York Afternoon Tea

On Saturday the 5th September, I had the pleasure of joining over ninety fellow romance authors and members of the Romantic Novelists’ Association at an Afternoon Tea held in the fifteenth century York Guildhall.

 

Interior York Guildhall

 

 

Organised and hosted by the Yorkshire Terrier Chapter of the RNA, this was the first time such an event had been held outside of London.With a glass of Prosecco in hand it was time to circulate and chat with friends old and new, assisted by our name badges, before taking a seat at one of the tables.

Grace was said by Kelvin Woolmer, husband of RNA Chapter Liaison, Jean Fullerton. Then tea was served on delicate vintage china. The caterers did themselves proud, supplying copious amounts of tea, sandwiches, savouries, and cakes.

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Multi-published author, Milly Johnson entertained us with an hysterical talk on the habits of ‘The Northern Bird,’ and how she differs from her southern sister. Milly concluded with her own variation of the well-known Robert Burns poem, with her ‘Address to the Scone,’ after which we appropriately tucked into scones with clotted cream and homemade strawberry jam. Yum!

It was a lovely afternoon, spent in great company.

 

The House on the Shore now available in paperback

My second romantic suspense novel set in the Highlands of Scotland (which has been out of print for some time) is now available from Amazon.

The House on the Shore

 

When Anna MacDonald leaves Edinburgh to find peace in the Scottish Highlands, she gets a twofold surprise:  a lost sailor teaches her to love again…while a mysterious stranger has plans to kill her.

Passed over for promotion by her boss, Anna walks off the job in anger. But being reactionary has its price.  Unable to afford the rent on her fashionable Edinburgh apartment, she retreats to the only place she has ever felt safe – her grandmother’s croft on the edge of remote Loch Hourn in the Scottish Highlands. With two border collies for company, she sets out to achieve her lifelong dream: to write the novel that has burned within her heart for years.

Meanwhile, renowned American artist, Luke Tallantyre, has sailed across the Atlantic to escape an artistic dry spell. Engine trouble lands him in Loch Hourn, and on Anna’s doorstep, but the reception he receives is less than welcoming – in fact it’s downright frosty.

When an unseen assassin comes after one of them, they unwillingly embark on an adventure neither ever imagined…including a chance at true love.

British English Vs American English

I am joined today by Ciara Ballintyne.

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Ciara is a a writer of high fantasy, lawyer, and dragon expert. Bent on world domination and born argumentative, Ciara invested her natural inclinations in a career in law. Her short story, A Magical Melody, is available as part of the Spells: Ten Tales of Magic ebook anthology.

 

Ciara recently published on the differences between British English and American English, and as a British author whose books are available on both sides of the pond, I can relate to how she feels when told that she has misspelled something because she chose to write in her own language – British English.  Ciara has very kindly allowed me to reproduce her article.

‘I had never in my life met someone who didn’t know there was a difference between British and American English until I joined Twitter. Everyone in Australia seems to know, and it seems that knowledge is widespread in Canada and Britain as well. I also know many Americans who do know there are differences, but by the same token the only people I’ve yet met who didn’t know were also Americans.

I respect your right to change your own language, but I draw the line at being told I’ve misspelled something just because I’ve used British English. The most notable example was when someone tweeted a response to my tweet of my blog post, including the word ‘judgement’ in the title. This person helpfully pointed out I’d misspelled ‘judgement’. Um, no, that’s correct spelling in British English.

This person clearly hadn’t even read my Twitter bio, or they might have twigged to the fact that a lawyer, of all people, is highly unlikely to be misspelling a word like judgement. To add insult to injury, this person didn’t even have the courtesy to apologise or acknowledge their mistake when I replied it is correct spelling in British English – and I was polite about it too. This level of ignorance is up there with the Republicans who wanted to come to Australia after the election because we have a male, Christian president – but at least that was also amusing!

That was an annoying experience, but far more concerning is the fact I know authors who self-publish using British English (because, hey, that’s their native language) and then get bad reviews from ignorant readers who complain that the book contains multiple instances of bad spelling and had a poor editor, because they don’t know those words are British English.

I don’t run around leaving bad reviews of books written in American English because of spelling errors, so why is this happening in reverse?

I have a theory. For reasons I don’t entirely understand, books written in British English are often converted into American English for the American market – this includes not just changing spellings, but changing a word where the name of something in British English isn’t the same as it is in America e.g. a ‘Mac’ in Britain is a raincoat, and these types of words get changed. Harry Potter, for example, was changed significantly for the American market. If you bought Harry Potter in America, I can guarantee you it’s different to my copies purchased here in Australia.

The reason for this, I’m told, is because Americans don’t understand British English. Say what? American English isn’t translated into British English for the UK, Australian and Canadian markets. What are publishers trying to say? That we’re cleverer than Americans, or it doesn’t matter if we don’t understand? Well I do understand, and I can’t ever remember a time when I didn’t understand, and that’s because I’ve been exposed to American English from a young age.  If this tendency had never been catered to, Americans would have as much knowledge of British English as I have of American.

The problem we have now is that this practice in the past has generated a level of ignorance in the American market that now we have to perpetuate the practice in order to avoid bad reviews saying words are misspelled. My horror reached new peaks when Momentum Publishing here in Australia (the digital imprint of Pan McMillan) stated they publish all their digital books in American English, even though the authors are Australian and would have written it in British English. I know why they’re doing it, I’m just appalled it’s become necessary.

What are your thoughts on this practice? Why do you think it started? Do you think it should continue? Do you see value in all parts of the English-speaking world being aware of the general differences between British and American English? Do you think British English should be converted to American? How about American to British? If you’re an American writer, how would you feel if asked to convert to British English? And how would you feel if you were required to convert to British English, but I wasn’t required to convert to American English? I’m fascinated to hear others viewpoints on this issue.

If I ever self-publish, I can see myself putting a big notice at the front that says the book is written in British English! Not that it will help – people don’t read that stuff.’

You can find information on Ciara and her novels by visiting any of the links below:

Official Website: http://www.ciaraballintyne.com
Blog: http://fantasyblog.ciaraballintyne.com
Twitter name and URL: @CiaraBallintyne http://twitter.com/ciaraballintyne

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.

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/

Ring of Lies

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.

Seasonal Offers from Vanilla Heart Publishing

From now until the 16th November 2010 Vanilla Heart are offering 50 of their great titles, including their latest release, Passionate Hearts, at just $4.99 each.

So if you enjoy reading why not download one now and start reading today?

Nature’s Gifts

To celebrate Earth Day and the work of the Nature Conservancy Council, Vanilla Heart Publishing has released ‘Nature’s Gifts.’

More than twenty pieces, from haiku to villanelles, from essays to short stories, will delight nature lovers everywhere. Take a walk in a garden or hike in a national park. Reflect on the moon. Learn something new. Laugh—and cry—with our writers as they discover the beauty, the joys, and the raw power of nature.

The Nature Conservancy will receive a donation of 50 percent of the profits for every book sold in both print and e-book editions for one year. Dedicated to protecting our rapidly vanishing natural environment, The Nature Conservancy has protected more than 117 million acres of land in 28 countries.

The selected poets and authors are:

Kathi Anderson, Douglas G. Campbell, Malcolm Campbell, Sam Cash, Chelle Cordero, Helen Haught Fanick, jeglaze, S. Kelley Harrell, Robert Hays, Donna Henes, Lisa Mayers Houff, Victoria Howard, Leah Mooney, Thom Newnham, Deanne Quarrie, Connie Spittler, Smoky Trudeau, Kimberlee Williams , and Scott Zeidel

Nature’s gifts is available from Amazon.com and in e-bookformat from Smashwords.com

Here’s a short excerpt from my contribuition, ‘Man’s Complacency.’

A heavy sea fog rolled in along the Strait of Juan de Fuca catching everyone, including the weathermen, by surprise. By early evening it covered the coastline from Port Angeles in the west, to Seattle and Tacoma in the east, and as far north as Anacortes. Traffic on the freeway slowed to a crawl. Planes were grounded, and ships were confined to port or instructed by the Coast Guard to keep station and wait for the fog to disperse.

Most residents of the Pacific Northwest were used to the fogbanks that settled over their cities in spring and autumn, but this fog was different. Thick and cloying, it hung heavily in the air, covering everything in a fine mist and reducing visibility to a matter of yards. Formed when a warm air mass moved over a colder area, the fog hung around for days, and resulted in a backlog of shipping. Ships’ masters, desperate to keep to schedule to avoid lost revenue and additional operating costs, often became frustrated, over self-confident and complacent.

Joe McCabe, head of the department of Fish and Wildlife, had just finished breakfast the following morning when his cell phone rang.

“McCabe.”

“Hi Joe, it’s Steve Jones from the Department of Ecology. I hope I’m not disturbing you.”

“I was just about to leave for the office. What gives, Steve?”

“Just thought I’d give you a heads up. A seine netter out of Anacortes has reported seeing an oil slick in the Rosario Strait. The skipper was about to put his nets out when he spotted it. He thought it was fairly well localized, but I’ve asked the Coast Guard send up a spotter plane to check it out. But this darned fog is making things difficult. In the meantime, I want you to take charge of any cleanup operation.”

Joe rubbed his bald head. “Why not use someone from your department?”

“Because all I have is Bryant, who only joined us a couple of months ago, and I need someone with experience.”

“I see. With any luck the slick will be small enough to disperse, but better ask the Coast Guard to fax me a list of vessels that went through the Strait in the last forty-eight hours. While we wait for news, I’ll contact the oil spill team and have them standby. Have… what’s his name? Oh, yeah, Bryant. Have him meet me in my office in an hour.”

“Her. Bryant is a woman.”

“No kidding?”

“No kidding.”

McCabe hung up without another word. The last thing he needed was some namby-pamby woman traipsing around him in a day-glow survival suit.

Thanks to a jack-knifed truck on the I-90, the drive from his home on Mercer Island to downtown Seattle took nearly forty minutes. While he waited for the cops to clear the freeway, McCabe thought about the last major oil spill he’d been involved with. Twenty five years before, the Exxon Valdez had dumped approximately ten million gallons—one fifth of her cargo of crude oil in Prince William Sound, Alaska. He’d been part of one of the many cleanup crews tasked to remove the clumps of oil from the shoreline. The memory of the devastation had lived with him ever since, which was why he’d been a driving force behind the state’s oil spill contingency plan. He just hoped he wouldn’t have to implement it now.

When he reached his office, a slim young woman with her hair up in a silky blonde ponytail stood as he entered.

“Mr McCabe?” She extended a hand. “Faith Bryant, Department of Ecology.”

McCabe paused before he shook her hand, then stepped back from the door and motioned her to take a seat. “You’d better come in. Steve Jones tells me this is your first spill investigation.”

“That’s right. I studied marine biology and wrote my thesis on the challenges facing Puget Sound. Steve thought it would be good experience for me to be part of the investigation and cleanup process.”

McCabe thought about his friend, Jedediah Walker, another marine biologist. They’d worked together on a number of investigations and projects over the years. Right now he could do with Walker’s expertise rather than this pretty young woman straight out of college. But Walker and his wife, Skye, were in China helping the Chinese Government investigate the reason why the Yangtze River Dolphin had become extinct.

“Well, listen carefully and learn. Any news on the slick or what vessel might have caused it?”

“Unfortunately, yes. The McMinnville, a tanker headed for the refinery at Cherry Point, failed to pick up a pilot at Port Angeles. At the time, the Coast Guard tried to raise her on the radio, but got no response. Around midnight, the third mate reported that the engine had failed and the vessel was drifting out of control in the Rosario Strait.”

McCabe knew that hundreds of ships and ferries passed through Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and the Rosario Strait every day. Add commercial fishing boats and pleasure craft into the mix, and the fishing lanes of Puget Sound were the busiest in the nation. In good conditions it could take a tanker more than a mile to stop. But with no means of propulsion, the McMinnville was at the mercy wind and tide.

London Book Festival 2009

The winners of the London Book festival Annual Competition 2009, http://londonbookfestival.com/portal/content.asp?ContentId=600 honouring the best of international publishing have been announced, and I’m delighted to say that my novel, The House on the Shore, received an honourable mention.

The House on the Shore is a romantic suspense novel set in Scotland. It interweaves the lives of Anna, a scholar who is reaching for her long-buried creative dreams, and Luke, an American artist, who is running from his tumultuous past. One man stands between them and happiness. And survival.

Recently, The House on the Shore was shortlisted for the Joan Hessayon New Writers Award 2009, presented by the Romantic Novelists’ Association, the United Kingdom’s counterpart to Romance Writers of America.

“The House on the Shore is a sensually suspenseful story filled with non-stop action, romance, and mystery. The facts of Scotland are told with brilliant description that bring the land to life and leave you feeling as if you have stepped out of your world and into the pages. Ms. Howard uses such passion and emotion when telling her story, making the tale flow right along until the last page is turned. With many different characters that will keep you guessing, this novel is the perfect example of how a suspenseful story should be told. …Thrilling until the very end, this book has a who-done-it attitude with such an aching tone of sensuality and love, it will keep you up all night just so you can finish this fantastic tale.” —Danielle. Reviewer for Coffee Time Romance & More