Deadline Dramas

I think I need more practice at meeting deadlines and less children to look after at the same time. This is how handing in my RNA NWS report went this year:

Argh! It’s August! What the frig happened to the rest of 2014?

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Okay, don’t panic, you managed to send one chapter in last year when the twins were eight-weeks-old, this year will be a breeze.

Frantic read through and tidy up of the extra 30,000 words you’ve added. Not bad, not great, but will be good to get some feedback so prep to send a partial.

Ah. The printer isn’t set up at home. Smile sweetly at husband.

Printer is set up. Go, go, go!

 

 

 

 

 

Stop! This is so NOT what they mean by a partial!

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PANIC! Why did you leave this til now to sort out? Switch to plan B = Print at local library. Sort everything out whilst they nap then head there after lunch.

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Babies: Why would you choose to not nap today! (Teething I worked out later. Three new teeth cut between them!)

Drink/Snack/Calpol = now we’ll sleep, mummy!

Yeah! *Runs around house gathering sticky labels, envelopes, pens, the magic green form*

Whilst in panic mode you share with twitter your woes and that @SotonLibrary is your only hope. @SotonLibrary tweets back saying they are ready! (Yay, social media!)

Aim to get to library at 2 when it opens. Arrive half an hour later than hoped after lunch (not the relaxing kind, the kind where two cuties lob at least 50% of theirs on the floor) and delightful double nappy change.

The printer works! The staff entertain the babies. We might actually DO THIS!

Rush to post office and IT’S SENT WITH A DAY TO SPARE!

And collapse.

By jove, I don’t know how writers with real deadlines (not involving partials) manage. I suspect it may involve some of the Romaniac staples. Cake, chocolate, and alcohol. Am I right?

 

 

Having A Ball – Rhoda Baxter

Some time ago, the very lovely Rhoda Baxter asked us Romaniacs if one of us wanted to read and review her new book due out in March, Having A Ball. We were sent the blurb and I fell in love with the story straight away. I practically jumped at the chance to do a review for it so I was honored when Rhoda emailed it over and my computer beeped its arrival.

Thankfully I was in between books so I was able to start straight away. And I wasn’t disappointed. Here was my review:

“It’s for books like this that I really appreciate having Kindle on my Iphone. ‘Having A Ball’ is simply one of those books that drag you into the story and refuse to let you sleep. Being able to read snippets whilst cooking dinner, waiting for children to finish swimming lessons and being stuck in traffic was an absolute must – I had to feed my thirst for the story!

From the word go, my mind was completely immersed in the life of Stevie; a 22-year-old girl who had lost her parents young and was finding the everyday drag of a boring job and nowhere to go very draining. The characters in this story are well rounded and identifiable. The hero, Tom, isn’t your conventional soppy love interest, but a strong willed, determined workaholic. Not really a lovable hero at the start but he most definitely comes into his own throughout the story. Not only does the heroine’s story turn full circle in this book, but the hero’s does too – which is refreshing and gratifying.

I also found the secondary characters in this story extremely interesting. The author has a good mix of personalities on the page and it keeps the writing lively and entertaining.

Another thing that stands out with this book is the author’s obvious knack for dialogue. It’s quick, witty, descriptive and certainly packs a punch. It kept the story flowing at a nice pace and never failed to make me laugh or bring a lump to my throat.

A touching story with vibrant characters, dense storyline and fulfilling resolve. A definite recommendation.”

As you can see, I absolutely loved this book. I cannot wait for Rhoda’s next novel and I’ll be sure to be reviewing it right here, too.

I asked Rhoda for a few words about her novel, and here is what she said.

“Having a Ball is part of the Email and Ice Cream series. Sounds cool, right? A series. Gosh. I had never considered it until my editor sent me an email asking me what the name of the series was. I had a brief panic. Several cups of tea and a packet of Twix later, I made a list of all the elements that the books had in common and came up with Email and Ice Cream.  Et voila! I have a series.

I wrote Patently in Love and Having a Ball as stand alone books. There are some recurring characters (not surprising since Marsh and Stevie are siblings) and the format of having the heroes character in email, but other than that, they are totally independent stories. But okay, they can be called a series.

This brings me to the next problem. You can’t have a series with only two books in it. You need at least three to stop people pointing and laughing. My third book has very few emails and no ice cream in it (don’t worry, there is a very large chocolate cake and a chocolate mousse – one must never ignore dessert). Not, then, part of the series. However, at least three people who reviewed the ARC have asked if I was going to write Olivia’s story next. I like Olivia and her crazy hedonistic ways. I have a germ of a plot too. So, I guess I’d better get on with it.”

Doesn’t that sound exciting? I can’t wait to read Olivia’s story.

I know I speak for all the Romaniac ladies when I say that we all wish Rhoda the best of luck with this novel and for all of her future works, too. She’s a very talented writer and definitely one to watch.

Lucie x

Rhoda Baxter started off in the South of England and pinged around the world a bit until she ended up in the North of England, where the cakes are better. Along the way she collected one husband, two kids, a few (ahem) extra stone in weight and a DPhil in molecular biology (but not necessarily in that order). She had a childhood ambition to be an astronaut or at least 5 feet tall. Having failed at both of these, she now writes humourous novels instead. Rhoda can be found over on her website, here.

You can purchase Having A Ball, here, and Rhoda’s previous novel, Patently in Love, here.

    

Tuesday Chit-Chat with Jan Jones

Hello Jan, lovely to have you here at Romaniac HQ, please do take a seat – it’s clean, I promise!

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Thanks, that’s splendid. Oh, and a big pot of tea, how wonderful.

So, Jan, where are you writing-wise at the moment?

*takes deep breath* Currently… my third Woman’s Weekly serial (about ‘a house on a cliff in the mist’) starts in the 12th February issue, my third ‘Penny Plain Mysteries’ serial will be in People’s Friend in June. I’ve just had a stand-alone long mystery story accepted by People’s Friend, I’m writing a fourth serial for Woman’s Weekly at the moment and in my spare time (slight choking sound) I’m working on my fourth Regency romance. And there are always short stories along the way.

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Writing across such a broad spectrum, do you favour one genre or story length over another?

I have a terribly low boredom threshold, so I like the variety thrown up by the change of genre – although even my mysteries have more than a touch of romance to them – and length. It keeps me on my toes and stops me getting stale. I also like the sheer challenge of writing serials, of crafting the essence of the story into a very few words. That said, I do love writing novels, because they give me the head space to develop my characters properly. It’s lovely being able to relax into the longer length and stretch my narrative muscles properly. Unfortunately, they don’t pay as much in the short term as the serials, so the novels are having to queue up on the back burner for the moment.

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How do you research your historical novels and is there an era you would like to live in?

I’d have liked to live during the Regency because it was a time of change. The arts and sciences were flowering, society was expanding. The clothes were fabulous for those of us with a bust to make the most of and hips to conceal. As for research, I read books of that time, newspapers, letters and periodicals. I also visit the locations and bump into people because I’m walking around looking upwards at the buildings all the time. Imagination is all very well, but it doesn’t take the place of being there, shutting your eyes and breathing in history.

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What brought you to writing in the first place and is there an end goal?

Oh, goodness. I’ve always been a storyteller. From before I could write, even. I always used to say that my ambition was for some unknown person to browse along a library shelf, notice my name on the spine of a book and think, “Oh, Jan Jones. I like her.” And borrow the book without even looking to see what it was about, because they trusted me to have written them a good story. I guess that’s still it, really.

Well, I have news for you, Jan. Some of us do that already! :-)

With regards to the RNA and organising their events and the annual Conference, how did you become involved in this?

I’d been in the NWS for a while before I ran away to my first conference. I was thrilled to find myself in company with so many people who understood. Writers who were just like me. That was York 2000 – and I loved it so much that as soon as I was able to, I wanted to put something back. I believe if you are good at something, then you should use that gift. I’m good at organising and I couldn’t think of a more life-affirming thing than the conference to help with. I’ve made some of my best friends through the RNA, and will be forever grateful.

With such a lot to organise, do you find this takes a lot out of your writing time or are you one of those super organised people?

Ah. I am organised (on good days), but yes, it takes a fair amount of time. On the other hand, organising a conf is the best procrastination ever, and by the time I’ve done a full couple of days on the business side, I’m bursting to get back to writing.

Us Romaniacs are very grateful for your organisational skills. Getting us under one roof at the last conference was down to you. Thank you!

What is the most random item that has been left behind at one of the RNA events?

Oh my goodness, I’m just trying to think. Someone left a pair of gala dinner shoes behind once. Fancy that, abandoning a posh pair of shoes at an RNA Conference…

Do you have a favourite RNA ‘moment’? I’m sure there’s plenty, but one that you could share with us (we won’t tell anyone, honest!)

Well… promise you won’t tell?

Promise.

Really?

Really and truly.

Okay then. Apart from watching in amazement as Liz Bailey got everyone to climb into bin bags during a drama session, and laughing until I cried at Jenny Haddon (with prompts from Annie Ashurst) reciting ‘Albert and the Lion’, my favourite conf memory is of giving an impromptu performance of ‘Hey, Big Spender’ with Katie Fforde in our Chichester conference kitchen after the bar refused to open for us on the Sunday night. We were jolly good too. I would send you the photo but one must protect the innocent. You understand. We will negotiate this off-line ;-)

Thanks so much for dropping by Jan, it’s been lovely chatting to you. See you at conference this year!

Birthday Celebrations – The Romaniacs are one year old!

Happy birthday to us, Happy birthday to us, Happy birthday Dear Romaniacs, Happy birthday to us!

Ok, Ok, so I’m two days early. But who says we can’t start the celebrations a little early. Here at Romaniac HQ, we’ve been celebrating all weekend and we plan for it to continue all week, too. So why not come and join us for a celebratory glass of champers and a slice of cake and let’s get this party started!

A year ago, on February 13th 2012, we launched our blog to the writing world. When we decided to do this, we had no idea how we would be perceived. Would people like us? Would people bother to read what we have to say?

Would people think we’re nuts?

But the response has been truly amazing. People did like us. People were logging in and reading and sharing our posts. And most importantly people do realise that yes, we are a bit nuts! But that’s OK, because we never claimed to be anything but.

The sheer amount of support and encouragement we have received, both as a group and individuals, over the last year has surpassed anything we ever could have imagined. We always knew that the writing industry was a supportive, positive community, but I don’t think anything could have prepared us for what lay ahead.

So in the spirit of birthday celebrations, we got talking about some of our favourite – and worst – celebrations growing up. They weren’t all necessarily birthday celebrations and some needed censoring so much, we felt best to keep those in the archive folders!

However, I’ll start the ball rolling. My worst birthday party memory wasn’t actually for mine, but for my older sisters. There is five years between us and I was but a nipper at the time and she had all her friends over for a party. In our garden we had a huge shed – we lived in a flat and it was the communal shed so you can imagine how big it was – and she and her friends were playing chase. I wanted to play. I ventured into the garden and saw them all running rings around said shed. Stupidly, to catch up, I ran around the shed but in the OPPOSITE direction to around 15 children. You can see how this story ends, can’t you? Yep, I spent the rest of the party upstairs, on the sofa with a bruised and battered face. It wasn’t a good party for me.

On the flip side, my best party – so far I hasten to add, I’m planning on having many more! – was for my 21st. It wasn’t a big ‘do’ but I had only just had my daughter and I had been dieting and training for months and months in preparation for my 21st and I lost 2 stone and got into the size 8 dress I had bought. I felt great. Some of mine and my husband’s friends came back to our house after the club shut (mine and my husband’s birthdays are 3 days apart so we always have joint celebrations) and we carried on partying until the morning. It was a brilliant night.

We would love to hear your best and worst party experiences. I’ll leave you with some messages from the girls about theirs. Here’s to another fantastic year. Cheers!

Lucie x

Celia: Crikey, Lucie; you’ve said it all! Huge thanks to everyone who has visited our blog over the last year and given us your witty, supportive comments. Now, parties…

My worst one has got to be a Halloween do when I was about nine. I was a Brownie at the time, and we were all invited to our Sixer’s birthday. I only had a hazy idea about Halloween up to that point – I knew witches came into it somewhere, but as the world’s wimpiest child, I had never got up to speed on how people celebrated it. The mum in charge of the party had some great ideas. She had blacked out an entire room and hung it with fake cobwebs, rattling bones etc, there was an atmospheric ghostly soundtrack and we were blindfolded and led through one at a time, touching and listening to various things which got scarier and scarier. The finale was having our hand plunged into a bowl of sheep’s eyeballs. I’ve never felt the same about a peeled grape since that day.

The best wasn’t a birthday, it was my second wedding in 2008 (I’ve only had the two, in case that makes me sound like a female Bluebeard.). We decided to just have the best bits of a wedding, i.e.massive amounts of home-made cake, no speeches, no official photo session where the guests are starving and everyone loses the will to live, a small, warm venue so it would be cosy (it was a frosty night on December 29th) the most delicious food we could order and a late afternoon wedding so we could go straight into the serious eating and champagne quaffing. It was magical. I think I might have been quite, quite drunk.

Vanessa: Well, my best is easy – on my 29h birthday, Tim, my boyfriend at the time, took me to Cornwall for the weekend. We tried to stay in a beautiful old pub in Mousehole, right on the quay, with beams and a roaring fire … but it was full, so we ended up in an odd B&B that smelled of kippers. We tried to have dinner at one of the quay front pubs or restaurants but they were all full, so we ended up eating fish in a strange bright blue sauce at a cold restaurant where we were the only customers. Then, as we walked along the seafront, Tim proposed and it became the best birthday ever – kippers, blue sauce and all.

The worst is more difficult… because I love birthdays, always have. I always take the day off work and have a totally indulgent day. I think my worst birthday was my saddest – the last I got to celebrate with my best friend Suzanne. She’d been ill for a long time, but I’d been in denial, waiting for a miracle cure. That night was the night I finally accepted the truth and the last time we got to go out before she died.

Sue : I’ve never in my life had a birthday party … cue violins and sad music :-( Never had a party as a child and never as an adult but that’s okay, as to be honest, I wouldn’t find being the centre of attention any fun at all. I much prefer going to other people’s parties, so much more relaxing and enjoyable. I’ve had quite a few family birthdays this year and they all have been great fun.

dancingOn the flip side, I have been to a few which haven’t been quite so successful. My friend’s 21st springs immediately to mind. All had been going well until late into the evening, after much drinking and merriment, my brother (Nick) and I hit the dance floor – that was our first mistake. The second came quite quickly after the first, Nick and I decided we could jive and were doing reasonably well, holding hands we were swinging each other backwards and forwards across in a kind of jive/barn dance sort of way. Mistake number 3 was the speed at which we attempted this with rather sweaty hands. I guess I must have been stronger than I thought. Sensing Nick was waning, I gave a particularly sudden and fast yank on his hand which, together with increased momentum, sent him whizzing past me in a blur of legs and arms, Frank Spencer style. I could only watch in horror as he went crashing into the disco lights; the scene reminiscent of a Jean Michel Jarre light and laser display.  It was certainly a party to remember, probably for all the wrong reasons.

Jan: I’ve been to many great parties over the years but one that evokes such fond memories for me is the surprise party my sisters and I organised (along with several much appreciated volunteers) as part of Mum and Dad’s 30th wedding anniversary celebrations. My younger sister and I were still living at home which, of course, made things a lot easier to manage. On the big night, my older sister and her husband, acting as decoys, took them out for a meal. As soon as their car rounded the corner of our road, me, sis and various friends & neighbours swung into action, fetching and carrying all the booze which had been stashed in a neighbour’s garage, blowing up balloons, wheeling in the cake and making sandwiches. Our aunty Heather was on bread buttering duty whilst the rest of us washed, sliced and diced all the fillers. We had to make sure the steady stream of guests arriving had parked out of sight so Mum’s eagle eye didn’t spot any familiar cars on their return. It really was like the proverbial military operation and a great success. It still makes us laugh remembering Mum’s utter disbelief at not cottoning on to our scheming. :)

As for the worst party, well a front-runner would have to be one I attended with a friend in my late teens. The phrase ‘One man and his Dog’ sprung to mind as we walked into the venue, there were so few guests. Add to that, strip lighting, warm wine, a Tarzan -o-gram for the host and the DJ’s decks blowing up halfway through the evening, and you get the picture. Cue stampede (or should I say, trickle) to the pub round the corner!

Laura: My tale is simple and short. My most and least favourite celebration was my last birthday, March 2012. Everything at home was perfect. I received surprise gifts, which were truly wonderful, cardsIMG_1043 and messages from many friends, and short-list notification of the first Choc Lit short story competition. Ahead was the prospect of a great summer, out and about with my family, including my mother who, the day before, had endured a difficult, but at that point, successful operation.
Why the mixed feelings? It was the last birthday I shared with my lovely mum.

Catherine: Worst? Well, you did ask. It was the winter of 2002. I was 21 and about to enjoy my first Physiotherapy Department Christmas Party. The day before I’d completed a junior rotation in care of the elderly and I was ready to let my hair down. Dinner started with a lovely Minestrone Soup. Only it didn’t seem so lovely. In fact, I was feeling decidedly queasy. It didn’t take me long to realise why I was feeling so ill. No, it wasn’t the soup. It was the dreaded norovirus. A nice leaving gift from my rotation. I was chucking up before the main course arrived and managed to get safely home before performing the party trick that involves a toilet and a bowl. So not the evening I’d had in mind.

The best? I’m going to be greedy and pick 3! My Nan and Grandad’s Ruby, Golden and Diamond anniversary parties. I was 8 at the first party. It was in a church hall with lots of family and friends and I got roped in waitressing duties with my cousins. I remember talking about the next party when I’d be 18 and being very excited about it. And before you know it, you’re 18 and at the next party!

Tuesday Chit Chat with Lizzie Lamb

Hi Lizzie, welcome to Romaniac HQ. The kettle’s on, the biscuit tin’s restocked, so let’s get started, shall we?

Hi Jan, can I just check that the coffee is strong enough and that the biscuits are coated in milk chocolate? If you can’t get biscuits, I quite like giant chocolate buttons.

Lizzie, you’ll be pleased to know it’s a yes to both and we’ve even got chocolate buttons too :)

Great! I’m sitting comfortably, so let’s begin.

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Having successfully self-published your debut novel, Tall, Dark & Kilted (cracking title, by the way!) tell us a bit about what inspired the story.

I thought up the title (it was initially called BIG BAD WOLF) and the two main characters Ruairi and Fliss, and thereafter the novel wrote itself.  I originally wrote the novel for Little Black Dress (Headline) after attending my first RNA conference in Leicester. I’d attended a seminar given by then editor, Cat Cobain, who told me that LBD were looking for new writers. She gave an inspiring talk and said she wanted a book that was small enough to fit in someone’s handbag so they could read it on the tube/bus, etc, on their way to work. I had a 1:1 session with her and told her I’d written a book about a therapist who tries to set up a therapy centre in the highlands of Scotland. She said to finish it and send it to her. It took me a year to finish the novel which I sent to the RNA New Writers’ scheme where it almost received a second read. I then made some changes to it and sent it off to LBD.

In the meantime, I got on with writing another novel. I also entered a competition to write the jingle for the LBD website, winning a year’s supply of books. I then learned that the publication was no longer taking on new authors and was closing down. My novel came back to me and I sent it to The Hilary Johnson Authors’ Advisory Service where it was reviewed by a former senior editor of a publishing company. I didn’t agree with her critique, so I put the novel in the drawer and had a go at writing a Mills and Boon.  

I also won another competition to have the first three chapters read and critiqued by Carole Matthews, who sent me a mug which changed colour and advertised her latest novel when I poured tea or coffee into it. We’ve been friends ever since; she’s been very encouraging, as has Trisha Ashley and Kate Hardy, telling me to keep going as I’ll get there in the end.

Describe that moment (words and actions) when you first saw your novel available to download on Amazon, and later, in paperback.

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I would still be writing and rewriting the novel ready to send to agents if it hadn’t been for Amanda Grange (author of Mr Darcy’s Diary, etc). Mandy had lunch at my house where she encouraged me and three other NWS members: June Kearns, Adrienne Vaughan and Mags Cullingford to put our books on Amazon. It was then that we decided to form THE NEW ROMANTICS 4 and have a paperback version of our book as well as a kindle download, so that we could hold roadshows and sell the novel to friends/general public.  We had to get our American tax code (that’s another story!), design the front cover, etc, and finally send it up to Create Space. By the end of the process we were all shattered. We were having lunch with Mandy in a nearby café when my lovely husband, Dave (aka Bongo Man) turned up with my proof copy, which had just arrived. By then I was so exhausted, I just looked at it, feeling numb. It took me a couple of days to realise what I had achieved. Only then did I really begin to feel excited.

Did you draft each chapter out beforehand or did your characters have free rein to take you wherever their stories led them?

I must admit I’m a plotter rather than a pantser. I knew where the story was going but wasn’t totally sure how to get there – I also lengthened the novel to 120k words. June Kearns is my writing buddy/beta reader and she suggested another plot thread whereby all my ideas fell into place. I had a 1:1 with an editor at another RNA conference and she said that the title of my novel wouldn’t work and suggested a change. Tongue in cheek, I suggested Tall, Dark and Kilted and she said she LOVED it but wasn’t taking on any new authors. So, I followed Mandy’s advice and self-published because life’s too short to wait for agents to get back to me.

Do you have a set writing routine or any literary rituals? 

Luckily my time is entirely my own, and after 34 years of getting up at 6am to get ready for school, I’m definitely a morning person. I try to be at the PC for about 8am and answer emails, put a post on Facebook and write something on Twitter. THEN I begin writing until about 11am or thereabouts – normally my parrot Jasper calls me to let him out and he plays in his cupboard all day. I tend to write for some of the evening, too, as there are very few programs on the TV that I enjoy. I also try to plan to see friends a couple of times a week, otherwise I’d stay in my study writing and never venture out.

In addition to being part of The New Romantics 4, you run the Leicester chapter of the RNA, as well as belonging to several online writers’ groups. How beneficial has that writerly support and camaraderie been for you and how big a part would you say social media has played?

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I would say that the best thing I ever did was to join Facebook a few years back, before my novel was finished and ready for publication. Most of the people I’ve made friends with are writers, aspiring writers or avid readers – in this country and in the USA. I’ve been encouraged by Facebook friends (many of whom are in the RNA NWS) to finish the book and lots of them have bought the download/ novel and posted a review on Amazon. They helped make my tweet-a-thon (where I held a virtual picnic in the highlands of Scotland) a great success. Twitter actually blocked me because I sent too many tweets. I tweet about my novel three times a day in order to catch the UK, East coast of USA and then the West coast of the USA before I go to bed. My lovely twitter friends retweet for me and I return the favour.

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

I’m writing a new romantic comedy about a rookie reporter (a rebel without a cause) who goes undercover in a boot camp for brides. Her partner is an infuriating photographer who has a hidden agenda and is on the trail of a drug smuggling gang. That’s all I’m saying . . . for now! I want to have it finished for the end of summer and will then decide whether to submit it to the NWS or not.  

We love reading about Bongo Man and, indeed, about the famous Bongo itself, which we know you’ve taken many a literary trip in, so if you could take three famous travelling companions along for the ride one day, who would they be and why?  

Dave (aka Bongo Man) has been fantastic and given his life over to my book launches with the other New Romantics 4 because he knows this is my dream come true. He even bought full highland dress, sack wheelers, stepladders and an old Imperial typewriter off eBay for our launches. Who would I take along with me for the ride? Well, Jan, you would definitely be one of my companions because we’d have such a laugh together, wouldn’t we? You know, I can’t think of anyone famous I’d like to come along with me – isn’t that strange? Perhaps that’s because I spend so much of my life dreaming up plots, etc.

Dave (aka Bongo Man)

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Any other creative passions, Lizzie? 

I love taking photographs, as you might have noticed on Facebook. My ambition is to buy a new PC (hopefully a Mac) and an iPhone when my present contract runs out, and synch them together with my iPad. Then it’ll be whole lot easier taking photos, sharing them with friends and setting up a blog after Christmas.  I also want to make a video of me reading Tall, Dark and Kilted and put it on YouTube after Christmas, too. Not to mention joining an online newspaper for Indie writers.

And finally, whilst I make us another coffee and grab the mince pies, a few quick-fire questions for you:

Actor you’d most like to see in a kilt?

Owen McDonnell – he played the Garda in Single Handed on TV

Haggis or Clootie Dumpling?

Clootie Dumpling! I shudder at the thought of haggis, although I do like neeps (swede) and tatties that accompany it. It’s a funny thing, we lived in Scotland until I was eleven-years-old but we never ate haggis until we moved to Leicester. LOL.

Pierce Brosnan or Daniel Craig?

Daniel Craig. Pierce is gorgeous but a bit too smooth for me.

Dream holiday destination?

IF we ever find anyone willing to babysit the parrot (he’d never cope with being sent to the parrot equivalent of kennels/cattery) I’d love to go back to Greece or Italy and tour in the Bongo. We did it years ago. Failing that, I’d like to stay in a bungalow on a beach and have my every need catered for while I write.  

Singer you’d most like to serenade you?

I’d love the former lead singer in RUNRIG to sing An Ubhal as Aire (the highest apple) to me in Gaelic. I played it over and over when I was writing Tall, Dark and Kilted.

Cocktails or champagne?

Oh, champagne every time, dah-ling.

Novel you could read over and over again?

Can I be greedy and choose all the Jilly Cooper novels she wrote in the 70s: Imogen, Prudence, Emily, etc, and Georgette Heyer’s Friday’s Child?  

Fave Christmas Carol?

In the Bleak Midwinter – it always makes me cry.

Thanks so much for being our guest today, Lizzie. It’s been an absolute pleasure chatting with you. Merry Christmas! X

Merry Crimbo to you and all the other Romaniacs. And can I say: if you have a dream, go for it…

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www.facebook.com/LizzieLambwriter

Follow Lizzie on Twitter: @lizzie_lamb /or @newromantics4

email: lizzielambwriter@gmail.com

Tall, Dark and Kilted – Amazon Paperback UKhttp://tinyurl.com/cn8fylt

Tall, Dark and Kilted- download Kindle UKhttp://tinyurl.com/cdjyec6

 

Tuesday Chit Chat with Anna Jacobs

Good morning to all!
It is my privilege to be joined by the prolific international and award winning writer, Anna Jacobs today.

Welcome, Anna. I hope it’s not too early for you (or is that late over there in Australia?) Anyway, pull up a chair and make yourself at home. I’ve been looking forward to this. I’ll get the chocolate croissants out and put the kettle on. What’s it to be – tea, coffee, herbal – how do you usually start your day?

I’m happy to be here, Debbie. We’re eight hours ahead of the UK here in Australia, which makes it ‘interesting’ to do business sometimes. I don’t mind very early mornings, as I wake at 5am bright and alert, but by 7pm I’m getting tired. Oh, how I’d love a chocolate croissant. Sadly, I’ve become cereal intolerant (not just wheat) so can’t have croissants any longer. And I’m a low calorie cordial girl. I’ve never in my life drunk tea/coffee or even herbal, because they taste so bitter.

I start my day by tiptoeing out of the bedroom and leaving my husband in peace, then stroll across the house to my office where I’m queen of the quiet morning world inside and out. I love that time of day. I then answer my emails, which come from all over the world.

The Romaniacs and I would like to congratulate you on your latest publication, The Trader’s Dream. How has the launch been?

Thank you for your kind words. The Trader’s Dream has gone bravely out into the world and is selling well, which means people are wanting to read it, which is what matters most to me. Strangely, I’ve never had an actual book launch, even though my 60th novel comes out next year. I know regular readers have been waiting eagerly for the next Trader book. This is No 3 and No 4 (The Trader’s Gift) is written and in preparation at my publisher’s, but I haven’t even begun to write the last book in the series yet.

With all the books you’ve written over the years you must have seen many changes in the marketing side of things since you first set out on the path to publication. How do you feel about self-promotion and the different hats a writer must wear in today’s market? Do you find self-promotion daunting?

I don’t find it daunting to do promotion, but I wish I didn’t have to spend so much time on it, because I’d far rather write more stories. However, people are so nice when I give talks, etc, that I end up enjoying myself. It’s nice to get out of the house sometimes.

I didn’t do any promotion when I was first published. My publisher did a few things without me. Now, I do guest blogs, run a readers’ email newsletter (approximately monthly) and have a huge website.

What started you off down the road as a writer and how long did it take you from concept of your first novel to publication?

LOL, I got the idea for my first novel on my way to book my wedding, way back when. My mother and I were sitting on the top of a double-decker bus, and saw a narrow little back street in Oldham called Salem Street. I wondered what the people were like who first lived there. My story is about imaginary people in a similar street, of course. I didn’t write it for twenty years, but I never forgot the idea. That turned out to be Salem Street the novel, which was published in 1994 and is still going into reprints, I’m delighted to say. It wasn’t my first novel published, but it was my first ‘real’ idea for a story.

I started telling myself stories when I was two. I guess it was born in me. When I wrote my first novel seriously, not just dabbling, it took me two years to finish it and it didn’t get published for another ten years, after a major rewrite. Writers’ early skills aren’t always up to scratch, and they need to write a lot to practise, just as an athlete can’t do the Olympics without a great deal of training.

 You’re very supportive of new writers and an active member of the RNA. If you could give one piece of advice for a wannabe writer, what would it be?

Don’t rush out and self-publish your first novel as an ebook. Keep it for later and write another. Most first novels are learning pieces and you’ll probably cringe when you read yours in a few years. But you’ll have better skills to polish it later, so it won’t be wasted. Think of writing as a long-term career, identifying and developing the skills needed, preparing yourself in every way possible. Editors don’t do this for writers nowadays; you’ll have to do it yourself.

Having read MANY (it must be over twenty) of your historical/saga books, I think I could pick up any without a cover and know it’s you who’d written it. Looking back to your first novels; Persons of Rank (1992) and the first of your sagas, Salem Street (1994) how would you say your writing style has developed?

I’m glad you’re enjoying my books. Do you know, my husband and daughters say exactly the same thing, that they could recognise my ‘voice’ as a writer anywhere. I think my writing style has become more polished, though, and I write shorter books.

My first book published was ‘Persons of Rank’, a regency romance in the style of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer. I wrote it for fun, but I didn’t continue in that genre.

I write shorter stories these days that dive straight into the action. No more 140,000 word tales, but 80-100,000. I think I craft the story better and get my point across more skilfully. But there’s always something to learn or improve where novel writing is concerned, which keeps me interested.

I also write modern novels these days. A story recently published is one of my own favourites: ‘Winds of Change’. The paperback should be out soon for that.  

To what extent has the RNA helped you?

I was already published when I joined, but the companionship has been invaluable – and please don’t undervalue that. I live in a small country town in Western Australia, one of the most isolated ‘advanced’ countries on earth. It’s even a long way from the rest of Australia! It’s a lonely life anyway, writing, but more so when you’re a long way away from meetings, etc.

The other good thing from the RNA is that I can keep in better touch with the UK publishing industry via the people on the chat list and via other things the organisation offers. That is so helpful.

You seem very much a family person. That must have meant a fair bit of juggling; writing, managing home and family, and I read that you have several health problems, including M.E and Arthritis. Over the years how have you managed to do it all, and to produce three books a year, especially living with chronic illness?

Family are the most important of all. I love mine very much.
You can live with chronic illness and ignore/manage it, or you can sink into a self-pitying heap. I’m not letting anything stop me from writing, so I push problems into the background. Anyway, the ME is well under control these days, thanks to an innovative group of doctors here who treat patients by rebalancing the body chemistry. Mine was haywire. The ME only shows up when I’m stressed, and I get fuzzy brained, so I avoid stress as much as possible. Arthritis happens to most of us as we grow older, so really, it proves that I’m doing well! I’m still on the right side of the grass! And I’m still writing. I don’t need to be fit enough to run races – well, I never was sportingly active. Pitiful is the best way of describing me trying to catch or hit a ball.

I understand you live some of the time in Australia, and the northern hemisphere summers in Wiltshire. What took you to Australia? And do you tend to write differently or have different projects on the go, depending on what part of the world you’re in, or write for different markets?

We emigrated to Australia for a better life – the usual tale – and also for me to avoid snow, which I hate with a passion. But it’s lovely to enjoy both countries – as long as it doesn’t snow in summer in the UK.

We’d wanted a holiday home in the UK for a long time, but couldn’t find something it was safe to leave for half the year. Then one day I found a leisure village in Wiltshire, sent my sister along from Bristol to look at it, and she said it looked good. We bought a block and ordered a house the next day. It sounds impulsive, but we’d been looking for years and knew exactly what we wanted.

When I’m in the UK, it’s harder to find as much writing time, as I have a sister there, and my husband has a brother and sister. So we socialise more frequently. But being there also helps with my research and with getting in the UK mood for my modern novels, which are set in both Australia and the UK. The experience of living in two countries enhances our lives greatly and we both love it. Mind you, I try to write my historical novels in Australia, as I have my big reference library there, and my modern stories in the UK. But it isn’t always possible.

I hear you’re as big a reader as a writer. What’s on the bedside cabinet and do you read alongside when you’re plotting and writing?

I read three novels a week. What I don’t read much is sagas, since I spend two-thirds of the year writing them. Enough is enough. I read a lot of modern novels, especially by American authors like Robyn Carr and Sherryl Woods, who write such warm complex tales of families and friends.

I like reading cosy mysteries – Miss Marple type, not gruesome or super-violent ones. I think Jacqueline Winspear is my favourite writer of these, but I like Lillian Stewart Carl’s gentle Scottish mysteries too.

The Trader’s Dream, your latest book is almost your sixtieth novel!  And you write three novels a year. How do you work it – do you have more than one book at a time on the go, and how do you keep coming up with all these ideas?

I can’t write more than one book at a time, so I just work till I’ve finished one. I prefer to write every day, to keep ‘inside’ the story. I could push myself and write four novels a year, but I have a life outside writing, so I don’t. I have a gorgeous husband, two daughters, son-in-law and grandson, and some very lovely friends.

I find it refreshing to write different types of book. For instance, though I write historical novels for two of my three publishers, one requires novels set in Australia and the other isn’t allowed that, so I set them mainly in Wiltshire. My modern novels can be set in either country.
As for ideas, they well up all the time. I wish I could write faster to keep up with them.

I used to write fantasy novels as Shannah Jay and I miss that, but there are only so many hours in the day. My Shannah Jay novels are on sale from my website, by the way.

Oh, and I’ll never be remembered for my dusting or ironing, as I don’t do such silly activities. I was born without any domestic genes and pay other wonderful people to do those chores. I’d rather write.

  The third in your Traders series, what’s The Trader’s Dream about?

Bram Deagan dreams of bringing his family from Ireland to join him in Australia, where he now runs a successful trading business. But when a typhus epidemic strikes Ireland, it leaves the Deagan family decimated. And, with other members of the family scattered round the world, there is only Maura Deagain left to look after her orphaned nieces and nephew.

Forced to abandon her own ambitions, and unsure whether she is ready to become a mother figure to three young children, Maura recognises that their only hope is to join Bram in far-away Australia. So they set sail on the SS Delta, which will carry them there, via the newly opened Suez Canal.

It is only when a storm throws her and fellow passenger Hugh Beaufort together that Maura realises this journey may also give her a chance to realise a dream she set aside years ago – to have a family of her own. That is, until someone from Hugh’s past threatens to jeopardise everything.

 
I’ve waited ten years to write a story with the background of the opening of the Suez Canal. It was such a fascinating event. You can find out more about the story and the research behind it, and read the first chapter, on my website at www.annajacobs.com

There are no doubt other projects already in the pipeline. So what’s next?…

I have already written Book 4 in the Traders – The Trader’s Gift. There will be five in all.
I have a modern novel coming out at the end of January. A Place of Hope is set on the moors just outside Littleborough, Lancashire, and is on one of my favourite themes – people making new lives for themselves. People of all ages do this all the time in real life and I’ve found it leads to some fascinating tales in fiction.

And I’m just starting a new series of Wiltshire sagas. I’m having fun setting up a tale that will cover three books.

I tell myself, one day, if I ever get that book deal, I’m going to employ a cleaner and gardener! Finally, as such a successful and prolific writer, you’re in the enviable position that you must earn a reasonable living for it to be your main ‘day’ job. What little perks or ‘luxuries’ has writing afforded you?

Writing has paid for our second home in England, because we’ve always been moderately careful with money. Writing allows me to buy any book that takes my fancy – to me, that’s riches.

I’m not much interested in jewellery or fashion, especially not the ‘daft’ fashions like walking on stilts that some women are doing these days. They call them shoes, I call them stilts, and don’t they give the wearers an awkward, ungainly gait, like limping camels!

We’re not rich but it’s nice that we’re comfortable enough to be able to pay school fees for our grandson. I do most truly believe in education, because your brain is what guides you through life, so it needs good training and exercise because it’s going to have a lot to cope with over they years. I love that my own writing means research and creativity, which means keeping my brain alive.

Well, I guess we’re coming to the end of our time together … unless you’d like to stay for lunch? …

I’d love to stay for lunch. LOL. But you’d have to get a list of my food allergies first. Drives me mad. I love that there are lots of Indian restaurants in England, and pub lunches with jacket potatoes, because I can’t do bread/pasta stuff.

Oh, I can imagine that must be tricky for you. I can’t imagine a life without pasta!  

Anna, my mum, best friend and her mum are also huge fans. I’ve already bought my copy of The Trader’s Dream and suspect if we meet any time soon, I shall have to buy a few copies of your latest novel and ask you to do a mass signing.

I’m happy to sign books any time. If you’re ever in Wiltshire . . .

Thank you. I might just take you up on that. I do hope we get to meet you one of these days. Thank you so much for taking the time out of your hectic schedule to be our guest today. We wish you every success with your current novel and, of course, all those still to come…

Anna Jacobs is published mainly as Anna Jacobs, writing historical sagas and modern novels alternately. Some books are set in the UK, others in Australia, or both countries. She used to write fantasy novels as Shannah Jay and these are available again as ebooks.

You can find Anna at:

Web address: http://www.annajacobs.com/

Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/pages/Anna-Jacobs/190765660967982?fref=ts

Buy the latest book here on Amazon Or The Book Depository also send books anywhere in the world, postage free: http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/Traders-Dream-Anna-Jacobs/9781444711318

And January’s book, A Place of Hope is now listed here on Amazon, available for pre-order.

If you’re interested in being kept up to date with information about Anna’s books, you can sign up for her email newsletter. You’ll receive news approximately every 4-6 weeks and be the first to hear the news of coming books and what she’s currently writing.

To join click on:  Join email newsletter  and send a blank email.

Through the Wilderness

I think a lot. Some might say I’m a serial over-thinker with my tendencies to analyse, deliberate, cogitate, and ruminate.

My brain hardly ever shuts down. Even when I go to sleep, I’m prone to stirring through the night and once awake, my head whirs into action and off I go again, mulling over the day or the day to come, fretting about my personal life or on occasions, a character or scene from my WIP robs me of sleep.

Having been paralysed by writer’s block for the last eighteen months I became hung up on that and spent countless hours considering how to overcome my inability to write. Somehow, I managed to get a partial in to the NWS for the deadline and last week I received the most supportive and positive feedback imaginable back from my ‘Reader.’ I’ve already made the suggested tweaks on the submitted chapters. My reader helped re-affirm that I can write and how much I want to be published, so much so, that their words of encouragement made me take a step back and re-evaluate what I’m going to do to get there. After all, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” And the solution came as somewhat of an epiphany while I was out walking the pup a few days ago…

I realised that instead of thinking about writing all the time, rather than the actual writing, and allowing the other personal and domestic matters to interrupt my creative flow and frazzle my brain, I need to get a grip, free my mind and do what writer’s do – WRITE!

There is plenty of time for thinking when I’m in the bath, swimming, driving or out walking the dog. I need to compartmentalise my time. And I need to stop procrastinating! So I intend trying, if I can, to use the ‘dead’ time, like when I’m swimming my lengths, to benefit my writing ideas – maybe mull over characters or scenes. Then, seeing as some of my best work is done when I’m ‘at one’ with nature, I’m going to make the most of that too.

I’m blessed to live where I do. Being a huge countryside and nature lover, there is something about gazing at a sunset…

…and the stars at night and seeing the combines make tracks in the field. Walking the puppy in the rain and clomping along. Studying the birds on the bird table. They all inspire me. The trouble is, despite having a view to die for and all of these things around me daily, there are too many distractions. Like for example, my eldest son blasting out music or playing the Xbox if he’s not working a shift, or the neighbours popping their heads over the hedge for a natter, or the housework.

So guess what I’ve been doing for the last couple of weeks which seems to be working?

I’ve taken to getting in the car and driving to a peaceful place for some solitude. It’s a National Trust valley with lunar views of the South Shropshire Hills and a babbling brook only a few minutes drive from where I live. My car loaded with all the essentials – a fold up chair, blanket, water, my laptop, fingerless gloves in case it’s cold – I set up and write for a few hours without no interruptions except an occasional sheep or hiker walking past. If it’s too windy or rainy, like it is as I write this blog, I sit in the car, push the seat back and perch my laptop on my lap. No internet, no mobile phone connections, no people, no noise. No thinking. Just writing.

My own little outside office.

Perfect.

Yes, it may sound a little extreme and my friends would think me eccentric if they knew, (but then they probably know I am already!) but so far, it seems to be working. Even if it is only short-term or until the weather gets too cold to sit in the car, I’m being productive now.

It won’t be easy. Fear of Writer’s block hasn’t left me, and how do I find time and space in the day when I’m (to all intents) a single parent. Mummy duties, being a taxi driver, head chef, gardener etc have to be worked around if I’m going to get my novel re-written and off to the agent who’s waiting to see it. This will require all my powers of determination and being more single-minded. And if it doesn’t work, I may have to re-think…

So where do you do your writing ‘thinking’ time? And do you ever find you have to get away from it all in order to focus.

Debbie

xx