write the biography of a celebrity sculptor. Alex brings her own problems with her, and also encounters the puzzle of the eccentric artist’s ambiguous gender and a disputed inheritance. “As we were compiling books with unusual female protagonists,” says Kathleen, “The Centauress was the obvious choice.”

Outside the Box: Women Writing Women brings these uncommon heroines together in a limited edition box-set from February 20. It’s already had interest from the BBC, The Bookseller and the national press, and now it’s available for £7.99 for just 90 days across a range of ebook platforms. More info on www.womenwritewomen.com

Here are some short excerpts to give you a taste of the novels in Outside the Box:

From Blue Mercy:

We stay out until the bats start to appear and then we leave the lake and turn back the way we came down. I pick another flower, an orchid for my daughter’s hair, and we walk, with me just a shade ahead of you, through the slow-gathering darkness, back to the house where my father no longer lives.

From Crazy for Trying:

Trekking into Helena, Tulsa was somehow surprised by the full-size laundromats, buildings and Burger King. She’d half expected log cabins and free-ranging cattle and was a little disappointed to realize that, for all its legends of copper kings and Chinese muleteers, this town was still, on a mechanical level, the same as any town, including the one she’d just run away from.

From My Memories of a Future Life:

I wasn’t born gifted. It’s how I’ve cheated with the unsatisfactory clay I’m made from. When love went wrong, I turned to the intimate communion with ivory, iron, ebony and wire. Take the piano out of my life and what is left?

From The Centauress:

In every tragedy there is the accidental moment – choosing a particular seat on a train, turning down the wrong road, deciding to take a lift from the 89th floor – the arbitrary, pivotal moment that means destruction or survival.

From An Unchoreographed Life:

None of her mother’s friends ever stayed for tea or sleepovers, thank goodness – not like Emily’s mummy’s horrible bristly boyfriend, who transformed breakfast into a circus of broken eggshell and tossed pancakes, leaving washing-up piled high in the sink after he had basked in applause.

From One Night at the Jacaranda:

Superglue was a wonderful invention. They should have made some that worked on relationships.

From White Lady:

The warm soothing blood oozes from my skin and releases the pressure in my head as if I’ve injected myself with a sedative.

I drop the knife to the floor. It clangs on the tiles. I spread blood all over my arm and admire the patterns it makes on my skin.

Ibrahim. I miss you.

Outside the Box: Women Writing Women is a limited edition box-set available for £7.99/$9.99 across a range of ebook platforms. Details on www.womenwritewomen.com.

 

 

Monday Special: How To Put The Fun Back Into Writing (and life, while you’re at it) by Christina Hollis

It’s a great pleasure to welcome Christina Hollis to the blog today.  She has some great suggestions to keep your writing fresh and inspiration flowing.   There’s also a signed copy of Christina’s new book, His Majesty’s Secret Passion, to win!  All you need to do is leave a comment on this post.  

39PORTRAIT.2011

Writers usually have to squeeze their imaginative sessions into odd spaces between a full time job, home life and family. Writing is often a business, but it’s got to be enjoyable, too. If it isn’t, it’ll show in your work and that won’t do your readers, you, or your career, any good at all.

Take a fresh look at everything you do, and it’ll improve both your writing, and your non-writing life.

A change is as good as… several thousand words.

I write every single day, including holidays. I’d urge everyone to do the same, but there’s no point in writing just for the sake of it.  Make sure you’ve got something to say. Don’t slog away at a project simply because you think you must.  Take a break from your current work in progress. Start a journal, or write a non-fiction article about something unconnected with your work in fiction. If you’ve been writing long form, think about writing a short story for a change.

Don’t beat yourself up…

It’s never a crime to take a day off, or fail to hit your word count. In writing, the only thing that matters is your reader. You can’t expect to do your best for them if you’re overstretched and stressed. If your reader-in-waiting happens to be the editor at your publisher, then keep them informed. This should include asking for an extension to your deadline in plenty of time, if you need it. Twenty-four hours to rest and regroup will do you the world of good. You’ll bounce back to achieve a lot more the following day than if you kept battering away in the hope of an elusive  breakthrough.

Chill out…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATake a walk outside, so fresh air can stimulate your thoughts. If you commute to work by public transport, use your travelling time to let your mind freewheel. Don’t try it while you’re driving! Keep a notebook handy, to write down any flashes of inspiration. Always do this the minute it strikes you. We always think we’ll remember to do it when we get to the office or arrive home, but how often does real life drive out the dream before we’ve got it down on paper, or up on screen? Learn to soothe your mind through meditation. Our lives are so busy and stressful, taking a few moments each day to collect our thoughts is an important aid to mental health.

Then warm up…

Start work on a scene full of drama, romance, sex, intrigue, or whatever gets your motor running as a writer. Plunge straight into something exciting. It doesn’t matter if you’re temporarily writing out of sequence. You can always shuffle text around during the editing stage. Getting some words onto a page is the important part. Once you’ve got your teeth into something (or someone!), you’ll find it difficult to stop.

HisMajestysSecretPassion_w9345_750What’s your favourite tip for keeping your writing fresh and enjoyable? There’s a signed copy of His Majesty’s Secret Passion on offer for a comment picked at random on 22nd February, 2015.

Christina Hollis writes contemporary fiction starring complex men and independent women–when she isn’t cooking, gardening or beekeeping. Her books have been translated into more than a dozen languages, and she’s sold nearly three million books worldwide. You can catch up with her at http://www.christinahollis.blogspot.com, on TwitterFacebook, and see a full list of her published books at http://www.christinahollis.com. Her current release, His Majesty’s Secret Passion, is published by Wild Rose Press, and available from them at http://bit.ly/1C0CxOU or in the UK, from Amazon at http://amzn.to/1DF99Dv.

To leave a comment please click where it says ‘Comments’ in teeny, tiny type at the bottom of this post.

Mega Monday Announcement – Back To Being Me!

1069991_10151820110344073_1918962117_nRegular readers of this blog might be confused by my changing persona. When the Write Romantics started blogging – we were just Julie and Jo (I’m here, on the left). We’ve risen to the power of ten over the last year and a half and there have been some changes of identity, as pen names were adopted over time. When I got my book deal with So Vain Books for ‘Among A Thousand Stars’, I decided for personal reasons to change my name to Jay, but over the past few weeks it’s become evident that I wasn’t going to be the only Jay Barlett, author, out there… The other Jay Bartlett, and I’m sure he’s a lovely guy, is an expert in exorcism deliverance and he’s got books out on a range of subjects from Expelling Evil Spirits to Exploring The Supernatural – it’s not something I wanted to compete with!

So I’m reverting back to my real name and luckily So Vain Books were happy to support my kitty_brucknell_1decision. This week’s big announcement is that both Jessica Redland and I are now featured authors on their website (www.sovainbooks.co.uk) and we’ll be revealing our fabulous covers very soon. We’re delighted to be sharing a publishing house with some fantastic non-fiction authors. Anyone who’s a fan of The X Factor must remember Kitty Brucknell and her performances that would give Lady Gaga a run for her money. Kitty has teamed up with celebrity stylist and fashion editor, Lewis-Duncan Weedon, and TV presenter, Olivia Cox, to produce Are You On The List? – A guide to looking good and feeling great. I don’t know about Jessica, but with such glamourous company at our publishing house, it’s definitely on my Christmas list.

Jo Bartlett cover finalTalking of Christmas, I am delighted to reveal that my novella – ‘The Gift of Christmas Yet to Come’ – is now undergoing a final review with the editor and you can read more about it on the publisher’s website at fabrianbooks.com. It’s been an amazing few weeks for The Write Romantics with publishing deals and book releases coming thick and fast. I’m not going to spoil things, but check in next week for the sixth Mega Monday announcement in a row! And tomorrow they’ll be some big anthology news where we’ll be revealing our very special cover…

Jo x

Another Mega Monday announcement: Lynne Pardoe ‘pockets’ a deal!

Who could have believed the speed with which the Write Romantics have been landing book deals recently. First there was Jessica Redland’s 467141_105087346295108_93731370_oexcellent (I know cos I’ve read it) ‘Searching for Steven’ and her three book contract with So Vain books. Then Harriet James ‘Remarkable Things’ to be published by Crooked Cat, then Helen J Rolfe’s ‘The Friendship Tree’ also to be published by Crooked Cat.

I thought the good luck was bound to run out there. I’d sent a partial of a pocket novel I’d been working on to D. C. Thomson in Dundee around that time. I’d been working on it for months and lacked confidence to send it to them. Then I had an email conversation with one of their staff on their editor’s fiction blog which was really helpful. The next day I saw a blog post by another of their fiction staff, Tracey Steele talking about how to write pocket novels and I thought ‘fate is trying to tell me something, send it off fast!’ So I popped three chapters and a synopsis off one morning and got a request for a full later that day. I was delighted and sent the rest straight away.

I thought it would be months until I heard and prepared myself for a long wait. I knew how many submissions they must have and tried my best to be patient. You see, to me it wasn’t just an ordinary book because my mum helped me write it. Mum has been very poorly lately. She contracted flu many years ago and the virus got into her heart muscle and infected it. That caused the muscular layer of the heart to stretch, get thinner and to work more slowly. Bolstered by tablets you’d hardly have noticed any difference in her for over thirty years, but she’s now 85 and time is catching up with her. She was very, very, poorly for a while recently. Going out was a thing of the past and it was a major effort for her to even walk across the room.

I?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? can only imagine how painful that was, and boredom soon set in too. But then I thought I’d talk to her about the plot for the novel I was then about to write, and her world lit up. She totally followed me into my imaginary world and we chatted for ages about the characters I’d described and why they were behaving as they were. Mum suggested a couple of scenes and the motive for one person’s actions that were crucial to the story. Spending time with mum in our world of make-believe was a tonic to us both.

Now I haven’t told you what happened to this story once I’d consigned it to paper. I’ve left you in the lurch a bit about the outcome of this tome. I thought with the rush of publishing contracts coming to the Write Romantic’s there would be no way I would get one, so I got ready to slog in with my trilogy of social work books. Then about a week later, I saw an email from Tracey from D. C. Thomson. I opened it fully expecting to see a ‘..thanks but no thanks,’ sort of comment.

The first sentence yielded nothing of the sort. Nor the second. Then the third seemed to say she liked it and would like to buy it! I could hardly believe my eyes but when I saw the word ‘Congratulations!’ later on I knew what I read was true! It was all confirmed the following day when a paper contract arrived in the post. I quickly signed it and sent it back before they could change their minds!

D.C. Thomson is a bit special to me. My dad was Scottish and always spoke very highly of them. He was a printer at The Daily Telegraph and cameauthor 2 home with ‘The People’s Friend’ and ‘Beano’ every week. I loved them and read every word. As I grew older I read ‘The Friend’ in the nursing homes I worked in, often with the patients. I kept reading it when I left nursing, so getting published by them is very special.

Now I won’t keep you much longer, you must have plenty to do. But do check back soon because I’m hoping this lucky spell will continue. I’ve read some of my fellow WR’s work and know how good it is and how close to publication they must be!

Lynne x

Indie Emily directs a writing destiny

Emily5We are delighted to be joined on the blog today by Emily Harvale, a successful indie author and self-confessed chocaholic – definitely a girl after our own hearts! Emily grew up in Hastings, East Sussex, and now shares a home with her adorable cat, Phoebe, who gets in the way of Emily’s writing whenever she can. When she’s not writing, Emily has lots of other hobbies; many of which, like watching a good movie, are enhanced by a glass of wine. She absolutely adores Christmas, something which you might not be surprised to hear when you review her back catalogue.

Thanks so much for joining us on the blog today, Emily. As you know, a number of the Write Romantics are thinking of going solo. So, we’ll start with the obvious question, what made you decide to self-publish and what do you think the benefits are?

A few things influenced my decision. I have ongoing health issues, requiring a number of operations over the last couple of years, so I didn’t want to contact an agent/publisher and have to tell them I’d be in and out of hospital for the foreseeable future! I received a wonderful report from the RNA’s new writers’ scheme and I wanted to know if other people also thought I was, “a talented writer who would go far”. What better way is there to find out than to ask the general public? I heard about indie publishing via Talli Roland. (I am an indie – for independent – publisher now, thanks to Amazon’s recent change). I’m a businesswoman and, after weighing up the pros and cons and realising there were no cons, I decided that indie publishing was the perfect route for me, so I added the extra chapter as suggested by the RNA reader, and went for it. I believe in jumping in with both feet and life is too short to wait for others to make my dreams, reality.

EmilyThere are so many benefits, in my opinion, that it would take all day to tell you, but the main ones for me are: speed of publication and being able to set my own schedule; choosing my own covers/cover artist; freedom to publish as many books as I want, when I want; not having to write in a specific genre; finding and working with professional editors etc. with whom I have built a good relationship … and money! Substantially more money than if I had waited, or taken another route.

Are there any downsides or things that surprised you about indie publishing?

I was surprised by how simple it is – and how easy it is to make mistakes! Things are constantly changing and it’s important to keep up to date. It’s also important to check one’s own books once they’re live. I recently had a formatting problem that only appeared on certain devices (iPad/Kindle Fire) but on the previewer, it looked perfect on all devices. That was a surprise. Things are not always as they seem. Other than that, I honestly can’t think of any downsides; only upsides. People say indie publishers have to do more marketing but I haven’t found that. I do far, far less than many ‘traditionally published’ authors I know of. I’m a huge fan of indie publishing. HUGE!

Do you buy-in any services to deal with things like proof-reading, formatting and book cover design?

I pay for a professional editor, a cover designer, and now a formatter (I believe in learning from my mistakes). I also pay for a very talented webmaster who has been with me from the beginning and who does lots of clever stuff for me, and not just on my website.

Emily2What approach do you take to marketing, how much of your time does it take up and what is your number one tip for increasing sales?

Er … I do very little marketing. I do some posts on Facebook and Twitter and, of course, send out my newsletter when a new book comes out or when I have my new cover or any other news. When my books achieve a high position in the humour or romantic comedy charts, (A Slippery Slope reached no. 1 in humour and no. 8 in rom com and they’ve all been in the top 5 of humour and top 10 of romantic comedy) I post about that, but that’s it really. I should plan a marketing strategy but it’s something I just haven’t got around to yet. My first book only sold around 500 copies until I did a 2 day free promotion on Amazon in December 2012, resulting in more than 12,000 free downloads. Since then, sales have been exceedingly good and I haven’t had/needed any reduced price promos (my books sell for £1.99; short stories .78p). Amazon did pick one of my books for their Summer Promotion last year, which was a lovely surprise, and I’m sure that helped boost sales even more. I gave away my short stories to my fans for free, as a ‘Thank You’ in December 2013 because I’ve been very lucky and they’ve been wonderfully loyal. I think it’s important to thank one’s fans. I’m fairly certain I could increase sales further if I made some effort at marketing. It’s on my list but it’s not a high priority as doing nothing much seems to be working extremely well – for me – and I’m not sure I’d be any good at marketing anyway! Perhaps less really is more.

Do you or would you ever consider writing in another genre and, if so, would you use a pseudonym?

I’ve written a ghost story (novella) but as it’s a romance too I’ll probably publish it under Emily Harvale. I’ve written a romantic suspense but it needs some work and I’ll decide whether to use a different name for that when I’m finally happy with it. I’m also writing a ‘cosy crime’ but that may turn into a romantic suspense. Yet another plus about indie publishing: I can decide what my books are, aren’t, or may be. I love writing my light-hearted, humorous romances though (yes that’s what I call them) and a lot of people seem to enjoy reading them, so I’m concentrating on those for now.

Would you ever consider representation by an agent or a contract with a traditional publisher?Emily3

When I’ve had my ‘final’ operation this summer, I may think about seeing if I can find an agent, mainly because I’m interested in subsidiary rights. I don’t believe in saying ‘never’ because things changed, but I would only consider a contract with a traditional publisher if the advance and terms were of considerable benefit to me. I’m certainly not seeking a publisher at the moment. My books are selling well and I’m making a really good living on my own by just publishing on Amazon. A large publishing house could increase my readership but I honestly don’t think a small one could. I have friends with smaller publishers and they don’t sell as many books, or receive as much in Royalties, as I do. I don’t see the point in losing money. To be honest, I think I can increase my readership myself, over time. I’ve already had a couple of orders via Waterstones. It may take me longer but I’ll get there.

Do you ever encounter any snobbery from traditionalists about choosing the indie publishing route and, if so, how do you deal with it?

Sometimes, unfortunately, from other writers, but I usually ignore it – or offer to discuss it over a bottle of champagne! Generally I’ve got no time for people who look down their noses at others. Readers couldn’t care less, on the whole, because they just want good stories. The Society of Authors see it as, “a perfectly valid form of publishing,” so that’s good enough for me. Actually, becoming a Full Member of the SoA was one of the highlights of indie publishing. I’d always wanted to be a member of the SoA and I sing their praises from the rooftops. The emails and posts on Facebook and Twitter, I get from readers, never, ever mention it – and as they are the ones buying my books, they’re the ones whose opinions I value. The world is changing; some people may not like it but they’re going to have to accept it or remain in the past. That’s their choice.

Can you tell us a bit about your writing process from the initial idea to the release of the novel and roughly how long that process takes you as an indie author?

I’m not a planner so when I have an idea I just sit and write – virtually non-stop. I can write the first ‘fun’ draft (I don’t believe in using the negative term, ‘sh…. first draft’ because writing is fun) in a couple of weeks. I then leave it and work on something else – or tackle the jungle which clearly doesn’t want to be a garden – for a week or so. I then read and rewrite as necessary and as many times as I think it needs it. My short stories are each around 10,000 words and they took just two weeks to write and rewrite. My editor had them for about a week and after the edits were done, I published them. Four weeks from the ideas to publication. My novels (around 75,000+ words) can take anything from three months upwards but if I’m not happy with a book, I won’t let it go until I am. Another bonus of indie publishing: I can set my own schedule and don’t need to ‘rush’ to meet a deadline.

Do you think it’s worth publishing in paperback, as well as digitally and how do the sales compare?

I publish a paperback via Createspace but to be honest, I never check the sales figures. I do get regular monthly payments from them so they are clearly selling some copies. Very few compared to the digital sales though – probably between 1% and 10%.

You’ve written seven novels now, do you find it easy to create new characters and storylines or do you ever worry about unconsciously repeating themes?

The characters just turn up at my desk and tell me their stories. I do worry that they may start to get repetitive and I try to make sure they don’t. I think my readers will tell me if the stories are getting boring but I also think that certain similarities are inevitable. Girl meets boy, girl gets boy – nothing new there. I hope that the path to getting him, and the people involved, are different every time. I did want to massacre everyone at a wedding, once – just to stir things up with a surprise ending – but I decided not to.

Emily4Do you read all of your reviews and, if so, have you had any that you have found it difficult to deal with or that have bowled you over?

I usually read my first few reviews, or if someone has told me via email or on Facebook or Twitter that they’ve left a review, I read that. Most of them have been good but my first one star review filled me with self-doubt. It was followed by some five star ones and that helped. I never read reviews when I buy a book because I trust my own judgement and I always read the ‘Look Inside’ sample, so I realised that it didn’t matter if people didn’t like mine (unless every single person hated it, of course!) and I stopped worrying about reviews. Everyone is entitled to their opinion but that is all it is – an opinion. I hate anchovies, and I’m sure many other people do too, but that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with anchovies, they’re just not to my taste. It’s the same with books. Some of the reviews I’ve had are wonderful – and all my reviews are genuine, I don’t ask family or friends to post good reviews. That’s futile and a little immoral in my opinion. It’s often the emails, Facebook posts/messages and Twitter comments that really get to me – and yes, some of them have moved me to tears … in a good way. To be told that someone was going through hell but that my books made them feel hopeful and happy is actually mind-blowing! Or that chemo was bearable because of my books! Or that an unhappy divorce didn’t seem so bad now! It makes me feel very proud but oddly, very humble. It also makes me want to write even better books.

If you could go back and give your pre-published self one piece of advice, what would it be?

Stop wasting time; go for it – but use professionals from day one.

What are the best and worst things about writing for a living?

Best: Freedom to do what I want, when I want and to have the money to do it.

Worst: Ditto. If I want to tackle the jungle, or have a long lunch with friends, I can, and do, even when I should be working/writing.

Emily1What are your writing plans and hopes for the future?

That’s the most difficult one to answer because I don’t really plan these days. I suppose I’m planning to put all my books with retailers other than Amazon later this year. I plan to put together some sort of marketing strategy. (Yeah, right!) I plan to continue writing as many books as I can/want to. I hope the future is as good and as bright as the present and that my readership continues to grow. Oh … and I hope I win the jackpot with my premium bonds – but that’s not really writing related; although if I did I’d buy a ski chalet and run writing/skiing retreats, so it sort of is.

Seriously though, I hope more people achieve their dreams by indie publishing and not giving a fig for what some people think.

Thanks so much for having me on your blog. I really enjoyed answering your questions. I know some of you are thinking of indie publishing and I sincerely hope that your experience is as wonderful as mine has been. Indie publishers are a friendly and helpful bunch. I don’t regret it for one second and I’m sure you won’t either. One of my favourite sayings is:

“The future is a blank page. You can write your own, or you can wait until someone writes it for you.”

I prefer to write my own.

Good luck and best wishes to you all.

Emily

It was brilliant to have you on the blog Emily and we hope you’ll come back and see us again soon!

Find out more about Emily and her books at the links below:

Amazon Author Central pages, (.UK and .COM) listing all her books and author bio.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Emily-Harvale/e/B007BKQ1SW

http://www.amazon.com/author/emilyharvale

My website: http://www.emilyharvale.com