Nine Essential Elements of Romance Fiction – Catherine LaRoche

NINE ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF ROMANCE FICTION

Catherine LaRoche

Catherine LaRoche1

I spend a lot of time thinking about romance fiction.  My mom reads the books, and I picked up the love of the genre from her when I was a teenager.  She always had a tottering pile of novels beside her bed that I’d rummage through for something to borrow.  Now I write historical romances and, in my day job, I’m a college professor of gender studies and cultural studies.  For the past several years, I’ve included romance fiction in my teaching while I’ve been writing an academic book entitled Happily Ever After: The Romance Story in Popular Culture (forthcoming in mid-2015 from Indiana University Press).

My students choose romances from a big box that I bring into class and write responses on them.  We do cut-up exercises with the novels to create alternative storylines.  We write a collaborative online romance with scenes ranging from suspense to spicy erotica.  I’ve set up a romance lending library in my office; my eight-year old son decorated a poster for borrowers to write down comments about the novels they check out.  As I draft my academic book, I workshop chapters with the students in order to get feedback.

I’d like to invite similar feedback from readers here, on some of the book’s conclusions.  I propose that romance novels have nine essential elements.  (I’m playing off Dr. Pamela Regis’s work in her wonderful 2003 text A Natural History of the Romance Novel.)  What do you make of my list so far?  Do you agree or disagree?  Am I missing anything?  All comments welcome!

The nine central claims made by the romance narrative:

  1. It is hard to be alone. We are social animals. Most people need and want love, of some kind. Amid all the possibilities for love as philia (friendship) and agape (spiritual or selfless love), the culture often holds up eros or romantic partner love as an apex of all that love can be and do.
  2. It is a man’s world. Women generally have less power, fewer choices, and suffer from vulnerability and double standards. They often get stuck looking after men or being overlooked by men.
  3. Romance is a religion of love. Romance entails belief in the power of love as a positive orienting force. Love functions as religion, as that which has ultimate meaning in people’s lives.
  4. Romance involves risk. Love doesn’t always work out. Desire can be a source of personal knowledge and power but also of deception and danger. Romance fiction is the safe, imaginative play space to explore the meaning and shape of this landscape.
  5. Romance requires hard work. Baring the true self, making oneself vulnerable to another is hard. Giving up individuality for coupledom requires sacrifice.
  6. Romance facilitates healing. Partner love leads to maturity. Love heals all wounds. Love conquers all.
  7. Romance leads to great sex, especially for women. Women in romance novels are always sexually satisfied. Romance reading can connect women to their sexuality in positive way.
  8. Romance makes you happy. The problematic version of this claim is that you need to be in a romantic relationship for full happiness. Here, romance fiction can be oppressive if it mandates coupledom for everyone.
  9. Romance levels the playing field for women. The heroine always wins. By the end, she is happy, secure, well loved, sexually satisfied, and set up for a fulfilling life. The romance story is a woman-centred fantasy about how to make this man’s world work for her.

Further information about Catherine can be found here: http://authors.simonandschuster.com/Catherine-LaRoche/407531852

and here: http://popularromanceproject.org/professors-writing-romance/

Thank you so much for the great blog, Catherine, and we look forward to reading your results.

 

In Training for Telford

Sleeping bag, for bedding in Debbie's summer house.

Sleeping bag, for bedding in Debbie’s summer house.

In Training for Telford

The Romaniacs are roving big style this weekend. We are off to Telford for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Conference, leaving our loved ones to defend our castles.

It’s a weekend packed with friends, fun, food, workshops, pitching of manuscripts and wine. Not necessarily in that order.

Some of us are hoping to make it to Romaniac Debbie’s house on Thursday, before booking into the conference centre on Friday. Some of us have already packed. Some of us have already bought the Prosecco.

It is going to be a fantastic weekend and we look forward to seeing lots of romantic novelists, editors, publishers and agents in Telford. And possibly everyone in the Midlands, as we wend our way there and back :-)

Prep for the weekend.

Prep for the weekend.

Here are some crucial items we’ll need for the weekend. Are you ready?

Tea towels and teaspoons. We usually have to ring Sue and ask her to bring emergency supplies.

Tea towels and teaspoons. We usually have to ring Sue and ask her to bring emergency supplies.

Always cake.

Always cake.

Music, coffee, and if pushed, fruit that hasn't been fermented.

Music, coffee, and if pushed, fruit that hasn’t been fermented or distilled.

Ready to go? Not yet. There are empty sections ...

Ready to go? Not yet. There are empty sections …

Don't forget the paracetamol.

And don’t forget the paracetamol.

Meet Tracy Tappan: On The Romaniacs’ Couch.

Please welcome to Romaniac HQ, author Tracy Tappan, who has kindly joined us to explain her fab concept, The Character Couch.

Mr and Mrs Smith is one of my all-time favourite movies. You’ll see why I’ve mentioned this in a moment. If you don’t know the film, I recommend watching it before reading Tracy’s brilliant post below :-)

Take us away … sorry … take it away, Tracy.

Tracy Tappan 300dpi

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in the action-packed movie “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” are a husband and wife who don’t know each other are assassins. The movie opens with these two sitting in front of a therapist, squirming with discomfort; we guess this is as much from the possibility of having to bare their souls—something an assassin can’t do—as from the idea of talking about a marriage that has obviously been filled with lies. Either way, it’s going to be entertaining. And, oh, yes, the therapist kicks off the session with a bang.

“How often do you have sex?” he asks.

“I don’t understand the question,” Angelina Jolie returns, dead-pan.

“Is this on a scale of 1 to 10?” Brad puts in.

“So is 1 very little,” Angelina continues, “or is 1 nothing? Because, technically speaking…zero would be nothing.”

So it seems that Brad and Angelina haven’t been having sex for a while.

We can hardly believe it.

The episode is funny, touching, and intriguing, which is exactly the tone of my reader-focused website, The Character Couch (www.charactercouch.com), where fans can suggest their favorite romance couple to be brought into a therapy session. Yes, this is therapy, but these sessions are anything but angst-ridden. They are written in the same spirit as “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” drawing us in to be a fly on the wall and peek at something we normally wouldn’t be able to see.

Will there be amusing bantering in these sessions, a sense of firm, quiet resolve, poignancy? Sure. All of it. Every session is different, but always attention-grabbing.

Don’t you find that the best books always stick with you long after you’ve turned the last page, leaving you hungry for more? I know I go crazy waiting for the next novel in a series to come out, and I figured other readers felt the same. So I came up with an idea that would combine my two loves—of doing therapy and writing romance—in a way that would provide innovative, free entertainment for fans.

Today, I share about my unique endeavor.

What could we expect to see if you had “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” on The Character Couch?

LOL. Well, I think first you’d see the therapist secretly getting moon-eyed over Brad Pitt! And could we blame her?

Therapist Regan Malloy has been so exciting to create. I’ve already morphed her to fit a multitude of romance sub-genres. She’s been a French ex-pat from a time travel romance, a bespeckled Brit from a contemporary racehorse romance, a saloon mistress in America’s old west, and a wizened crone facing down a couple of vampires.

Regan also brings her own struggles into the session, whether that’s fear or uncertainty, confusion about her clients, or maybe just a verbal blunder of some sort. So, each month, the therapist is as different as her clients.

It’s all about keeping the site dynamic and entertaining!

That does sound like a great deal of fun for readers.

Oh, definitely. I always pose questions at the end of the session, too, because fan involvement adds an extra layer of enjoyment to the experience. Readers get a chance to join the “analysis” and tell me and the participating author what they think. This month for Zoe Dawson’s New York City based contemporary romance, COLLARED, the debate is flying about the dissimilar backgrounds of the hero and heroine, and the possible effects on their relationship. I’m impressed at how thought-provoking and insightful people’s comments have been.

It’s a fantastic time.

It seems that this site could also benefit authors.

Without question. The commentary I was just talking about offers an excellent way for authors to increase their social reach; comments are laterally posted on Facebook, so that the discussion can be seen by all of a fan’s friends—which means thousands!

The Character Couch is an innovative way for authors to market their books, and they’ve been really creative with their use of it. Many authors run contests, where fans are asked to vote on which couple from one of the author’s romance series they’d like to see go into therapy. Several lucky participants win prizes, and the book with the most votes earns a session on The Couch. This kindles fan enthusiasm even before the session is posted!

The procedure for readers is very user-friendly: people just click on the “Suggest A Book” icon in the side bar of the site and input their choice—anytime!

Readers don’t have to wait for a contest to make a suggestion!

This month, the award-winning author of COLLARED, Zoe Dawson, has done something very clever. Her characters, New York City cop, Caleb Shaw, and wealthy socialite, Harper Sinclair, have some issues that still need resolving (is it any wonder, considering he’s a cop and she’s an heiress?!). So Zoe got the ball rolling with Caleb and Harper’s problems in The Character Couch session…then left the issues to be settled in a follow-on wedding novella, CAPTURED. By doing this, she stirred up readers’ excitement more than ever to read her novella.

And yet, you write the sessions, don’t you?

I do. It’s a process that requires a great deal of attention to detail on my part in order to represent absolutely correctly another author’s characters. Not one word goes onto the site without an author’s full approval (authors can go to the FAQ section on the site for more detail).

And so far, so good! The testimonials page glows with the praise from alumni authors.

This has been one of the most satisfying parts of this endeavor for me; it means I’ve succeeded in honoring their stories, and that feels terrific.

How does a session typically end?

Oh, there isn’t a “typical” with these sessions; that’s another fun part. Every month, it’s a new journey, and you never know at what point you might laugh or get a clench of emotion in your chest. Or where a surprise might pop out at you.

Like the ending to “Mr. and Mrs. Smith.”

During the course of the movie, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have discovered that each other are assassins. With the truth out, there’s hope for their marriage now. They end up in front of the therapist again, recapping, still spouting off to each other, but in a way that makes us chuckle; we know they’re going to be okay. The therapist seems to agree, talking about how marriage takes work, but—

Brad interrupts to say, “Ask us the ‘how many times did you have sex this week?’ question again.”

“John,” Angelina Jolie scolds quietly, while Brad Pitt proudly flashes ten fingers outside of Angelina’s sight lines.

Oh, yes, expect fun surprises!

 

*          *          *

Tracy Tappan Bloodline War 600 wide 72dpi

Tracy is the award-winning author of gritty romance, her books spanning genres across paranormal (The Community series), military suspense (The Wings of Gold series), and Historical (The Baron’s War trilogy). During nearly a quarter of a century spent as a military wife, she lived all over the United States and in Europe, enjoying seven years overseas in the diplomatic community, first in Rome then in Madrid, until she settled back in San Diego. Tracy holds a master’s degree in Marriage, Family, and Child Counseling, and has used this background to create a fan-based website called The Character Couch, where romance’s favorite couples are brought into a fun session with therapist, Regan Malloy. Her debut paranormal novel, THE BLOODLINE WAR, is a Bronze Medal winner for romance of the prestigious Independent Publishers Book Award (IPPY), available now on Amazon. FREE from June 10-14th 2014.

To learn more, please visit her website at http://www.tracytappan.com/

 

Thank you so much, Tracy, for this fascinating insight in The Character Couch. I’m convinced my heroes and heroines could all do with a dose of Regan Malloy. One day …

Laura.

 

Beverley Eikli’s Other Life: Meet Beverley Oakley …

Beverley Eikli author pic copyBy Beverley Eikli (also writing as Beverley Oakley)

Hello everyone,

Thank you so much for having me here to talk about my ‘other’ writing life, that as an author for erotic publishers Ellora’s Cave and Totally Bound, with the pseudonym Beverley Oakley.

Taking a pseudonym happened by accident, really, for I’d never considered writing erotic romances. However, the book I’d just completed in 2011, a racy, Regency romp called Rake’s Honour, was just a little too saucy for my publisher at the time, Robert Hale, and although it had won a number of writing awards resulting in requests for the full ms from Berkley and Avon, it didn’t fit neatly into any formal mainstream category.

After finding a publisher for Rake’s Honour at Totally Bound – or Total-E-Bound, as they were then known – I was assigned a fantastic editor who saw great potential for making the saucy scenes in the book considerably more explicit. Initially I baulked, since writing hot sex scenes was not something I was at all used to doing. I thought my bold debutante Fanny Brightwell had already crossed as many boundaries as I was prepared to have her cross and this was, after all, a Regency romance – albeit a hotter-than-normal one. The action and events had to be credible, given the very few opportunities, or even knowledge, respectable young women had then about those activities to which only marriage gave them licence (to put it demurely :-).)

When the book was edited and the boundaries pushed to everyone’s satisfaction, my husband, who thought it was huge fun that his wife (Miss Goody-Two-Shoes at High School) was writing erotic fiction, gave me every encouragement to continue down this path.

I’ve always been lucky to have enormous variety in my real life with my work and strong contacts giving me access to Norway and Southern Africa as well as to Australia, so it seemed natural not to limit my writing life to just the one name and persona.

Beverley Oakley dangerousgentlemen_msr

Now my fifth erotic historical romance, a Regency called Dangerous Gentlemen, has recently been released by Ellora’s Cave, and again I had a great time developing a background in which an innocent debutante (with a worldly and horrendously manipulative older sister) is accidently plunged into the Regency Underworld. As with all my books, I linked the fictional events to the politics of the time, my hero, Sir Aubrey, being falsely linked to the Spencean plot to assassinate the entire Privy Council in 1817. Events, however, take an odd turn when my well-brought-up heroine, Hetty, finds herself confused for the high-class prostitute who Sir Aubrey’s friend and brothel-madam has promised to surprise him with.

I should add that all of my writing – both as Beverley Eikli as well as Beverley Oakley – has been extremely influenced by a book I bought when I was eighteen years old called London’s Underworld, a comprehensive 400+ page report on the ‘detritus’ of society compiled in the 1850s and early 1860s by a Victorian-era investigative reporter called Henry Mayhew.

While Mayhew’s real-life interviews are sad and fascinating, I found his own judgemental attitude equally interesting. No doubt it reflected Victorian Society’s lack of sympathy and understanding of the real motivations which thrust people into a life of prostitution and other criminal activity. And it’s these motivations as much as the events they resulted in, which interest me.

As a writer, I’m less interested in what my heroine did, than why she did it. What utter desperation would motivate a woman to risk her reputation – essentially, her most prized possession in the era in which I write – to engage in sexual activity not sanctioned by society? Tackling these multi-layered motivations has been an exciting challenge in my erotic historicals which include Regency-era marriages, the storming of castles and hostage-taking during the English Civil War, and blackmail during the early years of photography.

Many thanks once again for the opportunity to visit.

 

AUTHOR BIO

Beverley Eikli is the author of eight historical novels, laced with mystery and intrigue.

She has worked as a journalist, magazine editor, a safari lodge manager in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, and an airborne geophysical survey operator on contracts around the world.

Beverley wrote her first romance at seventeen, but drowning her heroine on the last page was not a clever start to a career as a romance author. When she finally realised this, she rescued her heroine from drowning in her first-published novel (Lady Sarah’s Redemption), and in real life married the handsome Norwegian bush pilot she met around a camp fire in Botswana twenty years ago.

Recently she received her third nomination from Australian Romance Readers for Favourite Historical Romance with her suspenseful Napoleonic espionage Romance The Reluctant Bride.

Beverley teaches in the Department of Professional Writing & Editing at Victoria University, Melbourne.

Her latest Choc Lit release is The Maid of Milan, a dark Regency-era ‘Dynasty’ with love triangle, drug addiction and manipulation themes but an uplifting ending.

She also writes erotic historicals as Beverley Oakley.

You can visit her website at: http://www.beverleyeikli.com/ and her blog at: http//:http://www.beverleyeikli.blogspot.com.au/ or follow her on Twitter: @BeverleyOakley

 

You can buy Dangerous Gentlemen here:

 

Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/1k0uybF

Amazon US: http://amzn.to/1iskcjD

Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/1irD7kz

Ellora’s Cave: http://www.ellorascave.com/dangerous-gentlemen.html

 

Janey Fraser and the Salsa Class

JANEY FRASER PICTURE

THE SALSA CLASS

One, two, three. Five, six, seven. Back, forward, back. And RUMBA.’

As every writer knows, most stories fall into your head because of a chance happening or a snatched conversation or – in this case – a Salsa class. Of course, Salsa has been around for a while. At least, for everyone else. But when I signed up for a four week class (to shift newish husband off the sofa), I soon discovered that I was treading on novel territory.

For a start, it was difficult to see exactly who was partnered to whom, in real life. ‘Come on your own or with a friend,’ the poster had said. But because there were more women than men, the enthusiastic leader with legs long enough for lamp posts and a natty little scarf round her waist, got us to Salsa in turn with the limited male reservoir. Those in between stints, did the Salsa solo.

That’s when I began to wonder. Was the grey-haired woman (who had clearly done this before) married to the grey-haired man (who clearly hadn’t?) And had the pretty, tall blonde woman arrived with the aging hippy (if so, I’d missed their entrance. Or had they become close, judging from those hand movements, since the class started?

It was a wonderful exercise in character observation; made even more poignant by the fact that we were next door to a beautiful row of Regency terraces where Jane Austen – arguably, the queen of social minutiae – hung out one summer.

By the second class, newish husband had claimed to hurt his back while lugging carpets around for my daughter. Any excuse. If that sounds unfeeling, it’s because he wasn’t keen on Salsa in the first place. ‘I’ll still come with you,’ he said manfully. ‘Then I’ll know what we’re doing next time.’

Hah! In the event, he spent most of the time, reading Rock Sound and chatting to the barman. Still, it was quite useful because it gave me a chance to remember what it was like on my own. Perfect for novel research.

So too, was the experience of dancing with other men. There’s something distinctly queasy about holding a limp hand in the Salsa position, which involves hanging on to your opponent’s two middle fingers. It’s not so bad if your partner knows what he’s doing but I managed to get quite a few knee-knockers. I tell you. It was all I could do not to stop and write it all down, there and then.

Then there was the female gossip during the wine break. One of my new friends with children at university and no wedding ring, confided how she’d just moved down here and didn’t know anyone. Instantly, I scrolled down my contact list on my iPhone and put her in touch with the tennis club secretary. At the same time, I couldn’t help thinking that she’d be a great contemporary heroine. Courageous yet shy. And a business woman to boot. Life is full of contradictions.

By the way, did I mention the music? It was enough to get anyone’s feet moving, except for my husband’s. Meanwhile, the music, together with smell (maybe we’d better not go there) plus colour (one of the ‘girls’ was wearing a great pair of red shoes) really set the scene. More observations to remember.

I’m not necessarily going to write a novel about a Salsa class, although I haven’t ruled it out. The point is that it helps to answer that inevitable question which all writers are asked from time to time. ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’

Easy! It’s places like these… As soon as I got home that night, I scribbled everything down. Some of the characteristics I noticed during class, will fit neatly into my work in progress. After all, emotions and people are transferable in fiction. And that’s the beauty of it.

By the way, if you’re wondering about who was married to who, it turned out that the grey couple wasn’t a couple at all, even though they looked as though they slotted together. And the pretty blonde woman WAS with the aging hippy. Meanwhile, please excuse me. I’m off to find some Deep Heat for the husband. Turns out that he really has put his back out – after falling over my Salsa shoes by the front door.

Janey Fraser Honeymoon

 

AFTER THE HONEYMOON BY JANEY FRASER. PUBLISHED BY ARROW (RANDOM HOUSE). £6.99

ONE HONEYMOON DESTINATION. THREE COUPLES. ENOUGH SECRETS TO SINK THEM BEFORE THE WEEK IS OUT….

http://www.amazon.co.uk/After-Honeymoon-Janey-Fraser/dp/0099580845/ 

Beverley Eikli’s Maid of Milan

MOM bookmarks packshotHi Laura and Romaniacs,

The jetlag has dissipated but not so the good memories of my Choc Lit launch for my second book, The Maid of Milan, at The Chocolate Museum several Fridays ago. (Goodness, has so much time gone by already?)

Luke and Holly, our publicists at Choc Lit, worked hard to organise the fun and successful event at the atmospheric upstairs/downstairs venue in Brixton where fellow Choc Lit author Janet Gover was also launching her outback romance, Flight to Coorah Creek.

As our Managing Director Lyn Vernham said in her introduction, we had the interesting dichotomy of expatriate Australian Janet (living in London for the past twenty years) writing a romance about the Australia Outback, and me, living in Australia, writing an English Regency-set romance (albeit not a traditional one).

Having a new book out is always exciting but the icing on the cake was celebrating my book launch with family and friends and having the added bonus of meeting so many of my fellow Choc Lit authors, many of whom I’ve got to know quite well through email correspondence.

Beverley and Janet at Choc Museum book launch

Beverley Eikli and Janet Gover

Some of them I first met last year at the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention in Kansas City. Hard to believe that was a year ago as we’re just about to head over once again to the RT Convention, this time in New Orleans. (I can thank the fact hubby is a pilot for the good fortune of being able to go staff travel – provided there’s a spare seat for me on the day.)

So yes, I got my London book launch, which I’d dreamed of since I was a little girl living in South Australia. During long holidays I used to read to my captive audience – my younger sisters – the series I wrote when I was seven called ‘The School for Witches’ at our beach cottage in Coffin Bay. (The remote area was named after the man who discovered the place, not on account of any awful shipwreck with multiple drownings necessitating coffins).

Ten years later I finished my first full-length novel, a romance in which I did in fact drown the heroine on the last page and which, not surprisingly, never found a publisher. A dramatic teenager, I remember shedding copious tears at the demise of poor drowned Sophie, the name I gave to each heroine of my growing number of dusty, unwanted manuscripts.

It was only many years later when my husband raised our just-delivered first-born daughter for me to see and said, ‘Let’s call her Sophie?’ that the name finally found a worthy owner; and eight years after that when my first historical romance, Lady Sarah’s Redemption, was published by Robert Hale… a romance in which my heroine actually escaped drowning during a shipwreck and took on the identity of her supposedly fellow drowned governess who turned out much later not to have drowned and was in fact a party to some other very shady dealings.

However, my book at the centre of The Chocolate Museum’s festivities is The Maid of Milan, a very untraditional Regency romance laced with mystery and suspense and lots of intrigue. One reviewer likens it both to a Regency era version of the 1980s US series, ‘Dynasty’ and Anthony Trollope’s ‘The Pallisers’ ‘where beneath the waving fans is gritty intrigue’.

At the heart of it, though, is the psychological question: ‘Who can you trust if your own mother is manipulating – for her own ends – the secret that threatens to destroy you?’

The Maid of Milan is as much a story about a mother and a daughter, and trust and loyalty, as it is a romance about a deeply honourable man who desperately wants the love of the vulnerable wife who married him so unwillingly.

Beverley with her two books

Beverley with her two books

And at the core is a once-vibrant young woman who has had everything she ever valued torn from her, trying to balance her past – the lover who excited her passions – with her future – the husband who satisfies her now-mature need for truth and order, and of the struggle when past and (increasingly vulnerable) future collide.

This was a ripper of a story that took many years to write, while other books of mine were published in the interim. It went through numerous drafts, especially after the raft of fantastic feedback I received from Choc Lit’s Tasting Panel.

Thanks so much for having me here today to talk about my wonderful book launch and The Maid of Milan. I’ve enjoyed it and now suddenly it’s time for bed, here in Australia. Perhaps I’m not quite over the jetlag, after all :-)

The Maid of Milan is available from: Amazon UK, Amazon US, iBooks, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

You can read more about Beverley’s books at http://www.beverleyeikli.com/ or beverleyeikli.blogspot.com, and at Twitter: @BeverleyOakley

Great post, thank you Beverley. Watch this space for another fab blog from Beverley as she tells all about her secret life …

Before we go, here’s a brilliant video of Beverley’s and Janet’s book launch from BestChickLit, here.

Roving Romaniac: Laura Visits Sandworld

Roving Romanic: Laura Visits Sandworld.

 

Weymouth Seafront

Weymouth Sea front

Ever since I can remember, Weymouth’s had a sand sculptor producing beautiful works of art on the beach, and for the last four years, Sandworld has developed an off-beach site too, where it can create and keep the sculptures in a secure and welcoming environment for the summer season.

IMG_5860

On Saturday 5th April 2014, authors with connections to Weymouth, Kathy Sharp, Kate Kelly, Carol Hunt, Kit Berry and I, gathered for the Grand Opening of Sandworld’s theme for the 2014 season, Literally in Sand. We spent a wonderful day in an area we affectionately called Author’s Corner, enjoying the hospitality of our lovely hosts, and the chatter with those who came to view the incredible sand sculptures and take a look at our books.

Laura E James, Carol Hunt, Kit Berry, Kate Kelly and Kathy Sharp

Laura E James, Carol Hunt, Kit Berry, Kate Kelly and Kathy Sharp

I gave my first-ever reading – an extract from Truth or Dare?, and aware there would be children at the venue, I opted for a family-friendly section. It was quite a challenge finding a passage that wasn’t dark, gritty, or containing too much dialogue, which I figured would be more difficult to follow as a listener. I chose a scene near the beginning of the novel, and including my introduction, spoke for ten minutes.

As someone who has been known to take the stage for a song, it was great to be performing once more.

It was an excellent event, and we hope to return in the summer and do it all again.

Here are a few teaser photos to illustrate the sheer brilliance of the international band of sand sculptors who’ve worked on Literally in Sand.

IMG_5861 IMG_5857 IMG_5862

Can you name the books?

I recommend a trip to Weymouth to see these, and more, in all their glory.

Thank you Sandworld for the fab day, beautiful art, and friendly and welcoming atmosphere.

I will see you soon.

Laura x

 

 

 

Book Review: The Elephant Girl. Henriette Gyland.

Book Review: The Elephant Girl. Henriette Gyland.

 

9781781890202 (4)

 

Today is Purple Day - National Epilepsy Awareness day. I am wearing purple in support of the cause. The statistics regarding epilepsy astound me. Approximately 1:103 people in the UK have the condition. Epilepsy Action is a great source of information, if you would like to know more.

The heroine in Henri’s The Elephant Girl, Helen Stephens, is a person with epilepsy. As a five-year-old, Helen witnesses her mother’s murder, and with no one from her extended family prepared to look after her, Helen is taken in to care. As she grows older, she keeps her condition hidden as much as possible, and learns to rely on herself. It’s when her mother’s killer is released from jail twenty years on that Helen sets about seeking vengeance, and life as she knows it, changes forever.

I like Henri’s treatment of Helen – it clearly depicts a person coming to terms with many issues. It’s not an easy journey for the heroine – she has enough to manage with epilepsy alone, but that, along with Henri’s well-researched description of Helen’s seizures, is what makes it believable.

The hero, Jason Moody, is warm, caring and sees people for who they are, and not by the label given to them by society. He’s no push-over, and stands up to his mob-style father time-after-time. He is true to his beliefs, courageous and loving. A great hero.

It’s an excellent romantic suspense, with well-drawn characters and a plot that kept me guessing until the reveal.

And thank you, Henri, for writing a strong, positive heroine with epilepsy.

Henri is taking part in Choc Lit’s Round Robin Mother’s Day story today at Laura’s Little Book Blog (not me), continuing the story of single mother, Kelly. Parts one, written by Alison May, and two, written by me, are at Chick Lit Reviews and News, and Jera’s Jamboree. Enjoy our free read.

Henri’s new book, The Highwayman’s Daughter will be published in May.

Click here to read our Tuesday Chit Chat interview with Henri.

 

The Elephant Girl:

Peek-a-boo I see you …

When five-year-old Helen Stephens witnesses her mother’s murder, her whole world comes crumbling down. Rejected by her extended family, Helen is handed over to child services and learns to trust no-one but herself. Twenty years later, her mother’s killer is let out of jail, and Helen swears vengeance.

Jason Moody runs a halfway house, desperate to distance himself from his father’s gangster dealings. But when Helen shows up on his doorstep, he decides to dig into her past, and risks upsetting some very dangerous people.

As Helen begins to question what really happened to her mother, Jason is determined to protect her. But Helen is getting too close to someone who’ll stop at nothing to keep the truth hidden …

Laura x

 

Follow Me, Follow You: Cover Reveal

Follow Me, Follow You

Helen Ellis Photography

Helen Ellis Photography

It’s a red letter day, as my mother used to say. The sort of day when she’d place a sticker on the page in her diary.

I am thrilled to announce that my second novel, a contemporary romance titled Follow Me, Follow You, is to be published by the wonderful Choc Lit, in both digital and paperback formats, and will be available in the autumn. This will be my first paperback publication.

In celebration, and to reveal the beautiful cover designed by Berni Stevens, I have created a short vlog. Take five, settle back and help yourself to tea and cake - our Celia’s been baking again.

Enjoy.

Laura x

Follow Me, Follow You:

Victoria Noble has pulled the plug on romance. As director of the number one social networking site, EweSpeak, and single mother to four-year-old Seth, she wrestles with the work-life balance. 

Enter Chris Frampton, Hollywood action hero and Victoria’s first love. His return from LA has sparked a powder keg of media attention, and with secrets threatening to fuel the fire, he’s desperate to escape. But finding a way forward is never simple. Although his connection with Victoria has lasted the test of time, has he been adrift too long to know how to move on? With the risk of them breaking, will either follow their heart?

Follow Me Follow You

You save me and I’ll save you

Guilty: Jane Bidder

JANE BIDDER

Guilty Jane Bidder

Before I ‘went to prison’, so to speak, I’d heard all kinds of things about love behind bars. According to various newspaper reports, prison officers were frequently jumping in and out of bed with criminals. Lonely women would correspond with Death Row inmates and – at the other extreme – prison could completely change a man or woman’s sexual preferences.

But all these myths were completely de-bunked when I took a job as a writer in residence of a high security prison. The truth, as I discovered, was that love did indeed flourish. But it was the love between the man behind bars and the woman (or women) he had left behind.

Time and time again, while helping men write life stories, novels or poems, I heard heart-rending tales of regret. Not, ironically, towards the victims. But towards wives, mothers and children who were suffering because their husbands and fathers were Inside.

You might well question my use of the word ‘heart-rending’. After all, criminals are usually Inside for a reason (although there are apparently a number of prisoners who are actually innocent). Surely separation from the family is, quite rightly, part of the punishment?

True. But that doesn’t help the families themselves who might not have done anything wrong. I say ‘might not’ because, during my time as writer in res, I came across at least one man whose wife knew exactly what he’d been up to – but kept mum. It made me wonder what I would do in that situation. I’d like to think I’d do the right thing. But love can make you do some daft things.

Intriguingly, I met one man who was Inside for a crime of passion. According to his version, – which he was happy to relate to anyone who would listen – he came home one day and found the missus in bed with another man. He clunked him one and, as a result, was taken to court by his rival. The French would no doubt have applauded him instead of handing out a sentence.

Indeed, when I started my job, a psychologist friend warned me to erect boundaries. “It might be easy,” he said, “to get too close.”

What? Fall for a prisoner? What a ridiculous idea. Yet when I started forging working relationships with ‘my men’ as I came to see them, I began to understand why members of the prison staff might indeed fall under the spell of a convicted man. The intense environment of a prison makes the rest of the world unreal. It’s also easy to forget that the men you are working with, have done something wrong. Instead, you’re concentrating on a mutual love of writing – something which tends to flourish in prisons as a way of releasing emotions.

You’ll be glad to know that I didn’t fall for anyone. But I was aware that some men in my group would come down for my writing sessions, smelling of freshly-applied after-shave….

After three years of working in the prison, I felt it was time for a change. But it was hard to get it out of my head. The result is ‘Guilty’, my first social crime novel. It’s about Simon, a solicitor who goes to prison for a driving offence – along with the voice of his victim. Joanna acts as a funny, witty commentator. At first, she berates him for her death but then she walks with him through the prison (in his head), pointing out areas where he needs to be careful. The novel is also written from the point of view of Simon’s new wife Claire, who begins to wonder how well she knew her husband. And there’s the voice of Simon’s stepson who hopes to get his parents back together while Simon is Inside. Meanwhile, Simon himself begins to have feelings for the artist in residence. In essence, it’s a complex love story that happens to have prison as its stage.

I will continue writing my romantic novels under the name of Janey Fraser. But, thanks to my ‘stretch’, I’ve discovered another voice too. In fact, my crime won’t stop here. My publishers have given me a three book deal. The next two books are called ‘The Witness’ and ‘’The Victim’.

I hope you enjoy them. They will open the doors to a different world – just as my self-imposed sentence did to me.

GUILTY BY JANE BIDDER IS PUBLISHED by ACCENT ON MARCH 6. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Guilty-Jane-Bidder/dp/1909624160

http://www.janebidder.com/

Thank you so much, Jane, for sharing this fascinating insight. I look forward to reading Guilty. It’s right up my street. Many congratulations on the release.