My novelist friend Milly Johnson and myself have pleasure in announcing that on Sunday 17th June at Brooklands, Barnsley – we will be holding a crash course in book-writing. Tickets will be on a first come first served basis, but will include refreshments and course literature. We hope to send you away raring to go and write your own book AND know exactly what a writer’s life is really like. See my events page for more details.
I’ve spent the last few weeks of 2011 undertaking research for my latest romantic suspense novel. That done, it’s now time to put my fingers on the keyboard and start writing. I find starting a new project daunting mo matter how well I’ve researched the subject matter or how detailed an outline I’ve written. It’s what I call ‘the blank page/screen syndrome.’ You’re faced with what feels like acres of white space to fill and the first sentence is the most important of all. It has to hook your reader, draw them into the story quickly, so that they’re anxious to continue reading and find out what happens next.
My first chapter will go through several drafts before I feel able to concentrate on the rest of the book. But spending so much time working on the opening chapter can stifle my creative process and slow my writing. So this year I have a plan. My opening chapter will go through three drafts, then satisfied or not, I will move on and work on the rest of the manuscript, returning to it only when the book is complete.
I already have a working title for the book, and as with my three previous novels, it will be set somewhere different, albeit in a familiar place – Derbyshire. And that’s all I’m going to tell you about it at present.
I’m not the only person who’s been busy over the holiday period. My editor at Vanilla Heart has produced a new free sampler for my novel, The House on the Shore. The House on the Shore Sampler
Everlasting true love is great and all, but the mere existence of it isn’t enough. You need a regular dose of romance to give you that gooey, melted feeling on the inside. And that feeling is what reminds you just how crazy in love you are. Readers who may not be able to work romance into their own busy schedules depend on getting it from romance novels. That’s right – we aren’t just writing boy meets girl love stories. There’s got to be heart-stopping, knee-weakening romance.
The thing to remember is that, although lovely, romance isn’t limited to champagne and roses (although far be it for me to ever turn them down!). One dictionary defines romance as “to try to influence or curry favor with especially by lavishing personal attention, gifts or flattery”. It can be easy to throw down a credit card and go the gift route (see the aforementioned champagne and roses). But as romance authors, we need to dig deeper. Our hero/heroine should ooze romance from their pores, and that means hitting all three areas, not just the old standby of gifts.
Let’s turn to flattery. This can be tricky, because flattery can often lean towards cheesy. Here is a quote from my first book, Carolina Heat:
Mark covered her hand with his. “I don’t believe I’ve taken the opportunity to tell you how beautiful you look tonight. Your hair is like a molten sunset spreading across your shoulders.”
Annabelle’s vision blanked, then hazed over with indignation. “I’m going to come right out and tell you there is absolutely no chance I’ll sleep with you tonight.”
Sure, she overreacted a tad, but his line – so obviously a line – verged on the ridiculously smarmy (I promise I did that on purpose). And timing is everything. They were on their first date, which was far too early to say something so over the top romantic. Sadly, this kind of hyperbole isn’t limited to the overactive imagination of romance writers. Years ago my best friend went to a concert in the park and hit it off with the man next to her. They went to a late dinner, and he proclaimed on the way to the car, “This is the night dreams are made of!” True story – I promise. Needless to say, she decided he was a nutcase and promptly got rid of him.
In my recent release Cruising Toward Love, a photographer suffering from PTSD feels broken. Sincere flattery from a beautiful woman starts to put him back together.
“You’ve really jumped right back on the horse, haven’t you? Don’t blush or anything, but you’re one of the bravest people I know.”
Yeah, and the moon was made of green cheese. Because what she’d said was equally ridiculous. “A brave man would head back to Iraq. Hook up with another platoon and cover the soldiers who aren’t given a choice about returning. About facing danger head-on every single day.”
She shook her head hard enough to spill silky hair across her cheeks like a veil of liquid gold. “Reed, you don’t have to single-handedly take on a pack of fire-breathing dragons to be a hero. Life and death situations aren’t the only ones that require courage. Facing every day head-on takes a lot. It boggles my mind to imagine how hard it must’ve been just to get out of bed each morning and face your fears. As if that wasn’t enough of a challenge, you discovered the only way to pursue your dream is to abandon part of it. And yet you adapted, forced yourself to find a way to still find joy in expressing yourself through your art.” Callie’s voice caught halfway to a sob, held back by her radiant smile. “Makes you every bit the hero in my book.”
For months he’d seen himself as damaged, useless. The doctors tried to tell him depression was an expected symptom, but he didn’t feel depressed. He felt like a windshield the moment after it’s hit by a rock—covered with a web of hairline cracks, on the verge of splintering apart. Waiting for the next tiny thing that might shatter him irreparably. In the space of a few heartbeats, Callie’s words glued him back together from the inside out.
Now that’s sincere flattery! As for gifts, they don’t always have to be tangible. Think beyond bracelets or candles. As an author, you can inspire your readers to dig deep and give thoughtful, romantic gifts. The main characters in Cruising Toward Love used to be high school sweethearts, but he left her on prom night. Ten years later in the middle of the ocean, Nate attempts to recreate that lost experience for Zoe.
Nate smiled, held her eyes until they softened into pools of liquid chocolate. “I can be chock full of charm—for the right reason. Giving you the magical night you deserve is a pretty big motivator.” Taking her hand, he drew her across the room to the marble topped bar. With swift, sure motions he uncorked a bottle of pale pink champagne and served them. “Do you remember the theme of our prom?”
It didn’t even take her a second to come up with the answer. “A Night to Remember.”
He guided her onto a stool and handed over a crystal flute. “Yes. And it was going to be. I bought you a corsage of peach roses.”
Her eyes widened. Recognition flashed across her face. “This room is full of peach roses.
Lavishing personal attention is easy in a romance. The characters want to be together, and we want to see that happen. But make the reason they are together more meaningful. In Act Like We’re In Love, perennially uptight Wes is encouraged by live-for-the-moment Ingrid to relax.
But tonight, as he thought about losing the only job he’d ever had, it was different. As though sharing his troubles with Ingrid had helped build a guardrail. Although still way too close to the edge for comfort, at least now something stood between him and the darkness.
Ingrid link hands with him and gave a mighty yank, which almost landed them flat on the grass. “Come on. Nothing looks quite so bad with a hamburger from Joe’s Garage in you.”
“That’s it? Dr. Dahlberg is out of session?”
“Cutie, I’m not really a shrink, not with these legs. It’d be a waste of God’s gifts. You got a few things off your chest, and now we move on to the fun portion of the evening. Consider it my prescription. Take one hamburger, a plate of fries, strawberry shortcake for dessert, followed by a full dose of my legendary smooches.”
Romance makes love fun. Romance keeps love fresh. It’s the fizz that elevates white wine to champagne, and turns a hum-drum love story into a sweeping epic. So don’t just write a romance novel – infuse your love story with romance!
For more information on all my books, please visit www.christibarth.com or http://christibarth.blogspot.com
S R Claridge
Marilyn Celeste Morris
Anne K Albert
L E Harvey
In July I was fortunate to attend the Romantic Novelists’ annual conference in Caerleon, South Wales. This is the first genre specific conference I’ve attended, and while I’m no expert on the conference scene, I was keen to mingle with my fellow romantic suspense authors, listen to industry professionals and agents.
My conference pack offered a cornucopia of workshops, agent appointments, and industry panels, and I was hard pressed to choose which suited my needs best. Was my time best spent listening to a published author share techniques for developing your story hook? Or would it be better listening to a lecture on time management? All of which made me think what advice I would give to a first-time conference attendee.
Often when you sign up for a writers conference, which let’s face it, aren’t exactly inexpensive, few details, other than the venue and date, are available. The name of the keynote speaker and details of the workshops and agent appointments are sent with the conference pack after you have paid the fee. Personally, I find this a little disconcerting. After all, you wouldn’t order dinner in a restaurant without first looking at the menu or go to the movies without knowing what was showing.
So, when attending a writing conference whether genre specific or not, you need to focus carefully on what’s available. If you have any doubts on whether the conference will be suitable for your style of writing and genre, contact the organiser before you pay the fee. He or she should be able to give you some more details, even if the some of the speakers are yet to give details of their workshops. Select the sessions that fit your needs. For example, if you’re struggling with the plot of your novel, your time is best spent in a session dealing with the technique rather than pitching the idea for your as yet unwritten novel. Know the content of each session before you arrive at the conference venue.
Conferences, especially those in the USA, are filled with editors, agents, publishers and booksellers. Take time to talk to them, although I don’t recommend accosting an agent in a lift and pitching your book. But do listen to what they say. These are industry professionals. They know how the market works and what is selling and what is not. Ask any well thought-out question and note down the answer. Many presenters offer hand-outs, a list of key points from their session.
Take time to meet your peers and identify a potential mentor/critique partner. He or she can give you feedback on your writing and help you when your plot stalls. A good mentor will not write your book for you, but should give you constructive criticism.
Don’t be afraid to approach published authors and ask them how they did it and where they get their inspiration. Many are willing to share such information when asked politely, but again, pick your moment with care. No one wants to be cornered in the ladies room!
Avoid comparisons. Comparing your writing progress with that of other delegates serves no useful purpose and will only depress you. Remember, every published author was once like you, only dreaming of seeing their writing in print. And besides, just because someone boasts about their completed a manuscript there is no guarantee that it will be accepted for publication.
Finally, enjoy yourself. Most conferences present opportunities to socialize and make friends.
May was a busy month, not only have I been researching my next book, but I have also been revising two of my novels. The House on the Shore, and Three Weeks Last Spring, have been revised for the Kindle, with Three weeks Last Spring being given a new cover. A revised Print edition will be available later in the year.
May also brought another review for Ring of Lies, this time from Ghostwriter reviews This is what they had to say:
Grace Elliott, a humbled woman and wife is devastated when her husband Daniel is killed in a terrible car accident. What she believed to be an honest and good marriage, despite some issues, turns out to be a lie with major issues that puts her life in danger and her heart in the comfort of a troubled FBI agent.
Ring of Lies lives up to its title. I could relate to Grace in many ways about deception and abuse, however, my love was for Jack. At one point in the story, I was overwhelmed with the many characters introduced, but kept my focus on Jack, Grace, Catherine, and the details that unfolded. Overall, it was a very good and interesting read.
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Reviews for Ring of Lies have started to arrive. It’s always an anxious time for an author. Part of you is desparate to read what the reviewer had to say and the other part of you is scared to look. No author enjoys reading a bad review, after all you’ve spent the best part of a year working on your novel. But, and it’s a big BUT, you have to remember that reviews, like literary agents and publishers rejection letters, are subjective, and it’s not a case of one book suits all. Our taste in reading matter differs, just like our taste in clothes or wine.
So far, Ring of Lies, has been warmly received and here’s what The Romance Studio had to say about it:
Victoria Howard pens a suspenseful tale full of intrigue. Have to admit I guessed wrong about who the culprit was until near the end of the book. The trail gets complicated by Jack’s involvement with the FBI. He’s also in a relationship that gets pretty nasty and emotional when we see that motherhood doesn’t seem to be a part of his girlfriends’ makeup in any way. She’s one of those characters it’s easy to dislike even before we find out how despicable she really is.
This author is excellent in her use descriptive words that bring scenarios alive. Whether it’s a flaming car crash or the wilds of the Florida Everglades a reader can almost feel the flames or the heat and humidity. It’s fun to see Grace change. She starts as a housewife whose love for her spouse helped her deny the verbal and emotional abuse she has gone through. From there, even though panic attacks incapacitate her at times, she thrives and learns to fight her own battles in a good way. Ms. Howard is an author I want to read again.
Overall rating 4 Hearts
Reviewer, The Romance Studio
Following my presentation to the Suncoast Writers’ Guild, I was interviewed by the local newspaper. Here’s a copy of the article.
Boca Grande’s serenity inspires ‘Ring of Lies’
By STEPHEN HARRISON
ENGLEWOOD — Novelist Victoria Howard spends only one month a year in Boca Grande, yet manages to make an impact on the area.
Howard became so inspired by the island’s sunny beaches that she showcased them in her newest novel, “Ring of Lies.”
Born in Liverpool and living in South Yorkshire, Howard spends a significant portion of time traveling and writing.
While in Seattle she wrote Pushcart Prize nominee, “Three Weeks Last Spring,” and in the Highlands of Scotland she wrote, “The House on the Shore,” which put her in the running for the Joan Hessayon Award for romance novelists.
Now Howard has come back with her third romantic suspense novel, “Ring of Lies.”
While enjoying the serenity of Boca Grande, she was inspired to write the book.
“I sat admiring the wonderful homes and started to think how I would feel if, unbeknown to me, my husband, who’d recently been killed in a car accident, left one to me in his will. And thus a novel was born,” she said in a phone interview.
The book was published in 2010 by Vanilla Heart, publisher of romance books.
Howard, 55, started writing novels relatively late in life.
She worked for both the National Health Service in the U.K. and in the offshore oil industry.
Friends who were interested in her short stories encouraged her to write a novel. At first, the task seemed insurmountable, she said, but she broke through and wrote her first novel. Two more followed.
Knowing your audience, researching your novel and being able to relate to your characters are the most important things in becoming a successful author, she said.
“You don’t want to be three chapters in and realize you hate this person,” she said.
While vacationing in the Englewood area with her partner Stephen and border collie Rosie, Howard gave a presentation on character development at a Dec. 18 meeting of the Suncoast Writers Guild.
“She was excellent,” said Edwin Ellis, guild director. “She was very on-target and timely. She explained how to use the basics of character development to introduce support characters and plotlines.”
For information on Howard and “Ring of Lies,” go to www.victoria howard.co.uk. For information on the Suncoast Writers Guild, go to www. suncoastwriters.com .
My latest novel, Ring of Lies, will be released in December in both print and ebook formats.
When English accountant Daniel Elliott dies in a car accident one rainy night, his widow, Grace, is overcome with grief…and panic. Daniel was controlling and their marriage loveless, but he always took care of the sheltered Grace.
Or so she thought.
She soon discovers Daniel kept secrets: an alias, mob ties, a list of numbers, a mysterious beach house in Florida….and a girlfriend who looks like Grace.
Swallowing her fear, she flies to Miami to claim the house Daniel left her. But the price of her curiosity is peril. Underworld figures stalk her. The other woman has left a damning trail of evidence pointing her way. And handsome, troubled FBI agent Jack West has crossed precarious paths with Grace before. He could be her savior or her damnation. All she knows for certain is that she longs to be in his arms.
With little to go on and danger at every turn, Grace must depend on Jack to help her navigate the criminal world of south Florida, and find the truth behind the Ring of Lies.