Life Cycle of a Writer: Receiving that Magical News.

Well, since my last update, things have gone ever so slightly crazy. Wonderfully crazy! All in all, it has been  a sparkling six weeks.

On February 14th, I found out that my first novel ‘As Weekends Go’ had been shortlisted in the Choc Lit  and Whole Story Audiobooks Search for a Star competition.

I’d made the final six!

Cue stupid grins and shrieks aplenty at both Chez Brigden and Romaniac HQ.  It was going to be an extra special Valentine’s Day.

I then discovered I’d made the final two!

Which, naturally, called for fizz and chocolates …   20150314_131337

And THEN … on Saturday March 14th (I’ve decided I rather like the number 14!)  came the official announcement that I’d won the Search for a Star Competition

I can’t describe how elated I felt. Choc Lit would be offering me a contract. As Weekends Go was really going to be published.

It was a mad, mad day – lots of celebratory hugs and loving, supportive messages, both off and online. Mum and Dad came over, bearing choccies and flowers.  I had some fab cards, tweets and emails from family and friends, and messages of welcome from head of Choc Lit, Lyn Vernham, the whole team and the lovely authors.

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I’ll admit that, on the Monday morning,  when I logged on to see a special surprise post from my fantastic Romaniac buddies,  I was  bit of a blubbering Briggy!

More good cheer followed when my older sister treated me to a yummy congratulatory lunch.

 

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And then this week, I saw my first published Press Release. To say I am excited about the future is putting it mildly. I know I’ve said it before, but I truly am thankful for all the love and wise words of support and encouragement I’ve received from everyone, especially Mr B who has been  chief cuddler, co-editor, sounding board, morale booster, tantrum-dodger and counsellor extraordinaire all rolled into one. I will also be eternally grateful to my Romantic Novelists’ Association   New Writers’ Scheme reader, whose suggestions and advice when I originally submitted my novel for critique, were invaluable.

As Weekends Go is a contemporary multi POV tale – three interwoven stories – about two couples and the emotional havoc created during and beyond their eventful weekend clash of agendas, involving a ‘girls only’ trip to York, a Brighton sales conference and a Spanish stag do.

I can’t wait for you to meet the cast.

Thanks again,

Jan  x

 

 

 

 

Life Cycle Of A Writer: Crossing the Finishing Line

Never has there been a more glorious moment than writing these two short, little words:

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It is not the first time I’ve reached THE END of a manuscript, but this one has been something of a HERCULEAN effort. I had the idea for Baby Number Two in 2012 and after mulling it over for a while, I wrote the first chapter to enter into the New Talent Award at the Festival of Romance. Much to my surprise, the first chapter was shortlisted and I was invited to attend the New Talent Reception prior to the Awards dinner. Looking back on my iPhone pictures these two photos are next to each other:

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My lunatic grin at finding I was shortlisted

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The reason I look quite so crazed in that photo?

I took this test on the day I was heading up to the New Talent Award Reception, so no champagne for me then. It also put a stop to any writing for some while, because that faint little line turned out to be twins and throughout pregnancy I was a) not able to write because my brain was mush and b) I didn’t want to jinx anything, which was silly and irrational, but that pretty much sums up emotions during pregnancy.

It was only once the twins arrived safely that I managed to consider writing again. This story that I’d created over a year ago needed to be written. But how, with twins? I talked about that on my last vlog and turning to the traditional pen and paper route worked for me. Gradually, at every given opportunity, I have scribbled away and have managed to get those 3,000 words to roughly 80,000 words.

It’s taken me nearly 3 years and I managed to produce two children quicker, but at long last I can say I’ve reached THE END.

Now truth be told, I should take this opportunity to recline on the sofa for a very long time. I’m pretty sure I need to, but as parenthood doesn’t allow that, and certainly not in the day time then I’m continuing to fill every spare minute and am already 100 pages into editing. Because crossing the finish line is a great feeling, but I’m still chasing the dream that everyone gets the chance to read this story.

Catherine x

Novel Research

It’s an exciting day for me, my third novel, THE HALF TRUTH is published today. It’s a romantic suspense, set mainly on the south coast of the UK but also in London. I had some interesting search terms when researching it, things like, Glock 26 and Russian gang tattoos but my favourite was St Paul’s Cathedral in London.

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I’ve visited St Paul’s on several occasions, the first, as a child, when my sister, my mum and I stayed with my nan for a week. (She lived in De Beuvoir Square in London, which I also used in The Half Truth.) During that week, my nan took us to St Paul’s and I loved the Whispering Gallery – my sister and I had great fun whispering messages around the walls to each other. As an adult, I’ve appreciated the beauty and splendour of the building, both the interior and exterior.  Writing those scenes brought back very fond memories.

The Half truth

Every marriage has its secrets…

Tina Bolotnikov, widowed after her husband, Sasha, is killed in a car accident, relocates back to her hometown on the south coast of the UK, to bring up her young son. Her life back in London with her adored husband is now nothing but a memory; a history to pass onto her son.

DS John Nightingale saw his partner killed in the line of duty and has made it his personal and professional quest to bring to justice the Russian gang responsible. Five years on and the killer is still free but as reports come in of Sasha Bolotnikov’s brother returning to the UK, John is tasked with tracking him down and following him to the seaside town of Littlehampton.

Tina finds herself an unwitting connection to a world she knew nothing about. She thought she knew her husband. She thought their past was the truth. But now as the investigation draws her closer to DS Nightingale, professional lines are blurred, and only he holds the key to her future.

 

Life Cycle Of A Writer: Sparkle Round-Up

Here at Romaniac HQ, we believe in positivity. The reason we started the Life Cycle Of A Writer posts was so that we can share the lows and highs of our journeys. It is a mighty tough business for which you need a thick skin, but we go by the philosophy if you work hard and believe in yourself great things will happen. Give yourself the chance to sparkle, and if you don’t mind indulging us for a few minutes, we wanted to share our moments of triumph with you and together raise a glass to all the highs.

December

It all started in the middle of December at the Romaniac Sparkle WeekendEn route to our get together we found we had good reason to celebrate when Vanessa Savage learned she’d won the Flash500 Novel Opening Competition for Missing Grace. The report from the judge, Steph Patterson, provides some very encouraging words for Vanessa:

“The introduction to Missing Grace just pulls you in. Straight away, it raises a number of questions and you quickly read on. A mere sprinkling of back story, told in a way that links the past to the present, introduces us to another important character, and then we’re heading straight into the plot. The tension grows as the mystery unravels. My congratulations to the two finalists! I’m sure both will go far.”

If that wasn’t enough reason to raise a glass, during our sparkle weekend Catherine Miller learned she’d won the Just Write Monthly Masterpiece competition for Miles Between Us. With the judges saying they were gripped from the very start. The first three chapters are now available to read on their website.

January

2015 got off to a great start when Vanessa received news she’d won a Writers Forum competition for her short story No Such Thing As Monsters. The magazine should be out in March!

To add to our early 2015 cheer, Catherine was highly commended runner-up in the Accent Press and Woman magazine writing competition for her work-in-progress Baby Number Two.

February

Laura E. James carried out her first Waterstones book signing at the Dorchester branch, selling and signing copies of Follow Me Follow You

Laura and Sharon Goodwin (Jera's Jamboree) at Dorchester's Waterstones.
Laura and Sharon Goodwin (Jera’s Jamboree) at Dorchester’s Waterstones.

Vanessa received double good news in February – Her current work-in-progress The Murder House made the final four in the Caledonia Novel Award and she came third in the Flash500 flash fiction competition with her story Pretty Maids All In A Row

March

March has been mega for good news, and we’re only part way through the month.

Catherine went up to London to receive the Katie Fforde bursary award. This is for someone on the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme who has great potential. Katie presented Catherine with a trophy at the RNA March meeting.

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Laura carried out her first talk with a fellow Dorset writer, Kathy Sharp. The Preston Friendship Club were fantastic audience, and Laura hopes to do similar events in the future.

In a celebration of Mother’s Day, Celia J Anderson’s letter to her mother was included in The Guardian. It’s the first letter and has a lovely picture of Celia in a bonnet.

As if all these bits of excitement weren’t enough, Romaniac HQ celebrations went into overdrive when we learned our wonderful Jan Brigden won the Choc Lit and Whole Audiobooks Search for a Star competition. Her novel As Weekends Go will be published later this year.

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We’re absolutely delighted for Jan and so glad to have our first life cycle transition from aspiring to published writer.

We’ve also finished putting a considerable number of words together with The Murder House by Vanessa Savage, Baby Number Two by Catherine Miller, Fractured Love by Lucie Wheeler, What Doesn’t Kill You by Laura E.James and Living The Dream by Celia J. Anderson reaching completion in one stage or another and the very hard-working Sue Fortin has been getting The Half-Truth into its final version ready for publication in two days time!

The Half truth

 

Time to upgrade Romaniac HQ’s mini-bar. There’s no way we can stock enough champagne in there if the good news keeps coming in at this rate. Now if you’ve all got a filled glass, please raise it to the wonder of sparkle and positivity!

CHEERS!
CHEERS!

 

Jan Brigden: Winner and Contracted Author!

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Jan Brigden. Contracted author.

 We’ve had a WILD weekend at Romaniac HQ, celebrating the doubleplusgood news that our lovely, wonderful, talented

JAN BRIGDEN

is the WINNER of the Choc Lit and Whole Story Audiobooks Search for a Star Competition,

with her contemporary women’s fiction novel, As Weekends Go,

and

JAN HAS SIGNED WITH CHOC LIT!

We are beside ourselves with joy and are eating cream buns and chocolate cake with great abandon.

Time for more G&T cup cakes?
Time for more G&T cup cakes?

Jan – we wanted to congratulate you on your well-deserved success and we cannot wait to see your debut published.

Many, many congratulations 😀

Love,

The Romaniacs xxxxxxx

Romaniac Group Heart Pumping

Bee and Let Bee: Carol Anne Hunter

We are delighted to welcome Carol Anne Hunter, author of Project Me, to Romaniac HQ. Get your cake and coffee, put your feet up, and enjoy this beautiful story.

Let’s bee having you, Carol Anne …

Carol Hunter Author Pic

My novel, Project Me, a comedy about starting again at fifty, was published last year. I’ve received the usual feedback from friends and family but one two-para piece of romantic rambling about bees is regularly cited as a stand-out point. The thing is, I stole these two paragraphs from a random short story I wrote a couple of years ago, changed the wording a little and used them as a device to give my character hope when she was near breaking point. The ploy worked a treat. So in the hope of warming away your winter blues and giving you something to look forward to, here is the latest version of the whole story. Enjoy!

 Bee and Let Bee

Every spring they arrive along with the first buds to lodge rent-free in the air vent under the back steps.  They don’t ask for much except a place to commune and peace to get on with it, and I’m happy to oblige; to let it bee.  I’ll let you into a secret.  The lavender bushes under my windows were planted just for them.

Sometimes when it’s sunny I relax on my lounger and watch my ultimate flying squad bizz in and out.  I fancy the little ones are on their maiden voyage, newbees on a practice flight if you will, with a remit to ransack next door’s hanging baskets before being sent further afield in search of richer pickings to bring home as part of earning their stripes.  Poised on the latticed concrete grid it seems they’re calculating ambient temperature and wind speed whilst waiting for some in-built air traffic control to signal the all-clear for take-off.  This is no long runway lumber-up-to-speed, more a dodgy diagonal ascent, their bumbee tartan bobbing on the breeze like tiny paragliders struggling to stay on the flight path.  Some take off on their very own junket, others do a double-take when they catch a whiff of my lavenders and hightail back, dancing on the downdraft before they home in when they’ve sized up the source of the scent.

Then come the jumbos, the 747s with their black and yellow corduroy, bombing out of the vent in loose formation.  Maybe they’re scouts setting out on a mission – as Captain Kirk might say, to seek out uncharted flower beds; to boldly go where no bee’s gone before.

I well remember the day of The Great Fly-Past when a no-mark rookie went off-course almost tipping yours truly off her deck chair.  A swatting offence in my book, since I swear I heard the tiny wheeze of laughter.

Now, that there’s what you’d call a right cheeky bee.

Landings are an art form.  Their panniers full of fragrant pollen I watch them on the home stretch, circling the runway, waiting for clearance to land.  Then it’s one in, one out as another launches itself through the latticework and up over my head.  And I’ve never, ever witnessed a mid-air collision.  Then autumn comes around and they all buzz off.

Why people talk about the birds and the bees when referring to matters carnal is anybody’s guess.  These damsels don’t procreate therefore the hive is more workhouse than joy house.  Only their queen is fertile and reproductive, nurtured as she is with Royal Jelly provided by the wing-women who attend to her every need.  She also has the option to choose her offspring’s gender, something we humans with all our science and technology have yet to achieve, and she chooses girls over boys, who are kept dormant until their – ahem – services are required.  In this uber-sexist society the females work as a collective, much like Mormon sister-wives, and share the feathering of the nest, the raising of the nippers and the bringing home of the proverbial bacon.  The one thing they don’t have in common is a husband.

Get rid of them, friends advised, they’re a nuisance.  They aren’t.

They’ll sting you.  They haven’t.

They’ll burrow through the wall and get into the house.  They can’t.  I know; I checked.  They’re all talking out of their bumble.

So, all is harmonious.  They mind their beeswax and I mind mine.  Live and let live, I say.   Bee and let bee.

Roll on March.

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I so hope I’ve left you with a rosy glow!

 

Carol Hunter Project Me CoverProject Me by Carol Anne Hunter is currently available from Amazon.co.uk at  amzn.to/1yea08M and Amazon.com at /amzn.to/122tym1

Email me at carolannehunter4@gmail.com

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/carol.hunter.357

Twitter page:   https://twitter.com/carolannehunter

Combined website/blog – www.carolannehunter.co.uk

 

Something for the Weekend: Comic Relief – Make your Face Funny for Money Special!

Because today is Comic Relief Day and it’s all in a good cause, we thought we’d join in the, ‘Make your Face Funny for Money’ and share some of our daftest moments!

Have a fun day! 302950_2497624755499_1099260752_32966933_1958389364_n

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SMILE!
SMILE!

LucieGruffalo

ROCK AND ROLL! Photo credit - Becky Harris
ROCK AND ROLL!
Photo credit – Becky Harris

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HAPPY AS CAN BE!
HAPPY AS CAN BE!

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Sue Duck
Lesser Spotted Chocolate Eyed Duck

 

No words.
No words.

 

Smile!
Smile!

Pout!
Pout!

Dear Auntie Romaniac… Plotting panic

Dear Auntie Romaniac …

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I’m just beginning to think about a new book idea. I’ve bought a new notebook and a new pen and I have some vague thoughts in my head. Now, what I usually do is have a beginning and an end in mind, a setting and an idea of my main characters and armed with that, I begin writing and the story forms as I write and as I really get to know the characters. The problem is, I then end up with lots of scenes and chapters that are really just character studies, or nice descriptive bits, which don’t advance the story and my second/third drafts involve major re-writing. I have tried advance planning and plotting and character questionnaires but I struggle until I get into the minds of my characters by writing them. How can I plot and structure my book when I don’t really know the characters yet?

Vanessa
x

Sue: I always plot heavily before I write, but I have found if I can get to know my character really well beforehand, this makes life easier. You could ask your character a number of questions, or give them some moral dilemmas – these don’t necessarily have to be part of the story, but they will help you know your character thoroughly before you start writing. Maybe, write the first draft focussing on the plot and then go back and weave character traits, thoughts, feelings and reactions in afterwards. 

Catherine: I think I’m still learning on this, like you, Vanessa. I use a bullet point story line method. I start out by planning what is going to happen in the novel and I scribbled it all out in a notebook. Each bullet point is about a paragraph of information and that eventually becomes a chapter. I haven’t stuck to it rigidly, but it has given me a framework to go by, so each chapter I know what the purpose of those events are and where it will eventually lead. In my second draft I will add more detail and check the timeline, something I could have done prior if I’d been more organised, and that’s something I will try to do with the next one.

Laura: It’s a great question, Vanessa. I tried detailed planning for the first time for book I’ve recently finished, using the three act structure, brilliantly explained by author, Fiona Harper, at a Romantic Novelists’ Association conference. Here is a great series Fiona wrote for the Pink Heart Society in 2012 about that. I usually start with an idea, then bring in the characters, and sketch out a rough picture in my head of what I’d like to happen. Often parts of the plot don’t come to me until I’m inside the story. Even having planned book 3, I struggled with refining the end. How was it resolved? I talked through it with Catherine – she was my captive audience in my car for five hours – Some might say that’s extreme advice, but I’m only suggesting talking it out as the method, not the kidnapping. It really helps me to talk through the story with trusted friends. However, I do like to get to know my characters well before I start writing. I use enneagrams to determine their personality traits. This was one of the many tips I picked up from the fab Julie Cohen a few years ago. This gives me an instant insight into what motivates my characters, and a foundation on which to build.

Jan: I’m a serious plotter. To touch on what Sue has suggested above, I create and then interview each main character, posing various questions and scenarios. This gives me a great sense of who they really are, how they think, their gut feelings, motivations, private versus public reactions. I then roughly draft out what will happen in each chapter, as in ‘harmony versus tension’ scenes, points of conflict, timelines, etc, making sure I have a good idea of balance and story pace. It probably sounds a bit regimental, Vanessa, but even though I’m methodical in my approach, I do keep an open mind when I’m writing, to allow for any unexpected diversions. That’s the fun and beauty of telling the actual story – you’re never 100% certain where it may lead you. I wish I could come up with a magic solution, but I suppose it really is a case of trying every option, every which way, until it gels for you.