Sunday, 26 May 2013

Sneak Peek Sunday: my work in progress

In my last post about characters, I mentioned 'Desperate Measures', my work in progress which is a sequel to my first novella, 'Desperate Bid'.  In it, the heroine finds herself alone in the hero's office, indulging in an irresistible moment of nosiness. This is that moment...


  Miles' desk was tidy, so tidy that Michelle could have wondered if he ever worked, to sully it, if she had not already known the answer. He worked harder than anyone she had ever known. His desk was indeed, as a tidy desk is said to be, the sign of an ordered mind.
  There was just one letter, lying dead centre. It was handwritten, in a looping old-fashioned hand, and although Michelle did not intend to read it, she found she'd become absorbed by the first sentence. "There is no easy way to say this."
  There never was. Nowadays, you didn't write, not in pen, if there was an easier way to say it.
  "Your father has been diagnosed with cancer. They say it is inoperable. Miles, if you are ever going to come back, come now."
  Michelle meant to leave, truly she did, but she found herself instead sitting in his chair, mechanically twirling his propelling pencil, and wondering what it was like not to have been back for so long that your mother would ask the question in that way: 'If you are ever going to come back.' His mother wasn't certain her son would ever return. He was a stranger to her, a stranger to his family. Did anybody know him?
  Michelle found herself opening and shutting drawers, not sure what she was looking for. In the top drawer, she found the predictable array of stationery and correspondence. In the bottom drawer were two apples, a bag of pistachios, and a tennis ball signed in marker pen. 

That's six paragraphs, as per the rules of Sneak Peek Sunday, of a very early draft of 'Desperate Measures.'  The final version will almost certainly bear no resemblance to this at all!  While I'm redrafting, why don't you hop over to the Sneak Peek Sunday site and see if any of the other teasers appeal? 

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Questions for your Characters at the Book-in-a-Week Blog

Could you use a few tricks for getting to know your characters in a deeper way?  If so, join me over at the Book-in-a-Week blog, where this month I'm talking about questions you can ask your characters, from the pretty obvious to the slightly bizarre.  As well as my five favourite questions, I also share a nifty trick for making use of the media. 

Read more here:  http://www.book-in-a-week.com/2013/05/5-questions-to-ask-your-characters/

By the way, these tricks aren't just theory: one of them provided a whole new plot strand to my work in progress, 'Desperate Measures' (full marks to anyone who guessed it's a sequel to my first published novella, 'Desperate Bid').   I asked the question, 'What's in the hero's desk drawer?' but instead of answering it directly, I played it out as a scene in which the heroine is sneaking a look at his desk while he's out of the office... and gets caught.  She's initially puzzled by one of the items in the drawer - a signed tennis ball - but all becomes clear when she finds out the identity of the hero's estranged father, and the reason they're not speaking.  Intrigued?  I was! 


Wednesday, 22 May 2013

'Perfect Partners' Pays a Visit to a Great Magazine

I'm so proud to see my dance book on the front page of Still Moments Magazine's blog today.

You can visit them at http://stillmomentsezine.blogspot.ca/ and if you haven't already, do drop them an email at stillmomentsmagazine(at)gmail(dot)com to sign up for their beautiful free pdf magazine - it's full of quality interviews, book reviews and articles for romance writers and readers.

Seriously, how can you resist? 

Writer Wednesday Interview - Katherine Grey


Today I am delighted to be interviewing Katherine Grey, whose historical romances An Unexpected Gift and The Muse are published by The Wild Rose Press.  Welcome, Katherine.  Have you always written historical romances, or have you experimented with other genres?

I wrote a mystery about a year or so ago but apparently didn’t do a very good job with the red herrings as my friend told me she figured out who the murderer was by the third chapter.  It’s currently sitting on the shelf in my closet. I’m not sure if I’ll revise it and try to sell it or use it as a learning experience.

Can you tell us a bit about your most recent release and what inspired it?

My most recent release is An Unexpected Gift. It’s about two damaged people finding each other while searching for their loved ones. The hero was a secondary character in my novella, The Muse. I couldn’t get him out of my head so I knew I had to write his story.

You wrote ‘The Muse’ for the ‘Love Letters’ line.  How did you find writing for a line with very specific guidelines?

I actually didn’t have any problem with the guidelines, but I had a lot of difficulty keeping it within the required word count.  Writing novellas and/or short stories is a lot harder than it seems.

What kind of research do you do to make sure your historical scenes ring true?

I do a lot of reading of the time period. I haunt antique bookstores looking for diaries, maps and such. I try to talk to historians or authorities on certain subjects as they may pertain to my manuscripts. As part of my research for An Unexpected Gift I spoke with a gentleman who is an authority on the game of Hazard and its present form.

What’s the most surprising fact you’ve come across while researching a book?

I read an account of a highway man who stole from the rich. It turned out he was a vicar who was used the money and jewelry he stole from the aristocracy to help the needy in his parish. I’ve often wondered if he was inspired by the legend of Robin Hood.

Do you have a favourite hero and heroine from your books, and who would you like to see them played by in a film of the book? 

Lazarus and Olivia from An Unexpected Gift are my favourite hero and heroine. If a movie was made, I’d love to see Hugh Jackman play Lazarus (though I will admit that I’d be willing to watch him do nothing more than just stand in one place) and I could easily see Amy Adams play Olivia.

How would you sum up the philosophy, or message, behind your books?

Regardless of your present circumstances, if you have to courage to move forward, things will get better.

What have you found most useful in learning your craft, and what would you recommend for new writers?

Two things were the most helpful to me while I was learning the do’s and don’t’s of writing – joining a writing group whether it be a group that meets only online or in person. There are a lot of people who are willing to share their knowledge in this type of setting. The second thing was to attend workshops.

Do you mainly read romance, or do you get ideas from other genres too?

I read in a wide variety of genres. The only types I don’t read are horror (I have too vivid an imagination and end up having nightmares), erotica, and some types of science fiction.

Most writers nowadays lead a very busy life – have you any tips about how to find time for writing, or make the most of writing time?
I work a full time job so finding writing time is important to me.  One tip that was I was given that works for me is to set a weekly page goal. Some days we find we have more time to write than others so if you can’t write every day as long as you meet that weekly goal, you’re still moving forward and have that sense of accomplishment.

Where should we go to find out more about your books? 


Thanks Katherine.  I enjoyed hearing about your writing, and I can definitely see Hugh Jackman as Lazarus.  Roll on the film!  

Sunday, 12 May 2013

A Whistlestop Tour of my Favourite Romances


Yesterday I was at Doncaster Central Library with the Doncaster Writers' Group as part of the 'Turn the Page' festival, about which I'm sure you'll hear more as it continues for another week.  We were asked to introduce ourselves and the genres we wrote, which prompted me to put together this quick list of my favourite romance authors and books for anyone who wanted to know more.  It's hugely personal and idiosyncratic, but if you read romance, do have a look and see if you've missed any treasures, and I'd love to hear if you agree or disagree with my choices.  You can use the comment space below, or comment privately through the 'contact me' page of my website. 
Louise Bagshawe – I love ‘The Movie’ and ‘Tall Poppies’ – contemporary chick-lit from another Oxford-educated author.  I’m also a fan of some of her later books, ‘Passion’ and ‘Desire’, which are more romantic suspense.  I've mentioned 'The Movie' in a previous post as the book I most often recommend. 

Liz Fielding – all her books are a delight, but I especially like the ‘Wild Brides’ series, which features a group of theatrical sisters - you can read my review here.  Another favourite is the early ‘City Girl in Training’ – the book which introduced me to Mills & Boon.    

VSOM_packshot copy2Jane Lovering – Jane is a Yorkshire lass, and won Romantic Novel of the Year last year with ‘Please Don’t Stop the Music’ – a fast, funny present-day love story about a hero and heroine who are both keeping their own secrets.  If you like something quirkier, read ‘Vampire State of Mind’, reviewed here. I was lucky enough to get to interview her, and you can read the entertaining result here.

Vonnie Davis – an American author who, like me, is published by the Wild Rose Press.  She writes everything from cowboy stories to contemporary, and I especially love ‘Those Violet Eyes’, which features a brilliantly wounded hero, and which I reviewed here. 

Julie Cohen – I loved Julie’s fun stories for Mills & Boon, like ‘Being a Bad Girl’ and ‘Delicious’ (which features a very sexy chef).  ‘Getting Away with It’ is a longer and more complicated story which puts a new spin on the old idea of identical twins, one good, one not-so-good! 

Anna Maxted – ‘Running in Heels’ is, for me, the ultimate light chick-lit story with a dark and serious heart.  As you read, you only gradually realise what’s really going on in the heroine’s life, so I won’t spoil the story for you by telling you.

Rachel Brimble – another Wild Rose Press author, now also published with Harlequin, Rachel writes everything from historicals to contemporary romantic suspense, and so far everything I’ve read of hers is fantastic.  My favourite is ‘The Arrival of Lily Curtis’, for the spirited heroine and the fabulous period setting. Rachel very kindly agreed to appear as part of my Writer Wednesday series, and you can read the interview here.

Cecilia Aherne – ‘PS I Love You’ was filmed with Gerard Butler and Hilary Swank, but the book is even better!

So that's my starter for ten (or eight, to be exact)!  What's yours?

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Writer Wednesday Interview: Leanne Davis


Today I'm interviewing Leanne Davis, whose first novel, 'Poison' is just out with The Wild Rose Press and is free for download for a limited time only - if this interview whets your appetite, you can find a link at the end.   

Welcome, Leanne!  ‘Poison’ is a romantic suspense novel – what attracted you to the idea of writing romance with a villain?

I was on vacation in Long Beach, Washington, (the fictional town of Seaclusion, where Poison takes place is based on it) and happened along the North Head Lighthouse which stands over the Columbia River during a bad storm. It seemed like something evil should happen there…and I began thinking about what it could be. I had long before written about my character’s John and Cassie as a high school romance. I decided to re-visit them  ten years later, and how  they could end up reuniting after a bitter betrayal. In order to give them some drama, I had Cassie have a violent ex-husband who is hunting her and her son.
 
The cover is very dark, almost Gothic.  How did you keep the balance between the challenging theme and the need for a romance to have a more positive side? 

The romance part is always easy for me. The villain was singled out in his own point of view, and a few scenes go a long way…so it’s not that tough to create the creepy feel of the villain with the developing relationship of the hero/heroine.

The cover is designed by Debbie Tayler of DCM graphics off of a photo I submitted to my publisher. The photo which tags my website was taken in 2003, when I first thought up the setting and pivotal lighthouse scene for Poison. So to see what I pictured in my imagination reflected on the cover of my book…is still kind of déjà vu for me.
 
You describe your novels as ‘romance you can relate to’.  What about Cassie and John do you think your readers will most relate to?
 
John is very angry at what Cassie did to him ten years before, and what broke up their high school romance. Many people deal with anger…but forgiveness is not as easy. But forgiveness can change lives…and I hope readers feel that between John and Cassie.

Also, Cassie believes she can never fully atone for the mistakes she made in her youth. Her struggle is to make up for all the wrong decisions she had made…and who hasn’t made bad decisions? It’s what we do about them that counts.

My novels are realistic, contemporary romances, so my tag line is to hopefully convey easily that my novels could theoretically happen.

‘Notorious’, the second book in the series, has also been contracted.  What will readers find in common between the two, and how are you aiming to surprise us?

The surprise will be in that there is no villain in this one! No psycho ex-husband or creepy stalker. This novel came about unplanned at first. I was writing Poison and some secondary characters caught my eye…and soon I had a story for them. The commonality, well for one the next book is about John and Cassie’s brother and sister, Luke and Kelly. They meet in Seaclusion to watch Cassie’s son while John and Cassie are on their honeymoon.

How would you sum up the philosophy, or message, behind your books?

All of my fiction could happen. I love the chemistry that romance adds to any story, and the emotions that get stirred up. I bring in a variety of subjects and dramas to my novels and enjoy writing how my characters deal with them. There is some humour, some drama, and hopefully a reader can easily relate to who my characters are in the lives I have created for them.
  
What kind of research did you do for ‘Poison’ and ‘Notorious’?

I toured the area that my fictional town is set in. I added some real tourists spots to give it some authenticity. As with any novel there I often small details that need to be googled such a details about jobs. I also had to go to the library and check out a book about poisons and how they can kill people. Luckily I found one directed towards mystery writers that included more than a hundred different poisons and all their effects/results of taking them. Kind of gruesome but necessary!
 
You’d been writing for a long time before releasing your debut novel.  Were there any moments when you wondered whether it was all worth it?  And what advice would you give to a writer in that position?

I waited a long time before I tried to publish. I have always written. It was part of my life and my sense of self, and I have never needed anyone else’s opinion to validate that for me. So I never felt like I had to justify if it was worth it. I did most of my writing around other people’s schedules and raising young kids…so any time I snuck away to write was my escape …and I simply wanted to write! It will ALWAYS feel worth it…whether I become a bestseller, or it’s just my mom reading it.

There has never been a better time to be a writer simply because there is so many more outlets for publishing.

From Indie publishing to the Big 6 and everything in between I love that a writer finally has choices! Ten years ago it was scary to submit anywhere because if you were rejected, that was that, there wasn’t all that many places to submit to. Now writers, even new ones, actually stand a chance of getting to market.
To any writer I first say write, and spend as long as you need perfecting that writing until it is marketable…and then find your own path however and wherever you want, regardless what anyone else says.

What do you do when you are not writing?

I get outside. After too many hours in a chair writing…nothing feels better then to get outside. We have acreage I take care of (along with my young kids :-) )  And we spend a lot of time getting out of rain infested Seattle area to nicer weather.

Who is your favourite author?

Just one? 

Kristin Hannah.

She writes women’s fiction that I have always related too. In fact it was her writing that first showed me the vein of writing I wanted to focus on.

Where should we go to find out more about your books? 

Leanne Davis- Author  Romance you can relate to  Website  FB FanPage  Facebook  Twitter
Poison is free from May 7 to May 11, so though I am new to you…I would love for you to download a copy and try out my debut novel!
Thanks, Leanne.  I will definitely be grabbing a copy! 

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Sneak Peek Sunday: Santa Claus is Coming...


A while ago I introduced you to the snowy setting of my Christmas story, with the working title of 'The Santa Next Door'.  If you missed it, you can read it here.

Now, I'm delighted to announce that Santa Claus really will be coming... to an electronic device near you.  I've just signed a contract with The Wild Rose Press for this short Santa story to be published as an e-book, hopefully in time for Christmas 2013.  So this seems like a good time to let my lovely heroine, Sue, and hero, Bryn, introduce themselves, to each other and to you... 

  “You said don't go in strange people's houses.”
  Sue winced.  Apparently Trudi had inherited Sue's love of rules.  But why did she always have to trot them out at the most embarrassing moment?
  Before Sue could find an answer, and definitely before her blush had faded, he had already supplied an answer: “Your Mum is quite right, usually.  But you see, I'm not a stranger, I'm a neighbour.  My name is Bryn Thomas.”  He seemed to be speaking directly to Trudi, but Sue had a sense that he was waiting more for her own reaction.
  “Hello Bryn,” she obliged, trying to recall why the name had the ring of familiarity about it.  She was sure none of their other neighbours had mentioned him, and yet she was certain she’d encountered it somewhere before.  Oh well, like most missing things, the connection would come to light quicker if she stopped searching for it.  And there was no way she was going to come out with the hackneyed, ‘haven’t we met somewhere before?’  Better just to get on with the introductions.  “I'm Sue.”
  “And I'm Trudi.” 
  Sue hadn't been sure whether to give her daughter's name away, but she should have known that Trudi's innate friendliness wouldn't let her hold back for long.

There.  Just six paragraphs, as required in the rules of Sneak Peek Sunday.  Hop along there now if you'd like to read more Sunday sneaks.
  
If you liked this excerpt, sadly, you’ll have to wait until nearer Christmas for the whole story.  In the meantime, you could take a look at ‘Perfect Partners’ or ‘Desperate Bid’, or try some of the books I recommended in my ‘12 days of Kindle’ series. 

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Grammar Gripes

I think I've done a pretty good job of keeping my pet peeves out of my blog.  I rarely, if ever, castigate authors for the occasional grammatical slip, especially as I know that when typing in a hurry, I can write some pretty bizarre things.  Nonetheless, anyone who knows me well will testify that I can often be found seething at some of the incorrect words and phrases I find in published books and periodicals.  That's why I'm always pleased to find someone flying the flag for correct grammar, and I especially love this short piece by Live, Write, Thrive author C S Lakin on the difference between 'lie' and 'lay':

http://www.livewritethrive.com/2013/05/03/to-lay-or-to-lie-that-is-the-question/

Now if we could just follow it up with one on the difference between 'sitting' and 'sat', I could rest easy at nights.  Talking of which, it might be my turn to have a lie down...

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Writer Wednesday: Rachel Brimble


Today I'm delighted to be welcoming prolific romance author Rachel Brimble to my blog.  Based near the beautiful city of Bath, where I studied for my MA, Rachel has written a number of books for The Wild Rose Press and is now also published by romance giants Harlequin.  I'm in awe of Rachel's diligence and versatility, and excited to be finding out more about how she does it!

Rachel, you write both historicals and contemporaries – do you find the process of writing varies depending on what kind of story you’re writing?

Interestingly, not for me – I write character sketches for my hero, heroine and villain, followed by a two to three page synopsis. Throughout this process this tends to reveal the goal, motivation and conflict of the three main characters, which gives me the basis of the story. I write the first draft from start to finish, without looking back and then the hard work comes in drafts two and three.

The only difference with my historicals is the research – I stop and research as I go along when something I need to check crops up. However, even with my historicals, I am focusing on the emotions of the characters more than anything else.

Harlequin Superromance have just published ‘Finding Justice’.  Can you tell us a bit about the story and what inspired it?

Copyright © 2013 by 
Harlequin Enterprises Limited
I am so thrilled to be working with Harlequin Superromance! My editor is fantastic and I am absolutely ecstatic to announce that they have just offered me a new three-book contract so the Templeton Cove series will continue!! I’m having such a great time with Harlequin.  :-)

Finding Justice is the first in the series set in the fictional UK seaside town of Templeton Cove. It was the setting that inspired the story. It is based on a childhood holiday destination and while I was on a visit there a few years ago, I had the image of a murder…soon afterwards, I knew the victim was a past friend of both the hero and heroine. I then had to work out what brought them to the point of both tracking the killer…

Your latest historical is, ‘The Seduction of Emily’, which I’m looking forward to as I loved ‘The Arrival of Lily Curtis’.  What should we expect from Emily’s story?

Emily’s story is the first in a two-book contract I signed last year with Kensington. This is the story of a woman betrothed to a man through a contract drawn up between their fathers years before. Emily accepts her fate because if she refuses, her father’s legacy will be lost to any future children. Then she meets confidence trickster, Will Samson…

Will is on a mission to avenge the beating of his mother a few years before, he tracks down the man responsible and soon learns he is engaged to the beautiful Emily Darson. His first point of revenge is to seduce his nemesis’ intended…

The Seduction of Emily
Do you have to do a lot more research for the historical stories than the contemporaries?

My primary focus with my historicals is the emotions of the hero and heroine, I think this is the difference between historical fiction and historical romance. People often don’t appreciate there is a big difference between the two. Love, hate, anger, disappointment, grief and joy are universal and timeless emotions that characters would feel the same in the 1700 or 1800s as a young person would today.

I research settings and etiquette, maybe the Royal family at the time and any social issues that I want to focus on but it is really all about the characters. So yes, a little more time but not hours and hours.

Do you have a favourite hero and heroine from your books, and who would you like to see them played by in a film of the book? 

Cat Forrester from my Harlequin Superromance is one of my favorite characters, I just loved writing her story and it was such a thrill when Harlequin wanted book two. When I was writing Cat, I had British actress Kelly Reilly, who played DS Anna Travis in the TV series, Above Suspicion in the forefront of my mind.

How would you sum up the philosophy, or message, behind your books?

Several readers have told me there is a strong theme of trust in my books and I totally agree. I love exploring characters getting over their childhood issues or past heartbreak and realizing it’s worth taking another risk in order to find their happily ever after. Sacrifice, and more often than not, surrender, is the key obstacle each of my characters has to face before they can move on and be truly happy.

What have you found most useful in learning your craft, and what would you recommend for new writers?

Writing a ‘crappy first draft’ is my mantra and once I allowed myself just to write and worry about cleaning it up later, my daily word count tripled. I find once the words are there, I have something to work on and can strengthen my story and characterization with a lot more ease once the first draft is done and I know exactly what I want to say.

Do you mainly read romance, or do you get ideas from other genres too?

I read anything and everything apart from paranormal or sci-fi––my imagination just doesn’t stretch that far! I am a huge fan of historical fiction as well as historical romance and in complete awe of writers like Philippa Gregory, and my recent discovery, Nancy Bilyeau.

I also read quite a few biographies of famous people from the past, with the majority being royalty or actresses from stage and screen. Famous people have influenced a lot of my story ideas…but I’m not naming names!

You lead a very busy life – have you any tips about how to find time for writing, or make the most of writing time?

Biggest tip is the ‘crappy first draft’ for getting the words on the page––also, treat your writing as a job, not a hobby. I am very lucky to be a stay at home mum but once my kids are at school, I write…all day.

I rarely do any housework in this time and even more rarely see friends or family. If I was going out to work I wouldn’t be able to do these things so I don’t do them. Socialising is for the evenings or weekends and as for the housework…that just happens when it happens, LOL! :D

It’s so easy for writers to spend more time on social media than on writing.  Which is your favourite online distraction – facebook, twitter, or something else?  And where should we go to find out more about your books? 

Rachel Brimble
Twitter and Facebook are my biggest distraction! It is so difficult not to keep going in and chatting but I try to resist as much as possible. I do my best to write at least 500 words before I’m allowed to check for updates. I keep telling myself to stretch this to 1,000 but it’s not happening!

Here are my links – for my daily madness, Twitter is best!


Thanks, Rachel.  It's been a pleasure, as always!