Henriette Gyland – reviewing her new novel; The Elephant Girl

Henriette Gyland and other authors - Festival of Romance (1)

I loved Henriette Gyland’s latest book – it kept me hooked right until the end and the characters were real and vibrant. The interaction between Jason, Fay, Helen and the rest of the main players was sympathetically drawn, and Helen’s lack of confidence and history of anxiety and loss were dealt with sensitively. Tackling a subject like epilepsy can’t be easy, but this author did it with supreme confidence. I felt I understood the problem much better by the end of the book.

Jason and Helen’s romance was scorching in its intensity and the friendships/conflicts between the main characters were fascinating. I have a terrible habit of losing the plot through reading too quickly but I didn’t skip a single word of this, and would have liked it to go on much longer.

Jason’s point of view was well explored and explained all through the book – he is an absolutely drop dead gorgeous hero with a touching vulnerability too.
The family problems were also developed in depth, and I even loved Aggie in the end.

Thanks, Henri, for a fabulous read – I thought Up Close would be a hard act to follow but you’ve done it!

(This review can also be seen on http://celiajanderson.co.uk)

9781781890202 (4)

Midsummer Madness with the New Romantics 4

Today, we welcome to HQ, that lovely quartet, the New Romantics 4 –  aka Lizzie Lamb, June Kearns, Adrienne Vaughan and Margaret Cullingford, who all successfully self-published their debut novels last year. Here, they share with us a little of their midsummer madness …

Over to you, ladies… 
 
  Lizzie                                      June                                       Adrienne                      Mags        
 Lizzie - author pic         June author        Ade - author pic       Mags                                                    

 Call Nurse Lizzie…

When I was writing Tall, Dark and Kilted I was looking for a plot strand, which would make brooding hero Ruairi Urquhart, revise his opinion of heroine Fliss Bagshawe. He is attracted to her, but views her with suspicion. But what could I choose? When I became a writer, everyone thought I’d write children’s books because of my teaching experience. But where would the fun be in that? I like to try new things and learn new skills. So, I hit upon having Fliss deliver a baby during a storm which had washed the bridge away and prevented the local doctor from getting through. However, never having given birth I wondered where I could gain the necessary skills and expertise to write a convincing scene? That’s where June Kearns (mother of five), her sister-in-law district nurse, and a box set of Call the Midwife came in handy. June answered my hundred and one questions about giving birth and then the rest was down to my imagination and the internet!! This was one of the sites I used. I really loved writing that chapter because it shows my hero’s caring side, my heroine’s steadfastness and allowed my imagination free rein. But the story doesn’t end there. I had a lovely email from a reader (a retired midwife) who read Tall Dark and Kilted and wanted to know where I’d undertaken my midwifery training. Apparently, she was impressed that my heroine knew not to cut the umbilical cord until it had stopped pulsing (roughly about 10 mins after birth, if you’re interested!) Sadly, I had to disillusion her but we have since become Facebook friends. Because of writing that scene I now know what to do – should such an emergency arise. Call Nurse Lizzie – and I do look rather cute in the uniform although my bike riding skills leaveLizzie - midwife something to be desired.

Lizzie  x

Midsummer Day- June’s Birthday…   

June - Clip ArtSo there I am, squashed in the centre of a crowd all dancing to the beat, arms held high and waving, in a sort of cellophane pod thingy. A bubble of plastic is over our heads and on top, performers are jumping, bouncing, swimming, sliding. Suddenly, holes open up and they swoop down on harnesses and hoist some of the audience, (mercifully, not me!) up into the air. We’re at the Roundhouse in Camden for a much-too-big birthday celebration, arranged by the family – (‘too-big’ in the oh-crikey-am-I-really-that-old sense.) I should have been warned when I rang up for an extra ticket and a bored voice confirmed: ‘Yeah, it’s a standing-only event, loud music, some nudity and you may get wet.’ (Whaaat!) Fuerzebruta. It means brute force. (Oh, you’ll love it, Mum.) And there we all were, in the midst of frenzied drumming, dry ice, wind machines and ticker-tape blizzards. Necks cricked upwards as massive paddling pools with mermaids frolicking, almost touched our heads. It was wow: it was truly amazing, and I only once really felt my age, when trapped in the middle of a shifting herd, in complete darkness, I suddenly thought: Oh, help! What if there’s a fire?

June x

Adrienne’s Midsummer Madness – What’s your name again?

It was a proper Pimms party, well-heeled people, laughing in the gardens of a Georgian house. I was introduced to a bosomy lady in a floral dress. “Are you local?” she asked, cut-glass accent. “No,” I replied, “you?” “Been here forever,” she said, looking at me intently. “Come far?” “Only across the border,” I assured. “That takes me back,” she said, eyes glazing, “nipped across the border a few times, at school in Ireland. Those were the days.” She sighed. “You look familiar though. What do you do again?” “I’m a novelist,” I tried. “Of course you are!” she exclaimed, “you write romantic suspense – gripping!” I wanted to kiss her. “That’s me. That’s what I write.” She started to wave. “Look who it is everyone… Marian Keyes.” Blank stares. “You know, the Irish authoress,” she continued. They cluttered towards me, asking, “What’s your new one called?” “The Hollow Heart.”  (I’m dying inside!) Bosomy friend whips out a tablet; up pops my book on Amazon. “I’ve just downloaded her new book!” She twirls around with the iPad. “Send me the link.” “Download it for me,” call my new-found fans. “I’ve never met an author,” says another, “a shame you didn’t bring paperbacks; we’d love signed copies.” “I’m not Marian Keyes, you know,” I admitted. “KnewAde - post pic you were one of them though. You look a bit like Edna O’Brien. Anyone ever told you that?” asked my bosomy friend. “Or Maureen O’Hara, a bit like her too,” said another. “Didn’t she write Gone with the Wind?”

What could I say? I just grinned and had another sip of Pimms.

Adrienne x

“Roll Out Those Hazy, Lazy Days of Summer” – Mags Cullingford

Mags - landscape I’ve thought long and hard, couldn’t come up with anything LOL hilarious, but something diverting maybe. Monica Sommers in Last Bite of the Cherry (my 2012 debut). Calista Blake in Twins of a Gazelle (to be published this year), plus Lexie Neave in my third novel, all three women made euphoric by languorous summer days, become irrevocably embroiled with attractive men their reason dictates will cause them nothing but heartache.  In the heat of the pine-scented Riviera, Monica commits herself to Will Ackroyd, under the spell of magical Ithaca, Calista fails to walk away from PJ Wood, and, despite her best efforts, Lexie falls in love with an impossible man called Forbes.  Each woman, at some point, has the chance of escaping their thrall.  Instead, as though seized by a kind of madness, they plunge in heart first. Online, in The Free Dictionary, Midsummer madness is defined as ‘foolish or extravagant behaviour supposed to occur during the summer’.  Would Monica, Calista and Lexie have behaved more rationally in winter, I wonder.  Then, there would have been no story.  Writers too need a touch of midsummer madness don’t’cha think.

Mags x

Lizzie - Book Cover              June - Book Cover               Ade - Book Cover               Mags book cover

For more information about the authors and their novels, visit: http://www.newromantics4.com/

NR4 Pic

Tuesday Chit Chat with… CONTRACTED AUTHOR, OUR VERY OWN LAURA JAMES

Sorry for shouting. It wasn’t the aggressive shouty type. More of a town cryer style because Hear ye, Hear ye we have some fantastic news for you today. And without further ado, we’ll get on with asking the lady herself…

Author Pic Brighter

We’ve noticed at Romaniac HQ that Laura hasn’t been eating her cake of late. We know this means something is on her mind. So, tell us Laura, what’s occurring?

You know me, stomach’s always the first to give when anything major happens in my life.

Don’t leave us guessing, Laura! You are being interviewed by a lady who is heavily pregnant with twins. I’m not in a position to be left in the lurch. What is the MAJOR thing that has happened in your life?

Sorry, Catherine. Hang in there.

I should warn you, I’m liable to spontaneously combust at any moment, and that’s something even I can’t plan for, so it might be best if you take cover somewhere.

I am exceedingly happy…no…make that ecstatic…to tell you the lovely people at Choc Lit , under their new Choc Lit Lite imprint, have said yes to my first novel, ‘Truth or Dare?’ *dowses self with cold water* And I’m going to have a cover! *Reaches for the jet-wash*

Jan, Jan! Where is the honk-o-meter? We need to offer up our biggest congratulations to Laura.

Jan: Yeeeeeee Ha!! To all of it! HONKS of gargantuan, major league, A1, epic, fantabulously titanic proportions!

I knew Jan would sum up how the rest of us Romaniacs feel. Knowing how much hard work you’ve put in, Congratulations didn’t quite cover it.RNA Summer Party Romaniacs Name Badges

Fantastic honking, Jan 🙂 Thank you, my wonderful Romaniac chums. What would I do without you? You have been and continue to be my pillars of strength. If pillars were built from laughs, you’d be that, too.

Right, time to calm you down for a moment and ask what is ‘Truth Or Dare?’ about?

Chesil. Portland. Dorset.

Chesil. Portland. Dorset.

In a nutshell, which, as you know, is quite a difficult state for me to achieve, ‘Truth or Dare?’, as it currently stands, is a gritty, twenty-one year story, (is that split-era?) revolving around the influence of past events on the present and future. There is a romance at its heart, a family I’d love to visit for holidays, and a shed load of moral dilemmas, as the title suggests. And for the most part, it is set in Dorset, a county I adore.

Did you know there is a law against taking the pebbles from Chesil Beach?

We can’t wait for the moment it’s available, but we know you have lots of hard work in the meantime. But for now it’s time to celebrate so what have you got planned?

Eating properly. Maybe getting a little sleep. All the things I’ve failed to do over the last few weeks. And, since it’s a special occasion, I might even hug a few people.

In my head, I’m dancing with wild abandon. In my kitchen, I’m singing Paloma songs. With gusto. And you know it.

Love you 🙂 xx

When I was young...

When I was young…

We love you too, Laura 😉 ‘Tis quite worrying, I’ve never known you to be this gushy and huggable. And we’ve got through this announcement without my waters breaking or you fainting. Just, if the other Romaniacs don’t mind, maybe we should ease off on the group hug so Laura and I can collapse on the sofa. And as it’s Romaniac HQ, I’d like to raise my glass (of lemonade, the rest of you have something more fancy) & HONK a toast to Laura and her much deserved success.

Crimefest – A guest report from Evonne Wareham

100_0671As I write romantic suspense – a genre that can have as a high a body count as a kiss-count – I sometimes get to play on the shady side of the street. Which is how I came to spend a recent weekend in the company of assorted serial killers, drug dealers, spymasters, global conspirators and all round bad lots, and the lovely people who create them. Yes, this was Crimefest, the Bristol crime writing convention that brings together criminal elements from all walks of life  – and the sleuths who pursue them – from the cosy amateur, solving puzzles over tea and scones, to the adventurer on the trail of an ancient artifact with mystic powers, by way of the jaded cop with the bottle of whisky stashed in his desk drawer. It takes all sorts to make a crime wave.

When you attend an event like Crimefest you realize just how many varieties of fictional crime there are – and locations. Scandinavian and American authors are always in demand, but delegates set their mayhem in Africa, Alaska, Italy, the Greek Islands, Iceland, … the Isle of Wight. The on-site bookshop was bursting with titles from all round the globe, with the chance of having them signed by the author in attendance. And it’s not just exotic places, but also a variety of time periods – Roman Britain, the eighteenth century, the roaring twenties …

Panels looked at everything from the North/South divide, to mixing crime and comedy. There were discussions on writing about the cold war and authors who have become overlooked or forgotten, often unjustly. Fans of Dame Agatha squared up to those of Sir Arthur  …

And all that was quite apart from the enthusiastic after-hours discussion that went on in the hotel bar.

The convention mixes writers and readers and everyone seemed to be in agreement that the panels this year were better than ever. I certainly enjoyed the ones I attended – even the one I was on. This year’s big coup was the appearance of Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat and Sue Vertue of TV Sherlock fame – currently filming the third series, working round the availability of two stars who have suddenly become big cinema box office and determinedly ducking all requests to explain exactly how Sherlock is coming back from the dead.  It was a fun session, packed with enthusiastic fans – but I have to say that the personal convention high spot for me was the appearance of author Robert Goddard. He’s a great story teller. I’ve been a fan of his complex plotting for years. Fingers crossed that some of that complexity stuff may have rubbed off. I hope so, as there’s nothing I like better than a plot like a corkscrew.

It was a criminally enjoyable weekend.

Roving Romaniacs – An Earthless Melting Pot anthology launch

I was very happy to spend a lovely, sunny, writerly couple of days in London at the end of May, traveling up on the Friday for author drinks arranged by super-agent Juliet Mushens. In a busy bar in Soho, around twenty of Juliet’s authors gathered to drink and chat. It was lovely to spend time with an eclectic group of writers at all different stages of the journey to publication: Those, like myself, at the nail-biting editing/submitting stage, those who have the longed for book deal who are now awaiting publication, and the published ones – the writers on the Richard & Judy list, the bestsellers, the debut writers and the ones sweating over their second. All lovely, all inspiring – I’m already looking forward to the next Team Mushens outing!

bookDay 2 saw me back in Soho, this time in The Gallery at Foyles bookshop, for a private party to celebrate the launch of the Words with JAM short story anthology. My partner in crime for this do was fellow Romaniac Sue Fortin. The anthology is a collection of the prize-winning stories from the annual Words with JAM short story competition and I was thrilled to have one of my flash fiction pieces, Winter’s Kiss, included – my first story to appear in book form!

June Kearns, Sue Fortin and Lizzie Lamb

June Kearns, Sue Fortin and Lizzie Lamb

We weren’t expecting to see any familiar faces, so Sue and I were very happy to spot fellow RNAers Cathie Hartigan, Margaret James, Lizzie Lamb, June Kearns and Rosemary Gemmell amongst the guests. Cathie was another prize winner with her gorgeous story Scent of Lemons.

Me and Cathie Hartigan

Me and Cathie Hartigan

The anthology itself, An Earthless Melting Pot, was beautifully designed and produced and I still haven’t got over the thrill of seeing my name in a book…

photo[2]As well as the anthology launch, the event was to toast Triskele Books first birthday and the launch of four books by Catriona Troth, JD Smith, Gillian Hamer and JJ Marsh. Each of the authors spent a few minutes talking about their books and we were also treated to readings of the prize-winning stories by Ruby Cowling and Ken Elkes.

Add to this an amazing buffet and lots and lots of sparkly drinks and the evening was just about perfect…

Vanessa x

Janey Fraser and the art of Happy Families

I am very happy to welcome Janey Fraser to Romaniac HQ. With the James household one month into teenagerdom, this is a timely post. Thank you so much, Janey.

JANEY FRASER PICTURE

“OK,” said the kindly looking man at the front of the class with baby gunk on his left-hand shoulder. “Let’s start by finding out exactly what you want.”

A woman next to me, with lipstick on (where did she find the time?) put up her hand. “I’d like to be able to get my twelve year old son to bed on time”

There was a murmur of agreement.  “When would you like him to go to sleep?” said our leader sympathetically.

There was a pursing of glossy lips. “Nine o’clock at the latest.”

Again, there was a wave of enthusiastic nodding from every direction except mine. That’s because my jaw had dropped.

“I’d like my daughter to do more jobs round the house,” chirped up someone else.

Another chorus of ‘me too’s’ followed.

Then, without meaning to,  I put up my hand. “I’d like my fifteen year old to turn off his laptop before midnight; to do his homework without swearing at me; to promise faithfully not to have his hair dyed by his friends again – or sheared; and never, ever, to get another tattoo.”

There was an appalled silence. “Please tell me,” said the woman next to me, “that you are joking.”

Actually I wasn’t. In fact it was why I was here at a parenting class, hoping for some tips. Unfortunately, within the first five minutes, I had sent myself to the bottom of the class.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m proud of my children. They have character. But there are times when – in the absence of grandparent support – I need an extra hand. That’s why parenting classes seemed such a good idea. In fact, as the course progressed, I did pick up some good tips. Reflective listening was one. The idea is that when your children say something to you (or yell), you repeat back their words to show you have listened and add a dollop of empathy at the same time.  Here’s an example.

“I’ll bl….. well do  my homework later.” (teenager).

“I see. So you’ll bl…. well do your homework later? I understand you don’t want to do it now because you’d rather be playing video games. But if you do it now, I won’t need to nag you any more and you won’t get into trouble at school.”

It worked – up to a point – although my teenager did, after a while, question me. “Why do you keep repeating back what I’m saying?” he asked.

“Because someone told me to,” I retorted.

“Mum, I’ve told you enough times. It’s not cool to listen to others. You need to do what’s right for you.”

He has a point.

Then there was the three card trick. The idea was that if your child did something wrong, you gave them a playing card as a warning. Two things wrong meant two cards with a firmer warning. Three cards was a disciplinary (no pocket money).

No. It didn’t work for us either.

On the plus side, I did in fact make some friends – including one mum who said she admired my frankness and she wished she’d summoned up enough courage to confess that her daughter was so addicted to her laptop that my new friend had to hide the rooter in her boot.

I’d like to say that the parenting class brought peace and calm to our house but I can’t bring myself to fib. Not even for the sake of an article. What it did do, however, was to give me an idea for a novel about a mother, her brother in law and a young gran. They all meet up at a parenting class and get embroiled in a complex plot of love, lust and lies (not necessarily in that order). It’s been described as humorous family comedy with a dark streak.

Just like my lot really.

Janey Fraser HAPPY FAMILIES COVER (2)

HAPPY FAMILIES by JANEY FRASER. ARROW 6.99

http://www.janeyfraser.co.uk/ (visit my website to win a free stay at Champneys for two).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vg7VJbSp1xg. This will give you a taste of the book.

www.facebook.com/janeyfraserauthor

Twitter:

@janey_fraser

Writing a Novella – is it any different to writing a novel?

Author Louise Rose-Innes is with us today, talking about writing novellas and her latest release, The New Year Resolution.

mfrw_profilepic

Take it away Louise …

The New Year ResolutionMy latest release, THE NEW YEAR RESOLUTION is about 35,000 words and is classified as a novella. Novellas are usually about 20,000 to 40,000 words. Anything shorter than that is termed a short story.

They’re punchier than category romances, often only in one POV, and usually with a single plotline (as the length doesn’t support multiple subplots).

Despite the shorter format, they still feature the normal goals, motivations and conflicts of a full length romantic novel.

This makes them fairly difficult to write, especially for authors who are used to a longer format. The trick to writing a fast-paced novella is planning. You have limited space so you can’t ramble or waste words. You need to be absolutely clear on your characters central conflicts, what drives them and how they react in different circumstances. This way you can outline your plot points and build your character arcs convincingly.

Novella writing is a good exercise for any author, as it forces you to focus on what’s important. It also forces you to up the tension of each chapter. A novella is usually faster paced than a full length romance, so you can play with sentence structure and length to keep it interesting all the way through. You can stick to one POV, or try writing in the first person.

Lee Child likes to experiment in his short stories. Stephen King thinks that all young writers should hone their skills on novellas.  He calls the novel a “quagmire that young authors stumble into before they’re ready.”

Personally, I struggle with traditional short stories (under 20,000 words). For me, the novella is a better format to work with. I like delving deeper into core conflicts and motivations and building a relationship between the reader and the heroine from the first paragraph. The novel itself, is a more complex beast, but it does give you more room to move and can be a little more forgiving.

As writers, we should experiment with all formats as we develop our skill, as this will make us more versatile overall.

The New Year ResolutionTHE NEW YEAR RESOLUTION is out now at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00D7HXMDU

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00D7HXMDU

Blurb:

Last year, divorcee Nicole had only one New Year’s Resolution – to have a date for this New Years Eve – but with no strings attached.  One thing she knows for sure is that she isn’t ready for anything more complicated than a casual date.

So when eco-tycoon and international jetsetter, Ryan Jackson begs her to accompany him to a tropical island for a week, in order to impress his benefactor, Nicole categorically refuses. He’s way too hot and she’s way too vulnerable. Not a good idea.

Yet Ryan won’t take no for an answer.  It’s for a good cause. She would only have to pretend to be his lover. It’s a luxury island resort with all expenses paid. How can she refuse?

Under the tropical sun, things heat up and their pretence goes out the window. Nicole gets cold feet. She’s not ready for this kind of affair. It’s doubtful she ever will be.

But have they come too far? Distancing herself from Ryan will cause him to lose the funding he so desperately needs for his eco-project, but staying with him means she’ll lose something far more valuable… her heart.  And that’s a risk Nicole is simply not willing to take.