Tag Archives: fiction

Sense and sensitivity

I hadn’t intended to blog today but I received an email from a writer friend that has made me think about writers and the responsibility they have to deal with difficult subjects sensitively and with good sense.

ITL?_new packshotMy friend has just read Is This Love? and said nice things about it. But she also said that she found it unsettling because her younger daughter is disabled. In this book the heroine, Tamara, has a sister, Lyddie, who needs more care than most adults after a hit-and-run incident in her teens. Is This Love? gave my friend a ‘flash forward’ look at how things might be for her family as her daughter grows older, especially for her other, able-bodied daughter.

I thanked my friend for sharing her thoughts – they really gave me pause. At the time, one of the things that worried me  about writing the book was whether readers would think Tamara was wrong for having the hots for Jed, when Lyddie had had such a teen crush on him! I ran a Facebook conversation about it and everyone said they thought it was OK because Lyddie/Jed had been so young, so I included all their feedback in Tamara’s thoughts. But this morning’s email showed me that it certainly wasn’t the only area where I could have jumped all over people’s feelings.

I’m sorry if I made my friend think of things that she’d rather not, I really am. Writing the book came out of guilt. When I was a teen we had a friend – we’ll call him Tom – who suffered head injury when hit by a car. It wasn’t hit-and-run, as it was for Lyddie in Is This Love? Tom just did something careless, but the effect was the same. He was reasonably OK for friends as long as we were all teens, but when we got a bit older I’m afraid we left him behind. We got married, got jobs, went to uni, etc etc. I know that he began to go to the pub and had no sense of when to stop drinking and other drunkards used to drag him home. He had a younger brother who used to do his best for him … but I recently discovered that the younger brother died in his early thirties, which made me feel worse. I don’t know if Tom’s still around, or his parents.

I channelled some of my feelings and thoughts about Tom into Lyddie and her family.

I also knew (and really disliked, but that’s a different story) a woman whose daughter had cerebral palsy after a difficult birth. However much I didn’t like the woman, she was ever-conscious of what was best for her daughter, and I admired her for that. I can even accept that some of her less endearing qualities related to the sacrifices that she’d made. I used to speak to her about the daughter going into respite care at weekends, how the younger (able-bodied) sister coped, and stuff like that, so I utilised some of that knowledge for Lyddie, also.

Research is fascinating but today has shown me how much a writer should think about readers in ways more than just book sales.

 

 

 

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The one-sentence synopsis

If writing an ordinary synopsis is hell, why know your one-sentence synopsis and why have one?

For me, it’s a summary of my theme and a brilliant place to begin a synopsis if the need arises. It gives me the essence of the book, which keeps me on-topic if I begin to ramble:

ITL?_new packshot Is This Love?‘ is about the different qualities of love.

Want to Know a Secret?‘ is about money and family, and who thinks which is most important.

DALD_v12.2 reviseDream a Little Dream‘ is about finding a new dream when the old dream crumbles.

A one-sentence synopsis can also form the first part of an elevator pitch to agents/editors. Then:

  • Add to the one sentence a category that sums it up: It’s a quest. It’s a reunion story.
  • Something about tone is useful, too: It’s lighthearted. It’s gritty.
  • If appropriate, mention the message: Be careful what you wish for.

Formulating a one-sentence synopsis is a handy habit to get into. It can even help you sum up your book up for journalists when you’re a bestselling author and they’re queuing on the phone for interviews!

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Ooooh … gorgeous hats!

Samples  of the kind of thing Abigail makes

Samples of the kind of thing Abigail makes

Yesterday, in the pursuit of research, I had the enormous pleasure of visiting Abigail Crampton, a couture milliner, to learn a little about her art and her business, Abigail Crampton Millinery.

I began to understand the difference between picture hats and cartwheels, fascinators and cocktail hats, cloches and trilbies.

And the colours and decorations! Stunning.

Making a hat by hand is an enormous skill as well as a testament to creativity. Abigail makes bespoke creations so if, say, you want a hat for Ascot, you take along your outfit and Abigail designs a hat that completes your ensemble and is a visual joy.

I fell in love with a cocktail hat (probably because the height of the decoration made me look taller) and discovered that I have a totally average head size. I also learned a lot about blocking, steaming, stab stitch, sinemay and the uses of an egg iron.

The research is for a novella I’m planning – The Twelve Dates of Christmas. I came away content that I’ve chosen the correct career for Ava Bliss, my heroine. She’ll prosper amongst the sinemay, straw, felt, feathers and veiling.

I’ll let the rest of my photos speak for themselves. My thanks to Abigail for giving up her time and sharing some of her expertise.

A fascinator I fell for - you can't go wrong with purple. Abigail Crampton Millinery

A fascinator I fell for – you can’t go wrong with purple. Abigail Crampton Millinery

The thread rack. Every thread has to be such a close colour match as to become invisible.

The thread rack. Every thread has to be such a close colour match as to become invisible.

Blocks. Essential to the creation process.

Blocks. Essential to the creation process.

Wow!  Abigail Crampton Millinery

Wow!
Abigail Crampton Millinery

A block for a snazzy cocktail hat, covered in clingfilm so no dyes can be transferred from creation to creation via the wood.

A block for a snazzy cocktail hat, covered in clingfilm so no dyes can be transferred from creation to creation via the wood.

A pillbox hat in creation

A pillbox hat in creation

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What do I say on the radio?

HeadphonesI love ‘doing radio’.

When I first began to get published I felt that ‘doing radio’ was something other people did. It was a genuine shock when I received a request to be interviewed by BBC local radio. Until then, I had taken part in one radio interview, conducted over the phone, and I think the reason that it went so well was that I didn’t realise I was being interviewed. I thought the journalist was just chatting with me and would get on to the scary stuff later. So I learned early that if I treat radio interviews as a nice chat, they’ll generally go pretty well.

The technique has served me well and now I’m a regular guest on chat programmes on both BBC Radio Cambridgeshire and BBC Radio Northampton.

BBC Radio Cambridgeshire has an afternoon slot on The Sue Dougan Show called In the Chat Room, where Sue invites people in to talk about a couple of topical subjects. It can be anything from finding the money to send a child to university to what you think about while doing the ironing. There’s usually another ‘Chat Roomer’ in the studio and so I have someone to banter with.

Helen Blaby, of BBC Radio Northampton, does a twenty minute discussion of the Sunday morning papers, each week. When I’m invited to be the guest, I arrive about 9am and a lovely production assistant sits me down with all the papers and a cup of tea. I choose five news stories I have something to say about and then I’m shown in to Helen’s studio about 10.10am, tell her what the stories are, and we go on to chat about some of them live on air. To give you an example, yesterday we talked about happiness classes in the British army and social media, which was mentioned in several sections of every paper – business, commentary, social and news.

What’s in these programmes for me? They’re not actually interviews about me or my books.

Apart from the fun of chatting live on air, both presenters ask me about what’s happening to me at the moment, when the next book comes out, what workshops I’m running etc. So I reach their audience, which is about 300,000 in both cases; it’s just a touch less direct than being the subject of an interview.

I’m also often the spokesperson for the Romantic Novelists’ Association (I’m vice chair), which is usually fast and soon forgotten, but it means that I occasionally have my name mentioned on radio stations throughout the country.

Here are my top tips for ‘doing radio’:

  • Chat to the presenter as if the audience doesn’t exist
  • But remember not to swear or say anything you don’t want to be instantly broadcast
  • Keep close to the microphone (except if you laugh. Then pull back.)
  • If there are things you want to mention, jot them down on a piece of card. Try and avoid noisy paperwork.
  • Take/ask for water. You may not have coughed for ten years but the moment you go live on air, you’ll want to.
  • Turn off your phone or put it on silent or airplane mode. Or don’t take it into the studio.
  • Don’t worry that ten minutes after you thought you were going to be on air, you’re still sitting out in reception. The production team have to ensure a smooth flow and have probably built in a few minutes into the schedule so you’ll be there when they want you. Put yourself in their hands and relax. It’s their problem, not yours.
  • But build in time for travel. Better to be early and have to wait than to be late and miss your slot. I once sat outside BBC Radio Cambridgeshire in a traffic jam listening to Sue Dougan say I’d be on air in about five minutes … Not comfortable.
  • Enjoy. It’s fun.
  • NB I did have one slightly hostile interviewer at a radio station in Yorkshire. He obviously didn’t like fiction and particularly not romantic fiction. The trick, if you get a question you don’t like, is to make like a politician and instead of talking about something you don’t want to talk about, talk about something you do want to talk about. Don’t let yourself be drawn into confrontation. Don’t try and score points. See it as an opportunity to tell the listeners about your new book. The presenter isn’t the only one with control.

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Publication day!

ITL?_new packshotToday is publication day for ‘Is This Love?’

I was going to say that a publication day is like Christmas and my birthday all rolled into one – but, actually, it’s more fun.

The lovely publicists at Choc Lit have lined me up a lot of online interviews and blogposts to go live today, fantastic friends on Facebook and Twitter are sending me nice messages, and I’m on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire this afternoon, after recording a segment for Bookmark at Community 105. And I’m going out with friends this evening to celebrate. (I’ve even been able to arrange for somebody else to drive.)

Publication Day is Publication Day, even though the ebook came out a month ago and the online bookstores shipped the paperback copies last weekend. Mere details! Publication Day is the marker, the day I pause in my usual work to enjoy the moment. It’s also a good excuse for a bit of hoopla.

Happily for me, Publication Day more-or-less coincides with the Festival of Romance, which begins tomorrow, in Bedford, so I have an interview on the Nick Coffer show on BBC 3 Counties Radio at 12.30 and a booksigning at Waterstones 1.30pm till 3.00pm tomorrow (Friday 8th November). Then I can relax and watch other authors do their stuff at the ART AND ROMANCE EVENING, The Higgins Museum & Art Gallery.

Saturday is a chance to be in two places at one time as 10am to 3pm sees the ROMANCE FAIR at the Harpur Suite, Corn Exchange, but I’m appearing and reading 10.30am to 12noon at the COFFEE AND CAKE MORNING at The Lane … and 12.45pm to 3.45pm myself and Christina Courtenay are leading the IRRESISTIBLE HEROES WORKSHOP at the Central Library. Other Choc Lit authors Jane Lovering and Laura James are being so kind as to sell my books at the Romance Fair. Of course, they’re busy with their own events so Jane’s partner has kindly volunteered to take over. I’m not sure if he knows this yet.

Don’t anybody expect any real work from me until Monday! Because today is Publication Day and I’m managing to make it stretch over the weekend.

Even Amazon is celebrating with me – ‘Is This Love?’ is available at a special price for Kindle users because it’s part of the 100 Kindle Books promo.

A few of the first blogposts, interviews etc:

Bookgirl of Mur-y-Castell

Female First

ARRA (Australian Romance Readers Association)

Mark West’s Strange Tales

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The pleasure of being an author (great reviews for ‘Is This Love?’)

ITL?_new packshot

 

Really thrilled, this morning, to find notification of great reviews from:

 Serendipity Reviews and Being Anne

Being an author is  a pleasure. There’s a huge amount of hard work goes into each book (not just my hard work but everyone concerned with the production and promotion, too) and although I always love the characters, it’s incredibly warming when other people love them, too. It makes worthwhile all the days when the plot won’t work and the characters won’t behave and the whole point of what I want to say is eluding me. In fact, once good reviews start coming in, all that’s forgotten (especially as, by then, I’m writing new book to agonise and doubt about!)

Being a reader is an equal pleasure.  When others are watching the TV I’m reading. On trains I’m reading, in bed, over lunch, on planes, in waiting rooms, even cooking dinner (book/ereader in one hand, spoon in the other …), I’m reading. To lose myself in a wonderful story (usually a love affair, in my reading diet), want to meet the characters and visit the places is an absolute joy. It bathes me in a golden glow of satisfaction and it takes my mind away from whatever bad stuff there is in my life.

So if somebody indicates that one of my books has given them that kind of pleasure I’m overjoyed. I feel privileged. It doesn’t matter that it’s Monday, it doesn’t matter that the weather outside is cold and grey – today is a great day!

If you’d like to know more about the hero of ‘Is This Love?’, Jed Cassius, read an interview with him here.

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Pitch your novel across the Pond and Beyond. Oxford Author Courses tell you how to do it

OxfordYou’ve written your novel, and you want to sell it into the biggest and most prestigious markets in the world. But you don’t know how to begin, or what to do. Attend Oxford Author Courses’ day-long crash course, Pitch Across the Pond and Beyond, at St. Hilda’s College, Oxford on 13th April and you’ll come away knowing exactly what you should do.

You’ll hear from a very savvy and highly successful US agent who’ll tell you what’s hot and what’s not.  Christine Witthohn is founder of Book Cents Agency, which she started in 2006. Her approach is simple: she loves a great story, but more importantly wants to be the one to sell it. She represents both published and unpublished authors.

Stéphane Marsan, founder of successful, independent French publisher, Bragelonne will talk about the kind of books that have made his company such a force within the French publishing industry. Fresh from the Paris Book Fair (held late March) he’s actively looking for books in romance, horror, fantasy and young adult genres. Come and hear what he’s looking for now and how to submit your novel to his company – and don’t worry, Bragelonne do the translation!

Lynne Connolly is a British author who sells almost exclusively to the American market. She writes sexy, sophisticated romance in contemporary, historical and paranormal genres. Lynne writes mainly for digital-first publishers in the USA. It was her agent who suggested she try America when her first book was turned down in England. She it to the USA, it was accepted and she’s never looked back. She’ll tell you how she made herself successful in America with tips and hints of how to approach this biggest and richest of all English speaking markets.

Other bestselling British authors, who specialise in pitching, selling and marketing their work abroad, will tell you their secrets: how they do it – and continue to do it.

What works for other countries?

Which way to go – traditional, independent or self-publish?

Enjoy a fact packed day and come you away buzzing with ideas and enthusiasm for venturing away from the UK’s shores and into larger, more profitable markets. Broaden your horizons for just £120* with Oxford Author Courses Pitch Across the Pond and Beyond day.

For more details and booking form go to http://www.oxfordauthorcourses.com.

*Discount available for writers’ groups as detailed on the website.

For further information please contact: Maggi Fox, Press Officer, Oxford Author Courses, maggi@oxfordauthorcourses.com, 07770 754811

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Goodreads Giveaway

AllThatMullarkey_Cover:Layout 1If you want to win a copy of All That Mullarkey, you can enter the Goodreads Giveaway here.

Choc Lit are working with Goodreads – just follow the link and click ‘Enter to Win’.

 
All That Mullarkey is about Cleo, who discovers that the writing’s on the wall for her marriage – the bedroom wall – and hurtles off for a bit of an adventure …

The lovely Justin is happy to benefit from her moment of wildness and their encounter sets off a series of events that turns life upside down for both of them.

Tempted? Just enter.

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Getting ready for the RoNAs – what do you think about my shoes?

DALD_v12.2 reviseJust in case you missed it – Dream a Little Dream is up for a RoNA in the Contemporary Romantic Novel category. What does this mean?

Party!

Tomorrow evening there’s an awards party in London’s Piccadilly where Richard & Judy will be presenting the elegant glass stars to the winners of each category. I like parties. I’m sure I’ll like a party where I’m a nominated author more than any other kind.

I’m going down to London this afternoon to stay with a friend from then till Wednesday. So here’s how my ‘do do’ list is going:

– shower. Yup, done that. In fact, I’ve already had two goes at the hair but it’s not your average ‘do as you’re told’ hair so that’s not uncommon. Wonder whether I ought to have got my hair cut. Decide that if the gods had thought that important they would have given me better hair.

– begin putting miscellaneous items on the bed ready to pack.

– think about packing. Realise I don’t possess the ideal case and need to either squash everything in the small one or let it rattle around in the large one. Will probably do the latter and then curse it when I’m lifting it on and off trains and escalators. I always feel really conspicuous when I’m wheeling a case along the streets, too. It’s one of those that you pull behind you and trip everyone up.

– put the computer on and chat on Twitter and Facebook. Answer a couple of emails from lovely friends who have sent me good luck messages. Answer a good luck text from my mum. (Bet she sends another tomorrow!)

– put my iPad on charge.

– ring for a taxi to the station. Eek! [Pause] Yup, done that.

– wrap birthday presents for birthday meals I’m attending on my return Wednesday and Thursday. (One’s a box of bath bombs and one’s a toy fire engine, so I hope I don’t get them mixed up.)

– examine my nails and wish they hadn’t all broken inexplicably last week.

photo(6)

Pretty sandals

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Not boring but will they ‘go’?

– feel sorry that I’ve let down the Romantic Novelists’ Association by failing to find purple shoes to match my purple evening purse. I’ll have to wear the boring black ones. Actually, they’re not boring – I love them! But now I’ve looked at them again, I’m not sure they’ll look right with my dress. So should I go for the pretty sandals?

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Slightly bondage

Or the slightly bondage ones?

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Blingy courts

Or the blingy courts?

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Shoe litter

(By this time the bedroom floor’s a little … littered.)

I’ll try and make up for the lack of purple shoes by drinking extra champagne, to show I’m still a good RNA member. Erk. If I’d booked an earlier train I could have shopped in Carnaby Street or somewhere for shoes this afternoon! Thunk.

– try on dress with all shoes (probably hate them all)

– pack

– do make up. Congratulate self on remembering to get eyebrows done. (Sorry, but these things are important.)

– get in taxi

– get on train.

I think that’s everything. (What do you think about the shoes?)

 

 

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Happiness is a warm bottom

I was invited to visit the studios of Monocle24 yesterday and whizzed to Marylebone (just off Baker Street, where Sherlock Holmes used to hang out [should I say ‘used to’ or will that upset people?]) to spend half-an-hour on air with the lovely Georgina Godwin, presenter.

As it’s nearly St Valentine’s Day we talked about romance and romantic fiction, whether men read it, who buys it for them, whether it’ll get them chatted up on the Tube if they’re reading a book with a pink cover, what we can all learn from Fifty Shades of Grey (!) Why is romantic fiction such a huge seller? Is that likely to change?

Also, what a splendiferous organisation the Romantic Novelists’ Association is and what a fantastic set of shortlists there are for the RoNAs (Romantic Novel Awards) this year. Which is an unsubtle little gloat that I’m on one of them with Dream a Little Dream … Sorry.  Ought to be modest and self-effacing and I do try but fail spectacularly …

I also got to choose four romantic music tracks to play during the programme, which felt deliciously Desert Island Discs-ish. So I chose:

Stardust, by Nat King Cole, in memory of my dad. When we lived in Malta he gained a promotion and bought a record player. Each member of the family was allowed one record to go with it and he picked an Nat King Cole album, with Stardust amongst his favourites.

Substitute, by Frank Turner. His lyrics are just so amazing. Often his songs are political or contemporary-life observations but this song is about how music is his substitute for love and it’s so wistful that it clutches my heart.

Letter to Hermione, David Bowie, because I never fell out of love with his early stuff and this is such a romantic song. All about lost love. Ahhh.

Dream a Little Dream, by the Mamas and the Papas, not just in shameless self-promotion but because it’s a fabulous song and it celebrates a memorable Romaniacs kitchen party at the RNA conference last year – the results of which could be seen on YouTube but the clip seems to have disappeared, now.

It was a great afternoon. And one of the most remarkable things about the Monocle 24 offices? Their loo seat is heated. Seriously! All loo seats ought to be made this way, especially when you come in from a wet winter afternoon. I really want one of my own now. I’m putting it on my Christmas list .

I didn’t try the douche thingy, though. No. Tried it before. Didn’t like it.

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