New Year, New Goals

I’ve been a very bad blogger of late… but I’ve had my reasons, which I wont bore you with, but suffice to say they’ve involved a few trips to the Accident and Emergency Department at our local hospital.

However, now that matters are more or less under control, I’m once again working on my manuscript and determined to finish it before summer is out.

One of the questions I’m frequently asked when giving talks, is where do I get my ideas?  Are they generated by things I read in the newspaper or hear on TV?  Is it a snippet of conversation overheard in a coffee shop that creates that spark and the idea for a novel?

Actually, it’s none of the above!  With me, it’s places.  My first novel, Three Weeks Last Spring is set on the San Juan Islands in the Pacific Northwest.

 

The small, picturesque town of Friday Harbor, is unspoilt, and yet lies on a busy shipping route. The Islands are a paradise for wildlife as whales, sea otters and bald eagles .  I realised that it would take very little to upset the ecology of the islands and thus the idea for Three Weeks Last Spring was born.

 

The idea second novel, The House on the Shore, came from my experiences of managing a small company involved in the offshore oil and gas industry and from working as an administrator on an estate.  I’d also spent twenty years living on a croft in the North East of Scotland and was familiar with the area around Loch Hourn, the setting for the novel.

 

While sat on the beach on Gasparilla Island, on Florida’s Gulf coast, admiring the stunning beach houses, I started to think about how it would feel to own one.  (Note the aspiration, readers!) I played around with the idea for a couple of hours while I thought about how much I was missing the winter weather back home in England (not one little bi, in case you were wondering!), until I had the rough outline of a plot.  Ring of Lies, was published eighteen months later and tells the story of Grace Elliott’s struggle to navigate her way through the criminal world of South Florida.

 

All of which, brings me to my the book I’m currently working on.  It has a title, but I’m not going to share it at the moment.  However, I will tell you that it is set in the Peak District, in Derbyshire, and, as before, it was a place that gave me the idea.  See if you can recognise the setting from the photograph.

 

 

A fun filled day!

As some of you may know, Milly Johnson and I held a crash course in novel writing on the 17th June. I must admit that, for a short time at least, I had a few sleepless nights about picking a date that coincided with Father’s day here in the UK.  Fortunately, I need not have worried at 50 people turned up to our event.  The feedback we have received has been very positive, but don’t take my word for it.  Here is a copy of an article that appeared in the local press.

 

 

 

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT

Milly Johnson and I are running an afternoon

‘crash course’ in writing a book in Barnsley on Sunday 17th June, 2pm-5pm

Both of us will be giving a presentation, there will be afternoon tea,
plenty of time for questions and our latest books will be available to purchase.

We’ve both given our course before and they’ve gone down very well, so
this time we’ve decided to join forces.
We’ll tell you how to take your idea from concept
to finished manuscript.
We’ll also tell you:

How to make your novel flow
How to plot
The importance of dialogue
The importance of male protagonists in Romantic Suspense Novels.
How to approach an agent
What NOT to do

…plus lots more.

We intend you home with some supporting literature and full of enthusiasm
to get started.

The afternoon will run – approximately – like this

1.30pm – arrive early if you want to catch us for an early book sale

2pm – Milly will be talking with a Powerpoint Presentation

3.15pm – break for afternoon tea, cakes and a mingle

3.45pm – I will present my Power Point Presentation

4.45pm – A Q & A session with both of us

5.00pm – book signings.

We do so hope you can join us. Places are limited so please book early
to avoid disappointment. We won’t be issuing tickets but you will be
give a booking reference number.

Kindest

Victoria and Milly

Novel Writing Crash Course

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.

Romance puts the spark in love by Special Guest, Author Christi Barth

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

New Editions and Reviews

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.

Reviewer: Wanda

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Word Book Night, Saturday 5th March

World Book Night is a celebration of literature. With the full support of the Publishers Association, the Booksellers Association, the Independent Publishers Guild, the Reading Agency with libraries, World Book Day and the BBC, one million books will be given away by an army of passionate readers to members of the public across the UK and Ireland.

Thomas Rotherham College has invited me to take part in their celebrations when they will be handing out copies of Carol Ann Duffy’s, ‘The World’s Wife to their talented students.

Ring of Lies

Need something to help while away the dark winter nights. Here’s a short excerpt from my latest novel, Ring of Lies.

It was dark when Grace left the solicitor’s office. Numbness had finally set in. She moved without thinking, without emotion as if she were one of the stick figures at a theme park—flagging down a taxi and giving the driver her address.
Flicking on the hall light in her home, the home she and Daniel had shared and loved, the pain returned in a torrent. She dropped her purse on the table, and went straight to the study. Daniel’s study, the one room in the house she never entered, not even to dust.
Grace rested her hand on the door knob, and half expected to hear his deep-timbered voice reminding her not to enter. She’d ignored his warning only once, the ensuing argument had left her reeling. Ever since then she’d respected his wishes. All of them.
But Daniel was no longer here to wish for anything.
She pushed open the door and stepped inside. The air smelt stale. She told herself that the lingering aroma of pipe tobacco was permanently embedded in the furniture, but her feelings told her otherwise—that he was here, alive somehow, yet invisible to her. She fumbled with the catch on the window and threw it open, impervious to the frigid air that flooded the room. An old leather chair, which had once belonged to Daniel’s father, stood next to the soot-stained limestone fireplace where ashes of a half-burned log lay in the grate. A large oak desk, its surface covered with a faint film of dust, filled the bay window. The date on the desk calendar showed the seventeenth of November, the day Daniel had left for the conference. She tore off the pages without bothering to read the proverb printed underneath, and threw them into the wastepaper basket.
Daniel’s face, and that of her own, smiled back at her from a small silver framed photograph on the corner of the desk. She picked it up and wiped the dust from the surface with her fingertips.
“What other secrets have you kept from me?”
Daniel’s brown, unfathomable eyes seemed to stare everywhere but at her. With a heavy heart she replaced the photograph on the desk. She collapsed into the chair and rested her aching head in her hands. Their marriage hadn’t been perfect; they’d had their fair share of ups and downs like every other couple, but she’d never thought of Daniel as being secretive. Yet the last few hours had proved that he was just that.
She leaned back and rubbed her temples. Nothing the solicitor had told her made any sense. They weren’t rich. Their joint checking account, which last time she’d looked, held less than two thousand pounds. When they’d purchased Applegate Cottage four years ago, they’d put down the minimum ten percent deposit and borrowed the rest from the bank. So where had the money come from to purchase a house in America? And more importantly, why hadn’t Daniel told her about it?
The desk held seven drawers; three in each pedestal and one in the centre. Her fingers hovered over the small brass handle of the centre drawer. Feeling like an intruder, she pulled it open. It was empty. One by one she opened the remaining drawers. Apart from an assortment of envelopes, a few credit card receipts, a letter opener shaped like a dagger, and some spare batteries for the hand-held dictating machine Daniel occasionally used, she found nothing connected to the beach house.
Daniel’s briefcase, which the police had found in his car, and the personal items from his office, sat in a box next to the door. She slipped out of the chair, picked it up, and placed it on the desk. Item by item she removed the contents: a desk diary, a box of post-it-notes, a calculator, and a framed photograph of her and Catherine. The desk diary she put to one side, replaced everything else, and then put the box on the floor.
She’d given Daniel the Raffaello briefcase for his thirtieth birthday. It had cost two weeks housekeeping money, but it had been worth it to see the smile on his face when he opened the box. She ran her fingers over the now scuffed and torn calfskin.
Grace pressed the locks to open the case, but nothing happened. She dug the fingertips of her right hand into the frame and tugged at the handle. The catch on one side gave, and she realized that the force of the impact had warped the frame. With great care she eased the blade of the letter opener into the lock on the opposite side and twisted sharply. There was a loud click and the case popped open. Inside lay Daniel’s MacBook and a number of manila folders. One by one, she went through the internal compartments, but found nothing else of interest.
Part of the silk lining had come away from the frame. When Grace ran her fingers along the edge she felt something underneath. She pulled back the fabric and found an envelope taped to the bottom of the case. She tore it free and turned it over in her hand.
Why go to so much trouble to hide something as innocuous as an envelope? She slipped her fingernail under the flap and opened it. A passport and a tiny piece of paper fluttered on to the blotter. A series of numbers, written in Daniel’s unmistakeable scrawl, covered the surface. Perplexed, she counted the digits. Twenty-four. Daniel was fascinated by numbers and frequently designed puzzles as a way of relaxing. Were these something he was working on, or the combination to the safe at the office?
The latter seemed the most likely explanation, yet Daniel had an eidetic memory. There was never a need for him to write anything down.
Grace opened the passport at the photograph on the back page. Daniel’s face stared up at her. Only the name in the passport wasn’t his, but that of Lionel Lattide.
A flicker of apprehension coursed through her. She tried to catch her breath, but couldn’t get air. The more she struggled to control her breathing, the more terrified she became. Beads of perspiration dotted her forehead. She willed herself to relax, just as the doctor had told her to, but it was impossible.
She staggered into the kitchen. Her medication lay on the shelf next to the fridge. Standing on tiptoe, she reached for the bottle, but her hands shook so much it slipped from her grasp, the contents spilling out along the shelf and onto the floor.
She could get through this, she told herself. It was only a panic attack—she wasn’t about to die. It wasn’t real. Crying with frustration, her fingers trailed along the floor until she finally pinched a wayward pill between her thumb and forefinger. She popped it in her mouth, and washed it down with a glass of water from the tap.
Leaning against the sink for support, she forced herself to breathe deeply—in, out, in, out. The pill started to do its work, and the room began to steady itself. As her heartbeat slowly returned to normal, she tried to ignore the questioning voice in her mind, but couldn’t. She pressed her hands over her eyes in an attempt to blot out her fears.
What have you been up to, Daniel, that you needed a second passport?
She took another sip of water. The passport lay on the drainer next to her hand. With trembling fingers, she opened it and turned to the visa section.
It was stamped.
She froze. Her mind and body benumbed.
She peered at the faint impression and could just make out the words ‘Department of Homeland Security’. America! She turned to another page, and found that too, had been stamped. During the last six months alone, Daniel or whoever he was, had travelled to the United States on five occasions.
Why?
She wrenched the calendar off the wall, and compared it to the passport. Every entry visa coincided with a date when Daniel had been away on business.
Waves of panic and nausea overwhelmed her, and she sank to her knees and sobbed. The man to whom she had trusted her heart had lied to her. Not once, not twice, but least four times.
Pain yielded to anger.
Who was her husband?
It seemed that the only way to find out was to fly to Miami and meet with the attorney, Zachary Parous. It sounded so easy when she said it quickly. But the thought of such a journey aroused old fears and anxieties. She wasn’t a traveller—and certainly not alone. What if she had a panic attack mid-Atlantic? Who would help her? And then there was the small problem of getting from Miami to some place called Gasparilla Island and locating the mysterious beach house. How hard would it be to find? Would she be safe?
She’d heard such things about Florida, stories of gangs, drug lords, and even worse. She snatched up the phone before she could change her mind and booked a seat on the nine-thirty flight to Miami the following morning.
Then there was only one call left to make.

Reviews

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
Dee Dailey
Reviewer, The Romance Studio
http://www.theromancestudio.com/

Interview Englewood and Charlotte Sun

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
SUN CORRESPONDENT
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  .
E-mail: sharri32@live.com