Life Cycle Of A Writer: Learning How To Promote

This weekend at the 2015 Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Conference, we set up a corner for our Romaniac Sparkle Spotlight. It was a chance to put some of the talented writers we know in front of the camera to tell us about their high point, the toughest thing in their career and what they are currently working on. We had a tremendous amount of fun doing it, not just because there were bubbles involved, but because it was like the coffee break chats we might normally have at these events only we get to share them with the world. There was a theme of tremendous achievements despite the difficulties that get in the way and it was really a privilege listening to the answers people provided. It was also rather fortuitous that we were based outside the one-to-one rooms. It meant we managed to persuade an agent and editor to take part, so it gives a real flavour of the RNA conference.

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Currently, the videos are being edited at a pace and we should be able to release them soon and it is with great thanks to those who took part. It was on a voluntary basis and all those who stood in front of the camera were complete naturals, even if they were nervous about doing it. We’re already planning to do the same again at the next conference so please do sign up next year if you want to take part.

We ourselves are all on a learning curve of how to best promote ourselves and we’ve loved doing this, this year. And behind the camera, doing most of the questions was our lovely, Celia J Anderson, who it turns out, is a brilliant interviewer  and she is currently on tour. Celia’s next book, Living The Dream is on a blog tour and if you pre-order either today or tomorrow it is only 99p! Then it comes out with Tirgearr Publishing later this week.

Celia and Lucie ready for ACTION!
Celia and Lucie ready for ACTION!

Have any writers out there been brave enough to stand in front of a camera yet? And do you prefer to read blogs or watch vlogs to find out about your next read?

Catherine x

 

 

Life Cycle Of A Writer: OUT OF THE OFFICE

Pub

Romaniac HQ is an ever fluctuating space, accommodating however many Romaniacs and family members they come with. But sometimes (you won’t have noticed because of the noise) one of us isn’t about as much. The reasons for this happening are many and our lovely Celia is currently very busy in her deputy head role. It’s an OUT OF OFFICE day, although in theory it’s an IN THE OFFICE day taking her away from the writing life. Despite that, she has started writing early in the mornings when no other Romaniacs are awake.

So how do you manage to get any writing done when life gets in the way? On that note, make sure you read Julie Cohen‘s amazing tips over on Novelicious.

PS Thank you so much for doing this for me, Catherine. That’s one of the many great things about being a Romaniac – nobody gets cross if life gets in the way of the big writing picture and someone always steps in with a helping hand and a virtual hug/cake/glass of wine.

Update on office life – it’s SATs week and we heard yesterday we have Ofsted too, today and tomorrow. Double whammy! So, heads down at school and hopefully normal service will return soon…

Celia J Anderson – Inspired by…

2Legs

 

There’s been a bit of a writing doldrums period recently when I’ve felt very sorry for myself because my writing time was so swamped with work commitments. You’ll be glad to hear this is now over so there will be no whinging in this post. No moans and no grumbles, okay? Not one.

The two virtual slaps needed to bring out this new, rather irritating Pollyanna-I-Love-Life-Again version of myself were the Easter Holidays and a brilliant course in the wilds of beautiful North Derbyshire on Outdoor Learning in the Curriculum. I know the second one doesn’t sound inspiring in itself, but stick with it and you’ll see what I mean.

Puffed

First of all, the holidays. Eight days in a caravan in a field. Sounding better? To some, yes… to others, not so much. But the field was on the edge of the Quantock hills in Somerset. Miles of unspoilt walking country with hardly a soul about, hours to write in, with chilled wine and even more chilled husband. Food – lots of it. Near enough the sea to paddle. A visit from the offspring. Now it makes sense?

R&C

 

Then, the course. The keynote speaker stood up. He was long and thin and bony – a real outdoors type. I thought he was going to lecture us about obese children (not to mention their teachers). Instead, he talked for 40 minutes in the most fascinating way imaginable about helping children and adults to get the most out of life.

He told us about positive emotions; developing ‘robust’ relationships and character strengths like hope, zest, gratitude, curiosity and love. If it had been a Barry Manilow concert, I’d have been on my feet and swaying with my lighter by this point.

In the end, the message was to learn how to savour and revisit (in your head, no time travel tips here, sadly) positive experiences – to expect that good things will probably last and bad ones will hopefully be a flash in the pan and soon over. If I can pass this on to the kids I teach, I’ll be a very happy, and inspired writing person.

I hope all this  hasn’t made you all too nauseous. Apologies if so, and best wishes for a positive summer,

Celia

Life Cycle of a Writer: Following the Dream

 

 CeDesk

It’s my turn to add a progress report, and this is a really good time to do it, because I’ve just finished writing my third contemporary romance. Phew. Well, to be honest it’s actually my fourth, but the first one was so bad that to be out there in the world, it would need major internal surgery and a facelift.

SP_teaser01

The first one to actually make it onto the Kindle shelves was Sweet Proposal, and the story of its big chance is recounted on the Piatkus Entice blog today. A competition win with Piatkus, some serious editing and a cover with chocolate on it were all elements that helped Sweet Proposal (formerly The Chocolate Project) to come out of the woodwork in the summer of 2013, and now that its successor is out there too, SP is selling again, which is great news.

LBB

Next came Little Boxes, published by Tirgearr. I enjoyed writing this one even more, because I’d finally started to feel as if I might know what I was aiming for, instead of just trusting to luck and eating a lot of cake. Little Boxes is a quest, and the idea for it had been in my mind since I read Elizabeth Enright’s Spiderweb For Two – a wonderful children’s book from way back when. I love a treasure hunt, and writing it was such fun that a children’s book of my own on the same lines could be on the cards one day soon.

Mary1

RMS Queen Mary, Long Beach, California

The new one has the working title of Living the Dream, and it’s more off the wall than usual for me – mind games, constant travel and frustrated passions mixed with a hefty dollop of surrealism. It’s based on a trip across America by train, from New York to San Francisco; something I did with my family in 2013. The girls made me a storyboard to remind me of the highlights and it’s on the wall next to my desk as a constant memory jogger.

Photos

 

Edge

So now it’s limbo time for me. No, not the wriggling-painfully-under-a-bar-kind. This is the other sort where you’re not quite sure where to go next. Here are the options:

  • A children’s book (see above, quest theme)
  • Another contemporary romance, maybe a sequel to LB
  • Major old-book surgery/facelift (also see above)
  • Join a circus
  • Do some school work
  • Have a large gin and tonic

Gin

So watch this space – who knows what’s going to happen next? Let me know if you find out before I do, okay?

Come and meet Rhoda Baxter …

DrJ cover

 

Today we’re to find out what makes Choc Lit author Rhoda Baxter tick.

Hi Rhoda, and welcome to one of the comfiest sofas in the entire universe. Jane Lovering left a few Hob Nob crumbs but I think we’ve got rid of most of them now.

I see she’s left some chocolate stains too. I’ll just sit here on the other side of the sofa…

Put your feet up, grab a scone or a bit of cake and I’ll pour the coffee.

Ooh, cake please. That looks lovely. Yum. I’ll try not to get crumbs on the sofa. I’m usually well house trained.

It’s great to see you.There’s never enough time at the RNA conference for a proper chat, so here are some of the questions the Romaniacs would have liked to ask when last we met.

How did your writing career begin, and is it now a full time job?

The writing career probably started when I joined the New Writer’s Scheme in the RNA. It was back in the day when you could apply in March and still get in! I joined the online forum and it felt like I’d suddenly left the farm track I’d been trundling along and joined the motorway. I learned that it wasn’t just about writing the best book you can, it was about networking, marketing etc.

It’s not a full time job (yet). I have a modest plan to break even next year – so that I can go to the RNA conference, the Festival of Romance and feed my reading habit without guilt.

I actually quite like the fact that I have a day job. I get to hang out with real people (rather than the ones in my head or my family – who are also real people, come to think of it) and share gossip and things. It also helps keep me in touch with the other aspects of me. Then there’s the paperclips…

Is there any other dream job that you’d love to try?

Jeffery Steingaarten has my ideal job. He’s a food critic for Vogue in New York. New York’s a bit far, but I’d like to do the same for Yorkshire. I’d get to eat out in the finest dining venues in Yorkshire (for free), then write about it… and…get paid for it! Now, THAT is a dream job. Especially if I can take a doggie bag home for the next day.

I’m sure own bookcase is as stuffed full as ours in Romaniac HQ. If you had to pick three fairly recent publications (say, after 2010) from your collection to recommend to a friend, which would you choose?

Aaaaah. That’s a mean, MEAN question. Okay. 2010. Take a deep breath, Rhoda. If you take a run at it maybe it won’t hurt. (Sorry, Celia, did I mention that I talk to myself a lot? Well, I do).

Nation by Terry Pratchett – okay, technically it’s pre 2010, but I read it in 2011. This book is a YA love story, an adventure yarn and a thoughtful exploration of the human need for deities all in one. It’s very different to Terry Pratchett’s other books, but equally readable and slightly more wonderful.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – A great book. It made me cry. (I object to the term ‘sick lit’ though. It’s a love story. The kids happen to be ill.)

Some of the Choc Lit books – there are so many I can’t choose. Kate Johnson’s Untied Kingdom, Margaret Jameses The Wedding Diary, Margaret Kaine’s Dangerous Decisions, Jane Lovering’s Vampire State of Mind, Isabella Connor’s Beneath an Irish Sky… I know you want me to choose one, but I can’t, dammit. I just can’t! Waaaaaaaah.

Help!(gasp, gasp) Cake. Must have cake.

Thank you. Phew. Just let me crawl back onto the sofa – with the cake, with the cake… Ah. That’s better. (deep breath) Sorry about that. Shall we carry on?

I knew that one would be tricky but thanks, my Kindle salutes you and my ordering finger is clicking. And what about blasts from the past? Which three authors have written books that you’d love to have taken credit for yourself?

The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffeneger– structurally, it’s a beautiful book. The only thing I’d change is to make the main characters less irritating. I finished it and nearly expired with envy.

A Summer of Living Dangerously by Julie Cohen – This is an awesome book. Two timelines intertwine in the same story – without it being a timeslip. I borrowed it from the library, then immediately went out and bought a copy so that I could own it. My copy in now covered in post-its.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – I thought the premise was brilliant. Loved it. Of course, I want the world success too. Natch.

We are totally on the same wavelength here! Although I haven’t read Julie Cohen’s yet. Oh dear, hammering the Amazon Kindle button today … Okay, moving on. Where do you write, and what would be your ideal writing space/room if money was no object?

I’d love a nice big study with floor to ceiling book cases and a big desk. A REALLY big desk, with space all around it, so that I can move my chair and use different sides of the table depending on what I wanted to do.

You said money was no object, right? In that case, I’d also like an assistant who would be able to sort out my filing for me, a nanny to keep the kids entertained, a chef, someone who could massage the knots out of my shoulders from time to time, and a chocolate dispensing machine that dispenses Lindt chocolates in a variety of flavours.

Oh. Sorry. Drooled a bit there. Let me wipe that up. There. Good as new.

That sounds wonderful (not the drool, the room, but thanks for the mopping) – throw in a fridge full of cocktails and it would be heaven on earth. And maybe a hammock to do reading research? Speaking of which, I’ve got to say that Doctor January has been one of my favourite summer reads this year and Hibs is a delectable hero. He reminds me of Dr. ‘Mac’ Macartney from Green Wing (played by Julian Rhind-Tutt) but I can’t quite put my finger on why.Is he based on anyone in particular?

I love Green Wing and Mac is my favourite character in it! I don’t think I consciously channelled Mac when I was writing Hibs, but who knows what my subconscious was doing (apart from raiding the biscuit tin). Hibs isn’t based on anyone in particular. He just sauntered in rather unexpectedly and I had to write him as he was. He is rather lovely. It took me a while to stop thinking about him – even when I’d moved on to writing the next book.

The only part of Hibs that’s based on real life is his hair. I once met a guy who had the loveliest long black hair. He clearly took good care of it. Also, of course, there’s the Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists http://www.improbable.com/hair-club/which might have had something to do with it.

Your heroine in Doctor January, Beth, goes through a serious relationship crisis that could have gone either way. Did you know exactly how this was going to work out when you began to write the book, or did the plot develop as it went along?

It was a bit of both. I knew that Gordon was a total git (boo!) and I had a rough idea of what was going to happen, but the details evolved as I wrote. The hardest part was working out why Beth didn’t see Gordon for the totally horrible person he was. I had to do lots of research (Yay the internet!) to find out why women often stayed with their abusers and excused their behaviour.

Incidentally, Gordon is named after Gordon the Fastest Engine on Sodor. My youngest is a huge Thomas the Tank Engine fan.

Was the friendship and bond between Hibs, Beth and Vik always going to be a strong theme in Doctor January? It seems to underpin the whole story and give it a feel-good warmth even when there were problems for Beth to face.

One of the best things about writing Doctor January was that I got to relive the fun times I had when I worked in a lab. I should point out that my supervisor was nothing like Roger, she was a very nice, supportive (and slightly formidable) lady.

I tried hard to capture the sense of camaraderie that runs through life in the lab. The atmosphere in most labs is informal and friendly. When you spend a lot of time doing repetitive tasks, or monitoring things dripping/spinning/running down a gel, you have lots of time to chat and share.

I wanted capture Beth’s feeling that Hibs and Vik were ‘her boys’. Of course, Hibs is much, much more, but it takes her a while to realise that.

Following on from the above question; speaking as a writer, how important are friendship groups in your own life? Are you more of a solitary soul or do you need the buzz of people around you most of the time to inspire your work?

I’m a very sociable soul. I love hanging out with people and chatting. I’m not sure that people that inspire my work, but then again, that sneaky old subconscious is probably making notes all the time.

I do have to be careful not to talk to myself when other people are around. It tends to freak them out. I like to be alone when I write – partly for the same reason. I often try out lines of dialogue, to see how they sound. Sometimes I even have a go at expressions or gestures to figure out how to describe them. My husband, bless him, has stopped jumping out of his skin when I mutter things like ‘I have always loved you, but I have to kill you now’ whilst sitting at the laptop.

In the brilliant session with Jane Lovering at the summer conference, you demonstrated hidden talents in comedy timing – the pair of you had us rolling in the aisles. Which comedians/comedy writers appeal to your sense of humour and how important is humour in your own choice of reading matter?

I really enjoyed doing that. It was as much fun for us as it was for you guys. Even Jane in her penguin suit!

I love watching comedy. I read a lot of romantic comedy (research, you know) and I’ll watch just about any comedy. I love Blackadder, anything by Graham Linehan, Big Bang Theory, Eddie Izzard, Bill Bailey – the list goes on. I adore a good (or even bad) pun.

I’d say humour is more important to me than music. My music collection consists mainly of parody songs. Tom Lehrer still makes me laugh, despite having heard the songs over and over again.

I read a few books about writing comedy and came to the conclusion that the only way to learn about comic timing is to watch loads and loads of comedy. Hey, that means watching comedies is research too. Hurrah!

Now some quick fire questions to finish with:

Monty Python or Fawlty Towers? Tricky.Fawlty Towers for consistent laughs.

Gin and Tonic or Champagne? Am I allowed to say neither? I can’t hold my alcohol very well.You know when I’m at the RNA conferences … that’s me sober, that is.

Frosty winter days or the heat of the summer? Frosty winter days.

Steak or Salmon? Steak (with sweet potato fries, if poss)

Country walks or reading in front of the fire on a damp autumn day?

Reading in front of the fire. I don’t do exercise – it’s bad for you. Have you ever known anyone strain a muscle from reading? No. I rest my case.

Crime fiction or ghost stories? Crime.

Jeans or joggers? Jeans – but not low rise ones. I like my muffins to be the edible sort.

Mountains or coast? Coast

Mean and moody heroes or cute blond bombshells? What kind of a question is that? Moody boys or cute girls…I refuse to answer on the grounds of sexist stereotyping.

Noooo, not cute girlies, I meant boy bombshells! But I agree, that question was very badly put – I think the gorgeous blond Mac was still in my head toying with my brain!

Spa day or sporting event? Spa day. See earlier comment about exercise.

Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, Rhoda – lovely to see you.

Lovely to see you too. Thank you for the lovely cuppa and the cake. Let me brush down the sofa before I leave.

A last piece of cake to take with you? The chocolate sponge is just out of the oven.

Oh, thank you. That’ll do nicely while I go watch some research.

 

Jeev

***

Rhoda Baxter lives in the North of England, where the cakes are excellent. She had a childhood ambition to be an astronaut or at least 5 feet tall. Having failed at both of these, she now writes humorous novels instead.

Rhoda’s first novel was a contender for the RNA Joan Hessayon Award and was a top ten finalist in the 2012 Predators and Editors poll for romance reads. Her third novel, Doctor January, is published by Choc Lit Ltd and available now.

She can be found wittering on about science, comedy and cake on her websitewww.rhodabaxter.com or on Twitter (@rhodabaxter).

 

 

 

 

Follow Me, Follow You; it’s the launch at last!

FOLLOW ME_front highres

So, it’s finally here – the long awaited arrival of the paperback version of Follow Me, Follow You. Set in coastal Dorset, Laura E James’ own stamping ground, it tells the story of what happens when a technology junkie steps away from the screen and goes back to basics. It explores complex relationships, misunderstandings, grief and enduring love and still manages to make you laugh. Phew! Here’s a picture to give you an idea of the beautiful setting.

Rocks

Right, Laura – time to pick your authorly brain – let’s look at the complex cast of characters in FMFY.

Which character gave you the most trouble?

Laura: Victoria was the hardest character to write. It took a trip to Italy on a writing course to pin her down. The difficulty was in making a flawed character likeable

I remember that trip well! Which of your characters would you like to invite for dinner this week?

Laura: Oo. I think Olivia has the right sort of energy, the wisdom and the humour to help me get through my root canal treatment next week.

Snog, marry or shove off a cliff, please?

Laura: That’s easy. Snog: Chris Frampton. Marry: Chris Frampton. Shove off a cliff: Tommy Stone. He’s vile. 

We were all bouncing with excitement when Truth or Dare was released by Choc Lit as an ebook, but how are you feeling about seeing Follow me, Follow You in actual, real live paperback? I know how you feel about all things stationery and paper based.

Laura: Holding the printed copy is amazing – it has such a wonderful cover. The book smells good, too.

Have you been busy in the run up to FMFY’s launch? What does the whole thing involve for you?

Laura: I’ve been working very hard to meet the deadlines for the launch, with blogs happening right left and centre. As far as online promotions go, the rough count for guest posts and interviews in total is 15, which is a lot of thinking and a whole lot more writing!

So what else is in the pipeline at the moment?

Laura: I’m working on book three, ‘What Doesn’t Kill You’, which looks at the pressures on today’s sandwich generation. Set in Dorset, the romance between Griff, a Coastguard Watch Officer, and his wife Evie is central to the story. Between them, they’re trying to care for Logan, Griff’s elderly, disabled father, Tess, Evie’s troubled teen, and baby Dilon. Relationships are strained, and Griff’s assertion that everyone can be saved is creating more problems than it solves.

Well, that’s earned you a huge mug of hot chocolate and a generous of chunk lemon drizzle cake, Laura. Thanks for your answers, but most of all thanks for writing such a fascinating book. Can’t wait for the next one!

Celia x

Choc Lit

 

Catch the Moment

Feather

This isn’t going to be one of those annoying posts where someone pats themselves on the back for having some flowers in the garden and ‘the best husband in the world*’. At least, I’m hoping it isn’t. (If it is, feel free to send me a virtual slap. Or a real one if you only live up the road.)

It’s more of a follow up from last week’s blog where we looked at alternative ways to get the writing bug back in fallow periods. I was just picking blackberries in the sunshine, ready to make a crumble for the visitors who are coming later on, and it hit me that this was one of those perfect moments when everything was okay in my world. This was why:

  • The daughters have been on an adventure and I’m the world’s worst worrier when they’re travelling but they’re back safely in Brighton at last
  • There are loads of blackberries

Berries

  • And kidney beans

Beans

  • And a few really pretty sweet peas left

sweetpea

  • I’ve just passed the 50 000 word mark on my WIP after a really sticky bit, and get this – I know what’s coming next … ish …
  • My kind bloke is cleaning the kitchen floor (*sorry for the plug for him, but it’s really not my favourite job and it needed doing before the visitors saw it and realised I was a slut)

Ray kitchen

  • The grass was warm under my bare feet
  • I haven’t seen said visitors for ages; they’re going to get the full roast beef/Yorkshire pudding combo and I’m already hungry thinking about it
  • I found a white feather out there on the lawn

Of course, such bliss is fleeting – I came in and tracked grass over the newly hoovered carpet -not a good move – and then noticed I’d got blackberry stains down my front.

stain

But anyway, on this bank holiday weekend, maybe it’s time to catch the moment and then go off and write about it. I’m aiming for the 55 000 word milestone now, and there could well be blackberries in the next part.

So – what makes your own perfect inspirational writing moment? The Romaniacs, ever nosy, really want to know.

Happy holiday weekend,

Celia x