Summer, chocolates & plenty of secrets …

Summer, chocolates & plenty of secrets … it’s almost time to return to Magnolia Creek!

The Chocolatier's Secret- KDP version

 

The Chocolatier’s Secret is book two in the Magnolia Creek series, and I’m delighted to say that it’s now available for pre-order on Amazon. With The Chocolatier’s Secret we return to the sun-drenched small town of Magnolia Creek, and this is a standalone story focusing on different lives. But … keep an eye out for a few of your favourite book characters from What Rosie Found Next!

I had a lot of fun writing this book. I enjoy the research side and had already completed a major research project on adoption as part of a Masters in Writing so I’ve been able to use my contacts and the information I had at my fingertips to shape this story. I also have my own personal experience of adoption which helped keep the emotions realistic.

chocresearch

Of course my favourite part of the research was finding out all about chocolate! I spent the day with Lucy and Andrea at Creighton’s Chocolaterie in Leighton Buzzard and discovered what goes on behind the scenes. I was really excited after my visit because I was able to weave in so many details to my story to make it authentic.

Publication day is Tuesday 28th June so only 8 days away!

If you would like to pre-order The Chocolatier’s Secret, you can do so here.

I hope you like the story … best enjoyed with your favourite chocolate of course! Here’s the blurb…

Will one mistake ruin everything?

Andrew Bennett has an idyllic life in Magnolia Creek, Australia. He runs a chocolate business he adores, is married to Gemma, the love of his life, and has a close relationship with his father, Louis. But when Andrew receives a message from his high school sweetheart, it sends his world into a spiral, and the relationships he holds dear will never be the same again.

Molly Ramsey is looking for answers. After her last attempt, she believes the only way to get them this time is to face her past head-on. But to do this, she has to fly to the other side of the world – and she’s afraid of flying. Her search for answers lands her in an emotional tangle, not only with her past but also with a man very much in her present.

Family is everything to Gemma Bennett and she longs to have a house full of kids, but it just isn’t happening. And when Andrew’s past makes an explosive impact on the family, Gemma must decide whether she can accept the truth and open her heart in a way she never thought possible.

In this story of love, family ties and forgiveness, will past mistakes be the obstacle to a Happy Ever After?

Measuring success as an author

IMG_0544How do you do it? The concept of what success means is constantly shifting, not just for writers as a collective, but for each of us as individuals. Even when we achieve what we thought we wanted to achieve, there’s no guarantee it will actually make us *feel* successful. There are always others who seem to be doing better or perhaps doing things differently to us, who will make us question whether we’ve made the right decisions or whether we should be on a different path altogether.

 

So what’s writing success? Perhaps it’s…

  • Getting a publisher?
  • Getting an agent?
  • Owning your writing journey as an indie author?
  • Seeing your novel in a book shop?
  • Appearing in an Amazon top one hundred chart?
  • Receiving lots of 5 star reviews from people you’ve never met?
  • Making a decent amount of money from writing?
  • Getting an email from a reader to tell you how much they loved your book?
  • Making your mum, dad, children or next door neighbour proud?
  • Creating a social media presence with followers in their thousands?

Maybe it’s lots of these things or something else entirely. In the last couple of years, between us, the WRs have achieved more of these measures of success than I think we ever really thought possible. But, lately, I’ve been questioning what it is that would make me feel I’ve been successful as a writer and I happened upon a quote that really resonated with me:

‘Success should be measured by how much joy it gives you.’

For my writing life, this is so true. Whilst I’ve ticked a lot of things off the list above, there are several still to achieve.Chart position AATS However, I’ve discovered if I approach writing chasing too many of those measures of success, I can rob myself of that joy. I started writing just because I loved it and that’s how I want to measure my success. If my writing gives me joy, then I can’t really ask for more. The rest is all just garnish.

As for my social media presence, that’s probably strongest here, on this blog, with the rest of the WRs. There might be lots of blog awards we could have won with a different approach and there are writing collectives with a higher profile than ours. However, if success really is measured by the amount of joy something brings you, then being part of this blog and, more importantly, this group has also been a resounding success for me.

I’d love to know how other writers measure their success and, whatever form that takes for you, I wish you lots of it.

Jo

The WRs, Aiden Turner and 6 billion post-it notes: it’s all in the planning.

aidan-turner-poldarkThe Write Romantics have a secret. I’ve said it now, it’s out there. Don’t get too excited, it’s nothing that involves weird rituals or complicated handshakes, and certainly nothing involving dalliances with celebrities you could sell to the Sun newspaper. More’s the pity. That said some of us do have Pinterest boards that might make Aidan Turner want to take out a restraining order…

Our real ‘secret’, though, is the private Facebook group we use. It’s like a virtual watercooler around which the ten of us meet to gossip, complain, share and celebrate our writing lives and beyond. It helps stave off the loneliness that can come with being a writer and it’s also a brilliant source of information.

Just recently, Alys, who teaches creative writing, as well as creating fantastic fantasy and steampunk novels, asked us to tell her our methods for organising writing ideas, so that she could share these with her students. Suffice it to say that, as a pantster, I learnt a lot and I promised to share the responses here. I hope you enjoy it and we’d love you to comment if you have your own methods. Let’s face it, I for one still have a lot to learn.

Jo x

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Alys

I’m a notebook and photos kind of person. I had a pinterest board for my steampunk book that I used while I was writing, but mainly for fab pictures of clothes, hats and steamcars!

Helen R

I make notes on my iPhone and then email to myself… I have a file in Hotmail with lots of ideas now! I don’t think I have time to write them all though. Once upon a time it was a notepad but now phone is easier as I always have it with me. When I start a new book I have a new file and stash away photos, drafts, character notes etc

Jackie

I have a whiteboard for particular stories and stickies on the computer. I also use three separate pages of ‘notes’ on my iPad for names, titles and emotions. Although don’t let this give you entirely the wrong impression, I also usually have a whole heap paper in my ‘office’.

Helen P

I use Pinterest boards for every book, notebooks and I have a notice board for each book where I pin my pictures and postit-169631_960_720ideas. I also use a whiteboard to keep track of characters and plot strands. Evernote on my phone is great too, when I’m awake at 4 am but can’t be bothered getting out of bed to write it down! Oh, and post-its. Lots of them.

Jo

I have a little black book and notes on the pc, but I am a disorganised pantster so would not want to give anyone my advice. I tried Pinterest once, but then I forgot to go on there for ages and now I can’t remember the password… Are you sensing a theme here?

Lynne

I email stuff to myself and store it in a file called ‘inspiration’ and I have a notebook with me all the time and one by the bed to jot nocturnal notes in.

Deirdre

I have nice hardback notebooks, plus little one for my bedside table and even smaller one for my handbag which I always forget to take, but that’s the theory. I’ve got a computer file labelled ideas but never remember it’s there, so the notebooks work best for me. I also keep a file of cuttings from newspapers etc which might trigger ideas and a Pinterest board to store images.

Rachael

I have a special notebook where I write each new idea. It might be a title, or just a sentence, but each idea has its own page. As the idea develops in my mind, I then open a file on my computer for it and add photos, info etc and build it that way.

pinterestSharon

I use a secret Pinterest board for each book. I jot ideas that pop into my head on my phone then I write up rough story ideas on the computer. When it’s time to pull it all together and start plotting and going into motivation, theme etc, I use a notebook. I also have a pinboard with a timeline worked out for a couple of characters and a complete list of all the Kearton Bay characters’ birthdays and the ages they’ll be in each book.

Jessica

I use a mix of post it notes and other little notes hiding in a drawer and a file on my mac which has ideas for titles and ideas for concepts.

—-

We hope you enjoyed hearing how we capture our writing ideas, now over to you.

Stop, look & listen with Kathy Paterson

KP pictureOur guest on the blog today is Kathy Paterson, a writer from West Sussex whose poem was recently selected from among hundreds of entries into a competition held by the British animal rescue charity, Waders, to feature in an anthology raising funds for its vital work in wildlife rescue. Kathy is also busy penning short stories for women’s magazines and is in the process of writing her debut novel. Welcome to the blog, Kathy, and over to you.

Well, this is a nice diversion, writing a guest post for the Write Romantics rather than my own – how lovely to be asked and rather scary to live up to the expectations of another blog!

I was thinking about why I started to write – if I’m perfectly honest, it wasn’t down to a burning passion to get the stories whirling in my head committed to paper. Instead it was a solution to a problem that I had – ever practical, that’s me. I’d been ill and as a consequence my life was changing dramatically. Physically I was limited, and mentally too to some degree, so I knew that, just as it was vital to exercise my body to retain what capability I had, I needed to do the same for my brain.

Cue a new Creative Writing Group at my local Community Centre. It fitted the bill and so I signed up. From the get go, the Group has been astonishing. I am in awe of the creativity and quality of the writing. Their breadth of knowledge and passion is inspirational. Above all, there’s no judgement. Honest appraisals will be given – make no mistake about that! But there’s encouragement to try new styles and genres. Being part of a trusted circle has allowed me to experiment and write outside my comfort zone.

I feel rather ashamed to have admitted that’s how I started writing. I’d always written – factual (for the most part) reports for work and I am passionate about reading – if I wasn’t a ruthless de-clutterer, the house would be subsumed by stacks of books. However, there are so many astounding authors; it can let fear and laziness persuade me that I have nothing to contribute.

So, due to said fear and laziness, I know that I have to set myself writing goals. First up was to start writing my own blog, The Middle-aged Pensioner which I did in 2014. I aim to write at least one post a month; sometimes more if I discover a rich subject seam. This writing is non-fiction, more observations on my own situation which may perhaps offer help to others.

My second goal is to finish my novel. I began it properly earlier this year; but the pesky characters keep surprising me, so I’m not quite clear where it’s going or what genre it will be. This for me is the joy of writing – it’s consistently surprising and I’m baffled how a concept in my imagination can take on a life of its own.

I usually write at my dining table, once all chores have been completed. Malin with toyThe radio is switched off as is the internet connection. Total silence apart from a ticking clock and the tip-tapping of my fingers on the keyboard are the only sounds. The afternoon is usually best as the street where I live is quiet and my young dog is walked and, hopefully, asleep! The discipline of writing for an hour each day works best for me – when and what is written is not as important so much as actually getting into the habit. Invariably, I write for much longer than the sixty minutes.

That sounds terribly formal doesn’t it? I can honestly say that inspiration does suddenly strike too and that’s when I tend to write poetry. If I can translate a sight or emotion in a form that triggers the same in another person, it’s magical. Inspiration itself can literally come from anywhere. I’m a great believer of taking time to “Stop, look and listen”. Almost any situation, conversation, written article or notice can trigger an idea or concept which can be explored further. Then it’s a case of hoping I’ve remembered a notebook and pen to record the idea; or if those are not to hand, usually I have my mobile ‘phone to capture a cryptic note or a snatch of dialogue.

So what would be my advice to share? Hmmm, well based on my experience, if you can identify what’s stopping you from writing, you’ll be able to find a way to overcome it. Equally important, find a cheerleader or three (family, friends, complete strangers who’ve come across your musings via the internet); their motivation will act as a spur or sharp stick when yours is flagging. Finally, remember your Green Cross Code!

Kathy Paterson

Thank you so much for joining us on the blog today, Kathy, good luck with the anthology and please let us know how your novel is progressing.

Follow Kathy at her blog:

https://middleagedpensioner.wordpress.com/

You can purchase a copy of the anthology featuring Kathy’s poem – Words for Waders – here.

 

 

 

 

A Patchwork Village

Regular followers of the blog may notice a difference in our Wednesday posts from now on. After a long – and very successful – run, we’ve decided to drop our regular “Wednesday Wondering” and instead post each week on a whole variety of topics, writing and reading related (well, mostly!). Book reviews – always popular – will still feature from time to time. We do hope you enjoy our “new look” Wednesdays, and please continue to comment. We do love to hear from you!

Write Romantic Sharon starts us off with today’s post: The Patchwork Village

I’m at quite an exciting stage in my writing life at the moment. Having spent the last four years immersed in the fictional village of Kearton Bay—the North Yorkshire coastal location based on real-life Robin Hood’s Bay—I’m currently working on a new series set in an entirely new place.

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Scenic Whitby

This has been quite an adventure for me. Don’t get me wrong—I love Kearton Bay and can’t wait to return to it to write the last two books in the series. However, there’s something irresistible about starting anew. A fresh page. A clean slate. And, ooh, a whole host of new characters and settings to think about.

What’s different about my new series is that, whereas Kearton Bay was strongly based on a real village and I could picture all the buildings and streets quite clearly in my mind, the new settings are entirely fictional. They are located in a real area—the Yorkshire Dales—but the actual towns and villages don’t exist at all, and neither does the dale they nestle in. I’m having to build the whole thing up entirely in my mind’s eye. And that’s why, for the last few weeks, I’ve been creating my patchwork villages.

With the Kearton Bay novels, I took photos of Robin Hood’s Bay and explored the village many times. I gave it a relatively close neighbour—the fictional market town of Helmston, which was based on Helmsley. I simply moved Helmston much closer to Kearton Bay than Helmsley is to Robin Hood’s Bay. I then added its adjacent village, Farthingdale, and another village close by called Moreton Cross (which is never actually visited, only mentioned), and anchored the whole lot a few miles south of Whitby to ensure everyone knew exactly where Kearton Bay was supposed to be. Simple. Of course, I changed all the businesses and street names, but in my mind, I could see the whole area very clearly, because I’d actually been there.

Although I’ve been to the Dales, I have no point of reference for my new villages. Instead, I’ve been patching together buildings and landmarks that I’ve seen in various places, and stitching them into a wonderful fictional landscape for my characters to live in.

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Masham church, Yorkshire Dales

It’s fun to do. Holidays have provided me with lots of lovely inspiration—not just for the Yorkshire Dales series, but for later books, too. The grand church spire in Louth; the peaceful churchyard in Masham; a picturesque thatched cottage in Thornton-le Dale; a village duck pond in Bishop Burton; an ancient pub; a shop with a fun name that would make a great name for a village café; a grand house in my home town of Hessle; a ruined abbey; a ramshackle farm in Swaledale—the possibilities are endless. Of course, you do have to be aware of the architectural style of the area. Not many twee cottages with straw roofs in the rugged and wind-blown upper Dales!

My family have got used to me stopping to take photographs of interesting buildings, even though they can’t see the appeal. I like to gaze out of the window as we’re driving around, looking at the houses we pass and wondering what sort of people live there. I’ve always been the same. I remember when I was a little girl, taking the bus from our town to visit my grandparents in Hull, gazing at a bungalow that we passed and weaving a story about the inhabitants. It stood out from the other houses in the road, being a bungalow, and also because it had white walls, unlike all the red brick houses that surrounded it. It also appeared to have a paddock at the back, which, for someone as pony-mad as me, was enough to spark my imagination and dream up all sorts of adventures for the fictional family who lived there.

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Thatched cottage, Thornton-le-Dale

Even now, I love it when I find buildings that don’t seem to fit in with the rest of the houses that surround them. An ordinary street that contains an oddity—perhaps a really old house that must have been standing there a long time before the rest of the houses were built, or a passageway that leads to a row of old cottages, or a wall that you can’t see over which could be hiding a real gem—can delight and intrigue me, and really set my mind working overtime.

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Thwaite, Swaledale

For the Yorkshire Dales series, I’m dreaming up an outlying farmhouse, a village, a hamlet, and a market town with a very unusual history and some rather quirky inhabitants. I even had to research place names, as a lot of names in the Dales are of Old Norse origin, and I wanted to give the area an authentic sounding name.  I’m busily pinning pictures to my secret Pinterest board for inspiration, and when the books are ready to go I’ll be sharing them publicly, so anyone who wants to know what the various components of the locations look like will be able to see for themselves. It’s a real collection of tiny little pieces of many places. A real patchwork, in fact. Now I just have to finish the stories!

Sharon xx

Tears, tombstones and tittle-tattle

1174820_10201404510706309_1859499988_nI went *fake* camping the other day – I highly recommend it, by the way, it has all the benefits of meeting up with your friends who are sleeping under canvas, drinking wine and talking, but you get to go home and sleep in a warm, comfortable bed when they head off to their tents! My friend and her sister had both read my first full-length novel over the summer and we raised a glass or three to the new four-book deal I’d been offered a couple of weeks before. They asked me, though, if I was at all worried about having enough ideas to fulfil the contract. All I could do was smile and hope the red wine hadn’t stained my teeth too much.

Time is probably my biggest writing issue, fitting it around the rest of life’s commitments; ideas on the other hand crowd my brain and pop up at every turn. Some of them spark plots for full-length novels, novellas or even a series, and others for short stories for women’s magazines – a competitive market which I’ve finally managed to crack.

Everyone loves people watching, right? But my husband certainly thinks it’s a bit weird when we’re watching people inSS102271 a coffee shop and I start guessing what they do for a living, what their backgrounds are and giving each of them a life story. My mum tells me that even when I was tiny, she’d constantly lose me in supermarkets and shops and find me standing between groups of other mothers, listening to their conversations and asking them extremely nosey questions. Now, when my husband discreetly taps the side of his nose, to let me know that my eavesdropping is getting just a little bit too obvious, I tell him that I’m not just being nosey, I’m working!

SS102290Ideas can come from anywhere, take this past week for instance. Last Monday, I took the children to London and, standing-up on the tube, we noticed two impeccably dressed and made-up women with tears silently streaming down their faces. They weren’t talking to each other or wearing black, like they were on their way to a funeral, and they didn’t appear to have just received bad news on their phones. If it had been one woman, I might have imagined a relationship break-up but, with the silent tears and the two of them sitting side-by-side, my imagination was working overtime, trying to work out what scenario that had led to this point. Even the fact that everyone noticed, but no-one said anything, sparked an idea for characterisation – why we act the way we do? Maybe it was because if felt wrong to intrude on their grief, to check they were okay, or because there were two of them, but we all obeyed the unwritten rule of the tube… don’t talk to a stranger, whatever the circumstance.

Later in the week, my husband and I set off for a rare weekend away without the children and we spent a lot of time inAAA IMG_0226 restaurants and pubs, leisurely reading the papers over breakfast and avidly eavesdropping over bottles of Prosecco come the evening. Listening-in to the pub conversations of others is like sprinkling glitter on your imagination and the heated discussion one couple were having, about how there was no way they were letting their son borrow their camera for his trip to Paris with his girlfriend, who they clearly couldn’t stand, left me imagining another host of scenarios. Maybe he’d propose out there, then what would happen to the family dynamic? Or perhaps the girlfriend would prove to be as obnoxious as the parents clearly thought she was and the city of Paris would be anything but romantic! Of course, I’ll never know how the story panned out, but it sparked off an idea for a possible story about what happens when a family member brings someone new into the fold who just doesn’t fit it. Torn between your first love and your family, who would you choose?

IMG_0222Taking a break from eating and drinking, we decided to have a walk up to the Epsom Downs and, on the way back down, the phone’s sat nav directed us through a cemetery. It was quiet and leafy and, as I can never help doing when I find myself in one of those places, I just had to read the grave stones. There was one that really struck a cord – the burial plot of Luke and his Lily. He’d been killed out in Italy in the last year of World War II, she’d died some forty years later, clearly not having remarried. There was a whole life story on that stone, particularly as their three children had left a touching dedication, and she’d obviously raised them alone during a time when being a single mother was even more of a challenge than it is now. There’s definitely a novel in that.

For me, inspiration can be found anywhere and, whilst none of my characters are based on real people, conversations with friends definitely spark off ideas too. If they make a really funny comment, there’s a chance it might appear in some form or another somewhere along the line. So, as the sign says, be careful what you say or you might just find yourself in an eavesdropping writer’s next story!

Jo x

Author Interview – R J Gould

This week we welcome contemporary fiction author, Richard Gould to the blog. Hi Richard, welcome!

 

photo R J Gould

  1. Tell us a bit about yourself and your writing?

I live in Cambridge and work for a national educational charity. The job includes writing a considerable amount of fairly academic literature on social mobility and educating able young people, so I suppose my fiction – light and humorous – is my therapy or antidote or something. Though not uniquely so, the themes I cover are somewhat unusual for a male author, my starting point being a fascination with ordinary people trying to make the most of their lives.

  1. Where do you get the inspiration for your books and your ideas?

To date, the novels I’ve written have started with an idea sparked by an actual event which has set me off on a fictitious journey with fictitious characters. My inspiration comes from observing people, followed by a make believe delving deep into their lives and thoughts. Of course plot is essential, but for me the starting point is always character.

  1. On your Amazon page you describe your writing as ‘loosely romantic, but with an edge’. Tell us more about that.

I write about past, current and new relationships which sets the genre as Romantic. My use of the term ‘edge’ is based on two elements in what I write. Firstly, I like to include social commentary covering class, gender, culture and society. My favourite reader’s review includes: “the characters are recognisable in an East Enders meets F. Scott Fitzgerald sort of way.” Secondly, there is humour, often dark, running through my fiction. This covers some compulsive betrayals (in The Engagement Party), an attempted suicide (in Nothing Man) and even murder (in A Street Café Named Desire). Starry-eyed romance is there but not overtly so – many of my characters are middle aged and carry several cartloads of baggage.

photorjgould24. As a man writing romantic fiction, have you found any barriers or perhaps advantages along the way?

I’m aware that the vast majority of both writers and readers of romance are female. One agent suggested I take on a female pseudonym, and using my initials ‘R.J.’ rather than ‘Richard’ is a cowardly compromise. My readers are by and large women and the feedback I receive is that they have enjoyed exploring the male take on romance. So perhaps the rarity is an advantage.

  1. Tell us how you found the RNA and how it has benefited you in your writing journey.

I’m a member of Cambridge Writers, a local writing group, and several participants were in the RNA before I joined. I signed up for the New Writers’ Scheme and got a tremendously encouraging review for A Street Café Named Desire. Having self-published with some success, this gave me the incentive to search for a publisher again (yes, I had tried in the past and we all know how tough that is) and Accent Press took me on. A member of the local chapter of RNA introduced me to the Society of Authors who were a great support in looking at the draft contract. RNA is a tremendous organisation for meeting other writers to discuss all sorts of issues.

  1. What is your favourite part about being a writer?

The wonderful feeling on a good day when the prose flows. I’m particularly pleased when something that’s intended to be humorous makes me smile when I read it, even though I know what’s about to happen because I’ve written it.

  1. Do you have any particular favourite characters from your books?

Maybe Jack, a rogue plumber in The Engagement Party. However, I really do like them all. I think it’s important to create characters, even the bit players, who you feel close to and care about.

  1. Are there any scenes you find particularly difficult to write?

Writing backstory in a predominantly humorous novel is a bit of a challenge, but in general it’s more about how creative I’m feeling on the day rather than difficulty writing any particular type of scene.

  1. How do you go about planning your latest novel?

At the outset I know the start and end points of a novel and some mid-story events that I want to include, but I don’t plan in detail ahead of starting to write. I let the characters grow as the plot develops and they can drive the story forward – a remarkable experience in one case when the protagonist was surprising me with his actions! The process isn’t quite as random as it sounds; before long I’m producing things like timeline grids to ensure consistency, and for me editing is an ongoing process rather than something tagged on at the end.

photorjgould3

  1. And finally, what can we expect to see next from Richard Gould?

I’ve just submitted Nothing Man, which should be released by Accent Press by the end of 2015. It’s the story of a man with narrow horizons and low self-esteem. Various events push him to the point of contemplating suicide. He decides not to go through with it, but his post-no-suicide life doesn’t get off to a great start when he has a car crash on leaving the supermarket where he’s purchased his pills. Laura, the woman in the other car, turns out to be his inspiration for starting afresh, but it’s her mother who provides the romance in his life. The excitement of this relationship is coupled with membership then employment at Preserve Our Countryside Society and it turns out that he’s anything but a nothing man.

I’m at the first edit stage of Jack and Jill went Downhill, the story of two students who meet at the Freshers Big Party Night. It traces developments over the next fifteen years as the pair, initially amused by the coincidence of their names matching that of the nursery rhyme, fail to recognise that their lives are following the events of the rhyme with Jack falling down (from his high-powered job in the City) and Jill coming tumbling after (sacked for serious misconduct when teaching).

Thank you so much for being a guest on the blog today. We wish you every success with your novels!

Helen J Rolfe.

If you’d like to find out more about Richard and his books, please follow the links below…

Website:                      http://www.rjgould.info/

Twitter:                       @rjgould_author

Facebook:                    https://www.facebook.com/RJGouldauthor

 

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

Genre, romance & mystery with Nancy Jardine

Today we welcome Nancy Jardine to the blog to talk writing … welcome Nancy!

Could you start with introducing yourself and telling us a bit about your writing?

I’m an ex- primary teacher from Aberdeenshire, Scotland, who particularly liked to teach history – though most subjects had their own appeal! My romantic historical Celtic Fervour Series, and The Taexali Game Book 1 of my Rubidium Time Travel Series for the Teen/ YA market, are heavily influenced by my obsession about Roman Britain. I also write contemporary romantic mysteries which were initially intended to be ‘a break’ from the heavy research necessary in my historical work but historical aspects sneaked into two of my contemporary mysteries in an ancestral way!

When you read, do you read the same sort of books as you write or do you try to read outside the genre?

My reading spans many different sub genres of fiction.  I’m presently reading a dystopian/urban thriller; the book before that was a political thriller and the one before that was a romantic women’s’ fiction novel. My favourite is probably the historical romance genre but I enjoy other categories if the book is well written.

Could you ever see yourself changing genres, and if so, what would you change to?

So far I’ve written 3 contemporary romantic mysteries, 3 historical romantic adventures and 1 time travel historical adventure novel for Middle Grade/ YA readers. I have a slowly ongoing work in progress that’s a family saga and some might say that’s another slightly different sub-genre. It begins in Victorian Scotland and is planned to continue to approximately the 1950s, so it’s historical yet also about relationships according to the environments the characters live in.  I don’t see myself adding any other sub- genres in the near future since I’ve work in hand that fits my current writing types.

Tell us a bit about your latest book, Monogamy Twist.  nancyjardine2

Monogamy Twist isn’t quite my latest book. Monogamy Twist was relaunched by Crooked Cat Publishing at the end of March 2015 – a different version from the previously published US edition. It’s a contemporary romantic mystery set in Yorkshire, England.  The plot idea was sparked as I was doing ancestry research of my own family background while on the TV the current adaptation of a Dickens Novel was snagging my interest. It didn’t take long to decide to use the ‘mysterious inheritance bequest’ theme and adapt it for a fun contemporary novel. I really enjoyed creating the family tree around which the mystery is based, and it was a lovely change to create a different sort of spirited heroine in Rhia Ashton. She’s just perfect for Luke Salieri, because he needs help to find out why Amelia Greywood chose to leave the slightly dilapidated Greywood Hall to him.  However, Rhia is no pushover; she sets her own quirky conditions to the already weird deal set down by Amelia in her will.

Since Monogamy Twist was relaunched in March I’ve self published The Taexali Game (official launch date 22nd May). This is the first of a time travel series for Middle Grade/YA readers; though anyone who enjoys a good adventure will love the action packed Celtic Roman shenanigans during AD 210 when the Roman Emperor Severus plays havoc in northern Britannia.  My intrepid trio of time travellers have a task list to complete, and they’ve also to solve a local mystery— yet stay alive long enough to return to tell the tale!

On June 5th 2015, Crooked Cat Publishing relaunched Take Me Now, a contemporary romantic mystery. This story was great fun to write since I wanted to create a contemporary mystery around my version of a Scottish Highland Hero – my hero being somewhat flawed.  Nairn Malcolm finds he’s in a bit of a pickle having been involved in a mysterious accident. He needs someone to fly him from his Scottish island castle in his floatplane, down to Glasgow and then in his jet to London and beyond. Aela Cameron, a Canadian Vancouverite, is just the woman for all of his needs and together they eventually uncover the saboteur who causes further mayhem to both of them. Like Monogamy Twist, Take Me Now is a ‘sweet’ adaptation of the original US published version.

nancyjardine1

What is your favourite aspect of writing?

I’m a natural ‘pantser’ yet one who has gradually learned the value of planning a novel- even if I’ve still a lot to learn about that. That means I’m generally excited about working out the next stages in a novel as the story develops – my characters taking pathways that aren’t predictable when I make the general outline of the story.  I also love the editing processes since I’m pretty anal about making sure things ‘fit in’ properly. In my historical work this has meant ensuring that the time-lines work accurately (not always as simple as that seems) and in my contemporary mysteries it’s tying up all those potentially loose ends and sometimes adding little red herrings.

And your least favourite?

My least favourite might be finding that I’m in the ‘doldrums’ – which happened in the middle of the second book of my Celtic Fervour Series.  Book 2 is about Brennus of Garrigill and Ineda of Marske who become spies for King Venutius when the Romans are pushing further north in Brigante country (Yorkshire) in AD 71, but their romantic story is a long one since Ineda is captured by a Roman Tribune. Enslaved for a number of years means different relationships for Brennus and Ineda till major Roman military events occur to bring them back together.  After running the very long story past my publisher at Crooked Cat it was decided that Brennus’ story needed Book 2 and Book 3 of the series, 145 plus words being thought far too big for an ebook! Though they’re linked they were written to also stand alone. Since Book 2 doesn’t have an HEA ending the series couldn’t all be called historical romances – hence the labelling as historical romantic adventures, there being elements of all three in all three books.

Where do you get your ideas for writing?

Take Me Now transpired as a result of the chartering of a seaplane for a special birthday trip which flew us up past the Inner Hebrides on the west coast of Scotland.  The seaplane seats nine so nine family members climbed on board. This was followed by a chartered catamaran sail around Mull and the closer Hebridean islands. The whole weekend trip was fantastic and just begged to be used in a contemporary novel so my hero, Nairn Malcolm, is from a fictitious island off the coast of Oban where he bases himself at his restored castle. He’s not always the archetypal handsome highland laird but you’d need to read the story to know why not.  Monogamy Twist, as earlier stated was an amalgam of ancestry and a ‘borrowed’ Dickens plot. Topaz Eyes came about because I really loved making the family tree structure for Monogamy Twist. I decided to make a much more complicated family tree where I based the original matriarch in Europe, allowing me to include fabulous locations like Heidelberg, Vienna , Amsterdam and Edinburgh for her descendants.  The third generation tree structure gave me fabulous characters (some nice and others nasty) to include in the family treasure hunt for jewels which once belonged to an Indian Mughal Emperor. The trail for the gems also takes the protagonists beyond Europe to Minnesota and New York – as they evade the clutches of the deadly assassins of the family.

The Taexali Game  is dedicated to former pupils of mine who wrote excellent little stories as ‘end of project round-ups’ back in 2005.  I joked back then that I would someday write a full length Celt v Roman novel that could be used as a companion novel/ class reader for 12 year olds like them. The manuscript for the Taexali Game was lifted and shelved many times over the intervening years since I was too busy being a teacher to properly polish the story. I always knew I’d publish ‘it’ someday and 7th May 2015 was the day! My Celtic Fervour Series resulted from my continuing interest in Celtic Roman Britain. Instead of focusing on finishing the Taexali Game (set in AD 210) I instead spent time writing about a different era of Roman Britain for The Beltane Choice (#1 of my Celtic Fervour Series) – AD 71.  

If you could choose one perfect location in which to write, where would it be?

Somewhere with a proper desk, a large screen and a separate keyboard and mouse—because I’m useless with a laptop keypad. I’d prefer the desk to have an outside view overlooking a garden or a lovely vista. But since my desk at home has those things and I overlook my garden then I’m quite happy to be at home when writing. Not having Facebook or email minimised and blooping at the bottom of my screen would be wonderful  tactic– I’m too easily distracted by them!

If you could be mentored by one writer, alive or dead, who would it be and why?

I’d probably choose Charles Dickens. I love the fact that he walked for miles and miles (some 15 a day wasn’t unusual) composing the next part of his story in his head. When he returned home he had the ‘freedom’ to immediately write down what he’d composed so that he could send it to his publisher immediately, since his work tended to be serialised on a weekly basis. He couldn’t miss those deadlines yet he also managed to create the unity of the whole plot at the same time. His creativity was amazing while managing to have a busy family life which included a lot of kids! I’d love him to tell me great strategies for composing my next scenes when I’m gardening or when I’m doing my grandchild minding tasks.

And finally, can you tell us a bit about what you are working on at the moment?

I’ve started Book 2 of my Rubidium Time Travel Adventure Series for Middle Grade/YA readers where my trio of time travellers hop back to Victorian Glasgow, 1884. I’ve also begun Book 4 of my Celtic Fervour Series. This is about another Garrigill warrior; the niece of Lorcan of Book 1.   I’ve planned out and begun my 3-book family saga beginning in 1950 Victorian Scotland.  My task now that I’ve no new launches in the near future is to prioritise and finish my works in progress!

Thanks Nancy for coming on to the blog with us today!

If you’d like to know more about Nancy, she can be contacted via the links below.

Helen J Rolfe.

http://nancyjardine.blogspot.co.uk

http://nancyjardineauthor.com/

Twitter @nansjar

Facebook: http://on.fb.me/XeQdkG

Amazon author page:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Nancy-Jardine/e/B005IDBIYG/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

 

Five Writing Lessons I’ve Learned by Jessica Redland on the launch of her debut novel

_MG_2776-EditMy debut novel, Searching for Steven, was launched on Wednesday (3rd June 2015) by So Vain Books. My debut novella, Raving About Rhys (set before Steven but written as a stand-alone story), is also out now and I still find it hard to believe that I’m a published author!

What have I learned during the writing process? Goodness me, I could go on for ages, but let me stick to five main lessons and, because I love alliteration in the titles of my books, I’ve set myself the added challenge of making sure they all start with the same letter.

  1. PURPOSEFULNESS: Writing can be a slow process … especially when, like me, you have a full-time job too. It took me a decade from writing my first words to submitting Steven to a publisher for the first time. I did learn my craft during that time, close a business, change jobs several times, get married, have a baby and move house twice so I had huge writing-free periods. I promise I’m not that slow a writer! My advice would be to always keep that end goal – that purpose – in mind and keep going. Even if you only have time to write small amounts like five hundred words a few times a week, it will soon add up. A 100,000-word novel is just 274 words a day for a year. Obviously, there’ll be re-writing and editing needed, but doesn’t 274 words a day sound achievable?
  1. Jessica Redland - Searching for Steven - Front Cover LOW RESPATIENCE: I’ve said that writing can be a slow process but the journey to a publication is not exactly speedy either. A couple of publishers to whom I submitted Steven took nine months to return a decision, and they were publishers I’d met, had pitched to, and who had asked for my full MS. I’m actually not a very patient person. I’m exceptionally patient with other people, but not with anything that affects me, so waiting for news from publishers or agents was a bit of a challenge. At first, I was a little obsessed with checking the mail and my emails, but I finally managed to relax and accept that everything would happen in its own sweet time.
  1. PERSEVERANCE: Unless you’re one of the very fortunate few, you will get rejections. I was surprised to find that they weren’t quite as traumatic as I expected. Okay, so they’re not the most wonderful things to receive. I certainly wasn’t doing a happy dance each time one landed through my letterbox or in my inbox, but they certainly didn’t reduce me to tears like I’d expected. You see, I had a plan. I knew whom I’d submit to next so I could look at the rejections as the closing of one door and the opening of another. There must be very few authors out there who haven’t got a stack of rejections behind them, including incredibly successful authors like Stephen King and JK Rowling. It’s part of the process. It took me a year, 14 publisher submissions and 12 agency submissions before I got my break and, if the offer from So Vain Books hadn’t come along when it did, I’d have gone indie. There are so many opportunities out there to get your work published so don’t give up at the first hurdle. I will just point out that my publisher, So Vain Books, were incredibly quick with their response to my submission so not all publishers take so much time.
  1. CoversPROCRASTINATION: As anyone who regularly uses social media will know, social media is a massive distraction. Some evenings, I can have gone into my office with the intention of writing after a quick catch-up on Facebook. I glance at the clock and realise it’s nearly 10.00pm and I still haven’t written a single word of my WIP. Oops! I have to limit myself because working full time, being a Brown Owl, being a mum and being an author is a lot to fit in. If I’m meant to be spending the evening writing, I’ve learned that it’s best to close my emails, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter or I’ll procrastinate big time. I’d like to think that, if I was ever fortunate enough to be able to write full-time, I’d be really structured in my approach to social media e.g. an hour first thing and an hour mid-afternoon. But I bet I wouldn’t. I bet I’d find that it’s a case of the more time you have to write, the less writing you actually get done!
  1. PASSION: I’d hope it goes without saying that anyone thinking of writing must be passionate about it because it can be all consuming. I couldn’t imagine not writing. But it’s not your own passion I want to address here; it’s the passion of others. I’ve really touched by the time some of my friends and family have given to beta reading and supporting me. They’ve demonstrated as much passion and excitement about me being a writer as I feel myself. Saying thank you feels inadequate. I’m also very fortunate to be part of a writing collective called The Write Romantics. We all met through the Romantic Novelists’ Association and have been blogging together for two years. It’s amazing being able to share the highs and lows with nine other like-minded passionate women.
Scarborough - the inspiration for Whitsborough Bay

Scarborough – the inspiration for Whitsborough Bay

However, there are those who don’t share the same passion. The day job is a classic example to illustrate this. I’d like to think that I don’t witter on about writing because I know that many work colleagues won’t be readers and, as I work in a male-dominated environment where the age profile is mainly 50 plus, they’re not exactly my target market. I’ve occasionally made a passing comment at the water cooler when asked how I’ve spent my weekend and I’ve watched eyes glaze over with absolute disinterest. I’d like to think that, if anyone told me they did something a little unusual, I’d express surprise and interest, and then ask a few follow-up questions. What I’ve experienced instead is that they either change the subject, nod and continue making their coffee in silence, or they tell me they’d like to write a book because hasn’t everyone got a book in them? They probably do but capability of getting it out is another matter entirely! Of course, I don’t say that. I grin, ask a few questions, and return to my office with my drink, knowing that it wasn’t the first and certainly won’t be the last time that happens.

That concludes my five lessons for now. I’m sure I’ll continue to learn as time progresses because I suspect I’ve only just scratched the surface of the writing experience so far.

Happy reading everyone 🙂

Jessica xxx

The Blurb for Searching for Steven which can be found on Amazon in eBook and paperback formats here

601685_10151958992299073_754441455_nWhen Sarah Peterson accepts her Auntie Kay’s unexpected offer to take over her florist’s shop, she’s prepared for a change of job, home and lifestyle. What she isn’t prepared for is the discovery of a scarily accurate clairvoyant reading that’s been missing for twelve years. All her predictions have come true, except one: she’s about to meet the man of her dreams. Oh, and his name is Steven.

Suddenly Stevens are everywhere. Could it be the window cleaner, the rep, the manager of the coffee shop, or any of the men she’s met online?

On top of that, she finds herself quite attracted to a handsome web designer, but his name isn’t even Steven…

During this unusual search, will Sarah find her destiny?

‘A warm and witty tale of one woman’s search for love, with a brave and feisty heroine you can’t help rooting for. SEARCHING FOR STEVEN is a compelling debut by a talented author, and I highly recommend it.’ Talli Roland, bestselling author of The No-Kids Club

‘Searching for Steven is a wonderful, uplifting story about the magic of true love that will put a smile on your face and happiness in your heart.’ Suzanne Lavender

‘Amusing and engaging, Searching for Steven is the story to make you believe in your one true love, with or without fate leading you there’ reviewedthebook.co.uk

The blurb for Raving About Rhys (novella) which can be downloaded from Amazon here

_MG_9950Bubbly Callie Derbyshire loves her job as a carer, and can’t believe she’s finally landed herself a decent boyfriend – older man Tony – who’s lasted way longer than the usual disastrous three months. Tony’s exactly what she’s always dreamed of… or at least he would be if he ever took her out instead of just taking her to bed. And work would be perfect too if she wasn’t constantly in trouble with her boss, The She-Devil Denise. 

When the new gardener, Mikey, discovers her in a rather compromising position at work, Callie knows that her days at Bay View Care Home could be numbered. Can she trust him not to tell Denise? If she was issued with her marching orders, who’ll look out for her favourite client, Ruby, whose grandson, Rhys, seems to constantly let her down? What does Ruby know about Tony? And what is Denise hiding? 

Surrounded by secrets and lies, is there anyone left who Callie can trust?

Twitter: @JessicaRedland

Facebook: Jessica Redland Writer

Website: www.jessicaredland.com