Lucie’s NaNoWriMo challenge

NaNoWriMo.

Well, what can I say, I must be mad.

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.com

For anyone who doesn’t know what NaNoWriMo is, it is a month long writing challenge that takes place every year throughout the month of November. It stands for National Novel Writing Month and the aim is to write 50,000 words in the 30 days of November. The trick is to switch off your inner editor – and preferably your mobile phone, house phone, doorbell, forget about your daily chores, any errands you need to run or children you need to feed – and just concentrate on getting the word count down. This challenge isn’t about getting an uber polished 50k down on paper – or in Word – to be ready to send off on the 1st December. No. It’s simply about getting words down to have something to work with. What you will end up with in December is a complete pocket novel, or part of a full length novel, that you can go on to edit, edit, edit until your hearts content. It is a great challenge to motivate. It is a great challenge to hit deadlines. It is a great challenge to try something new, completely out of your comfort zone. And if you do decide to try writing that YA book and then in December, after reading it back, you think, ‘actually, I don’t think this is for me,’ then all you have lost is a month. Onwards and upwards and onto the next thing.

So, yes, as of tomorrow, I will be embarking on my first attempt of NaNoWriMo in a bid to get the first 50k words of my new novel, Love Hurts, down. I think it will come under Romantic Thriller although I’ve never really written anything like this before so I may have to wait until I’ve completed the first draft before I try to place it within a genre. It’s definitely romance, though – what else! :-)

The other thing that I am attempting for the first time with this novel, is the way in which I am going about writing it. I am normally a ‘pantster’ when I write. For those who are new to this writing term, a pantster is someone who writes as they go along. They may have a basic outline of what the story is about, but they pretty much have an idea and begin writing, letting the characters take them along the way and seeing where the story takes them. The other type of writer, the type that I shall be for the time being, is a ‘plotter’. A plotter gets the idea, drafts up a plot outline and works to it. Yes the characters may take them on a different journey, but there is a clear plot outline to the start, middle and end of the story, before the writer has even written the first word.

A snapshot of my desk, mid-plotting

I am completely new to this way of writing but I thought I would try it for Love Hurts. So I have spent the last two weeks, in preparation of NaNoWriMo, drafting up quite an in depth plot outline. I know exactly what happens to kick off the story, I know how it skips along and I know how it ends.

It’ll probably all change by week two as my heroine will no doubt trot off on her own little mission, but as it stands, I have the complete story outlined – I just need to write the damned thing! That’s where my writing challenge comes in. I’m hoping it will help focus me into getting the first draft completed by the new year so that I can send it off to the NWS very early next year. (If I get in!)

I’m not exactly getting the easiest of starts to the challenge either, as it starts smack bang in the middle of half term! Lovely! So I am having to do nighttime writing again – which I do enjoy, and I feel very creative at 1am, but it really does take it out of me. But it’s only for the first four days of the challenge and then I can go back to normal routine. And I’m sure there are hundreds of others out the whose only writing time is 1am.

I have also taken it upon myself this time round, to create a little playlist for this book. I’ve heard others say that they listen to certain songs or music whilst they write to help connect with the emotions. So I thought i’d try this too. I’m all for trying new things. I probably shouldn’t be trying all these new things at once, on one writing project, but hey! If it works, then brilliant. So here’s a little taster of a few of the more recent songs added to my playlist…..can you tell I was plotting a sad few scenes?

Leona Lewis – Trouble

Avril Lavigne – When You’re Gone

REM – Everybody Hurts

Shakespeares Sister- Stay

Leona Lewis – Run

Christina Aguilera – Hurt

And I want to just quickly say a huge thank you to my lovely friends, Kayleigh, Emma D, Emma P and Hannah, for knowing me well enough to not question my random text of ‘I need sad songs that will make me cry’ and just unload lots of ideas. It takes special friends to understand your crazy, weird and always random texts when writing – and only one of them being a writer themselves – so thanks girls for understanding my strangeness and never questioning it or ignoring my texts. (And if you ever did – I know where you all live! Mwahahaha!!)

So that just leaves me with the huge task of writing the first 50k words of Love Hurts. Wish me luck! And if any of you want to get a decent conversation out of me – wait until December!

Love Lucie x

P.S my name on the NaNoWriMo website is Lucie_Wheeler for anyone who wants to add me. Good luck everyone!

Image courtesy of istockphoto.com

Tuesday Chit-Chat with Janice Horton

A big welcome all the way from Scotland for the delightful Janice Horton!  Hello, hen, how are you? Pull up a chair, biscuits, tea or coffee a plenty.  I think there’s cake too, I’m sure Celia has made some.

So, Janice, whereabouts in Scotland are you based?

Hello girls! I’m from Dumfriesshire and it’s the part of Scotland that they call the Southern Highlands. I live in a wee cottage high up on the side of a hill. It’s very remote and in the wintertime we can be snowed in for ages. It’s all very conducive to writing romantic novels!

You have a very distinct Scottish feel to your blog and your books, what is it about the country that inspires you?

As a romantic novelist, it’s impossible not to feel inspired by the hills, the heather, the mists and the ancient castles around me. I drew on it all when I wrote Bagpipes & Bullshot and readers said that was one of the things they most enjoyed about my writing. It’s a very beautiful country, but the lifestyle can be very harsh here, which provides lots of material for both conflict and humour in my stories.  So, I continue to give my readers the Scottish settings they enjoy. Bagpipes and Bullshot is set here in Dumfries and Galloway. Reaching for the Stars has an Edinburgh setting and How Do You Voodoo? has a scene in Glasgow’s Necropolis or ‘The City of the Dead’!

If you didn’t live in Scotland, where would you like to live?

Somewhere warm and dry. Sometimes, just sometimes, I’d like to throw on a t-shirt and a pair of shorts or wear a thin silky dress and high heels. At home in Scotland, I mostly wear layers of warm clothes and wellies, even in the summer.

Is there a particular place in the world that you would like to visit and/or include in a novel?

I’m sure there is! But actually, for me it’s the characters that come first. Although my novels are primarily set in Scotland, it entirely depends where the characters come from or where they are going that dictates any other settings. The heroine in Bagpipes & Bullshot, Orley, is from Texas USA and the novel starts there. Luckily, I have been to American many times and know the Gulf Coast area well. However, if I haven’t been to somewhere I’m going to write about, I do feel I’d have to go there for research purposes!

What about reading, not Reading in Berkshire, but reading as in books – what do you like to read and what books or authors have influenced you as a writer?

At the moment I’m reading indie novels on my Kindle – my tbr list is ridiculous but they have all been recommended as ‘must reads’ – and so I must! There are also some fabulous new small publishers springing up who are focussing on high quality fiction in eformat. In paperback, I enjoy novels with great covers and stories that feature fabulous heroes. And as to who has influenced me as a writer – it would have to be those who write gripping stories with equal measure of wit and humour – like the wonderful  Jilly Cooper, for example.

How Do You Voodoo? Great title by the way – can you tell us a bit about it.

Thank you! Interestingly, I had the title at the same moment I had the idea for How Do You Voodoo?  The story was sparked by a real life event. I was on a flight back from the Caribbean which had originated in Port au Prince, Haiti, when two female passengers got into an argument. When one of the women went onto to be quite ill later in the flight, my imagination took over and I started scribbling down a story about a girl with a voodoo curse on her and what happened afterwards.

Story Synopsis:  How Do You Voodoo?

Loveless fashion model Nola Nichols thinks being beautiful is a curse; that is until she is cursed and her looks begin to fade just a week before the most important photo shoot of her career.

Nola rejects all rational explanation on what might be causing her lost looks and decides she has to find a way to get uncursed. This imaginative quest takes her from the Caribbean to Glasgow’s own City of the Dead. Along the way, she finds herself taking part in a rather unconventional funeral, involved in a voodoo ritual, reveals one or two unrests in her own past and falls madly in love with a doctor. Erm, that would be a witch doctor, right…?

It’s a novella as opposed to your usual full length novels, was it difficult it keep the word count down?

This is my first novella and although at 20,000 words it was much quicker to write that my full length novels, I found the writing process very similar in the respect of creating character, plot, story arc, etc.  The only difference is how I tell the story. In my longer novels, I have more characters and more viewpoints and there is at least one subplot. In How Do You Voodoo? the story is told only from Nola’s viewpoint and there is no subplot, only a bit of backstory that I weave in as the story progresses, so that we understand why she behaves as she does and what she really wants in life.

What made you decide to write a novella?

I’m working on another full length novel at the moment but I’m aware that I’m not the fastest novelist in the world and so it’s unlikely to be finished, edited and formatted, until mid-2013. It occurred to me that there are certain times of the year, like Halloween, Christmas and Valentine’s Day, when it’s an ideal time to bring out a novella to keep your readers interested in your writing between full length novels or perhaps to introduce them to your writing.

Thanks for popping in Janice, it’s been great chatting to you.

Janice Horton lives in Scotland and writes contemporary romance with humour. Her novels ‘Bagpipes & Bullshot’ and ‘Reaching for the Stars’ are both Amazon Kindle bestsellers. Her latest title ‘How Do You Voodoo?’ is a romantic and humorous novella for Halloween and out now!

Find out more about Janice and her novels:

Author Blog: http://www.janicehortonwriter.blogspot.co.uk
Follow her on Twitter: @JaniceHorton
Like her Author Facebook Page
Featured Author & Associate Editor at: Loveahappyending.com

Link to her ebooks on Amazon.co.uk

Link to her ebooks on Amazon.com

 

Halloween Story – We’re In This Together…

At Romaniac HQ we are having a Halloween Story Party.  We used this picture to inspire a group story, each writing a few sentences. Now, as we’re all in this together, we’d love you to join in and continue with five sentences of your own.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we will begin …

……

Sue : It had seemed like a good idea at the time, but that was this morning in broad daylight. Now the damp night air was forming a heavy mist, turning once familiar landmarks into almost unrecognisable fuzzy shapes. Rachel gave Paul a sideways look. Through the hazy glow of the streetlight, she thought she saw a flicker of uncertainty cross his face. Could he be having second thoughts too?

Celia: ‘Did you bring the stuff?’ His voice sounded hoarse, without the usual easy Irish lilt that sent her pulses reeling. Rachel felt in her pockets.

‘Yes, I’ve got the camera, and the crucifix. You said you’d bring the…other things.’

Laura: ‘What do you think’s in here?’ Paul yanked a gym bag from his shoulder and waved it in front of Rachel, before grabbing her elbow and spinning her to him. ‘You are going through with this, aren’t you? Me and you, we made a pact and that means we’re in this together, right?’ He dropped her arm, pulled his coat tight and raised his collar.

Catherine: Rachel stiffened. She hated it when he got like this, waggling the fireworks around as if they weren’t dangerous and acting like he was Butch Cassidy.

‘I’d hardly call it a pact, but yes, we’re in it together.’ She held his hand, tried to reassure him. But something cold and metal stopped her from squeezing tight.

Vanessa: ‘What’s this?’ Rachel took a step back, shaking her head, struggling to breathe past the knot of fear that seemed to have taken physical form in her chest. The mist had thickened, eating up the world until it was just them – just them and whatever was coming out of the fog, with echoing footsteps and a slow, sinister tune, whistled over and over… a tune that promised chaos and pain and screaming.

“What have you done, Paul?”

Paul was disappearing in the swirling fog, but she heard his whispered response. “We need help.”

“Not that kind of help.”

Liz: The whistling paused and the footsteps stopped; a delicate silence filling the heavy air.

‘Paul?’ Rachel squeaked as her boyfriend vanished from her sight, ‘Paul come back!’

Fright bubbled at the pit of her stomach, working its way up to her pounding heart when suddenly something gripped Rachel’s shoulder, pulling her backwards.

‘Get off me!’ she growled, recognising the touch. She had trusted that Paul wouldn’t do this.

Debbie: ‘You idiot. You frightened the life out of me! Don’t… Arrghh!’

She saw the cobbled pavement rush towards her face but it was too quick to put her hands out and save herself. The next thing she knew she sat feeling bewildered; hands shaking, chest pummelling out of her body. Paul wasn’t there. She was alone.

Lucie: He’d done it again! He promised her that he would never put her through all this again, not after what happened before – they had agreed to do it differently this time.

A gut wrenching mix of betrayal and fear rapidly engulfed her body. She frantically scrambled around on the ground, trying to lift herself up to standing. She needed to get out of there…and fast!

Jan: That’s when she heard the first firework go off. Realization dawned, as the second one whizzed overhead, that with or without her, Paul was pressing ahead with the plan. Dammit! Her camera and crucifix had been taken. If Paul lit that third and final rocket, Rachel would have a fateful decision to make: Should she run, leaving Paul at the mercy of this ghostly, desecrated wasteland, knowing she’d never be able to return? Or stay, trust the shadows to protect her, and follow Paul into the smog to face the consequences..?

It’s over to you…Happy Halloween!

The Italian Inheritance by Louise Rose-Innes

A warm Romaniac welcome to romance author Louise Rose-Innes who has popped in today to talk about her new novel, published this week, called The Italian Inheritance.  Just before we start though, I would just apologise to everyone for the state of the place, it’s been a busy week.  Promise I’ll have it tidy by Monday.  Okay, where was I? Oh yes, the lovely Louise …

 

To celebrate the launch of her new book, The Italian Inheritance, Louise Rose-Innes is giving away a free copy to one of The Romaniacs subscribers. All you have to do is SHARE this post and your name will be entered into the draw.

Louise’s books are always set in interesting or exotic locations. Here she talks about how she uses setting to add depth and substance to her stories. Over to you, Louise.

I love to travel. Growing up in South Africa meant that we had to travel long distances to get to Europe and America, so as a family, we contented ourselves with shorter trips to more unusual destinations. The rugged and wild west-coast of Namibia, Kwazulu Natal, Mauritius, Mozambique and Lesotho all featured in my childhood. I learnt early on how the culture and atmosphere of a location can influence your stay there.

After university I jetted off to Europe and spent a few gloriously care-free years working in London and taking frequent trips to Italy, Spain, Greece, Austria, Germany, Switzerland and everywhere else in between. Not being a 5 star hotel kind of gal, I stayed mostly in family-run B&Bs and met a variety of interesting and colourful characters many of whom have influenced my characters over the years.

My latest release, The Italian Inheritance, is set on the glamorous island of Capri, off Italy’s Amalfi Coast. I visited Capri with a friend in 2003 and the dry, lazy heat and classy glitz and glamour of the place left an indelible imprint in my mind. It struck me as the perfect place to stage a romance, because of its laid-back charm and eloquent lifestyle. Not only is the island incredibly dramatic in its beauty, but it’s also historically relevant, once being the summer playground of much creative and literary talent.

Being only a short ferry ride to Naples and Sorrento gave my island setting the lifeline to the ‘real world’ which I needed. This added substance to my hero – the darkly cynical, Rafael Vialli.

Character development is important in a romance novel and I wanted my hero in The Italian Inheritance to have flaws and trust issues resulting from a difficult past.

Naples is not a pretty city. It has elements that are beautiful about it, but it is rough and dirty in parts and provided the perfect background for my hero to have grown up in. Its gritty character also contrasts nicely to the idle and luxurious personality of Capri, only a stone’s throw away.

Setting can play an important role in a romance if it contributes to the depth or conflict of the story. Here are my top tips for creating a setting that adds impact to your story.

  • Pick a setting that either compliments or contradicts your characters personalities. In my first novel, Antarctic Affair, my hero was a fiery adventure photographer so I set the story in Antarctica. The heroine by contrast was a city bound journalist, with an inherent dislike of the outdoors. So pitting her against the elements (and the hero’s fiery personality) made for interesting reading.
  • Let the setting add insight into your character’s personality. In The Italian Inheritance, the rough neighbourhood in Naples where Rafael grew up made my heroine, a London-based nurse distinctly uncomfortable. It unleashed empathy and provided a glimpse into his past that she might otherwise not have had. By contrast, his elegant villa in Capri was a symbol of how far he’d come in life and how his ambition had paid off. It signified his pride and sense of achievement.
  • The setting should provide obstacles to your heroes’ journey. This can either be in the plot or the personal development of the love story. In The Italian Inheritance my heroine, Anna, is a hardworking nurse from London. She can’t afford to stay in Capri for long. The island is notoriously expensive. When the legal process around her identity drags out, she is forced to accept Rafael’s offer of a place to stay. This forces them together and enables the love story to progress.
  • The characteristics of the location can contribute to the ‘heat’ in the story. Capri is hot and dry, most people wear little in the way of clothing, the water is warm and inviting so there is a lot of wondering around in bikinis and sarongs… You get the picture? It can work the opposite way round too. In Antarctic Affair the biting cold forced the characters to huddle together, drink mulled wine, generate body heat and stay in bed for longer…. Use your imagination.

The Italian Inheritance is out now on Amazon.com and All Romance Ebooks.

The Italian Inheritance

A mysterious letter… A father she never knew… A vast family fortune…

Life couldn’t get any stranger for quiet, conscientious, London-based nurse, Anna Crawford. On a trip to the glamorous Italian island of Capri Anna discovers a family legacy too great to ignore and a man, whose trust she must win, in order to change her life forever.

Romaniacal Thursday with Carol Hedges.

What is ‘YA’?

Hello? Hellooo? Oh great: the Romaniacs invite me onto their blog to talk about writing YA, and now they’ve all sloped off somewhere for coffee and left me to get on with it. And this place is an absolute tip; you’d think they’d have run a hoover and a damp cloth over it before I arrived, wouldn’t you?

Right, I’ll just have to interview myself, then.

Moves to head of table : So, Carol Hedges, Award Winning Blogger, writer of 11 published books, long listed Carnegie novelist, feisty redhead and Pink Customised 2CV owner, what is YA?

Moves back:  Hard to say, Carol. If I was being flippant, I’d probably define it as: not enough s*x and swearing to be adult fiction, and too much to be children’s fiction. More seriously, I think it’s writing that deals with some of the life issues that face older teenagers, usually written in their voice and from their perspective.

Jigsaw Pieces, my new e-book is narrated by 18 year old Norwegian teenager Annie Skaerstad. Her issues involve establishing her identity as a young woman, and coming to terms with an ‘adult’ world that contains evil and exploitation and indifference.

I also cynically sometimes think that YA was invented by children’s publishers who needed a category to place books that didn’t fit into the accepted children’s canon but looked like they’d sell quite well. I often wonder if I’d sent the original manuscript to an ‘adult’ publisher, it’d have been published as Adult fiction, as so many novels that have youthful narrators are.

Moves: Can you tell us a bit more about YA?

And moves back: YA is a genre that crosses boundaries (that’s why it’s sometimes referred to as ‘crossover’). I believe 56% of books are read by adults – I like to think it’s because YA books have such strong characters and plots that they can seamlessly cross genres and appeal to any age group.

I was told by one of Jigsaw Pieces’ readers recently that they were completely unaware of its provenance, and were simply enjoying it as a novel, which I thought was a great comment. There’s far too much categorising of fiction nowadays. Personal gripe.

The genre doesn’t just relate to angst ridden yoof though; it also encompasses sci-fi, zombie fiction, paranormal, ‘dark fiction’ and the rest. A lot of us ‘YA fics’ meet up regularly on Twitter, in what I like to think of as a kind of cyberspace bus shelter, where we all hang out and strop happily.

Moves seat: So YA writers are really just tapping into some Inner Teenager?

Returns to former seat: Maybe. The best YA novels do seem to come from writers who are able to recall exactly what it was like to be 16 or 17. I’d be loth to say they’ve never grown up, but they seem to have their earlier selves on tap. It’s the one genre, unlike crime fiction or historical fiction, where the only way to research it is to explore within oneself.

Returns to head of table: And finally Carol Hedges, ace guest and all-round talented writer, what are you going to delight us all with next?

Slides back into seat: Well Carol, I’m currently working on a Victorian-lite crime novel called Diamond Girl. The Heroine is 17 (surprise!) and, having been rescued from the Bertha Helstone Institute for Orphaned Clergy Daughters, is orphaned again when her Uncle is murdered in a horrific midnight attack on Westminster Bridge. In his Will, she is left a massive Diamond, the Eye of the Khan, but as she soon discovers there are dark forces abroad who will stop at nothing to get hold of it. That’s all I’ m prepared to divulge at this stage.

Moves again: Wow! Sounds amazing. Well, thank you so much, Carol Hedges. You’ve been a great guest. We’ve learned a lot about YA, and we’re all going to download Jigsaw Pieces as soon as we can, and enjoy reading it on our Kindles, whatever age we are.

Ah, I can hear footsteps. Looks like the Romaniacs are returning. I hope they’ve got me a coffee. And a big piece of cake. Or I shall have to graffiti ‘Caz Woz ‘Ere’  all over their table. Actually, come to think of it – I have a felt tip right here in my pocket somewhere…

Carol can be found at:

http://www.Facebook.com Carol Hedges   http://carolhedges.blogspot.com   @carolJhedges   www.shewrites.com

Jigsaw Pieces (Ebook) and the four Spy Girl crime novels for age 10 + (publ by Usborne) are available from Amazon.co.uk/ Amazon.com

Fellow Romaniacs – there’s a note from Carol Hedges.

Thank you so much for your post, Carol. Hope to see you next time :-) x

Let’s Talk About Sex

Fear not, this is not a blog about the 50 Shades trilogy, primarily because I haven’t actually read it but also because it’s probably been talked to death by now.  No, I wanted to talk about reading and writing sex scenes. How far do you go?

When I’m not writing, more often than not, I’m reading. A lot of what I read involves some sort of relationship between adults and, therefore, the expected sex scene comes up.  How sex scenes are dealt with varies immensely and it made me wonder where the barriers are for the reader and the writer.

At a recent meeting with an editor, I was asked about the heat level of my work in progress.  Well, to be honest, I didn’t know where it came on the ‘heat’ scale. Was it a ‘sweet’ romance? I was asked. Did the bedroom door close and the rest left to the reader’s imagination? Errm, no was my answer but I still wasn’t quite sure where to place it. Did the editor have a Heat Scale I could look at and work out roughly where mine came? Sadly not, so I thought I’d devise one myself for future reference. (see below)

Anyway, all this made me ask myself a few questions…

Is a sex scene always necessary?

How much detail do you need to go into?

Is it best to leave something to the imagination or are consumers more accepting and/or wanting to go further into the bedroom?

What do you think? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

Thanks. Sue 

Tuesday Chit Chat with Liz Harris

Morning, Liz, and welcome to Romaniac HQ. We’re a little short of chocolate Hobnobs since Jane Lovering’s visit, but all good Romaniacs always have a supply of cakes. Celia has made a particularly spectacular chocolate cake…

We would love to find out more about you, so here we go…

How has being a member of the NWS helped you on your journey to becoming published?

Swaggering inwardly that having taught A level English, I knew it all and that writing a novel had been a cinch, I sealed my ms into the envelope, sent it off to the NWS, put champagne in the fridge, sat back and waited for an ecstatic report to land on my doormat. It didn’t happen quite like that! My first NWS report was the beginning of a lesson in the art of writing a sellable novel. Part way down the line, that lesson culminated in the publication of The Road Back, but that lesson is still continuing today through the copy-editing.

Just how big was your smile the moment you found out Choc Lit wanted to publish you?

It was ginormous. It was also a very emotional moment. I was alone in the house when I learnt that Choc Lit was taking The Road Back. I had to wait half an hour before my husband returned. During that time, I walked around the house, unable to sit still. When he finally got home, I flung open the door, smiling. Amazingly, he didn’t see this as unusual (normally, I remain buried in my computer). He walked past me, talking about the choir he’d been taking. I cut through him. ‘Choc Lit’s replied,’ I blurted out.

He looked at me hopefully, and I burst into tears. Arms outstretched, he came forward. ‘Someone will take you,’ he said.

It took a while before I could get out the words to make him understand that I now had a publisher.

Six days later, DC Thompson accepted my pocket novel, A Dangerous Heart.  Another super moment, but there will only ever be one first acceptance.

With the publication of The Road Back, how have the last few months been?                         

They’ve been hectic.Instead of doing as I did when writing The Road Back – coming down, having breakfast, opening the laptop and writing till the close of day, breaking only every hour on the hour to make a coffee – I found that I no longer had great stretches of uninterrupted time in which to lose myself in my work. My concentration was forever being broken by the emails that fell regularly into my inbox and by the demands on my time relating to matters of promotion. I am very happy with the way that my next novel, A Bargain Struck, set in Wyoming, 1887, has turned out, but I shall organise my day differently in the future.

How easy/hard do you find self-promotion?

When it involves going to parties, conferences and so on where I’ll meet friends, any promotion is incidental and my priority is to have fun and to catch up with friends I don’t see often enough. And I enjoy giving talks; after all, I was once a teacher. But things like the book launch and the drop-in session at my local library were beyond scary – whether anyone turned up was out of my control, and also whether they bought any books. I have to steel myself inwardly for anything where the sole object is to sell my books.

Have you found writing book 2 more difficult or has publication given you more confidence?

It was definitely much, much more difficult than I’d expected. Had I had a drawer of rejects, I could have picked one, worked on it and sent it in as my second book. But I started A Bargain Struck from scratch, and as I did so, I felt the weight of expectation heavy on me. When people tell you that they really enjoyed your first novel and were very moved by it, you love to hear that, but at the same time a niggly little fear grows that you may not be able to achieve the same effect with the second.

You recently visited Wyoming where Book 2 is set. Do you feel visiting settings in person is important?

If it can be done, it can’t be beaten. There’s a real thrill in walking where your characters walked, breathing the air they breathed, seeing the sights they saw. But it isn’t always possible to do that, and when it isn’t, the internet and books can do a brilliant job of transporting us to the world beyond our study whilst we’re still seated in our computer chair.

How do you use the modern day Wyoming to influence the historical Wyoming setting?

Beyond seeing the scenery and the vegetation in Wyoming today, I haven’t really used modern day Wyoming at all. My focus in going to Wyoming was to see the area in which my characters, Conn and Ellen, lived, and to explore Wyoming’s museums to discover the answers that had eluded me in my research. It turned out to be a brilliant, very worthwhile trip – both in terms of having fun as well as finding out those all-important answers.

How many projects/books do you have on the go at any one time?

I can work on only one book at a time. Next week, I shall hand A Bargain Struck to Choc Lit, and the week after that, I shall start on my new novel. It’s a very exciting thought. I do have one other project at hand, though, and that is to introduce my rom com, Evie Undercover, to the world. The Choc Lit readers’ panel took Evie Shaw, newest reporter on the gossip magazine ‘Pure Dirt’, to their hearts, and Evie Undercover has just come out on a year’s exclusive with kindle. It’s a very different book from The Road Back, I hasten to say, and not just because it’s only 78,000 words.

Is there a book out there that you liked so much, you wished you had written it?

I haven’t read Fifty shades of Grey, but I certainly wish I’d written it. I could have easily got used to lugging sacks of lucre to the bank! As to both parts of your question, though, I’ve loved many novels over the years, but I don’t think that I’ve ever consciously wished that I’d written one of them myself. I have too much fun creating my own fictional world ever to wish that I’d created that of someone else.

Does music influence your writing mood at all or do you work in silence or have minimal background noise?

I prefer to work in total silence. I find music very distracting. And I could never work with the television on. Fortunately, the road in which I live is a quiet road so I have little background nose, and that’s just how I like it.

What makes you howl with laughter?

In term of books, Three Men and a Boat, by Jerome K. Jerome. That is one funny book. I also like slapstick programmes, such as Some Mothers Do Have ‘Em, although that’s a bit dated now. Some of Ben Stiller’s films have had me weeping with laughter. My husband also makes me laugh – he’s a great mimic.

Tell us about the funniest RNA and/or Choc Lit event moment?

Do you know, I can’t answer this! I never seem to stop smiling and laughing at all get togethers with writer friends, but I can’t look back at a specific event or moment which was particularly funny. I know that as soon as I send this, I’ll think of something, but for the moment, a funny event escapes me.

Are you ever bored?

No, I’m never bored – it’s impossible to be bored in a home when there are always books to be read. Having said that, I do remember being horrendously bored on one occasion some years ago. It was at a talk given to the staff on an inset day at the secondary school where I worked. I can’t remember the topic, but the talk went on for more than two hours and was unbelievably boring. I was in the front row so I couldn’t pull out a book or a crossword. I was sooooo frustrated. I understood then what it felt like for pupils who were forced to sit through a lesson that had no relevance in their lives nor held any interest for them. I, too, had an empty chair been handy, would have been tempted to throw it!

How would you spend an unexpected windfall?

Obviously, I’d see that my family and close friends were sorted, and then I’d buy a flat in London so that I could stay over in my own place after the theatre and after the RNA parties. I go to London a great deal, and it would be lovely not to have to get a hotel or stay with the family.

And finally…

What’s the worst interview question you’ve ever been asked?

Hmm. Apart from when I was asked my age, I think this might just be it!! I can’t answer your question because the person who posed that particular question might see it. Tactful or what!

Liz, thank you so much for popping in for a chat and for being a brilliant supporter of The Romaniacs. We look forward to seeing you soon.

Thank you so much for inviting me to join you for tea. I’ve really enjoyed chatting to you. I must add, too, that that chocolate cake was pretty fabulous. Do congratulate Celia for me. Someone must have told her that chocolate fudge icing was my favourite.

Liz Harris was born in London and read Law at Southampton University. After graduating, she moved to California where she led a varied life, trying her hand at everything from cocktail waitressing on Sunset Strip to working as secretary to the CEO of a large Japanese trading company, not to mention a stint as resident starlet at MGM. On returning to Britain, Liz completed a degree in English, awarded by The University of London, and then taught for a number of years before developing her writing career. Liz has written several short stories, articles for local newspapers and has had a pocket novel released by DC Thomson in 2012. Her debut novel, The Road Back, was published by Choc Lit in September 2012, and her rom com Evie Undercover, also published by Choc Lit, is now out on kindle. A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, she is the organiser of their Oxford Chapter. She is also a member of both the Oxford Writers’ Group and the Historical Novel Society. Liz’s two sons live in London, while she and her husband are now based in South Oxfordshire.

You can follow Liz on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/#!/liz.harris.52206?fref=ts

on Twitter: https://twitter.com/lizharrisauthor

and on her blog: http://www.lizharrisauthor.com/?page_id=14

The Road Back is available for the Kindle at Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Road-Back-Choc-ebook/dp/B008RMKX0U/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1350396389&sr=8-1

or in paperback: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Road-Back-Liz-Harris/dp/1906931674/ref=sr_1_1_title_1_pap?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1350396419&sr=1-1

and Evie Undercover is availble for the Kindle: http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=evie+undercover

Ready… Steady….. Write!

At Romaniac HQ, we have been chatting about writing challenges and how useful they can be.

Last year, I took part in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) which was based around writing 50,000 words in November. It was challenging to say the least trying to write 1,666 words a day and most days I didn’t, meaning I would have to catch up writing over 10,000 words at the weekends. But it was worth it.

Taking part in NaNoWriMo forced me to write at a fast pace, not allowing me any time to over analyze the words of my novel and because of this, it formed structure and took shape.  My WIP developed more in November 2011 than it had in the entire year.

So as the end of the year approaches, slowing us all down, we thought there would be nothing more perfect than our own Romaniac HQ writing challenge, to join in with the spirit of things.

During the month of November, we will aim to write 30,000 words, each. That’s 1,000 words a day, (Carol Vorderman has nothing on me!) and lots of coffee!

Now we’ve put it in print, you can hold us to it and check in to see how we’re doing!

Good luck with all of you taking the NaNoWriMo challenge. Let us know how it’s going.

Love Liz x

Roving Romaniacs at Julie Cohen’s Advanced Novelists’ Workshop

Advanced Novelists’ Workshop – 13 October 2012

 with Julie Cohen

Laura : The two hundred mile round trip from Weymouth, Dorset to Reading, Berks, to attend Julie Cohen’s course was worth every moment.

It started with catching up with Sue and discovering, although we were travelling from different locations, we both saw a village in the sky and a hot air balloon floating above our cars.

Sue : That was so weird, I promise there were no illegal substances involved. Our journeys just happened to merge at the same point, the M3 and that’s where we had this mirage. 

Laura : I arrived at nine thirty and met with the other attendees, all of whom were lovely and very interesting ladies. And what an array of genres and writing styles. I learned much by listening to everyone’s ideas and solutions to writing problems.

Sue : Yes, I got there shortly after Laura, probably only a few minutes, but then spent about 10 more trying to fit into the tiniest parking space EVER. Which I did, I hasten to add. 

It was lovely to see some people I’d met before, some who up until that point had only been a Twitter profile picture and some that I had never met. It was also fascinating to find out the different genres we were all writing, especially the YA authors.

Laura : The day was divided into sessions, all of which we had requested. I’m desperate to learn how to write a sympathetic flawed character, and I asked for a section on what to include in a submission letter to agents. Both topics were discussed in great detail and I am keen to put my new knowledge into action.

Sue : I wanted to find out more about writing sex scenes but in the end we skipped that part as it wasn’t appropriate for all genres. I’ll just have to research it in other ways.  Err, I was actually thinking along the lines of reading more books, not what you were thinking!  Although I did have an interesting conversation with Julie on the way back to the car park about this topic and the ‘key’ words, but that’s for another day.

Julie very kindly critiqued the first five pages of  my WIP and has given me some great advice. I am writing from three different points of view, but experimenting with the third and first person.  Is this wise? Does it pull the reader out of the story? Does it interrupt the flow? Obviously, something I need to give thought to – so thank you, Julie.

Laura : Even though we submitted the first five pages of our WIP’s for Julie to critique, upon her advice, I am using the lessons learned to build up my hero in my first novel, Truth or Dare? The information and methods are brilliant and have given me ways to increase the percentage of the hero’s POV and for it to have purpose. I’m very excited by this prospect. Once I have sorted him out, I will use the techniques to create a likeable, but extremely flawed heroine for Follow Me.

It was a fantastic day with cake, new and existing friends and a great tutor. Oh. And a visit to the pub afterwards. What’s not to like?

Sue : OMG! I was in heaven with all that lovely cake, I think I ate enough for both Laura and I. Okay, I probably ate enough for all nine Romaniacs – I didn’t  like to leave anyone out.  It was a great day, really enjoyed the company, loved Julie’s natural ability to make you feel at ease and then fish and chips at the pub – when can we do it again?

Laura  and Sue x

Tuesday Chit Chat with Mel Sherratt

Today, we give a warm Romaniac welcome to bestselling author of murder & mayhem, Mel Sherratt…

Hi Mel,

Tell us a bit about your novels:Taunting the Dead and the two books in the Mitchell Estate series, Somewhere to Hide, and Behind a Closed Door, the thinking behind them, and their subsequent success; how it feels to watch your creation rise up the UK Amazon kindle chart?

Taunting the Dead was my debut novel. It’s a police procedural and I wrote it because Somewhere to Hide had been turned down by four editors. It seemed to be too cross-genre – a mixture of women’s fiction and crime thriller. So I added a whodunit to my next book. Alas, that seemed to be too similar to authors already out there. Yet even though Taunting the Dead did extremely well, some readers didn’t like the fact that it felt too character-based rather than all police procedural. I’ve always wanted to write about the effects that crime has on people, their feelings, their emotions etc so I decided to bring out three books I had already written as part of a series, the first being Somewhere to Hide. The second, Behind a Closed Door came out yesterday and Fighting for Survival will be out by the end of this year.

   

Can you give us a few teasers about what you’re working on at the moment?

Now that Behind a Closed Door is finished, I’m working on book three, Fighting for Survival. I’m hoping to get it finished for the end of the year, which is why I have the release date set as January 2013, just in case. Fighting for Survival is about the residents of Stanley Avenue and how their lives entwine. It covers issues such as self-harm, girl gangs, fighting, bullying, infidelity, knife crime – I know, misery lit!

In between, I’m drafting out a psychological thriller… busy, busy, busy.

Apart from thrillers and crime, which other genres interest and inspire you?

I really enjoy women’s fiction – something that I can get lost in with great characters. So authors such as Adele Parks, Dorothy Koomson and Pippa Wright. I also like young adult books – Rook Hastings is a favourite of mine. So too is Tanya Byrne and Tamsin Murray.

Talk us through a typical writing day in the life of Mel Sherratt.

I always get up around 6am during the week so after a cup of coffee or two, when I’m drafting a book I use the first two hours a day to either catch up on emails or go over the plots I’ve thought of overnight, with my laptop on the settee. Once the battery needs recharging, I head to my office. I’ve only recently made a room into an office but I can’t tell you the different it has made. I don’t have Twitter on my PC so from ten until one I write. A quick break for lunch and writing again until four. Then it’s back to the emails, writing blog posts etc for another hour or so. Then that’s me done for the day writing wise – unless I’m nearing the end of the draft. When my brain takes over, I have to work until it’s done so I’ll often write for a few hours extra during the evenings over the last couple of weeks. It’s the same when I’m editing, although I only do this during the day as I need time to switch off.

If you’d had the chance to appear in any TV crime drama, past or present, however big or small the role, which one would you have chosen and why?

Luther – without a doubt. Meeting the creator of the series, Neil Cross, along with some of the cast at Theakston Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival in summer was amazing. They were all so friendly, approachable and downright entertaining. I had a chat with Neil Cross about his book and about writing in general and he was so warm, really took time out for me. I loved that!

And that’s without mentioning the show – and Idris Elba, of course. And Warren Brown – who was just as nice as Neil Cross. Anyway, I digress… Luther for me is so unrealistically realistic – that’s what I like about it. It’s dark and so flipping scary. So I’d like to be an extra in that. Any part would do.

Do you have any phobias and if so have you ever worked any of them into any of your novels?

No, none that I know of. I’m not too fond of spiders or things that creep over my skin and I’m a bit scared to go underwater, but luckily nothing debilitating.

Most memorable/unusual piece of research you’ve had to do to date?

Oh, you asked for it. Can DNA be found in vomit? And yes, it can! I often wonder if I get flagged up anywhere for the searches that I do on Google.

How big a part does social media play in your success and what do you consider to be the biggest benefits of it, and downsides, if any?

I was quite well known on Twitter because of a blog I used to run called High Heels and Book Deals. Because of this I had a place to talk about my writing and my struggles to get a traditional deal. So when I made the decision to self-publish, I had a lot of support. I’d given so much of my time for over two years to promote other authors that I think they in turn helped me. I did a few guest blog posts and then the book took off on its own steam. It was great.

I tend to only use Twitter so the benefit for me is that I can get to know other authors and writers plus I can chat about my books with my readers. More importantly I can have a laugh and a giggle and use it as a virtual office. It does get lonely working from home. The downside for me is when authors and writers use social media as a sales point and nothing else – does the word social not explain things to you? It’s meant to be a two-way street.  We all need to self-promote on occasions – and why shouldn’t we – but I like to do it within reason.

Which three main qualities do you think a writer needs to succeed?

Perseverance – look at me. Twelve years of trying for a traditional deal, I self-published and now I have readers. It’s been amazing and if it hadn’t worked out well for me, I would still continue to write book after book until it had. I have written six books now, am writing my seventh and have full plans ready for four more. It’s what I’ll always do, I hope.

Getting it right. Without sounding conceited, online a well-written story can be found at the same time as a poorly written book littered with typos and errors. I know which one I would rather read. It’s the little things that count. And if you’re after an agent, make your work as crisp, clean and concise as you can.  Make it stand out. You’re representing yourself at the end of the day.

Listen and learn. I can’t tell you how much I have learned over the past twelve months. Editing wise, although I employ one, I learn about words and grammar as much as I can. I always take on board constructive criticism. If something isn’t working for several readers, I change to suit. It’s great to go with gut instinct but sometimes it isn’t always right. You can be too close to see what’s wrong.

Your love of shoes is no secret, Mel, so tell us, if you could design your own range, what styles, shapes and colours would you veer towards? (And come on, you can whisper it… ) how many pairs do you own?

I think they would have to be either black or really mixed bright and bold colours; definitely with a platform soul and a high heel. I’ve even seen some wacky ones with guns and handcuffs on them! Now they would be fun. But I think for me, sophistication is the key word. And high – who cares if they cripple you.

At the last count, I owned 52 pairs of shoes and boots. I daren’t count again. Will that do!

Quick-Fire:

First Celebrity Crush?

Gosh, I’m not sure. I can remember my first author crush on meeting someone – Peter James. He was such a gentleman.  Oh, yes, I can – Chachi out of Happy Days!

Fave Holiday Destination?

I love going to a small place called Kefalos, Kos. I’ve been quite a few times. It’s a place to chill, sunbathe, eat and drink at our leisure – fires up the batteries again.

Guilty Pleasure?

Cheese and chip sandwiches.

Starsky or Hutch?

Starsky.

Pimms or Budweiser?

Bud, definitely.

Art Gallery or Casino?

Ooh, tricky as I don’t often go to either. Casino.

Strictly or X Factor?

I don’t watch Strictly. Shoot me now but I don’t like it!

And finally, you knew there would be something footwear related, Mel : Doc Martens or Wellies?

You really expect me to choose between two pairs of flat shoes? No, can’t do it. It would be a crime ;)

Thanks so much for calling in, Mel. It’s been fab talking to you :)

Mel’s latest novel Behind A Closed Door is now available to download : http://www.amazon.co.uk/Behind-Closed-Door-Estate-ebook/dp/B009QOLBPE/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpi_3

http://writerofmurderandmayhem.wordpress.com/

Find Mel on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mel-Sherratt/218120504951096

Follow Mel on Twitter @writermels