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

Crooked cats, rescued dogs, love shacks and the chapters of life… They’re all in Tina K Burton’s writing life!

Tina BurtonOur guest on the blog today is the lovely Tina K Burton. Tina writes short stories, articles, novels, and even the occasional haiku. Both her novels, Chapters of Life, and The Love Shack, are signed with Crooked Cat Publishing. She’s working on her third novel, a story about a girl who dies suddenly, and finds herself back in the thirties. When she’s not writing, Tina spends her time crafting, relaxing with friends, and taking her rescued greyhound for walks across the beautiful moorland in Devon, where she lives with her husband.

We got loads of questions we want to ask Tina, so we can’t wait to get started…



What’s the best bit of feedback you’ve had about Chapters of Life?

One reviewer who loved the book, described me as an English Maeve Binchy. I was so flattered by that.

How important was it for you to sign with a publisher as opposed to going down the route of being self-published?

I had initially self published it on Amazon and Smashwords, but because so many people liked it, I thought it deserved to be with a publisher. I do think there’s more kudos to having a publisher, and other people seem to take you a bit more seriously too.

How did it feel the first time you saw Chapter of Life available for sale?

It was the best feeling in the world. I don’t think I’ll ever get blasé about having a book published though. For me, it’s such an achievement.

What has surprised you most about being published and has it lived up to the dream?

Yes, it’s a wonderful feeling. The only thing that would top it, would be walking into a bookshop and seeing my novels. I’m surprised at how many people have read and liked the book. I thought it was a good story, but we all think that about our books. It’s fab when other people think so too J

Your second novel is called the The Love Shack. How would you define love? sfondo arcobaleno vintage

Hmm. The feeling you get in the pit of your stomach, and your heart, when you think about or look at the person you love. Wanting to be with that person as much as possible, not being able to imagine life without them.

We love the name of your new novel, how did you come up with it?

I had the idea for a fun novel set around a dating agency, and was trying to think of names for it. That evening, I was running on my treadmill, while listening to my ipod, and the B52s song came on. I knew I’d found my title.

Can you tell us a bit about the plot for The Love Shack?

The main character, Daisy Dorson, stomps into The Love Shack, to complain about how useless their matchers are, and ends up getting a lot more than she bargained for. There’s plenty of fun, quirky characters, and of course lots of romance too.

What’s the most romantic thing you’ve ever done?

I’m not particularly romantic myself. I don’t like all that lovey dovey hearts and flowers stuff, but, I used to write little notes to my husband and tuck them into his lunchbox, so he’d find them when he opened his sandwiches at work. Nothing slushy, just things like, ‘Have a good day at work, see you later.’ I guess you could call that romantic.

author 2Who was your first hero and how do you think he’s influenced your writing, if at all?

I was in love with Donny Osmond when I was about twelve, ha ha. Apart from that, I’ve never had a hero really. I’m not that sort of person.

Do you think it’s true that you should ‘write what you know’ and, if so, to what extent have your experiences influenced your writing?

Yes I do. I like to read about ordinary people, and that’s what I write. I’ve worked as a youth counsellor, in a homeless centre, and in the funeral profession, and I think this has helped me to write characters with real emotions and feelings. It’s no good trying to write crime, if you’ve never read it or experienced it. Having said that, we can easily learn how to write a different genre by reading as much of it as we can and seeing how writers for that particular genre do it.

What are you working on at the moment?

A time-slip story about a girl, Emily, who dies suddenly, and finds herself back in the thirties. It’s a huge shock, but she’s looked after by her great aunt Clarissa, who explains she’s experienced Sudden Death Transition. You’ll have to wait to find out what that is. On the whole it’s a fun read, but it does have an underlying sadness to it.

Do you ever think about writing in a different genre, if so, what would you choose?

Well, I’ve written a couple of children’s stories, but haven’t plucked up the courage to send them off yet. It’s something I’d like to explore though as I’m a big kid myself most of the time.

What’s the hardest type of scene for you to write?

Sex scenes. In fact I don’t do them. I’d much rather just suggest what’s going to happen, with something like, ‘Jacob, grabbed Clara by the hand and with a meaningful look, led her into the bedroom.’ Readers have imaginations, I’d rather leave it up to them!

Can you tell us a bit about your other writing?dreamstime_s_28682146

I actually started by writing articles and short stories, which I’ve sold to the women’s magazines. I still do, and have articles on the OapsChat website, short stories up with Alfiedog Fiction, and stories in several anthologies.

Do you ever get writer’s block and, if so, how do you deal with it?

Yes I do, far too often. I start a quilling project – I’m a quilling artist – and that usually helps clear my head.

If you could have three writing-related wishes, what would they be?

That my books were sold in bookshops, that I actually made enough money to pay the bills, and that I can continue coming up with enough ideas to write future books.

What piece of writing advice do wish you’d known when you started out?

That it isn’t as easy as you think, it’s a long hard slog, but, the sense of achievement when you’re finally published makes it all worthwhile. Thank you, Write Romantics, I enjoyed these questions xx
Thanks so much Tina for joining us on the blog and we wish you every success with The Love Shack, which you can buy here.

You can also find out more about Tina and her books at the links below: http://tinakburtons.blogspot.co.uk/

@TinaKBurton

Interview – Debbie Johnston – Brook Cottage Books

Today I’d like to welcome Debbie Johnston from Brook Cottage Books to the blog. Welcome Debbie!

debbie johnston

Could you start by telling us a bit about yourself and what you do?

Hi, firstly thanks for having me! In the bookish world I am known as JB Johnston, but my real name is Debbie Johnston. I work full time for a local health trust and as a book blogger and book tour co-ordinator in my spare time.

When did you start BCB and why?

I started Brook Cottage Books on 1st December 2012. I had a personal blog on which I posted up the odd book review. Once I started writing reviews I began to get lots of requests from authors. It was then that I decided to start a dedicated book blog and the rest is history!

BCB-HeaderWhat’s your favourite part about BCB?

Oh my goodness! I love all of it so much! I love being a part of the book world and meeting lots of lovely authors. I find that authors and book bloggers are amongst some of the nicest people in the world. The kindness, devotion to what they do and the support is wonderful. I love that BCB gives authors the chance to showcase their work. It gives me such a buzz.

What’s your favourite genre to read and review?

Before starting BCB and indeed reviewing in general, I was very closed in terms of only having one genre as a favourite. I would never have considered reading romances or paranormal books and would have stuck strictly to crime / thrillers or horror. But, now I can honestly say that I am more open minded and by being open minded about what I read I enjoy them all and try new things!

How do you choose which books to review?

When I first started reviewing I would have accepted every book that was offered to me which was totally wrong as my tbr list grew to epic proportions and I know there are authors out there who have been waiting a long time for a review. Apologies guys. So now, I let authors know that I cannot say when I will get round to reading their book so in exchange for their book I offer a guest post / interview or promo post on the blog. I want to give something back. Because I run book tours, I have to prioritise books on the tours. I have a reading schedule that I try to keep to and try to include non-tour books and books from my own bookcase.

What do you do if you read a book you’re supposed to review but you really don’t like it?

I usually either try to contact the author to let them know that the book just wasn’t for me and offer a guest post instead. Or, I try to offer constructive criticism in my review. I would never write anything horrible. Reviewers need to remember that a book is an author’s baby. Be gentle!

Is there a particularly memorable guest you’ve had on your blog?

Oh goodness I have had so many wonderful guests on the blog! I love promoting Indie authors especially but I have had a few well-known people interviewed on the blog – Fern Britton, Josephine Cox and Barbara Taylor Bradford

What happens when an author enrols to do a blog tour with BCB?

When an author emails me about a tour they are sent a tour info sheet and a questionnaire to complete. Once I have all the relevant information then the author just has to sit back and let me get on with it. I organise a tour banner, tour page and sign up tour hosts. Then during each day of the tour I share all the host’s posts across social media. An author’s book gets maximum coverage! There is actually a lot of work involved in organising tours.

And finally, what’s next for BCB  Website: 

Brook Cottage Books and the book world has become my life! I would love to give up my day job make book work my full time career. I have so many ideas floating around my head. It would be lovely if someone somewhere noticed my work and offered me a job in the book world! Hopefully Brook Cottage Books will continue to flourish and I have lots of authors who are return customers so I must be doing something right! Brook Cottages will continue to support Indie authors and offer a range of free services as well as paid ones.

Thanks for visiting the blog, Debbie, it was fantastic to hear all about Brook Cottage Books!

www.brookcottagebooks.blogspot.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/BrookCottagebks 

LinkedIn: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/brookcottages

Facebook: www.facebook.com/brookcottagebooks

Email: brookbooks@hotmai.co.uk

Helen J Rolfe 🙂

Wednesday Wondering – All About Genre

Hello and welcome to March’s Wednesday Wondering. Last month, I attended a one-day script writing workshop at a local theatre. We were given some prompt images pasted from the Internet and asked to develop our characters and plot from these images. I found myself selecting an elderly couple and developing a plot that stepped back in time to WWII. I was actually really proud of the plot I developed, but came away with the overriding feeling that it was a novel rather than a play, and that I wanted to develop it further.

bookshelves1This isn’t the first time I’ve outlined a plot that takes me back to WWII. I attended a creative writing workshop several years ago and developed a story of two friends who became nurses during the war who both fell in love with the same man. It arrived in my head as a fully-formed story and it’s begging to be written one day.

The problem is, it’s not what I normally write.

When I started writing, I’d have classed myself as a writer of romcoms. I write female-led romance stories with characters in their late twenties to early thirties. However, as the trilogy developed, I realised that my storylines were a bit deeper than that and, although there are some funny moments, they’re less comedy and more about character development. If I have to put a label on them, I’d probably say contemporary women’s romance.

They’re not history, though. They’re not set in WWII. So why do I keep going back to WWII and setting stories then? It’s an era I have some awareness of from history lessons in school and watching films or TV programmes set at that time but I wouldn’t have ever said I was particularly drawn to that era. Or am I? I’m in my early forties so wasn’t alive during the war, my parents were born in 1944 and 1945 so they don’t have any recall either, and my grandparents on both sides of the family are no longer with us so I’m not surrounded by insights into this time. Yet I can’t stop thinking about it.

Karen cocking2When I was younger, I devoured Catherine Cookson books. My mum is a huge fan so I borrowed them all off her. Maybe this is where the history interest spans from, although most of Catherine’s books were set much earlier than WWII so, again, I don’t know where the pull of that era comes from. All I know is that there is a pull. So, after I’ve written the trilogy and book four, maybe I’ll address it.

My WW this week is therefore all about genre. I asked the Write Romantics:

What genre do you typically write and why?

Have you every ‘dabbled’ in a different genre. What was it? Why? How was the experience?

Would you try writing in a different genre? What and why?

What genre(s) do you mainly read?
Have you tried reading outside genre?

For me personally, contemporary women’s romance is my favoured genre for reading, but I do dabble in history, thrillers, contemporary non-romance and also children’s books. I’ve toyed with writing a thriller and a YA book and may still do so. After the historic ones. Or perhaps number five of the romance ones …

Jessica xx

Helen R says…

I typically write a cross between women’s fiction and romantic fiction. Usually there is a romantic thread in my story but there are other themes too such as family and friendship so a few subplots running at the same time.

I’ve never ‘dabbled’ in a different genre and I’m not sure whether I ever will or not, but if I had to choose another genre it would be teen fiction. I loved Judy Blume books as I was growing up – I couldn’t get enough of them  – and I’d love to be talented enough to write for the same type of audience.

I’ve recently read a couple of books outside my genre, both historical fiction. I enjoyed both although they were definitely more heavy going than what I’m used to. It was refreshing to read something different though and you start to learn a bit about different techniques used in different genres.

Deirdre says…

I find it difficult to say what genre I write in, firstly because there are such widely differing opinions on genre definition, and secondly, I don’t set out to write in a particular genre. I get an idea and run with it, and it will be what it will be.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy first novel I labelled as contemporary women’s fiction for the purposes of submitting but when I self-published it, I felt that needed qualifying so it became rom-com, although I wasn’t sure there was enough humour for that. With my next, Remarkable Things, the first to find a publisher, I fought against pinning a label on it and it morphed into something slightly different each time I submitted. The closest I can get is contemporary women’s fiction with a romantic thread. My male reader enjoyed it, though, and said the ending brought a tear to his eye, so maybe it’s not exclusively for the women’s market, who knows?

When I set out to write Dirty Weekend, also to be published, I’d signed up to NaNoWriMo so had write much faster than I normally do. This led me to the fast-moving plot peppered with plenty of comedy. The best I can do with this one is general fiction; I can’t call it contemporary as it’s set in the 1960s and that is now classed as historical by some. It’s strong on romance (actually more sex than romance!) but I don’t feel it fits with the romantic fiction genre as it’s normally understood.

The book I’m writing now, The Promise of Roses, is easier to classify; I’d call it contemporary romance. It has a stronger romantic thread than my previous ones so although there’s a lot else going on besides, including themes of bereavement, guilt and entrapment, I feel more confident of the genre.

I don’t see my genre confusion as a problem. I just want to write good books that people will want to read and don’t rule out any particular types of books for the future. At the risk of sounding pretentious, I’d like one day to write something that could be classed as literary fiction. There is a slight passing nod to that in Remarkable Things – it has some of the tropes you’d find in lit-fic – but I’m not deluding myself that I could write a full-on lit-fic.

My reading, as you might expect from the meanderings above, is not tied down to particular genres either. I don’t tend to read crime or fantasy but otherwise I’m happy with romance (as long as it’s edgy and has more going besides), sagas, recent historicals, literary fiction and the odd thriller, like Gone Girl and Appletree Yard. At the moment I’m particularly drawn to male authors who write about love and relationships as you get a different perspective. Some of my favourites are William Nicholson, Danny Wallace, David Nicholls and a recent discovery, Douglas Kennedy.

Jo says…

In my writing so far, at least as far as my submissions to the New Writer’s Scheme went, I’ve been a bit of a genre hopper.  I suppose my natural style is contemporary women’s fiction, which is also what I usually read.  That said, there is always a romance, although I can’t write *pure* romance.  I tried once and failed miserably, so really admire those who can do that and do it really well, like our very own Rachael Thomas and others whose books I’ve enjoyed, like Liz Fielding.  My novella and the novel due out in June, are both women’s fiction with emotional themes and a romantic angle.  However, I have also written a YA fantasy, which is awaiting an edit, and I’ve got several ideas for younger children’s books.

I’ve been thinking recently about establishing myself as a writer and getting involved with a really recognisable brand as part of that, which might also help me stand out from the crowd in the competitive short story market.  If I want writing to be my career, I think it’s a route I need to take and I have seen other writers I really admire take that path – having made a name for themselves with an established brand. Lots of writers subsequently settle on one genre, but others also write under other pen names across a range of genres or sub-genres and different lengths of stories, which I suspect is the way to make a living from writing. I had an idea that I thought might work for an established series and sent off three chapters, hearing almost immediately, to my delight, that they wanted to see a full.  I’m now working very hard to get that polished and off to the publisher by next week.  If they like the rest of the story as much as the partial, I’ll also be able to see something I’ve written being sold in shops like WHSmiths, Sainsburys and Tescos.  If it comes off, I’ll be taking selfies everywhere I go! If not, I’ll keep plugging away, writing the stories I want to write, whichever genre or sub-genre they happen to cross into.

As for my reading, like my writing, I love emotional women’s fiction by authors such as Jo Jo Moyes and Julie Cohen, but I also read a lot of children’s fiction too – generally following my son’s latest obsession.  We worked our way through all the Dick King Smith books and we’re now on to Michael Morpurgo.  One genre I’m not madly keen on in adult fiction is pre-war historical, although I love war-time novels like Lena Kennedy’s books and post-war stories like Jennifer Worth’s trilogy of memoirs, which inspired Call the Midwife.  I don’t think I’d ever attempt to write a historical novel though  – far too much research required to get it right!

Sharon says…

m878-5l52zcfFb_a7bo5pqwInitially, I thought I wrote romantic comedy, but then my books seemed to have some deeper issues in them, too, and they weren’t really as laugh-out-loud as true romantic comedy should be. There are definitely some very funny moments in them, if I say so myself, but I would hesitate to market them as romcoms. I think I write contemporary women’s fiction with romance and a good sprinkling of humour! Try categorizing that on Amazon!

I’ve never written in another genre as an adult, though as a child and teenager I used to write pony books aimed at my own age group at the time. They were strictly for my eyes only, thank goodness. I still love to read pony books, though. I have a huge collection of them, although I had a horrible “accident” and sent the wrong boxes to a charity shop a couple of years ago and lost loads of my favourite books during a house move.

the chaliceI mainly read the genre I write in, which is romantic fiction with humour. However, I also read the occasional saga — especially the ones written by Catherine Cookson and Valerie Wood — and I often still read children’s and YA books. I still love Enid Blyton and Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series. I have quite a few historical novels on my bookshelves which I really want to read, and I enjoyed Dan Brown’s books, too. I studied the nineteenth century novel for a course some years ago and I really enjoyed the classics such as Middlemarch, Far From the Madding Crowd, Northanger Abbey and, my favourite book, Jane Eyre. I love Daphne Du Maurier’s books and I’ve read all the Miss Marple books by Agatha Christie. I love the naughtiness and fun of writers like Jilly Cooper and Fiona Walker, and I am a huge fan of supernatural crime stories. Our own Helen Phifer is very good at writing those! I love Phil Rickman’s books. They’re steeped in mystery, fairly bloody, often have myth and legend interwoven throughout, a strong sense of place, great characters, tight plots, and are terribly scary!

download (3)I love writing the kind of books that I write now, but I do have an idea for a saga, based on my own family history. I don’t know if I’ll ever get round to writing it, though. I would love to have a go at writing romantic suspense with a supernatural twist. I think it would take so much careful plotting and a lot of time and research. Maybe one day I’ll do it, though. I’d never say never!

Helen P says…

bookcaketopperI love to write crime/horror novels because I love to read them myself and I can’t find enough of them to satisfy the ghoul in me.

Yes I had to write a romantic story for the fabulous Write Romantics anthology Winter Tales and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I find it so easy to murder and scare people so being nice was a whole new experience 😉

I love to write. In fact I think I live to write so I’d try anything and any genre although I have no idea if I’d be any good at it. I read horror, crime and ghost stories. I have read a few books outside of my genre, mainly by my fellow Write Romantics. I’ve just finished Helen Rolfe’s The Friendship Tree and loved it.

Jackie says…

I can’t imagine writing a novel that doesn’t revolve around a romance, I just wouldn’t know how to fill all of that white space. I have written short stories that don’t have romance at its core but even then, I think there is a relationship of some sort at the heart of the story. However I have dabbled in different strands of the romantic genre and become clearer over time about what I enjoy the most. I started off writing stories that were very much chic-lit: vast quantities of booze being drunk with shopping and sex and bitchy put-downs (the characters were doing that, not me – much!) But as I’ve mellowed and no longer mix with the type of people who fuelled that particular fire, I don’t feel it’s ‘me’ anymore and consequently my writing has become less frenetic and more deliberate and thoughtful. I am overall relieved that I never tried too hard to get them published as I know I wouldn’t be able to write them today.

I write in a very haphazard way which probably wouldn’t suit many writers, but I find I become bored quite quickly when writing a particular story, so if I swap over to another one, while the last one ‘stews’ for a while, I come back to it with fresh eyes. I currently have five novels in various stages of unreadiness, but two of them are all but finished.

I will read most types of books apart from erotica (read one once to see if I could write it – that’ll be a ’no’ then!) but find I have less patience than I used to have if a story doesn’t grab me immediately. A feel good romance will always win me over. I do love a happy ever after!

Rachael says…

I’ve always loved reading Mills and Boon. As a teenager I would often be in the library getting my latest fix. When I decided to write, aiming at Mills and Boon seemed a natural progression from having spent many years reading them.

Anthology coverBefore I completed my first book, I had written short stories, even submitted them to magazines, but to no avail. I still enjoy writing short stories now, especially Meet Me at Midnight which featured in Winter Tales, our charity anthology.

Another genre I always thought I’d love to write for was for children, particularly boys about eight years of age. I read to both of my daughter and son as they grew up and felt there was definitely a gap in the market for boys of that age. There are of course, only so many hours in the day, but you never know!

As for reading, not only do I still enjoy a good love story, but I am fascinated by history and enjoy a good historical read. I have also been known to scare myself with a good horror story too!

Alys says…

I’ll read pretty much anything with print on it except for horror.  That’s about the only genre I can’t get to grips with.  But I regularly read fantasy, romance, crime, steampunk and very occasionally these days, something more literary too.

As to what I write, well, I call it urban fantasy with a spot of romance but you could just as well describe it as supernatural romantic suspense.  It’s starting to become clear that the fact that it doesn’t fit neatly into one genre is a bit of an issue when submitting to publishers. I’ve had rejections that say ‘there’s too much romance in it’ and others which imply that the fantasy bits are getting in the way of the love story. But even if I’d known that when I started it wouldn’t have stopped me (or not for very long anyway).  It’s the book that I wanted to write. And if they’re struggling with this one then just wait until I get round to writing my steampunkesque murder mysteries!

What about you? If you’re a reader, what genres do you read and, if you cross-genre read, tell us more about this. If you’re a writer, do you write in other genres or are you tempted to do so ?

Happy Wednesday 🙂

Jessica xx

Saturday Spotlight: Lynda Renham

303465_307582032652841_420159074_n

Today on the blog, we’re delighted to welcome Lynda Renham, author of romantic comedies with the emphasis on comedy, including Pink Wellies and Flat Caps, The Dog’s Bollocks, and Coconuts and Wonderbras.  Welcome, Lynda.

I’m thrilled to be featured on The Write Romantics blog. Thanks so much for inviting me.

Your latest book is called Fudge Berries and Frogs’ Knickers. You come up with some great and unforgettable titles, but does the title come first? Or is it characters, or plot?51OsJLaPmJL._AA160_

Ooh, there’s a question. My writing process is quite odd actually. I can be in the car, in bed, or sitting in the doctor’s surgery, when ideas come to me. So often the characters come first. It may be someone I meet or hear about and then the plot kind of unravels in my head. My husband often chips in with ideas and then I’m off. The title is always the last thing to come to me. Quite often right after the book is finished.

Do you ever find it hard to write such fast-paced, laugh-out-loud books, particularly when you’re struggling with real-life problems?

blog picAbsolutely, I struggle a lot during personal difficult times. Although I do feel that often my best work is written when under stress. I do make myself work no matter what though and wrote ‘Pink Wellies and Flat Caps’ when my house was in bits around me and a huge extension was being built. That book was my biggest seller.

 

 

You excel at romantic comedy, but do you think you’ll ever write in another genre?

I have. I wrote ‘The Diary of Rector Brynes’ which is a serious contemporary novel. I have written another called ‘The Cello’ which is unpublished. It is also a serious novel. I would love to write more but I’m not so sure they would sell.

Comedy is very difficult to write, but you make it seem effortless! Do you use beta readers to test their reactions?

Yes, I have two beta readers. I love them to bits for their honesty and constructive criticism.

Is there any subject matter you’d shy away from?

I don’t like violence, so that would not feature in my books. I’m very tongue in cheek about sex in my novels and make it humorous. But I never go over the top with the sex. I would love to write erotica one day. That is a genre I would love to try.

You seem to have a very loyal following on social media. Do you get a lot of feedback from readers?

Yes, I get a lot of feedback from my readers and I love it. I adore them. They are very loyal and lovely to boot. I answer every message I get and am in touch with a lot of my readers.

With so many novels on the market, it’s difficult to make new releases stand out in the crowd. What approach do you use in marketing your books?

I use Facebook, Twitter and blogging. That’s about all. I have done the odd book blog tour but not often. I feel I could use Goodreads more. I send newsletters to my readers and email them when a new novel is out but that’s about it really.

You’re quite a prolific writer. Do you write full-time, or have you got another job as well?

I write full time and love it.

What would you say has been the best thing that’s happened in your writing career so far?

Having several top writers review the books and having Fay Weldon, one of my all-time favourite authors like my author page. That made my day. And, of course, seeing my books hit the top 20 humour chart when they are released.

Finally, if you could have one writing-related wish, what would it be?

It would have to be to see ‘The Dog’s Bollocks’ made into a film.51-Pi1yAbuL._AA160_

I can just imagine what that would be like, having read The Dog’s Bollocks and laughed out loud throughout!

 

 

Thank you very much for joining us on the blog today, Lynda.

Lynda’s latest release, Fudge Berries and Frogs’ Knickers, is available now and can be bought here.

You can find out more about Lynda on her blog here.

Saturday Spotlight: Diane Saxon talks to us about bringing the dream alive – and the cowboys in her head…

DSC_0066 author pic

Today we’re delighted to have as our guest Diane Saxon, author of spicy contemporary romance novels including the best-selling Loving Lydia, published by Liquid Silver Books.

Diane lives in an enviably beautiful part of the Shropshire countryside, not far from last summer’s RNA conference venue, Harper Adams University, as I discovered when I happened to sit next to her in one of the conference workshops.  Diane’s books sizzle with devastatingly attractive heroes but they wouldn’t have come to life had not her own real-life hero, her husband whom she describes as tall, dark and handsome, insisted she give up the demanding day-job and follow her dream of becoming a writer.

I asked The Write Romantics what questions they’d like to put to Diane and, surprise, surprise, the spicy side of things was uppermost in their minds!  Over to you, Diane.

Hi, thank you so much for asking me to join you here today. It was an absolute pleasure to read the questions from The Write Romantics and I had fun answering them.

When did you first have that dream of becoming a writer, and what was the demanding career you gave up in order to fulfil it?

I’m not sure I understand myself when I had the “dream”. I can only say it came alive the day I put pen to paper and made it happen. I’m not one of those people who can say I’ve written all of my life. I haven’t. But I have read all of my life, and I have fantasized and when we moved house last year, I found a small scene I had in my drawer from when I had my eldest daughter. Twenty-two years it took me to turn that small amount of scribbling into a book – Flynn’s Kiss, published in April 2014.

The demanding career – an Office and H.R. Manager. Two hours travel a day, plus phone calls every evening and with the ability to work from a home computer, submitting PAYE etc, I was frequently up until after midnight, or on-line before six in the morning.

As relatively new writers, The Write Romantics are well used to clawing their way through the submissions process and we’re always intrigued to know how others achieved their ‘breakthrough’ and what happened when they got ‘the call’.  How was it for you?

lovinglydia_(5)Unbelievable. Really.  I made several submissions of Loving Lydia and had two American publishers interested within three weeks.  I was on my own when I received the news and I still hippy chick danced around my house. The first stage was a request for an R&R and I can confess, I worked my socks off to make that manuscript right. Next came the contract and the boogie dance became even more frantic. I cannot describe the thrill of getting that first contract, but seeing the front cover of the book made it a reality. Loving Lydia’s front cover was exactly what I imagined.

I would advise any new writer to do their research. This is not a standard CV you are sending out to employers to see if their criteria matches yours. It is far, far more complex and if there is one thing I can lay claim to, it is the ability to put my “business head” on.  When you send in your submission, check what THEY are asking you for. This could make the difference between an automatic rejection and a contract.  Every single submission I have made has been different. Read and re-read their requirements. I cannot emphasise it enough.

Why did you choose your particular genre and what appeals to you about it?

Romance has always appealed, from the moment my sister, Margaret, read The Princess Bride to me when I was ten. Even then, the slight naughty thrill and humour struck a chord and perpetuated when I realised those slim books my mother took from the library each week contained stories to melt a young heart. I can’t tell you every teenager does this. In my class at school nobody seemed to know the whispered words of Mills & Boon. It was my secret thrill, my escape. By the age of fourteen, I’d moved on to Wilbur Smith – great volumes. I didn’t read his books, I lived them.  An avid reader, I took advice and books from Margaret, read them with as much enthusiasm as she did and fell into the romance. As we matured, so did our choice in material. When we discovered Nora Roberts, we opened a whole new world of American authors, where romance, like real life could be naughty.

Did the genre in any way influence your decision to sign with a US publisher?

To be honest, not really. Like any author looking for a publisher I did my research. I sent my manuscript to the publishers I believed would be best for the book I had written. My Atlantic Divide Series is based on one American protagonist and one English.  When Liquid Silver signed me, I re-wrote the entire story in US English.

Your books so far have been published within an impressively short time-scale.  How many hours do you spend writing in a day, and do you have set times when you like to write?

I write every day. My best time is between 7.00 am and 1.00pm. Revisions and editing take place in the evening, but my artistic flow seems stronger in the morning. Thinking time, developing a scene, creating dialogue comes when I walk my Dalmatian, Skye, for hours at a time. I always take a notebook and have been known to record scenes, but I find this less natural than writing it down.

On your blog you say you write ‘contemporary romance, stories with humour, and quite often a cowboy or two’.  OK, so, why cowboys?

Oh, now this is where I start to sound a little mad, but authors out there will understand. Loving Lydia is the first in my Atlantic Divide Series. When I started to write, I had the idea that a young woman with a horrific background would join her sister in America and her life would change. I had no pre-conceived ideas, but when she landed at the airport, a cowboy was waiting.  That cowboy, gorgeous, gentle, understanding Sam, dictated the rest of the book to me and when I write, I have a cowboy in my head.

Do you enjoy writing your series books more than singles titles, and is it something you plan to continue in the future?

Absolutely, my cowboys and I won’t be parted. I’m currently writing the next in my Disarmed and Dangerous Series, where cowboys are always present, and even now, I know where the next in that series is coming from.  As for my single titles, I love them just as much. But where they are a flash of imagination, content to end, my Series are a dream intent on visiting me every night and expanding to the horizon, and beyond.

Do you have a tried and trusted approach to writing a brand new novel?  Do you invent the characters before the plot, or vice versa, and do you have to know the ending before you begin?

I am what’s classed as a panster. In other words, I fly by the seat of my pants. Or so I thought, until recently when I realised I do have a system. I may not sit and plot and scrawl notes, but my stories are character driven. I meet my main character on one of my long walks and we get to know each other very well before I put pen to paper. I know the start of my story, I know my character, and I know the end. What happens in between, is more often than not a surprise.

Are there any other genres you’d like to try in the future?

Oh my goodness, where to start? First of all, I have a new short story, part of an anthology due which is now out on pre-release (see below). I’ve never been one to stick to a single reading genre – read twelve historical and I want to see a thriller, a paranormal, a comedy. So why should I keep to one sub-genre for writing? Romance is romance.

My new release – For Heaven’s Cakes – is a humorous paranormal with a shape-shifting wolf.  Following on from this, I have a full paranormal romance novel with a shape-shifting dragon and a screaming banshee that I’ve just finished. And in January, my time-travelling sci-fi/dystopian short story Short Circuit Time is due for release by Hartwood Publishing.  I’ve also just finished an historical romance, more about that another day.  And between you and me, I started writing a thriller long before Loving Lydia was conceived. It’s far longer than the others, and much darker. This is my goal for 2015. To finish the thriller.          (Read more about Diane’s latest books below).

And finally, can you give us any advice on how to write good sex scenes?  (Well, we had to ask!)

Yes. But it’s not sex. It’s love. I write romance, first and foremost, with happily ever after endings and sex is an integral part of that relationship. I imagine a camera rolling, a beautiful film playing out for our hearts to become involved in, our imaginations to fill in the gaps.  Even when my main characters have not declared any love interest in each other, if they have sex, they are already emotionally involved. The reader will know that, even if the character doesn’t yet.  Don’t be afraid. Grab a glass of wine and a bar of chocolate. (Not at 7.00 am obviously) Close your eyes and let your own imagination roll. Write what comes into your head and flows through your fingers. If you don’t like it later, you can delete the scene, but if you restrict that imagination, allow the thoughts of “what will people think?” and “is this sentence construction correct?” interfere, then it will show in your writing and your scene will feel contrived.  Just as I write humour in my stories, I don’t exclude it in my love scenes. If something wants to be funny, let it.

***

You can find out more about Diane at http://dianesaxon.com and follow her on Facebook and Twitter here:  www.facebook.com/authordianesaxon   @Diane_Saxon

And if you’d like the chance to win one of Diane’s books, see the end of this post!

PYebook_flat

Paranormally Yours, is available on pre-release right now.  Find it here:

Amazon UK:   http://www.amazon.co.uk/Paranormally-Yours-Anita-Cox-ebook/dp/B00Q5HSMFC/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1417164452&sr=8-2&keywords=Paranormally+Yours

Amazon.com:  http://www.amazon.com/Paranormally-Yours-Anita-Cox-ebook/dp/B00Q5HSMFC/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1417164513&sr=8-2&keywords=Paranormally+Yours

All Romance: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-paranormallyyours-1686491-340.html

For Heaven’s Cakes by Diane Saxon

Twelve years of living in Ireland smoothed Beau’s rough edges, and hard work as a construction worker made him a wealthy man. The call of his pack is stronger than he can resist though, and he isn’t averse to returning to show his small home town in America what he’s made of himself.

What he doesn’t anticipate is meeting the local pharmacist’s daughter – in his wolf form. By day, he renovates the pharmacy, and tries to cajole the lush assistant into having dinner with him. By night he watches Catherine bake her fantastic creations and blossom through her art.

Sleeping on her bed each night in his wolf form isn’t exactly ideal, but how does he tell her the wolf she’s come to love, is the man she lusts over?

Excerpt:

Beau dipped his head…

Just as he thought. She tasted of warm spices and honeyed wine. He moved his lips against her full, soft ones, and closed his eyes in ecstasy. Yes. He’d known she’d taste that way. He deepened the kiss, and pulled her lush body in closer so he could feel every rounded curve pressed against him.

He cupped the back of her head in his hand and twined his fingers through her silken hair. He tilted his head to get a better angle, slipped his tongue inside her mouth, and rejoiced at the faint mewl she emitted. The woman was full of little sounds. He squeezed her, and delighted as the mewl turned to a groan.

He smoothed his hand down her back, took a hold of one cheek of the fine ass he’d admired, and molded it to bring her hips flush against his.

Coming Soon…  Short Circuit Time

In the year 2086, Zaphira is alone, the last survivor of biological warfare on Earth. Before he died, her scientist father promised other survivors would come. Nobody has. So when a horribly mangled android shows up claiming to be her father’s assistant, Aiden, who has been sent through time to rescue her, she’s both frightened and astounded.  The last time she’d seen Aiden, she’d been sixteen, head-over-heels in love with him and had literally thrown herself at him, leaving her devastated by his rejection and him running for the hills. The following day, she’d been told of his death.  Eight years later he’s miraculously back, this time asking for her help. Without it, he won’t survive. But can she really put a dead man back together with tweezers?

***

Thank you, Diane, for being our guest today.  It’s been fun and we wish you continued success with your books.

Deirdre

But before we go, today’s Saturday Spotlight comes with an exciting bonus and I believe it’s a first for us on the blog!  I’ll leave Diane to tell us all about it:

First, I’d like to thank Write Romantics for inviting me along. I’ve had a blast answering these questions. Then I want to thank you, the reader, for taking the time to drop in and visit.

Leave a comment telling me what your favourite sub-genre is with your contact details (email address) and I will send one lucky winner an e-copy of either my anthology or any one of my backlist.

(To leave a comment, click on Comments at the end of the tags below)

Steve Dunn… a life of fantasy, mystery and close encounters of the zombie kind

Beacon Church Elder PortraitsOur guest on the blog today is Steve Dunn, author of three novels and the forthcoming ‘true’ story behind the Goldilocks fairy-tale, which will be available to download via Amazon soon. Steve is married to Jennie and they have a ten-year old daughter. He has worked for the ambulance service for over twenty years, and has been part-time paramedic and part-time church pastor for the past four, but from this November will be leading the church in a fulltime role. He is also a film lover and fig-roll connoisseur.

Welcome to the Blog, Steve, we’d love to start by asking you a little bit about your writing journey so far?

I’ve always enjoyed stories of all kinds (be they novels, comics or films) from a young age and so writing my own came naturally very quickly. I’m fascinated by the thought of other worlds or versions of our own, and the opportunity to live others’ lives within them, and so to create them myself is a wonderful thing. One English teacher in particular, Mr.Swan, encouraged me in creative writing more than most, and since then I’ve never been able to resist. I began writing a short story here and there, then came a novella, and subsequently a first novel I wrote in the 1990s which will remain forever hidden from public perusal but at least I’d written one! Once I’d finished a complete manuscript I’d somehow proved to myself it was possible whilst juggling family and jobs, and so other ideas bloomed into full-sized projects which I developed over the years.

What are the best and worst things about being a writer and what do your family and friends think about you having published three novels?

The fact that my brain won’t turn off – it’s both a blessing and a curse! Be it people-watching (“What’s his job? Her secret? Where did they grow up? Why do they look like that?”), appreciating life’s synchronicities and even enjoying “what-ifs”, which are the things that inevitably spin off into project ideas for me. My wife loves where my brain goes at times, and we have a lot of laughter and banter in the house, but it does also mean she’d like my attention a little more when I’m currently consumed by 999AD or Homefront Britain, for example… My family are immensely proud and I’m so grateful for their and my friends’ support.

You write across a range of genres, but do you have a favourite – either to write or to read?

As far as genres are concerned, I’m usually drawn most to the likes of fantasy or mysteries more than others, but then I’ll enjoy anything as long as it’s well written. Rather than specific chunks of the market, I’m more drawn to anything that’s different – I love characters and settings with quirks, the weird and the wonderful, the heightened atmospheres and realities than can elevate you to somewhere so decisively different to your own world. So I love to read from Bram Stoker to David Mitchell, from Iain Banks to Yann Martel – it’s when there’s something that sets them apart from others, be it a unique voice or vision, that my interest piques. And I trust that overflows into my own work.

What inspires you most in your writing and what gave you the idea for Viking Resurrection? VR

As I’ve mentioned, it tends to be a “what-if” that spirals into something eventually resembling a novel. The idea snowballs and evolves, and eventually becomes nothing like the original thought in the first place! Viking Resurrection was inspired a long time back from when Pirates Of The Caribbean first came out, for example. I wondered about a young girl who discovered she was heir to a line of pirate royals, and as the idea blossomed, I transferred it to Anglo-Saxon times and young Amy became someone who no longer discovered a long-lost inheritance, but instead something far grander and purer – the opportunity to change the world for the better and still remain somebody just like the rest of us.

We happen to know that you’re a huge film buff! Do you think this influences your writing style and would you ever try your hand at screenwriting?

I guess my writing is often fairly grand in terms of visuals and I enjoy using words to paint pictures. That must surely be influenced by the films I watch, and the crossover between words and images is a wondrous thing. Viking Resurrection is a fairly obvious one in terms of epic action and mystical beasts, but when it comes to School Of Thought some of the scenarios are somewhat left-field and abstract, while Raine Fall is very much a noir tale and so bears many tropes like a shadowy underworld, a femme fatale, sexual tension and romance. That one’s a juicy tale for both the boys and the girls! I have a couple of ideas for screenplays, and may even develop Viking Resurrection as such, so watch this space…

What are the best and worst things about being selfr-published? Would you ever consider a traditional publishing deal?

For both School Of Thought and Raine Fall I tried many, many different agents and each time received the letter explaining they didn’t even have the time to look at my submission, quoting the vast statistics of how many they receive each year versus how many they can take on. It’s hugely disappointing but then you realise quite what you’re up against in terms of “white noise”. So I published both of those on Kindle and then later on Kobo, mostly because I felt I had something others would enjoy, and it would be a shame if the books just sat in a dusty hard drive. I only expected to sell half a dozen to friends. Next thing I know, I’d sold triple figures across both titles over a few months, one week outselling Michael Crichton and James Herbert, and four-figure sums downloaded on promotional weekends. Still nothing to live off, but quite special for a guy whose only fan until then was his wife. If it had stayed that way, she’s my ideal reader so that’s brilliant, but this is now icing on the cake. So for Viking Resurrection, I naturally went straight for it and am now planning promotional events to help boost it once some more initial reviews have appeared on Amazon to validate people spending their well-earned money on it a little more. I’d still consider a traditional deal, who knows what the future may hold…

How do you handle the marketing, cover design, editing, typesetting and proof-reading aspects of being SP’ed and would you advise other aspiring authors to pay for professional services in relation to this?

Marketing is very much a gradual build of my platform via social media and making contacts. It seems for self-publishing (if not all publishing for Raine Fallmost of us) it’s about playing the long game – like a long-distance runner. One step at a time, but don’t stop. The more titles I can get out there – whilst continuing to be tough on myself for quality – then I trust the more it might all snowball.

With regards to covers, I do it all myself. I don’t have much in the line of spare capital so rely on my art college days to develop the images in-house. The cover for Raine Fall is actually personal family memorabilia – all those photos and papers you see are my grandparents’ from WW2, which not only authenticates the image but is also somewhat of a personal homage, with the book itself being dedicated to my Grandpa. As for editing etc, again I do it myself at the moment until royalties (hopefully) release spare funds for such services in future. I’ve always been a bit of a grammar pedant, and rely on certain folk who will read my books prior to publishing with an objective eye. It’s always nice to get positive feedback, but I’d much rather hear where a book can improve than just have my ears tickled. So certainly, professional services will be investigated in the future as things progress. I’d certainly recommend professional help with regard to proofreading if you don’t have a keen enough eye for it, and of course for the cover designs if it’s something you’re not strong at. When it comes to chart listings and website surfing, people do still judge a book by its cover in that immediate fraction of a second…

Who is your writing hero/heroine and do you have an all-time favourite novel?

I think David Mitchell is a master of language. Cloud Atlas took my breath away. Each of those stories not only has a different thread, but is also distinguishable by individual use of prose too. Brilliant stuff. As for my all-time favourite, I keep returning over the years to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It’s such a wonderful blend of mystery, romance, horror, narrative devices, and the characters alone are a delight.

What are you working on at the moment and what are your writing aspirations for the next few years?

I’m currently writing a short story/novella (the next few weeks will decide!) called “Gold a’Locks And The Three Weres” – detailing the ‘true’ events that inspired Goldilocks – ready for release at Christmas. After that it’s straight into another short called “Suffragette Sensei”, which will be the first in a series. She’s going to be a fun heroine to keep returning to. Following those, there are two novels brewing: “night/SHIFT”, based on my twenty years as a paramedic but with added zombies (although I have met one or two*), and then an untitled sci-fi which I’m very much looking forward to writing in a couple of years. I’m just keen to continue building a fan-base outside of my own personal circles, which is already happening now, and seeing where it takes me. If I sold no books at all, I’d still be writing. I love words! (*No, really. Ask me if we ever meet.)

Who is your favourite character from your books and was (s)he based on anyone in particular?

My favourite is probably Amelia from Raine Fall. She strides into Timothy Raine’s life and blows him away. She’s magnetic, carries the qualities we see in sirens of yesteryear, even resembling one or two, and Timothy can’t get her out of his head. Where their story together leads is for you to find out, but I’m looking forward to meeting her again in a sequel one day. I’m quite entranced by her myself. Don’t tell my wife. If your daughter told you she wanted to be a writer, what would you say? I’d be delighted. She already has a propensity for coming up with wonderful ”what-ifs” (I wonder why that is?!) and I love those conversations. She’s got great insight for subtext in stories, both written and filmed, and has already penned some little tales that demonstrate her own voice. We’ll see!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given as a writer and would you add anything further for aspiring writers reading this interview? SoT

The best I’ve come across recently is from Chuck Palahniuk on avoiding ‘thought’ words (“He felt/believed/knew…”): instead, aim to provide the evidence for your readers to feel or think the same. I’ll let him explain at length – it’s widely available on the wonderful interweb – and it’s helped my writing no end. Stephen King’s “On Writing” is a fantastic resource too. Besides that, I’d simply add, “KEEP WRITING”. There’s too many people who talk about writing, what their ideas are and even what their book’s called, and not actually doing it! Write, write, write… In that process, you learn and you grow.

Is there anything else you want to tell us or any other advice you can share? Read lots, and read widely!

Watch what other published authors do and learn from them. And train yourself for the long distance run. Most “overnight sensations”, in writing and music alike, have actually been plugging away at it for years. In the meantime, enjoy the journey.

Thanks for joining us on the blog, Steve, and giving us such an interesting insight into your writing world. I’ll definitely be asking you about those Zombie encounters next time we meet!

Find out more about Steve and his books at the links below:

All Steve’s books are available on Amazon and Kobo.

facebook.com/SteveDunnAuthor

twitter.com/SteveDunnAuthor

Take a seat in Karen’s Reading Corner

karencocking faceOur guest on the blog today is Karen, from ‘My Reading Corner’. Karen loved reading from a very young age and over the years this passion has grown, now her idea of bliss is to curl up in a comfy chair with a good book.  Karen runs her book review blog alongside working full-time as a legal secretary and uses some of the commute from Essex to London to read up-to two books a week. In the picture below you can see Karen’s heaving ‘bookwall’, which she keeps in her spare room, but she admits she has overflowing bookcases elsewhere in the house too! So we’re really glad that Karen has been able to find some time to be our guest today and here she tells us all why books and blogging about them are so important to her.

Why is that you love reading so much
?

I’ve always loved reading, and can remember from a very early age reading the Ladybird books and then progressing to Enid Blyton and then as a teenager turning to Agatha Christie. Other favourite authors of the time were Jeffrey Archer, Rosamund Pilcher and Maeve Binchy. I love to escape into a book and to use my imagination which is why the film adaptations of books rarely work for me as it spoils the image I have in my head. Apart from the occasional biography, I rarely read non-fiction.

What made you decide to turn that passion into a regular book-review blog?

I’ve been adding short reviews to various online book sites for a number of years and although sites like Goodreads are very useful for keeping track of books that I own, the cover pictures change (I like to have a record of the correct book cover too) and there’s no control over the site content. I decided to start my own book blog so that I could keep my reviews in one place and keep my own note of which edition I had read. I also wanted to share books that I had enjoyed and if my review helps someone to choose their next read, then that’s wonderful.

What are the best and worst things about blogging?

It’s always a pleasure to be asked to review a book by a new author and finding a little gem that otherwise might have passed me by – and to be ableKaren cocking2 to tell others about it. Some of my most enjoyable reads this year have been found this way and there are some indie authors that are now on my favourites list. Another is being given the opportunity to read books before they are published. I feel privileged that publishers allow me to access ARCs of their ebooks from sites such as Netgalley and of course it’s always exciting to receive paper books in the post – whenever I receive a book shaped package, I feel like a kid at Christmas!

One of the worst things is feeling under pressure to read and review quickly. I have a huge library of my own of both paper and Kindle books which I am longing to read but struggle to get to because much of my free time is spent trying to keep up with review books. I need to find that balance of being able to read both my own and review books.

What is your favourite genre?

I don’t have a favourite genre. My first love was crime fiction but over the years my tastes have widened. I enjoy reading women’s contemporary fiction just as much as crime and suspense.   I also enjoy reading YA books and some historical fiction, especially dual time novels. The one genre that I am really picky about is ‘chick-lit’ and I tend to stick to the same trusted authors or authors that have been recommended by book friends.

Has there been a book that you’ve been put off reading, perhaps by the cover or blurb, and then have finally read and really loved?

No, although there have been many books which I haven’t enjoyed despite the hype surrounding them. One that immediately comes to mind is The Time Travellers Wife. So many people loved this but I disliked it so much I couldn’t finish it.

Where’s your favourite place to read?

I have to be comfortable. I have a reclining armchair in the corner of my lounge (this is why my blog was named ‘My Reading Corner’) which is my favourite place to read, although sitting on the bed propped up with pillows comes a close second!

Have you ever considered being a writer?

Only in my dreams! The reality is that I know my limitations and I would not be good enough. I greatly admire people who can turn their hand to writing but it’s not something that I would consider doing.

How do you promote your blog?

Mainly on Twitter and Facebook. A few months ago I set up a Facebook page for my blog where I post reviews, share competitions and all things bookish. https://www.facebook.com/myreadingcornerblog.

Karen cocking1How many requests for reviews do you get in typical week/month and what’s your criteria for deciding which to review?

It varies, some weeks I can get several – both from authors and publishers. I suppose on average I get about 2 – 3 requests a week.   I always look at the book description to see whether it’s something I would enjoy reading and if it appeals then I say yes. Otherwise I politely decline. It also depends on how I’m asked. If a request is polite and unassuming then I am more inclined to say yes. If I receive an obviously ‘copied & paste’ email request with the book attached on the presumption that I will want to read it then that is an immediate turn-off. My blog has a review policy listing the genres that I read and it is often quite clear that many authors/promoters haven’t even bothered to read it before requesting a review.

Do you give bad reviews or only review books you’ve liked?

I will only review on my blog books that achieve a minimum rating of 3 out of 5 stars – if I really don’t like a book then I won’t include it on the blog. I want my reviews to be an honest opinion but I don’t want to be unkind. It’s extremely rare for me to rate a book as 1* (- it has to be REALLY poor) however very occasionally a book achieves a review rating of 2* and this would only appear on sites such as Amazon and Goodreads.   I don’t review every single book I read – if I’m reading one of my own books then sometimes it’s nice to just read for pleasure and not feel obliged to always post a review.

Have you got a top three of your all-time favourite books?

My favourite books change all the time. There are however two that have remained firm favourites over the years – To Kill a Mockingbird and Rebecca.

What sort of interaction do you have with fellow reviewers, authors and readers?

I think Twitter is wonderful for interaction with fellow book lovers and authors – what did we do without it! I love to see authors interacting with readers and it’s still a thrill when an author retweets one of my reviews or replies to a tweet. The downside of sites like Twitter and reading other book blogs is seeing all the new book recommendations which add to my ever increasing wishlist and ‘To be Read’ pile.

Is there anything else you would like to tell us?

Just to say thank you for inviting me onto your blog. Having sent out my own questions for authors to answer, I can now see that it’s quite different being on the other side!

Thanks again for visiting us on the blog, Karen, we’ve loved having you stop by and it’s been great to hear what life is like as a book reviewer. If you want to find out more about Karen and her reviews at ‘My Reading Corner’ please following the links below:

https://www.facebook.com/myreadingcornerblog

http://myreading-corner.blogspot.co.uk/

Twitter @karendennise

Serious About Series, a guest post from Zanna Mackenzie

ZannaM scale

Our guest today is the wonderful Zanna Mackenzie who has been a good friend to the blog since we started out over a year ago and is one of the contributors to our charity anthology. Zanna’s current release ‘If You Only Knew’ is available from Crooked Cat here. In her guest post, Zanna has stopped by to tell us all about a new found love of her own…


Series – Don’t you just love them?

I’m not talking TV series here (though I love many of those too!) – no, I’m talking about novels which come in series.

Other than Sophie Kinsella’s widely loved Shopaholic series and Kate Johnson’s wonderful Sophie Green Mysteries I hadn’t had much experience of book series until a few months ago, when I finally purchased a basic Kindle.

I wasn’t sure if I would take to the ereader or the concept of ebooks but so many great new releases seemed to be ebook only?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? versions that I thought I’d reached the point of having to give an ereader a try. At the time I was convinced I’d just use it for those ‘want to read a book but it’s only available as an ebook’ times and still get my usual paperback fix for everything else.

But two unexpected things happened….

First, I took to my Kindle straight away and it became my ‘must have’ accessory, always by my side.

Secondly, I discovered a whole new and exciting world of books and found my reading habits changed completely. Pre ereader I was a huge chicklit fan. After I discovered ebooks I found myself also drawn to reading a few new genres I’d only briefly dipped a toe into before. The genres…? Romantic suspense and cozy mystery romance.

I became a big fan of books where there was a crime or mystery to solve alongside a burgeoning romance between the male and female lead characters. I discovered books with characters who were female amateur sleuths, and books with spies, FBI and CIA agents. I tried lots of new authors; enjoyed books set in exciting adventurous locations such as Alaska and Canada and fell in love with a whole new and very different reading experience.

dreamstimefree_84378What delighted me even more was that many of these books were part of a series! If I like the writing style of an author then I’m keen to explore more books they have written. With a series where I’ve taken to the characters and their adventures continue in the next book, well, it’s a definite I’ll want to read them! Reading the next book in a series is like the chance to catch up with old friends, it’s wonderful. No worries about whether you’ll like the book or take to the characters or having to spend time getting up to speed with who is who, lives where or does what. You can immerse yourself straight away in the book and start enjoying it.

Many people in the publishing industry believe that writing a series of books is the way to go these days, whether each story is a novella or a full length novel. Though, as it’s thought the ‘ideal’ is to create your series by publishing a story every 3-4 months that would mean you’d need to be a very fast writer to put that number of full length novels out each year rather than novellas!

What do you think? Have you written a series? Are you thinking of doing so? What series have you read and loved?

Zanna Mackenzie is a former member of the Romantic Novelist’s Association’s New Writers Scheme (NWS). She has three traditionally published books available in paperback and ebook versions. Find out more about Zanna on her blog: www.zannamackenzie.blogspot.co.uk

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