Tag Archives: romance

Room in Your Heart – Welcome to Wendy Clarke

Today, to celebrate publication of her anthology, Room in Your Heart and the commencement of National Short Story Week, I’m welcoming Wendy Clarke onto my blog.

final-b2So, Wendy, big welcome fellow short story writer – and congratulations on your collection, Room in Your Heart.

Thank you very much for inviting me onto your blog, Sue. It’s lovely to be here.

Tell us a little about the collection.

Room in Your Heart is a collection of twelve romantic short stories all of which have been previously published in The People’s Friend Magazine. When putting together the collection, I chose my favourite stories and have tried to balance emotional stories with lighter ones.

What makes the short story form so appealing to you? Do you write other things, too?

I love the fact that with a short story, you can be in the head of a Victorian maid in Lancashire one day and a teenage girl in a tower block the next. Writing short stories is like an apprenticeship – a place where you can learn your craft without spending the amount of time and energy needed for a novel. Although I mainly write short stories, I write serials for The People’s Friend as well – one is awaiting publication and I am halfway through my second. I have also written articles for Writing Magazine (the one in this month’s edition is about how I put together my collection). Recently, I took the big step of starting my first novel.

The People’s Friend is a market that thrives on short stories written in the traditional style – is this your preference, too? Or are you really an experimental writer trying to burst out of the mould?

My mum is always asking me this question! I used to think I might like to write something more ‘literary’ but I’ve been writing short stories for magazines now for just over two years and I think there comes a point when you realise what style of writing suits you. Although I write in a range of styles for different magazines, when it came to choosing a genre for my collection, I realised that I have written a lot of what Shirley Blair calls ‘Romance with emotional depth’ be it contemporary or historical – this seems to be my signature style. Having said that, I have also written ghost, twist and humour.

My writing technique bugbear is head hopping and I can’t bear to read things where the writer is trying to project a scene from within two heads simultaneously. Do you have a pet hate, too?

‘Head hopping’ is one of my pet hates too. I think another one would be trying to be clever with a word when a simpler one might have worked better. Also having a character in a story state something in conversation that would be obvious to the other character, in order to fill the reader in.

First person or third person? Or either?

Both of these. I also use both past and present tense – depending on the storyline. I tend to use third person for my historical stories as I like its gentle quality. The first story in my collection, called Read These When I’ve Gone, is written from a man’s view point and is in first person present tense whereas One Step at a Time is in third person past tense.

Where are you hoping that short story writing will take you? Or have you already arrived there?

Although I love writing short stories and have no plan to stop, I seem to be following a path that others have taken. Since moving on to serials, the next logical step is a novel. I have just started it and it’s based on one of my short stories. It is a contemporary romance and I would love to get onto the RNA New Writing Scheme next year – it might give me the push I need to really follow it through.

Thank you very much for having me as a guest on your blog.

IMG_0785It’s a pleasure! To find out more about Wendy:

Wendy’s blog

Wendy on Facebook

Wendy on Twitter

 

 

 

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Familiar Blunders When Writing a Novel – revisited

This is how my head felt

This is how my head felt

I finished my first draft today. Yeah! I had such a reaction to my first post on the subject of blundering about when writing a novel (you can read it here) that I decided to celebrate by comparing how I feel now that I’ve written ‘ends’ with how I felt then, around 28,000 words earlier.

– Really thrilled that the first draft is down. Now it is, I can play with it and polish it and make it better. I love finishing a first draft and look forward to the second.

– It now seems perfectly reasonable that I had to rewrite the beginning when I got half way through. I knew my characters better by then and saw that some of the themes I thought would be important were not and that new themes took over.

– I’m a lot less bothered about whether I kept all my plates spinning, ie kept up with all my plot lines. When I begin to edit, the smashed plates will become obvious. Because of the miracle of working in a word processor, nobody will ever know whether I glued the plates back together and got them spinning back on their sticks or just quietly swept the pieces into the bin. (I work on a Mac so that should probably be Trash.)

Beta reader, Mark West.

Beta reader, Mark West.

– If I don’t notice a smashed plate then one of my beta readers or my agent will. Ditto holes in the plot. I’m blessed to have these people. Though I’ve been working alone on this for months and months they have been patiently waiting to help me. It’s kind of humbling, really.

– I’m much happier about the dynamics between certain characters now I’ve had time to think about them. And because I now know what every character does at the end. Once I know the answer, the questions seem clearer!

– I did, in the end, have sufficient ideas for my plot. I like to write between 85,000 and 95,000 words, and this book has closed at 91,850. I have no idea why I worried …

– OK, I did sweat over unknotting my plot lines and bringing the book to a conclusion that satisfied me. My brain hurt. A Facebook friend was an invaluable source of information on technology issues. But it’s done. It will probably have to be improved upon. Fine. Bring it on.

photo(53) copy 3– Yes, I do get in the same knots and snaggles with this book as with every other. I will no doubt get in them again when I write another book. Nobody said writing a book is easy. Or, if they did, it wasn’t me.

But the satisfaction now that the first draft is complete? Immense.

And my very first action after typing in the final line? (Apart from editing it and typing in a different one.) To back it up to my dropbox so that even if my house burns down tonight, my WIP is safe. Mwah. Love you, first draft.

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Shortlisted! Romance Reader Awards

TWP_RGBpackshotAbsolutely thrilled to hear this week that The Wedding Proposal has been shortlisted in the Romance Reader Awards for Best Romantic Read. This is the first year that the entry has been open to all so I’m beyond delighted to be in illustrious company. You can read the complete lists for all categories here but this is the line up for mine:

Best Romantic Read
(Sponsored by Headline Eternal)
Two Weddings and a Baby by Scarlett Bailey (Ebury)
The Memory Book by Rowan Coleman (Ebury)
The Cornish Stranger by Liz Fenwick (Orion)
After The Honeymoon by Janey Fraser (Arrow)
The Unpredictable Consequences of Love by Jill Mansell (Headline Review)
One Hundred Proposals by Holly Martin (Carina)
The Wedding Proposal by Sue Moorcroft (Choc Lit)
The Proposal by Tasmina Perry (Headline Review)
One Step Closer to You by Alice Peterson (Quercus)

Rowan Coleman is currently flying high as a Richard & Judy pick and Jill Mansell has long been a mega-bestseller so you can see what I mean by ‘illustrious company’.

The award ceremony is at the Festival of Romantic Fiction on the evening of Saturday 13th September 2014 at Leighton Buzzard Theatre. I’m attending the Festival all day on the Saturday, to be part of the book fair in Leighton Buzzard High Street from 10am to 3pm and the Traditional Afternoon Tea with the Authors at The Green House, Market Square, Leighton Buzzard. I’m glad I booked a hotel for Saturday night as drinking fizz at an awards ceremony is a basic human right … and I’m rather a fan of it.

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Romance comes to #AskSwanwick with writer, tutor and competition judge, Sue Moorcroft

From Swanwick’s monthly newsletter:

Join Sue Moorcroft for the next #AskSwanwick tweetchat on Tuesday 16th September at 8pm (BST). You may know Sue from her extensive work as a writing tutor, or from her popular novels, or from her many short stories and articles. Sue, a full time writer, tutor, and competition judge, will be available to answer your questions on any writing matter, including her novels and how courses can help writers improve their skills.

I first came across Sue at the Romantic Novelists’ Association conference where she fearlessly delivered a workshop on how to write convincing, sexy and erotic scenes. Her ‘how to’ book, Love Writing, published by Accent Press, is essential reading for those hoping to spice up their stories with a sexy or funny romance.

TWP_RGBpackshotHer latest novel, The Wedding Proposal, is has just been published by Choc Lit as an ebook and paperback.

ios_homescreen_iconIf you sometimes wonder what Twitter is for, then why not follow the tweetchat with Sue on Tuesday 16th at 8pm, and watch the Q & A unfold before your eyes? To follow the chat, type #AskSwanwick into the search box on Twitter and select ‘All’ (not ‘Top’). Then join in and put your questions to Sue, not forgetting the #AskSwanwick hashtag so that everyone following can see your question.

Sue’s website: http://www.suemoorcroft.com/

Sue on Twitter: https://twitter.com/suemoorcroft

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There are many ways to enjoy a wedding …

When we think of weddings we tend to think of all the traditional things – big venue, bride in gorgeous white dress, long black cars, bridesmaids, pageboys, guests in suits and hats. It’s an incredibly expensive undertaking.

For some, the price is just too much.

Recently, I discovered that the wedding plans of the son of friends had been badly affected by an unexpected redundancy notice. They had to look at the wedding expenses and see what they could cut. An obvious candidate was the wedding car at nearly £500. The dad said that he’d drive the happy couple, instead, but that would mean double journeys and fallback plans for others in the family.

2014-06-28 17.08.34It so happens that there’s a nice middle-aged sort of Jag in my family, so I volunteered to turn myself into a chauffeur for the day.

It was great! As soon as the ribbons were on the car I found that traffic stopped for me, even when I didn’t even have the bride and groom on board. (I’ve stored this information up for future use and may always keep a supply of white ribbons in the glove compartment.)

I ended up going to the wedding reception in the afternoon and then back to the extended family reception at the parents’ house in the evening. (By that time I was off duty and could indulge in a few glasses of Pimms.) I had time to chat with members of their family that I hadn’t seen for years, as well as meeting a few new ones.

TWP_HIGHRES 150dpiThe Wedding Proposal was at the printers, by this time, but this lovely wedding day did make me wonder what kind of wedding Elle and Lucas will have in the end. Will they do the traditional thing at a stunning venue? Run off to Vegas, as Elle once suggested? Or get married on a beach, somewhere exotic …

I wonder if they need a driver?

 

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It’s epublication day!

 TWP_HIGHRES 150dpiMy new novel, The Wedding Proposal, is out as an ebook today!

(The paperback comes out on 8 September.)

We lived in the top flat.

We lived in the top flat.

When I was little and used to look out over a Malta yacht marina from our balcony, I never dreamed that one day I’d set a novel there. At that time the marina was just part of the scenery. I was an army kid in army accommodation and never troubled my head over how it felt to live on a boat, even when I caught the school bus just opposite Gzira Gardens and gazed at the boats as the bus trundled along the seafront road.

When I decided to make Elle and Lucas meet up again after their break up four years earlier, I wanted to put them in a situation where they couldn’t easily escape each other and so had to face their past. Put them on a boat together, I thought. So I created the Shady Lady and moored her within sight of the bridge to Manoel Island. The boat belongs to Lucas’s Uncle Simon and it’s due to Simon’s meddling that Elle and Lucas end up in the same boat for the summer.

The twin of the 'Shady Lady'.

The twin of the ‘Shady Lady’.

I was lucky to be invited to the Southampton Boat Show by Fairline Boats to explore the twin of the Shady Lady. She’s 42′ long.

Oliver, the delightful man who took time out of a busy day to show me around, said, ‘This is a small boat for two people who aren’t ‘together’ to occupy together. There’s going to be friction.’

I just smiled. ‘He’s going to be annoyed when she turns up with four huge suitcases, isn’t he? They’re going to fall over one another at every turn.’ Yeah …

Sliema Creek and Ta' Xbiex marina in the distance.

Sliema Creek and Ta’ Xbiex marina in the distance.

The rock pools on the rocky foreshore.

The rock pools on the rocky foreshore.

And, of course, I went to Malta to take hundreds of photos of every area of Malta that I thought Lucas and Elle might need for their story to unfold. The seafront, the gardens, the nearby resort of Sliema and, across the harbour, Valletta, Manoel Island, the streets of Gzira, the rocky foreshore and the Mediterranean Sea. But everyone knows that I love Malta, so that was no hardship!

Here’s the blurb:

TWP_RGBpackshotThe Wedding Proposal – available today as an ebook.

Can a runaway bride stop running?

Elle Jamieson is an unusually private person, in relationships as well as at work – and for good reason. But when she’s made redundant, with no ties to hold her, Elle heads off to a new life in sunny Malta.

Lucas Rose hates secrets – he prides himself on his ability to lay his cards on the table and he expects nothing less from others. He’s furious when his summer working as a divemaster is interrupted by the arrival of Elle, his ex, all thanks to his Uncle Simon’s misguided attempts at matchmaking.

Forced to live in close proximity, it’s hard to ignore what they had shared before Lucas’s wedding proposal ended everything they had. But then an unexpected phone call from England allows Lucas a rare glimpse of the true Elle. Can he deal with Elle’s hidden past when it finally comes to light?

 

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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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St Valentine’s Round Robin free from Choc Lit authors!

Valentine's round robin romance poster FINAL

Five of the Choc Lit authors have got together to bring you a special St Valentine’s story in five episodes, hosted on five blogs.  I’ve only seen the first three segments myself and I left Shelly scheming to get what she wanted. I wonder if she does? I can’t wait to read episodes 4 and 5 to see how it all works out.

If you want to follow the story and get in line for the giveaways, here are the links to each blog:

Monday: Reading in the Sunshine

Tuesday: Victoria Loves Books

Wednesday: Chick Lit Reviews and News

Thursday: Chloe’s Chick Lit Reviews

Friday: Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell

Enjoy!

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